PetitPrince's recent activity

  1. Comment on Edge-like vertical tabs in Vivaldi browser in ~comp

    PetitPrince
    Link Parent
    I also recommend TST Colored Tabs for immediate identification at a glance (each tabs gets a colored background based on the tab domain).

    I also recommend TST Colored Tabs for immediate identification at a glance (each tabs gets a colored background based on the tab domain).

    1 vote
  2. Comment on What keyboard do you use? in ~tech

    PetitPrince
    Link
    At work (coding, emails) : Topre Realforce 87u. At home (formerly gaming, but now remote work) : Corsair K70 (mk1, with only red Led) with Mx Browns. At home (home theater / gaming PC) : Samsung...

    At work (coding, emails) : Topre Realforce 87u.
    At home (formerly gaming, but now remote work) : Corsair K70 (mk1, with only red Led) with Mx Browns.
    At home (home theater / gaming PC) : Samsung VG-KBD2000.
    **At home (coding, emails, photo) **: My Thinkpad X1 Carbon 5th gen keyboard
    On the go: SwiftKey on my android phone.

    Topre: Bought during a trip in Japan. I wanted to get the black version but it wasn't available at the time, so I got a very retro whitish beige and gray. I like the feeling: softer than a purely rubber dome keyboard but firmer than the Mx Family. Also, I can have some street cred in face of my Ergodox-, Das Keyboard- geared colleagues (OK, we're the only three strange guys who have non basic keyboards).

    Corsair: My first mechanical keyboard, I still like the tactile confirmation, the volume wheel, and the understated (compared to other gaming keyboards) looks. A shame that most of my music listening happens in the browser now (YouTube, Bandcamp) : the media keys are next to useless.

    Samsung : Pro: I got it for free from my in-laws. It's also Bluetooth and I can natively switch on the TV with it.
    Cons: everything else.
    This thing is an exercise in frustration. Switching from "TV remote" to "Bluetooth keyboard" takes ages (to be fair: about 3 seconds; I'd argue it's still 2.8s too slow).
    The touchpad is meh. It has no multitouch but has two scroll zone making its effective zone even tinier than what is already is.
    It's left/right click buttons have no tactile affordance whatsoever (while the scrolling zone has a noticeable bump! So infuriating!) , so you cannot click without looking at the thing.
    The response time is like half a second.
    It has <infuriating>-key rollover (sometime I can do al- tab, sometime it release the pressed key mid way).
    It's just sufficient enough to launch Firefox, go to YouTube and type something in the search bar, but barely.

    Thinkpad: I have tested both old style (on a X220t) and new style (on my X1) keyboards, I find them equally good. I cannot get enough track point in my life though. An unreasonable gift I could ask is for a TeX Yoda.

    SwiftKey: I chose it back when it was SwiftKey vs Swype. I tend to be faster when approximately typing vs swyping. Sometimes the text substitution algorithm put on the wrong word, but it that happens with all keyboard I tested.

    2 votes
  3. Comment on Can anyone help me narrow down the definition of "gaslighting" to better make sense of it as a concept? in ~talk

  4. Comment on Facebook Connect: John Carmack Unscripted Live in ~comp

    PetitPrince
    (edited )
    Link
    Another one of the famous Carmack keynote, a technical yet approachable exposé about the state of VR at Oculus. Theres also a recording of the following "virtual chat in the hallway" on Facebook...

    Another one of the famous Carmack keynote, a technical yet approachable exposé about the state of VR at Oculus.

    Theres also a recording of the following "virtual chat in the hallway" on Facebook Horizon : https://youtu.be/P7mFEGah27c

    1 vote
  5. Comment on Why the orange sky looks gray in some photos in ~tech

    PetitPrince
    Link Parent
    I'm mostly a hobbyist. I switched from Nikon (I mostly used my dad's D800) to a X-T1 when it came out(birthday gift) . It then got upgraded to a X-T3 I really like the modeless ergonomics (no...

    I'm mostly a hobbyist.

    I switched from Nikon (I mostly used my dad's D800) to a X-T1 when it came out(birthday gift) . It then got upgraded to a X-T3

    I really like the modeless ergonomics (no PSAM! ) , which is reminiscent of Leica: set the aperture/shutter speed/iso on their dedicated dial, or put them in the "auto" position if you don't CARE. There's still two dials (thumb, index) if you want to do quick on-the-fly adjustment.

    I like the instant preview of the viewfinder, the compactness and lightness if the whole system ; but that's shared by all mirrorless cameras.

    Fujifilm cameras all have famed color rendition. As a digital addict who try to spent less time in post, I appreciated those profile who are often way good enough.

    2 votes
  6. Comment on Why the orange sky looks gray in some photos in ~tech

  7. Comment on A comprehensive, deep dive into Tetris the Grandmaster (TGM) design, the hidden Japanese Tetris version you will never legally play in ~games.game_design

    PetitPrince
    Link Parent
    Ah yes, those modes can be brutal. If this was a console/pc game, I would lock these mode behind an achievement so that the player would know what is going to hit him. Or at least a warning that...

    Ah yes, those modes can be brutal.

    If this was a console/pc game, I would lock these mode behind an achievement so that the player would know what is going to hit him. Or at least a warning that this mode is for experienced player only (which is somewhat achieved in TGM2 because I don't think someone novice would chose "Death" as a first choice).

    That said, my girlfriend began with death mode, persevered and now is as good as me (while not being a seasoned video-game player). She liked the fact that the session were super short IIRC.

  8. Comment on A comprehensive, deep dive into Tetris the Grandmaster (TGM) design, the hidden Japanese Tetris version you will never legally play in ~games.game_design

    PetitPrince
    Link Parent
    Long ago I thought that as well, but it turns out NES and TGM are somewhat related in that they're history based randomizer. Also: I'm pretty sure someone disassembly NES Tetris to get the exact...

