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Posted Tue Aug 11, 2020 6:47 pm

I wanted to share this experiment and experience trying to get Datasoft's Alternate Reality: The City working. It truly is an old-school A500 game, 100%.

Datasoft is one of my favorite C64 publishers (Bruce Lee, Conan, Zorro, Mr Do, etc.). And one of their legendary RPGs was the Alternate Reality (AR) series. AR was an unfinished series of games that was quite innovative when it came out in 1985, yet failed to ever realize its complete vision to the end. It was originally supposed to have 6 individual installments. And it's graphics were pretty wild for the times.

Alternate Reality had a raycasting engine similar to Wolfenstein 3D, which came seven years later, but was recognized for popularizing the system. However, the design implemented right-angle movement only.

Another upshot of the fact that the graphics were rendered rather than simple images is that while the sun was setting, the entire palette of colors changed convincingly. Distant waterfalls moved, and the rain was realistically rendered.
There were two games that were ultimately published: The City (part 1) and The Dungeon (part 2), originally created on and for Atari 8-bits. In fact, while the C64 version has a solid place in my personal history and heart, the Atari version is apparently considered to be superior at least in terms of its opening intro music.

I discovered late last year that The City had also been ported to Amiga, which made my eyes pop open fast and furiously. I had no idea. My brother - not a big gamer at all - had beaten the C64 version of The City all the way to the end, which was very unusual for him. He'd gotten hooked and never gave up.

Anyway, I like to use real disks when I can find them. And it surprised me to discover that Alternate Reality: The City is really hard to find in 2020 for Amiga on original media. I mean, it took me months to locate a single copy, and the copy I did finally acquire was pretty beat up (and a bit smoky). But to have the original box felt like a massive win, as well as the manual and single 3.5" disk, which I'd never held in my hands before.

No, there is no WHDLoad version. I kind of wonder if this game ever left US Shores for the Amiga. The copyright is 1986, but the Amiga version was made in 1988 based on dates shown in the loading screens, which in retrospect kind of surprises me based on some of the hoops I had to jump through to get it to work.

If you want to play this game you either need to download a cracked version or find the disk (just one single disk). I've not tried to copy the game yet but my guess is it has some sort of screwy protection scheme; I'll try a later version of X-Copy at some point as I do worry I've got one of the few physical copies out there. EAB's game search FTP is down at the moment so I haven't been able to see if they have a copy.
This doesn't smell smoky, at least. Just good ol' refreshing plastic.

Anyhoo, I popped it into my A3000 running 3.1 and Real-time Graphics, just for fun. This game requires being booted from the floppy.

No surprise: it didn't work at all.

Then I fired up my A3000 running OS 1.3. Also nope! I disabled Fast-RAM and retried to no avail.

So I pulled out my Beast that Never Fails, the Amiga 2000 with a GeForce [email protected]


I went into the GVP software and disabled the accelerator so it could bang the 68000. Still nothing!

I retried deactivating the accelerator and Fast-RAM.


Looks like I should have rolled out my stock A500 or A1000 to really get the mood just right but for heaven's sake, by 1988 I feel like the setup shouldn't have been this crazy.

Regardless, the Amiga version - like the highly touted Atari version - also came with the iconic theme music with "karaoke lyrics" (and the Amiga graphics were slightly improved, as was the intro tune's synth).
The intro animation of the UFO beaming lights into the city was much improved, if a bit jarring as I'm so used the to 8-bit version.

Then the character "roll for your stats" screen appears, and if you think it resembles a casino slot machine... well, you'd be right! And isn't that kind of just fantastic?

I look forward to playing this more at a later date, but I think for now I'll look into trying to duplicate my original disk for archiving purposes. Anyone else here have a history with Alternate Reality?

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Posted Wed Aug 12, 2020 1:43 am

My ‚history‘ with that game is that I always wanted to play that game when I saw the ads for the Atari. Being a Commodore-guy I eventually missed it.

The whole concept with 6 ‚modules‘ was pretty much a precursor to what later became expansions to games like ‚forge of virtue‘ for Ultima VII or maybe rather ‚Tales of the Sword Coast‘ for Baldurs Gate.

As I kid I was so thrilled to have a ‚hub‘ where you could add more modules and expand the game world to an open wide area.

Too bad it failed.

Edit: see here for a good assessment and review of the game.

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Zippy Zapp

Posted Wed Aug 12, 2020 10:37 am

Nice find. I am pretty sure I have the C64 version but have to look. I don't think I remember it being on the Amiga so this is cool.

As to copying if the usuals don't work then a Kryoflux or SuperCard Pro will. For backing up disks I find the Kryoflux/SCP essential. Even though there are probably cracked versions there is nothing like preserving the original and being able to re-create it on a new floppy anytime. Or it could be I am just weird as most people it seems these days prefer images.

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Posted Fri Jul 08, 2022 7:14 am

I have an original copy of this too but the disk inner screwed up and I'm trying to re-write it (new disk w/label) with a Greaseweazle. I have a non-working scp image but if converted to HFE format it works on an emulator but not on disk. If you have access to make an scp or similar raw image would you? It has Apple GCR protection on track 50. It's interesting that WinUAE was updated to be compatible with Alternate Reality The City as an IPF (SPS) image but I have yet to see one.
I also have a working WHDLoad install of it, kindly made by Amiga France. Available on EAB FTP also. This install worked on my A1200 with NoCache set in tooltypes.

Thanks, and it would be great to find a working authentic image of this.

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Posted Sat Feb 04, 2023 8:13 am

Hi there, my cousin and I are banging our heads against the wall, trying to come up with the lyrics for "Haven" from Alternate Reality: The City. We recall the below, but can't remember the rest. If anyone could help fill in the blanks, it would be greatly appreciated! :D

Hail and welcome, traveller
You are in a place of calm
The eye of the storm

Come and rest your body here
You have not from us to fear
It's safe and warm

And by the fire recounting
Details of the turbulence
A small band gathers
And you hold them all the way

... ?

Thanks for your time!!

***UPDATE*** A friend tracked down an emulator and here are the lyrics, in all their glory:

Hail and welcome traveller
You are in a place of calm
The eye of the storm
Stop and rest your body here
You have not from us to fear
It is safe and warm

And by the fire recounting
Details of the turbulence
A small band gathers
And you capture every ear

Within the rhythm of your
Drum fire like experience
The anxious heartbeat
Listeners listen all the way

Hail and welcome traveller
You were in a place of calm
The eye of a storm
Stop and rest your body here
You have not from us to fear
It is safe and warm

You talk of trials
And styles of combat
All the life you'd seen
Initial interest wanes
The fire begins to slow

And as the gathered
One by one
All take their leave of you
You scan their eyes
They realize you've not the key

Your story told
They've all gone
And you've nobody

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Posted Thu Mar 09, 2023 2:22 pm

I bought this game new at retail in 1986 with no prior knowledge of it - the box looked fantastic and I'd had good luck with other DataSoft games for my Atari 8-bit. I think it was the most "next gen wow" experience I've ever had with a computer game, probably because I thought I knew my computer's gaming limits but this game shattered them.
Alternate Reality was a lot like Archon and Rescue on Fractalus and some other games that were A8 originals in that it really leaned into the strengths to the Atari's graphics and sound. Atari 8-bits are known for having very course graphics and have to sacrifice color at the higher resolutions so some games embrace the lower resolution coarseness and counterbalance it with frame-rate smoothness and tons of color. I remember being blown away by the dynamic use of so many simultaneous colors yet the game's 3D engine was quick.

Actually the only game that comes to mind that exceeds Alternate Reality for pure Atari-ness is Yoomp!

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