Sunday, September 6, 2015

Only A Matter of Time

Time Rifters
Sometimes I just can't help myself when it comes to making puns. That probably means I should take a break from watching YouTube content put up by Chuggaaconroy, right? Anyway, as a writer, the idea of time traveling has always caught my attention simply because of the many possibilities that one could have in writing such a story. We have seen time traveling stories pan out in other forms of media, such as the unforgettable Back to the Future movie trilogy, which is supposed to be a silly comedy to begin with. That's the thing. Time traveling at this point has become such a silly idea, and the reason why is that if it were truly possible to travel through time, someone would have made a time machine that works by now.

Time traveling plots have played out in video games as well. Some of these ideas have worked, and others... not so much. Time traveling plots are considerably tricky to handle. These are the kinds of plots where you as a writer have to pay exceptional attention to detail, because if you miss something that you wrote about in one time period and you fail to mention it later on, that error will show itself in due time.

I suppose that's what makes some of the more successful time traveling plots in video games so special. There are some time traveling video games that I like, and there are some I would like to stay away from. It can be hard to tell which time traveling games are good or bad before playing them.

So let's take a look at a few time traveling video games. The first example would be Time Rifters, the most recent installment in the time traveling craze. Now it's never directly shown to the players that time traveling takes place, but it is the theme of the game. The object of Time Rifters is simple; you take turns with a team of soldiers, and the catch is that all 4 soldiers are you... but you in different periods of time. Surely that sounds like a massive time paradox might occur, but don't worry about that.

First, you take a turn in shooting down all the red, white and gold blocks that you see on the battlefield. Next, you travel back in time to the same time when you had your first turn, and from here you take your 2nd turn. Rinse and repeat with the 3rd and 4th turns. The main point here is that you get to overlap what you did previously, giving you a different perspective each time you tackle a block puzzle. I find this gameplay mechanic to be off-the-charts brilliant. It's a highly innovative way of keeping the player engaged, motivating the player to complete a puzzle.

Now let's get to Timesplitters. While I don't find the Story Modes of any of the 3 Timeplsitters games to be interesting at all, I absolutely love the various Multiplayer Modes these games provide. This is a game franchise that relies on certain forms of creativity to get a simple message across; destroy all targets, defeat all enemies and look good doing it. I kid you not that I have spent hours utilizing the Multiplayer Modes of Timesplitters 2 in particular, and I have say that the amount of things that you can do in this game, especially with Map Maker Mode, are extraordinary. If we're just talking about customization and Multiplayer, this would easily be ranked as one of the best games of all-time, and that's saying something.

Sly 4: Thieves in Time
Considering how much I have grown to love the Sly Cooper series, I have to admit that Sly 4: Thieves in Time would have to be my least favorite of the series. This isn't because of the concept of the characters that are involved in this game, and it's certainly not because of the great graphics and artwork that were put in here. If anything, one main thing that pulled Sly 4 down in my opinion had to be the time traveling plot of the story. Like I said before, it can get tricky handling a time traveling plot, and sadly I don't think Sanzaru Games handled their time traveling plot all that well. I didn't think it was terrible, but it was notches below what I was expecting, and the hidden ending of the game will especially leave a sour taste in my mouth until a Sly 5 game is ever made.

Like with all other story plots, it takes careful planning to map out what you want to do with a time traveling plot. When you look at Marty McFly's travels through time, he specifically goes to times like 1955, 2015 and then way back to 1885. All of these times are significant to either the McFly family or to his good friend "Doc" Emmett Brown. You don't just pick a random time and shoehorn it into your story. There has to be a reason why your main character is going to that specific time. The main reason for going to a certain point in time is because that time is being effected by something or someone that shouldn't be there.

Are time paradox threats worth it? Of course, as long as you plan them well. In the cases of Back to the Future Part II, the end of Timesplitters 3 when Sergeant Cortez goes back a few minutes in time to duplicate himself or even a scene in Sly 4 where Bentley specifically tells Sly not to steal a bundle of treasure that is meant for a descendant of his to take, there will be moments in your time traveling story where things will get "heavy", and if your main character is not careful... there goes the Space Time Continuum...

Have I attempted to write a time traveling story yet? No, but I would certainly like to try. I would keep in mind the potential gameplay mechanics of such a story as well. Incorporate what your characters do best and revolve it around the time traveling theme. That makes for a good transition.

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