Tetris 99— a battle-royale style Tetris game for the Nintendo Switch— turned the classic game into a competitive, 99-person frenzy. But before there was Tetris 99, there was Jstris. Like Tetris 99, the browser-based Jstris hosts a live lobby where people play simultaneously against each other. The website doesn’t host 99 players at one time — its rooms usually have around 50 players at a time — but it is a battle royale, last-man-standing format in Tetris form none-the-less.
At first, Jstris looks like a home-brew project; a game that already existed converted for a browser. However, the website wasn’t a rip-off of Tetris 99. In fact, its online last-man-standing mode predated Tetris 99 by over a year and an a half. This is because the ‘battle royale’ style of playing came about organically as the developers at Jstris responded to the preferences of its community.
The developers of Jstris originally made the website for competitive Tetris players. Jezevec, a game developer for Jstris, told Polygon the website was made to “provide a block-stacking game that is fast, with no game delays for line clears or limits on how fast can a player manipulate a piece.” They said, “This is mainly beneficial to more experienced players, who can play fast, and delays would decrease the game experience for them.”
Since its founding in 2016, Jstris has succeeded in supporting a robust competitive scene. One of their players held the world record for fastest clear of 40 lines on the website for over a year, and the community has continued to grow on size. As the community grew, the ways they played changed.
According to Jezevec, free-for-all and 1v1 became the most popular ways to play. They told Polygon the developers first “added expanded room capacity from 7 to 32 players in Aug. 2017, but during that time, the main room was rarely reaching the limit, because there was lower amount of players than it is today. At the beginning of this year more players came to try Jstris, so the limits were adjusted to around 50 players.”
Even though their servers can support up to 150 players at once, the website usually hosts around 50 players.
Jezevec said, “The games are based on rounds, players who top out must wait until the current game finishes until they can play again. To minimize waiting time for players, we prefer rooms smaller than 99 players.”
Jstris started small, and as the community grew and changed, the offerings of the website adapted to the new community. The developers at Jstris didn’t set about to create a “battle royale” game.
If playing Tetris 99 is feeling stale, and you want to take your Tetris prowess to the next level, then Jstris might be the next step for you.