Author Topic: Achron Suggestions / Criticism  (Read 6529 times)

Offline Kron

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Achron Suggestions / Criticism
« on: October 27, 2010, 08:32:21 AM »
Hi there, AI Warriors!

First of all, congratulations on the 4.0 release! I've been following AIW for quite a while now, and it fills me with glee that it's still getting such a huge influx of content! ^.^


The purpose of this thread is to discuss Achron, a game touted as the world's first "metatime strategy game". Hope you don't mind or get angry or something. ;_;

I see you've already got a thread for the game here, but the purpose of this thread is slightly different (suggestions, as opposed to discussion), which is also why I've placed it within a separate forum.

For those who haven't heard of the game before, here's the most recent alpha demo (released for the IGF).


Anyway, while the game is coming along nicely, I'd love to hear suggestions and criticisms from players of different games...

  • First of all, if you're not used to the game and haven't been playing it for ages... you're likely to come up with some really new ideas. Creativity is the advantage of the uninitiated.
  • Secondly, Achron is a game that can use suggestions ranging from direct modifications to the game... to mods! The Resequence Engine (that runs the time travel shenanigans) is separate from the game itself, and different games can be built on top.

Altogether, I'm fairly interested in hearing what the AI War community has to say about Achron. I know that RCIX and Moonshine Fox are members, but what about the rest of you guys?

Some final notes on computational constraints:

  • Achron has gone with a Starcraft-style scale as opposed to a Total Annihilation / Supreme Commander-style scale due to the extreme costs involved with processing the entire timeline.

    So, while I know that a lot of you probably love the grand scale (and consequent strategic focus) of a game like AI War with its thousands of units... that's really not possible with the Resequence Engine right now. Sorry.
  • Here's a very rough approximation of what slows down the engine:

    Processing overhead = Number of timewaves * Speed of timewaves * Number of units

    Note that "timeline length" is not a parameter in that equation. While Achron may run on a timeline length of around 8 minutes, it's certainly possible to stretch that to 8 hours (basically, AI War timescales)... as long as each timewave is an hour apart. Make of this what you will...
« Last Edit: October 27, 2010, 08:44:11 AM by Kron »
Time travel in the classic sense has no place in rational theory, but temporal distortion does exist on the quantum level, and more importantly it can be controlled.
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Offline Mánagarmr

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Re: Achron Suggestions / Criticism
« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2010, 08:46:55 AM »
I'm actually ashamed to say I bought the game and played the alpha a couple of times but then dropped it. I'm not entirely sure it was due to my inability to grasp the time-aspect of it, or that I simply don't like small-scale strategy games. You mentioned Starcraft in your post, and in difference from most RTS fans, I really loathe Starcraft/Warcraft. I simply hate that absolute balance where the slightest mistake or misclick will immediately cost you the game and you get rushed in 24 seconds by some pimply 15 year old with no life (or a geniune RTS genius. The effect is the same for me).

I was always a fan of the grand scale and deliberate inbalance of units in TA (and subsequently SupCom and primarily FA), because it felt more real. I could devise actual strategies that involed a fake-attack on a certain area to draw attention and then send bombers or whatever to cripple my opponents economy, or do a quick assassination of the commander. It didn't involve the agonizing grind of plowing through enemy units, only to find that you miscalculated just the slightest and you are now counterswarmed and killed. Defences mean absolutely nothing as your defensive structures get plowed down in seconds while doing no (significant) damage.


I'm not saying that SC-type games are necessarily the way I explained above, only that that is my perception when I play them. Thus I have a natural antagony against them.

As for Achron: It's brilliant and a fantastic idea, but the early alphas/betas have not piqued my interest enough to keep me hooked. It's mostly been "okay, what the hell just happened? I won? I lost? Err..." which I think is mostly due to my inability to wrap my grey matter around the time aspect. For me it simply feels like an SC clone with a replay function, which I KNOW it isn't, but that doesn't help that I percieve it as such.

Regardless, I was intrigued by the idea and even though I may never play it again ( you never know ), I still feel my money was well spent as indie developers, particularly those with new and grand ideas, need all the help they can get.

