Atari Calls Gamers to Beta Test ‘TimeShift’

Atari and Saber Interactive on Friday announced a closed public beta test for the upcoming first-person shooter “TimeShift.” Gamers are invited to submit an application to participate in the testing.

The beta test will run in multiplayer game mode. Atari’s aim with the test is to get player feedback on game tuning and balance. The classic video game brand is also seeking player help with hardware and compatibility testing and general functionality testing.

The planned launch date for the beta is the last week of this month. Participants in the alternate time line game will play under a “strict non-disclosure agreement,” Atari said in its blog, “which means you cannot discuss the project outside our dedicated private beta forum.”

The Beta Strategy

Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg told TechNewsWorld that video games, like all software programs, are always beta tested. However, he said it is uncommon for players to get an opportunity to sign up for closed public betas.

“One of the reasons Atari is inviting players to join the public beta is because they can get good feedback from their target audience,” Gartenberg said. “It’s also a great way to start building buzz for a game like this.”

Analysts said there is already some market demand stirring for the futuristic title. This public beta is likely to generate additional excitement before the scheduled Spring 2006 launch.

“It’s a struggle to continue to come up with the hits, and clearly Atari is hoping this will be a hit title that can catapult the company strongly forward,” Gartenberg said.

Time in Users’ Hands

Set in the near future, Atari said “TimeShift” from Saber Interactive will take the first-person genre to an entirely different dimension marked by erratic time and unrelenting action.

“TimeShift” transports gamers to a steampunk-inspired world characterized by a predominance of metal, machinery, and steam power. Individual rights have been eradicated and a tyrannical leader rules ruthlessly with an iron fist.

Gamers assume the role of renowned test pilot Colonel Michael Swift who recently lost his only daughter to a bus accident. Bleak, depressed and desperate for an escape from his misery, Swift decides to accept a recent offer from the U.S. government.

Armed with a time-control device called the “Quantum Suit” and a time machine called the “Chronomicon,” Swift sets out to test the most significant inventions of the century. He is briefly sent back in time to 1911 to plant an experimental probe.

Upon his return to the present, a shift has occurred. The world he left has changed beyond all recognition. And his knowledge of this timeshift has made him an enemy of the state. Swift is now both on the run and on a mission to set time straight once again.

Timeless Features

“TimeShift” features time control elements that allow the first-person shooter to slow, stop and reverse the flow of time to affect the world and enemies around them while moving freely through frozen worlds.

Atari said time shifting obstacles will challenge the players to think in four dimensions in order to overcome difficult scenarios and defeat challenging enemies.

Next-generation graphics technology in the Saber3D engine include normal mapping for amazing high-detailed textures and characters as well as parallax lighting.

Players will use an array of weapons from varying time periods, including plasma guns, hybrid grenades, full action pistols and a “Swarm Cannon.” There are more than 35 combat missions, each one featuring time shifting elements and challenges standing in the way of completion.

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