The team at Artex, the German games company, are now hard at work on their new military strategy game, TEK. The team are very busy and have recently released their graphical adventure game, Ankh, and their first title, Exodus, was released shortly before Christmas 1997.
Acorn Arcade: Please introduce yourselves and let us know what you each specialise in.
Florian Stadlbauer: I supported Jan with the Exodus production and joined the Artex crew in 1997. Now, I am responsible for the project management and the graphics.
Jan Klose: I designed and programmed Exodus, and also programmed the Ankh engine. I'm also programming TEK, along with doing the game design.
We also have Dominik, who's our very capable hardware programmer, responsible for the speed of the TEK engine (and the front-ends of both Artex games released so far).
Ivon Brandao has joined the Artex team recently. Ivon is studying design and thus he's the missing link between Acorn programmers and a good-looking game.
Andreas Engelke, Daniel Hein, Stefan Watzke and Sebastian Zirk are our worst nightmare, as they are testing our games over and over, finding lots of bugs, boring gameplay and unfriendly user interfaces on their way. Then it's our job to erase all that and create their 'dream game'.
Eva Nagy, Alexander Marczincky and Ralph Ossenböhm are responsible for movie sequences.
There are some other very important people that are occasionally helping out with graphics, music, sound, and programming. These people change from project to project.
Acorn Arcade: What does TEK actually stand for and where did your inspiration come from?
Jan: Well, the full name of the game is ¸©TEK 1608¸¹. TEK is short for ¸©Tech¸¹ which is short for ¸©Technology¸¹ (which can be everything, actually), and the mysterious 1608 will be revealed when eventually playing the game.... However I can tell you that it is not the year TEK is set in, as it¸¹s a science fiction game.
Florian I am very sorry, but this isn¸¹t true. Actually we sat in our office, thinking about a name, 'till one of us said, 'TEK would be a great name for a best-seller!' (We can't even remember who did that). There isn't *any* mystic stuff behind that.
Jan: At least you didn¸¹t reveal that 1608 thing as well!
Acorn Arcade: Will the RiscPC and NC versions of TEK be released simultaneously or one before the other?
Jan: The NC version will probably appear first, as we do not need to start a huge production of CDs and packages for it; NC TEK will be downloaded from a server completely. The RiscPC version will appear shortly afterwards, along with CD music, movie scenes and some further add-ons.
Acorn Arcade: The latest unit list for TEK looks very promising indeed. Will units in TEK be able to group together and commanded as teams and what improvements do the units include over a game we all know well, Dune II?
Jan: Yes, they will be able to group together, and probably the groups can also be grouped (!Draw-like, we have yet to check if this makes any sense in the game). Intelligent sub-commanders controlling these groups are planned.
The TEK units can be modified using the unique technique of 'podule slots': every unit has a basic equipment that can be enhanced by a number of additional modules - which can be special weapons, scanners, shields, and so on. So you can customize your units to adapt to any special mission (or any special situation during a mission).
Acorn Arcade: Dune II was a good game but the only way the enemy ever attacked was to throw as many units forward as possible onto one side of your base. This made your base very easy to defend since the attackers only ever attacked one side of it. In what ways will the enemy's AI (artificial intelligence) be improved in TEK to avoid this scenario?
Jan: TEK will see very many improvements over Dune II, as it features different types of terrain, hills, neutral objects (houses, trees, etc) and a very different artificial intelligence. Many well known real time strategy games have the problem that you can either foresee the enemy¸¹s tactics, or you know them when you¸¹ve seen the mission once. For example, after three minutes a scout reaches your base, after ten minutes the enemy airplanes will attack, and so on. TEK¸¹s computer enemies will change their tactics every time you start the mission. We might even include the feature that the enemy home base is placed on one of five different positions every time a mission is started (and the same is done with the player¸¹s base), so you¸¹ll never be sure where to find the enemy and what he¸¹ll be up to.
Further, the whole game will not follow the standard scheme 'Build up the base, prepare for a final attack, crush the enemy forces'. Instead, there's more focus on the individual unit which creates more space for intelligent tactics (both for the player and the enemy).
Acorn Arcade: What network play options will be available in TEK?
