Weapons of Mass UNDO
March 28, 2009 3:18 PM   Subscribe

"Since I attacked my opponent in the past and the time waves have not yet propagated the results of this battle to the present, my units are still here in the present" Got that? Meta-Time Strategy Gaming

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...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.
posted by doobiedoo (55 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
(via the inimitable BLDGBLOG)
posted by doobiedoo at 3:19 PM on March 28, 2009


Excellent! [air guitar]! Can I kill my enemy's mother? And uh... 1.21 gigawatts. I think that covers it.
posted by stavrogin at 3:31 PM on March 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I get absolutely dominated when I play Starcraft online. I look forward to being dominated not only in the present but in the past and future.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 3:32 PM on March 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'll wait for the playable game. This is just me shooting from the hip, but it sounds like once you introduce lag, the game will be a giant exercise in desyncing units.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:37 PM on March 28, 2009


the only reason they're doing this now is because i gave it a good review years ago
posted by pyramid termite at 3:38 PM on March 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


No, PT, it's because you willen haven given it a good review a few years ago by the time the game comes out.
posted by The Bellman at 3:48 PM on March 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


HA! You humans and your "time."
posted by vrakatar at 3:53 PM on March 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I once will have undone my burgeoning interest in what will have been an interesting game, when I realize that it although the premise since will be derivative of the soon to be ancient game Space Hulk, with chrono-energy the future has been replacement for the long ago tomorrow freeze-time. Only it will have been implemented with more complexity.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:57 PM on March 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Fuck yes. At last my ability to comprehend Grant Morrison comics will be useful for something.
posted by Artw at 3:59 PM on March 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


that looks completely fascinating. Braid vs Starcraft.
posted by empath at 4:01 PM on March 28, 2009


Clever game mechanism. I should have seen this coming after Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, but I didn't think it'd be easy to make into a workable strategy game. What do they call it? Obviously RTS does not apply... perhaps QTS?
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:06 PM on March 28, 2009


The cruelest part is that I most likely haven't the real time in my real life to play this.
posted by kid ichorous at 4:08 PM on March 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


This wouldCould be the best game wasIsEver if it wasn't for the color palette - it's too colorful and cartoonish.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:08 PM on March 28, 2009


Yeah, a lot of the design looks like Emperor: Battle for Dune. Maybe the sand is symbolic in this case?
posted by kid ichorous at 4:17 PM on March 28, 2009


TimeCube the game?
posted by sciurus at 4:19 PM on March 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hilarious that this is right on top of the "Why I'm Alone" post.
posted by subtle-t at 4:33 PM on March 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Time travel is so last year.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:36 PM on March 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


tactical meta-temporality makes the heart grow fonder
posted by doobiedoo at 4:39 PM on March 28, 2009


The concept of this game is pretty awesome. It hurts my brain, though. I'm guessing a key part of the strategy will involve hoarding your "Chrono energy" so that you can always jump back in time a little before your enemy's attack? And what happens to units that are made in the future by a building that gets destroyed in the past but the time wave that is carrying the information that it was destroyed hasn't reached the future yet?

Ouch.
posted by Osrinith at 5:04 PM on March 28, 2009


I thought this was going to be a flash game.

I'm pretty disappointed right now.
posted by paisley henosis at 5:06 PM on March 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Since I attacked my opponent in the past and the time waves have not yet propagated the results of this battle to the present...

"yet"?
posted by DU at 5:14 PM on March 28, 2009


Hello, tech support. Yeah, I'm having an issue with your game. Well, last night I was on line getting my ass kicked by some 12 year old kid from Korea and when I rebooted my computer this morning I'm Hitler's grandfather.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:18 PM on March 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


The graphics are bad because it's just a prototype.
posted by empath at 5:28 PM on March 28, 2009


I'll wait for the playable game. This is just me shooting from the hip, but it sounds like once you introduce lag, the game will be a giant exercise in desyncing units.

On the contrary, all copies of the game must keep the whole state of the game in memory at once, and should be able to trace causes and effects forward. If anything, that should -help- the different copies of the game keep track of lag problems.

And what happens to units that are made in the future by a building that gets destroyed in the past but the time wave that is carrying the information that it was destroyed hasn't reached the future yet?

