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TxK Won’t Be Coming to Other Platforms, Because Atari Said So

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We’ve learned from TxK‘s creator himself, Jeff Minter, that his PS Vita game will probably not be ported to the PC, PS4, and Android, as had been planned—not if Atari has anything to do with it.

The music-action game arrived on Playstation Vita last February, and while Llamasoft and Minter have been preparing other versions, Atari essentially stopped the game from going to other platforms, because TxK “looks like Tempest 2000“, which Atari published back in 1994.

Minter says that in their negotiations, Atari “never gave an inch” and they continually legally threatened Llamasoft, and him as the developer. “The accusations were addressed not only to Llamasoft as a company but also directed at me personally,” wrote Minter on the Llamasoft forums.

The development of TxK is very interesting, although the accusations from Atari really try to make it seem like the game is more like Tempest 2000 than any of us had previously imagined. On the forums, Minter wrote:

  • In order to create TxK I must have had access to, and stolen secrets from, Atari’s source code, in order to steal the work of the other people who worked on Tempest 2000. (I *wrote* the source code for Tempest 2000, and didn’t need to refer to it at all to create TxK, even if I still had it.
  • The only other people who worked on the game were Joby Woods who did bitmaps (TxK has no bitmaps apart from one 64×64 graduated dot) and the Imagitec musicians (TxK has neither a modplayer nor any of Imagitec’s music). So I stole my own work out of my own brain I guess.
  • The soundtrack to TxK sounds identical to the soundtrack of Tempest 2000. (In fact the TxK soundtrack is entirely original and highly acclaimed; it won a Develop award and went to #1 on Bandcamp).
  • The player ship can jump. Apparently Atari owns jumping.
  • There is an AI Droid in TxK. Yes there is, and there has been an AI Droid in almost every game I’ve made since Llamatron. Which I made 3 years before Tempest 2000. The AI Droid is a staple of my design style.
  • I deliberately set out to cash in on Atari’s copyrighted Tempest name (by giving my game a deliberately obscure name of TxK).
  • I deliberately set out to cash in on Atari’s stellar reputation by associating my game with their illustrious name. (I never mentioned Atari at all as the last thing I really wanted was for Llamasoft to be associated with the undead Atari responsible for turning Star Raiders into a fucking slot machine).

Despite his willingness to negotiate towards some kind of Atari-commissioned version of the game, their lawyers presented “a number of legal documents”, which contained the above accusations. Minter and Llamasoft consulted with a lawyer, who said that it would be costly to fight these claims, because they’d have to address each charge.

Minter said that even just the process of going back and forth with letters responding to their threats ended up costing “a couple of grand in legal bills”, and Minter ultimately decided that he couldn’t afford any kind of legal battle. “I think they thought I was somehow making loads and loads of money on the Vita version of TxK,” Minter said. “I guess because it did garner excellent reviews and a bit of positive press.”

txk 2015-03-18

However, Minter goes on to say “the Vita isn’t a massive market, TxK made back it’s development advance and a bit more and that was it.” Atari reportedly kept pushing that agenda, which compelled Minter to present their sales records, proving “that we weren’t getting super rich out of it.” Minter went on to make a point that there was a possibility to make future money by porting the game to other platforms, and that Llamasoft were willing to negotiate for “official” branding for it.

Despite their proving TxK made its money back and essentially nothing more, Minter said that Atari pushed for Llamasoft to remove the game from sale. They insisted that he “sign papers basically saying I can never make a Tempest style game ever again. So no chance of releasing the ports.”

Minter finishes off the post by pointing out how similar Tempest X was to Tempest 2000, which he said was derived from his source code, had exactly the same soundtrack, used the same kind of powerup system as Tempest 2000, had a changed name, extra background effects, and different web shapes, and was close enough to Tempest 2000 that you could play the original game by putting in a specific word into the high score table.

Minter said that his original arrangement with Atari was that he would receive a royalty for any ports of Tempest 2000, and that because of this, Tempest X was made precisely different enough to omit it from those royalties. He found this out by talking with the guy who did the Playstation port, saying that its title was changed to “reduce the royalty burden.” Now, Atari is doing the opposite with TxK and Tempest 2000.

Over on Twitter, Minter seems distraught. He wrote today:

So yeah all the stuff we had ready or near ready will now never see the light of day.No TxK PC, PS4, Oculus, GearVR, Android. Thank “Atari”.

it’s achingly sad because I *loved* Atari. Getting to work there, and creating one of their last great games, was such a joy for me.

And I was there when it died, and that too was a terribly sad time.

But I could never have imagined one day being savaged by its undead corpse, my own seminal work turned against me. I am beyond disgusted.

So how much did “Atari” care about Tempest 2000 before they thought they could shake me down? [He posted the trademark status of Tempest 2000: it’s currently cancelled.]

Brandon Orselli

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Big Papa Overlord at Niche Gamer. Italian. Dad. Outlaw fighting for a better game industry. I also write about music, food, & beer. Also an IT guy.