Thoughts about Alternate Reality X

Alternate Reality Online

I recently started reading through the old Alternate Reality Mailing List archives at: and it made me think carefully about my own attempts to recreate / port the Alternate Reality series of games to more modern platforms. If you’re interested in Alternate Reality I’d recommend you take some time to read through the archives (starting with the oldest entries).

Back in the early days of the mailing list it was not uncommon to have the creator of Alternate Reality, Philip Price post on the mailing list. Dan Pinal and Ken Jordan who designed and programmed Alternate Reality: The Dungeon also posted regularly. Whilst browsing through the posts I came across posts relating to the new AR Online which Philip was set to create working with Monolith and later his plans for a version of AR which he was going to create in his spare time. Sadly neither ARO or the later version progressed beyond the early stages.

There was lots of enthusiasm from fans (including myself) who wanted to try and recreate their own version of AR. Some generated a lot of excitement, others had brief tech demos but that was as far as they went. My first effort was made using Mike Roberts excellent TADS3 Interactive Fiction system (see ). It allowed you to move around an overhead map of the Dungeon and City (using the original data) but  you could visit Dungeon establishments, buy and sell items and join guilds. It wasn’t possible to create a real 3D view with TADS3 so I moved onto SDL, then using OpenGL and then SFML. I’ve become a parent again, changed jobs twice and moved house during the time I’ve worked on my Alternate Reality. I first started working on my TADS3 AR remake in 2004. Obviously development has not been constant since then but even so that’s quite some time on my part!

One of the things I came across was a roadmap from Philip Price for his remake in his spare time which interested me after my own attempts to produce a roadmap for this project. It was high level but what struck me was that his new Alternate Reality was always going to be very different to the original game, even back in 1997.

Alternate Reality Online – Creating your character

I’m now at something of a crossroads regarding my own efforts to port or recreate Alternate Reality. I still haven’t completed the basic port of the City and the Dungeon let alone start work on the new scenarios other than outlining the content on paper.

Philip was understandable tight lipped about his ideas for the new AR back in 1997 – 2000 and I can understand why. For whatever reason he hasn’t been able to or has decided not to revive AR but he may still create a new AR game. There could be a Philip Price AR kickstarter just around the corner for all I know and that would leave my efforts where? My investment in creating new scenarios would be very significant and would really be almost 100% my own ideas so why would I tie myself to copyrighted material that I can’t control. Alternatively Philip could contact me at any point and ask me to cancel the project because there was something he wasn’t happy with. If that happened I would respect and adhere to his wishes.The unknowns and the copyright issue concern me a lot these days with so much significant work still to do.

I’ve been asked to put together only very small expansions for the Arena, Palace and Wilderness but that’s never appealed to me for this project and I don’t think would be respectful to Philip’s original game. Sure I could slap a couple of quick maps together and a handful of new encounter types and some basic quests but that wouldn’t be the AR most of us were hoping for.

Many of you have suggested a kickstarter for ARX or alternatives. I would love to do a CRPG kickstarter and whilst I might not get a single backer at least I would be failing or suceeding on my own merits and need have no concerns about copyright issues or that I’m on dubious legal ground. I can’t do that for an AR related or copyrighted AR type project. If I do a kickstarter it would be for a game of my own which did not contain any copyrighted material or names. And yes I would like to make some money for my work when we’re talking about a significant investment of my time.

I have lots of ideas for new gameplay which I haven’t really seen elsewhere and don’t really want to tie my own original ideas to someone else’s copyrighted work. I realise some of you will be disappointed with my comments or planned approach here but I’ve given it a lot of thought. I didn’t have the skills or tools back when I started my AR remake to have the opportunity to create the game I wanted but I now feel that is possible. My investment in time for development projects needs to be considered against my family, work and financial commitments.

Alternate Reality Online – New tavern interface

I sometimes feel I’ve made a rod for my own back by sticking too closely to the original games, trying to emulate the originals AND provide a more up to date alternative. What I do want to do is create a CRPG which is as enjoyable as AR and learns from its innovation but I no longer feel I can afford to be tied to its legacy or its original look. It has been a bit of surprise for me how even minor interface or content changes from the original have upset people. However on the other side many people feel my AR if far too close to the original and limited by the content or technology style of the original series. The feedback I have is that many people don’t want a carbon copy. I don’t feel I can continue to attempt to serve everyone’s needs within this one project. I’m not talking about creating a bland AR rip off with all the names removed but one which players of AR (and other classic games) would enjoy which is providing a gameplay experience and level of detail which the popular RPGs today don’t necessarily meet.

Let me know what you think whether via the blog, forums or by email to acrin1 @

Nothing is set in stone of course and anything could happen in the next few months or year but this is the general direction I’m intending to take with my development project for the time bring.Thanks for all your support and encouragement they have been greatly appreciated and I hope you’ll continue to keep an eye on developments here.

8 thoughts to “Thoughts about Alternate Reality X”

  1. I think u should do your own version, That way u can add your own ideas and sort off expand on the AR concept. We all like the idea of an Ar update, but then we all like to think how we can inprove on certain things and if u cant do that because of copyrights then its better 2 do your own intake of the game and not hold yourself back on your own ideas

  2. Those are all very good points.. I feel that the main goal of recreating alternate reality is nostalgia. Which is fine as a goal, but it sounds like you've moved on from nostalgia. And I believe this is the key part: "at least I would be failing or suceeding on my own merits". You have your own ideas and tying them into AR isn't necessary.

