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TxK Out Today: The History, Development, and Gameplay of Llamasoft’s Latest

Jeff Minter's Avatar + Posted by Jeff Minter on Feb 11, 2014 // Founder, Llamasoft

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TxK is the latest in a particular genre of arcade-style shooters which can be described as “neo-retro”. These games are characterised by gameplay inspired by arcade games of old, but take advantage of modern hardware to provide graphics and audio that far surpass anything that was possible back in ancient times.

Often they take as inspiration some aspect of an older display style and, through modern graphics hardware and techniques, seek to create an experience that is evocative of its ancestry but far nicer-looking. You’ve all seen games like “Geometry Wars”, where the enemies and player characters are made of glowing lines.

These line-based displays go back to an old, obsolete yet beautiful display technology that was used in the arcades, called “vector graphics”. Back then it was not possible to generate pixel-based displays that had a high resolution, and as a result images in games tended to look blocky, as if made out of bricks. “Vector graphics” was a different way of driving a graphics display, causing it to draw thin lines instead of screenfuls of pixels.

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Here the same game – “Gravitar” – can be seen drawn in vector graphics (top) and in the limited resolution pixel graphics of a home console of the day (bottom).

Vector graphics came with their own limitations – it was not possible to create objects filled with solid colors, for example, or extremely detailed backgrounds; everything had to be made up of thin lines. But for many games this was an acceptable tradeoff if it allowed designers to avoid the extremely chunky look of pixel-based displays of the day.

These very limitations forced upon the games that used vector displays a particular abstract aesthetic that made them distinctive and, to many, particularly beautiful.

As time passed and display technology improved, pixel displays became much higher in resolution, and vector displays fell out of use. With higher spatial and color resolution, displays became capable of displaying much more “realistic” graphics, and a trend began towards ever increasing realism in games, leading to the point we’re at today, where the graphics in the latest games almost look as real as life.

In games, though, we are not constrained by any necessity to be realistic. Realism is great for many kinds of games, and I wouldn’t be without it when driving in Driveclub or slaying dragons in Skyrim. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to explore non-realistic graphic styles. Neo-retro titles explore the same kind of geometric, abstract aesthetic that was enforced on the old vector games, but are free to revel in the removal of the limitations that the old displays had, often to beautiful artistic effect.

One of the foundations of the neo-retro style was Llamasoft’s own “Tempest 2000”, released in 1994, which espoused the geometric, abstract nature of its vector-based arcade ancestor and augmented it with graphical enhancements that were for their day state of the art – filled polygons, particle systems and feedback effects.

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“Rez” is a striking and beautiful example of the neo-retro style.
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Llamasoft’s 1994 title “Tempest 2000” laid the foundations of the neo-retro genre.

The game also introduced new depths of gameplay way beyond that of its arcade ancestor, and included a storming techno soundtrack to accompany the shooting action. Spread across 100 levels and punctuated with gentle, floaty Bonus Rounds that were the perfect counterpoint to the fast-paced shooting gameplay of the main game, T2K was considered one of the best games of its time and is still fondly remembered by many today.

Since then we’ve done a lot of work in a variety of different styles across a lot of platforms. When given the opportunity to create a game for PS Vita we thought it’d be nice to do something in the style of the very genre that we helped originate 20 years ago, and so TxK was born.

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Retro but modern. Neo-retro!

We’ve tried to create something that is pure and beautiful in the same way as the old abstract vector-graphics arcade games, but vibrant and modern in aspect and effects as you play.

Unlike in arcade games we’re not obliged to make games punishingly short so as to keep you putting coins in the machine. You can settle in and enjoy the ride. We believe that playing a game should be its own reward, whether or not you end up getting a high score. Games should be all about having fun!

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TxK is fun and pretty!
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Jumping for joy!

You’ll blast your way through 100 levels and 3 different game modes to keep you challenged whether you want a long, session or a quick 5 minutes of gaming on the go. Enjoy meeting a wide variety of enemies along the way and blowing them up into millions of glowing particles with the powerups at your disposal!

A whole herd of excellent musicians have collaborated to being you a soundtrack that is even better than that of T2K back in the day. Your ears will be dancing right off your head as you blast your way to the top of the score table!

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Rock out with your flock out!
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Floating gently over fields of psychedelic fur in a TxK Bonus Round.

Fluffy, floaty Bonus Rounds await those who diligently collect the Powerups on each level. You can’t die in Bonus Rounds – just chill out, enjoy the flight and the music! You’ll find the game looks beautiful on your Vita (and sounds awesome too, plug in those headphones).

“Noise Pulse” – one of the many great music tracks in TxK

We think you’ll find a lot to enjoy in TxK, and we hope it’s something that you’ll keep on your Vita for years to come just for the sheer fun and beauty of playing it. Check back tomorrow for a brief Beginner’s Guide — follow its simple guidelines and you’ll be trancing your way through the levels with euphoric aplomb!

//Add Your Own

32 Comments

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+ italodancemp3 on February 11th, 2014 at 9:36 am said:

Yeah so excited to check it out on my Vita :)


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+ Gorvi on February 11th, 2014 at 9:37 am said:

Wow, it really has been 20 years since Tempest 2000, that’s just crazy. Day one buy for sure.


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+ NinjaMicWZ on February 11th, 2014 at 9:38 am said:

Can’t wait for the store update. This is like meta-indie.


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+ DLDirtyLarry on February 11th, 2014 at 9:40 am said:

Huge fan of Tempest, so this is no doubt a Day 1 purchase for myself. Looking forward to checking it out.


