Atari Accuses Tempest 2000 Dev Of Copying Tempest 2000

Fanghawk

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Atari Accuses Tempest 2000 Dev Of Copying Tempest 2000

Atari has accused Jeff Minter, the indie dev behind TxK, of misusing copyrighted materials he developed while working on Tempest 2000.

The game TxK is currently part of a heated legal debate between Atari and <a href=http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/79250-Jeff-Minter-Vents-on-Original-Game-Development>indie developer Jeff Minter. First announced two years ago, TxK was designed as an modernized version of Atari's <a href=http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/video-games/issues/issue_197/5964-Yak-to-the-Future>Tempest 2000 - itself an update of 1989's Tempest. After developing TxK single-handedly and releasing it for Vita, Minter received positive reviews and moved on to other things. But now Minter is receiving requests from Atari's legal department to remove TxK from the store.

Oh, and an additional wrinkle? <a href=http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/video-games/issues/issue_197/5964-Yak-to-the-Future>Minter was a developer for Tempest 2000 - as in, he literally wrote the code for both games. Atari is suggesting that Minter used copyrighted material - including Tempest's design documents and computer code - to develop TxK. Meanwhile, Minter has accused Atari of unduly attempting to claim his TxK trademark and copyrights prior to PC, PS4, Android, and VR port launches.

"TxK is a blatant copy of the Tempest games," reads <a href=http://minotaurproject.co.uk/YakImages/surprised_and_dismayed.pdf>a 2014 letter from Atari, posted online by Minter. "Contrary to your assertion, there is nothing remotely 'original' in TxK and in no meaningful sense can TxK be described as your clients' "own independent creation". TxK is quite plainly a remake or updated version of the Tempest games."

"Your clients are ... explicitly referring to our clients Tempest Games as your client's own work (where in reality your clients contributed to the development of Tempest 2000 as contractors)," a later paragraph reads. "Further, your client's development work on Tempest 2000 was merely an updating of the original Tempest game to which your clients made no contribution."

The document also suggests Minter still has Tempest code and design documents from Atari in his possession, which he used to develop TxK. It suggests that TxK's visual style, music, and gameplay were indistinguishable from Tempest 2000, and that Minter was profiting from Atari's brand.

Now Minter is speaking out against Atari, stating that it has downplayed his contributions to Tempest 2000. "I think the weirdest aspect of the legal letter thing is how they desperately try to imply I had nothing much to do with my own creation," Minter wrote on Twitter. He followed up by saying Atari is "trying to insist that I remove from sale Vita TxK (even though it's plainly at the end of its run now and only brings in a trickle these days) and sign papers basically saying I can never make a Tempest style game ever again. So no chance of releasing the ports."

"Atari values and protects its intellectual property and expects others to respect its copyrights and trademarks," Atari wrote in a statement to Ars Technica. "When Llamasoft launched TxK in early 2014, Atari was surprised and dismayed by the very close similarities between TxK and the Tempest franchise. Atari was not alone in noticing the incredible likeness between the titles. Several major gaming outlets also remarked at the similarity of features and overall appearance of TxK to Tempest; one stated of TxK, 'This is essentially Tempest.'"

This isn't a new problem for Minter, who received that first letter in April 2014. "It's achingly sad because I loved Atari," Minter wrote on Twitter. "Getting to work there, and creating one of their last great games, was such a joy for me ... But I could never have imagined one day being savaged by its undead corpse, my own seminal work turned against me. I am beyond disgusted."

At the moment Atari is not pursuing a lawsuit against Minter, although it is demanding Minter pay damages for "the infringement of copyright, passing off, trade dress infringement and breach of duties of confidence".

In the meantime, check out these screenshots from both games and decide for yourselves how similar they are.

[gallery=3935]

[gallery=3936]

Source: Ars Technica

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Sarge034

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Looks alike to me. Be interested to know if any snippets of code he made for Atari ended up in this game.
 

Briggins

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I've always thought it kind of stupid how the law treated this type of situation. If anything Tempest 2000 is the child of Jeff Minter and Atari, they really should have joint custody.
 

Fanghawk

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Well, at least we found a new low that EA, Activision and Ubisoft haven't quite sunk to [small]yet[/small].
 

azurine

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On the one hand: yes, the two games are practically the same...
On the other hand: It's Tempest, a 34 year old game, so who really gives a shit?

Atari is so concerned over a game that (let's be real here) is so old most people haven't even heard of it these days.
And Minter's the guy who coded the remake, but Atari's coming off as a spoiled child yelling "MINE"!

If this were a few hundred years ago, I'd bet game publishers would have their coders beheaded once they were done their work to prevent stuff like this from happening.