On a last note: I actually have the latest alpha version downloaded. I haven't installed it yet though, but I was intending to test how far it has come since the last one I played. Been busy with the AI:War release, as you can no doubt tell from the credits list. Making the videos and testing countless of bugs have taken up the bulk of my spare time lately.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2010, 08:55:40 AM by Moonshine Fox »
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Offline Kron

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Re: Achron Suggestions / Criticism
« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2010, 09:28:18 AM »
Hi there, Moonshine! I'm actually planning on resurrecting your old intelligence-gathering thread right after this post! Small world. :3

I'm actually ashamed to say I bought the game and played the alpha a couple of times but then dropped it. I'm not entirely sure it was due to my inability to grasp the time-aspect of it, or that I simply don't like small-scale strategy games. You mentioned Starcraft in your post, and in difference from most RTS fans, I really loathe Starcraft/Warcraft. I simply hate that absolute balance where the slightest mistake or misclick will immediately cost you the game and you get rushed in 24 seconds by some pimply 15 year old with no life (or a geniune RTS genius. The effect is the same for me).

I was always a fan of the grand scale and deliberate inbalance of units in TA (and subsequently SupCom and primarily FA), because it felt more real. I could devise actual strategies that involed a fake-attack on a certain area to draw attention and then send bombers or whatever to cripple my opponents economy, or do a quick assassination of the commander. It didn't involve the agonizing grind of plowing through enemy units, only to find that you miscalculated just the slightest and you are now counterswarmed and killed. Defences mean absolutely nothing as your defensive structures get plowed down in seconds while doing no (significant) damage.

I completely agree with you. There's a bit of a divide in the RTS genre right now between "strategy games" and "actions per minute games".

I particularly don't like Starcraft 2, since it seems to have gone and embraced the dark side. I suppose I can cut them some slack since they're trying to manufacture an e-sport or something right from the ground up, so maybe they want fast-clicking 15 year olds...

(I've also recently managed to get my hands on Forged Alliance! I am so looking forward to playing it.)


However! I'd like to defend Achron from the assertion that it is basically Starcraft with a time slider.

The time slider changes a lot in the game. For example, say you rush an enemy base and juuust manage to take out a high-powered enemy unit because there was a gap in the enemy's defences.
... In a normal RTS like Starcraft, you grin and capitalize on your small victory, possibly escalating it into a crushing victory.
... In Achron, that gap in the enemy defences won't exist on the next timewave, since your opponent will have fixed his mistake. Your rush will crash and burn.

In Achron, you have to go one step further; you can't just defeat the enemy... you have to defeat the enemy's causal structure comprehensively. Tricks will earn you nothing, as the game isn't in an unstable equilibrium (like Starcraft and its ilk).

(I have posted a nauseatingly TL:DR guide on this subject here. Read it if you have way too much time on your hands...)


Furthermore, APM means a lot less in Achron. Next to nothing, in my experience. This is because of the chronoenergy mechanic.

The only moment in time you can spam commands is in the present. The slower you are at spamming commands, the more comfortably you can submerge yourself in the past. It's actually conceivable that players with low APM have an advantage over compulsive clickers this way.

The game falls into a more strategic rhythm of giving the right commands to the right units at the right moments in time... with some skill going into being prepared and setting up command hierarchies in advance.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2010, 09:34:22 AM by Kron »
Time travel in the classic sense has no place in rational theory, but temporal distortion does exist on the quantum level, and more importantly it can be controlled.
- Academician Prokhor Zakharov, "For I Have Tasted the Fruit"

Offline Mánagarmr

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Re: Achron Suggestions / Criticism
« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2010, 10:21:41 AM »
Yeah, and as I said, much of my "reluctance", if you can call it that, to delve into Achron stems from my perception. But now that things are calming down, I've been meaning to sit down with Achron and try to wrap my brain around it again :D Because as much as I might dislike this type of game, the idea is far too awesome to simply dismiss.
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Offline Kron

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Re: Achron Suggestions / Criticism
« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2010, 10:38:05 AM »
Yeah, and as I said, much of my "reluctance", if you can call it that, to delve into Achron stems from my perception. But now that things are calming down, I've been meaning to sit down with Achron and try to wrap my brain around it again :D Because as much as I might dislike this type of game, the idea is far too awesome to simply dismiss.
Thanks for the vote of confidence.

