Published by spindizzy/HELLFIRE, 12.2000
A few notes regarding speed
Among all online Tetris players, there has since long been a craze for speed. Even in the old days of regular TetriNET, people were respected for this talent, even though regular TetriNET has to be one of the slowest online Tetris games ever created and the difference between a slow and a fast player is almost negligable. However at the present with the increasing popularity of TetriFAST among the few players that are left, speed has become an obsession. So I figured I might as well write an article on it.
As I have often stated (well, it even says so on my pure TetriNET strategy guide), speed has always been overrated in competition Tetris. There is no substitute for wise stacking, period. There are no living Tetris bots. Consider for example the fact that a skilled T2net player will almost invariably beat a VSA T2net bot, arguably a lot better stacker than a newbie Tetris player, operating at three times his own speed. Given a slow player this lands us at 70x3=210 blocks per minute, which is simply impossible for a human player to maintain.
This does not mean that the brute force approach to competitive Tetris is doomed to failure. In a battle between equally skilled players, of course the faster one will be at an advantage. Nevertheless, sacrificing speed for accuracy and intelligence is almost always preferrable. Besides that, the common practice of judging players' skills by their speed is ridiculous. The reason for this partly being, the speed you can achieve is in a great deal dependant on the hardware and software configuration of your computer. For example, when playing TetriFAST I had always great trouble beating 100 bpm. Now playing at QuadraNet, I can manage over 130 and sometimes even over 140 with no greater effort, something other players find impossible. Playing at the TetriNET 2 servers, sometimes a friend of mine called acidboy could not even beat 40 bpm, while I was merrily making ground at 110. This had nothing to do with his real speed, since at T2net he was at least as fast than me, instead, this was a function of network lag.
No, indeed, the practice to judge people by their speed is unfair. Sometimes even judging people by how often they win is misplaced. There are a number of players on the Quadranet that I respect immensely as players even though they could never beat me in 1 vs 1. This is because they are too slow to actually threaten me, but their stacking is artistry, and new players can learn a great deal from watching their textbook examples of playing. Noone will learn anything from watching me, I am basically a speed demon with no advanced skills whatsoever.
All these things considered, how do you achieve speed? I was reading a "godspeed" strategy guide written by plibble member Logix which basically suggested using all controls, remapping your keyboard and have faith in God. I will try to provide a little more pointers for you. I have tried to cut the crap and get right to the point of the subject, distilling everything out to six simple rules.
Stack for speed. While in regular TetriNET, you will have plenty of time to think out the perfect layout of the field, this is not true in fast Tetris. Disregard beauty and perfection. While in TetriNET if you encountered a streak of, say, six Zs, you would be well adviced to find decent positions for each one, the best approach in fast mode would probably be to stack them all on top of each other on either side of the field and get on with matters. Do not stack optimistically thinking that the right block will come along. If you are not lucky, you will be left with a serious stacking issue pondering over how to best fix the damage (which will in turn slow you down) and probably stacking yourself to death. Instead fill gaps instantly with blocks that fit approximately. This basic building must be made automatic, so that you can concern yourself with strategic issues while your fingers and autonomous nervous system do the major work.
Use as few keypresses as possible. While I have said this before in my discussion of speed in TetriNET, it is especially important in fast Tetris. If you can find a way to drop the block instantly and it poses no major problem, just do it. Of course, there are delicate situations where this approach is not suitable. A good part of the strategy of a Tetris player is the sense of knowing when your field craves extra attention.
The number of average keypresses required to place a block can be estimated as follows. First, moving the block takes at least one keypress (normally a lot more, but let's be optimistic). Then, rotating the block will take you one keypress ((0+1+2+1)/4). After this, one keypress is required to drop the block. This totals three keypresses per second. (Remember, we are counting low here).
This means that a player operating at 100 bpm will need at least 300 keypresses per minute or 5 keypresses per second. (The machine typist speed world record is in the vicinity of 10 keypresses per second which leads us to believe that using this method, a human being's theoretical speed maximum would lie somewhere around 200 bpm).
Now consider that you could somehow find a way to NEVER use two rotations. This would mean that your total number of keypresses would drop from 3 to 2 + 2/3. Your 100 bpm player just turned into a 112, and your 150 bpm player is now a happy 168! (Admittedly, these figures are somewhat overstated, since the moving part actually plays a larger role than I have accounted for, but still, you should get the point). -
Do not misaim. You may think that this has nothing to do with speed, but truth is, nothing hurts your speed more than misaims. Misaims require extra thinking, and thinking makes you slow. Always stay in control of your actions. If you start to misaim, you are going too fast, and in this case, your speed is making you slow. On top of that, consider that a misaim will effectively destroy a lot of whatever speed advantage you can muster since you will be spending time repairing mistakes and that time could have been used to kill the enemy.
Optimize your software and hardware configuration. This might sound as lame advice to some of you, but every Quake player knows that the gear you are using is important, as does every track runner know that you can't get good results without a decent running shoe. You should already have some ideas on how to accomplish this, but I'll give you some examples. Running Quadra under Linux with anything other than SVGALib is a bad idea. (Actually, for most users, running Quadra under Linux is a bad idea, period). Playing TetriFAST with the playing sounds enabled is definitely not recommended. Using TetriNET or TetriFAST with Windows NT (yes, that includes Windows 2000) is a bad idea, since you will have to wait two to three seconds at the start of every game before you can play. Actually, if you are really serious about getting any hardcore speed in TetriFAST you should probably be running a decent Linux distribution (Slackware, Debian) with GTetriNET and hack the source code to reduce the block delay to 0 (there will be modified sources available shortly on the download page). If using Windows, use Windows 95 or Windows 98 and kill all background processes. Also, regardless of what kind of game you are playing, find a decent keyboard. Customize your surroundings by creating the right light levels, finding a favourite chair, selecting the favorite music, etc. Your playing environment must be familiar, as everyone knows, no person plays any good on a new computer.
Do not constantly press for speed. Willingly trying to go fast will most of the times cause you to tense and go slower. Try to concentrate on maintaining a steady flow of blocks and do not concern yourself too much with each one. Then, in order to gain bpm, try operating in bursts, throwing out two, three or maybe four blocks at one time in rapid succession before returning to the original rhythm (a great time for these bursts would be when you see a number of identical blocks come along). Try to maintain these bursts for increasingly longer periods of time until you can keep bursting indefinitely and establish a new improved steady flow speed.
Take drugs (:.
"All these things considered, how do you achieve speed? I was reading a "godspeed" strategy guide written by plibble member Logix which basically suggested using all controls, remapping your keyboard and have faith in God." I approve this sentiment.
I like the ending jokey comment too, a bit of sarcasm for all those ignorant trolls :D Ps. You don't need drugs to go fast, just calm body and mind and faith in God. Amen.
ONE thing I could add is to play in both uncomfortable and comfortable environments. In time, maybe a few months or for some a few years you will see the difference and most likely you will be able to play faster in comfortable environments ( I believe this is because of the fact that you are less distracted and able to relax more, nothing really to do about focus in its entirety. ) Playing in stressful environments just helps to toughen up your mental state to keep calm under stress, so they both help for the ultimate goal, which is speed and how to play faster in this case. Play in the mornings, evenings and night. Get your body and mind conditioned and accustomed enough to play in any mental or physical state of place or time. Speed is a mindset, set all of your mind on speed.
Some longevity tips;
Take breaks when necessary, never play past pain (at least not for too long... strain is okay) stretch often, maybe between each round if you like. Drink enough water before and after playing. Try to play just before eating, so your mind is clearer. Have fun most importantly, but do challenge yourself :D !