If my understanding of their implementation is correct, the units continue to exist in the present until the wave catches up to them. But when the wave reaches them, they'll cease to exist, and will all the changes they introduced to the system after their destruction.

The key question, unanswered in these videos, is what happens when a unit is destroyed in the past, but travels back in time to avoid the time wave? Will their state update the moment the wave hits their time travel event, or will they have dodged the bullet, or what?
posted by JHarris at 5:34 PM on March 28, 2009


Oh please oh please oh please tell me the tutorial or an early level involve killing Hitler!
posted by Pronoiac at 6:02 PM on March 28, 2009


The key question, unanswered in these videos, is what happens when a unit is destroyed in the past, but travels back in time to avoid the time wave?

I thought units were fixed in time, only orders could be sent back in time.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:11 PM on March 28, 2009


It's a goddamn SQL transaction log interbred with a RTS game. Holy cow.
posted by GuyZero at 6:20 PM on March 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


Will playing this help me understand Lost?
posted by mecran01 at 6:21 PM on March 28, 2009


I thought units were fixed in time, only orders could be sent back in time.

From the game page, the third demo involves sending units back ("chronoporting").

The two major time travel literary views are forking & non-forking timelines:
* This is forking with merges via non-instantaneous time waves, sorta like Back to the Future.
* Lost is not forking. I think.
* The original Terminator's non-forking, but the sequels & series have forking timelines.
* Forking: Primer, The Butterfly Effect.
* Non-forking: 12 Monkeys, Slaughterhouse Five, Bill & Ted, All You Zombies.

See Time travel in fiction at Wikipedia for more info.
posted by Pronoiac at 6:49 PM on March 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


Sure, but will Duke Nukem Forever be included as a playable future minigame?
posted by battlebison at 6:52 PM on March 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


No, you can send units back. So if the time wave propagation doesn't destroy units in the past that were sent back in the future then I can build a squad of units at time x. At time x+9 I can send them back to x-50. Then I can go back to x+8 and send them back to x-50 and so on. After I send the units back as soon as they're built I have 10 squads of units. Then I can crush your pathetic excuse for a civilization.
posted by xorry at 6:59 PM on March 28, 2009


10 squads of units += at time x-50
posted by xorry at 7:01 PM on March 28, 2009


I wonder how much base location will make a difference. Wouldn't defending a base be far easier than attacking because of your inherent ability to double/triple/etc. your forces by sending them back a minute? The game explicitly allows multiple copies of the same unit, but they have to go through some sort of building to travel. Also, if the original doesn't make it back to the gate in time to go back in time, we can only assume bad things happen.

Amusingly, a zerg rush tactic might still work because there wouldn't be a past to go back to. Unless the game starts out with 3 minutes of "past" that you didn't actually play.

JHarris: The key question, unanswered in these videos, is what happens when a unit is destroyed in the past, but travels back in time to avoid the time wave? Will their state update the moment the wave hits their time travel event, or will they have dodged the bullet, or what?

Do you mean Unit A is destroyed at -1 Minutes, but the player takes Unit A at Present and moves it to -2 Minutes to avoid destruction? From what I can gather, when a minute passes and -1 becomes Present, the version of Unit A that the player moved from the Present disappears unless it successfully prevents its earlier destruction. Moving further back in time uses up more energy, so there's diminishing returns on constant resurrection.

On preview: To prevent the inevitable going back to 10,000,000 BC with a googol of units, moving a unit further back in time takes up more energy. After a while, it'll be prohibitive to move even one unit one minute further back.
posted by Maxson at 7:09 PM on March 28, 2009


This game is so incredibly confusteresting to me.

I think the idea of an entire army composed from a few units from the future is interesting, but i wonder how easy it is to manage the proper units in battle so that futureme+2 gets killed before futureme+1 gets killed before futureme.
posted by graventy at 7:27 PM on March 28, 2009


primer-craft
posted by i blame your mother at 7:32 PM on March 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


xorry Then I can crush your pathetic excuse for a civilization.
Only if your opponent hasn't done the exact same thing.

