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> the earlier years of Tetris
Okey_Dokey
post May 1 2018, 12:52 AM
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Major reason for this post are some gaming magazine reviews of Tetris I had looked up some years ago. They cover the first wave of Tetris releases on home computers. They are rather unspecular but maybe somebody cares. Some days ago I watched a video which made me read the NES & Game Boy reviews in the Nintendo Power magazine and I remembered those older reviews.

For a brief overview of the history of Tetris, you can check out the corresponding Tetris Wiki article. There are also 2 documentaries covering the history, namely Tetris - from Russia with Love and [/b]The Story of Tetris, the former one is more professional (BBC) and has quite some interviews, the latter one explains the timeline better.





The documentaries are well made. However, I have some criticism, namely that they romanticize the history of Tetris. An example for what I mean: The documentaries (or stuff like news articles or interviews) always point out that Alexey Pajitnov (inventor of Tetris) didn't gain any money from Tetris in the earlier years and that it didn't really matter for him - he just wanted the world to see Tetris. Well, there were other people involved who really never never gained any money from it. And Alexey profited from it indirectly. He was able to make it to America and you could see him often in advertisements of Spectrum Holobyte. And of course Alexey looked for possibilities to gain money when he saw it was possible - who would toss away such opportunity. Some extracts from what Vadim Gerasimov wrote (the other guy who programmed Tetris):

QUOTE
Very soon Dmitry introduced me to his friend Alexey Pajitnov who was also interested in making computer games. Dmitry told me that Alexey had even managed to sell some of his psychology-related games. Alexey showed us a couple of games he developed earlier. We decided to work as a team. My roles were a PC expert, programmer, and graphics designer.

Our plan was to make about a dozen addictive computer games for the PC and put them together in one system we called a computer funfair. Pajitnov and Pavlovsky also thought about selling the games. The selling part seemed unusual and difficult because we lived in the Soviet Union. Making and selling something privately was highly irregular.

[...]

Pajitnov's efforts to sell the games together failed. We decided to give our friends free copies of the games including Tetris. The games quickly spread around. When the freely distributed PC version of Tetris got outside of the Soviet Union and a foreign company expressed an interest in licensing Tetris, Pajitnov decided to abandon all the games but Tetris. The decision made Pavlovsky very unhappy and destroyed our team.

[...]

When I worked on Tetris, even a government organization could not formally hire me because I was underage. I worked on Tetris just for fun. I don't remember Pajitnov ever paying me for anything related to Tetris either. Pajitnov started fixing the business aspects of the situation a few years later when he and Henk Rogers participated in negotiations with Elorg (the only government organization in the USSR that could sell software abroad). Pajitnov stopped by my home and asked me to urgently sign a paper "to get lots of money for us from game companies". He didn't leave me a copy of the paper. As far as I remember the paper was saying that I agree to only claim porting Tetris to the PC, agree to give Pajitnov the right to handle all business arrangements, and refuse any rewards related to Tetris. I did not entirely agree with the content, but I trusted Alexey and signed the paper anyway. In a few months my name disappeared from all newly released versions of Tetris and all Tetris-related documents. Alexey registered a US copyright (R/N PA-412-170) referencing the free PC version of Tetris (original version 3.12) we developed together.

Or another example: The documentaries always romanticize the story between Henk Rogers and Alexey Pajitnov. They say things like those two were the only gamers in a room full of businessmen. If those two really play that much, how come they never became good in Tetris. And in my opinion Henk Rogers is businessman through and through. But in contrast to the other guys (who were just looking for a further game to publish), Rogers thought longterm. He build relations from which he could profit later on. He needed Alexey Pajitnov to contest the legal claims of a Russian organization (Elorg). This way, Henk Rogers was able to form the Tetris company (~1996) whereas Elorg originally owned 50% of it. Somehow those 50% shares ended up in the hand of Elorg's chairman Belikov (I guess this is how Russian corruption works) who sold them to Henk Rogers for 15 millions (~2002, a short time later, the mobile rights to Tetris (for a period of 15 years) were sold for around 100 million so those 50% were worth much more than 15 millions but I guess it was enough for Belikov to have a nice retirement). So basically, Henk Rogers managed to get the ownership over Tetris.

And yet another example: The documentaries always point out how big a success Tetris was. But I doubt this was initially true. As an indicator some passages from a diary of Jordan Mechner (who later made the first Prince of Persia).

QUOTE
October 23, 1986
Everyone in the office has been playing a lot of Tetris -- a Russian submission for the IBM PC. It's a classic, like Breakout. But I don't think Broderbund is going to publish it. The knaves.
[...]
October 31, 1986
[...] I beat out Ed and Steve for the #1 spot on the Tetris high-score list.

