Alternate Reality - The City

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Comments (14)
Wizard - 29/12/2015
Loved it from the first time I saw it, back in 1985. Was (am!) a huge fan of the Ultima series, but this game really was an experience because of it's sound, graphics and gameplay. On the Atari 8-bit, this game looked at best comparing to other systems. Never understood why such a potential development was quitted after The Dungeon, which was also very good. After Alternate Reality, I continued on the Ultima series and The Elder Scrolls (last one: Skyrim on Xbox360).
maggi71 - 14/01/2013
Best music and intro I've ever seen on the Atari 8-bit when it comes to games.

I don't know what Gilbertson did with the soundchip but the music is absolutely fantastic and outstanding.

Great gameplay too. It's a shame that the series could never been completed. I think Datasoft were bought up by Software Toolworks in 1988 and stopped pulling out any games or software.
Jon - 31/08/2011

Saying you played this game for two hours and hated it, is like saying you played chess for two hours and hated it.

Andreas Koch - 14/08/2011

the sequel has the name "Alternate Reality - The Dungeon" and exists on the 8bit Atari. The sequel was published by Datasoft in the US and by US-Gold in Europe...
Stellar Jetman - 03/08/2011

>I heard that the sequel, which I believe never came out on the Atari 8-bit, was a bit better.

Never played either of the games, so I can't speak for their quality, but the sequel actually was released on this platform.
MalcolmM - 03/08/2011
Never understood why people liked this game. I bought it, played it for a few hours and hated it. Nothing much to do. I heard that the sequel, which I believe never came out on the Atari 8 bit, was a bit better.
I can easily imagine the programmer claiming that this game inspired the movie the Matrix. He was always making absurd claims about how great his games were.
I would nominate this game for most overated 8 bit Atari title.
Greg B. - 16/02/2011
Hey Murray B., get over yourself. I do feel bad for you though, as you were the only person ever in the history of computers to receive a faulty game disk. Why don't you contact Datasoft and see how your refund is working out...
Murray B - 07/11/2009
Mine busted. The software came on floppy and the main disk was copy protected. The floppies were cheap and mine failed after about two hours of use.

The disk was returned to the manufacturer for replacement but I am still waiting for replacement after 25 years. It is starting to look like my $80 is down the drain.

Mine were not the only disks to fail and I expect this was a major factor in the demise of the series. Somehow these facts have been forgotten.

Soon after that Pool of Radiance came out for the C-64 and I was one sad Atari boy with no AR and nothing that could play PoR. Life was hard without an RPG but like they say what doesn't kill you will probably scar you for life.
Ray Wilmott - 05/11/2009
Best Atari 8-bit game. Even after 25 years, I still play it now and then (with the same character I started with in 1985!)

Andre - 20/10/2009
Best Atari game ever!
Greg B. - 21/10/2007
Heh - this game was so far ahead of the competition when it came out that it was almost laughable. People are still playing it and talking about; there are pages all over the net about the game. YEARS ahead of it's time...and it still holds up today. The Atari 800 version is actually the best version out there, avoid the others, even the ST version.
Greg - 12/09/2007
One of my favourite games for the Atari. I was so disappointed that the series did not continue past "The Dungeon" but I did manage to get as far as possible in the two existing titles (the Dragon was the toughest encounter in the Dungeon IIRC), and found the alien chamber in the Dungeon.
Kris - 29/04/2007
The simplicity and overall blandness of The City is what made it so enticing. From the despair of trudging around in an unfamiliar place in pouring rain hoping you don't get mugged, to the feeling of warmth when you happen to stumble upon an after-hours pub playing some tunes, this game really struck a sense of feeling real. I never did find the entrance to the Dungeon until the map became available on-line several years later!
Thoréandan - 03/11/2006
This game may well have been the inspiration for the blockbuster movie The Matrix, starring Keanu Reeves as Neo. The programmer, Phil Price, once admitted to having outlined the plot of AR to "two guys while at a restaurant in Westwood", who may well have been the Wachowski brothers. This happened some 15 years before The Matrix was released. There are a lot of similarities between the plots of AR and The Matrix.

