“Preinforcements”: Achron Is Coming

You will remember that time-travelling RTS Achron made me a bit giddy last year, largely because it was one of the cleverest pieces of game design I have ever seen. Hopefully you’ll also have thought “whatever happened to that”, because now we have the answer: there’s a video and a detailed update from project lead Chris Hazard – including the phrase “I have briefed senior officials at the Pentagon” – below.

Hazard says:

* It’s in beta and will be released in Q3. People can preorder the beta and start playing now.

* Our beta tournament starts next week. Players can apply to compete via a questionnaire on our website. 100 players will be chosen to compete. Applications must be submitted by 5:00pm EDT on Friday May 27.

* Single-player story-mode campaigns will not be included until the full release. It consists of 35 levels. The story has been in development since 2003 and it is a very engaging, sci-fi story that immerses the player into time travel. We haven’t been revealing much of the back story because it contains spoilers in a game about time travel!

* The game is no harder to learn than any other RTS. People aren’t used to thinking with time travel. However, after playing a few levels, it’s very natural to use it. It falls in the category of easy to learn, tough to master.

* We have put significant effort into the RTS gameplay and balance of the game. Our 3 factions, Humans, Vecgir, and Grekim, are innovative in their gameplay.

* The time manipulation technology is making huge ripples in the serious gaming community, including military, business, and education. Being able to manipulate time enables strategic thinking and learning opportunities: http://www.achrongame.com/site/technology.php I have briefed senior officials at the Pentagon, and many Fortune 100 executives have indicated excitement about this technology for use in enterprise.


  1. bglamb says:

    What…..? I can’t…….



  2. zipdrive says:

    quote: “Fortune 100 executives have indicated excitement about this technology”
    Well, silly business people are excited about things they don’t get all the time.
    I don’t see how mechanism is very useful for business, other than an alternative way to run simulations which seems pretty weird, but enlighten me, internet!

    • Mike says:

      Well, zipdrive, it’s like this: he’s kidding.

    • rivalin says:

      Um, who’s kidding?

      If it is a joke then to be honest it’s not particularly funny, at all really. Probably the driest humour imaginable, if it’s not true then it strikes me as more like lying than joking.

      To be honest I’d say that the idea actually could have implications that anyone with a little bit of imagination could see are not silly at all. The applicability to wargames and to financial modelling of the general concept I’d say could be very considerable indeed if devloped further, although this engine wouldn’t really be of any particular importance to that.

      Seriously do you not have a clue what you’re talking about, or do you know for a fact that he’s joking about outside interest? I’d lean towards the former but you seem so sure that it’s a joke that I’m inclined to believe you.

    • Decimae says:

      He’s not.

    • Mike says:

      Because when a bullet point contains the phrase “I have briefed senior executives in the Pentagon” I tend to assume the author is joking.

    • Rush Ton says:

      Read the link that follows that statement.

    • quoteyent says:

      I just looked up the guy’s resume and I don’t think he’s joking about the pentagon:
      link to www4.ncsu.edu

    • tameimpala says:

      Mega impressed by the guy’s credentials, he’s got more degrees than I’ve had hot dinners, but the game seem’s kind of dry…

    • Mike says:

      I’ve read the link. It seems to be mostly flavour for the game. If he’s serious about it, then the stuff about Reversible Computing is a pretty weird misinterpretation of the research field.
      Also I don’t see what his CV has to do with anything? He has a PhD in multi-agent systems design?
      As someone’s said elsewhere, the technology itself seems to have little relevance to most simulation work. At best, it’s worse than evolutionary search techniques, because it’s single-track.

      EDIT – I sound really negative here – the game looks like great fun, the guy is obviously very clever, and if Fortune 100 companies are interested then that’s obviously great for him. I just would err on the side of caution when interpreting that bullet point, is all.

    • CMaster says:

      “Mega impressed by the guy’s credentials, he’s got more degrees than I’ve had hot dinners, ”

      Wow, I’ve had more hot dinners in a day than he has degrees. You need to buy an oven or something.
      Pretty impressive CV all around mind, if not from a game development position especially. Interesting to note he worked in software for 4 years before going back to university for the PhD.