    I guess the randomizer, because that's one of my points of interest in different games: I thought NES was completely random. Is the TGM randomizer what we think of today as 7-bag, or is it something different?

    Long ago I thought that as well, but it turns out NES and TGM are somewhat related in that they're history based randomizer. Also: I'm pretty sure someone disassembly NES Tetris to get the exact flavor of PRNG, but that's probably irrelevant to the current discussion. 7-bag is a totally different beast. Here's a blog article about an overview of them (it include code snippet).

    So:

    • NES Tetris rerolls the dice there's an identical piece in its 1-piece long memory.
    • TGM rerolls the dice there's an identical piece in its 4-piece long memory.
    • 7-bag deplete a set of 7 distinct pieces

    I think you're on the ball from a gameplay standpoint. Anything beyond the regular mode is nuts
    Ah, I misexplained myself. I meant to say "the skill level of the average gamer is surprisingly high".

    To me, TGM feels like the awkward pubescent Tetris [...]
    Uh, curious that you feel that, I feel exactly the same. Over the three (four, I you count Sega Tetris) Arika had many years worth of play-testing by just watching people play in the arcade, so they can really tweak the gameplay. Whereas for guideline games, I feel that for most guideline games, the developers got sent the guideline file, then have to implement it without realizing its nut and bolt, then implement their own ideas. I strongly feel this was the case for Tetris Effect (I had this feeling when listening to one of the director (Mark Macdonald, not Tetsuya Mizuguchi) talking about the game in the 8-4 podcast)).

    About IRS and flookicks: IRS exists in all versions of TGM; floorkick only in TGM3.

    for clarity sake:

    • TGM = TGM1, or the series as a whole
    • TAP = TGM2
    • Ti = TGM3

    I tried the more advanced modes on that Ti cabinet because I didn't know when I'd be able to again, and I was completely lost
    Where do you feel being lost ?

  9. Comment on A comprehensive, deep dive into Tetris the Grandmaster (TGM) design, the hidden Japanese Tetris version you will never legally play in ~games.game_design

    PetitPrince
    Link
    Conversation starter: What's the most concise game you know ? Why does the Yakuza series work so well while having gameplay and tone ADHD ?

    Conversation starter:

    • What's the most concise game you know ?
    • Why does the Yakuza series work so well while having gameplay and tone ADHD ?
    3 votes
  10. Comment on A comprehensive, deep dive into Tetris the Grandmaster (TGM) design, the hidden Japanese Tetris version you will never legally play in ~games.game_design

    PetitPrince
    Link
    A rant about the need for a legit TGM port, and the differences between modern standard Tetris and TGM I went back and forth in adding this into the main part, but I ultimately decided to put it...

    A rant about the need for a legit TGM port, and the differences between modern standard Tetris and TGM

    I went back and forth in adding this into the main part, but I ultimately decided to put it in the comments. The world is enough of a messed place to burden you with other pointless selfish controversies.

    So: I will now rant for a while about Tetris politics and the place of the TGM in the current videogame landscape. Feel free to skip this part if you want; it's really outside of the scope of a TGM analysis, and somewhat in a negative tone.

    You may have noticed the second part of the title: "the hidden japanese Tetris version you will never legally play". It's clickbaity as hell and I take full responsibility for it.
    While my main goal when writing those thing was to the beauty of the game (hope I succeded), I had also an ulterior secret motive: I have some hope that this becomes super viral (and doing that in video form would probably help) so that there's having enough momentum and peer pressure to have those game ported on (ideally) PC.
    I have no doubt this will probably not happen; I still need to produce said video (and I have only a few video skill), having it picked up by the mighty algorithm; and I doubt there's enough popular pressure in this niche to can make the different actors of the Tetris world move the way I want. But please bear my delusion of grandeur for a while, at least there's some interesting technical and historical nuggets to learn.

    So: "Ported to PC" ? Indeed: TGM, TAP and Ti are arcade releases, based respectively on the Capcom ZN-2, Taito SH-2 and Taito Type-X arcade systems.

    This shouldn't be difficult.

    The Capcom ZN-2 is basically a beefed up Playstation; the Taito SH-2 is a 2D only systen; and the Taito Type-X is basically a Windows XP machine. TGM emulation is good enough, TAP is nearly arcade-perfect, and you can find bootlegged and hacked version of TGM3 on shady websites (don't ask me please).

    But for some obscure reasons TGM was never released outside of the arcade. There's some evidence of a PS2 port of TAP at some point, but it got canceled.

    "But hey, PetitPrince, there's TGM Ace on the Xbox 360!".

    for the pedant: yes, there's also Tetris with Cardcaptor Sakura Eternal Heart. But this is not a TGM and barely a Tetris game either.

    sigh

    First, we're talking about a region-locked release on an old console, said console being an Xbox console in Japan. Asking for an Xbox in Japan is like asking for a vegan option in a meat festival. This may exists somewhere, but otherwise WTF dude. For reference, at some point during the worldwide heyday of the console, Microsoft sold 100 Xbox One units per week in Japan. That's 100 total, not 100 thousands. By comparison, the Wii U (remember the Wii U ? The "failed" Nintendo console ?) numbers were at 16k, and even the PlayStation Vita TV sold 5 (five!) time more.