So, those lines prove that it took longer to find a company willing to publish Tetris than Tetris gaining the interest of a Western entrepreneur (Robert Stein). And it proves that Mirrorsoft wasn't the first company Robert Stein approached. It seems, the versions from Mirrorsoft weren't that successful. However, Spectrum Holobyte's marketing did the right thing when they played the Russia card (Russian themed background images, Russian boxing). This way, Tetris gained some traction. But it wasn't before Tetris reached Japan that Tetris became a huge success (e.g. Henk Rogers first Tetris game sold millions on the Famicon although it's pretty bad).

Anyway, let's head towards the reviews in gaming magazines. I had only looked for the ones for home computers because this is where Tetris was published first. Mirrorsoft made versions for computers that were popular in Britain (e.g. Commodore 64, Amiga, Amstrad, Sinclair Spectrum, BBC Electron) and it's subsidiary company Spectrum Holobyte made versions for computers that were popular in the USA (e.g. PC, Apple, Macintosh, Atari ST). It is said that those companies launched Tetris in January 1988 whereas not all platforms were ready yet. Also, some versions could have been published earlier but the legal situation with the Russians were not resolved (Robert Stein not paying the Russians).

The earliest review I could find is for the Commodore 64 in a December 1987 issue, which means that somebody tested that version already in November 1987. Not sure if this was a test copy or if Mirrorsoft already sold the C64 version in Britain against the arrangements (note that I am 100% convinced that Spectrum Holobyte released Tetris in the USA in 1988). The review itself is pretty crushing ("the fun is very short lived", 5 out of 10 points) - well the C64 version is bad except for the music (note that some other versions like Spectrum ZX were based on the C64 version).

Commodore User #051 , December 1987
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Some further reviews for the Mirrorsoft versions. Some articles are short and some went over a full page. If there are multiple issues per magazine, then it usually includes a preview.


Computer + Video Games #076, February 1988
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Sinclair User #071 , February 1988
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Sinclair User #072 , March 1988
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Amstrad Action #029 February 1988
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Amstrad Action #030 March 1988
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The Games Machine #004, March 1988
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Advanced Computer Entertainment #007, March 1988
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Acorn User #070, May 1988
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And some reviews for the Spectrum Holobyte versions. As said before those were the more Russian themed ones. Somehow, these reviews are not as old.


Computer Gaming World #046, April 1988
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Computer Gaming World #047, May1988
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Compute! #096, May 1988
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Compute! #096, July 1988
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Sometimes, Spectrum Holobyte also booked advertisements (here Compute #097, June 1988).

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And here's an advertisement with Alexey Pajitnov (CGW #124, Nov. 1994). If I recall correctly, there were more Spectrum Holobyte games with Alexey Pajitnov ads.

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And here's a Tetris related story, even with cover

STart issue #034, June 1988

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And for the lolz, a Polyomino programming challenge (note that the name Tetris doesn't drop once).
-------------

This covers the home computer versions. I remembered those reviews when I watched a video which was about Steve Wozniak (Apple cofounder besides Steve Jobs) holding a Game Boy Tetris record in the Nintendo Power magazines.




I haven't looked for the corresponding highscore lists but I found the reviews for Game Boy and NES Tetris in said magazine (if you want to call it a magazine; it's more a huge Nintendo ad with tips & tricks directed at children).

Nintendo Power issue #008 , September/October 1989

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Nintendo Power issue #008 , November/December 1989

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Well, that's it. One interesting note to round off. Spectrum Holobyte (e.g. PC version) is a sub-diary of Mirrorsoft (e.g. C64 version) and Nintendo America (NES version) is a subdiary of Nintendo Japan (Game Boy version). Nonetheless, the rotation systems behave differently in the subdiary versions. For example, you cannot arrange a 3 wide piece (T,L,J,S,Z) completely in the middle of a 10 wide matrix; it must spawn either a little to the left or right. While Spectrum Holobyte and Nintendo Japan chose the left side, Mirrorsoft and Nintendo America chose the right side (which was also the side chosen in the Russian original).
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Okey_Dokey
post May 1 2018, 09:21 PM
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I forgot to link a source for the Jordan Mechner diary.

And I remembered that some months ago meatfighter (the guy who also made that Tetris Art AI) made a post about Tetris terminology, also featuring some reviews in video games magazines. He found a review from January 1988, which is again about the C64 version getting released in Britain (this time Zzap!64 magazine).

Tetris Terminology
(What do you call the falling pieces in Tetris?)
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caffeine
post May 5 2018, 07:38 PM
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QUOTE(Okey_Dokey @ Apr 30 2018, 07:52 PM) *

He build relations from which he could profit later on. He needed Alexey Pajitnov to contest the legal claims of a Russian organization (Elorg). This way, Henk Rogers was able to form the Tetris company (~1996) whereas Elorg originally owned 50% of it. Somehow those 50% shares ended up in the hand of Elorg's chairman Belikov (I guess this is how Russian corruption works) who sold them to Henk Rogers for 15 millions (~2002, a short time later, the mobile rights to Tetris (for a period of 15 years) were sold for around 100 million so those 50% were worth much more than 15 millions but I guess it was enough for Belikov to have a nice retirement). So basically, Henk Rogers managed to get the ownership over Tetris.