Still, first impressions are important. Whether or not Achron is a good game, a great deal of its success will hinge on whether potential players will think it's a good game.

Normally, this comes down to complexity (players thinking they'll need PhDs in mathematics to play this game or something). This "It's like Starcraft, I don't like it" gut reaction is actually pretty new to me, and it fascinates me.

Do you have any suggestions for how we could make the game appear less APM-focused and more appealing? Most of our demo videos have primarily revolved around game mechanics... maybe we should make a "tactics" video too?
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- Academician Prokhor Zakharov, "For I Have Tasted the Fruit"

Offline getter77

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Re: Achron Suggestions / Criticism
« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2010, 09:52:58 PM »
I'm one of the very, very early Alpha pre-order folks(Sad state of my posting history over on the forums there activity/time wise speaks volumes)---but sadly life has been kicking me in general and in seemingly every direction BUT Achron (and a few others) since a bit before the first Alpha release even dropped.   :(

From some passive stalking of updates, I'd say things are on the right track and still in a healthy phase of more/better/make sure the whole thing works on lots of stuff.  In this modern time, by my estimation, having an Engine that is versatile, robust, and very much designed to be a thing to last several years...if not a decade+ with progress along the way, is very important.

I really need to find time to get around to the lot it, as I had intended to contribute in some manner or another, but I just don't know when that would be at the least.
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Offline Kron

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Re: Achron Suggestions / Criticism
« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2010, 01:48:34 PM »
I hope to see you on the Achron forums, getter77! <3

Still, no-one's actually given any suggestions yet. I feel like the point of this thread has been missed. :x
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Offline Mánagarmr

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Re: Achron Suggestions / Criticism
« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2010, 03:26:17 PM »
Okay, just had some toyaround with the latest Achron version. It looks a lot better, UI-wise. The models are still butt-ugly, but they are placeholders, I know.

But, now I remember what put me off: Unit control. Moving around unit is a pain in the ass, and attacking enemies almost always lead to my demise, since my units are busy bumping into eachother or simply lulling around. ESPECIALLY when moving back in time and trying to change the past. Old orders remain (since I keep forgetting to undo them), and my plans blow up in my face and I quit in annoyance.

;)
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Offline RCIX

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Re: Achron Suggestions / Criticism
« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2010, 01:46:24 AM »
Gonna have to agree with Moonshine Fox here. I find that i can't really grasp the S part of Achron's MTS, and that's not even dealing with the timeline >.<
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Offline Kron

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Re: Achron Suggestions / Criticism
« Reply #9 on: October 29, 2010, 03:32:55 AM »
Okay, just had some toyaround with the latest Achron version. It looks a lot better, UI-wise. The models are still butt-ugly, but they are placeholders, I know.

What about the CESO models? I suspect that they're fairly close to their final versions. Do you think they're ugly too? Or just the Grekim / Vecgir?

But, now I remember what put me off: Unit control. Moving around unit is a pain in the ass, and attacking enemies almost always lead to my demise, since my units are busy bumping into eachother or simply lulling around.

Hmmm, can you elaborate on this? Is it specifically pathfinding or is it group pathfinding?

ESPECIALLY when moving back in time and trying to change the past. Old orders remain (since I keep forgetting to undo them), and my plans blow up in my face and I quit in annoyance.

Yeah this seems to be a bit of a recurring intuitive issue with players. They expect old commands to automatically wipe out new ones.

