Alternate Reality X – The Final Stretch

Following my announcement that I’m planning to complete release 1.0 of Alternate Reality X (ARX) for Monday 5th December 2016, the final stretch of development work has begun! It’s great to have that clear goal in sight. I’m pleased with progress since the announcement but there is still a lot to complete before December to get all the features added so I’ll need to push myself hard and stay focused. I’ll be devoting the majority of my free time to making sure I meet my target, chipping away at small issues when I have a bit of free time and maximising the time I spend on development. I want everyone to be able to play a complete, fully integrated City and Dungeon for Christmas 2016! Visualising that goal tells me it will be a great personal achievement for me – and hopefully players will enjoy the results too!

As I go into this final stretch any assistance people can provide through donations to the project, however small would be particularly helpful. This support helps in a few different ways – it allows me to better justify the (very considerable) time that I spend on coding ARX to my family, helps cover some of my small development costs such as webspace and small hardware/software purchases and permits me to spend more time focused on development. The PayPal and Patreon details can be found at the support page here.

If you’ve donated in the past either through PayPal or Patreon then you have my sincerest thanks – it makes a big difference to me and has really helped me to keep developing ARX – probably more so than people realise. Alternate Reality X would not have been possible for me without your support. I’ve been thinking about ways to better convey my thanks once the project is completed and I have a few ideas which I think players would like.

My main focus for development is ensuring that 100% of the original City / Dungeon content and features are implemented for the 1.0 release in December. I’ve temporarily disabled some of the alternative graphics and music options to allow me to focus solely on ensuring the original games are completely re-implemented. Hopefully everyone is ok with that as a temporary measure – for me it makes managing the project easier and allows me to focus better on the key features which aren’t in place or fully completed yet.

I’ve worked exclusively on encounters and combat recently. I’ve rewritten the main loop that deals with combat so that ARX now has a sensible turn structure with the player and opponents taking turns as well as adding in options for surprising characters, deciding whose “turn” it is first. One of the main reasons for rewriting this was so that animation effects for encounters as well as backgrounds (rain and other weather effects) could be added. I’ve added the encounter animations now which I think makes a big difference to making the game feel more complete. I’m now working on adding more encounter features. Release 0.75 will focus solely on encounters as there has been a lot more work involved in rewriting this part of ARX than I anticipated. I’ll also be adding all the additional encounter weapons that opponents can carry such as Unholy swords, flaming pitchforks and diamond daggers among many others.

Release 0.76 will focus on all the other items and treasures that you can find in Alternate Reality (horns, eyes, tarot cards). I’ll have more updates and possibly a video shortly once I sort out my screen capture software. It’s going to be a bit longer before I have the next release out as I’d like to add more new encounter features first. Thanks for your support and interest in ARX.

Alternate Reality X – Release 1.0 – Target Release Date!

Time to draw a line in the sand. I first started the current form of my Alternate Reality: The City & Alternate Reality:The Dungeon remake project back in 2009 – A long, long time ago. I think I even still had a full head of hair back then! Alternate Reality X (ARX) as it’s now known has come a long way since that 0.1 release back in 2009 and I’ve found myself diverted or distracted on occasion but the project is now well and truly back on track and developing on a daily basis.


Based on the solid progress I’ve made with development of ARX during 2016 I now feel that I can confidently announce a target release date for release 1.0 of the game. I have always envisaged 1.0 as completing my original vision for my Alternate Reality remake project – a full recreation of both The City and The Dungeon in a single, easy to use, seamless game for modern systems.

At the beginning of 2016 the game was still a confused mangle of code which I’d built up steadily between 2009 and 2015. It was full of workarounds, hacks and was very difficult to expand and add new features to. I’ve spent a lot of time reacquainting myself with some of my earliest code during the last few months which was a big challenge. I kept asking myself “Why did I do that????” Back then the main problem was that I was learning a lot about game programming for the first time and at the same time trying to develop the game. This often led to me making short sighted decisions without realising their longer term consequences. Later I would then struggle to bolt on a new feature to an increasingly precarious code base.
I’m pleased to say I’m now a lot more confident in my programming and game development skills and I’ve managed to gradually start to restructure my ARX code into a more sensible project. I’ve learned and read a lot about programming, C++, SFML and game development so I’m a lot better equipped to complete the project. I still have more work to do (and plenty to learn) but I expect to have a complete, well organised and (easily) expandable game by the end of 2016.