Finally and most importantly: the idea that a company owns something made by an individual... imagine if the Harry potter series was owned by Bloomsbury Publishing instead of J.K.Rowling, or if the Escapist owned Zero Punctuation instead of Yahtzee. If you created something for someone else, and then they never let you make anything like it ever again...
 

fix-the-spade

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Sarge034 said:
Looks alike to me. Be interested to know if any snippets of code he made for Atari ended up in this game.
If he wrote both, chances are lines from both will be similar or the same even if he started the second from scratch.

Unless he took stuff home or lifted code entirely from the old product (like say, Silicon Knights did with Unreal Engine 3) trying to claim ownership of his code because it's like code he wrote in the past is like trying to claim every painting an artist ever creates because they use the same brush strokes as one they made for you a decade ago.

In logical terms it's bollocks, but since copyright law frequently ignores logic I hope the internet sways Atari's opinion, like it did with King during the whole Banner Saga episode.
 

gardian06

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fix-the-spade said:
Sarge034 said:
Looks alike to me. Be interested to know if any snippets of code he made for Atari ended up in this game.
If he wrote both, chances are lines from both will be similar or the same even if he started the second from scratch.

Unless he took stuff home or lifted code entirely from the old product (like say, Silicon Knights did with Unreal Engine 3) trying to claim ownership of his code because it's like code he wrote in the past is like trying to claim every painting an artist ever creates because they use the same brush strokes as one they made for you a decade ago.

In logical terms it's bollocks, but since copyright law frequently ignores logic I hope the internet sways Atari's opinion, like it did with King during the whole Banner Saga episode.
though on the flip side I would actually like to see this go to court, and possibly get appealed to the Supreme level, so that we can finally get a realist fundamental interpretation of copyright law, and then maybe just maybe we can't get things like "copyrighting the ability to run wires through clothing" (I was dumbfounded when I heard this, and was kind of Surprised that Mark Cuban challenged it on National television) happening. Unlike what happened with the Kirby estate case. though if it ever got to that level it would probably get a backroom deal payout by Atari, so that all of their copyrights don't get challenged, and I really hope that Minter doesn't roll over at that point, and actually lets a real law interpretation happen.
 

Hairless Mammoth

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Are games like Candy Crush Saga and Farmville not ripoffs of almost identical earlier games, and they only out shined the originals because of the mass marketing available to the big publishers. After DooM became popular, didn't a bunch of games come out with a first person view and a HUD with stats like current weapon's ammo, health, weapons, the player character's face, armor, keys and ammo supply. Is Capcom (who I believe has been petty with lawsuits recently) trying to shut down Mighty No. 9, a blatant copy of their Megaman IP with the same creator as Mighty? Sounds like a cash grab from Atari, which is even more of a shadow of its former self than Rare, to me.

On the other hand, did Minter sign some contract during the time working on Tempest 2000 where any ideas or code he came up with were the property of Atari. Even if he still wrote all fresh code for TxK, Atari might have good reason to suspect a violation.

Then again, Temp2k is a 20 year old game IP and Atari's wording makes it sound more like they are complaining that the new game looks and plays similar to it. (Which it arguably does, but at least the original mind did the deed, compared to King and Zinga copying something else and then over-promoting the original to win the market share.)
 

SHODANFreeman

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Atari are just total jerks these days. They refuse to let Jace Hall do a modern version of Blood, they refuse to release the source code for it, they asked an absurd amount of money for it when Devolver Digital inquired to purchase the IP, and they refuse to do anything with the IP themselves. I wish them nothing but bankruptcy and irrelevance.
 

Sarge034

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fix-the-spade said:
If he wrote both, chances are lines from both will be similar or the same even if he started the second from scratch.

Unless he took stuff home or lifted code entirely from the old product (like say, Silicon Knights did with Unreal Engine 3) trying to claim ownership of his code because it's like code he wrote in the past is like trying to claim every painting an artist ever creates because they use the same brush strokes as one they made for you a decade ago.

In logical terms it's bollocks, but since copyright law frequently ignores logic I hope the internet sways Atari's opinion, like it did with King during the whole Banner Saga episode.
It's an odd situation for sure, but by all rights Atari owns the code he wrote while employed by them. I guess the question this whole thing rises is how similar coding has to be before it starts to go into infringement territory.
 

MysticSlayer

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TristanBelmont said:
Would you believe I'd forgotten Atari existed?
Yeah, I find it sort of funny that Atari was once a powerhouse in the industry but now is little more than a joke. The only time anyone ever thinks about them is when they pull stuff like this.
 

shrekfan246

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azurine said:
Finally and most importantly: the idea that a company owns something made by an individual... imagine if the Harry potter series was owned by Bloomsbury Publishing instead of J.K.Rowling, or if the Escapist owned Zero Punctuation instead of Yahtzee. If you created something for someone else, and then they never let you make anything like it ever again...
That kind of thing happens all the time. A lot of "spiritual successors" are spawned off the backs of creators who are unable to use an IP they originally put out because it's owned by a company that doesn't want to put any real support into it. It's also how IPs get dumped off on other creators (Bioshock 2, Batman: Arkham Origins, Star Wars and Warhammer 40k games).

