Once again, Minority Media seeks to rebel against the norm and challenge the meaning of games with their new title Time Machine. A breath-taking, unconventional FPS Adventure game game, that will be designed to work with still in development virtual reality, Time Machine takes the philosophies that Minority holds dear: to push the boundaries of traditional game mechanics and story lines, and invite gamers to explore the possibilities of a utopian future world of intellectual growth and exploration.
Set in 2070, the world they have created is an idyllic society of peace and prosperity. As a result, the money that would be used for military purposes, is now funneled into research development and science. As a result, this future society was able to master the science of time travel. With such an asset on their side, an international museum was created for scientists from all over the world to work together to improve the communal condition of their society. And you, the gamer, are one of them. Your first mission is to travel back in time to the Jurassic era to collect data on living dinosaurs and find the missing pieces to the conjectures we have made of the bits and pieces collected until this point.
Any fans of this studio, whose big name titles include Papa and Yo and Spirits of Spring, know that Minority have always tried to take the player experience further through their use of story and game mechanics to create that feeling of empathy within all those who have experienced their work. It would be only natural for Minority to take the next step in this experience through the use of VR.
“You know the cool thing about VR is the whole thing about presence.” Rommel Romero told CGM during our discussion at PAX. “You’re not looking at a character on a screen.”
He went on to say, “In VR, you don’t have that intermediate. It’s like you’re in the screen, right? So 360o is the environment and there’s story happening. So, in terms of empathy, you know, there’s nothing better, because you’re in that scene yourself. In the case of time machine, you’re in the water with the dinosaurs. When they come at you, they come at you, not at the screen. I think, in a way it helps you feel what Indiana Jones would have felt or whoever would have been in that role.”
“With Time Machine we decided to apply first person shooter mechanics to a game that is essentially non-violent.”
And he’s right. As you strap on the Oculus Rift headset and the world awakens around you, you have no choice but to feel all the excitement of a first-time explorer about to embark on an astonishing mission. With that first lift of your rocket chair, your first glimpse of the beautifully created environment that surrounds you as you leave your headquarters, the stomach dropping feeling of flight as you crest the edge of the cliff and head towards the time portal, you have no choice but to feel exactly as the character in the story should feel in this situation. And the moment you set eyes on a pod of prehistoric, underwater beasts, and feel the hugeness presented before you, it’s clear that even in this early stage of the game, Minority has reached the goal they have set out to achieve.
And despite all of this, Minority Media’s biggest demonstration of their evolution beyond the makers of empathetic games is presented through their use of FPS game mechanics in Time Machine. As Rommelo explains, “We want to be careful as a developer, not to be pigeon-holed as someone who only does empathy games. Our culture as a company is to always challenge the rules of game design; challenge the rules of how game mechanics are applied.”
“A lot of people in our team spent years at AAA developers making first person shooters. When they came to minority they brought all that expertise over. With Time Machine we decided to apply first person shooter mechanics to a game that is essentially non-violent. So you’re not shooting dinosaurs you’re actually approaching them and scanning them and learning about them – learning about the environment they live in; learning about the eco system. So you’re learning and you’re understanding and you’re respecting. So that’s the challenge that we’re doing.”
But will hardcore gamers, initially enticed by the idea of an FPS, embrace this challenge? “At first there was a bit of resistance. But once they got into it and they started using those same mechanics that they use to shoot people and things, they understood. So you can see that we’re challenging an established pre-conception.”
As the development of this game evolves, the team of writers working on Time Machine, the same group of writers who brought Assassin’s Creed to life, are busy creating a story that is both engaging and full of intrigue, conflicting interests, and explores meaningful questions such as the power that time travel represents. “It’s not just going around, scanning dinosaurs. You’re a character in a story, and it’s a much more complex story that has social and political complications. So in that sense, it’s our most ambitious game so far.”
“We’re challenging an established pre-conception.”
Ambitious as that goal may be, Minority may have some time yet to successfully produce exactly what they set out to accomplish, as their goal for release will coincide with the release of the first consumer VR devices. It will give them time to craft a story that fits their ambition, complete with more mechanics and a deeper complexity. Based on this and coupled with initial look at Time Machine, it will without a doubt, be worth the wait. While the studio is currently developing the game on the Oculus platform, they haven’t confirmed which VR gear the game will be available on when it’s finally ready for release.