    • rivalin says:

      @Mike, yep reading that CV pretty sure you indeed don’t have a clue.

      “Time manipulation for serious gaming. Keynote (with Phaedra Boinodiris, IBM Corp.) at USTRANSCOM
      and DARPA Innovation Roundtable. Awarded Challenge Coin for presentation by
      General McNabb (4-star, USAF). October 6, 2010.

      DARPA is the Defence Advance Research Projects Agency, ya know, the guys who invented the internet.

    • Alphabet says:

      Did he brief them on some arcane aspect of internet / real world information distributions and asymmetries that can be more effectively modeled using time-travel as a metaphor? Or is General McNabb going to be the star of Jon Ronson’s next book?

  3. Shivoa says:

    This definitely moved to the top of my RTS must-play list when it was first reported on. Cant’ wait to see how the finished product feels and if they manage to do a good job of teaching the mechanics and strategies required to be competitive during the single-player.

    I think it’ll live or die on getting that critical mass of medium tier players (top tier being those who combine natural talent for RTS with learning the systems and strategies inside and out, like all RTS games) who understand and enjoy the game and to get that they really need to teach the time mechanics well without the pressure of competitive gaming.

  4. Stijn says:

    I think the time travel mechanic has its merits, but to be honest the game doesn’t look very exciting or comprehensive at the moment. I can barely make out what the units are from the video, at least not from their looks; a more …outspoken? visual style would hugely benefit this game I think.

  5. Gnoupi says:

    I preordered this game last year, great idea (and implemented correctly, with time waves).

    It was originally supposed to release last January, but I’m always glad to see games taking more times, instead of releasing in an unfinished state (*cough* elemental *cough*).

    My only issue about the game is about graphics. While they improved, they are still a bit “polygony”, and not really appealing, mostly the units. They improved the ground rendering during last year. But units could use more detail, or at least more texturing :-)

    (Actually, another issue is that I don’t see how I’ll be able to play this game without a good dose of aspirin, but that’s my problem :P)

  6. tomeoftom says:

    Urrrgghh that is some intellectual masochism right there. I am so down for it.

  7. Meat Circus says:

    I fiddled with the alpha, and I was a little concerned that I wasn’t really thinking 3+1 dimensionally. I hope they’ve found a better way to ease players in to the necessary temporal twiddling.

  8. sana says:

    I ended up grabbing this game after months of refusing to listen to the hype-making of a friend. I expected it to be mindshatteringly horrible and look like crap, but thankfully I’ve been proven wrong – it’s not a multimillion dollar production, but in-game it looks fine, especially with the latest 8.4 update which brings teamcolour silhouettes for all the units and buildings. The animations are fluid and the various bump/parallax mapping and Camouflage Layer effects make it look much nicer in-game than it does on screenshots. It’s pretty damn good for a game whose assets were created mainly from community contributions.

    • sana says:

      As for gameplay: The basic gameplay is very very simple. Roles like detector, status recovery etc. are handed to units that make up the primary bulk of your armies, there is a Hierarchy system which allows you to command entire armies with a single unit’s orders, and there are very little APM requirements. What makes this game difficult is the sheer mindfuck of time travelling with all it’s horrors like paradox warfare, being attacked in the Unplayable Past and handling the Timewave mechanic. However even a no-brain like me managed to get a basic hang of these things within a few games; if you stay in touch with the community via forums and IRC, it’s easy to learn.

      Don’t forget to visit #achron at irc.coldfront.net for netplay arrangements, discussion and more!

    • Meat Circus says:

      It’s not pretty, but it’s distinctive enough to offer a coherent identity.

  9. Dawngreeter says:

    I want to play this game competitively.

    I often wanted to play RTS games competitively, but it just never really materialized for some reason. C&C Generals, Dawn of War, Dawn of War 2, StarCraft 2… all invoked this urge to sit down and play it for all its worth. And then after a couple of games I just fade away and never return to them. Maybe I just don’t like competitive RTS gameplay? I don’t know. But I hope I will with this game.