For instance, for Alternate Reality Destiny (the final chapter in the tale), Mr Price had storyboarded this little gem: "Searching further this immense ship you discover a chamber filled with metal cocoons. Using wit and knowledge gained through other locations you decipher the controls and the display. You learn that these cocoons hold bodies, the bodies of all of those captured. The machines keep the bodies physically alive and fit, but imprisoned. The minds of those entrapped are tapped and fed with images. The ships computer can even permit the images to interact with solid/material components of the ship. You are an image. What is reality?" And that was back in 1984, 16 years before the Matrix!

BTW, your pg.4 of the manual is missing.


Alternate Reality - The City atari screenshot
Alternate Reality - The City atari screenshot
Alternate Reality - The City atari screenshot
Alternate Reality - The City atari screenshot
Alternate Reality - The City atari screenshot
Alternate Reality - The City atari screenshot


GenreAdventure - RPG (3-D)Year1985
LanguageMachine LanguagePublisherDatasoft
ControlsJoystick, KeyboardDeveloperParadise Programming

Price, Philip

Graphic Artist(s)

Skinner, Craig

Medium Disk

Gilbertson, Gary

Cover Artist(s)Serial1445
Dumpdownload atari Alternate Reality - The City Download

Additional Comments

Other version with the same title:

US Gold.


Alternate Reality - The City Atari disk scan Alternate Reality - The City Atari disk scan


Alternate Reality - The City Atari ad


Alternate Reality - The City Atari catalog Alternate Reality - The City Atari catalog


From Atari User - July 1987

Alternate Reality - The City Tips


Excerpts from an interview with Philip Price by James Hague...

JH: "What was the most difficult part of writing The City?"

PP: "I had no knowledge of 3-D. I was unaware of the techniques and terminology that existed in the academic world, so I had to reinvent many things. I used a vertical, single line Z-buffer - though I didn't know it was called that at the time - and a number of techniques to cull the polygons. I used self-modifying code in the loops that did the incremental texture mapping. I did cycle-counting to allow hardware sprites to be in two places at once. It was a challenge to do 3-D fully textured mapped graphics - even with fixed ninety degree turns - on a computer that ran at less than 2MHz and had 48K of RAM. Keeping track of characters' blood alcohol level, disease incubation time, neural and blood poison was not too difficult. It was fun to have a character's reaction time decrease as they became intoxicated, as was the wobbling and finally the blackouts."

PP: "The movie-like intro - with pan-shots, synchronized audio and video - was the most fun, though most of the conversions heavily edited the intro and didn't have all of the effects. The 8-bit Ataris were awesome in their day and the Apple II and C64 were hard for Datasoft's programmers to convert my game to, so they cut some corners."

JH: "Were the sequels planned out before the original was written or were they designed after the fact?"

PP: "The sequels were planned from the start. I wanted an interwoven series of games that allowed multiple ways of solving the problems and that had a plethora of plots and sub-plots. I planned to allow players to directly go back and forth between the sequels, with prior games being patchable and having versions. Sadly, in the conversions, Datasoft didn't follow my technique for laying out data on the disk, and therefore the conversions would not be able to bootstrap to other games in the series. But the Atari 800 version always was ready for it. I probably should have tried to control the conversion process more."

JH: "Is there a way to win the series as it stands? Is there some ultimate goal you can attain?"

PP: "As it stands, no. My concept from the start was that The City and every sequel were to be patchable by later games in the series. One subtle patch to The City, done in either Wilderness, Revelation or Destiny would change the characteristics of Acrinimiril's gate. It would then become a gateway into an alternate universe, the one Acrinimiril came from. You could enter it with the proper knowledge. It would seem like you could always do this, but in technical terms it would only exist after the patch. Thus, you could win with only The City, but only after the patch."

PP: "The series itself had many possible endings. I believe in free will and wanted people to choose their destinies, not have me cram it down their throats. A person in the final game in the series would have to make some heavy choices. Should I annihilate the planet we are orbiting that is populated with aliens who had kidnapped me? Should I just return to Earth? Should I take the alien megaship I am in with me to Earth? Should I destroy it? These were all final choices in the end, each with probabilities of certain consequences occurring from those choices."

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