This kind of game, and similar games like Cursor*10, illustrate well why time can be considered as a fourth spatial dimension. The game is played in one dimension of sequential time, that's a given imposed by our external reality. So the "dimension of time" the play occurs in, is more like a series of 3D boxes with complex interaction rules - alter something in one, and after some real time passes actions will occur in "later" boxes.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:53 PM on March 28, 2009


So here is a story the developers told at their session at GDC. Paraphrased because I don't really remember it all that well.

- Person A built a mining base
- Person B built an army to crush the mining base and sent it on over
- Person A went back in time and built an army, and sent it out so that it would arrive at the mining base right as person B's army got there, thus defending his mining base and destroying B's army.
- Person B went forward in time to build a really powerful nuke, which he then sent backwards through time so that it could destroy B's army after the battle, and also the mining base.
- Person A went back in time and canceled the construction of the mining base and the army, thereby making it so that Person B's army would arrive at an empty ore site, and then get nuked.

Make sense? I apologize if this story is included in one of the videos already.
posted by breath at 8:00 PM on March 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


cf. David Jefferson's Time Warp OS which he was working on while I was at school (I took CS 111 -- Operating System Fundamentals from him).

I got the impression that his "Time Warp" idea was shoe-horned into a tank battle simulator to get DOD grant funding, but at any rate when he covered his work in class I was pretty impressed (the core implementation detail IIRC was to add antimessages to objects that signal objects to reverse the effect of a previous message).
posted by mrt at 8:15 PM on March 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Isn't the many worlds interpretation still the leading theory in modern physics, rendering time travel pointless (and potentially creating closed timelike curves)? Or has the consensus changed?

Oh, and I don't think we have enough information to know if Lost is forking or not yet.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 8:25 PM on March 28, 2009


Person A went back in time and canceled the construction of the mining base and the army, thereby making it so that Person B's army would arrive at an empty ore site, and then get nuked.

Ok, this makes it click for me. I understood the concepts, but didn't see much application beyond doing the Terminator thing. Now I really like it.
posted by niles at 8:27 PM on March 28, 2009


> Person A went back in time and canceled the construction of the mining base and the army, thereby making it so that Person B's army would arrive at an empty ore site, and then get nuked.

And then, this is really where the planning and resource management becomes key: Person A played their cards just right, so that Person B doesn't have enough Chronowhatevers to issue the command to stop the nuke or pull back his units, and by the time he has gotten full Chronos in the present, he has now gotten so distant from the actionable past that it would just be a wash anyway, and Person A can engage him in a different way.

I can imagine that skilled players who can pick this up (really it just adds another level of strategy to standard resource management game) will be able to easily pick off the newbs who get obsessed with saving every last unit that they keep investing more resources in changing and rechanging their battle plans while the skilled player is doing minimal effort to keep them occupied, while amassing their own resources for a real attack.

I wonder how many games are going to focus around using micro skirmishes that eventually never happen, only to find out yourself completely resourceless and a time wave passes over to reveal a giant nuke in your base.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:07 PM on March 28, 2009


Time waves, huh? Better read Cowl again to limber up.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:20 PM on March 28, 2009


Time travel is so next year.
posted by surrendering monkey at 9:23 PM on March 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


If you haven't checked out the game's website already I highly recommend it, the battle stories posted on the front page sound like the ravings of mad potheads whilst the FAQ takes it for granted that some people's heads may have to be exploded in order to understand how to play, here they are on possible paradoxes:

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, at which point there is a 50/50 chance of either the tank lives and the factory is destroyed, or the factory remains and the tank was never created. All paradoxes are nicely resolved with time.

posted by doobiedoo at 9:28 PM on March 28, 2009


It's an interesting idea and all, but honestly, Homeworld already kicked my butt because I couldn't wrap my head around strategy/tactics in a 3rd dimension, do I really fancy my chances with a 4th?
posted by juv3nal at 9:31 PM on March 28, 2009


I wonder how many games are going to focus around using micro skirmishes that eventually never happen, only to find out yourself completely resourceless and a time wave passes over to reveal a giant nuke in your base.

Maybe we should see other people.
posted by doobiedoo at 9:34 PM on March 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Isn't the many worlds interpretation still the leading theory in modern physics, rendering time travel pointless (and potentially creating closed timelike curves)? Or has the consensus changed?

What?

