|Platform(s)||Arcade, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro, ZX Spectrum|
|Release||October 1981: Arcade|
1985: Spectrum, BBC
1989: Atari ST
|Mode(s)||Up to 2 players, alternating turns|
Tempest is a 1981 arcade game by Atari Inc., designed and programmed by Dave Theurer. It takes place on a three-dimensional surface divided into lanes, sometimes as a closed tube, and viewed from one end. The player controls a claw-shaped "blaster" that sits on the edge of the surface, snapping from segment to segment as a rotary knob is turned.
Tempest was one of the first games to use Atari's Color-QuadraScan vector display technology. It was also the first to let players choose their starting level (a system Atari called "SkillStep"). This feature increases the maximum starting level depending on the player's performance in the previous game, essentially allowing the player to continue the previous game. Tempest was one of the first video games with a progressive level design where the levels themselves varied rather than giving the player the same layout with increasing difficulty.
The goal in Tempest is to survive for as long as possible, and score as many points as possible, by clearing the screen of enemies that appear on the playing field. The player controls a blaster at the near end of the field, moving it left and right using a rotary knob. The player's blaster can rapid-fire shots down individual lanes of the field, destroying any enemies within the same lane. The blaster is also equipped with a "Superzapper" which, once per level, destroys all enemies currently on the field. A second use of the Superzapper in the same level destroys one random enemy, and the Superzapper is recharged between each level.
The game features sixteen unique levels of different shapes, including simple geometric shapes, a flat line, and the symbol for Infinity. Some levels are closed tubes that allow the player to loop throughout it continuously, while others have definite left and right endpoints. When all sixteen levels have been played, the sequence repeats with a different color scheme and higher difficulty. One set of levels (65 through 80) is "invisible" (black). After reaching Stage 99, the level counter stops increasing and each successive level shape is picked randomly.
Enemies first appear on the screen as swirling dots beyond the far end of the field, appearing on the field one at a time. There are seven types of enemies in the game, each with their own behavior pattern. Flippers attempt to catch the player's blaster and drag it to the far end of the playfield. Pulsars periodically electrify the lane that they occupy - if the blaster is in that lane at that moment, it is destroyed. Fuseballs jump forward and back unpredictably along the edges of each lane, moving slowly between them to give the player a brief opportunity to shoot them. Spikers roll toward the player and extend spikes into a lane, which the player can wear down by shooting it. After the first few levels, each level starts with short spikes at the far end of the field. Later levels also feature Fuseball and Pulsar Tankers, which split into two Fuseballs or two Pulsars when hit, respectively. Most enemies can shoot bullets at the blaster, destroying it upon impact.
When all enemies on the field have been destroyed, the player "warps" to the next level by traveling down the field and into the space beyond it. The player must avoid or destroy any spikes that are in the way - hitting one will destroy the blaster and force them to try the warp again.
The player loses a life when their blaster is destroyed or captured, and the game ends when all lives are lost. Bonus blasters (up to six at a time) are awarded at certain score intervals.
The game was initially meant to be a first person remake of Space Invaders, but early versions had many problems, so a new design was used. Theurer says the design came from a nightmare where monsters crawled out of a hole in the ground. This led to him coming up with the design concept, stating he "basically just took Space Invaders and wrapped the surface into a circle," while monsters "come down the tunnel at you, out of the hole, and you [try] to kill them before they [get] out." During the prototype stages the game was called Aliens, then Vortex, and finally Tempest.
Three different cabinet designs exist for Tempest. The most common is an upright cabinet that, viewed from the side, is in the shape of a right triangle sitting on a rectangle. This cabinet sported colorful side art. A shorter, less flashy cabaret-style cabinet was also released with optional side art. A cocktail-style table cabinet allowed two players to play at opposite ends of the table; the screen automatically flipped for each player.
In the first games Atari shipped there were glitches in one or more of the ROM chips. The problem code allowed a player to do unintended things when ending their score in certain two-digit combinations. According to Joystik magazine, which detailed these combinations, the most useful were the ones that earned the player 40 free credits (06, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18) and the "jump to green" trick (46). Another useful combination mentioned was 05 which allowed the player to play the game in the attract mode. In this scenario pausing at one the combinations would cause the effect to take place immediately without losing the balance of the player's lives. Also, in the attract mode, pausing at an end score of 48 gave the player 255 extra lives. After this issue was discovered, Atari corrected the problem so that further shipping machines were incapable of allowing the end score tricks. It was also noted in Joystik that Atari shipped updated chips to be replaced in the field.
An official port was released for the Atari ST. 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. Versions for the Atari 2600 and 5200 were in the works in Atari, Inc. during 1984, and unfinished prototypes exist for both of them. The game was released for Microsoft Windows 3.x as part of the Microsoft Arcade package. It has 14 secret levels. The original Tempest was included as part of Arcade's Greatest Hits: The Atari Collection 1 for the PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and Super NES. 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 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, titled Atari Anniversary Advance, was released in 2002 for the Game Boy Advance with half the games of the console compilation, including Tempest. In 2005, the original Tempest is part of Atari Anthology for the Xbox and PlayStation 2; the PC version also includes the Atari 2600 prototype. The 2600 port was also released as part of the Atari Greatest Hits compilation for Nintendo DS and iOS devices. 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. Tempest was released for Xbox 360 on December 19, 2007, which was 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. After the unfinished 5200 prototype was found in 1999, its original programmer, Keithen Hayenga, resumed work on finishing the port. It was published by AtariAge in 2013 for US$50.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (August 2017)
Chris Crawford wrote in 1982 that unlike Pac-Man, Tempest "intimidates many beginners because it appears to be unwinnable"; its smoothly increasing difficulty, however, encourages players to continue playing. In 1995, Flux magazine ranked the game 6th on their Top 100 Video Games. They lauded the game saying: "The best vector coin-up machine for white knuckle intensity, bar none, was Tempest." In 1996, Next Generation listed the arcade version as number 74 on their "Top 100 Games of All Time", commenting that "it's very fast, it has abstract, color vector graphics that remain unequaled to this day, and its novel 'paddle' controller makes playing Tempest effortless. The game's difficulty advances smoothly, and the play is extremely well balanced". 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 video game designers Jeff Minter and John O'Neill. Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell has said it is his favorite game to be published by the company.
