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"Tetяis" redirects here. For the Tengen produced game, see TETЯIS: The Soviet Mind Game.
NES Tetris Box Front.jpg
The box of the Nintendo version of Tetris for the NES.
Developer(s) Alexey Pajitnov (E60 prototype),
Vadim Gerasimov (MS-DOS version),
Bullet Proof Software (Game Boy version)
Designer(s) Alexey Pajitnov
Composer(s) Hirokazu Tanaka
USSR June 6, 1984
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer
Tetris (Russian: Тетрис) is a tile-matching puzzle video game originally designed and programmed by Alexey Pajitnov in the Soviet Union. It was released on June 6, 1984, while he was working for the Dorodnicyn Computing Centre of the Academy of Science of the USSR in Moscow. He derived its name from the Greek numerical prefix tetra- (all of the game's pieces contain four segments) and tennis, Pajitnov's favorite sport.
It is also the first entertainment software to be exported from the USSR to the US and published by Spectrum Holobyte for Commodore 64 and IBM PC. The Tetris game is a popular use of tetrominoes, the four element special case of polyominoes. Polyominoes have been used in popular puzzles since at least 1907, and the name was given by the mathematician Solomon W. Golomb in 1953. However, even the enumeration of pentominoes is dated to antiquity.
The game (or one of its many variants) is available for nearly every video game console and computer operating system, as well as on devices such as graphing calculators, mobile phones, portable media players, PDAs, Network music players and even as an Easter egg on non-media products like oscilloscopes. It has even inspired Tetris serving dishes and been played on the sides of various buildings.
While versions of Tetris were sold for a range of 1980s home computer platforms as well as the arcades, it was the hugely successful handheld version for the Game Boy launched in 1989 that established the game as one of the most popular ever. Electronic Gaming Monthly's 100th issue had Tetris in first place as "Greatest Game of All Time". In 2007, Tetris came in second place in IGN's "100 Greatest Video Games of All Time". It has sold more than 70 million copies. In January 2010, it was announced that Tetris has sold more than 100 million copies for cell phones alone since 2005.
1.1 Colors of Tetriminos
1.4 Easy spin dispute
2.3 The Tetris Company
3.1 Newest features
4 Tetris variants
5 End of play
5.1 Possibility of indefinite gameplay
6 Computational complexity
8 Effect of Tetris on the brain
9.2 In physics
10 See also
12 External links
The seven one-sided Tetriminos in their Tetris Worlds colors. Top row, left to right: I, J, L, O. Bottom row: S, T, Z.
Tetriminos are game pieces shaped like tetrominoes, geometric shapes composed of four square blocks each. A random sequence of Tetriminos fall down the playing field (a rectangular vertical shaft, called the "well" or "matrix"). The objective of the game is to manipulate these Tetriminos, by moving each one sideways and rotating it by 90 degree units, with the aim of creating a horizontal line of ten blocks without gaps. When such a line is created, it disappears, and any block above the deleted line will fall. When a certain number of lines are cleared, the game enters a new level. As the game progresses, each level causes the Tetriminos to fall faster, and the game ends when the stack of Tetriminos reaches the top of the playing field and no new Tetriminos are able to enter. Some games also end after a finite number of levels or lines.
All of the Tetriminos are capable of single and double clears. I, J, and L are able to clear triples. Only the I Tetrimino has the capacity to clear four lines simultaneously, and this is referred to as a "tetris". (This may vary depending on the rotation and compensation rules of each specific Tetris implementation. For instance, in the Super Rotation System used in most recent implementations, certain situations allow T, S, and Z to 'snap' into tight spots and clear triples.)
Colors of Tetriminos
Pajitnov's original version for the Elektronika 60 computer used green brackets to represent blocks. Versions of Tetris on the original Game Boy/Game Boy Color and on most dedicated handheld games use monochrome or grayscale graphics, but most popular versions use a separate color for each distinct shape. Prior to The Tetris Company's standardization in the early 2000s (decade), those colors varied widely from implementation to implementation.
Colors of Tetriminos in various Tetris games Piece Vadim Gerasimov's
Tetris 3.12 Microsoft
(TGM series) The New Tetris
and Kids Tetris The Tetris
Tetris Party Atari/
Arcade TETЯIS The Soviet
I Tetris I.svg maroon red red cyan cyan red red
J Tetris J.svg white magenta blue blue-violet blue yellow orange
L Tetris L.svg magenta yellow orange magenta orange magenta magenta
O Tetris O.svg dark blue cyan yellow light grey yellow blue blue
S Tetris S.svg green blue magenta green green cyan green
T Tetris T.svg brown light grey cyan yellow purple green olive
Z Tetris Z.svg cyan green green red red orange cyan
The scoring formula for the majority of Tetris products is built on the idea that more difficult line clears should be awarded more points. For example, a single line clear in Tetris Zone is worth 100 points, clearing four lines at once (known as a Tetris) is worth 800, while a back-to-back Tetris is worth 1,200.
