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Time Travel, a core mechanic in Titan [speculation]


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One possibility I overlooked in the game universe speculation article, although now that I look back it was already quite obvious, is a "low" science fiction universe created with the contribution of time travel.

World of Warcraft already makes a lot of use of time travelling to tell its story, the most recent example being patch 4.3 with its new heroic dungeons (End Time and Well of Eternity especially). We also fought our future selves, seen about a dozen potential Azeroth endings and it's quite possible that we had a part in most of the world's large past events (just think Caverns of Time).

So it's clear that some of the Blizzard leads love this story gimmick. And most of us do too! So why not kick it up a notch and upgrade time travelling to not only a strong story pillar, but also a critical game-play mechanic. Get time travel in right from the start and rely heavily on it, not just for flavour like in WoW.

Besides some "whispers", there are a couple of small hints that point toward this being real.

First of all, this next quote suddenly makes perfect sense.

So is Blizzard's new MMO going to be sci-fi, near-future, post-apocalyptic or historical? "All of those combined!" he said, laughing. Source

Its meaning has always been a bit dodgy since it's quite hard to be near-future AND historical at the same time. That is unless you count on a lot of time travelling.

Next up we have a combination of two clues that produce a very, very weird result unless, again, we consider time travelling. First, we have a recent article of Daeity (or as I like to call him, digital Sherlock :D ). He makes a strong case for in-game ads being a real possibility for Titan, which considering the "low" SF genre the game seems to be part of, would make a lot of sense.

If that's the case though, what about this now deleted tweet of Cameron Dayton (Transmedia writer and Story Developer at Blizzard)?

shifting tectonic plates, raising Atlantis, and reviving Teotihuacan. Damn I love my job. Source

Surely they're not planning on sticking Coca-Cola ads on the Teotihuacan pyramids? Or encourage you to play on your XBox in Atlantis? Or maybe convince you to drink Red Bull because it gives you wings just like a Pterosaur has ("shifting tectonic plates" points to a very very very distant past)? It would be pretty atrocious.

Unless these historical sights would be just some of the time periods in the game, with another large part taking place in the near-future. In 2050 for example, ads would fit like a glove. And at the same time we could also have Teotihuacan, Atlantis and whatever else long gone civilization they decide to revive. You'd just pack your stuff, go through a portal of some kind, "shoot" some aztecs in the face, come back into the main temporal line and be greeted by your XBox ads. :)

I went a bit "off-road" there, but fact is I can't imagine in-game ads and Atlantis in the same frame without time travelling of some sorts.

So combining Blizzard's clear affinity for this mechanic and some of the small hints I pointed above, I think a time-travel-enabled SciFi universe for Titan is a strong possibility and at the very least something to take note of.

Really interested in what you guys think about it!





9 Comments

I love your analysis. I think the time travel mechanic could be insanely awesome. Instead of instancing to certain places though... this is kind of pipedream-esque but how about Earth, with a dozen time periods accessible at the button press of a personal time device? Haha, imagine if they made the Earth? Even scaled down it would truely be worthy of the name Titan and the allocation of their hundred man dev team.
Yup, I had the exact same picture in mind as you and now that I look back at the article I realize that the use of the word "instances" wasn't that inspired. I've corrected that sentence to be a bit more general.
This would open up many doors for all kinds of scenarios. It can also create a very dynamic world: if you travel through history, making changes and fighting, the world you return to will obviously change to accomodate the altered history.

What if they raise the bar a few notches and go with the theory of aliens/future humans as the source of life and civilisation on this planet? Build on the premise that most if not all ancient civilisations have based their religion on 'help from above' aka us. Much like for example the movie Prometheus they can build a completely seperate world/galaxy were we as humans ( or evolved versions of ourselves ) live. This situation can then be adapted with conflicts that force us to revisit 'history' or even help with the creation of other worlds.

