Tetris 99 – let’s make it esports ™

99 players enter an arena and only one may leave a winner. That is the standard formula of the battle royale genre that’s gripped the esports world in the past few years. Am I talking about Fortnite in this instance? Or maybe I’m talking about recent esports up-and-comer Apex Legends? Fools. I’m not talking about shooters. Battle royales don’t necessarily have to be shooters and recent newcomer Tetris 99 proves that.

Tetris 99 is a recently introduced Tetris spin-off available for free exclusively on the Nintendo Switch. In that game, you play a game of Tetris alongside 98 other people in hopes of being the last one standing. As you play, you can target other players so that when you clear a line, you can drop debris on their playing field and prevent people targeting you from building debris against you. As more people drop out, the game becomes faster and people are more likely to target you (especially if you’ve got kills under your belt), turning it into the game of fast reflexes and thinking that competitive Tetris players can appreciate.

Tetris 99 has been well-received on release. On Twitch, the game enjoys a healthy viewership in the thousands. However, can Tetris 99 spin-off into something bigger?

Tetris on its own already enjoys a moderate competitive scene, being one of the oldest games there is. Small local tournaments can be found for the various versions of Tetris, from score competitions for the original Nintendo Entertainment System to head-to-head matches of Puyo Puyo Tetris.

In 2010, a bigger, more formal tournament popped up. The first Classic Tetris World Championship (CTWC) was held, with professional players competing in the original version of Tetris. The tournament’s foundations is interesting, as the tournament was originally devised alongside a documentary called Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters, which focused on the history of Tetris, its pro-players and the tournament to see who was the best out of all of them.

Since then however, CTWC has stuck around with yearly tournaments. More than 10,000 people watched the 2018 finals live, its YouTube video sitting at a healthy 3.6 million views. With the interest generated by Tetris 99 and the 2018 release of Tetris Effect, viewership for the next CTWC will likely top those numbers.

So, Tetris 99 has a base as a spectator sport. However, while it has the base, what it currently lacks is the means.

What Tetris 99 needs is a lobby system. As it currently stands, people that play Tetris 99 are sent into random lobbies. A method of creating private lobbies would greatly benefit the game. Not only would it make organizing tournament play possible, but it can help casual play in that it can let friends play together; datamining of the game revealed that a mode with computer players will be added, so computer players could take up the blank spaces if need be.

If tournaments only want the cream of the crop to participate, tournament organizers could limit participation based on player level. Players of Tetris 99 can level up, but as it currently stands, it’s there as bragging rights, acting as an indicator to show off who has spent a lot of time playing the game. Player level can be put to practical use to filter in top players (or at least, ones with a lot of experience) to participate in tournaments.

An improved way of spectating would also make the game more suitable for watching. On the sides of the playing field, players can see miniaturized versions of other players’ games and the shots crossing between them from successful line clears. Upon death, a player gets a live feed which players are forced out, allowing spectators to see who lives on and ultimately wins the game. However, spectators don’t know who’s who until they’re out, which makes it difficult to gauge how a match progresses. A way to switch between the views of different players could fix this.

Tetris continues to be a competitive darling decades on. As the 35th anniversary of the original Tetris approaches, Tetris 99 presents new possibilities for people to engage in the series’ competitive scene and could potentially be something more serious.

Door (Demo Version)

 

 

Door is a game by svgames, with a demo up on itch.io and a full version of the game available on Steam for $6.99. This article is based off my impressions from the demo.

You start out surrounded by four doors, though you can only go through two of them for the demo. Each door leads to a set of doors with a basic puzzle to figure out which one to go through, and that one leads to another set of doors and so on and so forth. This is wrapped up in a colorful, simple environment with atmospheric music.

Puzzles start out simple, with panels saying stuff like “go through X door” and the doors will have placards. It’s initially straightforward stuff like simply going through the door with 1 on it when told, then going through a door with a circle on it if given the same hint for a set of doors with shapes on them. Later puzzles are more complicated, requiring you to pay more attention to the environment.

Going into this game, you may expect that it’s one of those puzzle games where you build up knowledge from previous puzzles to solve later ones. However, the puzzles in Door are largely self-contained or feel like puzzles that can stand on their own without the others. For example, there’s one puzzle with multiple signs, with the first saying that some signs lie. This sets up the expectation that you may have to figure out which signs tell the truth in the future. Turned out though, this rule only ever applied to this puzzle and all the others ones are legitimate.

door 7_19_2018 12_53_38 PM
Like what the fuck

The problem of puzzles being self-contained is that it leads to some puzzles with solutions that seem to come out of left field. A notable one is the puzzle whose hint is “door number ERROR,” whose answer is to always go through the fourth door, which seems like a nonsensical progression from the previous doors and in fact seems nonsensical in general, because there isn’t much in the room that hints at the answer being the fourth door. There were some puzzles that I thought were nice, but they get mixed in with some annoying puzzles, some of them giving little to go off of.

