Does The Tetris Company Ignore its Hardcore Community?

Thread in 'Discussion' started by caffeine, 8 Apr 2009.

  1. TTC's neglect of its hardcore gamers results in a lack of gameplay depth and fairness, and as a result TTC's main costumer target (casual players), while currently compliant, are missing out on the high standards we have come to lovea side of Tetris many will unfortunately never have the chance to enjoy and appreciate.

    I got the idea to bring this up after I read David Sirlin's handout at this year's Game Developers Conference.

    The bulk of it does not apply here. However, even though it is meant for multiplayer games, it applies to Tetris since Tetris is not some story game that you finish and never play again. Players compete against other players through high scores and record times. Not to mention, Tetris does in fact support multiplayer.


    (This thread's title in picture form.)

    To side step a little, I fully agree with TTC's aim to standardize Tetris. While some of these standards are great and reduce tetlag from game to game, some developing traditions are hurting Tetris' gameplay. Two things Sirlin talks about that apply here are fairness and depth.

    • Standards that hurt fairness
      1. Different piece sequences / garbage sequences
        1. They are luck factors that only detract from competitive Tetris. EA's mobile Tetris game gives out identical sequences for both of these, and it functions great. You can eliminate "peeking" at garbage by only showing solid garbage rows in the opponent's play area.
      2. Uneven garbage distribution (the targetting system)
        1. In three-way games or greater, the targetting system will result in a different amount of garbage to each opponent. Nintendo may have instituted this tradition in Tetris DS as a way to make games last longer. An easy way to do this while still having all opponents receive the same amount of garbage, seen in Tetris Evolution, is: the more the players, the less the garbage sent (say two garbage for a Tetris with six players, then slowly after only two players are left, it goes back to four garbage for a Tetris).
        2. "Garbage canceling" is a veiled form of uneven garbage distribution in three way games or more. This is because if a player happens to cancel incoming garbage, he'll receive less than his opponents. You may argue that this feature adds to depth. But really, there's about as much depth in waiting for your opponent to strike first as there is in watching grass grow while waiting in traffic.
    • Standards that hurt depth
      1. Broken Marathon
        1. TTC refuses to fix this. Dumb. 'Nuff said.
      2. Lack of forced speed
        1. A great way to add complexity is to simply kill the player. TTC forgets that Tetris players are masochistic and loved to be punished. Overly gratuitous lock delay resetting makes forced speed impossible.
      3. Weighing T-Spins more than Tetrises
        1. Equal weight (points or garbage per line) will result in more diverse and spontaneous gameplay opposed to ST stacking being the dominant strategy.
      4. Seesaw garbage
        1. Random garbage is more difficult and offers more opportunity for a player to develop skill. Random garbage also punishes the opponent more for riskier clears as opposed to the all-too-frequent dialog, "Alright, I made a Tetris at the very top. That felt awesome!" "You just gave me a free Tetris out of garbage that I'll swiftly seesaw back. You lose!" Not to mention, drilling down random garbage happens to be pretty addicting.
      5. Dulled speed
        1. Speed by far is the most natural way to increase the complexity of Tetris. Maybe TTC thinks slow, non customizable autorepeat, "delayed auto repeat" (DAS), line clear delay, etc are good ways to make Tetris spectator friendly. If so, they must have missed out on the Youtube phenomenon that has earned over 2.5 million views in the last year. By sacrificing speed, TTC is sacrificing something that garners unending complexity and as a result players eventually will no longer get that "in the zone" feeling when they play since the game's pace will eventually go below their abilities. This "in the zone" feeling is the whole reason I play this game. I love that that feeling. Please stop trying to take it away.
    Why do players flee to clones even now when we can play authentic Tetris for free? The answer is plain if you ask me.

    P.S. Oh, hello there TTC lurkers. I was hoping to get your attention. Please take this as constructive criticism rather than "meh, TTC haters hatin again." I really do hope this helps you guys.
  2. I don't necessarily dislike some of the things that ignore fairness. If anything I say things like targetting promote a different kind of fairness by placing an extra handicap on the higher player. Same with the alteration of how random the garbage is depending on rating difference. Yes, it means that players who perhaps shouldn't have beaten me will occasionally beat me, but it means that games which would otherwise have been easy and boring are more challenging and therefore enjoyable. These things also don't appear in games where the opponents are closely matched, such as matches between elite players.