The timeline and ownership of Tetris is a subject I would love to see cleared up. Understandably, it's not something those involved would necessarily want out in the spotlight. On the other hand, what can you expect given the circumstances? One of the main things the media is interested in when it comes to the company, is how the original creator didn't make any money (and presumably now he does), but where exactly does he stand now that all is said and done?

We were always told, "Pajitnov's rights reverted back to him by 1996, and that's when TTC was formed." That made it sound like Pajitnov now owned 100% of the trademark and merchandise rights, and Rogers helped him with the business end, a mutually beneficial relationship. However, we now know that this isn't strictly true. I first learned about some of the details in "The Tetris Effect," whose author had found some lawsuits between BPS and Belkov.

According to "The Tetris Effect," Belikov privatized Elorg in 1991. Soviet Union privatization happened differently for different companies. From what I understand, government entities were supposed to be spread equally among the people, but it didn't really play out that way. Some bureaucrats used their position to take control of their divisions. It appears that this was likely the case with Belikov and Elorg. It wasn't just Elorg either. Belikov had business interests in at least one other company, "R-Amtech International Inc." It held patents, of which at least one was related to fire extinguishers. Apparently, though this company Belikov obtained a judgment of $4 million, and the debtor was not able to make good. (https://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/pdf/734954.pdf)

The main lawsuit where light is shed on ownership is "BLUE PLANET SOFTWARE, INC. and Alexey L. Pajitnov, Plaintiffs, v. GAMES INTERNATIONAL, LLC and Elorg Company, LLC Defendants" from 2004. In it, Belikov says that Pajitnov gave Elorg its rights in perpetuity. Blue Planet says it was for 10 years (ending in 1995). The figure of 10 years is referenced in some later documents, but no one can produce the original document in question. I am not a lawyer, but it appears that the judge ruled in Belikov's favor:
QUOTE
As set forth in this Court's Opinion and Order dated August 25, 2004 granting the motion to disqualify plaintiffs' counsel in this action, "defendants have provided the more credible facts and representations that Elorg USA is the successor in interest to V/O, at least for purposes of this motion to disqualify counsel." That holds true for these motions as well. In addition, that same body of evidence demonstrates that Elorg USA is likely the assignee of the Tetris rights. Accordingly, defendants have shown a likelihood of success as to this issue and this challenge by plaintiffs will not bar defendants from preliminary relief that this Court has otherwise deemed proper.

For the reasons set forth above, the motions for preliminary injunctions are denied, except insofar as defendants' motion is granted as to the merchandising rights to Tetris. Accordingly, plaintiffs are hereby preliminarily enjoined from interfering with defendants' enjoyment of the Tetris merchandising rights in a manner inconsistent with this Opinion and Order.

Seems like this was BPS's last ditch effort to get the remaining 50% of the rights before paying Belikov the $15 million in 2005. Also interesting was they actually accused Belikov of fraud:
QUOTE

Plaintiffs assert that defendants committed acts of fraud on the U.S.P.T.O. in obtaining the '499 Registration, thereby defeating its incontestable status. In particular, plaintiffs allege that at the time Soviet Elorg filed the '499 Registration, it knew that it was not the owner, but merely a licensee, all the while allowing Pajitnov to believe that neither that registration nor any other documents he signed would be used in any way to affect his rights after the ten-year limit. Belikov plaintiffs claim submitted false "assignments" of the trademark on behalf of entities which Belikov now states either no longer existed or had no rights to assign at the time of execution.

Here's the interesting part about what happened in 1995-1996:
QUOTE

Pajitnov entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with Henk Rogers' Japanese Company, Bullet-Proof Software, to take effect after the expiration of the ten-year period at the end of 1995; meanwhile, Soviet Elorg continued to assert its prospective rights after the same time. In an apparent resolution of the conflicting claims, Rogers and Nikolai Belikov, an officer of Soviet Elorg, reached an agreement aimed at resolving the dispute. (Pls' Mem. Supp. Prelim. Inj. ("Pl's Mem. Supp.") at 9-10; Rogers Decl 11; Pajitnov Decl. 19). Rather than litigate, Pajitnov and Rogers agreed with Belikov to create a new company that would possess the respective ownership rights that each party contended they possessed. (Id.). That new company was called The Tetris Company, L.L.C. ("TTC"), governed by the Limited Liability Company Agreement of The Tetris Company, L.L.C. ("TTC Agreement"). (Defs' Mem. Supp. Ex. 14). The TTC Agreement provides, inter alia, that if any member elects to withdraw, the remaining member or members "shall have the option of either dissolving the Company or purchasing ... the withdrawing Member's Interest." (Id. 12.1).