I mean, just as an example relevant to this website, I'm not sure about Zero Punctuation in particular but The Escapist seems to own the rights to Critical Miss and I believe they owned Escape to the Movies as well.

EDIT: Maybe "a lot" is a bit of an exaggeration, but creator-owned IPs aren't quite as common as you might think they should be.
 

EndlessSporadic

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Atari has been a pretty garbage company for the last 10 years or so. Unfortunately, however, they are in the right, not ethically but legally. It does not matter if you made the entire game by yourself with no outside assistance. If you give it to a greedy publisher like Atari they will go beyond asking for the rights to use the material to advertise and sell the game - they will ask to own it. Atari owns the rights to the code. He could get away with making a clone, but he is legally not allowed to use similar code.

Copyright laws completely suck in the US. They are ancient and outdated. Likewise, it is the developers fault for accepting terms that require them to hand ownership of their IP to suits, and it is sickening that publishers request that kind of thing.
 

Vigormortis

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Yep, they look the same.

But then, OF COURSE THEY FUCKING LOOK THE SAME. TxK is clearly Minter returning to his roots and making a game he knows how to make and enjoys making. Plus, the core concept of that game type is pretty simple. I'd be shocked if it didn't look similar.

Now, if TxK used code and/or assets from Tempest 2000, then Atari might have a case. Otherwise, this is douche-baggery for the sake of douche-baggery.

Get over yourselves, Atari.
 

Nazulu

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Jun 5, 2008
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Holy Crap! I've been looking for this game, but I couldn't find anything because I didn't have the name. So thank you Atari for acting like shit again to remind me.
 

Therumancer

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At the end of the day if Atari still has, and has been keeping up the rights, I have to take their side. Especially if Jeff Minter created this for them, rather than having had been in some kind of partnership where he shared the rights. It's sort of like the whole comic book situation where someone doing work for hire winds up getting paid to produce something for someone else, walks away happy, but then comes back years later and gets irritated because the people he worked for made boatloads of cash, or decides to try and develop an idea they already sold. It's a touchy situation until you consider the risks the people doing the hiring are taking and how many things fail along the way.

Something like updated version of old Atari games are valuable properties now given the popularity of apps, especially things that can be played easily, on the go. The nature of the app business means things like Tempest, Pac Man, Lock & Chase, etc... have more value again than any time they have in decades and it's not surprising people want to get proprietary with classic games, especially if they held onto the rights where most companies let them fall, and ignored clones for decades, when the industry moved away from such things.

That said just because I'm my weird self I'll also remind people about the conspiracy theory here. The legendary game "Polybius" which has been tied to weird goings on and possible government mind control experiments was widely described as being a variant on "Tempest" in the way it looked and played. Interestingly of all the properties Atari had and how many they let go or haven't contested for years this is the one they object to someone knocking off. Tempest itself is harmless, but could there be some concerns about what they feel someone might stumble upon or figure out how to do if they play around with it? Enquiring minds want to know! Could this be a new chapter in one of the all time great conspiracy theories? What's more imagine if in reality Atari is upset because they don't want competition, being in cahoots with the gubberment to re-release an updated Polybius as "Tempest" with the intention of mind controlling people who play the app.... yessir, let's do a cannonball off the paranoia deep end here, and remember Therumancer suggested this (as a joke, or is it?) when Atari starts an advertising campaign for their version a year or so after their impending victory.... "Tempest Returns, play it now"... best selling app of all time it's not like people are addicted like they were with Polybius? Hallucinations from the game? Vulnerability to suggestion... (X-files music).
 

LaoJim

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I know we're supposed to root for the little guy over the big guy, but I'm not seeing it myself. From the screen shots is does look as though TxK is a direct clone of Tempest 2000. This guy didn't work on the original Tempest so he has no particular moral claim to the creative rights. While I'm not a lawyer, my understanding is that you can't copyright game mechanics but you can copyright the overall art style of the game. I think a judge looking at this would decide that "an idiot in a hurry" would assume that this was another Tempest game and therefore officially sanctioned by Atari, something they have a right to complain about - irrespective of whether or not any lines of code or assets have actually been reused. If he'd changed the background, used a different design for the ship, changed some of the wording and made at least some modifications to the gameplay (which in fairness he might have done), I'd be all in favour of him taking the basic concept behind Tempest and creating something new with it, but it does just seem like a lazy copy at the moment, and I'm not sure why I should be on his side.

Put it this way, if Coca-Cola went after someone just for trying to sell their own brand of cola, I'd against that, but if someone puts their drink in a red and white bottle and calls it "Cocia-Cola" I've got no beef with the giant stamping on them.