Epochal: Achron, Meta-Time Strategy

By Jim Rossignol on March 27th, 2009 at 1:30 pm.


Things you can’t do in an RTS generally include: attacking your opponent in the past, undoing the future actions of your units, building things in the future and sending the back to a previous point in a game. These are all things you can do in Achron. The developers, who unveiled their idea at the 2009 GDC Experimental Gameplay Sessions explain it thus: “Achron is the world’s first meta-time strategy game, a real-time strategy game where players and units can jump to and play at different times simultaneously and independently.” It’s a game that takes the impossible notions of cross-time war that we see juggled so cleverly in time-travel science fiction, and turns them into a practical gaming model. This is seriously smart game design, and, potentially, it provides a model for “real-time” time travel in all kinds of games, not just strategy games. An explanatory trailer and press release await you below, and believe me, you are going to want to watch this.

Yeah. Yeah. There’s some more videos on the developer’s site. This one is particularly interesting:

When my opponent is.”

Thanks to Quinns for the link on this one.

Press Release

March 26, 2009 – Hazardous Software� unveiled Achron, the world’s first meta-time strategy game, at the 2009 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, California. The next revolution in time travel gameplay was demonstrated at the Experimental Gameplay Session.

Designed to reinvent the real-time strategy genre by allowing all players to travel through time, Achron is a futuristic science fiction game. Players and units have the ability to jump to and play at different times simultaneously and independently. Time travel is free and unlimited but it costs energy to change the time line. Players will be challenged to invent new strategies in a world where it is possible for them and their opponents to undo mistakes, change a strategy after committing to it, and alter the outcome of past battles.

Time travel transforms the strategy game landscape, stated Christopher Hazard, president and cofounder of Hazardous Software. It opens up new dimensions of strategies and gameplay. For example, imagine being able to see when and where your opponents are going to attack before they do.

Achron features both a captivating single player campaign and an online multiplayer mode. In addition to being able to build, expand, and attack as in typical RTS games, new mechanisms such as command hierarchy and smart-idling ease the management of a complex time travel environment. An intuitive user interface depicts events in the past and future allowing the player to navigate the time line.

Achron signifies the creation of a brand new sub-genre of video games that utilize gimmick-free time travel as one of the core gameplay mechanisms, said Mike Resnick, lead developer and cofounder of Hazardous Software. �The popular type of time travel abundant in science fiction is now available to the gaming community.

Further information about the game will be released in the upcoming months. To learn more about Achron, please visit the official web site at www.achrongame.com.

About Hazardous Software

Hazardous Software was incorporated in June 2007 and is headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina near Research Triangle Park. The company was founded to address the gamer�s desire for more innovative games in the marketplace. Hazardous Software believes games should challenge players minds while being entertaining and engaging.

Copyright 2008-2009 Hazardous Software Inc.

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131 Comments »

  1. jon_hill987 says:

    Can you send robots back in time to kill the mother of the leader of the resistance? That is what I need to know.

  2. Kieron Gillen says:

    I just imagine the end of Bill and Ted 2 with this.

    KG

  3. Meat Circus says:

    This seems to be some new definition of the word ‘explained’ I was previously unfamiliar with.

  4. Okami says:

    My brain hurts..

  5. schizoslayer says:

    Amazing and yet incredibly confusing at the same time.

  6. Serenegoose says:

    @jon_hill, 1: That was exactly what I needed to know too.

  7. minipixel says:

    my… head.. is… *SPLOTCH*

  8. roBurky says:

    Oooh.

    So can you send units 5 minutes back in time, then go back in time 1 minute, and send those same units 4 minutes back in time, then go back in time 1 min, then send those same units 3 minutes back in time, then go back in time 1 minute, then send those same units 2 minutes back in time, then go back in time 1 minute, then send those same units 1 minute back in time, then go back in time 1 minute, and have a hell of a lot of units?

  9. cyrenic says:

    Anybody able to travel forward in time and tell us if they can actually pull off such a complex mechanic?

  10. schizoslayer says:

    @ roBurky yes but if any of those units touch the universe implodes.

  11. Persus-9 says:

    Well the game play looks pretty cool but I don’t agree with the model of time travel involved.

