The Future of Anacreon

George Moromisato
20 January 2012

When will Anacreon 3 be ready?

I've only just started the designs for Anacreon 3, so it may be a while before anyone can playtest it. My goal is to have a decent alpha or beta version by the end of 2012.

When I first started thinking about forming a game company I knew I had to create some multiplayer games. Not only are people willing to pay more for multiplayer games, but adding human allies and opponents significantly enhances the game in ways a game AI simply cannot. At first I thought about creating a multiplayer asteroid mining game, loosely inspired by Railroad Tycoon, and set in the Transcendence universe. But then I realized that I already have a multiplayer game I can build on: Anacreon.

I admit it. Anacreon hasn't gotten much love from me lately. With most of my free-time devoted to Transcendence, I've let Anacreon stagnate—the last release was almost seven years ago. But now that my full-time job is creating games, I have no excuse for not re-invigorating my oldest game.

Anacreon 3

If Anacreon 1 is the original DOS version and Anacreon 2 is the 2004 Windows version, then my goal this year is to create Anacreon 3. This new version of Anacreon will of course share many things in common with its predecessors, but many things will be different and hopefully better. In particular, I have been thinking about the following major improvements:

First, Anacreon 3 will be written for web browsers (using HTML5 and JavaScript). Not only will this make it easier to play (no need to download anything) but it will also make it accessible from mobile devices and tablets. Being able to take a turn while on the road seems like a great benefit to me.

Next, I aim to design the game for concurrent turn-taking. In my opinion, Anacreon is most fun when playing against other people, usually the more the merrier. Unfortunately, because turns are serialized—I have to wait for you to finish your turn before I can take mine—games with lots of players tend to take a long time, and most of the time is spent waiting for other players.

Anacreon 3 will be different. Players may issue orders to the ships and planets at any time, regardless of who else is playing. A central server will synchronize the orders across all players and carry them out in sequence. Moreover, instead of updating the state of the galaxy once per round, the Anacreon server will constantly update the galaxy. For example, instead of having to wait until the end of the round to see your fleets move, your fleets will be slowly but constantly moving.

I hasten to add that none of this means that Anacreon is turning into a realtime twitch game. The essence of the game is still about careful deliberation and the update pace will be set accordingly. For example, if you play the Windows version online the game will update every 24 hours (realtime) meaning that your jumpships will move 10 sectors every 24 hours. In Anacreon 3 the same pace will be maintained, but the jumpships might move 1 sector every 2.4 hours or even 1/100th of a sector every 0.024 hours (1.44 minutes).

Another major improvement to Anacreon is inspired by Transcendence. One of the best things about Transcendence is the ability to create mods to add or alter the core game. Anacreon has always had this also, in the form of scenarios, but I believe that we can go further. For example, imagine being able to create new and unique ship types and planet types. By adding a simple extension system, I believe Anacreon can serve as a platform for people to create their own innovative variants.

Like Transcendence, I also intend to create a marketplace for buying these game extensions. While the game itself will be free to play, selling various add-ons and extensions will support the development of the game. I don't know exactly what form these add-ons might take. Selling scenarios is a simple and obvious idea. But perhaps it will also be possible to buy in-game items such as starship designs or technologies. If so, we will have to take care to preserve balance. For instance, perhaps any add-on owned by any player (such as a technology) will be made available to all other players in that specific game. I suspect there is ample opportunity for experimentation here.

Finally, I plan on designing Anacreon 3 to scale to hundreds or even thousands of players. Anacreon has always had a big scope—it is a game of galactic conquest, after all. Now image a game with hundreds of players and tens of thousands of worlds, all competing to thrive in their own little corner of a massive galaxy. That is something that would truly live up to the games original ideals.