“Are you comfortable with playing a game that takes place underwater?” This was the first question posed to me when I met with the good folks at Minority Media (Papo & Yo) for a hands-on demonstration with Time Machine. For a second, I froze up. I am actually very scared of being underwater and the prospect of playing a VR game where you dive around in the deep sea elicited an immediate “run” response in my mind. However, I owed it to my site and my followers (as well as my new friends at Minority) to man up and try the game out.
Before I strapped the VR helmet on, I was given a brief rundown of the game. In Time Machine, you are a time traveler who goes back in time millions of years to study ancient and extinct creatures. Yes, I had to not only go underwater, but do so in a sea full of giant monsters. I had to once again suck up my feelings of nervousness and keep it in check. After putting the helmet on and getting used to the controls, I dove in… literally.
My first task was to investigate a fish-like creature. This thing looked like a tuna but it was much, much larger. I kept calm as I got closer in order to study it. I had a set of probes at my disposal which did several things like give me a situational reading of my surroundings, track an animal by attaching itself to it, and getting readings from inside the animals. I also had the ability to slow time down for a short while. This was a very handy ability to have considering my final task involved going inside the big fish’s mouth to see what it looked like.
The final task had me investigating something much more dangerous: a liopleurodon. Unlike the big fish from before, these animals are aggressive so I had to stay very low on the sea floor and stay between rocks as much as possible. I failed at this a few times and was eaten (gulp!). This job was interesting (and scary) because I saw a mating pair and had to scan the female to see if she was pregnant. I also had to study their feeding habits. If someone was watching me, I’m sure that would have made for an interesting report whenever I was eaten.
After I finished and took my helmet off, I was congratulated on finishing the entire 45 minute demo. This came as a surprise to me since it felt like I had only been playing for about 15-20 minutes. Throughout my session when I became visibly nervous, I was asked if I wanted to stop, but I kept on going (male pride and all that). Apparently, some others gave up so I guess I’m to be commended for my bravery (or hardheadedness). The fact that time went by so fast is always a good indicator that the experience was a good one.
When I calmed my nerves a bit, I asked the developers about what inspired the game. They saw VR technology and wanted to create something for it. After brainstorming, they decided they wanted to do a game about dinosaurs. VR works best at 120 frames per second but considering that it would actually be 240 fps when both screens are taken into account (one screen per eye), they had to rethink how to go about creating the game. It was decided to make it run at 90fps and to set it underwater so they wouldn’t have to render everything at once. This was a case of the technology inspiring the game from inception to execution.
Though the game isn’t finished yet, there has been a lot of extensive testing done on it. The developers wanted the game to be just scary enough to get certain reactions out of the player but not scary to the point of being unplayable. Even the speed of your submersible was deliberate so as to not completely frighten people. The devs didn’t want a hair raising experience and wanted it to be accessible to everyone. Though it has scary dinosaurs that can kill you, this isn’t meant to be a violent game.
Though the experience I had with Time Machine put my fear to the test, I am glad I played it. The game is still in development so I can’t tell you exactly when it will be available to try out but you should definitely keep an eye out for it. I’m still skeptical of VR overall, but games like this show off what the technology is capable of and is sure to inspire others to think outside the box and create unique experiences for players.