Tempest (video game)

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Tempest
Tempest arcade.png
Developer(s) Atari Inc.
Publisher(s) Atari Inc.
Designer(s) Dave Theurer
Platform(s) Arcade
Release date(s) October 1981[1]
Genre(s) Tube shooter
Mode(s) Up to 2 players, alternating turns
Cabinet Standard, cabaret, and table
CPU 6502
Sound POKEY x 2
Display Vertical orientation, Vector (color), size: 19 inch

Tempest is a 1981 arcade game by Atari Inc., originally designed and programmed by Dave Theurer. The game is a tube shooter, a type of shoot 'em up where the environment is fixed and viewed from a three-dimensional perspective.

It was fairly popular and had several ports and sequels. The game is also notable for being one of the first video games with a selectable level of difficulty (via the option to skip early levels).

Gameplay[edit]

Gameplay screenshot of the ninth level.

The objective of Tempest is to survive as long as possible and score as many points as possible by clearing the screen of enemies that have landed on the playing field. The game takes place in a closed tube or open field which is viewed from one end and is divided into a dozen or more segments or lanes. The player controls a claw-shaped spaceship that crawls along the near edge of the playfield, moving from segment to segment. This ship can rapid-fire shots down the tube, destroying any enemies within the same segment, and is also equipped with a Superzapper, which destroys all enemies currently on the playfield once per level. (A second use of the Superzapper in a level destroys one random enemy.)

Enemies swirl around at the far end of the playfield, then enter the playfield and move toward the player. There are multiple types of enemy, each of which has different behavior. At higher levels, some enemies leave a spike in the middle of the lane as they travel toward the player; a spike can destroy the player's ship when the player warps out to the next playfield. Other enemies travel to the player end of the playfield and then flip from lane to lane, killing the player if they move to the lane that the player is on; firing while the enemy is changing from an adjacent lane kills this type of enemy. When all enemies in a level are destroyed or reach the near end of the playfield, the player "warps" to the next level by traveling down the playfield. As the player warps to the next level, he must avoid or shoot away any spikes. The player loses a ship when an enemy comes into contact with their ship, shoots it or otherwise destroys it, or if the ship hits a spike while warping. At certain point thresholds, the player earns a new ship. The game is over when the enemies destroy all of the player's ships.

The game consists of sixteen screens with unique geometric shapes, some of which are closed tubes that allow the player to loop around, while others are open fields that have distinct left and right endpoints. When all sixteen screens have been played, the sequence repeats with a different color scheme and a higher difficulty level, including the invisible (black) levels (65–80). Each sequence of levels adds additional enemies that are faster and more deadly to the player's ship. The numbered levels stop incrementing after level 99 and a random one of the 16 variations will appear after successful completion of subsequent levels.

Production[edit]

Tempest introduced several new features for its time. It was one of the first video games to use Atari's Color-QuadraScan vector display technology (along with Space Duel, which was released around the same time). It was also the first game to allow the player to choose their starting level (a system Atari dubbed "SkillStep"). This feature would increase the maximum starting level depending on the player's performance in the previous game, essentially allowing the player to continue, a feature that became a standard in later video games. Finally, Tempest was one of the first video games to sport a progressive level design in which the levels themselves varied rather than giving the player the same layout with increasing difficulty levels.

The game was initially meant to be a 3D remake of Space Invaders, but such early versions had many problems, so a new design was used. Theurer says that the design came from a dream where monsters crawled out of a hole in the ground. During the prototype stages the game was entitled "Vortex".[2]

Three different cabinet designs exist for Tempest. The most common cabinet is an upright cabinet in the shape of a right triangle sitting on top of a rectangle, when viewed from the side. This cabinet sported colorful side art. A shorter and less flashy cabaret-style cabinet was also released with optional side art, and a cocktail-style table cabinet allowed two players to play at opposite ends of the table. In this configuration, the screen would flip vertically for each player.

Ports and sequels[edit]

Unofficial versions[edit]

  • Shortly after the original game was released, Duncan Brown — an arcade owner — hacked the level data and made an altered, more difficult version: Tempest Tubes. This enjoyed a lot of success in his arcade, but was unofficial until Hasbro Interactive included it with Tempest in the compilation Atari Arcade Hits: Volume 1 for PC in 1999.
  • Arashi was a late '90s-era freeware Tempest clone for the Apple Macintosh running classic Mac OS.
  • In the early 2000s, Clay Cowgill released Tempest Multigame, an arcade kit to allow all three revisions of the original Tempest, along with Tempest Tubes, and two early prototypes, to be played on a single cabinet simply by selecting them from an onscreen menu.
  • In April 2003, Apocalypse Inc. released Tsunami 2010, a Tempest 3000 clone for Windows.
  • In 2006, Thorsten Kuphaldt released Typhoon 2001,[6] a Tempest 2000 clone for Windows and Linux.
  • A Google Chrome remake of the original game was released in late 2010.

Reception[edit]

Tempest is #10 on the KLOV's list of most popular games, tied with Centipede.

The game has been cited as an influence on the careers of several notable video game designers including Jeff Minter and John O'Neill.[7]

Tempest in popular culture[edit]

  • Tempest is featured as the video game that Reggie (Catherine Mary Stewart) plays in the 1984 film Night of the Comet, and the game serves to introduce a standing thread throughout the movie. While at the movie theater that saves her from exposure to the comet, she becomes obsessed with knocking someone with the initials "DMK" off the high score list. Additionally, the identity of "DMK" is revealed at the film's conclusion when another survivor suddenly appears with the custom license plate of "DMK".[8]
  • Tempest is featured prominently in the Rush music video for their 1982 song "Subdivisions".
  • Parzival encounters a version of Tempest in the first challenge though the crystal gate in Ernest Cline's book Ready Player One

References[edit]

  1. ^ Vendel, Curt. "ATARI Coin-Op/Arcade Systems 1980 - 1982". Retrieved 2007-05-09. 
  2. ^ http://www.arcade-museum.com/game_detail.php?game_id=10065
  3. ^ Reichert, Matt. "Tempest (Atari 2600)". AtariProtos.com. Retrieved 2013-02-08. 
  4. ^ Reichert, Matt. "Tempest (Atari 5200)". AtariProtos.com. Retrieved 2013-02-08. 
  5. ^ Yarusso, Albert (2013-02-07). "Tempest - Atari 5200". work.AtariAge.com. Retrieved 2013-02-08. 
  6. ^ Home of Typhoon 2001[dead link]
  7. ^ Forman, Tracie. "Inside Gaming - John O'Neill: The Dali of Computer Gaming." Electronic Games. Vol.2, No.13. Pp.64-65. July 1984. ISSN 0730-6687.
  8. ^ Wright, Rob (2007-04-11). "The Top Video Game Scenes in Movie History - 12. Night of the Comet (1984): Hot Tempest Nights". Tom's Games. Archived from the original on 2008-04-11. Retrieved 2008-01-03. 

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