In order to form this new company, each side created new corporate entities through which it would control the shared company: Rogers created Blue Planet Software, Inc. ("BPS") and the rights that
[334 F.Supp.2d 429]
Pajitnov had granted to Rogers were further transferred to BPS, and Belikov formed defendant Elorg L.L.C. of Delaware ("Elorg USA") and Games International, Inc. ("Games"). (Rogers Decl. 11, Pajitnov Decl. 19). In turn, Pajitnov through BPS joined with Elorg USA through Games to form TTC "as a mechanism to exploit Tetris and share the licensing revenues from Tetris." (Rogers Decl. 11). Each side maintained a 50% interest. (Id.).

The unclear bit is how BPS got 50% of the rights by 1996. Did Elorg give it to them? Did BPS buy them from Elorg? There apparently was not a lawsuit. Also, where does this leave Pajitnov?
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Okey_Dokey
post May 6 2018, 03:51 PM
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Thanks for the reply. It's the first time I hear of those details.

QUOTE(caffeine @ May 5 2018, 07:38 PM) *
Seems like this was BPS's last ditch effort to get the remaining 50% of the rights before paying Belikov the $15 million in 2005.

Oh, I was so many years off (I thought around 2002). I checked the sale of the mobile rights and this would fall around the same time. Jamdat acquired an exclusive, 15 year worldwide license to the wireless telephony device in around April 2005 (and was devoured by EA in around December 2005). I assume that huge business deal was arranged after earning the other 50 % of Tetris (because more profit for Rogers, maybe Rogers also needed some money after paying Belikov out). BTW EA running out of that mobile license in 2 years could become interesting. I think this could be a change for the good. Tetris is rather badly suited for smartphones but mobile games could still be entertaining if well made (at least EA Japan tried something with Tetris Monsters)

QUOTE(caffeine @ May 5 2018, 07:38 PM) *
The unclear bit is how BPS got 50% of the rights by 1996. Did Elorg give it to them? Did BPS buy them from Elorg? There apparently was not a lawsuit. Also, where does this leave Pajitnov?

I assume Pajitnov owns a few percent but without any doubt Rogers owns the vast majority since 2005.

----------------------------

That Tetris Terminology post by meatfighter made me realize that I overlooked some reviews in Advanced Computer Entertainment (ACE). For the sake of completeness, here are all of them (Mirrorsoft only; I am just interested in the first mentions of Tetris in the West)


Advanced Computer Entertainment #005 February 1988
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Advanced Computer Entertainment #007 April 1988
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Advanced Computer Entertainment #010 July 1988
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And I forgot the second part of an Amstrad Action scan (the test continued 2 pages later, those old magazines have weird layouts in general)


Amstrad Action #030 March 1988
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The Tetris Terminology post also included a scan of the US American PC Magazine but it was cut off after the half. So here it is in its completeness:


PC Magazine 17 May 1988
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And here a mention in Your Commodore. Note that this is like PC magazine not focused on gaming (so it's rather one month late compared to the other British C64 magazines; the British C64 version is through the bank the earliest mentioned Tetris version)


Your Commodore #041 February 1988
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And last not but least ZZap!64, yet another British C64 magazine. It's already covered in Tetris Terminology post, but here again because it's one of the earliest mentions and because the bad C64 version got an insanely high 94 % rating. I also saw some kind of columns mentioning Tetris in the later issues. Really weird namedropping but yet another proof that the writers focused on the Russian origin of Tetris.


ZZap!64 #033 January 1988
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ZZap!64 #035 March 1988
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ZZap!64 #036 April 1988
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Mirrorsoft advertized Tetris in other magazines using that high ZZap!64 rating. I saw such adverts in the March issues of Advanced Computer Entertainment (where Tetris also got a very good rating) and Commodore User (where Tetris was already reviewed in 1987 with a very low score). The advert just uses the cover picture from Mirrorsoft (Spectrum Holobyte also just advertized with its cover but the Spectrum Holobyte cover is so much better in my opinion).