    Second, this was a bastardized version of TGM. There's no familiar Master or 20G modes, but rather bizarre modes were based on clear lines instead of level. Worse: while all the subtleties of game system I described above was still present, there were several egregious decision made to make the game more compliant with the other games from the Tetris Company. Some are minor (changing the piece color), some are mildly infuriating (changing the instant drop from non-locking to locking, which significantly some strategy pre-20G), some sounds like a cashgrab (you need an Xbox live Gold account to access some single player content) but the most damning one was to change the lock delay behavior from step reset to move reset.

    There's two behaviors possible with lock delay: either you reset the time each time the piece fall (step reset), or whenever the piece move or rotate (move reset). The latter is standard amongst other official game, but make the game significantly easier and, well, less arcade-y and more console-y.

    Is this an elitist remark ? Probably, but from a series of game whose mode are called "Death" and something akin to "Despair" (Shirase), difficulty is something to be expected.

    So: TGM Ace doesn't count.

    At this point we need to talk about the Tetris Company and the guideline rules. After its creation in the mid-90s (I don't have the exact date in mind, look at the Game Historian video or watch that BBC documentary), the Tetris Company sought to get Tetris standardized by publishing a guideline document describing all of the base game mechanics. This "guideline" ruleset is not based on the Sega branch, but rather the Nintendo branch (make sense if you think about the wildly popular NES version and the system seller Gameboy version). And this ruleset is imposed in some form to each and every game willing to have the word "Tetris" in its title.

    And so I don't want some a diluted TGM experience that piggies back on top of this guideline system. Thanks to effort of the community, like the showcase on AGDQ, more and more people are aware of TGM, including some game developers.
    But often times they only take surface gimmicks (invisible mode ! 20G mode !) of TGM and put them in their game without understanding the finer points of the whole experience. For instance, in the late Master mode of the PS4 version of Tetris Effect, the DAS start up was not scaling as lock delay become shorter (it doesn't not in TGM, but does in TAP where the overall game is also faser), so you were reduced to either mash the button or exploit the move reset behavior by doing some unecessary rotation (this was patched later on).

    I don't want to appear as someone who spit on the guideline ruleset (even though I was when I was a teenager). It has its place, particularly in multiplayer as we have seen with the recent sucess of Puyo Puyo Tetris and especially Tetris 99 (fun fact: Tetris 99 was made by Arika !).
    In fact I do enjoy a lot the thrill of Tetris 99, and I find the over-predictability of the randomizer in this context not a weakness but a strength, as that enables opener setup like in chess (I'm not good enough to perform a perfect clear opening each time but I do like a good DT Canon when the opportunity arise). I have this part of my mind wired to do T-spin doubles whenever I can.

    But they are some key differences that make the guideline ruleset ill-suited for the kind of experience we TGM players want.

    I think it boils down to intrinsic vs extrinsic speed. You see, the guideline ruleset is rather lenient toward the player: The move reset behavior, the bizarre wallkicks that let pieces climb over the stack, the flat initial orientation of the piece. All of this points toward a game that want to help the player as much as it can.This let the player express himself at his own pace. And this includes playing at high speed if the player wish to. There is indeed some jaw-dropping performance in the 40 lines sprint department, on par with a good Shirase game. But there's a key difference: this speed comes from the player itself, not forced upon by the game and conquered by the player. Most guidelines games will never forces upon such player extreme speed.

    This is the Dark Souls style of game design: here's some useful tools, and here's a challenge. I will not help you. Can you overcome it ?

    I know the using Dark Souls as an example is an overused trope at this point, and that the "git gud" mentality can be dismissive and even toxic, but I think it does relate to the arcade game equilibrium I mentionned earlier.

    There's a soft spot of perfect difficulty and skill level; you probably know this as the flow state. I would argue that while the optimal difficulty is different for everyone, for a significant portion of gamer the difficulty level is quite high. And that is because this population is used to play regularly, with the same regularity as Japanese gamers in the golden age of arcade.

    I think there's a real business opportunity TGM and arcade games. We live in the age were Celeste was able ton win numerous awards. It's a game that's not shy to embrace its difficulty. Dark Souls is a household name. There's never been more pixel-perfect Kaizo Mario level in existence, thanks to Mario Maker. There is a niche for everyone, and some people are not afraid of arcade-difficult games.

    I'd like TGM to be more popular and actually played instead of showcased. This would mean a legal port, because regular arcade is basically dead.

    2 votes
  11. A comprehensive, deep dive into Tetris the Grandmaster (TGM) design, the hidden Japanese Tetris version you will never legally play

    'sup. As promised, here's a text discussing the minutae of Tetris the Grandmaster, its sequels, and the game mechanics of Tetris in general. If you want more, there's some market analysis, drama...

    'sup.

    As promised, here's a text discussing the minutae of Tetris the Grandmaster, its sequels, and the game mechanics of Tetris in general. If you want more, there's some market analysis, drama and politics in the comment.

    Tetris the Grand Master is probably the most beautifully designed game I know. I hope you will share my passion for this when your are finished with this post.

    Since Tetris is a "pure" videogame where pretty graphics and/or enticing plot is irrelevant to the game, this will focus a lot on the game mechanics.

    Also: this is based on a draft script for a video I wanted to make for a while now. Presumably this thing would flow better with some illustrations at the same time. I tried to include some, but of course it's not the same as someone narrative over image.

    Also: weird language ? Missing words ? Misplaced punctuation ? This probably comes from me, writing in English as a second language. Picture this article with a vaguely French accent if it helps (although I'm not actually French).

    I am aware of Tetris Effect. I am happy if people find TE a transformative transcendental synesthetic experience, but for this matter I much prefer Rez and particularly its Area X.

    So: make yourself comfortable, get a hot beverage of your choice, perhaps enable the reader mode in your browser and prepare for a 4k-ish words long read.


