Jeff Minter, the creator of the PS Vita game TxK, has described former employer Atari as "copyright trolls," saying that they are "bullying" him over concerns about TxK's similarity to Tempest 2000, a game that Minter designed while working at Atari.
On Twitter, Minter said that Atari are the reason that TxK will "never see the light of day" on PC, PlayStation 4, Oculus, GearVR, or Android. He elaborated in a blog post (which has been copied to Pastebin due to excessive traffic to his own site), in which he said that he's been quiet until now in the hopes of working something out, but that "they never gave an inch and just continued with threats and bullying."
According to Minter's post, Atari accused him of stealing source code from Tempest 2000 to create TxK, as well as deliberately trying to cash in on "Atari's stellar reputation" and the Tempest name. They also accuse TxK of having a soundtrack that "sounds identical to the soundtrack of Tempest 2000," of using Tempest's ship jumping mechanic and AI Droid.
Minter has rejected these allegations, but says that the situation is "set up legally so as to be expensive for anyone to contest." He said that legal bills have already cost him a few thousand dollars, simply from "going back and forth a few times with letters responding to their threats."
Minter also claimed that a PlayStation port of Tempest 2000, called Tempest X, specifically had its name and other details changed to make it sufficiently different from the original, from a copyright perspective, to avoid paying him royalties.
In a statement sent to Game Informer, Atari said that they were concerned about TxK's similarities to Tempest when it launched last year, but that there had been no lawsuit filed:
Atari values and protects its intellectual property and expects others to respect its copyrights and trademarks. 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.’ There is no lawsuit. Atari has been in continuous contact with the developer since the game launched in hopes that the matter would be resolved.
However, Minter told Game Informer that the only contact from Atari has been through lawyers. He went on to say that he is being "singled out" by Atari, while direct clones of Tempest 2000 exist on mobile app stores.
"I can only think that I am being singled out for hostile treatment precisely because I am the original creator of Tempest 2000," he says. "To be turned on by a bunch of strangers bearing the name of a company I once loved, and to have my own seminal work used as a weapon against me, is beyond sickening. These people are despicable."