Earlier this year, it looked like the long awaited time themed first person shooter Timeshift was in serious trouble. A demo of the game developed by Saber Interactive was released for the PC that had some major issues. Fortuately for the developer, Timeshift's publisher Atari decided to sell off their rights to the game to rival Vivendi Games and the new publisher allow Saber a few extra months to develop and complete the game. With Timeshift now set for release for the Xbox 360 and PC this September, FiringSquad got in touch with Saber's CEO Matthew Karch to get his views on the publishing switchover, how it affected the game and what it was like working with actor Dennis Quaid on his first game voice action gig.
FiringSquad: First, we have to ask how Saber Interactive felt about the switch in publishers. How did this switch affect the development of the game?
: We are very grateful to Atari for giving us a shot when they picked up TimeShift. We were a small, unknown developer with leading-edge tech and a good idea, and Atari allowed us to make it happen. Unfortunately, Atari at the time was going through a restructuring phase and we felt that they weren’t really able to give TimeShift the attention it deserved. Their plan was to release the game in March when we felt we needed more time to polish it and make it more competitive with the best games in the genre. Thus they felt they needed to get a demo out and released something that we were not ready or willing to share with the public. When Atari announced that they were going to sell some of their properties, multiple publishers contacted them about TimeShift. I personally flew out to California to meet with the interested companies, and while Atari received several bids we were very fortunate to have Vivendi – one of the leading publishers in the industry – pick up the game. In fact, we were lucky enough to keep our publisher side producer, Kyle Peschel, who made the move to Vivendi along with TimeShift, so the actual development process didn’t skip a beat.
The switch didn’t change development per se - we were still developing the game we had continually been making, the difference being when Vivendi picked it up they realized the potential that the game had and gave us the extra time and resources we needed to really bring it from A to triple-A caliber. Changes like a completely re-written game script and story, brand new graphics technologies, the recently announced Hollywood voice talent, and layers upon layers of polish all work towards complementing the innovative things we’re doing on the gameplay side with the manipulation of time.
FiringSquad: Saber Interactive has also spent a long time on the game itself, having seen an early build back in December 2004. How has the lengthy development time affected how the game itself has evolved?
: “Evolved” is the perfect way to phrase it, especially since TimeShift originally started out as an Xbox 1 title. As we made the jump from current-gen to next-gen, then exclusively to next-gen, we were simultaneously growing the game design to take advantage of the more powerful hardware in terms of raw graphical capabilities and presentation, as well as incorporation of the time powers. So what we’ve been able to do during development is build the time power infrastructure, build the design and game scenarios, then go back and forth tweaking each element until they work in complete concordance with each other. This way the game organically grows out of its components into a cohesive whole.