Nearly all Tetris games allow the player to press a button to increase the speed of the current piece's descent, rather than waiting for it to fall. If the player can stop the increased speed before the piece reaches the floor by letting go of the button, this is a "soft drop"; otherwise, it is a "hard drop" (some games allow only soft drop or only hard drop; others have separate buttons). Many games award a number of points based on the height that the piece fell before locking.
Traditional versions of Tetris move the stacks of blocks down by a distance exactly equal to the height of the cleared rows below them. Contrary to the laws of gravity, blocks may be left floating above gaps. Implementing a different algorithm that uses a flood fill to segment the playfield into connected regions will make each region fall individually, in parallel, until it touches the region at the bottom of the playfield. This opens up additional "chain-reaction" tactics involving blocks cascading to fill additional lines, which may be awarded as more valuable clears.
Algorithm with chain reactions
Easy spin dispute
Although not the first Tetris game to feature "easy spin" (see The Next Tetris), also called "infinite spin" by critics, Tetris Worlds was the first game to fall under major criticisms for it. Easy spin refers to the property of a Tetrimino to stop falling for a moment after left or right movement or rotation, effectively allowing someone to suspend the Tetrimino while thinking on where to place it. This feature has been implemented into The Tetris Company's official guideline. This new type of play differs from traditional Tetris because it takes away the pressure of higher level speed. Some reviewers even went so far as to say that this mechanism broke the game. The goal in Tetris Worlds, however, is to complete a certain number of lines as fast as possible, so the ability to hold off a piece's placement will not make achieving that goal any faster. Later, GameSpot received "easy spin" more openly, saying "though the infinite spin issue honestly really affects only a few of the single-player gameplay modes in Tetris DS, because any competitive mode requires you to lay down pieces as quickly as humanly possible." In response to the issue, Henk Rogers stated in an interview that infinite spin was part of the guideline, giving a rationale:
So the problem is you get part way through the game, make one small mistake, 'Aw shit, I blew it,' and restart. I think that's an annoying way to play the game. So we decided it's better to give them a way to recover from that small mistake, but you're losing time. So if you sat there and rotated for, I don't know, five seconds, you've just taken five seconds out of the game that you needed to score so many points. So you won't find in the top games any gratuitous spinning going on, it just doesn't happen. It helps the beginning player who's trying to figure out what to do. It's a useless feature (for competitive play); it only helps if you're taking the time to think. The better players don't take that much time to think, that's the difference.
Screenshot of the 1986 IBM PC version
Tetris has been involved in many legal battles. In June 1984, Alexey Pajitnov created Tetris on an Elektronika 60 while working for the Soviet Academy of Sciences at their Computer Center in Moscow with Dmitry Pavlovsky, and Vadim Gerasimov ported it to the IBM PC. Gerasimov reports that Pajitnov chose the name "Tetris" as "a combination of 'tetramino' and 'tennis'." From there, the PC game exploded into popularity, and began spreading all around Moscow. The most recent version of this port is available on Gerasimov's web site.
The IBM PC version eventually made its way to Budapest, Hungary, where it was ported to various platforms and was "discovered" by a British software house named Andromeda. They attempted to contact Pajitnov to secure the rights for the PC version, but before the deal was firmly settled, they had already sold the rights to Spectrum HoloByte. After failing to settle the deal with Pajitnov, Andromeda attempted to license it from the Hungarian programmers instead.
Meanwhile, before any legal rights were settled, the Spectrum HoloByte IBM PC version of Tetris was released in the United States in 1986. The game's popularity was tremendous, and many players were instantly hooked; Computer Gaming World called the game "deceptively simple and insidiously addictive".
The details of the licensing issues were uncertain by this point, but in 1987 Andromeda managed to obtain copyright licensing for the IBM PC version and any other home computer system.
