TimeShift Designer Diary #4 - Multiplayer Mayhem in Slow Motion

Saber Interactive CEO Matthew Karch fills us in with the first details on how multiplayer will work in TimeShift, a game where you can manipulate time.

Multiplayer combat in first-person shooters tends to be concerned with incredibly fast-paced action, where the one with the fastest (and most accurate) reflexes will often win. TimeShift, the upcoming shooter from Atari and Saber Interactive, promises to go in an entirely different direction. Yes, the game has its fast pace and frenetic action, but since the game's premise is built upon the fact that you can manipulate time by slowing it down or freezing it, online combat will be hugely different than other first-person shooters. Saber Interactive CEO Matthew Karch fills us in with the first details on how multiplayer will work in TimeShift.

Multiplayer in TimeShift will be about making sure that time is on your side and not the enemy's.

Multiplayer Mayhem

By Matthew Karch
CEO, Saber Interactive

I'd like to speak with you all for the first time about the multiplayer component of TimeShift. We have been keeping this one under wraps for quite a while now for a variety of reasons. The challenge of using time control in a multiplayer setting is a daunting one. We needed to establish a unique time-control mechanic that was not only fun, but also worked from a technical standpoint. We have worked long and hard on this with some of the best engineering minds Russia has to offer. The result is a multiplayer mode that offers something new and exciting to the mix.

Before proceeding, I just wanted to give kudos to our three multiplayer programmers who have moved heaven and earth to get time control to work well in a multiplayer setting. So to Stas Zainchkovksy, Misha Goroshkov, and Pavel Rusin (Russia's Unreal champion), thanks for working overtime on this one.

The multiplayer aspect of TimeShift is a very strong element of the game. We have devoted nearly as much attention to making the multiplayer component as comprehensive and hardcore as possible as we have to the single-player campaign. To that end, we have created tons of modes, modifiers, and customization tools to create an online and Xbox Live experience that is very compelling. I will go into more detail about these multiplayer elements below.

One of the coolest elements of the multiplayer component in TimeShift is the ability to use time as both a weapon and a shield. Due to technical reasons, we have implemented two time powers, time slow and time stop, that work in multiplayer. While reversal was technically feasible, it just wasn't fun in practical terms. So, how do the time powers work? Well, imagine for a second a three-dimensional spiderweb that catches everything that enters its sphere, and you will have a pretty good idea of what we are going for here. We have two types of "chrono grenades" that work on a localized basis. Throw a slow grenade, and it will explode wherever it lands, resulting in a large, distorted sphere. Anything that gets caught in this sphere will slow down considerably.

The ability to slow down and freeze time means all sorts of nasty surprises.

Imagine for a second that you are vulnerable, and someone has tagged you with a sniper rifle or guided rocket. Activate a slow grenade right in front of you and use it as a shield. All bullets will move through the sphere very slowly, allowing you to easily dodge the incoming projectiles.

Now, imagine that you want to use the slow grenade as a weapon of sorts. Camp out and wait for an adversary to cross your path. Toss the grenade in his path, and voila, he is trapped in a sphere of slow death. Pull out your weapon of choice and fire away. As your bullets enter the sphere, they will slow down as well, but as long as you shoot immediately, they will likely kill the enemy before the slow effect expires.

Stop grenades work in a similar fashion, except everything caught in the blast is frozen in time. Thus, they can be used as a very effective shield against enemy gunfire. They can also be used as a weapon, but to be effective, you need to freeze the opponent and surround him with gunfire, so that when the effect wears off, he gets hit from every angle.

We have also implemented environmental-based "time rooms." These are areas (whether rooms or corridors) where time is slowed or stopped. In many cases, it is possible for the player to activate the time effect in certain areas and slow down or freeze enemies. Thus certain maps are time-themed and have areas of time control implemented.

In addition to the implementation of time control as a mechanic, we have also created game modes that require use of time control to succeed. One such mode is called Stop the Machine. This mode is team-based and requires a coordinated effort to bring an enemy machine to a halt. The maps are somewhat similar to Capture the Flag maps, but the objective is different. You will need to use chrono grenades to slow the movement of the machine until the machine has been totally stopped.

Here are all the multiplayer modes in the game: King of Time (our time-themed version of King of the Hill), deathmatch, team deathmatch, Stop the Machine, Last Man Standing, team arena, and one versus one. These modes all have particular maps designed for them. There are a wide variety of maps planned, both as part of the game and as downloadable content.

TimeShift ships this spring for the PC, Xbox, and Xbox 360.

One of the areas in which we have devoted a lot of time and resources to is in the design of modifiers that enable gamers to greatly customize their experience on the multiplayer side. These include athletic (players have increased speed and jumping abilities); one shot, one kill; snipers only; and vampire (players must go on killing sprees to survive).

By providing such customization, we feel we are adding considerably to the multiplayer component of TimeShift, and in the process, making the game as compelling in multiplayer aspects as it is in the single-player campaign. Please continue to post your comments/suggestions on the forums. We do read them, and we take all suggestions to heart. Issues such as better key binding, improved mouse-sensitivity controls, and a host of others have already made it into the game based on your feedback, so thanks for the suggestions!

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this multiplayer seem slike it will be tons of fun, can't w8.