  10. Teronfel says:

    I don’t understand

  11. sana says:

    I advise anyone interested in the game to visit the often overlooked IRC channel:

    #achron @ irc.coldfront.net

    Also, Shadowfury333’s videos offer a great look into the workings of the game. He has a lot of match commentaries as well as tutorials on basic mechanics.

    link to youtube.com

  12. Scythe says:

    This game is mind-smashingly difficult to fathom. The terrible unit design and interface make the actual RTS portion of the game a chore to play, adding the time silly-buggers compounds the issues rather than offsets them.

    I played the latest version as of about three months ago. If it’s been tremendously improved since I will be pleasantly surprised.

    • sana says:

      It’s incredibly simple to learn with a little help from others. It’s a pre-release version, so besides the tutorial there’s little to instructions, but there’s a lot of players that are eager to help you out in the forums and the chat.

      And the interface is constantly improving, actually! The HUD has recently received an overhaul and is much sexier now.

    • Scythe says:

      My primary complaints were the laggy mouse cursor, the almost identical units, too-small text and gutless weapon effects and sounds. Have any of these been fixed in recent times?

    • sana says:

      Dunno. Not having any cursor lag and I can read the text. There was a weapon effect-related update at some point, but I’m not sure if it relates to your experience. Also, the only similar-looking units I can think of are the Marine/Special Ops or the Vecgir infantry, but its easy enough to make them out after playing a few games. SOPs are much fatter and they heal and detect!

    • Decimae says:

      If you set osdrawnmouse=1 in your settings.inin file in your documents/achron folder, the mouse cursor should your standard one, and it should be less laggy.

  13. Protagoras says:

    I’m somewhat confused as to what the whole tech section was about? Are they just trolling? Or making a plausible history to the game?

    Cause otherwise, its nothing but another way to simulate things, with the ability to pause mid simulation, change factors at any point prior to pause, and resume with the effects taking place. Its a nice idea, but nothing ground breaking.

    Otherwise, seems like it might just be a the first RTS I’ll play since W3 – and even that I played only for the online mods rather than the regular campaign. IDK if its only me, but something about the all the “build a base, rush others, win game” gets dull pretty fast, as while strategy is big, tactics are minor. Anywho, hopefully the inclusion of time travel will make it possible to include both over arching strategic decisions and indepth tactical ones under one game.

    • wu wei says:

      Everything is always so trivial and obvious when you’re not actually the one implementing it, yeah?

    • gwathdring says:

      Perhaps you are missing the part where you can not only pause the simulation but run any amount forward or backward in the simulation at the same time as your opponent also does this. And change things. Dynamically, across the entire timeline. That’s a rather hefty coding project, bub.

    • Alphabet says:

      @gwathdring – I had no idea what this game’s mechanic was, and now you’ve explained it beautifully. Thank you. Also, ouch on the idea of implementing it. And, last point: what an utterly fucking brilliant idea for a game. Day of release purchase for me (I don’t love betas)

    • gwathdring says:

      Apparently I was missing one of the more buzzwordy bits:

      “Changes in history are not instantly propagated through the timeline, but instead are brought forward via evenly separated timewaves, giving the player opportunities to plan and react to those past changes before the next time wave sweeps by. These changes from the revised history are not reflected on the players’ screens until the proper timewave passes the player.”

      So not as batshit insane as I thought it was, but still very much insane and complicated and beautiful. I really want to try this …

    • Alphabet says:

      Oh,. that’s disappointing. But it does sound both more playable and more implementable. The game you described would probably need the SS Enterprise’s computer to play on, and to play.

  14. P7uen says:

    My temporal lobe is older than it’s years, I think I’ll clock the single-player in no time.

  15. mcwill says:

    I love the time mechanics, but the game had monstrous cursor lag when I played it. Barely possible to even complete the tutorial. I believe I bought it back then, however, so I’ll go back and see how it’s doing now.

    • Decimae says:

      As I said to Scythe:
      If you set osdrawnmouse=1 in your settings.inin file in your documents/achron folder, the mouse cursor should your standard one, and it should be less laggy.

