Wednesday, May 13, 2009

EXP Podcast #25: It's About Time

Is this already episode twenty-five? My how time flies! Which is exactly the topic of the day. This week on the EXP Podcast, Scott and I stumble upon a clever idea from Reid Kimball, Gamasutra Expert Blogger and level designer for Buzz Monkey Software. Taking a cue from cinema, Reid suggests game designers implement the potentially cheesy but versatile tool that is the montage. By creating an interactive montage, the passage of time is expressed without a non-interactive cut scene or jarring jump in time. Join us while we discuss flashbacks, lumberjacks, the mighty Chronos, and how games and gamers play with time itself. Of course you can find Kimball's article in the show notes below. As always, we would love to have you share your own temporal musings in the comments section.

Some discussion starters:

- What games express the passage of time in satisfactory ways? Does their interactive, or the lack thereof, improve the experience?
- Do you enjoy playing games under a time constraint? Does this give greater meaning to the passage of time in-game?
- Are there characters or franchises you would like to see age in real-time? Do you think this would add to the immersion?

To listen to the podcast:
- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show Notes:

- Run time: 26 min 48 sec
- Reid Kimball's article, via Gamasutra
- Music provided by Brad Sucks


  1. I don't like time constraints - a lot of people found those in the original Fallout rather stifling.

    I can think of a game which DOESN'T show the passage of time satisfactorily - Fable 2. (spoilers ahead)

    The way the game throws around the passage of years during its story interludes is incredibly sloppy. You get shot in the face, and then, oh, let's say TEN years have passed. Yes, that'll do. And then you go to the Spire... and ANOTHER TEN YEARS just go flying past as well with the careless flick of the writer's pen. There's absolutely no sense of there being a lot of time passing except for the text on the screen, yet you are clearly meant to think it was epic. You don't.

    And that's before we consider that your dog must be over 30 years old by the end of the game.

    I think aging can work well, if it's handled with care. It can also help with creating a believable story - I'm reminded of the various Simpsons episodes where Lisa develops issues more suited to girls twice her age. Seeing returning characters aging over the course of some games (the old GTA trilogy had several recurring characters who we got to see in various stages of their lives) can help you feel attached to them.

    Oh, and congratulations on 25 excellent, thought-provoking episodes!

  2. I agree with Branch-me-do above that Fable 2 does a terrible job of the passage of time. I felt like my character was a very different person at each different "time" in the story, and it just felt kind of disjointed.

    However, I love the fact that Scott mentioned FF3/6. The way the story picks up as Celes after the world is torn apart is great. This line will probably peg me as an FF fanboy, but that game is easily one of the best in the series.

    I also like the way The Sands of Time handles time, not in the rewinding, but in the storytelling. The narrative of the game literally being told by the Prince gives you a very distinct "this already happened" feel when playing, whereas a lot of games give you a "this is happening now" feel.

  3. Interesting: I wonder if you two represent a wider dislike of Fable's handling of time?

    I think the Prince of Persia is a great example of conveying a "past tense" gaming experience, which is difficult since games are inherently active.

    Have either of you played Majora's Mask?