A Chat with the Creators Behind VR Puzzler Tetris Effect

Oculus Blog
July 9, 2020

Tetris® Effect, the latest incarnation of the popular block puzzler, debuted on Oculus Quest last May. Since then, longtime fans and newcomers alike have fallen under its psychedelic charms, with Polygon noting “This is a portable version of a game that became an instant classic, on what may be the best VR hardware for most players. It couldn’t have come at a better time.” The Verge also gave Tetris Effect good marks, saying, “...as with every other game for the Quest, it’s wonderful to play without wires and to be able to jump in right away with minimal fuss.”

Each weekend, the Tetris® Effect community is invited to participate in the popular “Weekly Ritual” event. Players from all over the world play specially curated stages and contribute toward a global goal. If the combined cerebral might of players accrues enough points in the allotted time — the event lasts 24 hours — all participants win a special avatar.

To learn more about Tetris® Effect, we spoke with Monstars Project Manager Yasuyuki Togo, Technical Director Atsushi Kusunose, and Synesthesia Artist Yoshitaka Asaji; as well as Resonair Sound Director Noboru Mutoh.

How would you describe Tetris® Effect to someone new to puzzlers in VR?

It’s classic, familiar Tetris®, heightened by design to immerse the player in a synesthetic combination of sound, visuals, and interaction. It is designed to help induce a flow state for the player, where they can lose themselves in the experience.

How does VR change the way players experience such a classic puzzle game?

Playing Tetris® Effect is like going to a live fireworks show; you hear the sounds and watch the effects live. In 2D, you were playing Tetris on the other side of the screen, but in VR, you’re experiencing everything from the inside. With the 2D screen removed, you feel like you’re there, with the game unfolding right in front of you. We designed Tetris Effect so that the music, backgrounds, sounds, effects, and vibrations all sync with the gameplay. We believe this synesthesia experience is enhanced in VR.

Can you talk about some of the different game modes? Which is your favorite?

We all like Journey Mode, but our favorite Effect Modes are Purify and Master. Purify is a mode in which you “purify” the dark blocks with Line Clears near the infected block. The focus here is to keep the Combo going, which makes this mode unique. You concentrate on clearing lines consecutively, rather than aiming to clear multiple lines at once — so the more you get into it, the more you’ll find yourself enjoying the fun of clearing lines over and over.

Master Mode has the highest difficulty level in Tetris® Effect. In the final stages of development, this mode was so popular among the team that we fought every day to see who would clear the most lines. The challenge is simple: How fast can you play? We think the sense of accomplishment from crossing a barrier you couldn’t pass before is the best of all the modes.

What was the biggest challenge in bringing Tetris® Effect to life in VR?

The main challenge was to design a visual and audio presentation that wouldn’t distract from the gameplay, but instead enhance the experience while maintaining excellent performance.

How’d the team go about creating the music and sound effects in Tetris® Effect?

We aimed to make the music and sound effects cohesive. We used vocal talent for tracks and sound effects to help create an emotional connection between players and the experience. Sound effects are all carefully designed, so even when played alone, they touch the heart.

How do spatial audio, haptic feedback, and other VR features enhance the experience?

The haptics were designed to match the beat of the music and enhance the experience by complimenting the flow of the music and levels. We did lots of tests internally and included alternate vibration patterns in the vibration options — so please try it out!

Can you talk about a favorite level or scenario that stands out in your mind?

THE DEEP: This is the first stage we worked on during development, and we worked on it until the very end of the project. The whale starts as a small fish in the deep sea, but it eventually changes shape and flies out into space. The stage was the beginning of Journey Mode, and the beginning of our development staff’s journey as well.

KARMA WHEEL: The simple background and percussion sounds can be very addictive! We love the sound of rotating Tetriminos — it makes us want to keep hitting the rotation button over and over, even in unnecessary situations. Because the background design is simple, the sound effects stand out even more.

STRATOSPHERE: Depending on the time of day that you play this stage, the sound will vary. There are three unique sound variations, so please try playing at different times!

What’s the “Weekend Ritual” event all about? Any highlights you’d like to share?

This happens every Saturday, for 24 hours. A global point goal is set, then users play that week’s featured mode and contribute to this overall point goal. If 100% of the Community Goal is reached in 24 hours, a rare avatar unlocks for anyone who participated in the event.

How has the gaming community responded to the game so far?

We’ve had a great response so far! Most people who play the game prefer the VR experience to playing on a standard screen. We are also honored to have won awards and accolades that include Game of the Year 2018 from Giant Bomb and Eurogamer, a SXSW Gaming Award for Excellence in Musical Score, and a BAFTA nomination for Audio Achievement.

Jump in and chill out with Tetris® Effect on Oculus Quest today!