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AtariAge welcomes Philip Price, creator/coder of 'Alternate reality'

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It was mentioned earlier that Elite did a Spectrum version of AR ... does anyone have details of that, as I've never seen any details about this.

 

Although I wasn't an Atari user - I remember seeing this great game playing on an 800XL (I think it was) and being completely and utterly impressed!

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I know it's been over two years since he last posted in this thread, but does anyone have any idea how to contact Philip Price? Or at least a message for him to check his messages here on the forum. He is quite difficult to track down!

 

You could ask Kevin Savetz on here as Savetz, I'm not sure if he's interviewed him from memory but most like has, he may be able to ask Philip someone, no promises but its worth an ask..

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"And I heard the data for the city had that one wall that led to a death trap, I assume I somehow corrupted that on whatever I had sent to production."

 

I always thought this was just part of the game...Found it once, marked it on the map, and avoided it like the plague afterward.

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I also found it though I think it was during a mapping expedition so it wasn't a huge inconvenience - I learned fairly early to save regularly then backup the disk.

 

I like how there was the area with virtual maze where one wrong move ejected you back out and you had to start all over (around 15N 25E)

http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-400-800-xl-xe-alternate-reality-the-city_238.html

 

I thought there was only one trap but looks like there's 2 - both near the bottom at 42 and 48 East.

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I have managed to finish this entire thread finally, and while I realise it has been quite for a long time, I'll add my bit here as well...

 

Like many, Alternate Reality consumed many days and nights for me for around 6 - 7 years. It was to the point, that my cousin and I started imagining our own vision for a multiplayer Alternate Reality style game, as it was always fun to sit side-by-side in a room and play, but we always wished we could have our characters interact in the world at the same time. My dad bought the original copy of the game immediately when it released. I remember his excitement about it at the time, but amazingly, once it arrived, he never really spent much time with it. I, on the other hand, dove in head first. I have my AR newsletters, original City and Dungeon game boxes, all of the documentation I ever got my hands on, all of my original game and character disks. My maps were made on the largest graph paper I could get my hands on, which were just the perfect size for The City and the first level of the The Dungeon, and those became permanent fixtures on my bedroom and computer room walls for years. My BBSes were AR themed as well while I had them running. I loved the realism and challenge of the game, figuring out exactly what every potion was for, and waiting for any chance at the next expansion of the game to arrive.

 

I recall looking at ARO in the 90s, and I was very excited to see that come to life. Once that slipped away, I didn't think about it until several years later when I was introduced to EverQuest, which then took up another chunk of my life playing. At that time, EverQuest was as close as it would come to what I'd been wanting if Alternate Realty had been successful, as there was a fair degree of realism and challenge in the game play, and the online experience lead to a number of friendships and a lot of fun times. These days, the masses have ruined most of these great games with their desire to have as little challenge as possible, and they've been catered to heavily, so the realism has faded. Between that and realising I also wanted to do something other than play and raid during every moment of my free time, I've gotten out of it again. However, I'd still love to see a modern take on AR come to life.

 

Even at 11 years old, I knew Philip's and Gary's names as the guys who made this great world a reality, and I've always been amazed at the technical details of getting this going on the Atari 8-bit series. I always dreamed at the time of seeing it on the ST, that should have been even more capable, but I couldn't afford the system at the time, and I later learned the ST version just wasn't the same. (I haven't judged for myself...I have an ST and the game now, but I haven't gotten a drive for the ST to check it out.)

 

Anyway, short(ish) version of my Alternate Realty story and how about 14 years of my life were impacted directly by all of this and the concept in general. :)

 

--Todd--

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Long time lurker first time poster here and about five years late to the party. Okay, here goes:

 

I grew up in a small and isolated community in the California desert, across the Colorado River from Arizona. We lived just outside town in a rural area surrounded by fields of cotton, alfalfa and lettuce. We did have neighbors, but their children were older than me and my brother. I was born in 1977 and my brother was four years my elder. The two boys next door were 6 and 8 years older than me, so there was quite a range between the four of us, especially for that age. Nevertheless, we all grew up together and became very close and despite all going our separate ways over the years, we have remained friends.