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+ reson8er on February 11th, 2014 at 9:48 am said:

Cannot wait, Tempest + Jeff = Amazing. Go Llama!


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+ tj8_84 on February 11th, 2014 at 9:51 am said:

hey when are you guys going to shipping out more ps4 camera they are impossible to find and when is the US getting the Sony dualshock 4 charging station


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+ mtk93 on February 11th, 2014 at 9:54 am said:

If I were a dev, I’d name my game “Out Today,” so when the Playstation Blog tells everybody that it’s out today in their headline, like they have done for every game today (look at the headlines), it would read “Out Today out today.”


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+ BurritoAssassin9 on February 11th, 2014 at 9:55 am said:

Haven’t really played tunnel shooters before, but the visuals and music are enough to convince me. Can’t wait!


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+ naDOOFUS on February 11th, 2014 at 9:58 am said:

Thanks Llamasoft, game looks like playable euphoria.


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+ Budapesti on February 11th, 2014 at 10:04 am said:

As someone who grew up in England during the era of Crash! and Zzap64!, you had me at ‘Jeff Minter’!


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+ liammill18 on February 11th, 2014 at 10:10 am said:

I was already going to buy this, but that music has cemented my purchase even more firmly.


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+ stalepie on February 11th, 2014 at 10:20 am said:

Tempest 2000 was one of my favorite shooters of the 90s. So glad to see this new version come out! Long live Llamatron!


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+ stemitchellusa on February 11th, 2014 at 10:20 am said:

I’ve been watching and waiting for this for months now…can’t wait to get stuck in. Weekend in Basingstoke! Boom!


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+ Zionine on February 11th, 2014 at 10:29 am said:

Hour 1 buy for me. :)


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+ avluis on February 11th, 2014 at 10:30 am said:

Oh! Yeah, must get!


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+ Elric_X on February 11th, 2014 at 10:39 am said:

Hooray!This is day one buy for me! Hopefully this sells great! We need a Vita Llamatron 2014 next! That would be insane with the Vita Twin sticks.


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+ HE1SENBERG on February 11th, 2014 at 10:58 am said:

That track just sold me on the game, you sneaky devil.


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+ CrusaderForever on February 11th, 2014 at 11:00 am said:

Thanks for this!! I was a D1 purchaser of Tempest 2000 on the Atari Jaguar and it was PHENOMENAL!!!! The music ROCKED! I will be buying this today D1! :) Cannot wait to get nostalgic!


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+ tusunami on February 11th, 2014 at 11:50 am said:

Words cannot even express how happy I am to see more fantastic games for PS Vita. And how happy I will be to play this when my 64 GB memory stick arrives hopefully this week from Japan.


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+ ALIEN-gunner on February 11th, 2014 at 12:00 pm said:

Cool article but I didn’t need it, I’ve been looking forward to this game since it was first announced. I can’t wait to buy it later today!


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+ ElektroDragon on February 11th, 2014 at 2:57 pm said:

Hard to buy anything on my Vita thanks to dumb 100 icon limit. Sony please remove this!

And Llamasoft? Didn’t you guys make Winamp?


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+ KongWen on February 11th, 2014 at 3:38 pm said:

@6 (tj8_84) – Llamasoft doesn’t publish the PS4 camera or any Sony peripherals. I think you must be lost…

@21 (ElektroDragon) – Why not delete some of the games you’re not playing? (P.S. Winamp was by Nullsoft.)


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+ red_tyrant on February 11th, 2014 at 3:38 pm said:

Jesus I need this game! Im gonna buy a vita next week for sure!


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+ ManjoumeThunder on February 11th, 2014 at 3:50 pm said:

Is it wrong I’m keeping this page open for that sound file?


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+ Firelogic on February 11th, 2014 at 3:55 pm said:

@21. How do you have 100 icons of anything? Delete one!


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+ elchorno on February 11th, 2014 at 6:23 pm said:

@25 Believe it or not, the Vita actually does have games to play. I have 2-32GB cards which neither are completely full, but I am unable to install anything new to it because both have hit the 100 app limit. That’s a mixture of Full Games, minis, PSOne classics, and PS Mobile games. I just had to delete Hotline Miami to make “room” for TxK, and I’ll probably forget that I deleted it when I want to go play Hotline again in a week or two.
The other thing is that there are about 20 mandatory bubbles that you cannot remove such as Parental Controls, and if you have a 3G Vita, the Connection Assistant.


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+ SacrificialToast on February 11th, 2014 at 7:21 pm said:

I’m really liking the game. It’s a lot of fun and very challenging. However, there’s a bit of an issue with using the analog stick to move and accidentally bumping the edge of the touchscreen and using your super tapper. I feel like there should be a bit of a deadzone on the edges of the screen that doesn’t count for activating it.


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+ AgentX on February 11th, 2014 at 8:41 pm said:

Excellent work, Jeff! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Tempest 2000 and Tempest 3000 for many years, and I’ve been looking forward to the release of TxK since it was announced several months ago. The addiction begins again!


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+ darthstuey on February 12th, 2014 at 4:01 am said:

Tempest 200 is my fav game of all time and I still regret the day I sold my copy of it with my Jaguar. (weeps slightly) However this game looks exactly like it- just as Space Giraffe did on the 360- what is the difference in the gameplay?


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+ Welmosca on February 12th, 2014 at 10:21 am said:

A gameplay video would have been welcome.


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+ waldowalso on February 12th, 2014 at 1:37 pm said:

Release this for the PS3 and I’ll play it. Would seem a simple thing to do….


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+ MossKeeto900 on February 13th, 2014 at 8:45 am said:

@31 Agreed.


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