Tempest (video game)
|Release date(s)||October 1981|
|Mode(s)||Up to 2 players, alternating turns|
|Cabinet||Standard, cabaret, and table|
|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 (determined by the initial starting 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.
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 level 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.
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 
- An official port has been released for the Atari ST.
- Versions for the Atari 2600 and 5200 consoles were in the works in Atari, Inc. during 1984; unfinished prototypes exist for both of them. After the unfinished 5200 prototype was found in 1999, its original programmer, Keithen Hayenga, resumed work on finishing the port. The version for the 5200 was finally published through the AtariAge store on 7 February 2013, with an initial price of US $50.00.
- An official port that bears the Atari logo was released by Superior Software for the BBC Micro and Acorn Electron in 1985, and another by Electric Dreams for the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC in 1987.
- A PC port of the game was released for Microsoft Windows 3.x as part of the Microsoft Arcade package.
- The original Tempest was included as part of Arcade's Greatest Hits: The Atari Collection 1 for the PlayStation, Sega Saturn and Super Nintendo.
- The original game had two sequels: Tempest 2000, for Atari Jaguar, Sega Saturn, MS-DOS, Apple Macintosh, and PlayStation (the latter under the name Tempest X3), and Tempest 3000 for Nuon enhanced DVD players.
- In 2001, Infogrames and Digital Eclipse ported 12 Atari arcade games (one of them being the original Tempest) under the compilation title, Atari Anniversary Edition released for PC and Sega Dreamcast, a PlayStation compilation titled, Atari Anniversary Edition Redux, was also released with the same number of games plus two exclusives to the Redux edition. A handheld compilation released in 2002 titled, Atari Anniversary Advance was released for the Game Boy Advance with half the number of games of the console compilation, Tempest is still included on the handheld compilation though.
- In 2005, the original Tempest was included as part of Atari Anthology for the Xbox and PlayStation 2; the PC version also had a ROM of the Atari 2600 prototype.
- Also in 2005, a port and graphical "remix" of the original Tempest was included as part of Retro Atari Classics for the Nintendo DS. This version deviates significantly from the basic rules and experience of the original game.
- On December 19, 2007, Tempest was released for Xbox 360, available for purchase through Xbox Live Arcade for 400 MS Points. This version includes the original arcade game (emulated) and an "evolved" version with updated graphics.
- On March 24, 2010, Tempest was released as a launch title on the Xbox 360 and Games for Windows LIVE virtual arcade, Game Room.
- 2013 will see the release of TxK, a spiritual sequel from Jeff Minter, the same man who made Tempest 2000, exclusively for PlayStation Vita.
Unofficial versions 
- 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 MacOS.
- 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, a Tempest 2000 clone for Windows and Linux.
- A Google Chrome remake of the original game was released in late 2010.
Tempest in popular culture 
- 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".
- 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
- A Tempest game screen is briefly seen in the Futurama episode, "Reincarnation."
- Vendel, Curt. "ATARI Coin-Op/Arcade Systems 1980 - 1982". Retrieved 2007-05-09.
- Reichert, Matt. "Tempest (Atari 2600)". AtariProtos.com. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
- Reichert, Matt. "Tempest (Atari 5200)". AtariProtos.com. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
- Yarusso, Albert (2013-02-07). "Tempest - Atari 5200". work.AtariAge.com. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
- Home of Typhoon 2001[dead link]
- 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.
- Tempest at the Killer List of Videogames
- Tempest at the Arcade History database
- Tempest guide at StrategyWiki
- Tempest Series at the Open Directory Project
- Page detailing aborted attempt at Atari 2600 Tempest
- Page detailing canceled Atari 5200 version of Tempest
- Interview with Dave Theurer (Internet Wayback Machine)
- "A private correspondence to David Theurer, written by H. P. Lovecraft, 12th January 1919" -(from Well Played 1.0: Video Game, Value and Meaning 2009)