    Tetris, the arcade game

    Tetris. The little game from the Soviet Union, the killer app of the Gameboy, and until Minecraft happened the most sold computer game of all time.

    Despite its tremendous success, the general perception is that this title has not evolved since its initial release in 1984. We would effectively be playing the same game plus-or-minus some gimmicks and/or yearly graphical updates.

    This is of course false. The evolution of Tetris game mechanics is a story for another time, but the skinny version is that there's two main branch to the Tetris tree: Nintendo, and Sega. What I want to talk about now is a representative of the Sega branch.

    Did you know ? Sega means "Service Game". The company we know today as a publisher with a blue mascot originally sold arcade games. And even today, Sega has a strong presence in the arcade world.

    Tetris the Grandmaster is an arcade game, made by Arika, a company made by ex-Capcom employee whose more notable works at the time include Street Fighter Ex.
    Arcade game design is a delicate juggling act between two parties:

    • the game operator: wants money, and for single player game that could mean a short and/or difficult game.
    • the player: wants fun. If the game is too difficult and/or unfair and/or incomprehensible, he or she will move to the next game

    With this definition, vanilla Tetris is a pretty good arcade game:

    As you play the game, the game ramps up in speed and consequently its difficulty. But it never feels unfair: you may complain having bad luck and getting a crappy piece distribution (more on that later), you are still responsible for that terrible stack you just made.

    However, there's a finite limit to the speed of the game. Past a certain point, you end up in a kill-screen where it is impossible to play. The piece just falls and lock immediately, with you being powerless, unable to do anything.

    How lock delay extend the base game

    Video: Godlike high gravity NES Tetris game from JdMfX_, Godlike high TGM game from 777

    What is remarkable with Tetris the Grandmaster is not only it has found a way to extend the base game past this seemingly hardcoded limit, but it also focus nearly all of its design toward this idea of speed. Speed is the focus of the game, and if you don't believe this, there's a giant chronometer at the bottom of the screen acting as a constant reminder.

    So, how do you survive to the kill screen?

    You could try to make the piece move faster (which they did) but this is not enough. At some point, the piece will still spawn on the ground and immediately lock.

    Enter the Lock Delay.

    Illustration: lock delay

    Lock delay is the mechanic in which if a piece falls into the ground or the stack, it will not immediately lock but can react to play inputs and "slide" for a few frames before locking into the stack.

    This has deep, deep consequences.

    Obviously, you can make the game faster than anything we've seen before. All the while still have a viable game. At maximum speed, or "20G" as it is known in the jargon, the piece directly spawns on the stack without floating at any point in the air.

    for the pedant: historically, Sega Tetris was the one of the first game to feature lock delay; and the mechanics was already there in some other falling blocks game such as Puyo Puyo.

    At high speed, and especially at 20G speed, the piece movement becomes severely limited. Having the game viable at 20G completely re-contextualize the game, its moment-to-moment tactics and its general strategy. Not only you have to think about a given piece placement, but more than ever you have to take the next piece into account. Some sub-optimal piece placement or "bridges" have to be made in order to make the whole game continue.

    Illustrations: possible piece placement at 2G, at 20G, at 20G with a bridge

    And thus: while the core gameplay stays the same, the game becomes more demanding both physically and mentally. You have to react faster and input your command quickly and confidently; and at the same time you have to constantly think about your stack, the area where work is needed and how you can accommodate unwanted pieces. You can even manually control the pace of the game by cancelling the lock delay (done very naturally by pressing down.)

    Lock delay is probably the most important game element added to Tetris, but it's not the only thing in which TGM also innovates. Several other additional mechanics exists, and they have this common idea of a "speed enabler". Let's review them:

    "Speed enablers" game mechanics

    DAS

    I mentioned earlier that the way you move the pieces was faster. This seems like a straightforward thing to do at first sight but there's some subtleties hidden in it.

    So: when you hold left or right, the piece moves automatically (in the jargon it's called DAS - Delayed Auto-Shift). It's a nice and natural movement akin to letting a key down in your keyboard, but there's actually two parameters to take into account.
    First, how fast the auto movement is triggered, and second, then how fast the repeat itself is. In TGM, both happens at a brisk space (16 frames before auto-movement, and a movement of 1 case per frame). This is essential for 20G play. And, in the context of 20G, the DAS enable a family of movement techniques called autosynchrothat bring additional depth to the game.

    manual synchro also exists, but requires significantly more skill, as it requires a 1-frame combination. Yup, just like in fighting games and their 1-frame links!

    Wallkicks

    There is another mechanic that involve automatic movement, called wallkick. A wallkick happen when you try to rotate a piece near a blocked cell, such as the stack or a wall. Normally, if the rotation mask overlap a blocked cell, the rotation will fail. However with wallkicks, the piece can automatically move so that the rotation can still happen. In modern standard Tetris, the rule of how the piece move is quite complicated (to my eyes) but enable advanced placement such as the infamous T-Spin Triple. In TGM however, it's dead simple: try to move one case toe the right or one case to the left in that order, and if the piece fits, it gets moved.

    Illustration: wallkick

    So yes: at first sight those wallkicks are concessions given to player that make the game easier. However, some advanced movement techniques takes advantage of wallkicks. The goal of course is to move a piece faster, leading to tiny but compounding time saves.^†

    in the jargon, optimal piece movement is called finesse

    IRS

    Continuing on the theme of rotation, let's now talk about the Initial Rotation System or IRS. So in most game, when a piece is locked, the next one immediately enters the playfield.
    This is not the case with TGM: there's a tiny interval in which nothing happens (except perhaps a line clear animation). .

    of course there's a jargon term for this: it's called ARE††
    †† it's not an acronym, it literally means "that thing" in Japanese (あれ)

    This interval have a dual purpose (Mark Brown would be happy): first, it serves as a buffer to charge the DAS. But it is not limited to rotation: you can also charge a rotation.