    I think TTC is primarily guilty of ignoring the hardcore community and to a large extent the casual community with its single player modes and the fact that they're just too easy. The single player modes can be completed by players who really don't have any real skill with the game. Then the score-attack aspect is somewhat ruined by the fact that the scoring is so ridiculously convoluted and gimmicky. I would say this could be the case merely because the developers have realised that the mode is easy enough for a reasonable number of people to all-Tetris clear it.

    It does irritate me though to see that TTC have this idea of making tournaments for Tetris and yet still aren't producing the games that they need to for this to happen. If they want Tetris to be regarded far more as a competitive game, which they can use to hold tournaments that produce highly competitive play which is genuinely impressive to beginners, then they need to make a came that can produce such gameplay. If TGM3 was some sort of home PC game or something I'm sure that this video alone would have provided a shitload of sales. It has 2.7 million views, is the #97 most favourited video of all time on YouTube, and the #68 top rated. Which is a damn impressive statistic for a video. I'd like to know from Zemus what proportion of those views are from a non-Japan market, because I'd bet it's a reasonable number of people. I think it's easily enough people to make a significant sales impact.
    And why is the video so popular? It's because the gameplay is damn impressive. People who have never played a game of Tetris in their life can see that the performance there takes an immense amount of skill. It's an enthralling thing to watch. People will link it to other people and word spreads. This being word of a game that most people won't have ever heard of before, and won't be able to play unless they live in Japan or are stupidly wealthy.
    Compare that to any Tetris DS video. The highest number of views for a gamplay video is under 100,000. And it's not even conventional gameplay, it's the crazy I-spin video. And it's been on YouTube twice as long. The view counts are so low because Tetris DS gameplay just can't be impressive. Maybe people who play it quite a lot can appreciate the skill that the top players have, but to your average casual gamer it just doesn't look that special. That's because the game lacks both difficulty and the ability to generate impressive, high-level gameplay. I could have a marathon run of perfect ST stacking, and get the highest score that is reasonably possible for non-endless marathon. And that run would be both slow as hell and reasonably unimpressive to anyone not familiar with the game. They'd probably wonder why the hell I was stacking like I was.

    They need to cater to the hard-core community, which they currently aren't doing, because it's only way for them to create a game which can be seen by people as being more than "just Tetris". There are games like Guitar Hero where they are both extremely popular but also have high enough levels of difficulty for the elite players to be known to be extremely skilled. At the moment Tetris just doesn't have that, and it won't until they start making it harder and they start making it faster.
  3. m:)

    m:) Unregistered

    I agree with your post. After getting back into tetris recently it was quite a joy to play again.
    then i started finding better and better games to play. i didn't even realize tetris could be better until I found tc.
    wow, it really does get much much better!!

    my question is why is the marathon broken?
    Do you mean with the funny line countdowns like on tetris friends (tetris party isn't like that) or just the mechanics you summed up in your post?
  4. The speed doesn't increase past a point that's challenging for good players. It requires too little skill to beat, and really the only difficulty is the slow sideways movement.
    The completely mental scoring also doesn't help. It's too arbitrarily complicated.
  5. "my question is why is the marathon broken?" I was referring to Marathon mode in Tetris Friends (among other games) where optimal strategy calls for really silly playing. Just watch top player's replays in Marathon to see what I mean.

    I'm glad you brought this up. It's very true that it is boring to compete against players that are much more highly skilled or less skilled. That is why more and more competitive games are featuring rating-tracking plus skill-based match making (Halo 3, Warcraft 3, Starcraft 2, EA's Mobile Tetris, Tetris DS to an extent). When I played Warcraft 3, my win ratio was always very close to 50%! This system works great and eliminates the need to handicap.
  6. m:)

    m:) Unregistered

    that is what i thought and it is down right silly. the tricky part is watching the lines so you know when to set up your back to back to occur with one line left for the level.

    it seems like it rewards you for playing poorly.
  7. I voted yes, but I want to add that they've tried to cater to the hardcore with the likes of Tetris Zone. Though I'd argue they missed the mark with that game by quite a bit, making something without strong appeal to any market.
  8. Big C says:

    fuck TTC.
  9. It surprises me to see sometimes how the majority of people (that I know atleast) cannot even pass marathon mode. Out of everyone who has played tetris the "hardcore" community is so relatively small. The casual player who plays tetris on their phone once a week who doesn't care about half the stuff talked about on tetrisconcept is the target group. It is too easy for the hardcore community to be washed in with the casual community. The problem with a game like TGM3 is that many gamers are turned away by the intimidation factor that comes along with the game. I probably would not be on these forums if I thought I sucked at tetris from the start
  10. jujube

    jujube Unregistered

    some things i don't like about TTC single player:

    • 7-piece bag. this opens up the door for too much abuse (see ST Stacking and Playing Forever).
    • long delays. the line clear delay and auto-shift rate are too slow. it's just no fun to sit around and wait.
    • hold box. do you really need it? no. it just makes things easier. you can keep an I in hold and tetris whenever it's convenient for you. there are plenty of stacking and skimming techniques to learn, but you don't need to know any of that if you know how to hold.
    • move-reset lock delay. you'll never learn to place pieces in an efficient way if you don't have to. you can push yourself to go faster, but modes with instant gravity either aren't timed or your time doesn't matter.

      move-reset gives you too much time to think and avoid making mistakes. tetris is about making mistakes! the more you play, the more you learn about how to fix them. getting yourself out of a jam can be very gratifying.
    • you win. the instant when you beat a mode is the instant when you start getting bored with it. this doesn't apply to all modes of course (time attack and ultra for example). tetrisfriends survival is the only one that gives ever-increasing challenge, and there should be more like it. the challenge needs to increase to the point where you can't take it anymore. it doesn't necessarily need to be invisible in the later stages of the game, but there has to be some element that makes it harder the further you go.
  11. Three very good points I noted:

    Very true. Henk Rogers once said in an interview (Nintendo World Report, 2006) that he had a "Tetris Olympics" dream with semi-standardized rule - he used the analogy of a car using different parts. What's holding them to make a real competitive game ? I don't say they don't trying at all (TDS had rating [before it became completely broken], Tetrsfriends has leaderboard & replay, Tetrisparty has some sort of prized tournament [ ? I don't actually have it]), but they don't try enough.
    It may eventually turn into WRC vs F1 vs Daytona, but a real, advertised competition Tetris would be really cool. Nadeo made Trackmania Nations, a free (!) competitive version of Trackmania for the ESWC 2006. So far, it has done great. It's a regular of th ESWC (where other racing title, such as Gran Turismo, hasn't reached its lifetime) and last year it joined the ESL Major Series.
    And don't bring in the money argument: Nadeo is a ridiculously small team (and still is - under 10 peoples) and began by developping the sequel of a sailing game (Virtual Skipper 3 - in fact, Trackmania shares its 3D engine).

    Sadly true. But don't underestimate the dedication of some so-called "casual" gamers. I never expected my girlfriend - not that much gamer, she do enjoy to play video games in general though - to play and even like Shirase and Death... and yet, I have yet to beat her (well, I still got my Gm that she don't have ^^).
    I don't think those "hardcore casual" are a large fraction of the "casual" group, but I do think it's a significant one.

    Yes, but only if you show them Jin8 or even ct best performance. I'm convinced that a good explanatory video will lure some players into TGM. EvilDaedalus "How to play the <classname>" series for Team Fortress 2 achieved quite a respectable amount of views in youtube (about 500k in average), perhaps we should make one too...
  12. Jujube: I don't agree that once you beat a mode, you become bored with it. People here still play Master mode in any of the three grandmaster games, even though they've gotten to the end. The grading system is what makes us continue to try to do better. Arguably TTC has a similar concept in place with the score. Even if they've got to the end, the theory is they'll still play for a better score.

    As far as the seven piece bag and hold are concerned, I think it should be one or the other, but not both.

    As for The Tetris Company ignoring it's hardcore community, of course they are. I feel there are an extremely small number of us, even compared to the hardcore communities of other games. The percentage of people hardcore players is nothing compared to the people that play Tetris casually. PetitPrince certainly makes a good point, that some of those casual gamers might like and play it more if it was harder, but what TTC is doing is working, and making them money. The only people I've ever seen complain about anything are the members here. (Except about infinite spin, which is a laughably bad idea by a greater number of people's standards.) I think what TTC needs to realize if they have NOTHING to lose by making more challenging games. The people that play Tetris casually on their mobile phones won't even know the difference, or might actually *gasp* LIKE it. And the members here will appreciate them much more, and they'll stand to make more money from people that enjoy challenging games. I find guideline Tetris completely boring. I would not even be playing Tetris now if it wasn't for that invisible Tetris video, and the hombrew NDS_TGM that that video made me find. The Tetris company is not going to get any of my money until the guideline changes, because I only like TGM style Tetris.