    @ jon_hill987 On the above model you could kill the mother of the leader of the resistance, this is very much the back to the future model where everything, past present and future is up for grabs and subject to change.

    I suspect this is wrong and you shouldn’t be able to change the future or the past. If someone goes back in time and arrives back in 1955 then it’s because they always apeared in 1955. There shouldn’t be any clean time travel free past that runs first before getting overwritten by the actions of a time traveller.

    This is the view of David Lewis, one of the greatest philosophers of all time and I think he got it right. His paper “The Paradoxes of Time Travel” http://www.csus.edu/indiv/m/merlinos/Paradoxes%20of%20Time%20Travel.pdf is definitely worth a read for a really good explanation of how time travel should work.

  12. Trip SkyWay says:

    Sounds cool but not sure I understand it.

  13. jon_hill987 says:

    @ Persus-9: Thank you, but I was already completely aware that Terminator is nonsense. :P

  14. roBurky says:

    Persus-9, I don’t think this is a documentary.

  15. Heliocentric says:

    ‘Already’ play(ing/ed) Achron 4, it’s worth ‘waiting’ for.

  16. Jahkaivah says:

    Oh man I am going to bribe so many architects……

  17. Ixtab says:

    I want this game… It sounds beautifully complicated and confusing.

  18. Ian says:

    i think my headbrain are soar.

  19. mandrill says:

    Interesting, but W.T.F?
    Brain meltingly complicated, butt may bcome more self-explanaotry when played. At the moment I can’t get my head around it.

  20. Cooper says:

    @roBurky
    I don’t think so, that seems to be what the ‘time waves’ are for – to stop you being all over the place with hundreds of units – you have to wait for the time wave to catch up with whatever point you’re at.

    I’m not a fan of RTS games because of the amazing amount of twitchy playing they involve. This seems like a fantastic dynamic, but I imagine it’ll just be far too confusing for most people in multiplayer…

  21. Xercies says:

    So if there was a war and you went back in time to stop his war that means that there was no war which means you wouldn’t send your units back in time makign a paradox.

    Yay for paradoxes, and no I don’think anyone who has made a time travel story has made an intelligent get around of a paradox.

  22. Ixtab says:

    Xercies: There are options such as you can’t change it because it’s already happened, whatever you do is already part of the past. There’s also the multiple timeline option where the units you sent back to end the war come from a different timeline to the one you end up going into without the war.

    Of course all of this time travel goes against conservation of energy and momentum.

  23. HidesHisEyes says:

    Looks more Groundhog Day to me than Primer :/

  24. Cabbs says:

    @roBurky

    As I undestand it, you’re tied to a ‘present time’, so you can spend some time in the past, but you have to return to the present when the relevant resource runs out. So presumably, any vast force you accumulate will have to kill your opponent off mostly without you there. AND because this is so far back in the past of the game, and you’ve just sent your entire force, the enemy could wipe you out before your I-win change propogates. risky. And of course the investment of resources and time (lol) to make that force is time not spent fighting your oponent in the present time.

    Time time time time time. Now my headhurts too.

    And is it just me, or does that look a it like the Spring Engine?

  25. kikito says:

    If there are going to be hero units, one of them should be Dr Manhattan.

  26. jotajota says:

    I wanted this game tomorrow. I feel dizzy.

  27. schizoslayer says:

    I prefer the Back to the Future / trousers of time theory that if you go back in time and change something then travelling forwards in time will propel you along the new timeline. The old one still exists in parallel to the “new one” it’s just that you no longer exist in it after the point where you went back in time.

    So you can go back in time and kill your grandfather which will propel you down a timeline in which you weren’t born however because you never originated from that timeline/universe it’s all ok as there is a timeline in which you didn’t kill your grandfather.

    It may not stand up to physics but so long as it lets me have cool sci-fi stuff to watch or read I’m happy.

  28. grey_painter says:

    This is the sort of mechanic I’m glad someone is producing because it sounds really interesting and I wish it well. I don’t think I’ll end up buying it though because it looks so complicated. If they release a demo that lets me play with time travel a bit to see if it is manageable by my simple linear brain they’ll have a better chance of getting my money.