I'm not entirely sure of the best solution to this problem. Maybe specifically mentioning this in the tutorials? =/
Time travel in the classic sense has no place in rational theory, but temporal distortion does exist on the quantum level, and more importantly it can be controlled.
- Academician Prokhor Zakharov, "For I Have Tasted the Fruit"

Offline Mánagarmr

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Re: Achron Suggestions / Criticism
« Reply #10 on: October 29, 2010, 03:42:30 AM »
I haven't played enough to be able to tell which models are which, but when you start the map you have a couple of tanks, airplanes, mechs and structures. These models are truly bleh for 3D models. Textures are more or less missing. They're blue and gray. Yay?

I'd say it's mostly group pathfinding. The units feel extremely sluggish and it's insanely difficult to place a unit with precision, especially if he's in a hiarchy. I must honestly say that the hierachy mode is something I can't wrap my head around. I know it's to conserve chrono energy, but it feels like a dumbed down and limited box-selection. The units will bump around, zig-zag and generally behave very strangely while moving to their destination.

It feels like I'm not in control of my units. They're slow, sluggish and generally spend a lot of time driving back and forth before getting something done, which is detrimental to the experience.

It's also extremely difficult to know which units are good against which. Some units seem to utterly shred others, while yet another unit dies instantly.
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Offline RCIX

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Re: Achron Suggestions / Criticism
« Reply #11 on: October 29, 2010, 05:33:55 AM »
It feels like I'm not in control of my units. They're slow, sluggish and generally spend a lot of time driving back and forth before getting something done, which is detrimental to the experience.
This. to put it quite bluntly, it ruins the whole experience for me :(
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Offline Kron

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Re: Achron Suggestions / Criticism
« Reply #12 on: October 29, 2010, 05:39:25 AM »
Hmmm, okay! I'm actually somewhat relieved, as these are fairly minor issues.

Since both of you are Achron members anyway, why not start a thread about this there? Actually I'm surprised that RCIX hasn't... never heard any complaints from him earlier.
Time travel in the classic sense has no place in rational theory, but temporal distortion does exist on the quantum level, and more importantly it can be controlled.
- Academician Prokhor Zakharov, "For I Have Tasted the Fruit"

Offline RCIX

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Re: Achron Suggestions / Criticism
« Reply #13 on: October 29, 2010, 06:11:47 AM »
Hmmm, okay! I'm actually somewhat relieved, as these are fairly minor issues.

Since both of you are Achron members anyway, why not start a thread about this there? Actually I'm surprised that RCIX hasn't... never heard any complaints from him earlier.
Not sure, it never quite occurred to me. Will do!
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Offline x4000

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Re: Achron Suggestions / Criticism
« Reply #14 on: October 29, 2010, 12:41:58 PM »
Hi Kron,

Thanks for stopping by, and having such a constructive thread.  I think it's a great thing.  Normally I'm not one for critiques because of all the baggage that goes with that, and in this case I'll confess I've not yet had the time to play Achron -- it looks solid, and like a cool concept, but my perception has been that it's not my sort of game anymore than Starcraft, Dawn of War, or similar are.

All that said, based on my experiences with player feedback on AI War, and based off of my perception of Achron from having watched a number of your videos and having seen AI War fans talking about the game here on the forums, here are a few thoughts that hopefully are useful -- but big grains of salt, as I've not played the game (though, in some senses, that makes my feedback valuable in a different sense, as I can tell you from experience sometimes half the battle comes from just getting people to try the demo).  So, the thoughts:

1. It does look like Starcraft to me, for whatever reason.  Actually, I never played Starcraft either, but I played loads of Warcraft I and II back in the day.  In those games you have a small number of units, and you're tasked with out-clicking your opponent all over the place.  It was fun when I was a teenager, but I lost interest in that as an adult.  I'm not sure exactly why Achron makes me feel this way, the videos are certainly slow enough, but I guess it's the whole "I beat you / no, wait, you went back in time and beat me / haha, I went further back actually" cycle that makes it seem that way.