Shortly after the original game was released, an arcade owner named Duncan Brown hacked the level data and made an altered, more difficult version: Tempest Tubes. It was eventually included with Tempest in the Hasbro compilation Atari Arcade Hits: Volume 1 for PC in 1999.
Jeff Minter created two authorized games, released long after the original game: Tempest 2000 (1994) for the Atari Jaguar (renamed Tempest X3 for the PlayStation port), and Tempest 3000 (2000) for Nuon enhanced DVD players. In July 2018, Tempest 4000 was released for multiple platforms. Minter also wrote two games inspired by Tempest: Space Giraffe (2007) and TxK (2014) After TxK was released for the PlayStation Vita, the current incarnation of Atari blocked release of the game for additional platforms until it was reworked as Tempest 4000 some years later.
1980s home computer clones include Web War for the Acorn Electron and BBC Micro published by Artic Computing in 1985, Tubeway (1982) for the Apple II, Storm (1984) for the Tandy Color Computer, and Livewire!, an Atari 8-bit family type-in game printed in ANALOG Computing in 1983. The Tempest-inspired Axis Assassin (1983) was one of the first five releases from Electronic Arts.
In popular culture
- Tempest is part of a plot thread in the 1984 film Night of the Comet.
- Tempest is featured prominently in the music video for Rush's 1982 song "Subdivisions".
- Parzival must beat Anorak's high score of 728,329 on Tempest (1980 cabinet) in the first part of the final challenge inside the Crystal Gate in the book Ready Player One.
- In the pilot episode of the television series Numbers, Larry Fleinhardt plays Tempest while advising someone on a mathematical problem. Larry is later seen playing the game in the season four episode "End Game".
- Tempest is one of the video games in the TV comedy Silver Spoons.
- Tempest is seen in "Twilight Zone: The Movie" played by Jeremy Licht as Anthony in the Segment 3 remake of the original Episode "It's A Good Life" and later, the game's sounds can be heard when Anthony's powers fully manifest.
- Tempest is referenced by, and is believed to be a partially inspiration for the urban legend Polybius.
- Vendel, Curt (1980–1982). "ATARI Coin-Op/Arcade Systems". Atari Museum. Retrieved 9 May 2007.
- Hague, James (1992). "The Giant List of Classic Game Programmers". Retrieved 16 April 2019.
- "Bad Dreams, Man". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 103. Ziff Davis. February 1998. p. 86.
- Tempest - Videogame by Atari, The International Arcade Museum
- "The Creation of Missile Command and the haunting of its creator, Dave Theurer". polygon.com. 2013-08-15. Retrieved 2014-06-05.
- "Tricks of the Trade". Joystik. Vol. 2, no. 1. Skokie, IL: Publications International, Ltd. September 1983. p. 60.
- Reichert, Matt. "Tempest (Atari 2600)". AtariProtos.com. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
- Reichert, Matt. "Tempest (Atari 5200)". AtariProtos.com. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
- "Microsoft Security Leak!". Read.Me. Computer Gaming World. June 1994. p. 15.
- "Arcade's Greatest Hits: The Greatest Hits of the '80s on WEGM". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 91. Ziff Davis. February 1997. pp. 132–3.
- Yarusso, Albert (2013-02-07). "Tempest - Atari 5200". AtariAge.com. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
- "Galaga". Rovi Corporation. Archived from the original on 14 November 2014.
- Crawford, Chris (December 1982). "Design Techniques and Ideas for Computer Games". BYTE. p. 96. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
- "Top 100 Video Games". Flux. Harris Publications (4): 26. April 1995.
- "Top 100 Games of All Time". Next Generation. No. 21. Imagine Media. September 1996. p. 44.
- 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.
- ""Atari Was Very, Very Hard" Nolan Bushnell on Atari, 50 Years Later".
- Machkovech, Sam (17 July 2018). "Tempest 4000 finally lives after delays, legal threats—but what's up on PC?". Ars Technica. Condé Nast. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
- Parfitt, Ben (18 March 2015). "Atari blocks Jeff Minter from releasing new versions of TxK". MCV/Develop. NewBay Media. Archived from the original on 19 June 2016. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
- ""Web War" review, A&B Computing". Acorn Electron World.
- Boyle, L. Curtis. "Storm". Tandy Color Computer Games.
- "Atari 400 800 XL XE Livewire!". Atari Mania.
- Corriea, Alexa Ray (May 21, 2013). "30 years ago Electronic Arts shipped its first batch of five games". Polygon.
- "Arashi Source Code". GitHub. 14 October 2021.
- "Taking A Peek". Computer Gaming World. May 1994. pp. 174–180.
- 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.