Three Rings and BBC Worldwide step into the TARDIS together for Doctor Who: Worlds in Time [interview]

Science fiction is genre with plenty of established franchises, but few names have had quite as much staying power as Doctor Who. The venerable old British franchise prepares to enter its fiftieth year, and to celebrate, BBC Worldwide is readying a release that will let fans of the series step into the shoes of the Doctor’s latest assistant – namely, you.

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Science fiction is genre with plenty of established franchises, but few names have had quite as much staying power as Doctor Who. The venerable old British franchise prepares to enter its fiftieth year, and to celebrate, BBC Worldwide is readying a release that will let fans of the series step into the shoes of the Doctor’s latest assistant – namely, you.

Available for play now as an early preview release, but more formally launching later this year, Doctor Who: Worlds in Time is a web-based MMO experience that combines the whimsy of the Doctor Who universe with multiplayer puzzling fun. Even better, it’s brought to us by the bright minds at Three Rings – the development team behind Spiral Knights and Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates.

Gamezebo recently had a chance to sit down with BBC Worldwide’s executive VP of Digital Entertainment and Games, Robert Nashak, as well as Three Rings CEO Daniel James to talk about all things Doctor. Here’s what they had to say;

How did the pairing of Doctor Who and Three Rings come about?

Robert: When I started at BBC Worldwide two years ago one of the first calls I made was to Daniel James, CEO at Three Rings. I knew I wanted to make the world’s first multiplayer online game for Doctor Who and I knew it had to be great. Doctor Who is one of the world’s iconic sci-fi properties with a huge and vocal fanbase who rightly have extremely high expectations for quality and authenticity. Daniel is British and a lifelong Doctor Who fan. Three Rings are pioneers in free-to-play games that incorporate social play and puzzle play. Their passion and sensibilities made Three Rings the best choice for developing this game. And lucky for me, Daniel agreed.


While Three Rings have developed a number of great games in recent years, Worlds in Time definitely feels like the spiritual successor to your 2003 debut, Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates. Would you say that’s a fair assessment?

Daniel: Yes, in many ways it is, but in keeping with its heritage, Worlds in Time has a much stronger narrative element.

We’ve had a lot of success with Puzzle Pirates in introducing a free-to-play, persistent online world that features puzzle-based adventures and social interaction. I think fans of the game will find Doctor Who: Worlds in Time contains many of those same elements that make for a compelling game.

With Worlds in Time, we were obviously able to draw on the rich history of the show, with the goal of making it feel like a natural extension of the Doctor Who universe. So, while there are many similarities, the games will have their own unique look and feel.

Rather than going with a realistic portrayal, Worlds in Time offers cutesy, cartoony visuals that do a great job of personifying the charming romp-filled spirit of Doctor Who. How did this unique look come about?

Daniel: Three Rings and BBC Worldwide worked very closely with the production team to identify a look and feel that is true to the tenor of Doctor Who. We settled on a strong graphic novel art style which incorporates thick lines, shadows and lots of color.


You’ve recently introduced the Dalek homeworld, Skaro, as the latest playable environment in the game. Since Skaro hasn’t been depicted in the new series, what did Three Rings draw on to influence the planet’s look?

Daniel: With the entire game, we’ve worked with the creative team behind the show to make sure we’re being faithful to the entire history and mythology of the beloved program. With Skaro, we looked to previous depictions of the homeworld at various points in the timeline to find the right way to portray this planet.

In addition to the Dalek homeworld, you’ve recently added Guild Play to the game. Can you tell us a little about how this works, and how it affects the multiplayer experience?

Daniel: With guild play, players can team up on missions or join guilds and compete against other guilds to save the world, and win larger prizes/rewards. The guilds will also allow more experienced players to take on a leadership role and introduce less experienced players to new worlds as they work together to complete missions and help the Doctor.


2013 will mark the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, and to coincide with that, a lot of exciting projects seem to be popping up – and Worlds in Time isn’t the only one in the world of video games. Any chance you can give us a hint of what to expect in The Eternity Clock, or what other surprises the BBC might have in store?

Robert: With the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who fast approaching, we’re super focused on creating new ways for fans to engage with the Doctor. Doctor Who: Worlds in Time aspires to be the largest Doctor Who community ever assembled and you can bet that we’ll be using it as a major platform for celebrating the 50th anniversary in 2013. On console, we’re developing a franchise called Doctor Who: Eternity Clock which launches on PS3 and Vita in the coming weeks. It’s got a hyper-realistic look and feel, it incorporates talent from the show in new ways – it’s a very different experience that Worlds in Time and we’re hoping Eternity Clock becomes a console franchise with installments timed to celebrate the anniversary. More than that, I can’t talk about just yet.

Will Worlds in Time in any way tie-in with the next season of Doctor Who when it begins airing later this year?

Robert: We can’t discuss the specifics of what content from the show will appear in the game, suffice it to say that we are adding new content on a regular basis, and continue to draw inspiration from the show.

What other goodies can players expect to see in the coming months? Gallifrey? K-9? Tom Baker’s scarf? Speaking of which, can we expect to see elements from the original series added to Worlds in Time too?

Robert: You’ll just have to wait and see! However, we are continuing to look at the original and current series to help us inform the upcoming game content. Know this, you will always find subtle nods to Doctor Who fans, such as use of the fez and bowtie. One of the wonderful things about Worlds in Time is that we’re working on drawing from the entire history of the show. Additionally, the store experience gives us the opportunity to enable fans to collect items from through the adventures of the Doctor. The community and experience will continue to evolve, so keep a lookout for some fan favorites.

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Bonus points for answering the nerdiest question I can think of: If Skaro was destroyed in The Last Great Time War, how does its inclusion in this game fit into the overall Whoniverse?

Robert: Worlds in Time is designed to represent the past, present and future of the Whoniverse. We felt including Skaro was particularly important as it is the home of the Daleks, iconic enemies of Doctor Who. The introduction of Skaro is of particular importance to the game narrative because players realize how the shards of time were shattered, putting all worlds in jeopardy.

With that in mind, we wanted Worlds in Time to be flexible. For example, we wanted to introduce players to new combinations of worlds and monsters, like a Dalek in Sardicktown, which has never been seen before.

And finally, the question no Doctor Who interview would be complete without asking; which is your favorite Doctor and why?

Robert: All of the Doctors have a special place – it’s too hard to pick a favorite!

Jim Squires is the Editor-in-Chief of Gamezebo. Everything you see passes his eyes first, so we like to think of him as "the gatekeeper of cool stuff." He likes good games, great writing, and just can't say no to a hamburger. Also, he is not a bear.