One of the two most exciting current gaming development projects for Acorns
is Artex Software's TEK (the other is Artex's Iron Dignity!).
Having been under development for what seems like forever (but is in fact about two years) it's now running very late, but work continues on it and
it's scheduled for release sometime during the coming year.
Newest screenshot (click to see full-size)
TEK has had an interesting gestation period. Originally conceived as a
coproduction between Artex and Acorn, things went pear-shaped just as three months of detailed contract negotiations were coming to a close when Acorn
fired a lot of their staff, including Kevin Lingley whom the majority of the
negotiations had been with (Kevin is now one of the top executives in the UK
digital TV interactive entertainment scene and regularly gives presentations
on this topic at conferences).
Unfinished preview picture of the Jungle zones
What began as a development aimed primarily at Acorn's Network Computer
therefore suddenly became an internal production that had lost all its
external financing, leading to the delays which have meant that the game
still hasn't been released. Currently Artex are working particularly hard on
the artifical intelligence under the direction of what they describe as
"a very capable AI programmer", and 3D artist Max Palmer (who has
written for Acorn User magazine on this subject) is working on the design.
Additional support is being provided by the rest of the Artex team, but they
are mainly concentrating on their other current project,
Without an NC version to provide a large hoped-for market, Artex are
developing a PC version of TEK which will be compatible with the Acorn
version so both PC and Acorn users can play at the same time via network
connectivity options. Artex are also developing Iron Dignity for the
PC - they admit that sadly this is now the only way to provide enough revenue
to finance game development. In the case of TEK, however, Artex face
the reality that the PC version will have to be a budget-priced release right from
the start, since they are currently naturally unable to compete on fair terms
with multi-million pound-costing comparable developments by other teams. This
means that the Acorn version will probably cost a bit more than the PC
version, but Artex are intending to bundle extra stuff or features with the
Acorn version in order to compensate for the likely slight price difference. Artex are also considering releasing MacOS and Linux versions of TEK. One thing they have confirmed, though, is that the Acorn version will be released first no matter what!
Work-in-progress desert scenario
So far I've seen two demo versions of the TEK game engine, the most recent during March 1999. The most recent demo featured helicopters, tanks and mechanised robots moving around a scrollable isometric landscape, and let you select machinery and order it to move to a particular position or attack an enemy. Ordering it to attack causes a tank, helicopter or robot to start firing a stream of bullets when an enemy comes too near. All units have their own energy bars, exploding in a ball of fire once they've received too many hits.
Within the game the land units are constrained by the terrain, whilst air-born units have no such restrictions and can also fly over water. A map at the
side of the screen provides an overview of all vehicle placements, and additional windows can be opened to keep track of what's going on elsewhere. The game can run in various different resolutions.
Here's what the very first released development demo looked like:
Unlike Exodus's turn-based control, TEK is a fully real-time experience
similar to Command and Conquer or Dune 2. The graphics are all being
created to a professional standard in high-resolution, and the game should also feature some great music, played straight from CD.
The in-game sound effects are due to feature
lots of human speech, and there'll be cut-scene films featuring footage of actors.
TEK supports various methods of troop control - you can set options such as "Patrol quietly and just report", "Patrol and chase possible enemies" or "Patrol and stay on route", with mouse-based control of the game. Like most games
of this genre you can't see the whole battlefield until you've explored enough, and installed radar posts.
The game features pre-rendered 3D models for the various game characters and vehicles,
with dual-level Artificial Intelligence algorithms, with both a highly intelligent computer player (but with scalable ability) and each and every battle unit having its own, separate AI routines, taking note of its own intelligence, morale and loyality. The computer player apparently scans the battlefield for dangers, and invents strategies and reacts to the player's, rather than simply following a prerecorded battle plan.
The game uses a "line of sight" rule when deciding what can see what, with trees and hills stopping units from seeing each other - and you can fire missiles over hills whereas lasers are blocked by them, for example. All units in the game gain experience as they progress, and if you accompany novice units with experienced ones they gain experience from them.
The game will apparently also include a level editor, although whether this will be a part of the launch package is not clear.
Multiplayer games are all the rage, and TEK will join the fray by offering internal network, internet and
dial-up modem multiplayer versions. Up to eight human players can take part at any one time.
The minimum specification for TEK is a Risc PC, but it will probably be just about
playable on an A5000 in a medium resolution mode - but "medium resolution" is apparently
640x480, which compared to most Acorn games is high resolution! A StrongARM Risc PC will run the game at 1024x768 if you have 2Mb VRAM (necessary for screenbank switching).
Artex can be contacted via email at ArtexSoft@gmx.net.
...this page last updated: 6/2/01 (last text update 18/12/99)...
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