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Three Moves Ahead Episode 137 – Talking Time Lords

October 6th, 2011 by Rob Zacny · 13 Comments · Podcast, Three Moves Ahead

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Richard Cobbett bravely joins Rob for a conversation with Achron creator Chris Hazard, despite the fact that Richard is weak as a kitten and sick as a dog. They talk about the difficulties indies face in the RTS genre, whether reviewers should make allowances for coarse but inspired games, and how Hazardous software has reacted to weak reviews. They also dig deep on Achron’s mechanics and how they developed over the course of the project. Along the way, they prove once again that Achron is one of 2011′s most fascinating RTS games.

This is kind of a “deep-end of the pool” discussion. You might find these resources helpful:

Giant Bomb’s “quick look” video
Richard’s RPS review

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13 Comments so far ↓

  • RW117

    i realize this is somewhat off topic, but one boardgame that i play for a number for years and find a superbly elegant way of joining normal boardgame mechanics with a wargame is Friedrich:

    http://www.histogame.de/e_friedrich.html

    i would be intrigued to have you guys talk about it and offer your opinions :)

  • Sam

    It was great listening to Dr Hazard (what an awesome name) talk about the mechanics of Achron. It makes fascinating listening when an incredibly intelligent guy gets to explain all of the hidden trials and tribulations that go into making such a complex game. That was also what made the Alpha Centuri show so great, having Brian Reynolds hold forth on SMAC development.

    Not as fascinating are discussions by reviewers about reviews and reviewing. It just seemed odd that the show would spend a significant amount of time right off the bat talking about reviews, rather than follow up on some of the interesting things Dr Hazard was talking about.

  • Rob Zacny

    I’ll definitely bear that in mind, Sam, but I don’t think everyone finds it as fascinating when one person dominates the conversation. As a host, I generally try to make sure everyone is participating and that other voices are heard. Especially when we have a guest whose work I enjoy as much as Richard’s.

    More important for this show, however, was the fact that reviews have been a troubled area for Achron. I wanted to get that topic into the open so that we were all clear where everyone stood, and then we could talk about how Chris handles those issues as a developer. Show dynamics are important, and I didn’t want reviews to be the elephant in the room. So we hit that early, and I still think it was a better show for it.

    I do think we followed-up with Chris pretty extensively, however. Maybe not in the order you would have preferred, but I hope you feel we let him have his say.

  • Danjuro

    I didn’t play Achron yet, and my glass is half-full compared to Sam’s.
    I was quite fascinated by Chris Hazard’s ability to just let Richard and Rob do what they ought to do : express their opinion, while not trying to justify or argue for the sake of it, but instead concentrating himself into offering insights and technical explanations, and maybe more importanly, convey the now obvious passion that went into his work.
    While indeed, at first, it was quite sudden, the review talk contributed, in my opinion, to make for a very informative show about what is one of the most mind-boggling game concept there could possibily be.
    Thank you for a great, great show again, Mr Zacny.

  • Daniel M

    I think Rob sums it up near the end when he said it’s slightly more fun to discuss than to play. I would love to reskin the game’s units and retexture the terrain when I have some time, though I assume the game’s community is already hard at it.

    Richard’s best phrases:
    “not enough fruit pastilles”
    “hardcore friendly” (which seems oxymoronic BUT IT ISN’T)
    “In a puff of logic”

  • Richard

    (stammers out barely coherent response while regretting closing window to avoid the neighbour’s yowling cat needing its own credit at the start)

    Damn, I want a Fruit Pastille now…

  • Richard

    “I was quite fascinated by Chris Hazard’s ability to just let Richard and Rob do what they ought to do : express their opinion, while not trying to justify or argue for the sake of it, but instead concentrating himself into offering insights and technical explanations, and maybe more importanly, convey the now obvious passion that went into his work.”

    Totally agree. Was very unsure what to expect when we went into this one – not really knowing if we were going to have a civilised chat or if everything was going to explode into a big argument, but Chris was a pleasure to talk to throughout the recording. I’m unfortunately not a big fan of his game, but I do very much respect what he and his team created. The time travel mechanic is amazingly cool, both for its strategic implications and the sandbox side where you realise you really can send a robot back in time and paradox it out of existence by shooting the worker that built the factory that created it in the first place. Anyone who’s even remotely into RTS or just plain cool tech really needs to at least check out the demo when it lands.

  • Frash

    The podcast got me to think about time travel as a mechanic and just how much thought you really have to put into it to make it ‘work’ in a game. I have not played Achron but I am glad to hear that despite the split opinion on whether the game was good or not that the general opinion was that the time travel mechanic worked really well.

    Then I started to think about other strategy games that use time travel. The only one I could really think of was millenia: altered destinies and that one can be argued into being classed an adventure game or light sim.

    I think a civ or similar game that includes other strategy issues would be an awsome candidate for time travel as a mechanic. I haven’t totally thought this through but imagine playing civ and upon unlocking time travel being able to send units back then essentially playing civ backwards as you compete with others that had gained the ability to alter events to ensure the timeline favors you. I haven’t thought it all through of course, but if we are able to make the mechanic work well in a real time enviroment I think turn based would be an interesting way to go.

  • FriendlyFire

    The Grekim strangely reminded me of Earth 2160′s alien race. It’s the sole comparison I could draw to RTS games that I know.

  • laler

    So he went from making games to helping one group of humans kill another group. Incredible.

  • Hell-Mikey

    An absolutely top-shelf show. Difficult topic handled well and informatively. Provided me with insight into what seems like an important game that I wont otherwise play or address. Thank you very much.

  • Iain Cheyne

    Excellent show, but I wish you’d spent more time at the start describing the game, rather than launching straight into the poor reviews discussion. Hazard dealt with it really well. Very classy.

  • Iain Cheyne

    Here is the youtube channel that Hazard mentioned.

    http://www.youtube.com/shadowfury333