Spending a good half hour with the Doctor—well, his companion, at least—in the new Three Rings-developed MMO.
The one thing that I kept being reminded of while I received my walkthrough of the upcoming MMO, Doctor Who: Worlds In Time was the (obvious) point that the recent reinvigoration of the show aside by most of the fans I know, Doctor Who was always intended for kids. With the exaggerated, cartoon-like art style to what appear to be simple pick up and play mechanics for this browser-based MMO, Three Rings seems to get that about the show and the franchise as a whole.
During a hands-off demo with Max Engel, senior product manager, BBC Worldwide Digital Entertainment and Games, I got a chance to see some of Worlds In Time in action, specifically some of the basic puzzles and environments as well as the levels of customization that players are allowed to engage in as they complete missions and develop their character.
First things, first, a lot of the basic navigation appears to be handled through the game's menus, albeit not excessively so. When you dive into the game, it looks like you'll be using a series of drop-down menus in the Flash-based interface to select the planet you wish to travel to as well as knock around to the various customization screens in the game. While some kind of representative hub system would have been nice, what we have here isn't exactly obtrusive or problematic—just simple.
Engel showed off the game's character creation tool which will at the time of the game's release allow you to select from one of four species from the series, and of course, as promised, your character will start in his or her pajamas. For now, the customization is pretty basic, with gender, species, and basic configuration options but Engel explained that as you acquire more of the game's currency, you would be able to get new gear for your character.
Each player will have their own room in the Doctor's TARDIS, which acts as a nice place to keep all of the stuff you've collected in the game. Engel showed off a few things he'd purchased for his character, and brought up a shop in the menus to purchase a monitor for his room. While "chronons" are the energy units employed by the game to allow you time in the missions, the actual currency for the shops and to purchased upgrades to your sonic screwdriver-in-training gadget is in "galleons."
Speaking of the gadget, Engel messed around with the one for his own character. From the looks of it, the best way to think of the gadget is as the home for all of your character's abilities and upgrades. This is where you level up and apply new skills to your character in a non-linear skill tree—you can effectively buy into any upgrade as long as you have the points for it. For his own gadget, Engel added the "Eloquence" and "Hacking" skills, the first a boost to his speech ability with NPCs and the second a mod which would help solve puzzles faster.
Jumping into the gameplay, we zipped over to present-day London, which has been decimated by some of that broken time we discussed yesterday. Presented as a 2D view with a little parallax scrolling in the background, you can click around the screen and interact with other characters and players before heading off to a mission. This acts as the game's social space which is then split into that location's various playable spaces.
The version of London I saw was littered with glowing, pink alien orbs, the result of an invasion at some point in the planet's history. Each of the game's worlds will have different invasion scenarios, meaning they'll be uniquely damaged by their respective invaders. Likewise, the same location will change dynamically if a new set of invaders had attacked the planet in its past. Each location is based on one encountered by the Doctor in the show and will have its own original music.
From there, we checked out one of the game's missions, or "interventions." In this case there were four companion characters including Engel's as well as four attacking enemies and multiple objectives identified onscreen. Engel clicked on a locked door that required his attention and entered a matching minigame while some of the NPC characters tussled with the enemies. Each of the objectives has a progress bar which represents how much more time the player(s) will need to spend knocking away at them. Engel explained that there might be multiple objectives in an intervention, but that World In Time allows players the flexibility to gang up on the same puzzle, completing it independently but as a team knocking its progress out quicker. In the menu, you'll be able to see how many chronons it will cost to play the current mission and of course, you can buy more to play beyond the daily allotment.
Again, the big takeaway here is that this casual title is intended to be super-accessible. And from what I was able to see, it pretty much is. I do think the interface and jumping between the different functions in the game could use a little bit of streamlining, but based on what was presented here, Three Rings has come up with a quirky and interesting take on the property in the MMO space.
You can get your first look at Doctor Who: Worlds In Time on the game's site while it's in open beta.