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 »

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  1. Sean Mirrsen says:

    The time travel really adds depth to the 3d environment.

    I, personally, think it’s brilliant. And not all that high-tech if you think about it. All they have is a real-time replay recording, with players able to affect things along the timeline. You do the same thing if you’re making a large 3D movie scene, with keyframes.

    Some tactics I can see:

    The enemy attacks your base when it’s undefended in the present. You jump to the future and order several units, so that they are built before the enemy arrives. He alters his plans, including a few more artillery pieces, and you counter by conducting a feint attack on his base in the past that forces him to divert his attention.

    You see the enemy amass a large amount of troops to attack you in the present. You order a cluster of defence guns to be built at some point in the past, and the next timewave suddenly surrounds the enemy with blazing death. The enemy undoes his plans to prevent the losses, and you undo the turret placement in response.

    It’ll probably be interesting and very confusing at first.

  2. Paradox4 says:

    One question:
    If you die in the “present” then is it game over?
    If not, BLAM Grandfather Bombing will be the only strategy that counts.

  3. Serondal says:

    Multiplayer will most certainly be interesting and confusing, however single player will probably be a lot of fun. This will give them the chance to work in all the tricks ect they want you to be able to do by teaching you through scripted events and missions set up to exploit the time travel system. This can show you just how much power you actually HAVE over the past and make you think about it in the way they do.

    So single player will be training for multiplayer or at the very least will give you the chance to do all the cool things you want to do without having the krazy F@#$@ Korean you’re playing against online thwart you at every turn!

  4. CrystalShadow says:

    Lol. Good luck to them on actually implementing it.
    Though on a personal level it hurts to see someone else successfully pulling off an idea you have been trying to work out for more than 10 years.
    (I could prove it to you, but what’s the point? – Being the first to have an idea is worth very little compared to being the first to actually implement it…)

  5. sacridshadow says:

    so, if you destroy the building that creates a unit, and send that unit to destroy the building that created it, wouldn’t both the unit and building be gone in the present? cause the building can’t come back unless someone either destroyed the unit or replaced it.

    If you kill your grandfather in the past (child, not old man), then you wouldn’t exist in the present. cause your dad wouldn’t have been born then. dead people don’t come back like that, and neither do buildings.

  6. Serondal says:

    That my friend is the time travel paradox that as far as I know can only be solved by the creation of an alternate time line. In other words both things happened, but in alternate time lines. Your grand father lived to have your father and your father you, then you went back in time and kill your grand father creating a diffrent time line where you were never born. You’ll be stuck there instead of just disappearing since you’re from a time line where , obviously, you were born and your grand father wasn’t killed.

    This game doesn’t have alernate time lines as far as I can tell. I’m guessing if you create a unit, then go back and time and use that unit to destroy the factory that created it the game will probably explode your computer when the time wave catches up the present :P OR when the time wave reaches the point where you created the unit the unit won’t be created and hence can’ be sent back and time so the building would reappear without the unit , that’s probably what would happen.

  7. Tricky Dick says:

    I bet with a mechanic as complicated as this, this game is absolutely RIFE with exploits and bugs….and exploitable bugs…

    Delicious.

  8. Poody says:

    @Sean Mirrsen
    ok.. For 1st tactic: I assume you mean past, not future, or else how would units get there before? That’s just an endless battle to see who kills the other first. Which doesn’t necessitate time travel in the first place…
    For 2nd tactic: By placing turret construction before a time wave in the past in order to instantaneously defend in the present works. But the time wave makes those constructs permanent. You can’t undo the past after the wave hits the action.

    @CrystalShadow
    Wouldn’t they have had the idea before they implemented it? If we look at your separate timelines measured not in seconds but in the progress from abstracting the idea to the point of realizing it, they traveled to the future while you stayed in the past.
    But if we look at the progress towards any and everything each one of you have done, isn’t that the true value of a second?

    @roBurky
    I think you’re on to something! If you continued to send units into the path of a time wave (like bodyguards and bullets), then they would continue to resolve themselves in the present. The wave isn’t limited to actualizing something one time, right?

    @_everyone_
    This seems very Back to the Future.. Where he stops himself from being born, so he starts fading (right when those chrono-waves would be closing in), but he can still take action to correct his mistakes.

