Achron. (ay-kron) N. One who can self-communicate across time, in such a way to transcend time.
[From Greek: a-, without + khronos, time]
Q: What is it?
A: Achron is a multiplayer real-time strategy (RTS) war game designed around the ability to time travel anywhere along a timeline. Jump back in time to save that production facility, or add a flanking maneuver to an attack! It's entirely up to you. Take a look at Introduction to Achron to learn more.
Q: It's a trick, right? You're going to throw a flashy visual effect on the screen and then make me wait for another level to load, aren't you?
A: Nope. Fiddle with the past, present, and future to your heart's content. The engine smooths the changes you make down the timeline, leaving you free to twist your enemy's strategy to your advantage.
Q: This is going to make my head explode, isn't it?
A:Achron is an RTS, but was designed to be something that's easy to use but difficult to master. What you did 2 minutes ago is still very fresh in your memory. You should be able to wrap your head around it just fine. Most people are surprised at how quickly they pick it up.
Q: It's a neat concept, but is it actually fun?
A: We've been playtesting this for years, regularly playing multiplayer games, from big maps with large numbers of resources, many strategic locations and hundreds of units per player, to small resource-constrained levels. We still can't get enough of it. We have a great welcoming community of players with skills ranging from complete novice to highly competitive. Feel free to ask the Achron community on our forums: http://www.achrongame.com/forums/.
Q: What platforms are you supporting?
A: We officially support Windows XP, Vista, and 7 with an ATI or Nvidia graphics card from the last 3 years (Intel cards that support OpenGL 2.1 or above usually work, but are not officially supported), a dual core processor, at least 1 GB of RAM, and 2 GB of hard drive space. We also have a 64-bit GNU/Linux build available and 64-bit Mac version available, with 32-bit Linux support planned the future (sometime down the road after initial launch). Long-term, we may support more platforms, such as consoles or mobiles with our Resequence Engine, depending on how things go. An order for Achron gives you access to install Achron on any Windows, Mac, or GNU/Linux platform we support; if you buy directly from our website, you can even choose to switch platforms after your preorder.
Q: What forms of payments do you accept? Do you accept orders from outside the USA?
A: We accept virtually all major credit cards, and use a secure payment method with a major payment processing company. Hazardous Software does not retain your credit card information in its databases. Yes, you can purchase from outside the USA. We accept PayPal Achron can be purchased on Steam (OnLive is planned for the near future). Direct purchase with credit card is the best way to support independent game development.
Q: These mod tools... what can I do with them?
A: We invite you to make your own mods of Achron, or, even better, your own full games with time travel using Achron's Resequence engine! If you upload your mods to our site, then anyone with a copy of Achron can download and play them. If you want sell your mod as a commercial product, please contact us at email@example.com. If you're looking to sell your mod and it is good enough, we may even offer to let you sell it on our site.
If you're interested in using Achron's Resequence Engine in your enterprise for serious gaming, please contact us for pricing.
Q: Does this mean I can recreate [insert some other popular RTS] with time travel on the Resequence Engine?
A: You can only do this if you get written permission from the respective copyright owner(s).
Q: Aren't you worried about piracy?
A: No — Hazardous Software doesn't own any shipping vessels and our core business functions don't directly depend on overseas shipments. We are, however, worried about ninjacy and zombicy, as ninjas and zombies can and will strike on land.
Q: No, I mean do you worry about people who copy your games and stuff without buying it?
A: The illegal act of copyright infringement definitely harms us as a company. We're a tiny studio, so it affects us a lot.
However, DRM has many disadvantages, such as incompatibilities and annoyances. If we were to include restrictive DRM in Achron, it's virtually guaranteed that someone will crack the DRM and illegally distribute Achron anyway. In short, we believe that restrictive DRM harms the paying customer and does little to protect against piracy.
To download updates, mods, and other media, and to play multiplayer, we do require a valid Achron account, which is acquired when you purchase a license to Achron.
Q: How stable is this game? I can't imagine a game engine this complex without bugs!
A: The Resequence Engine is very stable. We have taken quality assurance extremely seriously because of how complex time travel is, and we have been testing multiplayer games since 2005. The bugs that we typically encounter usually have to do with unusual hardware or driver configurations.
Q: I found a bug...