    As a small aside, I agree TGM is intimidating. Most people I show it to get pretty scared without some explanation.

    Edit: Said the wrong guy made a point.
  13. Muf


    Before I played Tetris DS, I utterly hated Tetris, because all the versions I'd played (NES Tetris and a bunch of clones) used archaic rulesets that included a memoryless randomiser and a "sticky stack" that pieces lock to as soon as they touch it. It was only after clearing Marathon mode completely (and thus playing through the fair amount of 20G) I started looking for alternatives, as I found out that even high speed Tetris is very playable, I just wanted to get rid of this "infinite spin" thing that was making it trivial even for my friends to clear it. So in that sense, if it weren't for the guideline, I probably wouldn't have found TGM. Hmm. I'd probably be $1600 richer if I hadn't found TGM [​IMG]
  14. And it would be an extremely good game if it weren't for the cumulative rating system, which really pisses me off.

    The grading system is what makes it so that you haven't beaten it. I wouldn't say by any means that reaching level 999 was beating a game. It's reaching Gm that is beating it.

    The thing is though, I think there should at least be a single, final, point to aim for. You should be able to beat certain modes. It shouldn't be down to the player to generate their own challenge of beating their own time or score, there should at least be a final grade to aim at where people can say they've beaten the mode. It's just that this final grade should be a lot harder than any of the western games seem to be. Clearing Marathon in Tetris DS is hardly a notable accomplishment.

    On the intimidation factor of extremely hard games, I think there is an issue there. But that doesn't mean that they can't put hard modes in there. What would stop them putting in a mode similar to the TGM Master or Death/Shirase modes as well as the existing ones? Even TGM3 has Easy mode, and it's an arcade game.
  15. jujube

    jujube Unregistered

    you could be a world record holder. you just have to do it in under 18 hours, 10 minutes, and 22 seconds.

    that would be a fair compromise, but i still believe it would be perfectly playable with neither. the old school games have a memoryless randomizer and no hold, and a good number of people can play until they reach their physical limits. and yes i'm using "play" in the present tense [​IMG]
  16. This is a common mistake many people make. Tetris, just like any other game, follows a nice statistical bell curve of skill. Why some people think this bell curve of skill would magically turn into a declining hill that starts high at the left and falls sharply to the right--I don't know. If you've played Tetris DS online or EA's online multiplayer Tetris game, you'd see what I mean. There are plenty of hardcore gamers... just maybe not vocal hardcore gamers.
  17. As much as I respect Sirlin, and as much as I wish more games were designed with the ideals he describes in mind, I don't actually buy what he's saying. Which is to say, I don't believe fundamentally designing around the hardcore and then making the game accessible to new players is the best way to run a business. Yes, I think that makes the best games. No, I don't think that's where the money is.

    I think a central issue to all of this is that Tetris means different things to different people. Tetris isn't even a game to a lot of people, as in they are not heavily invested in the outcome when they play. It's just sort of a time waster. Like those people who buy those cheap books of 1000 extemely simple sudoku puzzles. Sure they know it could get challenging with a different source of puzzles, but that's not what they're in it for. And they don't hear that sudoku is deep and then get into it casually. They hear from some friends that it's fun and maybe a little addictive. Presumeably like how Facebook is spreading Tetris now.

    I think TTC/THC/BPS/WTF is making sound business decisions, and there isn't a compelling reason for them to start paying attention to us. If anything, they were waaay ahead of their time by trying to target everyone, something that is proving ludicrously profitable for Nintendo right now. It all boils down to numbers, and Arika certainly isn't getting rich of it's approach to Tetris.
  18. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that the number of people on the Tetris DS leaderboards who were rated over 7000 (and would therefore be players I would class to be quite skilled) were easily numbering in the thousands.
  19. Muf


    And you don't think that maybe even just a small part of that is down to the fact that their games are only available in Japan? I doubt Killzone would have made Guerrilla Games a lot of money if it was only available in The Netherlands.
  20. After paying for a worldwide license? I don't think they'd do especially well, even with a console or PC release. Certainly much worse than, say, legitimately terrible games like ipod tetris.

    I really hope I'm wrong but that's what I think.

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