Creative Minds: Alexey Pajitnov

Feature: Tetris man talks death, puzzles and taxes

Next to the likes of Mario and Sonic (and probably Master Chief these days) Tetris is the most recognised videogame brand ever created.

Its geometric charm has been the subject of advertising campaigns and the game was alluded to in episodes of The Simpsons, Futurama and even in the movie Police Academy: Mission to Moscow - you know you've made it when that happens.

Long before Wii was even a glimmer in Miyamoto's eye Tetris was recruiting people to videogames: businessmen, housewives, vicars, pensioners.

Creative Minds: Alexey Pajitnov

Its creator, Alexey Pajitnov, still remains proud of his 'child' and never gets tired of answering questions about its addictive qualities. But, as we discovered, there's more to Pajitnov than puzzle titles. He did once make an obscure action game called Ice & Fire...

What are you doing at the moment?

Alexey Pajitnov: Right now I am freelance but I still have a contract with Microsoft. I'm currently considering my next project. I have a small group at the moment based in St. Petersburg and we are working on a two-player game. But it is too early to say what it is. We are early in the project.

Do you get sick of hearing about Tetris?

Pajitnov: No, I consider it a part of my job and a part of my life. Tetris is my child and I am very fond of it. I never looked for publicity but I never reject it either.

Do you still play it?

Pajitnov: Yes, I still play it, especially to coordinate new version. We are working on a new Tetris version. Our licences send us any new versions for approval to make sure that everything is fine and balanced. As far as a new version is concerned we are looking at several online versions. These will be coming out very soon in Japan.

Do you own the rights to Tetris?

Pajitnov: We have Tetris Holdings which hold all the rights to Tetris and we have a partnership with them.

What do you think of Tetris on DS?

Pajitnov: The main version is very good. It's designed with all the regular elements. I think it's well done. I also like the kind of puzzle version in there.

Is it true there's a Tetris bible?

Pajitnov: Yes. The story is that Tetris was published many times from many different companies and in many countries. The versions were very, very different. Players didn't really know what they were getting and couldn't really judge who was the best player. They had issues playing each other. So we decided to standardise Tetris, especially for competitions.

We've worked on this for a long time, to come up with a standard for Tetris. It's a never ending war. We are still working on this. Also any new proposal about Tetris that may differ needs to be looked at. If it's a good addition we will add it and keep it.

What elements do you especially need to standardise?

Pajitnov: The size of the fields, the speed of the levels, the speed pieces rotate. There needs to be rules about how the pieces rotate. Also we like to have consistency with the colours of the pieces.

What is it about shapes and puzzles that fascinates you?

Pajitnov: [Laughs] That is my love! That's my main area of expertise. I love puzzles and play them a lot. When I want to design something that is the first thing I put my eye on.

Have there been any puzzle games that have inspired you?

Pajitnov: When I wrote Tetris I based it on a classic board puzzle called Pentomino. So I like all these puzzles, not just computer puzzles. I keep a Rubik's Cube on my desk. I am holding it now.

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