    And that is what IRS exactly is: press a rotation button during this time and then the piece will spawn already rotated .

    IRS usefulness is not only limited to make the game smoother to play: it solves a problem inherent to Sega Tetris. All game in that lineage have most piece spawning with a pointy end toward the ground. This can be problematic in high gravity, and especially in 20G. If you IRS such pieces, you can then confidently slide them to the side without worry of them being stuck somewhere.

    Illustration: trapped without IRS, saved with IRS

    why not having them spawn flat-side down ? I think this is partly for historical reason (establish a clear lineage with Sega Tetris), but also because this this extra-difficulty is coherent with an arcade game design.

    And yes, of course, IRS is also a time saving measure, helping to shave some milliseconds here and there.

    TGM history-based randomizer

    Let's talk luck. Earlier on, I half-jokingly said that "luck" as a hallmark of a good game of Tetris. Well it is a bit more profound than that.
    Any competitive Smash player can tell you this: consistency is king in a competitive game. That's why random event affecting the core gameplay are frown upon, and that's why tripping in Smash Brawl was so negatively received.
    You can probably see where I'm getting at: there's one giant thing in Tetris that's by definition random: the way the piece sequence is generated. And yes, TGM has a optimized random generator, and in fact most Tetris game have one.

    An analysis of the history of the different random generator is a story for another time, but here's the gist of it:

    In a purely random sequence of pieces, a sufficiently long series of S and Z tetraminos is bound to appear. Such sequences is mathematically proven to lead in a game over. Of course, this doesn't happen in practice. Especially in TGM, there's a finite number of piece given and thus the change of that happening is infinitesimally small.
    However this does gives us insight about the piece distribution: flood (too much of a piece) and drought (not enough of a piece) is not fun. In other word, waiting for that g!%d!3mn long bar piece sucks.

    So how does TGM counteracts this ? It implements a history system that prevent recently given piece to be distributed again. This is a flood prevention measure and make the game much more consistent while still having an element of unpredictability. And being unpredictable is not necessarily a bad thing, particularly in an arcade context where you still want the player to finish the game eventually. Fun trivia: modern standard Tetris nowadays implement an extremely predictable randomizer, which is mathematically proven to be infinitely playable at low gravity††.

    historically TGM is not the first game to implement a history system, there was already a rudimentary one in NES Tetris
    †† this is less of a problem in recent years due to the focus on multiplayer, enabling stuff like openers, but this is a story for another time

    Consistency in randomness is not directly tied to the notion of speed, but being confident in that you will not screwed by the piece distribution definitely helps in the elaboration of reliable strategies.

    The graphics helps too

    Illustration: An actual screenshot of TGM

    So far I've describe how the game is mechanically inclined toward speed, but aesthetically there's also some elements that are helps during high speed games.

    First, look at what the stack and notice how the active piece contrasts with the rest of the stack. There's a clarity of graphics that comes not only by the fact that the locked pieces have a darker hue, but also because of the of this white border that surrounds the stack. The goal is to have an instantly readable playfield.

    Continuing on this trend, each piece type is color coded so you can instantly read what you're getting by using your peripheral vision, leaving the focus clear on the stack. You can then more easily confirm the placement of your current piece, which is further helped by a very noticeable flash.

    The next-piece window is also aligned so that the piece previewed is placed directly above where it will spawn. This unconsciously helps the tactical decision of where to put your piece. Speaking of unconscious effect, the whole series have this auditory gimmick in which each pieces have its own jingle. From what I know, nobody use this consciously, even the one that can tackle the invisible challenge (more on the invisible challenge later).

    Scoring, grading, and speedrunning

    So we've seen the mechanics and the aesthetics of speed within TGM.

    But what would would be an arcade game without a good I piece measuring contest ?

    TGM has three metrics exposed to the player: Score-grades, level and time.

    Time is a straightforward metric, and is the main point of comparison for players having reached the Gm grade. Finishing the game under 13 minutes is ok, under 12 min is pretty good, under 10min is exceptionally good, and approaching 9min is godlike.

    Score, as in most videogame is a measure of how "good" you are at the game, but takes here a subtly different meaning. The exact detail of the scoring system is not super interesting to see, but its implication is. Let me explain:

    here : Score = (roundUp((Level + Lines)/4) + Soft) × Lines × Combo × Bravo ; Combo = Previous Combo value + (2×Lines) -2

    The optimal strategy with this scoring system is to clear as much line as the same time as possible. In order words, Tetris, triples and even doublesmakes a lot of points, whereas Singles proportionally don't score as much points.

    Tetris: four line cleared at the same time; triple: three lines cleared at the same time; double: two lines cleared at the same ; single: one line cleared

    This has an interesting side effect, as it incentivize to have a clean stack. A clean stack is a stack without holes. If there's holes in your stack, and particularly in they are all over the place, you tend clean them by performing singles. Sidenote: in TGM1, grade is directly correlated with score, except for the titular last grade, which is gatekeeped by some time requirements.

    So in TGM, the score still describe how "well" you play, but you may have noticed that there's no notion of time at all. I would argue that scoring here doesn't reflect how "well" you play but rather how "clean" you play. Keep that in mind for later.

    To be perfectly pedant there's the level factor in the equation that would incentivise you to play fast to reach high-yielding level as fast as possible. But please don't ruin my narrative.

    I mentioned just before that the last grade had some time requirements. Now, this is a perfectly reasonable requirement for a game that is focused on speed but, and I guess you are used to me saying that, there's some subtleties to it.

