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Timeshift - a unique game

by Nick Haywood on 31 January 2006, 10:50

Tags: TimeShift, Atari (EPA:ATA), Vivendi Universal Interactive (NYSE:VIV), PC, Xbox 360, FPS

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qaeld

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Timeshift and its gameplay

Continuing Matthew Karch, CEO, Saber Interactive's diary about the development of TimeShift... all yours Matthew...

When I was a Russian major back in college in the era before time (the early 90's) I began a journey which ultimately led me here where I have had the privilege to chat with you all about TimeShift. This journey has encompassed learning to speak Russian, learning to drink like a native, learning to deal with cash-hungry customs officers and learning to not embarrass myself abroad with my unrefined brand of American humor. Luckily, once you have cleared the linguistic stuff, you learn that the Russians are really pretty similar to you and me.

I mean yeah, they drink vodka in the quantities that we drink beer and have a much higher tolerance for Arctic climes, but outside of that there are more similarities than differences. In fact, in many respects they are more similar to us than many of our closer European neighbors (I am pretty sure, for example, that David Hasselhoff never became a "rock star" in Russia). So when people question the ability of a Russian team (under US design and direction) to develop a game palatable to American and Western tastes, my answer is always the same: "Here, take the controls and play it for yourself." That usually does the trick.

Come to think of it, the only thing that has been a cultural hindrance has less to do with gameplay and more to do with Russian etiquette. Russians have this "handshaking" tradition that is a daily ritual. When each member of our team comes to work in the morning, he (or she) makes his rounds and greets each and every member of our team with a firm shake of the hand. Now, when we started out as a 15-person team this was no problem, but now that we are well over 50 people, the whole process really takes too much time and is a major waste of dev time, not to mention a really bad way to spread germs and increase sick days. (Note to self: try and curtail all the handshaking).

Anyway, I digress... I am really here to speak with you about something much cooler than culture – today we will speak about how we crafted TimeShift's gameplay. In particular I will talk about all the major gameplay elements and how we have designed and balanced them to create what we think is one of the more compelling shooters released to date.

In past segments I have spoken in some detail about what it is that makes TimeShift unique. I really want to make it clear that TimeShift is an evolutionary game. It is, at its core, a well-implemented shooter with an engaging storyline, great weapons and solid AI. The cool factor about the game and what separates it is the way that we have seamlessly integrated the abilities to slow, stop and reverse time into the first person shooter mechanic.

The trick for us was really to make sure it didn't feel like a bolt-on or a forced addition to the game. In order for us to accomplish this we needed to design the game from the ground up with the TimeShift mechanic in mind. This means that every battle, every thought-provoking challenge, every weapon, opponent and environment in the game was designed specifically to interact in a meaningful way with the ability to control time. Below I am going to give you some examples of how game systems were designed to take advantage of the time shifting feature.