off I spoke to Sam Poole, and asked him to update me
a bit on Alternate Reality -- The City, the first
product in the series.
Reality will actually be comprised of seven different
adventures, the first of which is The City, a
role playing fantasy adventure. Part two, The Dungeon
will follow in the second part of this year. Then there'll
be The Arena, then The Palace so there'll
be a number of different adventures, all being role
'You'll be able to take the character you developed
in The City and hopefully use it in the rest
of the adventures where you will eventually make your
way back to Earth and seek revenge on those people who
abducted you. It's a different kind of role playing
fantasy to D&D. AR really goes a step
further in a kind of moralistic way. It encourages you
to play the game as a very good individual. When you
make decisions, they have an impact on how you play
the game so that, if you're faced with individual characters
you meet in the streets, you'll often have the choice
of whether you want to try to avoid them, greet them
or attack them, and those kinds of decisions and how
you react to them have an impact on the rest of the
game. It's a very, very evolved game.'
the game has been out for some time over in the States,
I asked Sam, how it had been received so far.
had an excellent response from the major distributors
and retail outlets. It's one of the top products in
the states. After one month of sales, it appeared in
the top ten of Billboard's Software Chart (the major
chart in the US). The consumer response has been even
greater. We've had literally thousands of letters congratulating
us from people who have tremendously enjoyed the game
and, in fact, because of the response we've had, we're
going to form the AR User Group. We are inviting
people to send in comments and tips they have after
playing the game, the kinds of responses they've had
with different characters, what kinds of actions they've
taken to enhance their characters.
will be open to players in the UK as well. We are going
to distribute our product through US Gold, and they
are in the process now of forming an AR club.
We'll offer special advantages to people that join the
club. We'll send them material, including a map -- not
a detailed outline of the city, but an honest rendering
so that people who join the club will be able to examine
it and see where the various shops and taverns are and
where things like The Palace and The Arena
are generally located within the city. It doesn't tell
them how to get into them but it does provide a general
feel for it.'
one of the top products in the states.
After one month of sales, it appeared in the
top ten of Billboard's Software Chart.'
asked about how something this complex actually came
about and the answer must mean that this is one of the
contenders for Longest Time Spent In Development.
was started about three and a half years ago by Paradise
Programming, based in Hawaii. The people there originally
started working on the Atari and the game was only intended
for release on the Atari, so a lot of the features gave
us a difficult time to translate onto the Commodore.
We acquired the rights to finish, manufacture and release
the game. But it took us an extra year and a half to
actually translate the literally hundreds of thousands
of lines of code into the other versions of AR.
The individual responsible for the original game is
Phil Price. And he is designing The Dungeon.'
asked about Phil Price and whether he was a role player
or a programmer, first and foremost.
he is a programmer but he has a great deal of knowledge
and depth of understanding about that whole Fantasy
Role Playing backdrop.
in The Dungeon itself we have developed the specific
objectives. It will be an underground scenario below
the city and you will have to go through four different
levels and, hopefully, when you get to the end of the
fourth level, you will be able to take actions to allow
you to go on to the next scenario, The Arena.
will be able to play each as a stand alone game, but
it will be best to develop a character in the first
part of the game and take him onto further adventures.
However, you would be able to start a character in say,
The Dungeon and take him hack to the city and
go on from there. In that respect the game is open-ended.'
Lee -- Enter the Dragon will be a full
role-playing adventure and have strong hi-res
graphics and animation sequences.'
Alternate Reality being such a massive project,
taking such a long time to develop, did this mean future
games would be based on the AR system?
as we're designing and developing the series, we've
learned a great deal about random character generation,
and logic, and statistics. As a result, we are now looking
to use some of those game types of features in a follow
up program based on Bruce Lee, which has been
a major seller in Europe. Called Bruce Lee -- Enter
the Dragon, it will be a full role-playing adventure
and have strong hi-res graphics and animation sequences,
but taking advantage of some of the techniques we've
developed in AR. Combining the best of both.'
how would these future games be packaged? Did Datasoft
intend for all of them to be two-disk game packs?
