No, not a real time machine, silly. Those don’t exist……. Anyway, the Minority Media team was on hand at GDC and PAX East to introduce the team’s first foray into the virtual reality space. Dubbed Time Machine, the game is set in the year 2070, during “an era of peace, prosperity, and the pursuit of knowledge.” There’s actually a really interesting backstory to the world and setting, but I’m betting the giant poster with the dinosaurs on it was probably what was drawing in the crowds at PAX. I’m guessing those of you that clicked this article from our homepage or off a social media thumbnail were also drawn in by the feature image of a dinosaur. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
As the demo begins, players are introduced to the basic motor functions of their flying – let’s call it “science pod” – and receive some basic information about their role in the world. As it turns out, the player is part of an elite research team in service of the Monda Muzeo, or World Museum, which serves as humanity’s leading institution of knowledge. The player’s mission is to “assemble the most comprehensive record of Earth’s prehistory ever created.” I’m no historian, but if I was, I would interpret a mission to uncover the sum total of Earth’s prehistory as “find out anything and everything you can about dinosaurs.” Minority Media also shares in this belief, and so the majority of Time Machine will focus on exploring the Jurassic era, and the various ecosystems therewithin, getting an up close and way too personal look at everyone’s favorite feathery reptiles. (They’re not feathery in the game, I just like making that joke, as seen in our March Cover Story.)
To complete the mission, players must borrow a page from the Metroid Prime book, and scan their objects of interest from a not-so-safe distance in order to acquire the necessary information about each individual species. Scanning takes a bit of time, which leads to the danger aspect of the game. The dinosaurs don’t exactly love your company, so you’ll have to find dark crevices to hide in, or otherwise scan at opportune moments. There’s also a time-stop mechanic, which allows the player to freeze time for a brief duration and get closer to the more ferocious predators. The time-stop ability is measured by a rechargeable meter.
For the purposes of the PAX demo, I played through two stages, each time only needing to scan a single species of dinosaur. Since Time Machine is a VR game, nailing down controls that feel responsive is key, since players won’t be able to look down at their hands with an Oculus Rift and headphones strapped on. Using an Xbox 360 controller, there was the obvious scan button, typical flight controls you would expect, and another button that allowed me to survey the immediate area and highlight objects of interest (in this case, the dinosaur I needed to scan). Triggers and bumpers were used for the action mechanics, while the thumbsticks controlled movement. I found the controls to be relatively simple and intuitive, and I was able to enjoy my time exploring the underwater segments. Time Machine features some impressive graphics, so the environments and dinosaurs all looked fantastic. The team told me they’re working with researchers in Montreal to ensure the dinosaurs are as realistic as modern science allows us to understand, so dino-enthusiasts should be excited about that.
Outside of the game, one of the other major draws of the project is the team of talent behind it. Time Machine is helmed by Papa & Yo creative director Vander Caballero, with a script written by sekretagent Production, the folks responsible for the story and narrative design for AAA projects including four Assassin’s Creed games (1, 2, Brotherhood, and 3), Batman: Arkham Origins, and three Prince of Persia titles. Describing the team’s inspirations behind the project, Caballero mentioned in a Time Machine-related blog post that, “we’ve always been inspired by film making. Great sci-fi movies – like 2001, Contact, and Interstellar – use futuristic technology as a way to tell a deeper story. That’s what we want to do with Time Machine.”
With a solid foundation for an interesting story, the currently trending interest in virtual reality in its favor, and the ever-present appeal of dinosaurs, Time Machine has a lot going for it. There’s something for the explorer, something else for the historian, and something entirely different for the thrill-seeker curious about how many teeth large dinosaurs have. Minority Media has yet to set a release date for the project, but told me they plan to release it alongside the first wave of consumer VR products; with that in mind, the game isn’t too far off. More information about Minority Media can be found on the team’s website. Additionally, you can get the latest updates straight from the developers to your news feeds on Twitter and Facebook.