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Atari bullying indie developer behind Tempest 2000

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New ports of spiritual successor TxK 'will now never see the light of day'

Atari thought it was "absolutely rubbish," the Jaguar designer told developer Jeff Minter in 1993. The man felt compelled to pull Minter aside at the console's launch party and let him know how little Atari thought of Minter's latest creation, Tempest 2000, a remake of the 1981 arcade classic.

Minter still finished the game, which went on to enjoy a good bit of success, so much so that the developer has continued to tinker with the formula for over two decades. Just last year, Minter's studio Llamasoft released a spiritual successor called TxK on PlayStation Vita. It garnered a fair amount of critical acclaim, but sales were modest -- something Minter hoped to improve upon by casting a wider net on PlayStation 4, PC, Android, and various VR platforms.

It's unlikely to ever happen, though. Minter says the other versions of TxK will "never see the light of day," thanks to Atari (or at least the wolf in sheep's clothing now parading around as the once-beloved company). Threats of legal action have the multiplatform release dead in the water.

Shortly after TxK's launch last year, Atari began to browbeat Minter and Llamasoft over the game.

In a letter dated June 9, 2014, the company's legal representation argued TxK infringed on Atari's intellectual property, calling the game a "blatant copy of the Tempest games" utterly devoid of any semblance of originality. Atari demanded TxK be removed from the market, and requested any copies be destroyed, deleted, or delivered to Atari along with the title's source code.

Nearly a year later, Minter decided to let the world know, allowing months upon months of frustrations boil over via Twitter. "I am beyond disgusted," he wrote. " I could never have imagined one day being savaged by [Atari's] undead corpse, my own seminal work turned against me."

Minter was also taken aback by the tone of the letter, which asserts Minter merely updated the original game, downplaying his involvement with the revival. "No amount of legal mumbo jumbo can erase the fact that I designed and coded Tempest 2000," he retorted. "The fact that they are willing to pay someone to wilfully [sic] distort the truth in that fashion says it all about them really."

It isn't the first time Minter's former employer distorted something to his detriment.

Over on his website, Minter rebuffed Atari's arguments regarding TxK's originality, or lack thereof. He recalled there is actually precedent regarding how distinct games must be to be considered different under the law, which, funnily enough, involves both Tempest 2000 and Atari.

Do you remember there was a PlayStation port of Tempest 2000 called "Tempest X"? I always wondered why the name was changed, and other little aspects of the gameplay were altered. years later I managed to chat online with the guy who did the port, and he told me that the changes were made "to reduce the royalty burden."

How so? Well, my original arrangement with Atari was that I was to receive a royalty on any ports of Tempest 2000. "Tempest X" was made exactly enough different that it would be legally considered a different game, cutting me out of any royalties.

Minter notes Tempest 2000 and Tempest X share the same source code, soundtrack, and power-up progression. Tempest 2000 was even included in X as a hidden unlockable. "Yet now," Minter writes, "Atari claim that TxK is in fact *closer* legally to Tempest 2000 than Tempest X was."

Destructoid reached out to Atari for comment and received the following in response:

Atari values and protects its intellectual property and expects others to respect its copyrights and trademarks. When Llamasoft launched TxK in early 2014, Atari was surprised and dismayed by the very close similarities between TxK and the Tempest franchise. Atari was not alone in noticing the incredible likeness between the titles. Several major gaming outlets also remarked at the similarity of features and overall appearance of TxK to Tempest; one stated of TxK, “This is essentially Tempest.” There is no lawsuit. Atari has been in continuous contact with the developer since the game launched in hopes that the matter would be resolved.

Atari also quoted a trio of reviews from IGNGameSpot, and Gaming Nexus to support its point.

However, while the company claims says its doing this to protect its marks, Minter points out there are many Tempest clones floating around the mobile space "unmolested."

The man now seems to want the company to just leave him alone. Minter says he is working on a new project that is "literally another world away from anything 'Atari.'"

Perhaps Atari will spawn a Tempest MMO, like the recently announced Asteroids: Outpost.


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Kyle MacGregor Burleson
Kyle MacGregor BurlesonWeekend Editor   gamer profile

used to work Now I just hang around and make a more + disclosures


 



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