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Game designer Martin Hollis perfectly deconstructs Tetris

This Valentine’s Day, get yourself someone who talks about you the way legendary game designer Martin Hollis talks about Tetris.

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Tetris

This Valentine’s Day, get yourself someone who talks about you the way legendary game designer Martin Hollis talks about Tetris.

There’s plenty to be said for social media. It’s powerful. It’s immediate. Its range is unparalleled. But also, threading on Twitter – even with the increase to 280 characters – still has a habit of taking something great, and somehow making it a little less so.

Between the threading itself, or joining part way through, or replies interrupting the flow, or getting out of order – you can insert a generic “sum of its parts” analogy here.

Meanwhile Martin Hollis, legendary industry figure behind classics Killer Instinct, GoldenEye 64 and Perfect Dark (among others), recently delivered what is possibly the most wonderful and poetic Tetris monologue on Twitter. It’s like a beautiful, polished gem of a review – a thesis in 400 words, the sort of review editors usually only dream of receiving – but threading on Twitter makes it harder work to read than it deserves.

So, with Martin’s permission, we’ve extracted his Tetris soliloquy from the swirling vortex of threaded Twitter entropy, and would like to present it to you, in all its glory:

Tetris is good, not because of the core loop, which is boring. Get brick, place brick. If you think that is Tetris, you haved missed what Tetris is. Tetris is good because of the emergent things that arise from simple rules, and their dazzling aspect.

In the beginning, when you are naive, the meaning of the space where you are thinking of placing your brick seems clear. You want a good fit. You think locally.

As you build your skill you learn that nearby features are important. The higher your skill the more aware you become of more distant features. In the end, you need to take account of the entire board.

In the beginning, you gather heuristics like ‘try to keep the surface flat and without overhangs, and without holes’. These rules of thumbs are emergent.

As you learn more, you realize that every one of your heuristics is wrong, and in the right circumstances a hole can be built and destroyed in two moves, or in more, or in less, to your considerable advantage.

Ultimately, everything becomes dynamic, and the rules of best play turn out to be baroque. The complexity seems to me to be large compared to any other video game.

Lastly I should talk about narrative. Tetris is a pure game in that it has no elements thought of as narrative or as producing narrative. No characters, no sense of place.

Tetris produces narrative, or narrative emerges from the shape and flow of the surface, your hopes and needs, and the wax and wane of your doom.

You come to believe you are in control of your fate and that as the board stacks up, that is a monument to your mistakes.

A reversal feels like a release from a crushing end, or an angel’s redemption. You snatch a victory from death. You put a twist in your story.

These things are not in the rules of Tetris and they are not found in the mechanics. They were not put into the game. They materialize.

An aspiring designer learning their trade can try to emulate any game by any master. There is some sense in any choice. But if they hope to better Tetris I will bet against them.

I don’t say that Tetris is better than all other games put together. I do say that Tetris is a sparkling jewel in the firmament, brightest to the human eye. A Venus of video games.

Yes, I have fallen in love with Tetris.

Now go ahead and say “thank you” to Martin. Nobody ever needs to write another word on Tetris again, because that passage there? It’s sheer perfection.

In summary: video games are art, game designers are poets, and Tetris might be the best video game ever made.


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Tom is an itinerant freelance technology writer who found a home as an Editor with Thumbsticks. Powered by coffee, RPGs, and local co-op.

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Four classic Double Fine adventures ported to macOS Catalina, free for a limited time

Pick up four brilliant Double Fine adventures for free this weekend, playable on macOS Catalina for the very first time.

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Grim Fandango Remastered
Double Fine

Pick up four brilliant Double Fine adventures for free this weekend, playable on macOS Catalina for the very first time.

Double Fine, Tim Schafer’s legendary adventure game studio recently acquired by Xbox, has been remastering its back catalogue over the years. Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle and Grim Fandango have all received the spit-and-polish treatment, bringing these classic adventures to a new audience, a whole new generation of players.