A: There is a area of the forums specifically for letting us know. There are only a couple of us and many of you, so it helps us considerably if you checked other topics first to see if it has already been acknowledged or addressed. Note that if your computer crashes or reboots, that this is due to a driver bug (e.g. graphics card driver), as Achron does nothing with the level of permissions required to cause a system crash.
Q: Achron is fun, but it would be better if you changed...
A: We are very interested in hearing constructive criticism about Achron; please post your thoughts on the Achron forums. We can't promise we'll take your suggestion though.
Gameplay and time travel both have intricate balances, and people don't have infinitely fast computers. Suppose you're suggesting that some unit is too powerful and that we should weaken that unit. It may be the case that there is a strategy already available that would mitigate the unit's strength, and perhaps we just need to make that strategy more obvious or easy to use. Maybe we think your suggestion is awesome, but it isn't technically feasible due to memory requirements. We try to read all suggestions on our forums even if we don't reply.
If you feel strongly about your suggestion, perhaps you could make a mod and let other people try it out!
Q: Achron's graphics are not as good as [some game made with a budget as large as the gross domestic product of the Federated States of Micronesia].
A: The exterior of the Cessna Mustang isn't as sleek looking as the Bugatti Veyron, but the latter has a slower top speed and is stuck traveling on the ground. Yes, games can look great if you spend most of the development effort on visual appeal alone, but many gamers want more than just flashy eye-candy. Achron has a unique visual style, an engrossing story, captivating music, and unprecedented gameplay that can change the way you think.
Q: I heard one of you presented Achron at the Pentagon. Is that true?
A: Dr. Hazard briefed senior officials at the Pentagon on the impacts of free-form multiplayer time manipulation, not Achron specifically. The time manipulation of Achron has also captured considerable interest from many executives at large corporations, military commanders, directors of simulation laboratories, psychology researchers, education researchers, and computer scientists. In addition to Achron, Hazardous Software is embarking on cutting-edge work that takes serious gaming far beyond training. If you're interested in how strategy-level serious gaming could help your organization, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Is Hazardous Software hiring? Can I send you my resume/cv?
A: Hazardous Software is not hiring at the moment, but that may change in coming months. We may be looking for candidates with strong computer science and software engineering backgrounds (Lisp or other functional programming experience a plus), candidates for more research-oriented positions (holding a PhD in a field related to serious gaming either from computational or human factors perspective), and possibly a few experienced visual artists and other roles. If you are interested and feel you would add value to our organization, check back; we will make it obvious on our website when we have openings. We currently have our music composition/production and sound effects roles covered.
Q: What about playing in the future of the timeline?
A: Playing in the future has several purposes such as scouting, finding out about a large battle that has not yet happened, or building units with resources you don't yet have in the present.
Q: Many RTSs are won by rush-strategy masters, what about this one?
A: Though rushing is still a viable strategy, using time travel affords several viable counter strategies to rush attacks.
Q: Won't the game just become a big rush to the start of the game's timeline?
A: No. If your oponent tries such a strategy, you can counter in one of many ways. By rushing toward the strategy of building chronoporters to send units back in time, your opponent has taken risks and will have fewer defenses. You can attempt to destroy your opponent's chronoporter in the medium past, you can damage your opponent's economy to prevent their building of the chronoporter, you can meet your opponent's army in the past with an optimal mix of units that will defeat them, you can go to the future where you have more resources and send them back in time to attempt to destroy your opponent's chronoporter, or you can build your own chronoporter and meet your opponent in the past.
Q: Many RTSs are won by super-fast clickers, what about this one?
A: Being a fast-clicker helps, but since changing the past uses up chronoenergy, the clicker is limited to a set number of issued commands, thus decision making is more important than the speed of clicks. Also since all players can progress at different speeds, a 'slow clicker' can actually pause their progression through time, issue several commands to different units while they are frozen, and then play in fast forward to catch up and watch the outcome of their commands. Testers who excel at using time travel are sometimes able to beat others who are otherwise better RTS players.
Q: Dude, paradoxes?! You know, grandfather paradox, units fighting side by side?
A: Paradoxes can exist, but since the window of time is limited (e.g., an 8 minute window) all events eventually fall off. A paradox will oscillate between its different states until one of the states reaches the edge of the time window, leaving the players locked into one of the two states. Example: in the case of the grandfather paradox (where you use a factory to build a tank, have the tank time travel to before it was built, and then use it to destroy the factory) you will play with the paradox until it 'falls off' the time window; the game will oscillate between tank living and the factory being destroyed (because the tank destroyed the factory), and the factory remaining and the tank going back in time and being lost. All paradoxes are resolved with time according to the time wave process. For newer players, it's helpful to think of two-state paradoxes being resolved in either state with a 50/50 chance.
