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ktwo: 2013-06-16 01:35:13 pm
ktwo: 2013-06-16 12:39:05 pm
I won't say that I'm proud of creating a thread for this game, but I feel it has to be done at some point, so might just as well be over with it... I'm not too far off on getting a recorded run, so I wanted to share some information in the unlikely event that someone else had spent enough time with the game to give input. Or maybe sparking the interest of someone wanting to give it a try (as awful as the game is, it's really easy to get into).

Anyways, I thought this would be a suiting project to prove that I can handle the full 60 Hz unleashed from ntsc, after previously having been stuck with only pal... More seriously, I wanted to try out my new recording setup more extensively on something easy and not risk to achieve something that was not recorded properly. I remember hotl from emulator and that it was basically only to remember the route and then run through the whole game while avoiding all enemies in 5ish minutes. Unfortunately, I had forgotten about how unsuited the nes's d-pad is for diagonal presses, as a speedrun is basically 5 minutes of pressing diagonal up (to run). This actually makes it a whole lot more challenging (on top of being a very luck-dependent game).

There is a TAS of about 0:05:17 (SDA-timing). The tas is no-death, but I'm planning to abuse deaths in my run. Having no deaths basically just means restoring health as necessary near the end of the game (and hoping that the damage inflicted by enemies is minimal). Abusing deaths requires at least a tiny bit of planning.

Current route (I use the same route as the tas, so below are just how I deal with various critical points in the game):
- Move Goldmoon to the backrow asap.
- Run through everything until the first dragon in the second section of the game. As far as I can see, the only reasonable way to pass dragons without fighting them (not an option as that would take forever) is to use "protection against evil" (PAE). PAE can only be used by Goldmoon and she has to be in the front row to cast magic. The idea is therefore to kill off one guy just before the dragon. Because of how much luck there is in the game, this is not evident, but works most of the time.
- Use PAE again in the section with the flames (still in section 2). By running past the first flame before casting PAE, it's possible to pass the dragon in the next room.
- Use PAE twice more against dragons in section three.
- Possibly use the menu trick to pass an enemy or two (see below). Each time costs ~0.5-1 second, but sometimes there is no other option if a lot of damage has been damage inflicted. If everything else goes well in a run, this could maybe be accepted once.
- Along the way, kill off the three guys in front of Goldmoon to make sure she is in front when facing the dragon. This is a major problem. Goldmoon usually dies in an instant from the three trolls before the dragon. It requires a lot of luck to have one of the guys survive long enough to just pass the last troll and then die off to leave Goldmoon in front (and not die together with the last guy, which is also very common). If Goldmoon is not in front, an additional menu change is needed, which costs ~3 seconds.

Useful tricks/features:
- The character gets a small boost when quitting the menu. This means you can pass through some enemies without stopping if you are close enough and then open and close the menu. Overall it costs time though (0.5-1 second, depending on how annoying enemy it is), so it's only useful when energy needs to be conserved or when you anyways have business in the menu.
- Protection against evil (PAE) protects against damage (but not entirely) and makes it possible to pass through dragons (and other enemies are also easier to pass through). The only spell I use in my route.
- In some of the previous route iterations, I used healing spells.
- There are several spells that do more or less the same thing (web, sleep etc). You shoot out a fireball and when an enemy is touched by it, it freezes in place. Some of them might be a little bit faster to cast than PAE. Unfortunately, they have a very high likelyhood of passing above dragons. There is a small possibility for the fireball to go low, which then hits dragons, but I haven't figured out a way to manipulate that.

My best time so far is 0:05:23. I'm still very new with this game, so I wasn't fully prepared for how to act on the last troll. I should have turned around and let it hit me once more. That would have killed off the guy in front and avoided having to switch Goldmoon to the front in the dragon room. 2-3 seconds lost, depending on how fast the troll would have hit again. There was also a small hesitation on one door (0.5 s), and one door I overshot a bit (0.5). Technically, I'm probably losing a little bit of time on every single door transition and by getting stuck on enemies, but I think this is about as good as it will get. Maybe a second or two can be shaved with luck, but I'm just speculating. Right now, I'd like to get a run without having to switch to Goldmoon in the dragon's room. I think a 5:20 would look pretty clean.
Thread title:  
Might be magic...
I finished the PC version of this game (which was pretty awful compared to the NES version) a very long time ago. Glad you're taking it up Smiley
It sounds incredible that the game I'm playing should be an enhanced version of something else, but I believe you if you say it...

My best time is now (a very high) 5:19. I had some outstanding luck (I know it's a strong statement after still being fairly new to this game, but things really fell into place in that attempt). There were also a few not so good looking mistakes, but it would have been a 5:19 even without them. It's certainly possible to still cut a second or two off, but I'm not sure I'm up for the task of going for that kind of optimization on a game like this. I'll think about it for a few days, but I think this is as good as it gets from me. I have bigger fishes to catch. :-)
Time to revive this thread. A new TAS has been released for this game and it includes a few time savers that are easy to implement in a real-time speedrun:
- Walk left in the second room of the game. This is around 3 seconds faster than going right (which every TAS/speedrun until now has done).
- If Goldmoon is the first character, she can throw magic by attacking without going into the menu each time. This changes things up towards the end of floor 2 and all of floor 3.

