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

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The quality that we all seem to be dancing around in trying to put our finger on what was so special about AR is: SUBTLETY. The subtle affectations of the game world took immersiveness to another level. They gave the game a kind of undercurrent; unobtrusive, but still important elements. The only game I have played since that had that level of immersion offered by brilliantly subtle elements is Morrowind.

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Haven't been here over the summer, and was thrilled to see this thread! Mr Price, I'd just like to echo the sentiments of others here and say how much I've enjoyed playing Alternate Reality through the years. Back in 1985 (I think) I placed an order for The City with a mail-order company after reading an article in Antic about the upcoming game. When it finally arrived I was in awe of the graphics and music. Truly it was a game ahead of its time.

 

25 years or so later, my original character still wanders the city and dungeon once or twice a year via emulators. A couple of years ago I dug out my old 800xl and 1050 drives to see if I could still play it the "real" way, and sure enough those old disks booted right up. (Although after reading some of the posts here about current ebay prices, maybe I should think about parting with them now!!)

 

One thing I'd like to ask about if you have a moment. You've said how you had wanted to release the different areas of the game seperately, and that you envisioned newer releases being able to patch older parts, as well as being able to move your character back and forth between the different parts. I know that back when I was playing the city and waiting for the dungeon to be released, I knew there were another 5 or 6 more parts to the game that were supposed to be coming out in the future. And I recall wondering at the time how that was ever going to happen, since it took 2-3 years after the city for the dungeon to come out....how could they keep releasing more parts to the same game for the next 10-15 years, given that the current Atari's, Commodore's, etc with their 5.25" disks were already starting to show their age. Just wondered if maybe you could comment on this aspect of the overall game plan. How long did you originally think the span of time would be from release of first to last game? What were the plans for being able to move a character forward as the 8-bit machines got phased out and people moved to newer computer systems? Because sure, you could somehow tranfer and import a character forward to, lets say, the "newly released AR : Wilderness for Macintosh"...but you'd still never be able to move the character back again to the older game parts unless you also ported & re-released all of the old games on the newer systems. (and for anyone reading this post, lets keep in mind that way back then, there was no publicly available internet; most people didn't have modems, email, etc; and different computer systems used different proprietary file systems....so transporting a character disk from one system to another would have been a challenge)

 

As much as I loved and was addicted to the game, I always kind of figured there was no way I'd ever get to finish it. But I'm glad to see you here in the forums Mr Price, and again say thanks for all the endless hours of enjoyment I got from the city and dungeon!

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I think back when the Atari 800 came out we really didn't know how quickly things would advance. This was one of the first popular home computers. So, it seems strange to imagine the full game coming out on it in hindsight. Back then people were in awe of 1MB of RAM and 10 MB hard drives. I suppose in an alternate reality Atari could have survived and their newer computers could have included backward compatibility.

Edited by Xebec's Demise

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For God's sake!

 

I'm curious about Archon. Isn't that still an active IP? According to Wikipedia, the rights were bought by another company 6 years ago.

 

Edit: Just found out it was cancelled 4 years ago.

Edited by Tickled_Pink

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Knock, knock? Anyone still here?

 

Got my AR sim char to level 9 yesterday (longsword, plate mail, started stuffing my granite bank account etc.). It's a blast. It's been 30 years.

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Knock, knock? Anyone still here?

 

Got my AR sim char to level 9 yesterday (longsword, plate mail, started stuffing my granite bank account etc.). It's a blast. It's been 30 years.

 

I'm still here. I started a thread in the high score club for dungeon characters that have never died and posted a character I made that is currently level 10.

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Mr Price,

 

If you are still around, I was wondering if you could talk about what it was like to work on Alternate Reality the City before Datasoft got involved. I've read you were homeless and know you managed to team up with Gary Gilbertson, but I'm wondering if any memories you have of that time were happy ones?

 

For some reason I'm thinking about the story of Pandora's box...

