Niklas Hansson founded Defrost Games in 2010, shortly after leaving his position as lead software engineer at Massive Entertainment. After starting up the studio, work began on a game that would “change the ways the player thinks about time.”
Gathering together old friends from Massive and former students from Swedish institution, The Game Assembly, Hansson started up on a game called Project Temporality.
Project Temporality is a third-person puzzle/adventure game about time manipulation, putting players in the role of a test subject identified only as Number 87. The game’s main goal is to change the player’s perception of time.
“Instead of considering it as a single arrow going forward as in physics, we are treating it more like a branching tree that can double back on itself and sprout new branches whenever it feels like,” explains Hansson. “That does sound a bit quasi-philosophical, but the gist of it is that we want the player to experience this mental shift where they have to change the way they think to solve the puzzles. It’s an action-based puzzle game, very much in the vein of Portal, but with two major differences. The basis of all our puzzles is time manipulation. Even though the mechanics used on a level might change, time is still the base element, in the same way that the base of all puzzles in the Portal series is the portals. The other is our choice to go third-person. This is based on my strong belief as a hardcore FPS gamer that the FPS view is not a natural match for platforming elements.”
Hansson frequently mentions Portal in relation to Project Temporality, going so far as to say that his game would not exist without Valve’s acclaimed title paving the way. He credits Portal as both a gaming and learning experience. Portal’s test chamber layout also served as a heavy influence on Project Temporality. “The basic division with test chambers is also something that we looked at,” said Hansson. “By having this pacing where you solve a puzzle, get a mental reward, and then a period where you could rest your brain before the next puzzle was extremely well-done. So we have looked closely at the pacing and flow of Portal. Though our actual gameplay is quite different, there is a lot of Portal in Project Temporality.”
Hansson and the rest of Defrost Games first showed off Project Temporality at Microsoft’s Dream Build Play event in 2011. While it was a prototype only two-months in development, it still managed to become a semi-finalist. With a year of polish, Defrost is looking to enter the game into this year’s Dream Build Play competition, as well. Hansson that this year’s build boasts updated visuals, illuminated environments, and a new shading system. However, the biggest change is in the gameplay itself.
Hansson describes a new interface that displays the multiple timelines in greater detail. A new minimap will also help players keep track of their multiple timelines. Players will be able to see multiple clones of themselves, regardless of whether or not they’re in Number 87’s direct line of sight. There are also debuting puzzle elements like lasers and mirrors that create a more varied experience.
One gameplay element that Hansson isn’t quite ready to show off is the temporality field. The game’s narrative sees Earth placed inside just such a field, which negates all time manipulation attempted within it. While Number 87 has managed a way around this restriction, a number of objects have not. Any objects caught inside a temporality field cannot be manipulated, leading to a new range of puzzles.
Given that Number 87 will need to cooperate with multiple versions of himself to solve puzzles, the idea of co-op could complicate matters. Hansson agrees, but isn’t about to completely rule out the idea of co-op in Project Temporality. “I absolutely love co-op play,” he said. “Anything is more fun when shared with a friend and you can make some really fiendish puzzles that way. However since in Project Temporality you can always create a new version of yourself and cooperate with it, so I’m not sure we could do a good co-op mode. I would love for it to happen but with the current schedule it might be a thing that will have to wait for a follow-up or a DLC. But I would never say never. Defrost Games is a meritocracy when it comes to the development so if we get that really great co-op idea we will make sure to find a way to fit it in.”
Indie Games Channel will be sure to follow Project Temporality’s progress in this year’s Dream Build Play competition. As for an official release, Defrost is aiming for February/March 2013 for PC and Xbox 360.
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