2. I'm a huge fan of time travel stuff.  Back to the Future (the whole trilogy), the Doomsday Book (and the rest of that series), and Chrono Trigger are amongst my favorite things.  However, Achron doesn't really grab me in the same way as them, and I think the reason is that it's not very exciting time travel to go back in time thirty minutes, or an hour.  That's more like the Omega 13 device that lets you correct a mistake, rather than true time travel.  And I did really enjoy the rewind feature in Prince of Persia (the Sands of Time one only), but I don't think of it as time travel.  Achron strikes me as arming both sides with a fancy rewind/undo function.  I could be completely wrong, but that's my perception, and I think that plays into the "it will take a lot of fast-clicking to win," because it makes me feel like not only do I have to beat my opponent, I have to do so repeatedly and so thoroughly that they are out of "undos."

3. That brings me to my next point, which is this: the fun thing about time travel, and indeed about the rewind feature in PoP, is that YOU have it.  If your enemies can undo, then it starts to feel grindy: "how many times do I have to kill you!?!?"  The very idea of engaging in group combat in such an environment is just exhausting to me, personally.  Now, on the other hand, if I were facing a superior force that I could only cut down to size by using MY rewind/time-travel abilities, then that could be interesting.  Each time I killed part of the force, I'd feel like I accomplished something permanent and lasting.

4. And I guess that brings me to my last point: one of the big things with AI War, specifically, has been permanence.  Players really like it when they can affect the galaxy in a way that leaves a lasting mark, throughout the rest of their campaign.  It scares them (and scares away some players) when the AI does the same in reverse to them, so that's done in moderation only and we even have some features in there (like data centers) specifically to ease those fears so that they feel like they get a bit of an undo if they make a mistake or two.  But certain other things where the players couldn't kill certain enemies (like astro trains, which could only be diverted) turned out to be overwhelmingly unpopular except to a niche of players.  So much so that in the 4.0 version, I demoted the trains to optional-only.  When it comes to Achron, I guess you can see where I'm going: I feel like I'd be killing the same unit dozens of times to make sure it feels like it really stays dead.  That removes all satisfaction of killing the unit the first 11 times, and makes me wary/relieved as the primary emotions on the 12th.  Or, that's the expectation that I have in my head, I'm of course wildly speculating.  But having played certain enemies in games like FFIV or FFVI where they would regenerate body parts or regenerate allies, those were always the most frustrating battles for me by far.  Seems like every Square RPG has one of those bosses at least, and it's always something I'm glad to get past.

5. Unrelated to the rest of the notes above, I have to say that the idea of the "Time Credits" (if that's what they were called, I forget) scares me a bit, too.  It seems like I'd be worried about running out of those, and wanting to make sure that the opponent moved first so that I could be sure to go further back than him.  This is an example of that kind of paralysis that I've had to combat in a few ways with "AI Progress" in AI War, by providing Data Centers and other things that were difficult to get, but which could give that crucial undo.  And I guess that's where the Achron mechanics really worry me: I feel like it's a game about my opponent and I getting a certain number of undos, but no more, and whoever uses the last undo the most successfully is probably the winner.  In the meantime, we both need to run around in such a way that I don't get killed and am in a position to use the last undo to win.


None of this implies that I think the game is faulty or bad, but those are the reasons I think it's not for me, based on some of those perceptions.  And those perceptions could be entirely wrong -- but don't tell me about it, that's not worth your time.  If those perceptions are wrong, and you think others might have a similar perception, then it's something you want to address in your videos, marketing text, and so forth.  Communicating what AI War is and why it's unique has been the greatest challenge for me, as "it has the best AI" is a claim a lot of people make.  With Achron, you have the benefit of an awesome high concept that excites people in general, but that still doesn't mean you won't have problems with them accepting or understanding the actual execution of the "it has time travel" concept.

I think you guys could be headed to a lot of success, but I think at the moment your design or your marketing materials (I'm not sure which) are going to make the Starcraft/C&C/etc players your go-to group, whereas that's an entirely different market from the AI War one (which trades more in the Civ/GalCiv/Supcom groups).  And that's totally cool, but it's something to be aware of one way or the other.  In a lot of respects, I think the Starcraft/C&C groups are actually substantially more mainstream, so that's happy for you.  But if you want to have a better chance of attracting more my crowd, the points above are what I see as the major sticking points, anyway.

Hope it's useful!  And best of luck to you.
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