  29. Lunaran says:

    sweet, they named it after the coolest city in ohio

  30. Senethro says:

    That is so goddamn nuts. If I understood it correctly, it would be possible to screw up by accidentally undoing a successful defense in the past, which when the timeline catches up with the present might lead to the creation of a large angry army in your base.

  31. Gap Gen says:

    This looks like being very complicated and potentially very awesome. Reminds me a bit of the increasingly obfuscated time mechanics in MS Paint Adventures.

  32. Theory says:

    Their demo had better be damn good.

  33. Down Rodeo says:

    That looks a bit insane. Nice to see that they have the time-travel backend sorted; this game would be lovely with some polish. Not that I wouldn’t play it right now. I’d play the hell out of it.

  34. Gap Gen says:

    Yeah, so there are two models of time travel. One is that paradoxes exist and the universe is unchanged due to time travel. Another is that time travel creates alternate universes that are separate from the unchanged universe you left.

    Of course, actual physics is in reality batshit insane (quantum physics, black holes, relativity, etc), so who knows what happens if time travel is possible.

  35. MeestaNob! says:

    This is one of very few games where your PC crashing spectacularly would be understandable.

  36. GibletHead2000 says:

    This looks to be something that might actually rekindle my love for RTS games, if they pull it off. Incidentally, for those of you struggling with the philosophy of time travel, go watch Primer. :-)

  37. The_B says:

    Theory: Their demo was out yesterday, but jumped into the future in order to finish development in the past. If you know what I mean…

  38. Gap Gen says:

    Yeah, if it’s not released bug-free then the time travel aspect obviously doesn’t work.

  39. The_B says:

    They should totally have a DRM that will give you back activations the longer you play.

  40. James Allen says:

    I am confused, mystified, and slightly aroused.

  41. PC Monster says:

    This game scares me. I fear it may be too smart for me to properly get, like some Ian Banks novels. Hopefully it will have the MOTHER of all tutorials when it ships.

  42. RC-1290'Dreadnought' says:

    Installing patches will be a bitch. When you go back in time too far, you have to take into account that there are different game rules…

  43. Rosti says:

    The future of gaming?

    /gets coat.

  44. Filipe says:

    Oh, the possibilities! If this lives up to half its promise, it’s going to take all the skills we’ve learned playing RTSs and flip ‘em on its head. Rushes are out of the playbook altogether, you buy all the time you need to prepare.

  45. Rei Onryou says:

    It hasn’t quite demonstrated the effects of the time distortion catching up after a big fight, for example.

    I.E. In the second video, when the battle in the past was occurring and in the present, he was building more units to send back in time, if the past enemy destroyed the factories, then would the presently built units be destroyed as they could never have existed? *head asplodes*

  46. AndrewC says:

    Primer is awesome!

    And this seems to play out as a puzzle game – or at least that’s the only possible way I can understand it.

    Too many enemies at time ‘y’? So get a load of units from time ‘z’ and bring them back to time ‘x’ and then wipe them out!

    Enemies move to control bottleneck? send a bunch of units to the other side of it in the past and then pincer in the present!

    But if it isn’t pre-set challenges, and the enemy is using real tactics and, horror, using time too, then my brain will asplode.

    But if it’s to C&C as Braid is to Super Mario, then what the hell, why not? Now all I need to do is go back in time and develop my giving a shit about RTSs.

  47. AndrewC says:

    Rei: that’s why there are time ‘waves’. you have to get them back before the next wave commits the changes to the time-line. Or something. I think.

  48. Tei says:

    On 2002 I remeber writting a standard for a enhancement of the Quake protocol to support dimensional travel. It was elegant and easy, and powerfull.. but never got implement, so was a bunch of hot air.

    Theres no reason why “Instacing” (in the MMORPG sense) sould be binary. You can “merge” dimensions and timelines. You can even make a car race where the car moves not only forward, but backward in time. He… BACK TO THE FUTURE movie did that on the 80′s, avoiding a collision (with a pinne) going back in time.

  49. AndrewC says:

    Didn’t GRID just do that?

  50. Tei says:

    I think the latest WoW expansion have some of these ideas. Where you live in your “private instance”-ish features, so you can “see” a building destroyed, where other people see the building is ok.