Director Kyle Peschel on TimeShift's Multiplayer

By Chris Faylor, May 30, 2007 10:00pm PDT

"I know how to do balanced deathmatch for the world over and sell millions of fucking copies and everybody's happy. I know how to make deathmatch fun for when you're in England playing against the U.S. or Australia versus the U.S., [when] you actually have a decent fucking ping on it [and] everything's great.

"But what I don't know how to do," TimeShift director and producer Kyle Peschel shouted above the noise of Sony's Gamers Day event, "is make it fun in your house. Your house is a very weird ecosystem compared to the world as a whole."

Thus is the reasoning behind TimeShift's extensively customizable multiplayer mode, where everything, from starting weapons and the effectiveness of health packs to gravity and time itself, can be toggled and tweaked.

"At my house, every Friday night--actually, every second Friday--I have guys from work over, I kick my wife out, and I sit down and I go, 'Alright, here's what I'm gonna do. I'm going to bring the other HDTV into the living room, I got a couple of couches set up, we're going to play some multiplayer games and have a great time.'

"What happens--I've got this friend named Aaron, [he's] kind of a camping bitch. And guys don't want to come over to my house that often because Aaron's there and they're like, 'Dude, he just fucking camps with the sniper rifle all night long.' And then I gotta explain why we get into a fistfight because he's a camping bitch and my wife's asking did I get the camping equipment out and I'm like, 'You just don't understand games, ah fuck it, show me where the Resolve is and I'll clean the mess up myself.'"

What it boils down to, Peschel explained, is the chance to adapt the conditions of a game to any circumstance, to keep it fun and enjoyable. "I want you to [have] the ability to make your own multiplayer modes. I can take deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag--all these modes, we've got like seven or eight of them, I don't even know right now, there's so many we keep bringing online every day--you'll have all those, it'll be balanced, everything.

"If you have a friend like mine and Aaron comes over, you can make anti-Aaron deathmatch. Name it that, go in and go, 'You know what, there's spawn protection for ten seconds--ahh, that's a bit too long, six. Hey, you know what, I don't like the pistol as a starting weapon, let's actually change that over to a flamethrower. Oh hey, you know what, the armor that gives a hundred health, [let's change that].'You know, you got guys up there like Jonathan Wendel 'Fata1ity' running the map and everything, yea, have him over to your house. Watch it when you change the hundred health into fucking one health and then he picks it up and thinks he's the shit and he realizes, 'Fuck, the world's changed on me.'"

But what of the title's namesake--the player's ability to slow, stop, and even reverse time--which Peschel discussed at length in our past look at TimeShift? Many developers, Peschel included, have struggled for years trying to bring time manipulation into the realm of multiplayer. They all come up against the same brick wall--time control is only fun for that one player who's has that ability. Everyone else is either stopped completely or stuck in slow-motion with no way to fight back, which is not just frustrating, it's annoying. "Let's say we're playing sixteen player deathmatch and I stop time," Peschel hypothesized. "You're all fucked for like, six seconds, and that's not enjoyable."

After toying with this conundrum for four iterations, Peschel and his team eventually came up with a solution. What if, instead of affecting the entire playing field and all the players on it, time control only affected a small, localized area? Thus, time grenades were born. "I'm sure the name will change as someone in marketing comes up with a cooler name for it--that always happens to me," he joked.

"Your suit exports the time control power to these handheld grenades. When you throw them, they hit the ground and explode into temporal space, at about four meters across or so, I don't know, twelve feet, and it's suspended for an isolated amount of time. It stops [time] for maybe four seconds, then it implodes and it's done. Anything in there is trapped, anything on the outside can't enter it.

"So if you tried to shoot me with a rocket launcher, I throw [a grenade] down in front of us, that rocket is stuck in the middle and is just gonna sit there, waiting for the bubble to implode, and then boom, it hits me."

The circular bubble creates an interesting scenario for those separated by it, which Peschel likens to a childhood memory. "My brother [is] trying to kick my ass and I try to get to the dining room table. Once I'm on the table and he's over there, he goes to the left, I go to the left, he goes to the right, I go to the right, just trying to keep something in between us. Because you can't shoot through [a time bubble] if it's a stop, or you can if it's a slow or in reverse you shoot yourself in the face and that's never fun, you're trying to get on to the other side of it. Then you can put these up dynamically, you can use 'em offensively, you can use 'em defensively.

"For some context, let's say we're playing capture the flag, standard capture the flag, we haven't modified it in any way. You've got the flag and you're charging back to your base, you've got the flag out and you're right there ready to cap it, you've got it up in the air ready to come down and I'm thirty feet back. I've been saving up my energy a little bit and I chuck out this time-stop grenade and while shooting I throw this thing. It lands and perfectly catches the edge of you. Now you're stuck for like, five seconds, completely fucked, frustrated. Frustrated at yourself, at the tactical complexity, not helpless. I've got enough time to run up that hill, come around to the front of the bubble--I'm not entering the bubble, I'm on the outside of it--pull up my shotgun and go 'booosh.' Now you've got all those shots waiting for you on the side of this bubble, you on the inside with the flag up, and that bubble implodes after say four, five, six seconds, whatever it is, you've got a shot to the face, the flag hits the ground and I recap the flag right there.

"It's about trying to bring more than anything else," Peschel concluded. "We need to figure out how to elevate the FPS, take it to something new."

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