  16. Vexing Vision says:

    I watched the trailer twice, and I have no idea what’s going on with the scouting stuff. It doesn’t make sense to me, all I see is teleporting units.

    Then I watched the original trailer, and I was enlightened. This is not a good trailer.

  17. Makariel says:

    I… wait what? I already get lost in Starcraft 2, which is only playing in one temporal dimension. This sounds to me like playing chess on a dozen boards which cross- uhm, I doubt my brain is evolved enough for this…

  18. kikito says:

    An Achron is what you get when you warp two High Tlempars togeder.
    It also works with two Dark Tlempars, and also with one High and one Dark tlempars.
    High and Dark Tlempars are Potross units from the Scartraft universe.

  19. Josh W says:

    Of course, the pentagon and business are mainly interested in this because they haven’t heard of the standard temporal manipulation mechanic of games; saving!

    So they want you to go back and change your mistakes, only to find you have created a time paradox that means that the market conditions used to fund your time travel machine never happened, leaving the world oscillating between it’s good and bad versions?

    Honestly, the save game is a revolutionary time travel device; consequence free rewinding.

  20. RagingLion says:

    I’d love to see people get really good at this and a really competitive tournament scene being birthed. Surely with these mechanics the best of the best could do some mind-blowing things – would be a beast to commentate on, though.

  21. getter77 says:

    Glad I managed an early pre-order for this, and look forward to how the engine could perhaps be fashioned into a backbone for other genres—-time-slipping Roguelikes anyone?

    • Daiv says:

      Welcome to Rogue. You are a FEMALE VALKYRIE of the GNOME race. You seek the Amulet of Yendor for the glory of your god TYR. You died FIFTEEN turns ago. Would you like to play again? (y/n/q)

  22. Josh Brandt says:

    It’s a time-travelling battle for Northern Ohio!

  23. Big Murray says:

    As long as I get to say “Marty, you’re not thinking fourth-dimensionally!!” multiple times while playing, I’m in.

  24. Vexing Vision says:

    “Tank rush! Blue’s surprise tank-rush arrives, or newly arrived 30 seconds ago, at red’s base!
    Oh, 40 seconds ago, Red laid out a minefield… with the factory that Blue destroyed! But not in time, as the mines warp back to block the rush quite efficently.
    After a classic pincer movement from 50 seconds into the future and 10 seconds in the past, Red counterstrikes with Aerial… no! The factory was destroyed 20 seconds ago, annihilating the future assault!”

    Yeah, I’d pay to watch that.

  25. Fumarole says:

    From the first time I saw the article here on so long ago I’ve known that this game’s mechanics are far beyond my puny brain’s capability to handle well. What a shame, as it looks amazing.

    • Kron says:

      Y’know, it’s really not that difficult to start playing. Sure, the best players are ludicrously good at manipulating time, but there are always other beginners at your skill level.

  26. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    I remember the last time RPS wrote about this one. It seems rather.. complex, but I guess (as with all other games) we’ll have to play it to find out.

  27. DK says:

    A brilliant game, that already lost me the first time I played the tutorial that had the first true (almost) free form time travel. It only semi-clicked after the third time through that mission – but the concept is too good to let me not being able to fully get the mechanics stop me from buying it. Any developer who has the balls to do this needs and deserves the money of all gamers.

    It’s the Relic spirit, the same kind of bravery that made them give us 3D movement, is now giving us 4D RTS.

  28. sinister agent says:

    Great concept, and I’m glad to hear it’s going ahead. But the name is rather dry and a tad generic. Music sounds interesting, though. More games should do big piano drama – generic orchestral or rock is just dull now.

    Fiver says it’s a success, but will be vastly outsold by at least one game that takes the same concept and does more with it, and/or is more flashy about it, and is instead called something like TIME DESTROYERS, or QUANTUM JEEP, or GO BACK IN TIME AND STUFF RTS 2.

    You know what people are like. But hey, it looks like we could finally be seeing the RTS genre actually move on from the rut it’s been in for the last decade.