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ExplodingCabbage: 2013-03-09 10:09:19 am
ExplodingCabbage: 2013-03-09 10:08:55 am
ExplodingCabbage: 2013-03-09 10:08:35 am
After a year in which I've only had access to my gaming PC during brief holidays (I got a job, moved to London, and haven't had a home with a desk for a long time - but on Monday, I'm moving into my new flat), I'm getting back on this run. To kick things off, here's a new thread, complete with proper comments on the segments I've already done, whose first post will remain updated as I progress.

This is the thread for my in-progress run of GTA 4, which aims to crush the existing run by SCM here:

My progress so far (currently all from mid-2011):

Segment 1

The Cousins Bellic


The natural thing to do right at the start of the game is to drive forwards and follow the road to the right, but turning your car around like I do and taking a more direct line is actually about half a second quicker.

Next I have to luck-manipulate getting a cop car on my way to Roman's place that I can ram or otherwise attract the anger of. I lure it back to the hideout, wait for its driver to get out, get into it (which automatically gives me 5 shotgun shells), position it in my parking space, get out, shoot the cop with my new shotgun and take his pistol, and then get back into Roman's car and finish the mission.

The reasons for this are threefold:

* I get a car in my parking space, which I need to abuse a glitch at the start of the next segment
* Also, it's a cop car, which means I can use it for later missions that require a cop car without having to steal one (which requires some nasty, nasty luck manipulation to do without getting a wanted level, since parked cop cars almost always have cops near them)
* I get an early pistol, which I'll need for Bleed Out in segment 4.
* I get a net of 4 shotgun shells, which are valuable at various points over the first 10 segments of the run.

Neither the marginal cost of getting the weapons now versus getting them later, nor the total value of getting the car, is on its own worth the time loss from screwing around with the police here. Together, however, they make it worth it by quite a few seconds.

My luck and execution here are far from perfect - ideally I'd've liked to get the cop car onto the parking space faster, and I'd've liked Roman's car to get shunted onto the objective marker, rather than past it. This is several seconds suboptimal right off the bat. However, the sheer amount of luck manipulation needed here (I not only need to get a cop car to spawn at the right place, at night, but also have it co-operate and follow me) meant that this was the best I could come up with after many hours of play.

Segment 2

It's Your Call


First off, we have a time-saving glitch. If you 'manually' walk out of your door after the first mission, you trigger a length tutorial cutscene about eating hotdogs. (Yes, seriously). However, if you have a car in your parking space near the door, and you press the 'Enter vehicle' button and let Niko automatically walk out of the door while running to the car, then the cutscene doesn't trigger. This is why it was important that I got a correctly-positioned car in my parking space in the first segment.

I'm pretty slow getting a car here; I wouldn't accept it for a normal segment start, but I knew that I needed to luck-manipulate getting a cop car as my ride at the start of either segment 2, 3 or 4 (at the start of segment 5, I can't afford a wanted level because it will delay a text, and from segment 6 onwards, I use taxis), and I decided to get it out of the way on the easiest of the three. The reason I need to get into another cop car is that I need the extra set of 5 shotgun shells, at a minimum, to be able to use the optimal strats for Jamaican Heat (at least 2 shells required; more are useful), Ivan The Not So Terrible (at least 3 shell required; more are helpful), and Uncle Vlad (1 shell is required); the 4 shells I have from segment 1 won't quite cut it, even if I'm as frugal as possible.

Once I actually start the mission in this segment, everything goes pretty much perfectly. I use a more aggressive, riskier route through the park than SCM did, including a jump over the fence on the far side, to just barely reach the card game one line of dialogue earlier. The game waits for the currently playing line of dialogue to finish before starting the cutscene once you reach the objective marker, so if I'd been a couple of frames slower reaching the marker, the actual cost would've been several seconds. I don't think it's possible to get to the marker a line of dialogue earlier than I do here, so the first part of the mission is - by my reckoning - essentially perfect.

Spinning the car around on the spot is a trick I borrowed from SCM's run. You just hold down forwards, backwards and either left or right, and the car rotates. I actually bought an anti-ghosting keyboard purely to be able to do this, because my old keyboard wouldn't register presses on 'W' and 'S' simultaneously.

The phone call with Roman while waiting in the car is weird. You have to let it play for at least a certain length of time, or else it won't count as finished and he'll call you again and repeat the convo. Wait a little time, though, and you can skip it without repercussion. As far as I know, no other conversations in the game are like this. Again, credit to SCM here - I probably would've missed the fact that the call is partially-skippable if the skip weren't in his run.