one of the things I noticed about your review is because
of the tremendous amount of programming involved, certainly
the most we've seen, probably in the UK as well, there's
this necessity for a lot of disk swapping. The programmers
are working at changing some of the techniques so that
hopefully we'll be able to cut down on some of the disk
swapping that's necessary now.'
that rather cryptically answered point aside, I took
the opportunity of asking about the attitudes of the
American gamers, who are more used to such 'Mega-games'.
we've had, er people who have commented here in the
US about the disk swapping as well, but the vast majority
of them, I would say 95%, have made the point that the
extent and depth to which they can build their characters
and the kinds of experiences they can have outweigh
the disadvantages of the disk swapping.'
enough, what other machines were being considered for
new versions of the game and how would Dalasoft take
advantage of the new range of sixteen-bit computers
like the Amiga and the ST?
have developed it for the Atari, Commodore and the Apple.
We are actually enhancing The City on the IBM,
the Macintosh, the ST and Amiga. Not only because of
the graphics and the sound capabilities of these machines,
but also because of the additional memory, we are going
to be able to have a lot of other features that we couldn't
put into The City.'
it is an entertainment product,
we're finding more and more that you have to
appeal to all of the senses of an individual.'
AR is a mega-game, it certainly takes a mega
approach. The opening even has series of credits done
in the style of a major feature film. Did Mr Poole see
this as a sign of the future of game presentation?
it is an entertainment product, we're finding more and
more that you have to appeal to all of the senses of
an individual and that encompasses graphics, the use
of keyboard and joystick and so on. You have the opportunity
to do music, so you're appealing to a lot of different
senses. And one of the things which we actually borrowed
from movies was the credit lines, to get the people
more involved in the atmosphere of the product itself.
there are a lot of clues just from that scenario. Now,
you don't know what to look for, but as you go through
the later scenarios, you will see that there are a lot
more clues in the opening sequence than you might realise.'
tell me more about what AR actually contained,
Kathi Tremblay came on the line to dispense wisdom and
knowledge of encyclopaedic depth. But what exactly did
her job entail?
do a lot of play testing, and I supervise testing and
I write the instructions for the game and review submissions
that people send in.'
much did her job involve interaction with the writers?
Could she go to them with suggestions for inclusions
for the games?
do, I interact a lot with the programmers. And when
people have written in, we try to incorporate their
suggestions where possible.
when you go into the taverns, you buy
a round for the house, it makes everybody
very friendly towards you.'
there are fifteen shops, scattered all over the city,
and there are seven inns which are really very crucial
to find because, after a time, you need to know where
they all are. If you don't have any food or water packets,
going into the taverns can save you. If you have lost
all your money and you go into a tavern and sit around
for a while, you'll be taken care of. Also, if, when
you go into the taverns, you buy a round for the house,
that's a very good thing because it makes everybody
very friendly towards you, it helps develop the character
in the game. On the other hand, if you drink too much,
you get drunk and this can have an effect on the character
in the game. So if you think about it, you can do too
much of a good thing.
are two healers who aren't very far apart, but they
are hard to find. They involve a lot of travelling around
and searching for secret doors and such. They are very
important because occasionally, you will have a battle
and they will be needed to deal with your injuries.
There are twelve guilds and of course they can provide
magic or cursed weapons. There are four smithies (where
you can purchase various items and haggle), various
shops which have everything at a fixed price, and then
there are ten other areas which, for the most part are
areas used interactively.'
Kathi selected for the job because she was a role player?
no I am not. I had never played anything -- any role
playing game before I began testing AR. I've
since become hooked.'
what did hooked mean in terms of time spent playtesting?
lot. Generally hours and hours each day. The game took
several weeks to playtest. And weeks can stretch out
into months. I playtest other games as well; Zorro
for instance. In fact almost all the games we've released
so far. We have four people who are working on playtesting
feel it's important to get as much testing on the games
as we can and get other people's point of view. The
more people we have working on them, the more chance
we have of catching errors before the game is released.
Well, in any game there's always something you would
have liked to have done better, so we've looked at all
the versions for the different machines so far, and
I think we have caught everything. Quality control is
very important to us.'
now working with Ocean software,
where we have developed several new
arcade style products.'
