Monday, 17 August 2015

Timequest - Won!

Written by Reiko

Temporal Corps Private Journal #13: This has been the weirdest day of my life. In chasing Vettenmyer, I get flung back and forth through several hours of time, encountering my past and future selves in close proximity, all to disarm a deadly trap Vettenmyer constructed. When he tries one last desperate thing and fails, I finally learn why I was the one chosen to carry out this mission.

Time to face Vettenmyer! I say 'east' to enter the Tower of Babel, which nets me twenty more points right away. On the wall in here, there are ten portraits, each of which correspond to one of the missions, and all the frames are glowing. I restore back just to check that it is possible to enter the tower at any time, assuming you know the password, but the far door won't be open unless all of the portraits are glowing, indicating that all of the missions are complete.

All missions complete!

Now things are going to get tricky. I step through the far door and immediately gain thirty more points and a bucketload of questions. The moment I walk in, a future self is dematerializing from one platform of an experimental time travel machine while pointing toward the other platform, plus footsteps can be heard approaching from another direction. If I stay and look around, Vettenmyer arrives, ties me up, starts gloating, and offers to let me watch him use his destruction device if I can guess his favorite number from 1 to 100. When I fail at that, he shoots me. The end.

Vettenmyer gloats in evil genius fashion.

The really interesting part is when he's talking about the key that can disable his destruction device. He says that philosopher was the founder of the Temporal Corps, having been given the original key by the man who discovered the secret of time travel (who is not described as the inventor of the interkron, though). Every full time agent (i.e. not me) has a copy of that key. Of course, without getting captured by Vettenmyer, I wouldn't hear any of this. Now I know I need to investigate the philosopher again, but I knew I'd missed something there anyway.

I notice that the door into the tower proper is also some kind of time portal, such that I always arrive at the same time regardless of how much I wander around 1361 BC Babylon first. That makes me wonder why Vettenmyer was a minute late in encountering me. If the arrival is a set time, why not just wait right there by the door and shoot me the second I show up? (Especially when I telegraph my arrival by tripping on the way in.) Why have a “doomsday device” as well? This guy clearly hasn’t read the Evil Overlord List. For instance: “I will be secure in my superiority. Therefore, I will feel no need to prove it by leaving clues to my Master Plan in the form of riddles for my enemies to find.” Or: “I will never utter the sentence "Before I kill you, you should know..."” Or: “I will not employ devious schemes that involve the band of heroes actually making it into my inner sanctum before the trap is sprung.” Etc.
Anyway, I restore and, instead of getting captured, I dive immediately for the platform indicated by my future self and find myself flung exactly 57 minutes into the past. At this point, the room is empty. Notes on the wall confirm that the backward platform is set for 57 minutes, and the other platform is set for 62 minutes forward, with a minimum delay of five minutes between machine uses. The real question now is what do I need to accomplish to neutralize Vettenmyer? I look around for a few minutes and test the platforms, both of which send me into times where Vettenmyer is in the room and kills me immediately. I decide to just wait through the intervening time and become the future me I saw, jumping forward at the point where I entered the room in the first place.

Two time jumps executed correctly.

The second jump works perfectly. I hear myself coming and immediately step on the forward platform, signalling my past self just the way I saw it happen. I reappear 62 minutes later to find Vettenmyer on the floor, a future self tied up, and the device opened. So I do have to get captured at some point. At this point, though, I have one move before Vettenmyer grabs his laser gun and one more move before he shoots me. I can't get the gun before Vettenmyer does. If I had the key Vettenmyer mentioned, I could put it in the keyhole and maybe disable the device before jumping onto the platform. I suspect this is a dead-end path without the key.

I restore back to before I entered the tower and go talk to the philosopher again. He says a couple of interesting things now that I know who he is and that he has a key. He says, "As long as there is at least one student each generation, the academy will remain open." I remember at the beginning of the game, the academy location in 44 BC was empty, but at that point, I hadn't talked to the philosopher yet, and I hadn't had any reason to return since then. I return there and this time I find the same philosopher waiting for me. He appears to remember me, even. I don't understand how that's possible. Can he travel through time without an interkron?