Q: Is it true that I can keep sending units back in time to have them fight along side themselves and duplicate an entire army?
A: Yes you can, but not without consequences. It costs chronoenergy to command units from the past to travel further into the past, and obviously you use more chronoenergy to control more units in the past. Also you are using up your playing time to manage this instead of building units or controlling your armies. And finally, if the original 'parent' units are damaged, the time traveled version will wind up being damaged and if the original units are destroyed and don't travel back in time, you wind up undoing the entire cycle.
Q: My head is exploding already. Are you sure this is easy?
A: Yes, though grandfather paradoxes are one of the most complicated aspects of the game, they don't tend to happen all that much in actual gameplay. Time manipulation is super quick to learn. It's like learning to use a DVR control to rewatch a tv show or using your DVD control to jump around chapters in a movie - once you start using time travel it's really simple, but if you've never picked up a remote controller before, those play and 'next-chapter' buttons look scary. We've been play-testing for many years and have learned how to make this game accessible, taking people who never played an RTS before and have them effectively using time travel shortly into the game. The early levels ease you into time manipulation before adding the base-building RTS mechanics.
Q: I am so good at RTS games that I have strategies named after me, and my head has not exploded. I wonder how the game would resolve this complex example: Player A sends units back in time and destroys player B's factories. Before the timewaves reach the present, player B sends his army back in time and destroys player A's factories.
A: This is definitely a paradox. You should check out this page on paradoxes.
Q: Oh man, I wonder what this would be like in an MMORPG...
A: Imagine coming home from work, sitting down, and participating in a raid that happened 5 hours ago in your favorite MMORPG game. Well, it would probably work better with an MMORTS or an AI-driven MMORPG. We are currently working on Achron, but we are considering using or licencing this technology for other types of games including casual, core, serious, and online.
Q: Can you command buildings (e.g., resource processors and collectors) to travel back in time using a chronoporter?
A: No, but this is not a limitation of the engine. This was an explicit choice for gameplay reasons. However, buildings can be sent to the future with a chronobomb.
Q: OK, what is a chronobomb?
A: A bomb that sends everything in an area to the future. This is useful to bottleneck your opponents, and is a weapon that the Grekim (one of the alien species) have.
Q: How does one player beat another (when does the game end)?
A: While we have a variety of end-game conditions for the single-player campaigns, we have two primary modes for multiplayer games. The first mode is: your game is over if you lose your ability to attack or produce units at any point in time. This yields interesting strategies where one player can be losing in the past, but rush in the present and still win. The second mode is: your game is over if you lose your ability to attack or produce units at the oldest position on the timeline, as it is impossible to recover from this. However, this second mode can obviously add time to the end-game.
Q: Do you have a computer AI?
A: Yes, we do. We use a multiagent system that produces quite a range of behaviors. It does not cheat by looking under the fog of war or having extra resources. Instead, it plays reactively in the timeline, much as if you were playing against an opponent that had chronoporters but was not an Achron. We also have achronal adversaries in single-player.
Q: Does watching the past cost chronoenergy?
A: No, watching is free, but changing the past costs chronoenergy.
Q: I bet you spent all of your effort on time travel and didn't think about the underlying RTS at all.
A: (As read in Alex Trebek's voice) I'm sorry. This is a FAQ: and you didn't phrase your answer in the form of a question.
Actually, we've spent significant effort in developing a fun and balanced RTS in addition to the time mechanics. If you're curious as to what gameplay is like, check out some of the commentated game videos or read up and ask about gameplay and balance on our forums. Also, feel free to check out the Achron Wiki.
Q: In a multiplayer game, what do other players see when you jump around in time and change history?
A: They continue to see exactly what they saw before. Your changes to the past will be propagated by a time wave. These changes are not reflected on the opponents screens until that time wave passes by.