Sam Poole tame back on the line, I asked him about a
couple of rumoured Datasoft releases; Pole Position
II and Elevator Action.
Position II: we're in discussion at the moment with
Namco to release this game. It's 45-50% complete and
if all goes well in our discussions with Namco, it will
be released in the second half of this year. But we're
still in negotiations and we have to conclude those
first. As far as Elevator Action, the licensor,
Tito -- we originally had the licence but they pulled
that back, so it will probably never be released.'
did this, and the state of the markets in the US and
UK affect Datasoft's altitude to doing arcade games?
of the things that has happened over the past year,
and is progressing at a very fast pace, is the markets
are coming very close to each other. We're now working
with Ocean software, where we have developed several
new arcade style products based on games by Konami.
The first of these is Yie Ar Kung Fu and the
second, of course, is Hypersports, and we're
working on a third called Russian Attack. We've
developed a working relationship with Ocean where we
will secure the source code for these products and we
release them in the United States. We have similar relationships
with a number of companies in Australia, the UK and
Canada, so we're seeing a lot of product going back
and forth across the Atlantic, and that's one of the
things we're going to see more of.
also talking with a number of other British companies
about products they have developed in the UK for marketing
and distribution here in the States because we have
a very solid marketing and distribution organisation
and I know a number of British companies that have attempted
to release products over here, but I think that most
people would probably agree that a company already established
over here would do better in these terms. In fact, one
of the products we have a tentative agreement to release
over here is Novagen's Mercenary.
already have a strong arrangement with Namco for three
of their new arcade products and we'll be developing
those as well. So we're not at all moving away from
the arcade style products but we are expanding in different
kinds of products in the entertainment fields. Not only
arcades but RPGs, graphic/text adventures -- we have
what I would call a new style product, family entertainment,
where instead of just having one or two persons play,
have the whole family.
in the second part of this year we will have 221b
Baker St, based on Sherlock Holmes (taken from the
board game of the same name by Gibsons). It's a great
game and we have made the software version better than
the board game. You will actually have an animated character
walking through the streets of London and you will be
able to go into pubs or theatres and pick up clues.
But we will actually involve the animations with the
clues and in the text, and up to four people can play
the game. You know, it will be a very different type
of product to be introduced in the US or anywhere else.
We will have a follow up in the form of an additional
data disk and there will be new locations, new clues
and cases (in the first game there are thirty), new
graphics and thirty more cases. So when people play
it, if they get bored of the same graphics and locations
or if they have played all of the scenarios, the disk
will allow them to extend the original game.
are also working on crossword and Scrabble based games,
strategy as well. We will try to take advantage of the
board games to obtain a very new style of play. As a
matter of fact, the follow up to 221b Baker St,
which is being put out by the same company, has already
created interest because the company have seen some
of the original screens and schematics and they want
us to develop the follow up game on the computer as
well. So we're looking at new products around the boardgame
scenario. And this allows not only adults but children
to play, which is an interesting concept because I think
most games are aimed at a specific age group and we
want the whole family to be involved, even if there
are adult and children's versions. We want everybody
to become interested.'
time getting short and the threat of a dry throat developing,
I asked Mr Poole if there was anything he would like
to say to conclude the interview.
think that we can perhaps comment on, regarding AR,
is that one of the drawbacks is the constant disk swapping
caused by the massive amount of code in the program.
The complexity, say in interaction between the seventy
odd characters and so on . . . all of these things are
taken into consideration and the mathematical intricacies
cause these problems. But, I think that once people
start to play it and begin to develop their characters,
it won't be as significant a factor. In the US that's
exactly what has happened. People are so enthralled
that they are prepared to put up with this.'
that, we agreed to call it a day. I expressed my hope
that Mr Poole would feel any possible imbalance created
by my review would have now been redressed. He must
have thought so because he promised that the future
bi-monthly newsletters would be sent along with news
of any further developments in the saga of the Alternate
Reality series. Now, could it be that he had begun
to convert me as well? I would have to consider my answer
and its consequences over a long, cool pint down at
would like to thank Mike Dixon of Datasoft UK
and Tim Chaney of US Gold for helping to arrange