Update: Minter posted a letter dated June 2014, sent by Atari law firm Dorsey & Whitney LLP, outlining what she sees as the legally enforceable agreements between Storm And TxK.
Llamasoft developer Jeff Minter is currently embroiled in a heated legal battle with Atari over the rights to TxKa tube shooter released on the Vita last year that bears a striking resemblance to the 1994 Atari Jaguar release Storm 2000.
The apparent similarities between Storm 2000 And TxK are perhaps unsurprising, given that Minter single-handedly did the coding for both games, the former while working for Atari and the latter as an independent developer (credit to the original 1980s game). Stormwhat the inspiration was for Storm 2000, belongs to Dave Theurer of Atari). Minter even called TxK an updated version [of Tempest 2000] on modern hardware” when announcing the Vita game in 2013.
But Minter now says Atari is trying to unlawfully claim trademark and copyright rights TxK and trying to stop him from distributing the existing Vita version of the game as well as planned ports for the PC, PS4, Android and VR platforms. “I think the weirdest thing about the legal letter is how they desperately try to imply that I didn’t have much to do with my own creation,” Minter incredulous tweeted.
Minter outlines what he calls “threats and harassment” from Atari’s “legal letter” in a post on his blog and through his Twitter account (though he hasn’t shared the full text of the letter). Among the “legal allegations” allegedly made by Atari (quotes are Minter’s rendering of parts of Atari’s apparent accusations):
- Storm 2000 was “just an update of Storm to which [Minter] no contribution made” (source)
- “There’s nothing original in it TxK and in no way can it be described as [Minter’s] original creation” (source)
- “TxK has an electronic music soundtrack and sound effects that are indistinguishable from those used in Storm 2000” (source)
- TxK and Minter benefit from the association with the Storm and Atari brand names.
Minter says Atari is “trying to push me to remove Vita from sale TxK (although it’s clearly now at the end of its term and just a trickle coming in these days) and signing papers that basically say I’ve never been a Storm style game ever again. So no chance to release the ports.” He also says that simply disputing the legal claims in Atari’s letter would be incredibly costly and that Atari’s attempts to “official” Storm branding for TxK or its ports.
In a statement to Ars Technica, Atari clarified that “there is no lawsuit. Atari has been in constant contact with the developer since the launch of the game in the hope that the case would be resolved.” At the same time, the company expressed its concerns about the similarities between TxK And Storm.
“Atari values and protects its intellectual property and expects others to respect its copyrights and trademarks,” the statement read. When Llamasoft launched TxK In early 2014, Atari was surprised and dismayed by the very close similarities between TxK and the Storm franchise. Atari wasn’t alone in noting the incredible similarity between the titles. Several major gaming outlets also commented on TxK’s similarity of features and overall look to Tempest; one from TxK said, ‘This is essentially Tempest.'”
Atari also provided links to a number of articles noting the similarities TxK And Storm 2000. You can judge those similarities for yourself using the images and videos above.
Elsewhere on his Twitter, Minter continued his personal feelings for Atari, proverb he was “devastated by [the] undead corpse” from a company he once proudly worked with. “My own pioneering work turned against me. I am beyond outraged.”
“If I ever got a fraction of Notch Empire, I’d buy Atari and give it to the people,” Minter tweeted. “So many of us started there, it should be all of us.”
Ironically, Minter says the designer of the PlayStation title Storm X told him the game was adapted from Minter’s Storm 2000 source code (complete with soundtrack and power-up progression), but modified just enough “to lessen the royalty burden” owed to Minter. This is despite being a playable version of Minter’s original Jaguar Storm 2000 is actually an unlockable secret hidden in the PlayStation port.
Minter has yet to respond to a request for further comment from Ars, though he tweeted that he waits[ing] a day or so before catching up on interview requests and such. I’m still pretty shocked now that this is out.”