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I had a philosophy in protection that I rather let a clever pirate play the game (A Pirate False Negative), then for a honest owner's character be marked as a pirate (A Pirate False Positive). So since the weak bits was the strongest disk copying protection I had in the game I wanted to make sure a small production skew in where they wrote a specific disk's weak bits would not create a False Positive. Therefore I had an allowed variance in the start of the weak bit area [so if a single production copy was off by X bytes it would still be considered an original]

Example (Not to scale ):

ooooooo[.............XXXXXX.............]oooooo

 

o = Must not contain weak bits

. = May contain weak bits

X = Where weak bits are supposed to be written to in production (the ... therefore give wiggle room)

 

But the publisher came back and said they did this

0000000[XXXXXX..........................]oooooo

 

Needless to say there was less wiggle room in one direction. (Actually amazed they didn't get more FP)

 

Interesting.

 

I think the weak bit protection in this case is still quite reliable. I do remember finding that the check for the amount and location of weak bits is rather strict. But disk duplication seemed to be accurate enough. Original disks of this game, unless damaged, do pass the protection check ok.

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Can't believe I missed this... actually wouldn't have found it if I didn't go looking at the AR mailing list archives and found it to still be active just out of curiosity...

 

If I still would be maintaining the FAQ I bet there would have been some nice new tidbits of info in this thread, but that was also a long time ago now.

 

Actually, the reason I went looking is because I'm just about to release my first iPhone app... and I was thinking about what my next project might be...

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Not sure if Philip is around but he may be interested to check out the "Bluetooth ZX Spectrum" project on kickstarter.com. Make sure you read the comments pages which include comments from a number of game developers...

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And if Philip is reading right now, this is possibly a good time to kick up some fuss - Elite apparently pulled a lot of their apps over the weekend and are making nondescript noises about sorting the situation out, although AR The Dungeon is still there according to his screen grabs (i don't have an iOs product or iTunes installed to go look).

 

Bob from Retro Remakes has been digging around too, apparently there's a few valid questions about rights ownership for the Kickstarted Spectrum Bluetooth keyboard as well.

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Another link for Philip to consider is a report at GamesIndustry.biz - apparently a group of devs are getting together to do something about Elite and there's an email address in the comments for Dan Whitehead (the author of the article) offering to put someone else in touch with that group.

 

Elite really have made a mess of this...

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It's been an eye opener following it last week. Elite deserve everything coming to them. What they've been getting away with is outrageous.

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Well, I thought of checking the Apple App Store this morning, just to see what has become of Elite's offerings and I am pleased to say that they are no longer available. For people who had already purchased the AR apps for IOS (visible in your "purchased" page) they may still be downloaded, but they no longer show up in the store. :)

 

However, if you are interested in Alternate Reality fan tributes that will run on modern platforms (PC mostly) then check these out:
Acrin1: http://crpgdev.com/

SilverAR: http://parallelrealm.byethost4.com/

DensonJ: http://minecraft.curseforge.com/mc-mods/ar-minecraft/

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Wow, just had a huge read about this Elite Systems defraud of their licensed (or in some case, unlicensed) clients. Seems old habits die hard there, I heard stories of a guy going to one of the shows with a demo of a game he was writing and took it to Elite to show them, they just wanted him to leave the demo and source 'to have a look', he refused and they apparently got the right arse with him only to release a shooter remarkably similar later.

 

Can't say I had much dealing with them bar asking about products but they always came across as a 'quick buck' kind of boys..

 

I wonder how many people if ANY will get their money.....Shocking business tactics..

Edited by Mclaneinc
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Can't say I had much dealing with them bar asking about products but they always came across as a 'quick buck' kind of boys..

There were large hints of that in the 8-bit releases already, Airwolf on the A8 just being Blue Thunder rebadged, the very weak Commando and Ghosts 'n' Goblins ports for the C16, Airwolf 2 being a cheap Gradius clone rather than an actual sequel to the original...

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Well, hopefully, their bad practices are finally catching up with them. Seems the revolt is on! ;)

 

Meanwhile, if you love Alternate Reality, Acrin1 just released a new update (0.7.0) for his Alternate Reality X tribute. It's really nice running a favorite old 8-bit game natively in Windows (and soon OS X) at 1024x768 resolution! Philip Price has already stated earlier in this thread that he does not mind the fan tributes that are out there. :-D

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I think someone is not a fan of atari programmers. Wikipedia entry on me was replaced by someone with the disambiguation page but changed it to includes people named philip price but deleted the atari programmer from it too.

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