Vander Caballero and his team at Minority are best known for creating emotionally-charged games like Papo & Yo, which detailed Caballero's struggles with his alcoholic father. Caballero still speaks about the game very passionately, saying that to this day he still receives plenty of letters from people that it touched. While Caballero isn't abandoning using games to address difficult topics, he's trying something completely different for his next venture: a sci-fi, time-traveling adventure called Time Machine.
This may seem like a huge departure for Minority, but Cabellero has been fascinated with virtual reality and its potential since the '90s. He went to VR conferences sure it would be the next big thing, but sadly, it never took off. Cabellero was left wanting, and he wasn't about to let another opportunity pass him by. He saw a chance arise once again as VR came back into the spotlight in the last few years, gaining even more traction with Facebook acquiring Oculus Rift and Sony getting in on the action with Morpheus - not to mention the various other companies betting big on the technology.
Caballero says VR is all about the experience, which is why he wanted to do something imaginative and atmospheric. Time Machine takes place in the year 2070, a few years after human gain the technological capability to go back in time. You're part of a research team documenting pre-history, and this assignment takes you back to the Jurassic era to scan dinosaurs in the ocean.
Entering The Time Machine
I strap on the Oculus Rift and begin my demo. After being briefed on my quest, I'm shuttered off in a flying machine almost akin to a hovercraft. Being released into the landscape is immediately mesmerizing; for a moment I just take it all in as I soar through the atmosphere, glancing every which way. The VR accurately tracks my movements and positioning, allowing me to feel a floating sensation. It's not long before I submerge myself in water to take on my first task of tracking down some dinos.
Time Machine isn't about harming animals, but you can think of your scanning device as your weapon. As you get up-close and personal with different prehistoric species, you must slow time to allow yourself enough time to scan them fully. I come across my first foreign breed, the dakosaurus, which looks like a cross between a dolphin and a dinosaur. I take to my scanner, which activates at a click of a button. The hard part is getting the timing down, which I struggle with at first. Your initial reaction when you see a dinosaur is to immediately press scan, but you have only a small window for slowing down time before you blow your chance to scan it. Not getting trigger happy and timing it right as you draw near is your best bet.
Getting up close to these mammoths is absolutely stunning; staying on task is almost difficult because I just want to zoom up close and watch them. However, that'd blow my cover. Part of your job in Time Machine is staying safe. Every creature has different A.I. patterns. Certain species are aggressive and travel in packs, while others are loners and non-aggressive. Your biggest threat is the predators. Sneaking around them and finding hiding places is essential, because as soon as they spot you, they charge. I learn this quickly as I try to scan a pliosaurus, but don't time it correctly. The creature comes charging at me; I jump a bit in real life as he zooms past, and try with all my might to swim to the rocky ocean floor to get out of his path.
Caballero says water-based dinosaurs may not be your only pursuit; the team is also exploring land-based and flying pre-historic creatures. In addition, hunters have extra tools at their disposal, such as stun guns, tracking grenades, and a holographic bait to draw enemies away from packs. You'll want to use the stun gun on super-fast creatures and tracking grenades can help you see distance enemies through objects, allowing you to get the upper hand. Scanning gets more complicated as the game goes on; Cabellero said in one case you'll need to scan inside the mouth of a gigantic beast and escape before your ability to slow time runs out. As your progress, you'll also be able to upgrade your scanner with better capabilities, such as the x-ray vision, magnifier, speed, and range.
While we only saw a brief version of Time Machine and Cabellero is still keeping the grander story under wraps, it remains one of the more promising VR experiences I've encountered. Caballero says Minority hopes to bring it to as many VR systems as possible and plans to release when most VR devices finally launch. So far Minority has been working on the project for about a year. At the very least, Caballero's finally making his dreams of making a VR game a reality; now to see how far his imagination will take him.