    Let's say the only requirement to get the last grade would be to reach X amount of point in Y amount of time, and reaching the last level. A viable strategy would be then to play as clean as possible so that you reach the point threshold, and then you just have to survive. This would mean that in that last part can play as sloppy as you want, you will still reach the Gm grade. That's, of course, not ideal as it doesn't push the player to play at its maximum (you can cheese the last part).

    What TGM did is neat and two-fold: First, it takes the "level" metric, which was until then a measure of how fast the game is, and turned it into a progression gauge. So you know that at level 100 you are at the beginning of the game, 500 is midgame and 900 is the last push. The gravity is still tied to the level, so at level 0 it's quite slow and at 300 it's significantly faster. But the thing doesn't have to be linear or monotonic, in fact there's a speedbump at level 200 (people told me it's for dramatic effect), and maximum speed is reached at level 500 (to let the new 20G gameplay shine.)

    Now here's the catch: you can progress faster in the game by clearing lines. Indeed, the way you gain level is that you increase the counter by one each time you land a piece, but more interestingly you get a bonus level for each line cleared.

    This ties everything together: if you want to play fast you have to play well, and if you play well the game will get faster.

    This positive feedback loop is in fact a system with dynamic difficulty curve: as good players will be presented with a more appropriate challenge faster, as more novice player will get challenged at their pace.

    So there you have it: even the scoring system is meant to go fast. Isn't that beautiful ?

    The sequels

    There were two sequels to TGM.

    The first one, known as TAP within the community because of the subtitle of the final version of the game ("The Absolute Plus"), builds on the building block of the first. There's now a dedicated 20G mode with a brutal speedcurve to it (it is, after all, named "Death" mode). For the main game (now called "Master" mode), there's a much appreciated addition of an instant drop. This significantly speeds up the pre-20G game. The point system is now decoupled from the grade, and a secondary but hidden point system is used to calculate the player grade. The detail of which is complex, but the take-away effect is that consistency of play is now taken into account.

    Video: a a TAP Gm game recorded during a livestream

    The second sequel is known in the community as Ti (again with the subtitle: Terror instinct). It had implements some gameplay elements mandated by the Tetris Company: three pieces preview, a "hold" function, and floorkicks (i.e. piece can always rotate on the ground even if it collides with it). As a happy accident, this enabled TGM to go the even higher, borderline absurd, speed. I want you to look at the sheer insanity of the Death Mode's replacement: Shirase. And then look toward the end of the run where pieces turns into brackets (a nod to the real original Electronica60 version), nullifying the convenience of both color-coded pieces as well at the white-border. It's glorious.

    Video: Cleared Shirase game by KevinDDR, the best Western TGM player.

    Now, on the Master mode side, there's two major changes: there's a revamp of the progression/level system, where now the speedcurve itself becomes dynamic, and a further focus on consistency. You not only have to be consistent within a game, but also across games. Indeed, there's now an account system that is tied to an examination system. It inspects your performance and randomly challenges you with an special exam game in order to reach the grade it thinks you deserve.
    The last grade is of course locked behind an exam, and is only reachable through that mean.

    Additional challenges

    Sprinkled around the main game are some additional challenges that are a bit adjacent to the main game.

    Illustration: A secret grade pattern build by ohshisaure

    There's a ">" pattern you can built within the game. Doing so will award you a "secret grade" depending on how complete your chevron is. This is a nod to TGM predecessor (Sega Tetris), where bored players in the arcades invented this challenge and became popular. This is totally optional to the game, but really challenge your creativity, a bit like the golden and silver block in The New Tetris.

    Video: KevinDDR and crew performance at AGDQ2015

    And then there's the infamous "invisible" challenge first appearing in TAP. It is in fact a mandatory requirement to get the Gm grade. If, and only if, you played well enough in the main game, you are then presented with the invisible challenge during the credit roll, in which you have to survive during 60 grueling seconds.
    I don't know the whys of this challenge, but I assume this is an extrapolation coming from the following observation: when playing the game, most players are in fact not directly looking at the stack (to convince you, look at this eye-tracked demonstration).
    Looking at the stack only serves as some sort a placement confirmation, and so there's somewhere a mental model of the playfield. The invisible challenge thus forces the player to exclusively rely on this pre-existing mental model.
    Fun trivia: the credit order is randomized so that you can rely on the name to estimate how much time is left.

    Conclusion

    So that's it for this gameplay analysis.

    Hopefully you'll understand now why some people play one or several of those games 15, 20 or 22 years after their releases. All games are still played and there's no "superior version" as each version has slightly different priorities on the theme of "speedy Tetris": Ti has raw speed, TGM is careful and methodical, and TAP is a happy medium between the two.

    As a game designer, what general lessons can we learn from TGM ? I'm just a random dude on the internet, but let me suggest one:

    "Brevity". I keep thinking back to a textual Let's Play I've read about the second addons of Neverwinter Nights 2 (Mask of the Betrayer) . During a story recap just before the game climax, Lt. Danger offers an analysis of the expansion and writes (highlight from me):

    Instead let's focus in on what makes Mask good - and I think the answer ultimately boils down to 'brevity.'
    [...]
    Obsidian knew what they wanted to do with Mask and wrote it accordingly. Too often in games I find some puzzle, some encounter, that could have come from anywhere; the most egregious example is Bioware's reliance on the Towers of Hanoi puzzle (which thankfully has come to an end). There's too much that has barely anything to do with the premise or purpose of the story (if they bothered to have one at all). In Mask, though, I struggle to find wasted space. I've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: there are no irrelevant sidequests. Every quest and every NPC ties back to the core themes in some way.

    If, looking back at your game, you can say "it's a game about X, hence Y", you may be on to something.