I don't think many worlds was ever the "consensus" it was just an 'interpretation', not a theory. It didn't make any predictions. In other words, it makes no difference whether you believe in many worlds or not. The results of any experiment will be exactly the same.

I'm not expert, but quantum mechanics is a model that describes our observations of the world. It doesn't describe everything, in particular relativity also explains things and the two have yet to be reconciled. But in the standard quantum model, as far as I know, time just "is" it's not like in relativity where time is another dimension that changes based on a number of different variables, like where you are, gravity, etc. In quantum mechanics time just moves forward in a very boring way. There's no time travel.

Again, I'm not an expert or anything!
posted by delmoi at 9:50 PM on March 28, 2009


Also, this game doesn't actually do 'time' travel, rather it creates a new spatial dimension, which it calls "time" and creates some goofy rules for that dimension. Regular time still flows in the normal way. this blog post by scott a aaronson is slightly related.
Here's the related bit:
But what do we even mean by changing the laws of physics so as to “make time reusable”? The first answer that suggests itself is simply to define a “time-traveling Turing machine,” which can move not only left and right on its work tape, but also backwards and forwards in time. If we do this, then we’ve made time into another space dimension by definition, so it’s not at all surprising if we end up being able to solve exactly the PSPACE problems.

But wait: if time is reusable, then “when” does it get reused? Should we think of some “secondary” time parameter that inexorably marches forward, even as the Turing machine scuttles back and forth in the “original” time? But if so, then why can’t the Turing machine also go backwards in the secondary time? Then we could introduce a tertiary time parameter to count out the Turing machine’s movements in the secondary time, and so on forever.

But this is stupid. What the endless proliferation of times is telling us is that we haven’t really made time reusable. Instead, we’ve simply redefined the time dimension to be yet another space dimension, and then snuck in a new time dimension that behaves in the same boring, conventional way as the old time dimension. We then perform the sleight-of-hand of letting an exponential amount of the secondary time elapse, even as we restrict the “original” time to be polynomially bounded. The trivial, uninformative result is then that we can solve PSPACE problems in “polynomial time.”
posted by delmoi at 10:10 PM on March 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


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 one of the alien races has.
I'd rather have a timebomb.
posted by Pronoiac at 10:35 PM on March 28, 2009


Using future resources for present warfare? Great, this innovative concept surely needs promoting even more.

OTOH, I was convinced that what makes time travel difficult is the impossibility to transfer information. So even if you built units and sent them back you would not know what they were supposed to do there because that information did not exist.

Also, interesting game concept.
posted by Laotic at 6:36 AM on March 29, 2009


And what happens to units that are made in the future by a building that gets destroyed in the past but the time wave that is carrying the information that it was destroyed hasn't reached the future yet?

If my understanding of their implementation is correct, the units continue to exist in the present until the wave catches up to them. But when the wave reaches them, they'll cease to exist, and will all the changes they introduced to the system after their destruction.


Yeah, I thought for sure in that first clip that, having used units to stage an attack in the past, but talking about how casualties are building up but are not yet seen in the present, that he'd then take those same units in the present and also attack. But I take it that when the time wave catches up, those units that were killed in the past, and all damage done by them in the present, would disappear.

I thought units were fixed in time, only orders could be sent back in time.

He sends units through time in the first clip.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:48 AM on March 29, 2009


Anything that must travel back in time in order to maintain the current state of causality is denoted to the player, which helps manage paradoxes.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:22 AM on March 29, 2009


This reminds me about one of my favorite ideas: Imagine if there existed a hard drive that could read its content at any previous point in time. This would give you unlimited space, since whenever you need more space you can overwrite something else, and the previous content would still be readable through the past.

I can imagine playing this game would feel almost like designing a file system for that kind of drive, only with more past-changing.
posted by ymgve at 8:34 AM on March 29, 2009


ymgve, file systems like that exist (google WAFL), but they don't give you infinite space.
posted by dhoe at 10:42 AM on March 29, 2009


Somewhat related:
* io9 on time loops
* "Don't worry, it's out of your control. I did it 35 minutes ago. ... hey! PUT THAT BACK!"
posted by Pronoiac at 5:00 PM on April 11, 2009


« Older Why I'm Alone: "People ask me why I'm still alone,...  |  The World According to Hoyle.... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments