Time loops could be the next big thing for next-gen consoles
A new console generation is not just better graphics and more power; it’s about where creativity develops next. Certain gameplay flourishes become an early stamp of approval in the launch window of a console generation. The same goes for the new Sony and Microsoft consoles and their built-in SSDs.
When the original CD-based consoles like the Panasonic 3DO (everyone remembers Crash N Burn?), Sega Saturn, and the original PlayStation entered the market, the game mechanic of choice was integrated FMV (Full Motion Video), designed to mimic an interactive movie. The result has been a wave of mediocre games and nowadays hilariously inducing like Sewer shark, night trap, and even pornographic softcore Plumbers don’t wear ties. When the Xbox 360 was released in 2005, indie games became a booming trend. Xbox Live Arcade introduced “small” downloadable titles, becoming a harbinger (alongside Valve’s Steam platform) of our increasingly digital-centric publishing model.
The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S / X, both released in November 2020, come by default with SSD drives with fast data transfer speeds, capable of reducing load times almost completely. A plethora of launcher games use these data transfer speeds to account for time loops and dimensional rifts in their gameplay. Perhaps Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart might call it a temporal break, while another, The way, explores the non-linearity of time and the spirit realm. Call it what you want; it’s the same mechanism, and it’s an effect of increasing data delivery speeds. The technology combines with the game’s design to warp and distract the player as they leap into entirely separate locations on the fly.
Lead the charge
The recently released Xbox Series X console, The way, is a third-person psychological horror game developed by Bloober Team. Players take on the role of Marianne, a psychic medium communicating and traversing the Spirit Realm. At the center of the game is the Dual Reality game mechanics, which allows you to navigate two worlds simultaneously.
“The SSD has helped a lot in creating diverse and believable worlds,” Mariusz Szaflik, senior programmer at Bloober Team, told us via email. “We no longer need to worry about grouping textures / meshes and creating strict rules about what is allowed to be where in terms of asset diversity.” Bloober Team uses the increased data transfer speeds to allow the game to frequently split the screen in the middle, one masquerading as the modern world and the other the spirit realm. “Marianne crosses two visually different worlds and none of the strengths of one world is present in the other. The player jumps between the two worlds to solve puzzles, fight with demons and commune with ghosts. Imagine being able to see all the psychic residue in a room, to visualize what would normally be invisible to the naked eye.
Another example is the upcoming PlayStation 5 exclusive Return, a rogue-type third-person shooter developed by Housemarque that tackles time loops in a whole different way. The protagonist of the game Selene is, you guessed it, stuck in a time loop. The alien planet is dark and full of horror, but this is where the game sidesteps the rest. The developer promises procedural gameplay, with its frequent kills and repeated parts of levels, to explore and reverse the mechanics of the time loop. If done right, the levels can never be played the same way twice.
“The ability to deliver large volumes of content smoothly and quickly has been a game-changer,” says Harry Krueger, Game Director of Return. “It has allowed us to be much more ambitious with scale, diversity and detail when creating gaming environments. We have meticulously handcrafted countless different areas, which are freely connected and populated. totally unique combinations for each cycle of play. “