I've come up with three basic route choices for a real-time speedrun:

a. Follow the TAS route with keeping Goldmoon as the first character throughout. Enter the menu slightly before the fires near the end of floor 2 and then activate "Protection against evil" and "Hold person" (and most likely a health refill). This is possible, but the odds seem very low to survive long enough. The best way to avoid health losses is by attacking enemies and then try to run through them. Unfortunately, this is in no way a fail-safe method, so the enemy is just getting chipped away as you go along no matter what. Even a run that's save-stated in each room isn't trivial to complete. A clean and successful attempt like this could get very close to the 5 min mark (possibly below). I've tried attempts with this route, but haven't really gotten anything that was close to survive deep enough into floor 2.

b. Start out by a character swap by putting Goldmoon as the second character. This additional menu trip costs ~3 secs. This makes it quite a bit more manageable than 'a' and also possible to play slightly more aggressively, opening up the possibillity to gain back a little of the time lost from the extra menu. It's still a bit tricky to get into floor 3 though.

c. Similar to 'b', but instead swapping Goldmoon to position 5. The idea is to avoid "Protection against evil" (1.5-2s saved) and just run through the fires in floor 2, hoping that the first four characters die off and leave Goldmoon in the first position on the other side of the fires. Killing off the characters loses time and it's going to be slower running through the fires since you'll get hit quite a lot. So overall, this is going to be close time-wise to 'b'. It's much easier to get runs going though.

For now, I'm sticking with 'c' and earlier today got my first completed attempt after doing attempts again (https://vimeo.com/403814132). It was a pb of (a very high) 5:04. There were no particular mistakes, but the menuing was bad, I mistimed a few of the doors and the RNG was average (got stuck on a few more enemies than I had hoped for and I would also like to avoid Raistlin ever being the first character). Hopefully, I can bring the time down some more, but I don't see sub-5 as possible unless attempting 'a'. While 'c' seems to be by far the easiest of the three, I'm probably going to try some 'b' attempts as well. It's not evident to calculate which of 'b' and 'c' is the fastest, so it would be useful to get some attempts of both going into floor 3 and then compare the times.
I improved my time today by 0.15s. I had bad RNG in the last room, which cost around a second. Hopefully, I can get another attempt on pace within not too long and close it out without any major time losses. It would be nice to shave off that additional second. My best pace has been up to two seconds faster, so a 5:02 is possible if absolutely everything goes my way.

I've done some more testing and it seems like 'c' is a little over a second faster than 'b'. 'c' is also much easier to get runs going with. 'a' is still the fastest and the only one that would be possible to achieve a sub-5 min run with. The RNG requirements are too demanding though, so I stick with 'c'.
Thanks for the new efforts! I'd been lacking in ideas on how to reduce my times on this except I did adjust the route as you described above already - going Left at 2nd screen instead of right. Does save a few seconds.

Would not have thought of hold person with Goldmoon on my own. Planning to get some practice and runs in trying that!

Just wanted to say "Thank you" mostly again. Dunno if I can figure out improvements or get god-RNG to get 5 or sub 5, but will join you on those attempts Smiley
Nice to hear you'll try to push the time lower! Good luck with the attempts and let us know if you find any improvements.

As for me, not long after my previous posts, I got a 5:03. Since then I've been on a break, waiting for an improved TAS to be published. I know 'arc' is working on it. I'm thinking that with someone looking at the game with a magnifying glass, chances are something new will be found. So I might do more attempts, but for now I've put them on hold.

I actually thought the TAS would be ready back in April, so I didn't bother posting about the 5:03 or publishing it (it was streamed, but the vod has disappeared). But I've uploaded it now, in case you're interested, https://vimeo.com/417686667. The strats are very close to my previous pbs, but I found that it's slightly faster to take the last death in the last room of level 2 (the one with the pits) instead of in the room before it. Making it that far is RNG though, so it's of course only to adjust to whatever the game gives you.

My sum of best with the current route is 5:02, but I'm pretty sure that could go down to 5:01 with a few more completed level 3. I can definitely see a 5:02 run happening, but that would require pretty damn good RNG and, needless to say, no mistakes. Even though better execution through e.g. improved menuing and optimizing the door transitions could on average squeeze out a little more time, I have trouble seeing the current route go below 5. For that to happen, it's as far as I can see still required to attempt route 'a' in my post above.
Nicely done! Just watching there's about 2-2.5 secs of saves with perfect RNG, yeah.

Might save some time if you do have Goldmoon front position after fire room and pause/menu jump the dragon to select the Hold Person spell. Could save 1-3 secs there possibly.
Casting a spell costs ~40 frames, so that's the absolute maximum you could save from "menu jumping" through the dragon. In practice, you're probably still going to get stuck a bit on the dragon, so it's more like half a second faster than attacking it. But I like the idea. It's riskier than casting a spell, but if Goldmoon is in front of the party at that point, the time save is imo big enough that it's worth doing.