    That's why remakes and sequels that "go back to their roots" are generally perceived as positive. It's an change to remove cruft and focus on the core of the game. Take Zelda Breath of the Wild for instance. Zelda 1 was a game about adventure, exploration and mystery. Hence: very few handholding, an open world, and no limits to exploration.

    Of course, super-concise game shouldn't be the ultimate guiding principle of any given game. Case in point: I recently finished Yakuza 0. This is an excellent, excellent game, yet in terms of gameplay and pacing, it is all over the place: one moment you are in a crime drama, and five minutes later you're managing a cabaret club, and 10 minutes later you're in a karaoke booth singing baka mitai Judgement with a biker costume at the end.

    But brevity sure can sure made your game more elegant and enjoyable.

    20 votes
  12. Comment on How can we encourage more posts with comments here? in ~games.game_design

    PetitPrince
    (edited )
    Link
    Somehow this post escaped my attention. Thanks for bumping it, /u/zonixum . I'm a grandmaster at Tetris (in my particular kind, it's the official rank the game give you at the end of the game if...

    Somehow this post escaped my attention. Thanks for bumping it, /u/zonixum .

    Say you're a grandmaster at chess. Give it a review. Have you played Monopoly into the ground? Critique it.

    I'm a grandmaster at Tetris (in my particular kind, it's the official rank the game give you at the end of the game if you play well). I played it into the ground (and still not that good at it).

    I might give it a go. But it will take some time.

    THERE. I said publicly that I will do the damn thing. Now I have to write.

    Ok so I always wanted to make YouTube video on Tetris the Grandmaster with a Noah-Caldwell level of analysis and a GTMK level of production design. I already had the experience of explaining what TGM is through an moderately successful essay I wrote as a teenager, and an appearance on a (now defunct) french TV show. I already have a draft script but to my taste, it's too rambly, lacks connective tissue and probably wants to explain too much . In the latest episode of the Cortex Podcast, CGPGrey describe the concept of atomic note (and zettelkasten) as a tool for script refinement. I'm in the process of putting my thought about this video in Obsidian; this may help. Hell, even the reaction to this post might help.

    5 votes
  13. Comment on What did you do this weekend? in ~talk

    PetitPrince
    Link Parent
    I first learned to use the nub with a x220t mais I pretty much had to use it because the trackpad was really bad. Over the time I noticed that the default sensitivity is too low for me. You'll may...

    I first learned to use the nub with a x220t mais I pretty much had to use it because the trackpad was really bad.

    Over the time I noticed that the default sensitivity is too low for me. You'll may want change it.

    I'm using Firefox with the gesturefy to optmizeweb browsing, but that's not nub-specific.

    1 vote
  14. Comment on What did you do this weekend? in ~talk

    PetitPrince
    Link Parent
    (Thinkpad is an excellent name) Unfortunately this generation has the controversial trackpad with no physical buttons for the nub. I know it's a eccentric way to move a mouse but I cannot go back...

    (Thinkpad is an excellent name)

    x240

    Unfortunately this generation has the controversial trackpad with no physical buttons for the nub. I know it's a eccentric way to move a mouse but I cannot go back to something else on a laptop (well... Ok, maybe a macbook touchpad with a full range of customizer gestures).

    1 vote
  15. Comment on Do you own a VR headset? in ~games

    PetitPrince
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    Oculus Quest owner here. I think having an independant 6DoF headset is a very good move from Oculus. Not everybody has a PC powerful enough to run VR games, and I certainly didn't when I got it....

    Oculus Quest owner here.

    I think having an independant 6DoF headset is a very good move from Oculus. Not everybody has a PC powerful enough to run VR games, and I certainly didn't when I got it. With Oculus Link I can play regular PCVR games, and this certainly factored in when I decided to upgrade my computer. Plus, with Virtual Desktop, you can even play untethered.
    However... It's Facebook. I doubt the Quest would be as good as it is without Facebook infinite money, but the latest news about mandatory Facebook login is disgusting.

    Games: my recommandation are not that much original: Beat Saber for a long burning game, Superhot for an absolutely unique experience, and HL:Alyx because it's basically Half-Life 3 and it's the most polished experience there is apart from the introductory tutorials (that's what you get with infinite money and time).

    Some recommendations I've yet to see in this thread:

    Pistol Whip: a shooting gallery / rhythm game hybrid. Has an aesthetics very similar to Super Hot (abstract polygonal people), and a pumped up dark electro soundtrack.

    The Under Presents: a nice mix of exploration and theater. Much more long burning than some other game in my opinion because of the multiple scenarios , although I haven't relaunched it since they switched to a freemium model.

    Welcome to Light fields: it's a tech demo, and a two years old at this point, but it's still jaw dropping. Basically, this show 6DoF photo. You can actually move around a real space albeit on a smallish (1m?) sphere. Some recent paper showed how to do 6DoF video, but I've yet to see a demo in a headset

    Moss: not all vr games have to be immersive first person experience. Moss is a rather simple 3D platformer, but with an adorable artistic direction. Each level / screen are like miniature dioramas that are just gorgeous to look at. Also, extra credit on the accessibility department because the main character will sign (ASL) you tell the game you are deaf.

    6 votes
  16. Comment on Tell me about your experience with martial arts in ~health

    PetitPrince
    Link
    My experience is mostly traditional Japanese martial arts. I like them a lot. I will use masculine as the default gender because my mother tongue is French. Some terms you may or not be familiar...

    My experience is mostly traditional Japanese martial arts. I like them a lot. I will use masculine as the default gender because my mother tongue is French.

