1. Not old. Vintage. :)

Revisiting Alternate Reality: The Dungeon a classic with a modern hardware twist.

Discussion in 'SIG: Atari 8-Bit Hardware' started by M.D.Baker, Mar 13, 2021.

  1. by M.D.Baker
    M.D.Baker

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    I was debating where to post this between general chat, A8 hardware or A8 software forums, and settled on the hardware forum since that's what this look into the classic RPG is really all about, with the help of some wonderful, and continually improving and expanding firmware-software in control. I know I've had threads on Alternate Reality before, and using all 4 drives and extended memory, four real floppy drives, not virtual ones.

    Although there is now a 576K ATR version of Alternate Reality: The Dungeon out now (attached below), so it can run from a virtual drive as one continuous disk and disk swapping or multiple drives, virtual or real can be a thing of the past. There is a .car version as well, but I don't know if they cracked the character save issue or not, and I'm told the ATR version works well and you can save and load characters, even with one virtual drive I imagine, with a ATR swap like the floppy disk swap if you only had one floppy drive.

    But you know me, I still love to use real floppies and drives, especially with very little disk swapping with multiple drives, and the feeling I get when my 2 Indus GT's come to life so silently, and then the loud rasps of the 810 in juxtaposition, I get a chill up my electronic spine every time. But I only have 3 drives hooked up to my 800. I could have more, but they are hooked up to the 1200XL system and I'm too lazy to hook one of them up to the 800. So previously, except for one time that I made a thread about where I had 4 drives hooked up at once, I generally would use the SIO2PC and APE and mount D4: with one of ARD's ATR disk sides and have a combination of real and virtual drives. I think I can also do this with the Side loader on incognito or with SDrive-max with no need to be tethered to a PC.

    But this time the virtual 4th drive I'm using is a bit different, as it's anything but a local drive, and knowing what's happening behind the scenes adds to the chill up my spine from the vintage hardware with awe of what can be done for the Atari 8-bit with modern peripherals.So what am I talking about? Well you may have already guessed, but the part below explains it all, probably in far more detail than you ever cared to know, but at least skim it and think of what an 80's user would say if you showed this to them...

    Anyway, this is a copy of a post that started a thread I started over on AA, but I thought I'd share it here too, for those who don't frequent AA as much:


    So, the original reason I ever wanted more than two floppy disk drives in the first place (though I have many other reasons since) was because AR: The Dungeon allowed the use of 4 floppy drives (and also up to 128K memory). Now this isn't the first time I've used 4 real floppy drives with AR in recent years, and it's not the first time I've used a combination of real and virtual drives to play AR with all four. But it is the first time for me, and maybe anybody, to use Fujinet with one of the AR disks mounted, and loading from thousands of miles away off a Fujinet TNFS server, the image mounted on D4: and being loaded from that distance to my computer.

    Drives 1-3 are real disk drives, and I am loading the official commercial disk on the real disk one, and back-ups, made with ARD, of all other disks and then of course Disk 3 side 2 is coming from Fujinet. Now I could be doing the same thing off my SD card on Fujinet, but the idea of using a TNFS server from another part of the world is too cool not to use. I still have my original commercial release of the game and am still using the original maps, manual and guide. I am able to use the full 128K ARD looks for as well with the Incognito in XL/XE extended memory mode. I only need to swap in the character disk for loading and saving, and then disk 2, side 1 into drive one, as disk 1 side 1 isn't used again until character saving time. Playing with no disks swaps after that, with disk 2, side 1 and disk 2, side 2 in drives 1 and 2, and disk 3, side 1 in drive 3, and disk 3 side 2 ATR mounted on Fujinet. The boot process is to leave drive 1 off and allow Fujinet config to boot off of the Fujinet, mount the disk image from the TNFS server in D4:, then turn on the real Drive 1, and hit OPTION for Fujinet mount and boot, and the game starts loading from floppy drive 1 as normal and recognizes 128K and 4 disk drives.

    Of course you can use all Fujinet virtual drives and have it all at high-speed SIO too, from another part of the world, if you want to, or any combination of real and virtual drives you want. Fujinet D4: is set for HS SIO, and that disk is the most accessed by the game, the encounters/creatures data disk. So that really helps speed along the game as well as having more of the game in extended ram, including many of the encounters for instant load. And of course this can all be done with SIO2PC or SIO2BT too, but with Fujinet you aren't tethered to anything but Wi-fi or via BT to any device you want.

    Using all AR:The Dungeon's facilities, the world wide web, and old school maps (the level one map actually looks like a real old, tattered, well used map out of a pirate or fantasy movie as my brother and I have used it so much over the years). I just reinforced it with packing tape on the backside as it was truly in tatters when I pulled it out of my document archives.

    It's still my favorite RPG series of all time, even though I'm a big Elder Scrolls fan too and a big fan of many other classic and more modern RPG's.

    800ARD.jpg ARDmap.jpg
     

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    Last edited: Mar 14, 2021
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  2. by Andy Barr
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    Utterly awesome, fella.

    I mean there's so much going on there - all that nostalgia - the real McCoy actual old game map and the actual original floppy disks and the packaging meeting 21st century Fujinet digital virtual drive mountings too.

    Great you're making new great memories to go with the old ones, Matt.

    I think we can all imagine some of the brilliant buzz (hearing in our mind's ear, those GT Indus' purring away) you must be experiencing, Matt, putting all this Atari goodness to great use in 2021, decades after the game's first release as it still gives you so much enjoyment.

    Have you also got Alternate Reality: The City or were there problems with the gameplay / mechanics of this version of the groundbreaking RPG?