The philosopher has something new to say in each time period.

I continue moving forward each time, visiting the academy, and each time the philosopher is now waiting for me. He chats briefly about the philosophies of the era, from Epicurus, to Avicenna and Averroes, to Machiavelli, to Kant, etc.

What student? Is this another time loop?

In 1940, the academy location still looks identical, and the philosopher is now there, but this time he is wearing a key. After chatting about philosophy, I ask him about the key, and he willingly gives it to me. I get twenty points for this.

I also take a side trip back to headquarters just to see if the general has anything to say about the key. Not really, but I did notice also that he has a painting in his office. The description sounds like the academy location, and it's marked with the characteristic key. If that isn't a hint I don't know what is, although if I saw it at the beginning of the game, I didn't know what to make of it then. I’m pretty sure I missed it though.

This painting isn’t visible in the picture.

I don't think I would have had any reason to even try to track down the key without having heard Vettenmyer's spiel after being tied up, and that's problematic from a character standpoint. As a player, I can restore back and go find what I missed, but my character wouldn't have known what he needed or even that he needed it. It's not the first time in the game that's happened, but I think it's the most egregious, given that there's literally no way to escape once I've been tied up by Vettenmyer.

I also noticed that if I wait long enough at headquarters, the timestream changes and I fail the game, just like if I wait around in a mission location without fulfilling the mission, except there's no failed future, just instant failure. Anyway, with the key, maybe I can thwart Vettenmyer now. I return to the tower room and take the first two time jumps like I did before.

This time I have the key, so I jam it into the keyhole before Vettenmeyer can stop me. I get fifty points for this. Then I jump on to the backwards time platform. I'd jumped backwards before, but now, since I stopped the doomsday machine, my future self shouts, "Eight!" That must be Vettenmyer's favorite number.

I make a third time jump and this time get the number.

When I reappear, I am immediately captured, of course, and like before, if I wait around, he tells me about the key and then asks me to guess his favorite number. I tell him eight, and he looks very surprised. Then he opens his device, arms it, and closes it again. I get fifteen points for guessing the right number. However, I still have to do something else. Vettenmyer knows that another of me is about to arrive and fries him as soon as he appears, which is another instant fail.

Failing to stop Vettenmyer causes temporal paradox.

Instead, I kick him when he turns his back, causing him to sprawl the way I saw him before and drop his remote. Then I just have to do what I already saw my future self do: step on the remote to open the box, and then shout the answer to the riddle. I have to do some fiddling and restoring to figure out that I can kick him, and in the process, I discover that the number is random; it's not always eight. I have to follow the sequence and wait to hear the answer from my future self before I can answer it correctly.

That is a really tiny and really deadly laser gun.

When he fails to kill my past self and sees that the key has been correctly used to turn off the doomsday device, Vettenmyer becomes enraged, realizing that I got the key from the old man at the academy. He hits me over the head and drags me off in his interkron to confront the old man.

The old man seems to have no idea what’s going on.

I wake up in 1940 Rome, still tied up, with the old man surprised to see us, but not afraid to die. They wrestle, and the old man manages to get Vettenmyer to shoot himself with the laser gun.

The Temporal Corps was founded the same day Churchill refuses to surrender to Hitler?

Unfortunately, he shoots again as he dies, aiming for me, but the old man leaps in front of me, taking the hit.

I still don’t know whether this was somehow the same old man I met in each age...

I finally struggle out of my ropes and race over to the old man before he dies. He tells me to take his cloak and continue to pass on his knowledge. The last action of the game is for me literally to "take cloak", which gets me 75 points, bringing me up to a total of 1000 points.

...but probably not, given that he’s passing on his legacy to me now.