But if you recently upgraded your Apple Mac to macOS Catalina, you might have found they no longer worked. To be fair, you’ll have found lots of things stopped working. Indie development Twitter is filled with horror stories of games that suddenly broke on Catalina, while the economics to put it right often doesn’t stack up.

Thankfully, Double Fine has managed to find the time to fix the issue, and those classic remasters – Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle and Grim Fandango – plus the more-recent Broken Age have all been fixed up and ported to macOS Catalina.

To celebrate, Double Fine is making these games free for Mac users for a limited time. You can pick up Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle and Grim Fandango and Broken Age from the Apple Mac app store for absolutely nothing until the end of the day on Sunday, July 12.

(They’ll be back up to full price on Monday, but they’ll still be brilliant.)


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New PlayStation 4 releases (July 13-17, 2020)

Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima headlines next week’s lineup of new PlayStation 4 video game releases.

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New PlayStation 4 game releases
Sony / Thumbsticks

Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima headlines next week’s lineup of new PlayStation 4 video game releases.

Another month, another eagerly-anticipated PlayStation 4 exclusive. This time it’s open-world action-adventure Ghost of Tsushima from Sucker Punch Productions.

We recall playing Infamous Second Son shortly after the launch of the PlayStation 4, so it feels appropriate to bookend the generation with a demonstration of how far the studio has come. We have a suspicion that Ghost of Tsushima is going to do very well. It’s also another late-generation example of how much power the PS4 still has to give.

We’re not so sure about Rocket Arena, which, following a long period of development, was unveiled at month’s EA Play Live. It’s an artistically bland 3v3 third-person shooter that looks both fun and forgettable.

We’re more excited to get our hands on Superhot: Mind Control Delete. The game began life as DLC for Superhot Team’s acclaimed time-bending action game, before becoming a full-blown follow-up. If you purchased the first game – i.e. you paid cash and didn’t get it through PS Plus – you can download Superhot: Mind Control Delete for free. It’s a fantastic gesture from a talented studio.

Other new PS4 releases include Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus and Neversong.

We are still waiting on release date confirmation for a couple of new PS4 titles. We’ll update this page as soon as we get it.

New PlayStation 4 releases: July 13-17, 2020

Monday, July 13, 2020

  • No releases

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

  • Neon Abyss
  • Rocket Arena

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

  • Ultra Hat Dimension

Thursday, July 16, 2020

  • #Funtime
  • Neversong
  • Radical Rabbit Stew
  • Superhot: Mind Control Delete

Friday, July 17, 2020

  • Ghost of Tsushima
  • Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus

Bookmark the Thumbsticks new releases page for the latest video games. You can also follow us on social media via Flipboard, Facebook, Google News, and Twitter.

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A remake of a GBA classic is out today on Nintendo Switch

The much-loved Harvest Moon game gets a new lease of life as Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town on Nintendo Switch.

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Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town - Nintendo Switch
Marvelous

A much-loved Harvest Moon game gets a new lease of life on Nintendo Switch.

Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is a ground-up remake of Marvelous Interactive’s classic Game Boy Advance life simulation, Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town. (The reason for the name change is that Harvest Moon is now used exclusively by Natsume following a split between the two companies in 2014.)

The game is out today for Nintendo Switch in Europe and Australia, and will be released in North America next week, on July 14, along with a PC edition on Steam.

The new version of the game retains the gameplay of the 2003 original but adds bold cartoon-like HD visuals. The new look reminds us of recent Pokémon games, which is no bad thing. It’s also accompanied by new animal-themed cosmetic DLC that lets players dress up like a cow, chicken, dog, chick or sheep. Dreams can come true, it seems.

On the surface, Friends of Mineral Town might look similar to Animal Crossing: New Horizons but it’s a distinctly more structured experience. In our humble opinion, the game’s core loop of farming, animal husbandry, and relationship building has never been bettered by the franchise, and we’re looking forward to playing a life sim that keeps things simple.

The game has its own easy-going rhythm and is well worth a look if you have exhausted Nintendo’s effort or had your fill of Stardew Valley.


Check out the Thumbsticks new releases page for weekly Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 updates. You can also follow us on Facebook, Google News, Twitter, and Flipboard.