Finally, I save a few seconds over SCM's run on the way back to Roman's garage with another fun, aggressive drive back through the park (SCM used the roads).

Segment 3

Three's A Crowd


A more straightforward segment than either of the two before it; there isn't much to say here. By a frustrating quirk of chance, I get a cop car (which I no longer need) at the start of this segment, rendering the seconds I wasted getting one at the start of segment 2 pointless. Oh well, I guess. My timing pre-mission is pretty much perfect; I hit the mission marker just as it spawns.

Getting into Roman's taxi via the driver's door at the start of the mission is slightly irritating but works out about a third of a second faster than using the passenger door, so I do it.

I try to take the route here that involves the minimum number of turns, so that I can cruise along at high speed for as much of the distance as possible. That means crashing through the fenced alleyway next to the two girls.

When I get to the girls, I spin the car around as I enter the objective marker just enough so that when the game snaps my car into line with the road after the cutscene, I'll be facing in the direction I want to go instead of the opposite. You'll see this a lot, both in this run and SCM's old one.

The drive back over the wooden fence that I crashed through earlier ended a lot of attempts on this segment. For some reason, driving over those flat-looking wooden panels had a tendency to totally flip my car.

After dropping off the girls, I have a nice fast drive down a straight road to the clothes shop. I crash to stop because it's faster than breaking. The crash could've been a little cleaner - maybe a second or two could be saved by stopping faster and with my door closer to the shop entrance. I think the segment is pretty close to perfect otherwise, though.

All you have to do to satisfy the 'buy some clothes' objective is buy an item of clothing and leave the shop, so I grab the nearest item and run.

Segment 4

Bleed Out
First Date


In this segment, we're going to see the first major timesavers.

Luck-manipulating a good car at the start is important, because I have enough driving to do in it that the speed difference can add up to seconds. What I get is one of the fastest cars available outside the hideout - probably second to a cop car.

First up I need to get close enough to the First Date marker to trigger Roman's call, making the Bleed Out mission available, and then go and do Bleed Out. You can do the missions in the opposite order, but it's slower - you have to wait a long time to get the call that lets you do Bleed Out if you do First Date beforehand. So I drive to the point where I'll trigger Roman's call, spin around (the crash into a car is just because, again, it's a faster way to slow down than braking), and head off to the basketball court to rescue Roman.

You can skip the first cutscene when you reach Roman and the two thugs by just opening fire before it happens, which I do. They each die to a headshot. Then comes the first big timesaver.

Darden's car is invincible and bulletproof, but he is not, and right after the cutscene where Niko helps Roman up, Darden is outside his car. So if you're quick, you can kill Darden before he ever enters the car (or even shoot him when he's in the driver's seat, before he closes the door) and skip the entire car chase with Darden, which is well over a minute long. My shooting here is embarrassingly bad, but I get the job done without losing much time.

Next up comes another trick. I can't complete the mission until Roman gets into his car, and if I drive to far from him, he'll stop trying to enter it and I'll get a 'You left Roman behind...' message and have to go pick him up. However, when an NPC is trying to enter a car via a particular door, if that door is blocked, they get teleported into the car. So I drive close to the lamp post on my way away from the basketball court, and Roman is teleported into the car with me. The drive back to Roman's garage is a little clumsy - I have a small crash in an alleyway - but again it doesn't cost much time.

Next up is First Date. This is the first time I do two missions in one segment; up until now, it hasn't been worth it; after segment 1, I'm in the safehouse anyway, at the start of segment 3 I have to wait for a mission marker to spawn, and trying to combine this segment with the previous would've added a lot of difficulty (reducing how much I could optimise either of them) for little benefit, since you finish segment 3 close on foot and close to the safehouse anyway. Since I finish Bleed Out in a vehicle and significantly closer to the next mission marker than my safehouse is, though, it definitely makes sense to do these two missions together.

I have a nice straight drive to Michelle's place that lets me get up to a decent speed. It's actually harder than it perhaps looks; there are quite a few obstacles to avoid, and even slight steering at that speed and on uneven slopes can easily spin you - you can actually see the back of my car wobbling back and forth in this attempt as I struggle to keep it going forwards just long enough to hit the mission marker. I failed a few attempts on the drive between the end of Bleed Out and the start of First Date for this reason.