Ending screen that mirrors the opening screen.

So the rookie time agent ends up being the one to found the whole Temporal Corps. That’s an interesting twist. What jumps out at me is that really the only thing the 1940 philosopher passed on to me when he died was the cloak with the secret of time travel. He didn’t pass on any other knowledge. Of course, given all the other things I experienced during the missions as well as each of the previous stops to talk to the philosophers in other times, I gained a lot of knowledge, but he couldn’t really have known about that.

This ending leaves me with a lot of other questions. Who was the one who set all this in motion by figuring out the secret of time travel and hiding it in a box? I don’t think we ever find out. This also seems like an awfully convoluted way to get the Temporal Corps founded, too, given that if I fail at any point, it’s not just that the Temporal Corps wouldn’t get founded, but all future history is irretrievably screwed up. Vettenmyer clearly doesn’t know what’s going on ahead of time (if he did, he wouldn’t kill me or go to his own death, presumably), and we don’t hear from anyone else in the Corps except for General Drexler, who gave me the assignment originally. Did he know what was going on? How could he if nobody else did? How much interfering will I have to do after the fact to make sure the right people know what’s going on at the right time? Who painted the painting in Drexler’s office? Why was Vettenmyer so incompetent, given that he didn’t know the whole thing was basically a setup to get me in the right place at the right time?

Next time, we'll have final thoughts and the ratings.

Session Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 24 hours 0 minutes


  1. "On the Vettenmyer you see a laser gun."

    As soon as he died, he became a piece of furniture. :P

  2. Most importantly, how did future you know Vettenmyer's favourite number?

    I do kinda love that crazy time-travel puzzle ending, it's the perfect way to end the game. Not sure it makes much sense as a story, but I enjoyed reading about it!

    1. That's a case of bootstrapping information. Future me had already answered the number question correctly, then shouted the answer to past me as I was jumping back to become future me. Where'd the information really come from? The magic of time travel.

      It really doesn't make a lot of sense as a story, but it was fun to play. :)

  3. I still don't understand this. Why did they send a rookie through to stop the world from ending? There must have been dozens of others, including the guy who sent you on your way. I'm okay by the idea of the protagonist being the founder of the Corps in the Bill & Ted 2 'we put the gun there - and the sandbags that slam down on your head' way.

    Still, hooray for happy endings! Even though you've completely ruined history and given Kenny a minor aneurysm in the process. I think this might have been the longest game in the blog's history, post-wise - or is that Neuromancer? The sheer amount of information in the game makes it perfectly understandable, however.

    1. Neuromancer had 18 game play posts, Timequest only 13, so the record is still unbeaten.

    2. Yeah, and I think the game design was tighter than Neuromancer, which felt like not a lot happened for far too long. In Timequest, I didn't make a lot of puzzle progress early on, but I was still visiting new locations and seeing new events the whole way through.

    3. This game gave me more piles!

      Then again, I guess it deserves some artistic license to screw around history for entertainment's sake.

      It's not like many movies out there "based on true events" are in anyway closer to history than this.

    4. Are you saying you liked Neuromancer better?

  4. Did anyone play through Timequest with me?

  5. And this is why you just say 'No' to time travel as a basis for a game or movie. Unless you just want an excuse to visit and play around in fun costumes and such, like the Dr Who historicals or Star Trek.

    1. Didn't Star Trek make just about the worst kind of muddle with all its time travel episodes? (At least if you are speaking of the whole franchise)

    2. I was only thinking of the DS9 Tribble Episode, and some of the TOS ones that were just them using cheap outfits and trying to get home.

    3. TOS gladly didn't yet have much of time travel episodes (and when they wanted to use cheap outfits, they often relied on the ridiculous notion of the Parallel Development of Planets), but at least since TNG time travel and temporal paradoxes became abundant. DS9 did use it to good effect occasionally, but in Voyager the whole notion was just too overused to be any fun.