[Acorn Gaming]



Tek 1608 is due to be published shortly after Christmas, and pre-orders are being taken now. No deposit is required, but the final game will retail at £30 and comes complete with Ankh, Exodus and Botkiller 2, all of which are excellent games in their own right. In addition, if you pre-order you'll also get an additional mystery gift too - Artex describe it as "a little goodie". Preorders are being accepted either via rci@rcomp.demon.co.uk or tek@artexsoft.com. The game will also reveal what the titular 1608 refers to - Artex previously ran a competition to guess what it meant, which noone won!

Look out not only for a review on Acorn Gaming in the new year but also why not enter our competition to win an exclusive TEK T-shirt.

Historical details

The remainder of this preview was last updated in December 1999 (!!!) which clearly illustrates how long Tek has been in development for, and is included to provide a background history of Tek - check Artex's website for more comprehensive and up-to-date details.

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]
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).

[Second-most recent preview picture of TEK - Jungle]
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, Iron Dignity.

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!

[Desert TEK]
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.

[New version]

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.

[New version]

Here's what the very first released development demo looked like:

[Old version]

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 - looking good!]

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.

[TEK machinery]

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: 22/12/01...
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Dark Future
Eat My Dust
F16 Fighting Falcon
Iron Dignity
Super Snail 2
Toybox Dreams

Abandoned games
Darklands, Fantasia's ToyParty and VOTI's EMD have all reported signs of life in the recent past, whilst Skirmish is apparently still ongoing but is way behind schedule and it looks like it might well never make it out. TEK and Iron Dignity are still on the way, although again both are pretty heavily delayed. And as for R-Comp's port of F16 Fighting Falcon, it looks like it will never be released, having been killed by frame-rates that were just too low.

Full Tek review now online - finally!
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