There is still a lot of work to do and features to complete before then but I feel really confident and excited that this is achievable and realistic. I can’t think of any area or feature that I’m particularly daunted by. I know that completing the game will be hard work, challenging but also extremely satisfying. If the 1.0 release is well received then I can look to really expand on the Alternate Reality universe during 2017 with additional scenarios and other enhancements to the City and the Dungeon.

As you can see from some of the screenshots here I’ve finally set up Alternate Reality X so that you can finally encounter some of the more exotic Dungeon encounters that haunted the corridors and halls of the original game. I’m also continuing to add in the special behaviours and actions for each encounter type.

So, without further delay I’m pleased to announce that my target release date for Release 1.0 of Alternate Reality X is:

 Monday 5th December 2016 

It’s a date I’ll be putting in my calendar! Hopefully something of an early Christmas present for some people. This is likely to be Microsoft Windows only initially and will focus on completing 100% of the original features from The City and The Dungeon. You will also be able to complete all the Dungeon quests and complete that scenario.

I just want to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to those people who have supported me through Paypal, Patreon, the AR forums, Facebook or by sending me personal emails of support and encouragement through the life of the project. It has made a big difference to me personally that you’ve had faith in what I’ve been working on and continued to support the project. If you have questions about this release or how I plan to achieve it then please post them here, on Facebook, the forums or send me a private message / email.

I’m not announcing this release date lightly – I take it very seriously. It’s not only a commitment to those who’ve supported the development of the game – some from the early years – It’s also a big commitment that I’m making on a personal level to myself. I think for me setting this release date will only strengthen my resolve to complete the game and help me focus on reaching my development targets. Regular releases of the game will continue to appear leading up to the final 1.0 release. Release 0.75 will focus on numerous improvements around City and Dungeon encounters. Thanks for your patience and support.

Alternate Reality X – Encounter Update, May 2016

As mentioned previously the encounter code in ARX had a lot of issues and really needed some serious work if I was ever to make it complete and feel authentic to the original Alternate Reality combat. I’ve basically taken apart most of the encounter code before refactoring it and putting it back together again. This has taken me a lot time and a lot of hours but I feel I’ve made a lot of progress.

The encounter code is now much more sensibly organised and structured and it is much easier to add in additional encounter features. The code is hopefully a lot more readable now, not only saving me a lot of time when I add to it but also meaning that others will be able to understand it a lot more easily should they want to.

I’d crammed a lot of only vaguely related code into the encounter module including the character and monster encounters themselves as well as their weapons so it was desirable to split these into their own source files. My plan is to gradually make these much more object oriented with player and opponent objects sharing a lot of code and functions for much better consistency.

I’ve been adding in new encounter features that were previously missing in ARX such as the player surprising encounters (or in turn being surprised) or being stunned and missing a turn. I’m still doing a bit of testing of the original game to understand exactly ow waylay and snatch should work but it’s good to have them in the game finally. You can see these illustrated here. The next change will be to add the Dungeon style combat messages and implement different body parts for the player which aren’t fully active at the moment.

It shouldn’t be too long before the next release is out. This will be focused on completing the remaining encounter features. I feel this will make ARX feel a lot more playable and authentic and will herald a big step forward for the project. Thanks for your support and patience as always.

Alternate Reality X- May 2016 Update

Work on improving the encounters in Alternate Reality X is going well. I’ve been stripping down the old encounter code, seeing what works and what needs re-working or simplifying as well as adding in the new features such as blocking, knock downs and special encounter actions. Lots of late nights but hopefully you’ll think the improvements make a big difference and all the long hours have been worth it.
I’ve been reading up a lot on game programming (mainly C/C++ and SFML) and how to better organise my code for CRPG and Roguelike style games. I’m resisting the temptation to just build on some of my earlier shaky code as I really want to make ARX maintainable and expandable – it’s the only way it will possible to expand the game to include other scenarios and new features.
I’m thinking of splitting the encounter updates and item updates into 2 separate releases to keep up with my plan of more frequent updates during 2016. Thanks for the continued support.

Alternate Reality X: Planning Release 0.75 – A Major release!