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The new PS5 box art design compared to PS4, PS3, PS2, and PS1

Sony reveals the box art design for PlayStation 5 games with the cover of Spider-Man Miles Morales. Here’s how it compares to PlayStation box art design from the past.

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Spider-Man PlayStation 5 Box Art
Insomniac Games

Sony has revealed the box art design for PlayStation 5 games with the cover of Spider-Man Miles Morales. Here’s how it compares to PlayStation box art layouts from the past.

There’s not a huge amount to say about the PlayStation 5 box art design. PS5 games will come in a standard-sized Blu-ray case, and the cover art will feature the PS5 logo in black on a white stripe. The design is pretty consistent with the box art layouts Sony has used in the past, with a couple of notable exceptions.

Here’s a look back at previous PlayStation box art designs, using old Spider-Man games as examples.

PlayStation 4 – Marvel’s Spider-Man

Spider-Man PlayStation 4 Box Art

The PlayStation 4 design includes a similar stripe across the top of the box, but in blue. Late PS3 games also adopted this design in 2015. We love the cover art for Marvel’s Spider-Man. It’s bright, bold, dynamic, and refreshingly simple. Top marks.

PlayStation 3 (Second version) – The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Spider-Man PlayStation 3 cover art

Sony revised the PlayStation 3 cover art layout with the introduction of the PS3 Slim console in 2009. It’s a sleek and stylish improvement over…

PlayStation 3 (First version) – Spider-Man 3

Spider-Man PlayStation 3 Box Art

The original PlayStation 3 branding caused much mirth by using the same typeface as Sony’s Spider-Man movie franchise. The font is not particularly readable and when used on a Spider-Man game, it’s all kinds of messy.

PlayStation 2 – Spider-Man

Spider-Man PlayStation 2 cover art

The PlayStation 2 branding retains the original PlayStation font and colour version of the logo. The design is now so iconic that it’s almost impossible to critique. Simple and timeless.

PlayStation 1 – Spider-Man

Spider-Man PlayStation 1 Box Art

We’re in CD-ROM country. Again, it’s basic, but all the better for it. The layout does a much better job of selling a game than Nintendo managed with its fussy and inconsistent N64 boxes.

PSP and PS Vita

Spider-Man PSP PS Vita Box Art

The box art branding for PSP and PlayStation Vita games is also reflective of their respective eras.

We apologise for bringing up memories of bad Activision Spider-Man games in this article.


Swing by the Thumbsticks news page for the latest in gaming. You can also follow us on FlipboardFacebookGoogle News, and Twitter.

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Sony invests $250m in Fortnite developer Epic Games

Sony Corporation has invested a cool $250 million into Fortnite and Unreal Engine developer Epic Games.

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Epic Games Logo
Epic Games

Sony Corporation has invested a cool $250 million into Fortnite and Unreal Engine developer Epic Games.

PlayStation owner Sony has ploughed $250 million into Epic Games via a wholly-owned subsidiary, acquiring a minority interest in the Fortnite creator. In a joint press statement, the two companies say that the investment will broaden collaboration across Sony’s entertainment portfolio and Epic’s social entertainment platforms.

Sony chairman, president, and CEO, Kenichiro Yoshida says:

“Epic’s powerful technology in areas such as graphics places them at the forefront of game engine development with Unreal Engine and other innovations. There’s no better example of this than the revolutionary entertainment experience, Fortnite. Through our investment, we will explore opportunities for further collaboration with Epic to delight and bring value to consumers and the industry at large, not only in games, but also across the rapidly evolving digital entertainment landscape.”

Tim Sweeney, founder and CEO of Epic, adds:

“Sony and Epic have both built businesses at the intersection of creativity and technology, and we share a vision of real-time 3D social experiences leading to a convergence of gaming, film, and music. Together we strive to build an even more open and accessible digital ecosystem for all consumers and content creators alike.”

Epic and the PlayStation-side of Sony have long been on good terms with both the PS4 and upcoming PS5 used to demonstrate the capabilities of Unreal Engine.


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Enjoyed this article?

Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.


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