Deathloop, Retunal and the video game time loop

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Death loop has just been released as a limited-time exclusive for the PlayStation 5, along with generally positive reviews. Praised for its unique gameplay, Death loop has a quite apt and literal title. As a character named Colt, your goal is to break the time warp in the shady town of BlackReef that goes through the same day over and over again. If you don’t succeed at first, you will die and then you will die again. This “time warp” concept is nothing new to the video game medium and has proven to be a successful method of telling entertaining stories in films such as Edge of tomorrow and Looper. What makes the time warp such a compelling concept for video game integration? The pattern is there, especially in recent releases like 12 minutes, return, and of course Death loop. Each of these games incorporates the concept of a time warp a little differently, and therefore each one shows what the concept has to offer the video game medium as a whole.

For one, the concept of a time warp is inherently suitable for storytelling. The idea of ​​having to repeat the same events over and over, being a little different each time, and taking something new out of it can work with a number of concepts. That was what was behind the development of this year’s PlayStation exclusive. return. Narrative director Gregory Lüden himself said this and said in one Interview with GamesRadar that “The cyclical nature of narrative design means that the more you push forward, the more you discover Selene. What does the cycle do to someone?” Time warps in video games mean that not only do you have to create interesting game mechanics to keep the cycle fresh, but the narrative is just as important. What does the cycle mean for the player? What does it mean for the characters that the player is in control of?

A still image from Deathloop

Image via Bethesda Softworks

This is shown in return, and it’s especially obvious for a video game like Death loopwhich contains all sorts of lore and collectibles that, when found in the multiple stages of the loop, tell the full story of Colt and why he wants to escape BlackReef in the first place. This type of storytelling mechanic also makes players invest more in the game than ever before, adding a new level of interactivity that otherwise wouldn’t be there without the time loop mechanic. The history of the time loops also lends itself to further puzzle concepts where players are asked to figure out how to “break the loop”.

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Even more important than the story is the gameplay mechanics of a time-loop centric video game. This comes mainly from the developers of these games asking questions like “What about the structure of this game would encourage players to familiarize themselves with it until they become experts?” In the case of the Death loop, it is for survival, gameplay benefits for the player and the completion of the story. Death loop‘s FPS gameplay and the escalating threats mean that better weapons are needed. However, each day results in an inventory reset unless certain upgrades are collected that allow you to take a certain amount of inventory with you when the time loop is reset. In game mechanics like this, the time loop concept in video games stands out the most.

In the case of other new time loop games return and 12 minutes, the goals are more or less the same as Death loop, but they are approached differently. return displays a variety of enemies with varying behavior depending on what time warp you are in. Compared to the variety of enemies in Death Loop, return has a very different approach to putting obstacles in your way to keep you from breaking the loop. An even bigger difference in obstacles is the limited time the player has in 12 minutes. Players have a free hand in an apartment to combine objects scattered across the area in each loop to produce different results. Time loop games all have more or less the same goal, but how each game decides to get there depends not only on the game, but to some extent on how the player chooses to approach it.

The need to bring certain items with you in order to achieve different variants of success in the same scenarios gives a standard like an FPS a new and exciting flair. Deciding which guns work and which ones don’t on a different run of the same segment of the day you just went is what games like Death loop encouraged. Familiarity can lead to scorn in other games, but those that include time loops create an entirely different level of commitment on the part of the player to memorize the game and gameplay. Returns The gameplay of third-person shooters is very different from Death loop. It requires less precision, but it is also much more punitive than Death loop.

Returnal’s gameplay and time loop system is based on long “runs” that have no manual save option other than putting the PS5 into sleep mode. For this reason, every mistake in one of your “runs” leads to an enormous loss of progress and the restart of a time loop. Time warp video games have the potential to be just as rewarding and punishing as they are return or as relaxed and encouraging to explore like Death loop.

A screenshot of Deathloop

Image via Bethesda Softworks

Card design is always integral, but especially important when it comes to time loop games. If players go through the same area multiple times, the locale must be interesting. In a game like 12 minutesKeeping the player walking through the same apartment over and over again could seem repetitive and boring. However, the locale will be filled with a complicated environment design and various puzzles to be solved in each iteration of the scenario. That also applies to Death loopwhose 1960s-inspired environmental design and BlackReef’s creative architectural structure lends itself to constant exploration. Detours that are not available on one part of the day may also be available in another section.

Returns The background of the planet Atropos is also essential for the time loop concept. The procedural generation of rooms on the rundown mechanical planet keeps players on their toes, a far cry from BlackReef’s design in Death loop. Each area of ​​the planet Atropos feels different to give players a sense of where they are on the loop. It’s similar to Death Loop ‘S. Differences between the different times of the day. No matter what, time warp video games know how to give each locale a unique feel to help the gamer solve their problems and progress through the never-ending cycle.

Time warps in video games are, if anything, a product of the repetitive nature of previous games. Taking that repetition and using it as a means to implement new puzzles and getting players to approach the game in a more creative way is what time warps are all about. While the word “repetitive” is used to describe a negative aspect of a game, the video game time warp takes advantage of this.

Death loop and return are just the beginning if players continue to take the concept of these games as positively as they have it. Then there are indies who experiment with time loop games like 12 minutes to create new interesting puzzle games while reusing the same assets and you have a new emerging genre of video games. Much like the boom in battle royale games in recent years, the time loop video game has real potential to stand out from other gimmicks and selling points in recent years to create a truly creative, immersive, and innovative video game genre, show what the medium has to offer.

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