    Describing your project as "taking some inspiration from AR" or similar words will be enough to get existing AR fans to try it out, and to be interested in its development. So you're not losing them altogether.

    1. Nostalgia I think is a big part of people's expectation and when you introduce even very slight differences possibly not through choice people can get very critical. I never said it would be a pixel perfect remake. Your sentence "You have your own ideas and tying them into AR isn't necessary." really strikes a chord with me as well. I think I have a sensible solution which I'm happy with. Details in the next day or so. Thanks for posting.

  3. Hello. I was looking at what you wrote back in 2013 at and I’m curious what you ended up deciding.

    Last I talked to Gary, he still had the copyright on AR, but wasn’t rally worried about it. That has been quite some time, but I think he would be honored to see any kind of tribute to the original work. However, of course, I can’t speak for him and I don’t know where Philip stands on any of this. What I would like to recommend for consideration, is making your own game as if it exists within the AR universe and could even contain AR but with its own unique locations only loosely based on the original game. You could even build the City of Xebec’s Demise somewhere in your game’s wilderness, with its dungeon and palace and so on, with access to them restricted so you could get in but anyone else finding them would have no more access to them than a player of the original Alternate Reality the City had to The Wilderness back in the day when you were asked to insert Disk 1 of The Wilderness but such a disk didn’t exist. If you do it this way, your nostalgic rendition of the original game could be more of a spare-time effort, and if it ever reached a stage where you might like to make it available to the public, at that point you could see about getting proper permission or whatever…. perhaps by trying to get a message to Philip & Gary that you had built it into your game but without public access and would like to give them a look at it and see what they think.

    I’ll tell you what I liked most about AR. It’s the fact that it didn’t feel like playing a game so much as like living an alternative life that I would escape from at any time back to reality and re-visit at my convenience. Somehow, when my AR character felt cold, so did I… but I would seek to warm my character rather than myself. Likewise, when my character was hungry or thirsty, I felt that too… but rather than leave the game to get a snack, I would look for a way to take care of my character’s hunger and thirst, or fatigue, or whatever the case may be. The graphics were nice, but they were never the main feature for me. If it had been a purely text-based game, I think it would have been just as enjoyable to play… but of course would have left me and other players wishing it had some nice graphics to go with the game-play. LOL!

    I would like to suggest something for your consideration with regard to allowing an arbitrary sized world. Imagine a game world in which you have a way of marking off zones. For example, a Forest Reserve Zone, or a Commercial Zone, or a Residential Zone. There would be a default zone, which is where one would be if their location didn’t fall into some other specifically defined zone. Now, imagine for a moment that the default zone is the Wilderness Zone. Each zone would have a default mapping function, which would define what goes into the map if nothing is specified directly. The mapping function for any Wilderness Zone area would start with either some sort of fractal or a pseudo-random number-pair generator or both… so that any unique location would have at least one number associated with it by default. That number might specify that there should be a tree there or that there should be nothing there or whatever. Within any City Zone area the default numbers would represent such things as walls or walkways or doors. Algorithms could be used to check for inaccessible areas and make them accessible although this would not be necessary since you could always explicitly open such areas easily enough when you find them during game testing. Building a map would then be a matter of replacing implicit default stuff in any area with explicit stuff of your choosing. For example, replacing a wall section which the default function provided with a doorway or a walkway or perhaps a different kind of wall or whatever. I’ve used this concept myself, decades ago and it works quite nicely. I hope you find the suggestion useful or at least inspiring.

    Donald A. Kronos.

    1. Hi Donald,

      Thank you for taking the time to write such as interesting response. I’ll try and answer the points as best I can.

      Firstly thanks for pointing me to my old post – this made really interesting reading for me after all this time 🙂 Whilst some of those issues still exist I’m more comfortable with what I can do and less worried about pleasing others. I started developing a more modern Unity 3D version of AR which could have been nice (you can read about it on the blog) but ultimately distracted me from the goals of my original project. I’ve since come back to the roots of the project and feel I’m now back on track with it. Development and progress is slow but steady. My primary goal is completing a good port of the City and the Dungeon. Once that is complete I’ll consider next steps relating to AR.

      I exchanged some emails with Gary a few years back and he seemed fairly relaxed about what I was doing – and said he enjoyed looking at the images I’d posted – which was nice. He hadn’t spoken to Phillip at the time but thought he would be ok with my position providing I wasn’t selling it.

      Phillip posted more recently on the Atari Age forums and also made a few comments about was I was doing with Alternate Reality X and described what I was doing as being “from the heart” – so I’ve taken that as his approval on the condition I don’t attempt to “sell” my remake. I think from what he had seen he knew I was a genuine AR fan and was happy with that.

      I do have a Patreon page ( and accept PayPal donations, but these are to help my general game development activities and interests as CRPG Dev rather than ARX. These are always very gratefully received and help cover things like website hosting costs and small hardware items.

      Your game design and world creation ideas are not dissimilar to ideas I’ve had, though I’m actually thinking more about smaller games and environments just now to actually build up a portfolio of games across a number of platforms and better achieve my wider goals for CRPG Dev. I’d like to become a more experienced game developer with a few completed games under my belt. Basically games I can start and finish before moving onto more ambitious projects.

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