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simonlc
post A week ago
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Any idea where this bizarre paragraph from the tetris wikia comes from?

http://tetris.wikia.com/wiki/Tetris_(Commodore_64)

"This was the first version of Tetris produced by Mirrorsoft for the commercial market and was converted from a CBM PET basic program (this is the acutal one written by the Hungarian programmers usually mentioned which contained no sound, no graphics beyond character set gfx and no "next" box) into machine code by a British schoolboy working out of his bedroom. He was paid the princely sum of 50 for several months of effort. As there were no other versions in existence to compare it to, that is why some of the gameplay is different."
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Okey_Dokey
post A week ago
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QUOTE(simonlc @ Dec 5 2018, 10:34 AM) *
Any idea where this bizarre paragraph from the tetris wikia comes from?
http://tetris.wikia.com/wiki/Tetris_(Commodore_64)

Haven't seen it before. It was written by an anonymous wiki contributor whose IP address lies in Britain (where Mirrorsoft is from). I see 2 possibilites: either it was a troll (the Tetris Wikia is full of troll edits) or it was the 50 British schoolboy himself. The Hungarian C64 version was mentioned in the article before that edit. However, it wasn't mentioned that the C64 version was the first version of Tetris produced by Mirrorsoft which seems to be true and thus shows some insight knowledge (no next box in Hungarian C64 version could also be true - you had to press a key to activate it in Gerasimov's & Pajitnov's versions).

If what he said is true, then the programmer must have received much less money for his work than the musician. The C64 is very basic, it could have been programmed by a schoolboy for sure. This would show the priority Tetris had for MirrorSoft. Spectrum Holobyte's versions were usually better, and MirrorSoft versions were usually sold pretty cheap (~10 pounds) (note that Stein discovered Tetris in Hungary in 1986 and he had already approached British video game companies in 86, but the release of Tetris wasn't before December 87 or January 88, so it's possible that the C64 version was started much earlier than the other versions).
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Arcorann
post A week ago
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I remember some time ago, while searching through various articles on Tetris, I read a comment claiming that the "original" version of Tetris was actually Hungarian, and linked to a page with more information. At the time I dismissed the site as questionable and didn't bother to save the link, so I had to take a while to find it again:

* The comment (on a Slashdot post from 2002)
* "The Great Tetris Conspiracy"

The site has some obviously wrong info (1985?) and doesn't directly address the claims made by the Wikia person, but it does provide corroborating evidence.
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Okey_Dokey
post A week ago
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Yes, that's further evidence.

While the other Mirrorsoft versions were clearly based on Gerasimov's version:
  • same layout (stats, scores, keys) as in Gerasimov's version from 1986
  • same piece colors or very similar ones
  • most versions use the same rotation system
  • (also: box art image used in title screen)
  • (also: David Whittaker music)
The C64 version shows a lot of differences:
  • very unique background image, otherwise only score and line count in a different corner
  • pieces spawn with random colors
  • different rotation system (rookie mistake: the pieces that fit in a 3x3 box are aligned to the top-left corner for every rotation)
  • (very uique Wally Beben? music)
Based on all that evidence, I would say that the C64 version from Mirrorsoft was started before the other versions and that it's very likely that it was based entirely on a Hungarian C64 version (of which we don't have any footage ... but it is well known that Stein saw first Hungary students playing their C64 and Apple? ports before he was introduced to the Russian version).

Some screenshots:

Gerasimov 1986:
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MSX version of Mirrorsoft (video):
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C64 version of Mirrorsoft (video):
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caffeine
post A week ago
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QUOTE(Arcorann @ Dec 5 2018, 08:06 PM) *

The site has some obviously wrong info (1985?) and doesn't directly address the claims made by the Wikia person, but it does provide corroborating evidence.


That's an interesting find. I haven't seen that before. Seems like what's most likely is that that slashdot poster is telling what he/she believes to be true, but doesn't realize that Mirrorsoft was licensing the game through Stein's relationship with Elorg.

The year 1985 is a mysterious year for Tetris. Throughout my whole life, I remember 1985 being the year Tetris was made. One of the best sources for Tetris history is the book Game Over, originally published in 1993. The author shared many details of the Tetris story that weren't published anywhere else, so it would seem that he interviewed those who were either friends and family of, or were important figures in Tetris history themselves.

In the book, 1984 is never mentioned in relation to Tetris, but he does state that the game won 2nd place in a computer game competition in November of 1985. Up until recently, Vadim Gerasimov's website describing his personal recollection of the Tetris story listed it as having been in 1985-1986.

Then in 2009, they started promoting it as the 25th anniversary of Tetris, making 1984 the origin date. Before then, I had never heard of anyone saying it was 1984. The simplest explanation is that one article erroneously listed 1985 as the date early on, and everyone after that point copied over the error. It's also possible the people involved just remembered it incorrectly until it was anniversary time.

Here's the thing. Vadim says he was 16 years old when his teacher first brought him to the Computer Center where he met Pajitnov and Pavlovsky. He goes on to say:
QUOTE
A few months after we started working together, Pajitnov came up with the Tetris idea. Before we met he had a computer game called Genetic Engineering. In that game the player had to move the 4-square pieces (tetramino) around the screen using cursor keys. The player could assemble various shapes. I don't remember the exact objective of that game, but it seemed rather dull.

