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Most games allow the player to alter scenario parameters when starting a new game. When one of these settings is the time period in which the game starts or is played out, it falls into this. This is popular with 4X
games. The effects of choosing different time periods can be anything from just providing a small group of premade cities, allowing players to skip the slow-moving early-game; to having serious impacts on the scenario's parameters that make players alter their strategies.
This can appear in other types of games as well. For example, some types of Board Games
or Tabletop Games
allow the players to choose an era to start out their gameplay in.
Note that this is not for games that have multiple, unrelated scenarios taking place in different time periods rather, the time setting does not change the geographic area of the game or its basic premise, rules or goals. A WWII game with a 1942 North Africa scenario, a 1944 D-Day scenario and a 1945 Seige of Berlin scenario would not fit because those are distinct scenarios with their own maps, victory conditions and no in-game overlap. A WWII game with a global (or continental) map that has multiple starting years that only affect force composition and partially alter some objectives (capture City X instead of City Y) would count. It also counts if the various scenario starting times are different points on the same timeline, a la SimCity
- The original Axis&Allies game canonically had its first round set in Spring, 1942, with the war usually still ending in 1944 or '45, regardless of winner. However, many fan-made scenarios alter the starting units and income rates to reflect a 1939 start.
- The Axis&Allies Miniatures game features three different periods of the war. These periods affect what units the players may select when assembling their forces for the game. I.e. players cannot select late-war game units for an early-war game scenario.
- Call of Cthulhu: gives you skills, weapons, income levels and equipment costs for 1890, 1920, and Modern Day, allowing keepers to set games in any of those three periods.
- There are also expansion packs for the Dark Ages, Roman times, and apparently the future.
- Third Reich: You could play either the campaign game (1939-1945) or 3 shorter scenarios, starting in 1939, 1942 or 1944.
- Star Fleet Battles: Players setting up a scenario had to decide what year the battle would take place, which would determine which ships and weapons each side had as well as any refits a ship had.
- Aerobiz: The original game had two different time periods for players to choose between.
- The second entry, Aerobiz Supersonic had four time periods to choose from. In both cases, these had a substantial effect on the gameplay.
- Civilization games II, III and IV allow players the choice to start out later than the traditional 4000 BC starting point if they wanted to skip much of the slow gameplay period of the early turns. Due to the programming of Civ II and III with the unpenalized ability to rapidly expand through early-game settler-spamming, this was usually ignored.
- The famous Rhye's and Fall of Civilization mod was an interesting zig-zag of this trope. It featured multiple civilizations, scenarios, goals and other factors, but all were played out on a map and timeline that was roughly the same as Earth's. In addition, the AI was modified to act along the same lines as actual history.
- Master of Orion 2 featured normal and advanced start options.
- Pacific Theater of Operations featured different time periods within WWII, which drastically altered fleet compositions and locations for both sides.
- The Sega Genesis game Pirates Gold featured four distinct time periods for the player to choose from. These affected things like the frequency and types of ship encounters, prices of goods, number and ownership of various colonies in the Caribbean.
- Sid Meierís Pirates!: the year that you choose to start affects:
- Your starting ship.
- The balance of power among the four nations. In the earlier years Spain is dominant, but as time goes by it slowly loses territory to the English, French, and Dutch.
- The developmental level of the world. In the earlier years, settlements are smaller and there are fewer of them. Later on, they're bigger, more numerous, and wealthier but also better protected.
- The SimCity franchise features this in Sim City 2000: The starting year substantially affects available technology, which can factor into your building strategy, especially if you start at the earliest year your city expands quickly. Since the game year affects transport, power, water & even population building options, it can have a notable impact on how your city grows. Further, each time you start a new game, the discovery of these techs varies by a few years.
- The Sims allows players to start a character in almost any stage in life, but if a character is started as a toddler, child or teen, they must be in a house-hold with at least one adult character.
- In Spore, the player is allowed to chose what stage (single-celled through space-faring) in their organism's evolution they wish to play. Different stages offer different types of gameplay.
- Age of Empires: Both AoE2 and AoE3 have this for multiplayer games, where the players can choose between the different eras of gameplay. As the game progresses, each player will progress through the eras, with each new one granting access to new units and improvements.
- Empire Earth zig-zags this: While the single-player mode averts it by having distinct, multi-level campaigns that occur only in one (or possibly across two) era, the multiplayer mode turns it Up to Eleven by allowing players to choose a one of 13 starting eras: Stone, Tool, Bronze, Classical, Medieval, Renaissance, Imperial, Industrial, WWI, WWII, Modern, Near Future & Distant Future. It is possible for players to start a match in the Stone Age and advance all the way to the Distant Future.
- Red Baron: You could choose which year (during World War I) you started, which affected what planes were available.
- Secret Weapons Of The Luftwaffe: You could choose different time periods in which to start a campaign. The time period chosen determined where the boundaries between Allied and Axis territory were and what planes were available to each side.