Part of my annoyance stemmed from the fact that picking the wrong door locks you off from moving forward or back, forcing you to reset at the beginning of the chain of puzzles. Locking the path ahead is something I get, but the game keeping you from going back is annoying because you can’t go back to re-examine your choice or surrounding environment to see why you got it wrong.

I actually did think about getting the full version of the game, though. I thought that maybe some of these issues were addressed in the full game and $6.99 felt like a fair price for a puzzle game and hey, I need to play more puzzle games. However:

door

I don’t know if it’s a false positive or not, but my computer is already crummy enough, so I’m not taking my chances.

From looking at Steam, the general consensus on Door is mixed, which is a consensus that I agree with. If you plan on picking up a puzzle game, I recommend checking out the demo to figure out if this is something you’d be down for.

An article and a bunch of games I did within an hour and a half

So I was sitting in my school’s library, waiting for my next class in a few hours. I was bored, so I went on Twitter to ask for some short games to play. I thought that maybe I should write about the stuff I played real quick to make up for the fact that I didn’t publish an article last week. Professionalism!

Spider’s Hollow

Spider’s Hollow is a game made in Puzzlescript by my friend, Far Away Times. I told them I’d get around to playing one of their games one of these days and I guess now is the day.

Spider’s Hollow is a simple puzzle game where your fairy protagonist goes off to search for her friends that disappeared investigating a small hollow. The first two levels are tutorials that introduce the game’s block pushing and the fact that walking in webs slows you down. Seems simple enough. But then the narration in-between levels turns out to be by the eponymous spider, who will start chasing her down after a few moves are made.

Spider’s Hollow is a block pushing game that’s less about clearing the way to the exit, but more about either blocking off the spider’s path or delaying it from reaching you before you get to the exit. Unless the school’s computers are screwy, there seems to be no audio, which is my only big negative to the experience. I wish that there was more content, but otherwise, it’s something short and sweet with a surprisingly bleak ending.

Winnie the Pooh’s Homerun Derby

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This isn’t a small indie game, but it’s an infamous flash game made on the orders of Disney. My friend Rasen suggested this to me and while I respect and care about him, this is the worst curse ever bestowed upon me.

Winnie the Pooh, this foolish bear, must hit a certain number of home runs as his woodland pals throw balls at him. You position Winnie the Pooh with your mouse and click to swing, with swings at the green circle being more likely to produce a home run.

Something that annoys me about the game is that there isn’t a pause function. There isn’t even a restart or quit function either, so if you’re literally unable to win, you just have to wait for Pooh’s chucklefuck friend to be finished throwing to reach the inevitable conclusion.

Alright, so here’s the thing: my reflexes are absolute shit. I actually can’t pass Piglet because I’m absolute garbage at games of pure reflex. I ended up quitting on Piglet, but I consider that a blessing. I know what’s in the horizon. I know that these motherfuckers start throwing bizarre tosses and doing King Crimson antics. I know that if I keep playing, I’ll be folded into nothing for nothing. I will see nothing but despair if I keep going. So I didn’t.

Music is nice though. It’s nice cheerful stuff, which is rather contrary to what you’ll be feeling playing this.

Anyway, check out Rasen’s podcast, We Are Finally Podcast.

The Inhumanity of Hitpoints

manifesto

The Inhumanity of Hitpoints is a text by BabylonTheGreat made for the Manifesto Jam. Like a scholarly text, they rant against the continual usage of hit points in video games, viewing it as a game abstraction that needs to go. I don’t entirely agree with their ramblings, but I also see where they’re coming from. Granted, in the comments below, they admit that this manifesto is rather utopian and that they didn’t have any big alternatives to the hit point system in mind.

Reading this makes me think about how video game lives are sort of dying as a concept in platformer games. Like, a lot of hard indie platformers opt to just give you unlimited lives instead of forcing an arbitrary limit that only makes sense in the realm of arcade games that wants to eat your money. Like god, can you imagine how obnoxious Super Meat Boy would be with a life system? Even Super Mario Odyssey has ditched its lives in favor of a slap on the wrist punishment, which is good, because the series’ continued usage of lives and such has grown to be more arbitrary. Will similar shifts happen for other genres? Who can really say??

Agar.io

agar

My friend Julien suggested checking out Agar.io, that multiplayer game where you’re an orb and eat other orbs to become the greatest orb ever. With my mighty steed, Future Funk, I went on an orb gathering adventure.

You guide your cell around with the mouse and you can divide and shoot your divided clone forward, which is useful for catching the small fry that’s really good at dodging. There are also spiky orbs that could split yours up if you’re big enough when you touch it. And that’s pretty much it. Just a quest to get bigger and become the biggest fish in the pond.

My honest opinion on Agar.io? It’s one of those games that’s just sort of satisfying to play, even if it’s kinda uneventful. Watching your orb grow in power and gobble other orb carries the same satisfaction as watching the numbers in a clicker game run up for me.

Eventually, my conquest to bring Future Funk to the world was ended when it was chewed up by a mass with a rose in its name, so I guess the Democratic Socialists of America hate future funk.