Alternate Reality X – Back to Basics

As I’d said previously I wanted to review what I’d achieved with Alternate Reality X (ARX) and what I needed to do to take it a step closer to completion. I’ve given the project a lot of thought and wanted to post an update.

I found some of my early AR images on the internet dated 12th June 2004. Eleven years ago! These are very old when I was using Mike Robert’s excellent TADS 3 Interactive Fiction system to read the AR binary map files and display an overhead view. Thanks to Mike for answering my often off topic questions when I should have been using TADS 3 to write more adventure games 🙂 Here are the images:
My early Alternate Reality port using TADS 3!

Another screenshot but with a different font and a very simplistic 3D view
My next move after moving away from using TADS 3 was to post a little SDL based demo of some randomised Dungeon combat with various Dungeon denizens things have changed a lot. My original demo looked very authentic and just worked. I liked that version 🙂

My original goals for my Alternate Reality remake were to:
  • Produce an easy to use version of AR that would run on modern systems
  • Allow players to move seamlessly between the City and Dungeon scenarios

It was not my original intention to improve the graphics and sound or to try and complete the other scenarios. The display and audio options as well as multiple screen resolutions have all added to the development time for me. Not ideal when this is really my first proper programming project 🙂
Since then a lot of time has passed and over the years the project has started and paused a number of times due to other commitments and changing ideas about direction. My conclusion now is that the best direction for now is to return to my original goals for the project and try to bring it to a sensible conclusion, or at the very least bring this stage to completion so that there is a solid foundation for myself or others to build on (e.g. adding a new scenario).
The original Alternate Reality:The City
The other conclusion I’ve come to from the emails and messages I’ve received over the years is that the vast majority of people are really looking for a fairly faithful port of the original games – including the original 8bit graphics and sound. I really need to pair back the project to its core so that I can rewrite some of the dubious code in the background. This is turn would provide a solid platform for possible future scenarios to be added – once the City and Dungeon are 100% implemented.
There are a couple of other things I’ve considered. SFML’s use of OpenGL causes a lot of issues foe people who don’t have fully compliant OpenGL video drivers on their Windows PCs. This is a big concern for me with Windows 10 now on release.  A switch to the SDL media library which I believe doesn’t use OpenGL would probably help a lot with this. I’ve also decided that for ARX any ports to Mac OS X or Linux would probably have to be carried out by someone else. Unity 3D I’ll use for new projects rather than ARX.
So where does that leave the project? 
Here’s my current plan and thoughts for Alternate Reality X development:
  • Microsoft Windows only
  • Staying with C++ and a media library (SFML or SDL)
  • Review each section of code, rewriting where necessary
  • Concentrate on adding the remaining functionality
  • Stick to the original 8bit look and feel for now

6 thoughts to “Alternate Reality X – Back to Basics”

  1. Very interesting (though unfortunate about there not being a Mac version at this point). I'm all for subtle improvements over the 8/16bit graphics and/or sound, but I think they are best if they are nods to the original design and very much in the original spirit.

    Are you adding the functionality of the 16 bit versions to the City and Dungeon (i.e., jobs and spells)? It'd be interesting to see how you'll handle the difference in the spell systems between the City and Dungeon (though I think you could just combine the list of spells and make the training different between the different guild locations). The Amiga version of the city also has a sort of smooth scrolling effect which is nice.

    1. I did have a Mac version but the amount of effort that went into creating it (for me) was hugh. Hopefully I might find someone who can take on the Mac port. My current version of ARX already has the 16bit jobs. The guilds have already been combined but are based on the Dungeon model rather than the 16bit City model. The smooth scrolling is already in place. The Amiga version is the best of the 16bit versions in my opinion – such a shame the 16bit Amiga Dungeon was never completed.

    2. That's probably the best. Learning spells was so difficult in the City, and that made learning them more special (sort of a goal for the open ended nature of that scenario). However, the spells themselves were, from what I recall of the spells in the City that I have learned, better in the Dungeon, and it might be weird to try to combine the different learning methods.

      When searching for a list of the CIty's spells, I found my own notes from years ago, where I share my experiences with the City Guilds (noting the errors that were common in the FAQs out there, including the number of guilds you could join at once, etc.). Now I'm kind of itching to get the old Amiga up and working again. 🙂

      The other nice thing about you making the two scenarios into a seamless whole is that it allows you to open up the couple inaccessible spaces in the City.


  2. Acrin, I really appreciate your self-awareness and ability to go back to the roots! IMHO it's the only one way how to really finish your project at all, and preserve the original AR for the future generations 🙂 You will be remembered and loved for it..

    I wish you all the best with other projects you have been planning as a personal develpoment and creativity fulfillment. But even for you it could be better to clean your desk for them by "getting rid" of ARX first..

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