 

They had moved from "The Big City" of Boston, Massachusetts, bringing with them various novelties of popular culture yet unknown to us and our small town, including RPGs, especially Dungeons & Dragons. We would spent countless hours over at their house and likewise they at ours playing these games together. Stranger Things pretty much nails the atmosphere, but without the supernatural phenomena, unless you count the 125 degree days we regularly experienced each summer.

 

There was a certain amount of "Keeping up with the Joneses" that went on between our two families and this worked out great for us as each successive generation of computing/gaming console became available. Although I'm told we had Pong, the first console I remember was our Atari (2600). I don't know if everyone remembers that no one really called it an Atari 2600 at the time. It was just an "Atari" and everybody had one.

 

During the "home computer" era, while our family opted for the Commodore 64, our neighbors chose an Atari 800. When Alternate Reality: The City was released in 1985, our neighbors bought a copy of it for their Atari. Even at that age, I was immediately entranced by the game and the concept. You could play a real, moving D&D-like RPG on a computer! You didn't need to get three or four people together and you could play for as long as you wanted. The game's internals took so many factors into consideration: time, disease, fatigue, moral alignment, attaching consequences to actions that may not immediately show up and on and on and on. And of course the MUSIC. Come on! What game in 1985 could have had a soundtrack, for crying out loud? I mean, The City was basically (as far as I know) the first open-world sandbox RPG ever. It was amazing. It predated Grand Theft Auto (developed for 32-bit machines) by 13 years, which if my calculations are correct is roughly 16 million years in gaming technology evolution. Needless to say, we bought a copy of The City for our C64. In retrospect, I wasn't too good at the game at that age, but I didn't know that and it was nevertheless the experience that was so amazing. Furthermore, all the unfinished questions posed in The City were setup to be revealed over time, so there was very much a cliffhanger effect leaving us ravenously awaiting the release of the various future installments teased in The City, which was yet another novelty in the gameplay.

 

Look, I know I'm not saying anything here that hasn't already been said a thousand times before. But it's difficult to make people who are not familiar with this series of games understand how remarkably innovate and revolutionary they were in the context of their time. I'm sure members on this group have had that conversation before. The notion that the programming was done buy ONE GUY including not only all the subtleties in the gameplay, but also the 3D graphic effects (with Craig Skinner) and of course the music (with Gary Gilbertson) as well the various forms of copy protection, all in that amount of memory, is just mind-blowing to me now even more so than it was then, if anything. You can't explain that sort of thing to these kids today (rattles cane). It saddens me, as I guess it does many of the members of this community, that the original developers/content creators for this game didn't become stinking rich as a result of its success.

 

I was only 8 years old when The City came out, but the memories I have playing that game and its companion (reluctant to say sequel) The Dungeon are profound. When Alternate Reality: The Dungeon was released around Christmastime two years later, it was the absolute number one item on my Christmas list. On Christmas morning, I was so excited to play the game once we got home from my grandparents' house for the holiday that I read the entire manual amid the noise and commotion of the busy family living room on Christmas morning. My then 10 year old mind was singularly focused on that game. Of course, our neighbors also got a copy for their Atari.

 

Over the next several months, we spent countless hours mapping and exploring The Dungeon on our respective machines. To be honest, I was never great at the mapping, having as I did the patience and attention span of a 10 year old. On the other hand, my 10 year old memory was much more reliable then than it is today! After a few months, I was finally able to convince my parents to spring for the hint book for The Dungeon and shortly thereafter we reached the end of the game after successfully traversing all four levels of the subterranean dungeons of Xebec's Demise. This is the first computer game I can remember playing with a proper ending and sense of completion to it. Of course, there were still expected to be future installments of the series, but the sense of elation, satisfaction and reward I felt after completing The Dungeon was a first for me.

 

On at least two occasions, I became so frustrated with my lack of progress that I actually got permission from my parents to call Datasoft and ask for help! In particular, the riddle given by the gargoyle on level three stumped us for a long time. The best answer we could come up with was "Xebec," which was quite close. Up to that point, we figured "Xebec" was a proper noun and thus the name of a person. So I got permission from my folks to make this "long-distance" call to Chatsworth in the San Fernando Valley to ask for help. This was before Chatsworth was the epicenter of the adult film industry, needless to say.