    Love the superb Atari 800 pics including the Decision in the Desert box artwork of old Monty! Another classic, if you don't mind me mentioning.

    Great post, Matt.
     
  3. by M.D.Baker
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    I do not own the original disks or manuals/maps for The City, they were lost decades ago with the vast majority of my software, The Dungeon disks and manuals/maps managed to be with other stuff, along with a couple of others, but 99% was lost. I do, of course, still play The City too, on floppies with ATR images and have a PDF map and whatnot. But unlike The Dungeon, The City was programmed to only detect up to 64K (minimum 48K) and was only designed to work with 2 drives, but of course it was a smaller "world" with less disks too, so less disk swapping was required too.

    But no, there was no issue with The City, in fact it's game play and mechanics are much better in my opinion (and general consensus from fans of the original Atari version) and I wish Datasoft had stuck with Price's original game engine and mechanics for The Dungeon, originally planned to be a seamless transition together like one big game that you just insert different disks when walking through a door to The Dungeon or back to The City. Instead, The Dungeon requires you to save your character at the "entrance" to it in The City, and then you have to transfer the character to "Dungeon" format and you even lose all your items, only keeping your stats, because the formats are so different. I was always very disappointed that they did this.

    On the other hand I believe ports of the games to other computers worked better together because they were all done by Datasoft long after the original City game was written and published by Mr. Price. There are old ads for the original Atari game sold under Price's own company name before Datasoft approached him to take over publishing and distribution and make the ports to other computers and s sequels. Those early pre-Datasoft editions are the Holy Grail of AR versions and I'd love to find a copy, but it's probably worth thousands of $$, even the Datasoft versions are worth hundreds these days.

    But, no Datasoft versions for any computer are as good as the original Atari City version: it is a unique and far superior game in many visible and hidden ways. So I am very happy that the Atari 8-bit was the computer Mr. Price chose to develop on first, and I'd rather have it than a Datasoft port of it like the other micros got, even if the transition to The Dungeon from it sucks big time.
     
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  4. by Andy Barr
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    Excellent summary again there, Matt.

    I never knew half of the history behind these seminal titles so it just goes to show that we learn something new everyday. You could tell from the moment you booted these titles up, that what had gone into their making was phenomenal at the time. So much thought, detail and programming that they just oozed quality.

    It's another title that I must return to one day and give it a good work out as there's so much in there to be explored.

    Another incredible 8bit virtual world like that you experience in Elite in which to lose yourself, retronauts.

    Cheers, Matt.
     
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  5. by M.D.Baker
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    The AR games, like many RPG's are always hard to get started on and a pain, because your character starts so week and without weapons and Armour. Except maybe a dagger if you are manage a character with enough coppers to buy one at the beginning. And the constant saving and reloading required to inch along at first. But, the good news is that there are some PD utilities these days to help noobs and veterans alike, not to have to go through that frustration. It's up to you though, to create/edit a character that is reasonable, and not a Greek god, so there is still some challenge and enjoyment to be had with the game.

    These utilities are Alternate Reality Dungeon Character Editor and AR Resurex 2.0, which, IIRC you can also do a bit of editing on, but it's not as in depth as the editor. Resurex works with both games, I'd have to look into
    the editor again, I'm pretty sure you can at least transfer a City character to the Dungeon with it, I don't recall if you can edit one though and keep it a City format character, but as I said, I think there are some things you can edit with it too. I'll post the ATR's for these later, as well as a couple of experienced character disks so others can get used to the game easier, and when they are ready, start their own new character.

    And of course, not only can PDF's of all the maps and manuals be had online (I think there is still an AR site with everything) but there is a third ATR disk with maps created on it, Atari style, that you can print out on your vintage dot-matrix or, I think, 1020 plotter too, IIRC.

    I have to head out to work now, though, spring is back and so is my business. So I don't have time to retrieve and post the images here now, I will do it this evening and they will be here tomorrow morning for you guys.
     
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  6. by M.D.Baker
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    Various disk images, maps, guides, utilities are in the attached .zip file. And of course, at the beginning of this thread I posted the ARD all-in-1 disk image.
    here is a link to the AR fansite: https://www.eobet.com/alternate-reality/
     

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  7. by Andy Barr
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    Brilliant.

    Many thanks, Matt.

    I'll have a go at this game once more as soon as I get my new cave up and running.

    Good luck now that spring has sprung and the new gardening season lies ahead, fella.
     
  8. by M.D.Baker
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    I don't recall if you can create a character withing the character editor(s) or if you have to create one first by starting the game(s) and then save right away as soon as you appear in the City or Dungeon and then load up the character editor(s), but once you are within the editor making a character with a fighting chance, I'd make them about level 4-5, with about 100 hit points, and average stats of 25.

    You can also give yourself all kinds of weapons and armor from the basics all the way to true true-silver with plus's. Even some, but not all magical stuff too. But the more you give yourself to start with, the less exiciting and rewarding it is to gain them through battle or find them in treasure along the way. IIRC, you can even give yourself any magic spell you want and percentage of accomplishing it, etc. Usually only payed for, learned and practiced through one of the many neutral, good or evil guilds you join, or from potions; another item I think you can give yourself in the editor(s).

    While I have attached the Dungeon character editor, I have found out there was a City editor as well, with screen shots on one of the general archival sites, but I haven, found a place to download the atr yet.
     
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  9. by Andy Barr
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    Many many thanks, Matt.

    This kind of additional information makes a great game even more enjoyable and might persuade a player to stick around a bit more whilst dabbling with the game mechanics rather than throw in the towel if they get beat too soon.

    Cheers!
     

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