    Some terms you may or not be familiar that I use because I don't want to stretch the English language.:

    Kata: solo choreography. Used as a technique compendium, technique demonstrator, inspirator, and examination subject.
    Uke: the role of the poor bloke who "receive" the technique. Often attack first.

    Since you present yourself as a total beginner, I may over-explain stuff.

    What do you practice?
    How long have you done it?

    Aikido, 1 year when I was a child.
    Karate (Shotokan), 4-5 year in my teenage years
    Iaido+Jodo (weird style I will expand on on demand), 13 years and counting; with some aikido workshop here and there (Nishio style), and a minimal amount of Judo

    Additional notes:

    Aikido: a self-defense martial arts / philosophy. Lots of joint lock, but also some weapons (sword, short stick) later on. I find that high-level practitioner have a graceful flow that's really neat to see. "Efficacy" is disputed due to the over-compliance of the uke; in my experience and readings it's a misunderstanding of how it was done back in the day in Japan. Uke is indeed supposed to be compliant, but that's because he's usually a senior student (or at least a sufficiently proficient student) who tries to guide the junior through the technique and then gradually increase the resistance. However sometime it's hard to find proficient student, leading to beginners practicing together and bad habits forming. As for the mythical question "but is this works in the street", I would opt by saying it would be much more cost effective to have pepper spray anyway, or even a Singaporean or Luxenbourger passport, and opt out even farther by saying that at some level, pure efficacy is not the thing you seek.
    I would not recommend this as a first martial arts, but as a second one this can bring some cool perspectives.

    Karate: Punch ! Kick ! Kata ! Sparring ! I really "got" what martial arts were about with this striking art (as in: something more than a glorified childcare) . It was a good way for my geeky teenage body to have at least some exercise (you need to develop strength, endurance, flexibility and precision at the same time). Nowadays I find high-level practitioner a bit too "square" (I was going to use the word "stiff" but that's not like it), but I'm glad I did this as a first starting point.

    Iaido: it's the samurai real deal ! Play with katanas ! Mostly wooden, sometime metal, sometime even sharp metal ! "I studied the blade" meme notwithstanding, it's a good window into how Japanese people can push a craft to its extreme. In my school, it's only kata, no sparring (paired kata at best). Some schools/style actually get to test cut with a bona fide katana and/or practice kata with them. In all case, there's a lots of repetition, but boy do you know the minutiae of every millimeter and detail of a given technique at the end. You learn that even for simple movements, you can have total control over yourself and perform very deliberate of just about every part of your body because everything is important.

    Iaido can be confused with Kendo, whose meat'n'potatoes is fencing in armored gear with a bamboo sword. And shouts. Lots of shouts. Too much shouts for me.

    How does it benefit you?

    Physical: I live a mostly sedentary life, so moving at least a little bit is good. Iaido is far from being cardio heavy and I would have a far better work around by practicing karate, but I think it still somewhat count this as physical exercise.
    Mental 1: I sparred and/or was being thrown around (aikido, judo) the dojo enough time to develop a good resilience and cool headedness under stress (yes, this project due to tomorrow is stressful, but having that brick of a guy wanting to punch you in the face was probably more stressful)
    Mental 2: It's also comforting to know that this or that obnoxious guy you know would probably not fare well in a sparring session.
    Mental 3: When you enter the dojo and don the uniform, you effectively shut yourself out of the world for one hour or two. No social media, no politics, only the technique and/or your partner. I find having this kind of safe space super soothing for my general well-being.
    Social: having practiced more than 10 years at the same place, I developed some solid friendship. I think everyone needs some feeling of belonging, and I prefer to be attached to my dojo rather than some other social group.
    Spiritual: My teacher is deep into philosophy (also comparative philosophy) and often briefly discuss before class about some cultural of philosophical point of interest (whether Western, Eastern, or some of his own).

    Do you attend classes or practice solo?

    Class. As explained above, I value the sense of belonging in my dojo. But more than that, I think mentoring and being mentored is the best way to progress in martial arts

    Would you recommend your martial art to a beginner?

    (iaido:) I don't know. Try it and maybe you will stick. There's (surprisingly) a lot of people in my dojo who began iaido as total beginner and stuck for at least several years.


    The term "Martial arts" span a wide range of practice, from esotheric-and-spiritual Kyudo to the very elbow-in-your-face Muay Thai and everything in between.

    My main advice would be to look for people first, martial arts second.

    You may practice the BestArtOftheWorld(tm), if the dojo is lead by a dudebro obsessed by his clique and the amount of medal the dojo got in the last competition (I fortunately don't think this kind of place exists outside of fiction) you are going to have a terrible time.
    How is the atmosphere when a class is given ? Laid-back, fearful, overly attached on protocol and etiquete ? I would look a place where there's a serious and focused training, but not tense. Good natured jokes may come here and there and are appreciated. How's the male/female ratio ? How is the teacher ? Is he a "do as I say no as I do" type ? How does he teach ? Is it more like a "I show a technique, please parrot" or is it more in-depth ? Does he ever put down a student ?

    2 votes
  17. Comment on Black Myth: Wukong - Official thirteen minutes gameplay trailer in ~games

    PetitPrince
    Link
    There's no contest to say that Journey to the West inspired some characters in the original Dragon Ball (not Z). It's as if you were to put in your story a little girl with a red hood visiting her...

    an old, Chinese tale, "Journey To The West", which supposedly also inspired Dragon Ball

    There's no contest to say that Journey to the West inspired some characters in the original Dragon Ball (not Z). It's as if you were to put in your story a little girl with a red hood visiting her grandma.

    2 votes
  18. Comment on Starting in October 2020, all new Oculus VR devices will require logging into a Facebook account, and support for existing Oculus accounts will end on January 1, 2023 in ~tech