At one of our meetings Pajitnov told Pavlovsky and me about his new idea of tetramino falling into a rectangular glass and piling up at the bottom. He believed the game might be successful. Shortly after discussing the idea Pajitnov made a prototype for Electronica 60, then I ported it to the PC using our development system. Pajitnov and I kept adding features to the program for a couple of years.

If he was 16, and Pajitnov wrote the prototype a few months after that point, then that places the origin date in November of 1985 at the earliest, which also coincides with the competition mentioned in Game Over.

At some point after 2009, Vadim updated his site to say "1984-86," but he did not change the age at which he says he first visited the Computer Center. The simplest explanation is that when he originally wrote the article, he searched for the origin date and saw it listed as 1985. He then worked out his age from there. Then after 2009, he corrected the origin date, but forgot to update his age.

The other possibility is that June 6, 1984 is the original date that "Genetic Engineering" was written, not Tetris, but they decided to go with that date anyhow. This seems likely, and would explain Vadim's timeline. However, if true, then it's very weird how pre-2009, the date was listed as June 6th, 1985 from various sources. Where did June 6th come from, if not from "Genetic Engineering?" If it did come from that game, then why was the pre-2009 month and date correct, but not year? Maybe the powers that be didn't know the exact date for "Genetic Engineering," but did know it was 1984, so they decided to "borrow" the erroneous month/day that was already circulation, and just update the year. Maybe whoever made the original mistake got the month/day correct, but got the year wrong. Very mysterious.

Edit:

Here's the excerpt about Stein and the Hungarian programmers from Game Over:

QUOTE
In June 1986, Stein was at SZKI in Budapest to see Hungarian programs when, on a nearby computer, he noticed “Tetris.” He sat down to try the game and couldn’t stop playing. “I was not a game player,” he said, “so if I liked it, it must be a very good game.” He asked the director of the institute where the game had come from, and was told that it had been sent by a friend at the Computer Center of the Academy of Science in Moscow.

The same day, Stein claims, he was shown another “Tetris,” this one on a Commodore 64 and Apple II ["Bolgar's" version?]. It was the same game, Stein says he was told, adapted by Hungarian programmers. Although they had obviously converted the Russian program to the other machines, Stein says he told the Hungarians he would license the original PC game from the Russians and the Commodore and Apple versions from the Hungarians.


It goes on to pave the following timeline:
CODE

June 1986 - Stein first plays Tetris at SZKI
N/A - Mirrosoft / Spectrum Holobyte buy Tetris rights from Stein.
November 5, 1986 - Stein offers Russians bigger deal.
November 13, 1986 - Stein "misreads" fax and assumes he has a deal for PC Tetris rights.
April 1987 - Stein informs Russians that the PC rights have been sold to Mirrosoft/Spectrum Holobyte.
January 1988 - Mirrorsoft releases Tetris for PC (not knowing Stein hasn't secured rights). Henk Rogers sees said game at trade show the same month.


Given that timeline, the December 1987 review adds up, since it is common for reviews to come out shortly before the game. What doesn't add up (as was already mentioned) is the Slashdot poster placing its development in the Summer of 1985. Game Over says that Victor Brjabrin sent the game (presumably the IBM PC version) from Russia to Budapest. That could've happened as early as 1985, which means that the Hungarian programmers could've ported it to C64 also in 1985. The earliest that Mirrosoft could've paid someone to work on it would've been in the Summer of 1986, and 1987 at the latest. It seems like 1985 is Tetris's Bermuda Triangle.

Edit 2:

If we really wanted to verify the anonymous Wikia story, someone could reach out to the author of that December 1987 review to see if the programmer (who he mentioned speaking with) was a British schoolboy named Phil.
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Kitaru
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caffeine: regarding 1985, I currently subscribe to necrosaro's theory that June 6, 1984 was arbitrarily picked as part of a marketing campaign surrounding E3 2009.