  9. CrystalShadow says:

    Lol. Yes. When I look back at their site, they’ve been working on this idea for about 10 years, and it’s been in development for at least 4. So… I guess we can say I had the idea around the same time they did, but they actually found a way to get it to work in that time, whereas for me it never got beyond the idea stage.
    All I can say to them, is well done. (Just so long as nobody accuses me of stealing their ideas if I ever implement anything remotely like it. XD)

    Regarding the ‘grandfather paradox’ – Their own website explains how it’s resolved in the game.
    Every time a time wave reaches the present, the timeline changes to reflect the most recent alterations to the past.
    What precisely happens depends on the timing.

    But if you create a unit, send it back in time and destroy the factory that created it, here’s how the game resolves the it (as far as I can tell):
    Initial timeline (from the unit’s perspective)
    Event 1: Factory creates unit.
    Event 2: Unit travels back in time
    Event 3: Unit reaches past
    Event 4: Unit destroys factory.
    Initial timeline (from a chronological perspective)
    Event 1: Unit arrives from future
    Event 2: Unit destroys factory
    Event 3*: Factory creates unit
    Event 4*: Unit travels back in time.
    Keep in mind that events 3 and 4 remain in effect until the next timewave propagates forward.
    Now then. Assuming this sequence of events, the results are as follows:
    Timeline 1 with effects of timewave (Chronological perspective)
    event 1: Unit arrives in past.
    Timewave reaches event 1: Next timeline will contain event 1.
    Event 2: Unit destroys factory
    Timewave reaches event 2: Next timeline will contain event 2
    Event 3*: Factory creates unit:
    Timewave reaches event 3: Event 3 is erased from the timeline as the timewave reaches this point, and the next timeline will not contain it.
    Event 4: Unit travels back in time
    Timewave reaches event 4: Event 4 no longer happens since the unit no longer exists when the timewave reaches this point. Because this is a time-travel event, it is linked to the arrival of the unit in the past. Hence, when event 4 ceases, event 1 can no longer happen either, since they are the same event, essentially.

    Timeline 2 (chronological perspective:
    Event 1: Unit arrives in past
    Event 2: Unit destroys factory.

    Timeline 3 (Chronological perspective:
    Event 1: Factory creates unit
    Event 2: Unit travels into the past

    It gets really tricky thinking through how exactly this is implemented. It is obviously crucially dependent on the time travel events itself. My guess is the two end points temporarily exist in disjoint realities (timelines 2 & 3). Every time a timewave reaches a given point, the ‘current’ reality is overwritten with the results of one of the two timelines.
    (in one, only the factory exists, in the other, only the unit it produced)
    This continues until all of the events are so far in the past that they dissappear off the end of the timeline. When that happens, one of the two realities permanently becomes the only one. Which one it is, depends on the timing.

    You can see their video of it here:

  10. CrystalShadow says:

    Ahem. Their video (Since it’s not showing up in my last post):

  11. CrystalShadow says:

    Ahh! Stupid links. I guess you’ll just have to find it for yourself.
    it’s called: Achron Alpha Demo 4 Grandfather Paradox

    It should be at this address (if it shows up this time):

  12. Xavier says:

    To anyone familiar with time travel theories, or shows that deal with it [Star Trek, Doctor Who, etc] This game looks amazingly cool. Like Journeyman, only not lame.

    To those that aren’t familiar, this probably is like trying to teach calculus to a 3rd grader. The theories are simple enough, it’s just the logic that most have problems comprehending. Ironically enough, most will get it in time.

  13. Okuno says:

    Holy crap! Ok, so maybe it doesn’t use closed timelike loops like any in-universe time travel would logically need to, but wow this “time wave” thing is a far more seriously interesting formal system to investigate than I used to think.

    Obtainment buffering… … …

  14. Joe says:

    Wwesome concept that looks fun.. But idiotic graphics whores and pirates will ignore anything fun and creative as usual.

  15. Anderson James says:

    The game is still in beta-stage,don’t just fucking bitch right away.

  16. Joe says:

    Pretty neat idea. I would take a while to get used to, but im sure it would be a very fun game.
    Battle in the past, present, and future!

  17. Limper says:

    Holy crap… I know not what to say! This just looks freaking awesome!