What if they raise the bar a few notches and go with the theory of aliens/future humans as the source of life and civilisation on this planet? Build on the premise that most if not all ancient civilisations have based their religion on 'help from above' aka us. Much like for example the movie Prometheus they can build a completely seperate world/galaxy were we as humans ( or evolved versions of ourselves ) live...

Although a lot of people didn't like the direction Prometheus took the Alien franchise, personally I loved this movie! This is a very cool way of thinking about Titan's possibilities, and I never considered it quite this way.

One possible angle I had considered for an article was looking at the remarkably similar creation myths among different ancient civilizations and tieing it back into Titan, but I scrapped it because I thought it would be a bit too boring to read, and frankly didn't think it was likely. But somehow I never put Prometheus in the same boat with the creationism idea I had.

Anyway, it would indeed be interesting if something like this came into being for Titan.
I really think time travel is a viable possibility to encompass the clues we have so far- but I feel there's a distinct lack of alternative theories (besides separate places, but that doesn't really mesh with the whole raising Atlantis tweet- assuming that wasn't a metaphor), so I'd like to propose another, after considering some issues with time travel.

In time travel, I don't see why you couldn't whip out your gun, or just go to another time before you killed X mob and farm it, or produce paradoxes, or other tomfoolery, such as running into yourself. Or, for that matter, why would you need to stop using your gun to shoot the Mayans (there was a 'no' to the guns)? The basic laws of nature don't generally change. How could you really have a dynamic evolving world where people can pick the same time over and over? Time travel is, was, and always will be absolutely ridiculously complex. Honestly? I hope they don't go with it because the only way time travel would work in a mmo setting would be to put unreasonable (read: sensible) restrictions on it that really take the science fiction magic out of it that made it so great in the first place. So why not the next best thing- just adding some static into the mix.

Dimension hopping. As in literal, dimensions.
You want an alternative earth where WW3 happened and the apocalypse was? >BAM DONE< By the way, due to the radiation, nothing electronic works, sorry.
You want Atlantis? >BAM DONE< By the way, due to the magic there, gunpowder (or plasma) doesn't explode, your gun is obsolete.
You want messed dinosaurs and tectonic plates? >BAM DONE< By the way, that dinosaur really doesn't give a crap about your magic spell because it's hide is non-reactant.
Mayan content? Greek content? WHATEVER THEY FEEL LIKE CONTENT(including a world where time is less than orderly)? Sure thing. And none of it needs to bump into itself, worry about lore with itself, players and developers can change the world and have it evolve without any potential 'future' for it already set. Character differentiation? Simple! You're from universe T, not A you should have any customization suitable for your given home- whichever that was (or mix and match)!

Also it avoids more problems with time travel. There's no awkward "gap" in sensibility like "why can't I go to X time?" or "Why can't my timewarpy device anchor to Y? (or if anchors are pre-existing how the hell did they get there)" or "Where's the other me that was at Z time before?" while still maintaining the unlimited potential similar to time travel for multiple crazy things, differentiation, world size, and expansion.

Lots of good points.


I don't usually say this, but I agree with you pretty much completely. I'm not saying that I think there'll be dimension warps, but I am saying you make some really good points about time travel and possible alternatives to it. :)

Dimension hopping. As in literal, dimensions.


Really nice idea. Not sure how much more simple it would be, since each dimension would still need an "excuse" for future items not working in it but it would indeed avoid the continuity explanations a time travel option would require.

On the other hand, since time travel wouldn't be involved, we'd be seeing all the ancient civilizations, the dinosaurs, etc in their present form, in the year 2200 or whatever. I think this would make it a bit weird (although potentially still awesome). Also, with all the dimensions being completely independent from each other, not sure how well this would be to the overall story.

Anyway, I'm mostly nitpicking. :D This does indeed sound like a clear possibility. Oh and btw, welcome to the site Kattyd! :)
Interesting theory, I like it, I'd love to see how it was implemented.

An interesting note - Blizzard has already (prototyped?) time travel/alt. reality scenarios in WoW's Caverns of Time. Perhaps players will be defending The One True Timeline from possible alien interference, while at the same time thwarting their evil schemes in the present?