For Amiga and Atari ST two different versions by Spectrum HoloByte and Mirrorsoft became available. The Mirrorsoft version did not feature any background graphics while the Holobyte version had a background picture related to Russian themes for each level. Games were sold as budget titles due to the game's simplicity. Spectrum's Apple II package actually contained three diskettes with three different versions of the game, for the Apple II+ and Apple IIe on separate DOS 3.3 and ProDOS 5.25 in (133 mm) diskettes, and for the Apple IIgs on a 3.5 in (89 mm) diskette, none of which was copy-protected: the included documentation specifically charged the purchaser on his or her honor to not give away or copy the extra diskettes.
By 1988, the Soviet government began to market the rights to Tetris, after a promotional trip to the country by Gerald Hicks, the one time United States champion of the game, through an organization called Elektronorgtechnica, or "Elorg" for short. Pajitnov had granted his rights to the Soviet Government, via the Computer Center he worked at for ten years. By this time, Elorg had still seen no money from Andromeda, and yet Andromeda was licensing and sub-licensing rights that they themselves did not even have. In 1988, Sega released an arcade game version of Tetris. This Sega version won the Japanese Gamest Award for Game of the Year in 1989.
Main article: Tetris (Game Boy)
By 1989, half a dozen different companies claimed rights to create and distribute the Tetris software for home computers, game consoles, and handheld systems. Elorg, meanwhile, held that none of the companies were legally entitled to produce an arcade version, and signed those rights over to Atari Games, while it signed non-Japanese console and handheld rights over to Nintendo. Tetris was on show at the January 1988 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where it was picked up by Dutch games publisher Henk Rogers, then based in Japan, which eventually led to an agreement brokered with Nintendo that saw Tetris bundled with every Game Boy.
Screenshot of the Atari version of TETЯIS: The Soviet Mind Game for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Screenshot of the official NES version of Tetris.
Tengen (the console software division of Atari Games), regardless, applied for copyright for their Tetris game for the Nintendo Entertainment System, loosely based on the arcade version, and proceeded to market and distribute it under the name TETЯIS: The Soviet Mind Game (with faux Cyrillic typography incorporating the Cyrillic letter Ya), disregarding Nintendo's license from Elorg. Nintendo contacted Atari Games claiming they had stolen rights to Tetris, whereupon Atari Games sued, believing they had the rights. After only four weeks on the shelf, the courts ruled that Nintendo were the only company which had the rights to Tetris on home game systems, and Tengen's TETЯIS game was recalled, with an unknown number of copies sold. The lawsuits between Tengen and Nintendo over the Famicom/NES version carried on until 1993.
Nintendo released their version of Tetris for both the NES and the Game Boy (the Famicom and Game Boy versions were developed by Bullet-Proof Software, Inc., who held the Japanese license, despite Nintendo's overseas license to the game); The NES version sold 8 million copies worldwide. Some players[who?] considered Nintendo's NES version inferior because it lacked the side-by-side simultaneous play of Tengen's version, but Nintendo's Game Boy Tetris became arguably the most well-known version of Tetris, selling over 33 million copies.
See also: Video game collecting
Sega also released a Tetris game for the Mega Drive; however, the ensuing blitz of litigation ensured that it was hastily withdrawn. However, it is estimated that between 3 to 8 copies of Tetris were produced for the Japanese Sega Mega Drive. Due to its extremely high rarity, and because Tetris is a very important and very popular game in video game history, Tetris Mega Drive is a sought after item for video game collectors. It is one of the "holy grails" of video game collecting..
The Tetris Company
Main article: The Tetris Company
In 1996, the rights to the game reverted from the Russian state to Pajitnov himself, who previously had made very little money from the game. In 1996, The Tetris Company was founded, claiming to hold copyright registrations for Tetris products in the U.S. and taking out trademark registrations for Tetris in almost every country in the world. They have licensed the brand to a number of companies, and the U.S. Court of International Trade and the U.S. Customs have at times issued seizure orders to preclude unlicensed Tetris-like games from being imported into the U.S., though bulletins circulated by the U.S. Copyright Office state that copyright does not apply to the rules of a game.
In mid-2006, and in late 1997, TTC's legal counsel sent cease and desist letters to Web sites on the basis of Tetris-type games infringing the "Tetris" trademark, trade dress, and/or "look and feel" copyright. Around 2009, TTC and Tetris Holding LLC brought legal action against BioSocia, Inc., on the grounds that BioSocia's "Blockles" game infringed on proprietary rights that were held by TTC and Tetris Holding LLC. On September 10, 2009, the legal case against BioSocia was resolved, with BioSocia agreeing to discontinue making the "Blockles" game available to the public. In May 2010, TTC's legal counsel sent cease and desist letters to Google insisting that 35 Tetris clones be removed from the Android Market. A US District Court judge ruled in June 2012 that the Tetris clone "Mino" from Xio Interactive infringed on the Tetris Company's copyrights by replicating such elements as the playfield dimensions and the shapes of the blocks.
