Tempest, originally designed and programmed by David Theurer, is one of the earliest 3D arcade shooters and also one of the first arcade releases to use a vector graphics monitor. The unique style of Tempest has since evolved on the PC and newer consoles in the form of Jeff Minter's modernized versions.
In Tempest, the player controls a ship that moves around the top edge of a tube or a spider web -like playfield, the shape of which varies based on the level. The web is divided into lanes, which the enemies start climbing from the bottom. The player moves his ship around with a rotary controller and fires down into the web to keep the enemies from reaching the top while dodging incoming fire. A superzapper can be used to destroy all enemies on the web once per level. When all enemies in the level have either been destroyed or have reached the top of the web, the player zooms down the web and warps to the next level.
- Flippers flip around from lane to lane and fire bullets towards the player. If they reach the top, they will try to grab the player's ship and drag it down to the bottom, costing a life.
- Tankers are purple squares that split into two other enemies when shot.
- Spikers are green blobs that climb up and down a lane, leaving a spike that kills the player if he runs into it when warping to the next level. Spikes can be shot down with sustained fire.
- Fuseballs are fast-moving sparks.
- Pulsars electrify lanes at regular intervals, killing the player on contacting the lane.
- An Atari 2600 and 5200 port were being worked on but were ultimately canceled.
- The game is regarded as being the first game to include a selectable difficulty level.
- Sold approximately 20,000 units before its release.
- The was meant to be a 3D remake of Space Invaders.
- There are two sequels, Tempest 2000 and Tempest 3000.