Jan: TEK can be played over serial or dial-up modem link as well as over a local network and the Internet. Up to 8 players will be able to compete on one large map, with the option to join a running game at any time.
Acorn Arcade: What will the hardware requirements be for the final version of TEK?
Jan: We can¸¹t say for sure yet, but we¸¹re aiming at a RiscPC600 with 4 or 8 MB RAM and 1 MB VRAM along with a CD drive. You will need 2 MB VRAM to enjoy the game in 1024x768 though (and a StrongARM will be recommended). It is possible that TEK will also be playable on an A5000, but I cannot promise that. Obviously you will also need a modem to play TEK over a network..
Florian: The NC version of TEK will hopefully be playable on all common RISC OS based (ie NC OS) Network Computers. We are still looking for further Network Computer companies (or other companies using an NC network) that would like to add TEK to their range of games.
Acorn Arcade: How about a special hidden Ankh level in TEK where the player has the opportunity to blow up the city of Cairo where all those un-cooperative wine traders and palace guards live? Or you could even perhaps have a little Exodus level where you play the Jews and fight the Pharaoh¸¹s armies, how about it? :-)
Jan: Hmmm... We could also do a double feature and hack that little 'Star Sheriff' game out of Exodus to build it into TEK, replacing the approaching starships with the Pharaoh's head...
Seriously, we haven't thought about something like this yet, but although I doubt that we will spend weeks of design for a special fun level, you will surely find many little surprises hidden inside TEK!
Florian: But we are still open for funny ideas like that. We thought about putting PieGates (you know, this famous PC game) into TEK. Also, if anyone could hack a small game like that together, just send it to us and maybe we'll put it into the game...
Acorn Arcade: Were Exodus and Ankh as successful sales-wise as you had anticipated?
Jan: Exodus was more successful than we imagined (actually it has sold three times as many). Ankh was a very expensive game, as lots of money has gone into graphical design and music. We have not yet got all that money back, although we have already sold a huge amount of copies. So we hope to finally make profits on Acorn World 1998 and at Christmas.
Acorn Arcade: Does Ankh have any special hidden features you'd like to tell us about?
Jan: Well, if you insert the Ankh CD into your CD player, you'll discover a full length version of the introduction soundtrack as well as another bonus track.
(darn, I was looking for a cheat or something! -Ed)
Acorn Arcade: Were any of the characters in Ankh based upon friends or family or even other Artex members?
Jan: Armandine, the girl on the market, is roughly based upon a cute French girl. And the clothing of the mummy inside the tomb can be compared with Dominik's famous cotton sweatshirt...
Florian: Also, the main character got his name, Domi, from one of the Artex members!
There are a lot of other insider jokes, but unfortunately no one except us will understand them. I'll just mention two of those insiders. When you'll tell the Pharaoh about the hideout of his daughter he'll say "Iphene!". This is an expression of astonishment used in Frankfurt (where Artex come from)..
On a trip through Africa we visited a very, very small village in Malawi. They had a tiny market consisting of about three market stands there. One of these stands made some food and was called after a famous fast food restaurant. Maybe you¸¹ll find out the name of this stand in Malawi, if you rotate the sign above the 'Egypt Burger' stand in the game about 90 degrees.
Acorn Arcade: What do you have planned after TEK and perhaps TEK II?
Jan: Well, we have another very big and promising project running, but unfortunately it's some days too early to tell you what it is. If all goes well, you'll have lots of things to write about soon... Maybe I can reveal that it is a game with a fascinating 3D engine.
Acorn Arcade: And finally, do you have any plans to remove the mine layer unit from the game in the light of the late Princess Diana¸¹s campaign against the use of mines?
Florian: War, and anything related to it, is one of the worst and most useless things human beings tend to do. It only shows that mankind is still behaving extremely stupid, and that it will still take a very long time until we can call our race 'grown up'.
We are strongly against any kind of violence in the 'real world'. As long as it's played in abstract games on computer screens where nobody gets hurt, we share the opinion that it will not encourage any person to go out and kill somebody. Doing harm to people is one thing, playing a tactical war game is another. In fact, even Chess is a war game where ¸©battle units¸¹ with different features erase each other.
Regarding TEK as a game and only as a game, we don't see connections to Princess Diana's campaign - or other campaigns against war, which we strongly support.