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Atari Is Using Me to Attack Jeff Minter and TxK
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on March 20, 2015   |   Episode 194 (Show Archive)  

This is the true story of the time Atari decided to use my name to smear Jeff Minter, the creator of Tempest. Although it's hard to believe, one of my reviews got wrapped up in a controversy that has led the legendary developer to cancel future ports of TxK. Watch as I try to make sense of this issue and respond to Atari.

I've been a huge fan of Tempest since the original arcade game. There was something mesmerizing about the way the vector graphics danced on the empty background. While everybody spent their days arguing over horizontal vs. vertical shooters, I was always partial to the faux-3D tunnel variety.

It took thirteen years for Atari to realize the obvious: Tempest is timeless. 1994 brought Tempest 2000 to the Jaguar, and it was hailed by pretty much everybody as an instant classic. I fell in love with Tempest all over again, and I still consider this to be one of the best games of all time.

So you can probably imagine my excitement when I learned that Jeff Minter, the creator of Tempest, was returning to make a spiritual successor for the PS Vita. While everybody else counted down the minutes for the next Call of Duty or Halo, I was patiently anticipating the release of TxK.

The game was released with little fanfare on February 11, 2014. Predictably, I loved every second of TxK and ended up giving it an A+. Of course, I confessed early on that it's hard for me to be objective about the Tempest series, but I laid my cards out on the table and let the reader decide if it was for them. Eleven months later, I awarded Jeff Minter's addictive shooter my Game of the Year and figured that was the end of the story.

But let me tell you, that is not the end of this story.

Just a few days ago, Jeff Minter took to Twitter with a dire announcement. It turns out that Atari has threatened to sue Llamasoft if they go ahead with plans to release TxK on PlayStation 4, Android and Oculus Rift. What's more, Atari's lawyers want him to remove the PS Vita version on Sony's PSN store and, perhaps the biggest insult of them all, never make another tunnel shooter again.

So what does any of this have to do with me? As it turns out, Atari decided to respond to Jeff's charges by quoting three game critics -- Scott Butterworth at IGN, Britton Peele at GameSpot and, you guessed it, me.

This was quickly picked up by Kotaku, and then dozens of other publications. Suddenly my name and review was being used by Atari to prove that TxK infringed on their Tempest trademark.

Courtesy of Kotaku

Sure, TxK is certainly similar to Tempest 2000, but it's also different in fundamental ways. I don't know if it's different enough to win in court, but I do know that me saying that it "might as well be a sequel to Tempest 2000" is not strong enough evidence. Yesterday I called Tennis in the Face an Angry Birds clone, that doesn't mean Rovio should get their lawyers involved.

When it comes right down to it, I'm conflicted. On one hand, I'm absolutely disgusted that Atari would use my review to attack Jeff Minter and TxK. I think that's awful. But at the same time, I appreciate Atari promoting my work. I hope that this drives people to my review and they discover my favorite game of 2014.

It also gave me an opportunity to see how the different media outlets decided to cover a story I found myself unexpectedly in the middle of. Of the dozens of websites that reported on this pressing story, most linked to my review. Some of them dropped the names, but at least they linked to the review.

Gamasutra decided to go a different direction. Oh, they talked about the reviews Atari used as evidence, but they only mentioned the IGN and GameSpot write-ups. Was my review not hyperbolic enough for you, Gamasutra?

Now here's something I never thought I would say: Game Informer actually made me feel better. Their post mentioned my review, as well as the Scott's write-up at IGN. They did not, however, mention GameSpot. Silicon ANGLE only mentioned my review, which officially makes them my favorite news site.

What shouldn't get lost amidst all this self-indulgence is that Atari has a long reputation for threatening lawsuits. They famously settled with Sega back in the 1990s and accused Sony of illegally dumping the PlayStation, which they vowed to fight in court. This is the ugly face of Atari; a side we see now that the company is creatively bankrupt.

As for me, I'm sure that one day I'll be able to walk into a grocery store without heads turning and people murmuring under their breath about this scandal.


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