 

So I call up Datasoft. The phone rang a few times before a nice lady picked up on the other end. I'll just say this again: I called their main phone number and a female human being answered the phone directly. Once she figured out that I was a little boy and not a little girl (my voice had not yet matured) she proceeded to give me help and clues to figure out the answer to my questions. "So what is a xebec?" I remember her asking me. I don't have any idea who this person was or how many people Datasoft employed, but I still find it almost unbelievable that you could just call up and the lady who answers the phones at the front desk would help you out of a jam! It was a simpler time. Less than five years later, I'd be waiting for hours on the phone while navigating an automated touch-tone labyrinth to get help with Nintendo games. Things change.

 

It seems that retro/geezer gaming has become fashionable in recent years and that's fine by me. PCs and their emulators and VMs have are so powerful now that it feels like you can play whatever you want on whichever platform you want. Also, I'm nothing if not a digital stamp-collector. I love my media collection. It is expansive. For many games I've even downloaded scores, themes and soundtracks to relive the experience of playing them, if only briefly. Such collections are much more common now that games include CD quality sound, but I thought it would be great if I could find the old AR tracks online and add them to my media library. Well, one thing led to another and the whole attempt became a project. I wasn't able to find all the tracks I wanted to include, so I went back to the emulators and into the games directly, where I captured the PCM (705 kbps) sound for each of the tracks. The conversion of Gilbertson's music to the C64 platform was disappointing, but I did include the main theme (wishing well intro), which showcases some of the differences between the two. All of this I put together in a track order that was pleasing to me, while adding the lyrics as metadata to each track for which lyrics were available. I threw together a "cover" using artwork from the gamebox and the AR logo. Finally, I converted them to 192kbps AAC in m4a containers. With the exception of some start/stop copy sounds at the beginning and end of some tracks, they all sound great. I would like to link to them here to make them available to the fan community, but I am concerned about violation copyright, especially the reproduction of Mr. Gilbertson's intellectual property.

 

I'll make them available if and when I get the go ahead from one of them.

 

Mr. Gilbertson, if you're listening: even before I went back and captured the the in-game audio and edited it, I knew the lyrics to most of the songs. They have haunted me all these years. I took a few liberties with the track names. I wasn't thinking I would have to explain that when I did it because I hadn't thought to share them yet. They were just for me. I hope it's not a problem.

 

Here is the tracklist:

 

Alternate Reality -- The Music

 

01 - Abduction - City

02 - At the Floating Gate
03 - Armor
04 - Guild
05 - The Legend of Thoreandan
06 - The Dwarf Dance (Instrumental)
07 - Let In the Lite
08 - Moments in My Life
09 - Waves
10 - Death
11 - Abduction - Dungeon (Wishing Well Intro)
12 - Rathskeller Rock 'n Roll
13 - The Devourer
14 - Der Rathskeller Tune 3 (Instrumental)
15 - The Troll King
16 - Evil Guild
17 - In The Hall of The Goblin King
18 - Good Guild
19 - The Chapel (Instrumental)
20 - Death
21 - Into the Fray
Bonus - Abduction - Dungeon - Wishing Well Intro (C64)
Mr. Price, if you're still out there:
Alternate Reality is in my humble opinion the best game of all time.
Thanks for listening.
Best wishes to you all,
John
Edited by Gravelpits
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John.... interesting

 

The Dungeon wA my first ever self completed and self mapped without cheats RPG... so I know your feelings.

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Mr. Gilbertson, if you're listening: even before I went back and captured the the in-game audio and edited it, I knew the lyrics to most of the songs. They have haunted me all these years. I took a few liberties with the track names. I wasn't thinking I would have to explain that when I did it because I hadn't thought to share them yet. They were just for me. I hope it's not a problem.

 

Look there:

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/284373-alternate-reality-the-city-music-recreated-thoughts/page-2?do=findComment&comment=4204365

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