You’d think after thirty years that there’d be nothing new to do with Tetris. Which is why you’re not a game developer. In honor of the game’s thirtieth anniversary, Ubisoft have released Tetris Ultimate on the 3DS, with versions coming next year for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation Vita, and PC. Though in talking to the game’s producer, Adrian Price, while Tetris may have hit the big 3-0, it’s still young, it’s still young.
Obviously, people know what Tetris is, but what is Tetris Ultimate and how is it different from the classic game we all know and love?
There are a lot of versions that have come and gone over the years, but the core of what Tetris is has remained. For Tetris Ultimate, we’ve added in some new features, specifically a ranking system. Think of it like karate: if you’re a certain level, you get graded. With our game, there will be some people who can now claim they are a black belt in Tetris. There’s no specific test, per se, but if you hit certain levels, you get awarded a different color belt by your name. We’ve got Battle Ultimate and then there are the Tetribots. They’re A.I. characters that you’re able to play against. The Master Tetribot is insane.
Are any of the changes you’ve made to Tetris Ultimate ones that impact the fundamental gameplay of Tetris, or is more that they change the way you play Tetris?
Fundamentally, no. The style-guide we have for Tetris is massive, but we were allowed to do certain things if we felt it made sense. We don’t make games thinking we’re going to piss people off. We look at it like, is this a good user experience? Are they able to get into the game quickly, easily, and have a fun time with it?
In terms of just doing something extremely radical, we thought about it, but decided that in the end, this is Tetris, and people will want to play what they know. It’s got a very mainstream, broad appeal, and we want to cater to the fans that love this. We’ve got challenges, achievements, and the like, so the hardcore fans can really get into it and have the chance to be rewarded with a black belt.
Were the new things you did add inspired by things you saw in other games?
It wasn’t about what was in other games; it was more along the lines of what had come before. Tetris has a heritage and we wanted to make sure we were true to that. We’ve aimed to get a more social aspect into Tetris Ultimate. So now it’s not so much of a solitary experience, which by the way is absolutely fine if you just want to zone out. You can play with friends locally or online, or against the Tetribots. We’re hoping this allows people to play Tetris Ultimate just how they want to.
At the moment, only the 3DS version of Tetris Ultimate is out. But the game is also coming to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation Vita, and PCs. What, if any, are the differences between the five versions?
They are all the same, with the exception of the 3DS version, which has single-player “Challenge” modes.
Speaking of which, of the four exclusive challenge modes in the 3DS version of Tetris Ultimate has — “Master,” “Rotation Lock,” “Escalation,” and “Invisible” — which is your personal favorite?
I don’t claim to be amazing at this, but I have gotten better, and that’s “Master.” I’ll just say that you have to be really focused to get a good score.
What about the six modes that are going to be in every version: “Marathon,” “Endless,” “Ultra,” “Sprint,” “Battle,” and “Battle Ultimate”?
I’ve played so much Tetris this last year, but the one I would go back to for “just one more go” would be “Battle Ultimate.” We’ve introduced power-ups that help you, and mainly interfere with your opponent’s game. An example is we’ve had a few expert players help out with the testing. They’re used to creating order from the randomness. If they make mistakes, they can clear it quickly. But when you drop the Haunted Well power-up on them, where the Tetriminos blink on and off, then someone activates the Carousel power-up, which shifts the Matrix to the left as Tetriminos fall, it interrupts them, adding a layer of chaos. It’s a good leveler. And it also causes players to get quite animated. I would say that everyone here that has played “Battle Ultimate” at one point or another had, shall we say, quite a colorful outburst.
And, I have to ask, of the two favorites modes you just talked about — “Master” and “Battle Ultimate” — which is your ultimate favorite? We need a winner.
“Battle Ultimate” for sure.
So it is written. Now, one of the unfortunate things about games on the 3DS is that they have to work in 2D as well as 3D, so most games don’t bother utilizing the third-dimension in their gameplay. Is this the case with the 3DS version of Tetris Ultimate?
Correct. We do not utilize that feature on the 3DS. Tetris works very well as it is, and we didn’t feel a need to implement it in 3D.
Finally, if someone digs Tetris Ultimate for the 3DS, what game would you recommend they play next and why?
Next? I’d be surprised if they can put this down after they’ve really gotten into it. I’d tell them to keep playing Tetris Ultimate and have just one more go.