This section needs additional citations for verification. (June 2012)
A 5th generation iPod featuring Tetris (2006)
Tetris has been subject to many changes throughout releases since the 1980s. Newer Tetris games have focused on a trend of pace rather than endurance. Older releases such as Game Boy or NES Tetris offer records according to points. Since the meter for points is restricted to a specific number of digits, these games' records can be "maxed out" by an experienced player. The next big Game Boy release after Tetris, Tetris DX, in marathon mode—comparable to mode A in previous releases—allowed an additional digit for the point meter. Even so, players still maxed it to 9,999,999 points after hours of play. For The New Tetris, world record competitors have spent over 12 hours playing the same game. In Tetris DX and The New Tetris, the new modes sprint and ultra were added. These modes require the player to act under a timer, either to gain the most lines or points in that time. Releases like Tetris Worlds did away completely with point records. This particular game kept records by how fast a certain number of lines could be cleared depending on the level. Critics of Tetris Worlds said it was flawed by virtue of the ability of a piece to hover over the bottom for as long as a player needs.
There are many different modes of play added in recent years. Modes appearing in more than one major release include: classic marathon (game A), sprint (otherwise game B or 40 lines), ultra, square, and cascade.
The field dimension of Tetris is perhaps the least deviated among releases: almost always 10 cells wide by 20 high. Some releases on handheld platforms with small screens have smaller fields; for example, the Tetris Jr. keychain game has 8 by 12, and Tetris for Game Boy has 10 by 18.
Traditionally, blocks spawn within the four most central columns and the two highest rows. The I Tetrimino occupies columns 4, 5, 6 and 7, the O Tetrimino occupies columns 5 and 6, and the remaining 5 Tetriminos occupy columns 4, 5 and 6 (or in some, especially older, versions, 5, 6 and 7). In some more recent games, pieces spawn above the visible playfield.
In traditional games, a level-up would occur once every ten lines are cleared. After a level-up, the blocks fall slightly faster, and typically more points are given. In some newer games such as Tetris Worlds, the number of lines required vary upon each new level. For example, NES Tetris operates at 60 frames per second. At level 0, a piece falls one step every 48 frames, and at level 19, a piece falls one step every 2 frames. Level increments either terminate at a certain point (Game Boy Tetris tops off at level 20) or increase forever yet not in speed after a certain point. NES Tetris will level up in speed until level 29 (due to limitations of the game's engine, pieces are not capable of dropping faster than this), but tool-assisted emulation will show that the level indicator increases indefinitely—eventually leading to a glitch where the meter displays non-numeric characters. Modern games such as Tetris the Grand Master or Tetris Worlds, at their highest levels, opt to drop a piece more than one row per frame. Pieces will appear to reach the bottom as soon as they spawn. As a result, these games have a delay that lets the player slide the piece on the bottom for a moment to help deal with an otherwise unplayable fall speed. In some games, the hover time is regenerated after a piece is moved or rotated.
Soft drops were first implemented in Nintendo releases of Tetris so that pieces would be able to drop faster while not locking as to slide into gaps. The other option is hard dropping, which originated in early PC games such as Microsoft Tetris, a game developed by Dave Edson and bundled with Microsoft Entertainment Pack. With hard dropping, a piece falls and locks in one frame. Newer Tetris games feature both options. Some games have their locking roles reversed, with soft dropping making the pieces drop faster and locking down, and hard dropping making the pieces drop instantly but not lock.
Single direction rotation is an older restriction that has since been ruled out in nearly every new official release by the favor of separate buttons for clockwise and one for counterclockwise rotation. In traditional games, the unsymmetrical vertical orientation I-, Z-, and S-pieces will fill the same columns for each clockwise and counter clockwise rotation. Some games vary this by allowing two possible column orientations: one for counter clockwise and one for clockwise rotations. Double rotation—only seen in progressive clones such as Quadra and DTET—rotates the piece 180°.
One of the features most appreciated by skilled players is wall kick, or the ability of rotating the pieces even if these touch the left or right walls. In the NES version, for example, if a Z piece is "vertically" aligned and falling touching the left wall, the player cannot rotate the piece, giving the impression that the rotate buttons are locked. In this situation, the player has to move the piece one position to the right before rotating it, losing precious time. Proper implementations of wall kick first appeared in the arcade version of Tetris by Atari Games.