I have a good feeling about this next release and hope to address some of the features that I’ve left incomplete for a while. I’d like 0.75 to be something special and really take the project to a new level of completeness and quality.
Everything here is subject to change but here are my initial ideas and plans for release 0.75. There is a big focus on the Dungeon as that is the overall encounter / item system I’m planning to use for ARX, though I’ve added some of the unique City features such as Charm and Trick as well as Potions that were removed or modified for the Dungeon.
Encounters, inventory and items work closely together (at least in my eyes) hence the long list below. If I could complete a lot of the items below then I would really feel I’d made significant progress with the development of the game. The heart of Alternate Reality for me has always been the encounters so it’s important to get these feeling right.
Encounters:
  • Modify encounter frequency – Previously too frequent or not frequent enough!
  • Review use of Dungeon encounter binary data file – this includes encounter weapons
  • Review existing combat mechanics, damage types, influence of armour and overall balance
  • Add all Dungeon encounters – Including weapons, attacks and special abilities
  • Add additional Dungeon encounter tables
  • Add message customisations for different types of weapon and multiple body parts
  • Knock downs, disarming and stunning
  • Add “Surprise” menu including Waylay, Snatch, Leave etc
  • Add encounter animations
  • Review all fixed encounters
Items:
  • Expand the underlying item format to allow use of custom weapons, enchantments and randomised clothing items
  • Review use of Dungeon item binary data file – this includes encounter weapons
  • Add all unique “treasures” to the Dungeon map
  • Add any treasure items that are unique to the City not included in the Dungeon set above
  • Add encounter corpses (where appropriate)
Modules / Special Locations:
  • The Chapel
  • The Dwarven Smithy
General:
  • Separate media packs and add validation to check for media packs
Hopefully everyone will be keen to see these features completed or added to the next release. For me this will be a major release which really takes some of the core game mechanics to a whole different level. Watch this space. Comments as always welcome.

Alternate Reality X – Update, March 2016

Since the start of the year I’ve managed to get back up to speed and into the process of continuing the development of my Alternate Reality remake. This is based on Philip Price’s unfinished series of games originally for the Atari 8bit range of computers. Originally only the City and the Dungeon scenarios were ever released.

I’ve gone back to my original project goals to regain my focus over the last couple of months and this has been a big help. These are:

  • Create a full port of both The City and The Dungeon for modern systems
  • Move your characters seamlessly between scenarios 
  • Provide a quick, easy to use alternative to emulation
  • Expand upon the original scenarios to include new quests, locations, encounters and items
  • Provide the option of using the original or updated graphics and sound
The wording here might differ slightly from my original webpages but the key goals are still strong messages and still feel very relevant to my current thinking. These will be my key focus over the coming months. I’ll not be losing sight of these again or heading off on any other tracks where my Alternate Reality project is concerned.

I’ve released two updates for ARX during March 2016 so far. Whilst both are only small updates I’ve now got an established development and release process which means I’m not losing time because I’m disorganised. I’m making use of Google Drive to keep my ARX files accessible online regardless of location so I can contribute free time to development. I’m also freezing any updates to the development environment and multimedia library I’m using – what’s there currently is more than capable of seeing my Alternate Reality project through to 100% completion and my current build is fully Windows 10 compatible. As I’m now (and sticking to) using SFML and Code::Blocks (it’s quick and light to install compared to Visual Studio) again ports for Mac OS X and Linux are achievable (at a later date).

At a high level the main areas I’m going to be looking at over the next few weeks and months are:

  • The core engine – specifically remodelling items, encounters and tweaking the display
  • The City – What is required to make the City 100% complete?
  • The Dungeon – What is required to make the Dungeon 100% complete – starting with level 1?
  • The Arena & other scenarios – Bit by bit expanding the Arena content but also laying any groundwork which might be required for future expansion into other scenarios. 

My plan is to expand these key areas into more smaller, achievable items in the next week or so. I’ll publish these plans online with everyone so you can or point out anything I’ve overlooked.

I’m really keen to get feedback from players whether that’s bug reports, general comments for improvement or ideas for new features – content or story. Email, Facebook, the Blog and the forums are different ways of helping to develop ARX so I’d encourage you to make use of them if there are things you’d like to see. I try to  read all the comments and the feedback and suggestions I receive really do help determine what I work on next and how items are prioritised.

