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Arcade Origin

Tempest Arcade
Tempest Arcade Unit

Tempest is a 1981 arcade game by Atari Inc., designed and programmed by Dave Theurer. It takes place on a three-dimensional surface, sometimes wrapped into a tube, which is viewed from one end and is divided into either 15 or 16 lanes, depending upon whether the tube's shape was closed or open, respectively. 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. 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.

Tempest Arcade Screenshot
Tempest Arcade Screenshot

Atari 5200 Port

Atari Games Division was headquartered in Milpitas, California. In one long hallway, arcade games set to free play, lined both sides of the hall, allowing programmers to do "research". In 1983, Keithen, having just finished 5200 Real Sports Baseball, had been doing a lot of research on Tempest and volunteered to do a port of the game to the Atari 5200 SuperSystem. Since both the 5200 and the Tempest arcade game used the same Pokey sound chip, we were able to use the exact same sound tables. However, the arcade game using vector graphics and the 5200 mainly using bitmap graphics, we needed to add Michael Kosaka as the graphics artist to the project. Unfortunately the project was terminated when Atari was bought by the Tramel family.

At the turn of the millennium, John Hardie, Sean Kelly and Joe Santulli were hosting the Classic Gaming Expos, usually in Las Vegas. As part of this, they collected a large set of memorabilia from the early days of video gaming. They eventually housed this collection permanently in the National Video Game Museum in Frisco, Texas. While working at Atari, we developed on Digital Equipment Corporation computers. We had one Vax 750 server and 7 730 Vaxen named after Snow White and the seven dwarfs. (When we added an eighth 730, the IT department used my suggestion to name the new computer Sleazy after the eighth dwarf.) The Vax wrote out files to 8 inch floppy disks and i had one disk with an early version of my Tempest sources as an archive. Not having an 8 inch floppy drive at home, i decided to give the disk to the CGE guys for their collection. Unbeknown to me, Atari Age magazine editor, Albert Yarusso, was encouraging developers to continue producing homebrew games for these retro gaming systems. He acquired Tempest backup disk and had Ken Van Mersbergen transfer the files to a Windows PC and reformatted them to be edited, assembled, and tested on an emulator in order to complete the project. They then asked me to help them finish Tempest and i worked on it between other jobs until it was finally finished.

You can find Tempest for the 5200 at the Atari Age store.

Tempest 5200 Screenshot
5200 Tempest Screenshot
5200 Tempest Box
5200 Tempest Package

Future Plans

At this time, TekShire is primarily working on cross-platform mobile applications.So the first target platforms for the next iteration of Tempest will be iOS and Android. I am using Unity to develop the cross platform games. When you create a Unity project, the first target that they normally set up is WebGL based, which allows you to develop without needing another device.

Additionally, to make this a more unique version of Tempest, i decided to create it inside a teapot, so the name will be Tempest in a Teapot. My plan is to fly down the spout of the teapot and you are in a tube, much like what the Tempest arcade game is staged in. Secondly, i would allow a separate teapot for each level of Tempest, which means we have a fleet of teapots.

Lastly, i tried a pair of VR goggles, the Epson Moverio BT-200, at an Android Developer Conference, AnDevCon. I knew immediately that if i was flying around the fleet of teapots that it had to be a 3D experience and Tempest in a Teapot has become a virtual reality game.

Doing a complete Tempest game plus a full virtual reality world would be a huge task for a small team, so we decided to produce the game in two parts. Since you need to fly from teapot to teapot in order to try different Tempest levels, we would start with just the teapot portion. We could make a flying game and get it out on the market while we then finished adding the Tempest components. We call this part of the game, Teapots. You can find the latest incarnation of Teapots on the Teapots page. More on the overall vision of the game can be found on the Tempest in a Teapot page.