Piece preview allows a look at the next piece to enter the field. This feature has been implemented since the earliest games, though in those early games, having the preview turned on made the score increase more slowly.
Newer versions of Tetris add different scoring goals not present in traditional Tetris. As achieving these goals while not topping out becomes more difficult, these games usually add a few features to help the player.
The New Tetris and The Next Tetris are the first official Tetris games to feature multiple piece previews, showing 3 in advance. Tetris Worlds for PCs and game consoles add 5 more, while the GBA version retains the 3 piece preview. Tetris DS uses the 6-piece preview. The New Tetris also introduced the "ghost piece", an obscuration in the shape of the current piece over where that piece would drop. The feature reduces mistakes, especially for beginners and high-speed players.
Hold piece is an optional ability to reserve a piece for later use, allowing a player to either avoid undesirable pieces or save desirable ones. Some clones featured it as a powerup that the player could earn and use once. A hold piece available to the player at all times was first featured in The New Tetris. Most games that have hold piece activate it when the player presses a dedicated button, often a shoulder button; other games activate it when both rotate buttons are pressed simultaneously. When hold piece is activated, it causes the falling piece to move to the top and trade places with the hold piece. However, the feature cannot be activated twice in a row; it is disabled until the piece released from hold locks in the well.
Initial rotation and Initial hold are features that make the game accept rotation/hold button inputs while the next piece is still in the preview area. With initial rotation, when the player holds down the rotation button after the previous piece has locked down but before the next piece comes into the well, the next piece will come into the well in an already rotated state. Initial hold works similarly, as the piece will be already swapped with the hold piece when it enters the well. Initial rotation and Initial hold first appeared in the Tetris: The Grand Master series.
Tetris DS features wireless on-line play through the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection system. This new version also takes advantage of the touch screen in the added "Touch Mode," which has no time limit. Instead, every block is already placed in a tall tower, and the player uses the stylus from the Nintendo DS to shift blocks left and right and, in earlier towers, rotate blocks. The goal is to clear enough lines so that a cage of balloons reaches the ground (this mode is themed on the NES video game Balloon Fight, hence the cage of balloons).
Tetris DS also introduces the Metroid-themed "Catch Mode". In this mode, the pieces fall downward from the top screen to the touch screen, but the stack is moved and rotated instead. As the falling pieces bump against the stack, they get clustered into it. To clear blocks, there must be a solid area of the stack that is 4×4 or larger. When this happens, the blocks glow and the music changes. After ten seconds or upon pressing the X button, these blocks disappear and shoot a laser beam in a plus-shape, the horizontal part equal to the number of rows cleared and the vertical equal to the columns. This laser beam will move and rotate with the stack and destroy falling blocks and Metroid enemies in its path until it disappears a moment later. The parts of the stack not hit by the laser beam will be pulled in towards the center of the stack after the laser beam dies. If a piece reaches the bottom of the touch screen, the stack hits a falling block while rotating, or the stack hits a Metroid, the stack loses Energy. The player loses if the stack runs out of Energy or if the stack becomes so large that it can no longer fit on the touch screen.
Tetris Mania by EA Games brings back the Fusion and Sticky modes from Tetris Worlds. In Fusion, "atom" blocks must be activated, the number of those needing to be activated increases per level. Activated atoms wills also activate other atoms that they touch, and are generated two for every seven Tetriminos. Gravity will not be activated until a line is cleared containing an atom of fusion block. In Sticky, based on The Next Tetris, you need to clear the bottom row of starting tiles. In each level, there are more starting tiles that are harder to clear. The pieces in this game are made up of different colored minos that "stick" to those of the same color. Gravity is always a factor.
The Tetris arcade game by Atari Games offered different "puzzles" for selected rounds. The first three rounds are played normally, with no obstacles. At the start of round 4, eight bricks are placed vertically along each side of the well. Round 5 begins with ten bricks scattered throughout the bottom five rows. Round 6 begins with 20 bricks arranged in a pyramid. In rounds 7 through 9, the well starts out empty but single bricks will appear at random on top of your puzzle each time a piece lands that does not clear any lines, potentially thwarting any planning one may have done. In rounds 10 through 12, incomplete "garbage" lines will randomly pop up underneath your puzzle, pushing the puzzle upward, when a piece lands without clearing any lines. Rounds 13 through 15 begin with more blocks arranged in predetermined patterns, and the cycle continues throughout the remaining rounds in the game in groups of three.
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