Alternatively if you like my what I’m planning or the work I’ve completed to date then you might consider making a small donation via Paypal (link in the right hand panel of this blog and on the webpages) or as a patron on Patreon. These are a great help for my website costs, occasional small hardware additions that help development and the odd book or software licence I buy.

As I’ve mentioned previously my planned approach is more frequent but probably smaller updates. I’ll be tackling some of the bigger items mentioned above in the next couple of releases which I think will help take ARX to a whole new level. Thanks for your support.

Designing Alternate Reality: The Arena

One of the things that has struck me when play testing my current build of Alternate Reality X is that there are still numerous places where the player comes across the entrances to the unfinished scenarios – The Arena, The Palace, The Wilderness and Revelation (there aren’t any for Destiny).

As I’m planning changes within ARX to better support the City and Dungeon, it’s helpful to think ahead as to how the other scenarios might develop and what features and content they may include. I thought I’d collect my ideas here as the beginning of a design document for Alternate Reality: The Arena. I see the Arena and the Palace as quite tightly interwoven in terms of features and story so there might be some cross over here. Through your trials in the Arena you can obtain fame and fortune, increasing your social status and gain initial access to the Palace.

Entry to the Arena can be gained through an unsuccessful enounter with a gang of slavers, as a spectator or persuading one of the local lords to support your entry to the Arena with the goal of becoming the Champion of Xebec’s Demise and receiving the royal seal which grants access to all areas of the City (including the Palace). Whispers in dark taverns mention other, more secretive ways of entering the Arena.

Starting with the Arena map we have two areas available – one on the City level and a larger area within level one of the Dungeon. There are also a few “Arena Pits” on level two of the Dungeon. These two areas provide ample map space for the Arena scenario and interesting content.

The upper level houses the Great Arena itself as well as smaller Arena pits and shops which support the day to day running of the Arena. Both commoners and nobles visit the Arena from the City to watch the games whilst fighters seek their fame and fortune or meet their fate on the bloodstained sands of the Great Arena. Combatants can also move around with a degree of freedom between events looking for ways to improve their skills. A successful Arena fighter will make use of the weapons masters and trainers that have forged a living selling their services within the walls of the Arena.

The lower level of the Arena houses the darker side of the Arena where the poor souls who have been press ganged into slavery as Arena fighters live as well as housing the exotic creatures and traps that feature in the most deadly tournaments and games. Few have lived through the legendary Trial of Kings, a fiendish maze of traps and ferocious monsters that only the strongest and most cunning can hope to survive.

CRPG DEV – The 2016 Update and future plans

January 2016 has passed but I hope you had a good Christmas / New Year or holiday.

I’m sorry for not posting anything for such a long time. I’ve found it difficult to focus and use my time well to make the significant updates to Alternate Reality X which I’ve wanted to despite putting in some serious hours. I started some major structural changes as well as trying to make the code fully object oriented. Looking back I tried to change too many things at the same time and my experience of full object oriented coding isn’t really good enough. I should have stuck with the style I’m familiar with rather than what I thought I should be doing.

The SFML media library I use also underwent some other changes which broke my 3D view code as it relied on some no longer supported OpenGL functions. I’ve considered going back to a previous version of the SFML library, though I’d prefer I was using the current version.

I’ve given it a lot of thought and planned out some more realistic short term changes to ARX. I’ll stick with my procedural style and concentrate my efforts on the areas that really need attention to allow progress to be made with the game. With the New Year I’ve given a lot of thought to what I want to achieve this year – professionally and personally – and making significant progress with ARX (and CRPG Dev) is high on my list.

I’m now working on a simple 0.72 release (as my past official release was 0.71). Once I’ve fixed the 3D view I’ll make this available – the purpose of this will be to update ARX to the latest version of SFML and also make use of the new Visual Studio 2013 build. I’m no longer using Code::Blocks as my development environment as I’m trying to improve my coding and many of the tutorials and books I’ve been studying use Visual Studio.

I’ve lots of plans but I’ll not say anything more about those just now until I’ve proven that ARX is still ongoing with a couple of new releases. So hang in there! 

Thank you for your past support and interest in what I’ve been doing – it’s really meant a lot to me. So with that I’d like to wish you (a belated) all the best for 2016.