  18. mr_ewe says:

    so… build 1 unit, send it back in time to when it was quied for building, wait for unit to build, send back 2 units to when unit 1 was quied for building… repeat with 3, then 4 then 5 then 6 etc etc.
    the question is, will the previously time traveled units duplicate? making this an exponential growth of units rather than linear.

  19. Alfred says:

    This has Spore’s pre-release potential to either be a phenomenal, watershed gaming experience or a staggering failure.

    I’m watching.

  20. Erlam says:

    My brain!

    Seriously:
    ‘I’m now altering the past, but in the present, this hasn’t happened yet. Returning to the present from the past I’m moving slowly, so I speed time to return to the present faster, allowing..’ and then thought exploded.

  21. Syal says:

    @CrystalShadow

    They could avoid the whole concept by disabling friendly fire

  22. hamster doom says:

    All right, first comment. :)

  23. Tim says:

    Hamster doom: TMC alread-

    oh wait.

  24. The Doctor says:

    To put it simply, this is all rubbish
    it’s like a big ball of stuff where one change changes it all instantly

  25. Watchmaker says:

    A conclusion I came to when reading:

    This game will not devolve into a battle of trying to strike as early as possible, simply because traveling so far back to have any real effect will be massively expensive in the time resource and leaves present time open, making it possible for the Terminators to lose in the present because all their troops are in a time wave that has yet to propagate.

    I think.

    I’m assuming the goal is to be victorious in the present only.

    Of course, the potential for chrono-ambushes is interesting. Say you send your army ahead in time by a minute. Your opponent attacks, but your army comes out of time warp right then to smash it.

    EDIT: I’ve never been here. Why do I have an avatar?

  26. Conor says:

    Douglas Adams nailed it when he said if time travel is ever invented all the mucking around thats going to be done has been done and there’s nothing we can do about so don’t worry. Or don’t panic, I guess XD

  27. QVN says:

    To all of you who have said that you had an idea like this before, and that the Achron got to it first: this could be your idea, only implemented by your later selves and/or your descendants who were told about your idea. They finished the whole game, & are now sending bits & pieces of it at a time to our present to simulate what we are used to with game alphas, betas, etc. to prevent themselves from being caught as “time travelers.”

    @Watchmaker
    Your future self found a cool avatar, set it up, & sent it back to you when you posted. Give yourself a pat on the back (eventually).

    Hillary Clinton for president 2012! OH CRAP.

  28. Serondal says:

    @watchmaker – You have a gravatar silly billy ;P They follow you around to any website that uses them. Don’t listen to QVN’s insane time traveling talk (zaps QVN with a stun llama from the future and hides him in 40,000 BC)

  29. Limeparadox says:

    You’ve created a lime paradox! Mmm delicious lime!

  30. Streamlight E-Flood Firebox says:

    I had received the first edition of “Make” magazine as a gift and it was really awesome…

  31. I am you from the future. says:

    In the future that Doomsday 2012 turns out to be Y2K BS all over again. Mike Moore is deported back to Canada along with all those damn illegals go back to Mexico. America goes back to isolationism and leads the way back to the moon and mines the moon of helium 3 which starts an energy and economic revolution. The rest of the world enters the third world war starting with Iran. America ignores the plees of the rest of the world to interven citing hindsight and history is wonderful. Then Iran sends nukes at America( Iran gets nukes about a year from now) but all but a few are completely destroyed by america’s excellent SDI system, there are some isolated EMP bulses that is easily remedied in few short weeks. In response America strategicly nukes all of the rest of the world’s military bases( they were detonated a few miles above the earth to EMP the bases’ electronics. The only city that was directly nuked was iran’s capital. The president dies(the current one not good with Arabic names. Iran had atempted to nuke isreal but America helped in this one instance citing that the Jewish people did not deserve to suffer anymore at the hand of a lunatic tyrant. Isreal is thankful in act of kindness) Iran goes into anarchy. The rest of the world expected America to come out of it’s isolation. But we just continued what we’ve been doing.
    There are plans to build an interstellar colony ship and send it to an earth like planet discovered in a star
    system 46 light years away. Even with the WWIII humanity’s future looks bright. Also this game and it’s four sequels get triple A ratings from gaming critics.