For example, Greg and Konrad are both playing in the present. Greg attacks Konrad's base with a small army and destroys two of Konrad's buildings, but Greg loses all of his attack force to Konrad's defences. Greg decides that this attack was not worth the loss of his army, so Greg jumps to 30 seconds ago and undoes his attack. Greg is at -30 seconds, and on his screen, he never attacked Konrad, so his army is still there. Konrad is at the present, and on his screen, he has two destroyed buildings and damaged defences. He continues to build more units. Let's assume that for this 'example' level, time waves are configured to move at 3x the speed of time. As the next time wave sweeps past Greg (still at -30 seconds), it propagates the undoing of Greg's attack. While Konrad is playing in the present, after 15 seconds, that time wave sweeps by Konrad's screen, blurring it, bringing back Konrad's destroyed buildings and undoing the damage to his defences. Note that Konrad would have seen the damage undone on the timeline before this time wave passes, and so he probably would have been expecting to get his buildings back.
Q: Ok, so all players can independently be at any point on the timeline they want. Do the players act as a time wave?
Q: So a player can bring changes on the timeline along with them?
A: Yes, and we've sometimes found that strategy very helpful in our multiplayer testing. It's one of those strategies that turns out to be pretty instinctual not too long after you've started playing. It's also useful to replay over battles (making minor edits) at double speed.
Q: How did you guys pick the spacing, rate, and timing of the time waves?
A: We're still tuning this for gameplay. So far, we have been most happy with time waves moving at around 1.5 to 3 times the present and around 30 seconds to a minute between each time waves passing by. This will also be configurable for multiplayer games. Frequent time waves bring changed history continually and gradually whereas infrequent time waves bring changed history occasionally and drastically. Larger gaps between time waves give each player a set block of time to play before the next time wave arrives, giving them opportunity to act, plan, and react.
Q: Achron crashes or has a blank screen whenever I try to load a level. How do I make it work?
A: Most likely this is because your graphic card driver has not been recently updated or you have a graphics card/adapter that does not fully support OpenGL 2.1. Go to the manufacturer's website of your video card and update the drivers from there. Updating drivers fixes the issue most of the time.
Q: I have a slower computer and the mouse seems laggy. How do I improve that?
A: First, try going into the menu, then settings, and set the graphics to "low". If that doesn't help, you can further go into the configuration.ini file (located in Documents/Achron/ on Windows, and ~/.Achron/ on Linux and Mac), finding the line OSDrawnMouse, and setting it equal to 1 instead of 0. This will have your operating system's low-level rendering draw the mouse rather than the game. It won't look as good but it will be more responsive.
Q: I don't see anyone on multiplayer. Is that a bug?
A: That just means no one else is playing at the moment. You can try coordinating matches on the forums or you can try the community-run IRC channel, #achron on irc.coldfront.net.
Q: I get some error about UPnP when I try to play multiplayer. What does that mean?
A: To host multiplayer games or to see your ping (time it takes a message to reach one computer to another over the Internet), the other computer needs to know how to send messages back to your computer. Routers stop these messages because they don't know how to forward them. UPnP is a way for your computer to tell your router to forward certain messages to it. Most routers support UPnP, but if yours does not, you'll need to manually configure your router to forward ports 7013, 7014, 7613, and 7614 to your computer. There are countless websites on the Internet that can help you for your particular router.
Q: I'm having trouble downloading Achron. It almost completes and then stops. Help!!!
A: Every time we've seen this, it was caused by a couple specific firewall or antivirus programs that weirdly stops the download once it's complete. Disable your antivirus or firewall just during download, then turn it back on. We don't know why this is an issue; most firewalls and antiviruses have no problems with this. Contact your antivirus or firewall vendor about this issue.
Q: Resequence Engine stopped. What does that mean? Why can't I play a game?
A: This means Achron was unable to launch the game engine. Usually this is due to overly paranoid firewalls (Achron and the Resequence engine use TCP locally to communicate), but can sometimes happen due to restrictive policy settings.
Q: I have some other technical issue. Where do I ask my question?
A: Please search the technical section on our forums. If you don't find an answer, post there; that's your best way of getting an answer quickly - we DO monitor the forums and post responses. If you need to send sensitive information (e.g., your email address) or for some other reason you don't want to post about the issue (e.g., a problem with your credit card), email us at email@example.com.
This release fixes numerous bugs, especially for assassin mode and single player campaigns, and also features minor balance changes to resource processing and Grekim healing.
This release contains assassination mode for multiplayer, major improvements to pathfinding performance, increases to unit visibility, improvements to balancing, and numerous minor improvements and bug fixes.
If you have already ordered Achron, you can download it here.
» Read More & see the Changelog or watch Shadowfury333's video summary of the changes.