Tau Ceti

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How to play Tau Ceti

Each game uses different controls, most DOS games use the keyboard arrows. Some will use the mouse.

Tau Ceti Description

Tau Ceti is a science fiction themed computer game first published in 1985 by CRL for the ZX Spectrum and later converted to several other platforms. It was designed and programmed by Pete Cooke. It was groundbreaking at the time for its extensive use of 3D graphics, shadow effects and its large gameworld set on a small planet, Tau Ceti III, orbiting the titular star. The planet also has a realistic day and night cycle (much shorter than our own).

An enhanced version (known as Tau Ceti - The Special Edition) was released for the 128K Spectrum and Amstrad CPC in 1987 featuring extra graphics and a large amount of accessible library data about the gameworld and the game.

When it was released, Tau Ceti was an ambitious piece of software and its scale can still seem impressive. The planet Tau Ceti III consists of several cities which themselves consist of clusters of building with their defensive laser towers and patrolling robot Hunter ships. The player's skimmer can dock with some of these buildings and find parts needed to help shut-down the central reactor as well as refuel and find vital information. The cities themselves can be travelled to by means of a "jump pad" which makes the long trips between them much quicker.

The gameworld is displayed in a 3D view from the skimmer. As well as displaying these 3D graphics, Cooke's game engine renders them with simple shadows in order to simulate the day and night cycle of Tau Ceti III. These days are much shorter than Earth's consisting of one spin of the planet per hour with sixteen "spins" to a Centaurian day.

The cities of Tau Ceti III are an extremely hostile place as they are full of robot defences. These consist of laser towers and Hunter ships (of which there are three types: Mark I, Mark II and Mark III). To defend itself against these, the skimmer is armed with lasers, missiles, AAMs (to destroy missiles fired by robot Hunters) and flares. The skimmer also has a shield although its power is limited and the shield is badly depleted or exhausted, the skimmer will take damage and some of its systems will fail. They can be repaired at any service station.

Any static defences (e.g. buildings) which are destroyed are permanently destroyed. Any mobile defences (Hunters, droids, etc) are renewed when the player leaves a city; so cities are never fully cleared. Cities vary greatly in their defences; a few cities are almost undefended (just minefields), a few cities are very very intensely defended (e.g. Centralis, where the main reactor is).

The skimmer is also fitted with a scanner in order to detect buildings or Hunters not in its forward view or at a distance and also an infra-red display mode in order to cope with Tau Ceti III's frequent hours of darkness.

Although Tau Ceti is primarily an action game, it has some text-input sections when the skimmer docks or lands on the planet's surface. When this happens, the player can communicate with the skimmer using simple commands such as "HELP", "STATUS" or "SCORE" to get access to game information. If docked with a building, "LOOK" will display a picture of the inside of the building and "EQUIP" will allow access to anything useful in that building.

As with some other Cooke games, the game also has an inbuilt note-taking system (accessed via the command "PAD") to take notes without using pen and paper.

Tau Ceti - additional information

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Tau Ceti - Cover Art DOS