QUOTE(necrosaro)
Resident Tetris historian here, doing a bit of research on the "origin" of Tetris' very specific birth-date. Since there's been a lot of misinformation floating around the web on this topic over the past few years, I thought I'd share the facts I've been able to find, and ask for anyone to fill in any details I might have missed:
  • Prior to 2009, the general consensus was that Tetris was originally created sometime in 1985. (Some such as tsr's "The Tetris Saga" say more precisely June 1985. Anyone know where this date comes from?)
  • Sheff's 1993 book "Game Over" reports November 1985 as the Tetris-related date: "In a computer-game competition held in Zelenodolsk, in November 1985, 'Tetris' took second prize" (301).
  • The "Tetris 0" copyright registration (PAu001214036 / 1989-05-22) lists a "Date of creation" as "1985."
  • In a 1997 press release announcing the official launch of Tetris.com, Blue Planet Software wrote that Tetris was "created in 1985 by Russian scientist Alexey Pajitnov."
  • In its original form, Vadim Gerasimov's webpage "Tetris Story" wrote that "Tetris is a popular game developed in 1985-86 by Alexey Pajitnov (Pazhitnov), Dmitry Pavlovsky, and me." (On June 2, 2009, this would be changed to read "1984-1986"; see the diff between the first c.2006 draft and the latest version.)
  • On June 2, 2009, with a budget of $250,000 from Blue Planet Software, the PR firm Grayling Connecting Point kicked off its "Tetris' 25th Anniversary" (web) media campaign to raise awareness of the Tetris brand. June 2 was a Tuesday, the first day of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). June 2, 2009 is the earliest date I have been able to find where the year 1984 and the date June 6 have ever been mentioned by anyone in connection to Tetris. (Anyone have any other references?)
  • June 6, 2009 was the Saturday after E3 that year, the perfect day to host a big celebration event and maximize PR for an electronic entertainment brand.
So my working theory based on the above is that the June 6, 1984 date was fabricated by Grayling as part of its Tetris media campaign package for its client Blue Planet Software, and that they back-dated the birth-date because celebrating a "24th anniversary" would be too lame for a big media event. It seems much more reasonable that "Tetris" in its distributed, named form (as opposed to the "Genetic Engineering" prototypes Pajitnov may have had earlier) was created some time around mid-1985. Anyone have any other thoughts or info?


Also in that thread, posted by cgwg:
QUOTE(cgwg)
For what it's worth, these are the file datestamps that I see from some different dumps of the original Tetris:
  • April 4, 1985
  • April 4, 1986
  • April 12, 1986
I checked the first one, and it seems feature-complete, including an optional piece preview.


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caffeine
post A week ago
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QUOTE(cgwg)
For what it's worth, these are the file datestamps that I see from some different dumps of the original Tetris:
  • April 4, 1985
  • April 4, 1986
  • April 12, 1986
I checked the first one, and it seems feature-complete, including an optional piece preview.

That strengthens the "Vadim got his age wrong" theory. There's also this article in which he claims he was 15 (as it happens, the article was published June 6, 2009).

Vadim mentions, "Pajitnov and I kept adding features to the program for a couple of years. Since the latest version is dated 1986, then they very well could've worked on it in 1984.

The following passage comes from The Tetris Effect, in which the author claims to have interviewed key players on and off the record:
QUOTE

Pajitnov played through version 3.12 of the game. Two months after work started on the IBM version of Tetris, this felt like a good place to stop and try to find a larger audience.


This seems to conflict with Vadim's account. Perhaps when he says he added features "for a couple of years," he was referring to the two player version that he mentions that he and Pajitnov worked on "a couple of years later," and not version 3.12.

From The Tetris Effect:
QUOTE
A few months after Genetic Engineering's disappointing showing, and after Pavlovsky, with Gerasimov's help, had completed their Antix version of the Qix/Xonix game, Pajitnov was ready to give the tetromino another shot. At on of the trio's regular brainstorming sessions, be announced a new concept that included some of the elements of the earlier game but in a more pointed, challenging version.

[...]

The next time Gerasimov and Pavlovsky heard more about the tetrominoes and the glass container, Pajitnov had finished his solo coding marathon and had the first version of the game up and running on his Electronica 60 computer.

[...]

Gerasimov and Pavlovsky watched as Pajitnov, wired after weeks of frantic late-night coding, walked them through the game he called Tetris.


If 3.12's real date is April 12, 1986, and it took two months to get to that point, then that puts the Electronica 60 version in late January or early February of 1986. If 3.12's real date is April 4, 1985, then that puts the Electronica 60 version in late January or early February of 1985. So either the timeline is wrong, the date stamp is of a later copy, or the 1984 figure is wrong.

To go further down the rabbit hole, Xonix 1.0's date stamp is March 25, 1984. Various sources confirm Xonix's release date as 1984. Vadim says that their clone, Antix, was developed in the span of "a few weeks." At the earliest, that would be late April. Add in another few weeks for Pajitnov's coding marathon, and we're now in May or June. This means that the only way that June 6, 1984 works is if Xonix had already crossed over to the Soviet Union and made waves at the computer center within a month of its release (or if an earlier version than 1.0 was available). The date on the Antix that Vadim provides is Oct 19, 1985.
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In an email with Vadim, he mentioned the following: "I first visited the computer center and started working with computers in September 1984."
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QUOTE(caffeine @ Dec 10 2018, 02:11 PM) *
In an email with Vadim, he mentioned the following: "I first visited the computer center and started working with computers in September 1984."

