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Game Design Essentials: 20 Atari Games

May 30, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 14 of 23 Next

Tetris (Atari Games)
Original design by Alexey Pajitnov, developed by Kelly Turner, Norm Avellar and Ed Logg

Many companies have tried their hand at a port of Tetris. In arcades, the ports that get the most buzz include those by Sega and Arika. Yet there remains much to recommend Atari's port of the game, long the standard in U.S. arcades, for its inventive special features like advancing lines, appearing blocks, and pre-existing stack levels.

Its excellent music, Russian dance animations, and other touches like using high score names as levels are also appealing. Tengen's fabled NES version of Tetris, generally superior to Nintendo's but chased off of shelves by the courts, was based off of Atari's arcade game.

Now, Atari Tetris is not flawless. The joystick control lacks the sharpness that most Tetris ports have and that makes the game more difficult at later levels, which keeps the difficulty up since the game's speed never gets as fast as other versions. But it's a solid port, with plenty of charm and interesting variations on the game on higher levels that vary it a bit without turning it into a game removed from the Tetris concept.

Some more recent Tetris games try to hook players by drilling deeper into the game's concept, especially Akira's Tetris: The Grand Master, a move which helped to attract hardcore players. Yet Tetris is a populist game, one that lots of people play who could care less about 20G or standardized piece rotations.

Because of this, I consider this the definitive arcade Tetris, even in the face of modern revisions like The Grand Master, for while that series is well thought-out, and commendable for breathing more life than one might think possible with such a simple concept, they are still games which geek out a bit too much about the idea of Tetris. It was originally a very casual kind of game, played by everyone, and Atari's Tetris is a casual kind of arcade game.

One interesting thing about the game... watch the game demonstration in attract mode and it becomes obvious that the game doesn't demonstrate play using pre-recorded inputs, but actually contains a capable computer Tetris player. They needed this because one of the boards used for attract mode contains the initials of the top scoring player in blocks, so in order to depict realistic play they needed a program capable of responding to varied situations.

Article Start Previous Page 14 of 23 Next

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