An experience that left me en-raptor-ed.
My pod transports me into a large body of flowing blue water. Ahead of me is an undersea canyon, and the voice in my helmet assures me that the subjects of my interest lay beyond the sunken ravine. Slowly, I reach my destination, replete with rock structures, shifting plant life, and swimming dinosaurs. I need to scan them, but getting accurate data means getting right up close. As I near one, it gets alarmed and prepares to charge. I dramatically slow down everything around me to complete my scan, narrowly dodging out of the way before I lose my grip on time, and I am ambushed from behind. Sensing the upcoming paradox, the pod shifts me back to my starting point to try again.
These were my first moments in Minority Media’s upcoming Time Machine, a virtual reality title set to come out with the first commercially available devices, presumably before the next Ice Age.
I remember as a child when VR meant looking at low-poly objects in a nauseating environment, so I was not prepared to be bathed in the beautiful scenery of prehistoric or futuristic Seattle. The narrative is set in 2070, when world peace has been achieved, and all the money formerly spent on warfare is now collectively spent on research and development. Your character, an employee for a museum which has developed time travel, is the first human to view dinosaurs.
To aid in writing and developing the game, Minority Media hired former writers from the Assassin’s Creed series, who arguably should know a bit about sci-fi time travel stories. And as for creating “realistic” dinosaurs, the studio has been consulting the Chair of Vertebrate Paleontology at McGill University. He’s assisting with choosing the dinosaurs and understanding how they should move and eat. Together, their aim is to create a relaxing experience that anyone can enjoy. In fact, at PAX East, the team has been very impressed with the positive reaction from “hardcore” gamers.
As implied, the goal is to scan dinosaurs up close... and I mean absurdly so. To aid in this, players are given the ability to bring time down to almost a halt, but it’s a limited commodity. When scanning a particularly aggressive dino, it should be part of your exit strategy or you’ll be sent to the start point to prevent a time paradox. Although the approach is tough and slightly frightening, the necessity behind it is a huge motivation in appreciating the stunning environments. So many of us grow up wanting to see dinosaurs up close, so why shouldn’t a game allow us to do just that?
It’ll be interesting to see how the final product shapes up and if it manages to maintain the sense of wonder I got from my twenty short minutes with it. I’m also curious to see what platforms this ultimately releases on. Time Machine is currently being developed as a "platform agnostic," allowing the studio to theoretically bring the title to a wide array of devices. Given that I don’t see myself purchasing a VR headset anytime soon, I certainly hope to see it on a home console.