Well, if you believe all this and previous statements by Gerasimov, then 1984 can only be an invention by The Tetris Company (to celebrate the 25th aniversary in 2009). The decisive parts of the original version of Gerasimov's Tetris story:

QUOTE
Tetris is a popular game developed in 1985-86 by Alexey Pajitnov (Pazhitnov), Dmitry Pavlovsky, and me. Pajitnov and Pavlovsky were computer engineers at the Computer Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences. I was a 16-year-old high school student.
[...]
A few months after we started working together Pajitnov came up with the Tetris idea. Before we met he had a computer game called Genetic Engineering. In that game the player had to move the 4-square pieces (tetramino) around the screen using cursor keys. The player could assemble various shapes out of tetraminos. I don't remember the ultimate objective of the game [", but it seemed rather dull" was added very soon after].

At one of our meetings Pajitnov told Pavlovsky and me about his new idea to make tetramino fall into a rectangular glass. He believed the game might be successful. Shortly after discussing the idea Pajitnov made a prototype for Electronica 60, then I ported it to the PC using our development system. Pajitnov and I kept adding features to the program for another year or so [was changed to "for a couple of years" very soon after].

It's interesting how often Gerasimov changed his text in the earlier years. In 2007 and 2008 it sounded more hostile towards TTC than it does now.

------------

I want to compare the 3 versions of Gerasimov's IBM PC I had on my computer and how they fit in the history.

Oldest version. This one looks much different than all the other screenshots you usually find in the internet. Like said before, Mirrorsoft's version except for C64 seem to be based on that:

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Here's a version, I haven't installed. New graphics style but the statistics are still on the left side, and keys as well as next piece on the right side.

IPB Image

Then the sides got swapped for statistics and keys:

IPB Image

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And here the version from Gerasimov's website. I believe he made this version very much later (see the changes in title screen, start height option, next piece is activated per default, no score overflow at ~32768). It's the only one with version shown on the title screen. I don't think he means this whenever he says version 3.12. During play, there are only minimal changes: addition of a pause key, and sigma symbol got replaced by sum. However, there's a new menu where you can choose phantom mode (O pieces are invisible) and start height (messy garbage in bottom lines at start). BTW all versions have leaderboards which I didn't show.

IPB Image

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This makes me wonder a little who came up with start height first. I would say it was Spectrum Holobyte and Gerasimov only copied it. Later, start height / "High" was also used in Henk Rogers' Japanese Tetris games (e.g. prominently featured in the first one for FamiCom & co) as well as GameBoy, NES and SNES.

Again, the ingame screenshots for my first 2 installed versions - and certain Mirrorsoft and Spectrum Holobyte for comparison. I strongly assume that Mirrorsoft's versions were based on the first one (except C64) whereas Spectrum Holobyte's were based on the second one. The reason for that are the sides on which the statistics and keys are displayed.

MirrorSoft MSX version:
IPB Image

Gerasimov, earlier version:
IPB Image

Gerasimov, later version:
IPB Image

Spectrum Holobyte PC version:
(you have to press F1 to F4 for those popup informations)
IPB Image

IPB Image
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Arcorann
post 4 days ago
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caffeine: the dates cgwg provided are for E60 Tetris not IBM PC Tetris. I have one of the copies dated 4 April 1986.

QUOTE(Okey_Dokey @ Dec 10 2018, 06:21 PM) *

Well, if you believe all this and previous statements by Gerasimov, then 1984 can only be an invention by The Tetris Company (to celebrate the 25th aniversary in 2009). The decisive parts of the original version of Gerasimov's Tetris story:

I'd like to point out that he switched hosts in 2006 and his Tetris story has been up as far back as 1999.

QUOTE(Okey_Dokey @ Dec 10 2018, 06:21 PM) *

I want to compare the 3 versions of Gerasimov's IBM PC I had on my computer and how they fit in the history.

necrosaro originally compared the 4 versions here. The post has a zip file attached with all the versions mentioned. The file date of what necrosaro calls V2 is 1986-01-25, and in another post they mention getting it directly off Gerasimov's website. At the very least, this provides an upper bound, since the file could have been made earlier.
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QUOTE(Arcorann @ Dec 11 2018, 12:56 AM) *
necrosaro originally compared the 4 versions here. The post has a zip file attached with all the versions mentioned.

You need a TetrisConcept.net account to download those attachments. Can you attach it to one of your posts here? HardDrop attachments can be downloaded by everybody.

Hm, each second column is grey in his screenshots (I mean those earlier versions without the blue dots in the playfield). I wonder how you get the game running as it was supposed to (purple showed up as pink for me, and dark grey as black).

I wonder if his version IDs (v0, v1, v2, v3.12) were just randomly chosen or if you can find them somewhere (only in the machine code I assume).

BTW if somebody wants to play the Elektronika 60 version, a download can be found under this Youtube video. Read 3.txt in the zip (basically you just have to run 1 - simh.bat, then 2 - mess.bat and then type run dl1:tetris ).
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