Hubbub has gone into hibernation.

Traveling through time in games

Chief agent Kars here. It’s a plea­sure for me to intro­duce you to our new intern Arjen. Like his two pre­de­ces­sors he’s study­ing Design for Vir­tu­al The­atre and Games at the Utrecht School of the Arts. He’ll be with us for the com­ing months to assist on var­i­ous projects (such as Maguro and Buta). In addi­tion, I’ve decid­ed to ask Arjen to work on a self-com­mis­sioned game that we’ve code­named Kat­suo. With­out telling too much about it at this point, let’s just say Arjen’s back­ground in pro­duc­ing LARPs will cer­tain­ly come in handy. I hope you enjoy this first post on some of his pre­lim­i­nary research.

I’ve start­ed research this week on a new project, code­named Kat­suo. A key ele­ment in this project will be time trav­el­ing, so I’ve been search­ing for var­i­ous uses of time trav­el in games. In my search, I have put an empha­sis on the use of time trav­el­ing as part of the game­play, rather than the sto­ry or visuals.

There’s an abun­dance of games that use slow­ing down or speed­ing up time as spe­cial moves. One of the games that exe­cutes this very well is Viewti­ful Joe, which doesn’t only allow the slow­ing down of ene­mies, but also makes spe­cial moves and sev­er­al inter­ac­tions with objects and puz­zles available.

One of the first games I thought of myself was Ani­mal Cross­ing. I played this game on my DS, and that ver­sion used the time set­tings on your sys­tem to deter­mine a bunch of fac­tors in the game. Like whether it was day or night, what day it was, growth of plants and the inter­est on your saved mon­ey at the bank. Although the cre­ators nev­er meant for this to be pos­si­ble, you could time trav­el by abus­ing the sys­tem time-check­ing. If, for exam­ple, you would put mon­ey in the bank, then change your sys­tem time from today to today 20 years in the future, you would get 20 years of inter­est on your mon­ey. If only sci­ence would hur­ry a bit, I’d be rich in the real world by the end of last week.

Many games require you to trav­el back and for­ward through time to solve puz­zles and advance in the sto­ry. Day of the Ten­ta­cle, Chronotrig­ger and The Leg­end of Zel­da: Oca­ri­na of Time, Ora­cle of the Ages and Majora’s Mask are just some of the titles that spring to mind.

Con­cern­ing the last game, I found an inter­est­ing alter­nate real­i­ty game that is built around the sto­ry of a cursed car­tridge of The Leg­end of Zel­da: Majora’s Mask. This game fea­tures a well told sto­ry in which the play­ers were able to force the whole world of the game back by a few days by post­ing a video of the song of time. This includ­ed web­sites going offline because they didn’t exist yet, and allowed for quite an inter­est­ing mys­tery to solve. The game is live again, so if you’re into ARGs, you should def­i­nite­ly go and find it1

Anoth­er inter­est­ing game I found is Time4Cat. This game isn’t real­ly about time trav­el, but more about the per­cep­tion of time. You actu­al­ly force your per­cep­tion upon the game world: when you stand still, so does the time and every­one around you. To ful­ly under­stand what I’m say­ing, I rec­om­mend you just play it.

This brings to mind the indie hit Braid, in which your move­ment is linked to the time of the game world. If you move back, every­thing moves back with you. Def­i­nite­ly worth play­ing, but I think you already knew that.

To wrap things up, I’ve got some­thing you can play at home, all you need is a chess set and some paper. It’s a spe­cial form of chess. I am going to do some playtests this week, try­ing to tweak some of the rules. I’ll let you know the ide­al con­di­tions for send­ing chess pieces to the future in a lat­er post.

  1. No, I’m not going to give a link. You’re an ARG play­er, are you not? []
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