There were a lot of cool things I saw on this first day of the inaugural Triangle Game Conference. I listened to a bunch of intelligent people speak, I saw some cool peeks into the behind-the-scenes framework of popular games, and I heard some interesting theories about the future and evolution of gaming. But none of them blew my mind like Achron.
For those of you not in-the-know, Achron is a RTS that officially made its public debut at this year's Game Developers' Conference, a game that sets itself apart from the rest by having time itself as a resource. You get outnumbered in a skirmish and have your forces routed? Build more troops in the future and send them back to fight alongside your already-existing ones so you end up winning that conflict. Send your forces into the future to ward off an attack that hasn't happened yet. Fake your opponent out by changing your troop movements so that he orders an attack on a place that your forces never went to in the first place.
There is so much going on in Achron that I find difficult to wrap my mind around - whether the sort of tactical planning that seems to be necessary to actually function in a match against another player, or the reality-warping technology that goes on behind the scenes... and yet, creator Chris Hazard just spoke about it effortlessly. I swear, this man's brain functions on a higher plane of existence from the rest of us.
It was also cool how he'd studied different kinds of time travel, both as gameplay mechanics and story mechanics. For gameplay, you have localized levels that you can jump between (Chrono Trigger), you can rewind time (Braid, Prince of Persia), you can slow down time (any game with Bullet-Time). In stories, you have instances of overlapping "layered" time travel (where you can go back in time, and then go back in time again and you'd see yourself), you have time travel where you change the past and then create a new future, you have time loops (Groundhog Day), or you have seamlessly merging timelines (Back to the Future, where McFly notices the picture of his parents fading).
It's some really cool stuff. I'm not convinced Chris Hazard isn't an alien in disguise, really.
(Also, Chris Hazard? Dude should team up with Epic's Grayson Edge. "Hazard and Edge. They Fight Crime. Developer Style.")