Alternate Reality: The City

Alternate Reality: The City (Atari 8-bit)  1985


First game to use ray casting (predecessor of modern ray tracing), first first person game with visible sky and background, first refractions

Alternate Reality: The City

Gameplay video

Alternate Reality: The City
Magazine commercial - commodore user 1986
Alternate Reality: The City
Magazine review - Popular Computing Weekly (1986)


1) Others 3D first-person games at the time used static graphics to represent the walls, meaning the player could only move one tile at a time. However, in this game the rate of travel depended on the character's speed, and moved incrementally along the tile. Distant walls would slowly come in to focus rather than suddenly appear.
2) Alternate Reality had a raycasting engine equaling that of Wolfenstein 3D , which came seven years later, but was recognized for popularizing the system. However, the design implemented right-angle movement only.

3) Ray casting is the most basic of many computer graphics rendering algorithms that use the geometric algorithm of ray tracing. Ray tracing-based rendering algorithms operate in image order to render three-dimensional scenes to two-dimensional images. Geometric rays are traced from the eye of the observer to sample the light (radiance) travelling toward the observer from the ray direction. The speed and simplicity of ray casting comes from computing the color of the light without recursively tracing additional rays that sample the radiance incident on the point that the ray hit. This eliminates the possibility of accurately rendering reflections, refractions, or the natural falloff of shadows; however all of these elements can be faked to a degree, by creative use of texture maps or other methods. The high speed of calculation made ray casting a handy rendering method in early real-time 3D video games. Although "ray casting" and "ray tracing" were often used interchangeably in early computer graphics literature, more recent usage tries to distinguish the two.The distinction is that ray casting is a rendering algorithm that never recursively traces secondary rays, whereas other ray tracing-based rendering algorithms may do so.
4) The first game of the series, The City, also featured new anti-copying technique. The program disks could be copied though the standard methods and the copy would appear to work. However not long after the player began the game, their character would become weaker and weaker and then die from an apparent disease. (Something similar used in Mirror's Edge (2008).
5) Due to budget constraints, the first game was released, essentially, without a plot.

6) Ray casting is predecessor of real ray tracing. First game with ray tracing was Quake 3: Ray Traced.

7) Emulated in: Altirra

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