First Date also gets broken. In normal play, you take Michelle to the objective marker at the carnival, there's a brief dialogue about it being closed, then you take her to bowling next door, play or skip a game, and get the objective marker to take her home. However, finishing or skipping any game activity (pool, darts or bowling) at any time during the mission will trigger the end marker to appear. So the optimal solution is to take her to the nearest place you can play a game with her (which happens to be the pool table at the Homebrew Cafe) and then home again. So that's what I do.

The crash with the truck was accidental. I was trying to cleanly jump the wall (which is possible, but very hard), but I think this actually ended up much better than clearing the wall would have, since it slowed me down to just the right speed to be able to stop cleanly outside the bar.

Segment 5

Easy Fare


The start of this segment is just straightforward driving from place to place, without much to comment upon. Once I get to the lockup, I get an objective to lose my wanted level. What's going on here is a little subtle, though. For the first 30 seconds, the wanted circle will remain centred on you no matter what you do. After that, it behaves like a normal wanted circle and you can lose your wanted level by escaping it and staying outside it. So a theoretically perfect solution to this mission would involve you getting yourself set up such that at the end of the 30 seconds, you're pelting it at full speed down a straight road with no cops on it to escape the wanted circle as soon as is possible, and such that you're able to reach the final objective marker in the time that it takes for the wanted level to disappear after you've escaped the circle.

I don't think this perfect solution is actually possible, since the terrain we have to deal with doesn't quite co-operate. However, it's possible to get pretty close to the ideal solution described, and I do so. Just bear in mind as you watch that my objectives are a) to be able to drive fast in a straight line out of the wanted circle when the 30 seconds of it being fixed on me expire, and b) to be sitting on the final objective marker when my wanted level vanishes, and you should be able to understand the otherwise peculiar-seeming route that I take.

Most of the difficulty on this mission, by the way, was just in luck-manipulating the positions of the police so that I wouldn't get seen by any after my wanted level expires.

Segment 6

Bull In A China Shop

With Easy Fare completed, Jamaican Heat (Roman's mission where he sends you off with Little Jacob) is immediately unlocked, and a call from Vlad is added to the queue of messages for you to receive. When received, it unlocks Bull In A China shop. Loosely speaking, the way that queued texts and calls seem to work in this game is that every text that you're able to receive is on a timer that is specific to the particular message, and whenever you complete a mission, load the game, or receive another text or call, the timer resets. If two text or call timers expire at once (because they had exactly equal durations), then the game seems to choose randomly which one to give you, meaning that sometimes you can luck-manipulate the order in which you receive texts, but usually you can't.

In this particular case, I don't need to worry about any other texts or calls - Vlad's is the only one I'm waiting for. It's worth it to wait for Vlad's text and then immediately do his mission, rather than driving to the mission marker for Jamaican Heat and doing that as soon as Vlad's text comes in, because doing Bull In A China Shop unlocks the ability to use taxis to quick-travel, and those will save loads of time on Jamaican Heat. So I have a whole bunch of downtime that I have absolutely no important use for. I use it to shuffle my police car so it'll be marginally better positioned when I need it later, but it really doesn't matter much at all.

Bull In A China Shop may look like about the most trivial mission imaginable, but there are actually a couple of interesting things to notice here. Firstly, you can skip the initial dialogue with the shopkeeper and go straight to smashing the window. Secondly, after you smash the window, the game takes control of Niko - wherever he currently is - and walks him to a fixed spot a little directly in front of the window. This is really slow and irritating. This means that it's optimal to sprint to that spot, then spin and shoot at the window when you're already right there, so that the loss of control is for close to zero time. That's why I seem to be a bit later than necessary with the shot - it's entirely deliberate. The final interesting thing to note is that I change my taxi destination on the way back from the objective marker to the clothes shop, because the latter destination actually results in me being dropped off closer to the objective marker than the former, and with less waiting time inside the vehicle. Not actually that odd - there are loads of quirks with taxi destinations like this, but usually they're not easily exploitable.
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Edit history:
ExplodingCabbage: 2013-03-09 12:58:51 pm
ExplodingCabbage: 2013-03-09 11:33:41 am
ExplodingCabbage: 2013-03-09 10:33:14 am
So, I'm currently looking at segment 7, where I'll be doing Jamaican Heat. I've figured out something that was tripping me up before; after the fight, Jacob seemed to sometimes randomly stop, and at least some of the time it seems that the cause of that was me putting my gun away. Jacob stops and sheathes his weapon when you do, and stops and gets it out when you do, so after the firefight I want to keep my pistol in hand.

I'm also looking into the possibility of doing Hung Out To Dry in the same segment as Jamaican Heat, if that'll save time; Hung Out To Dry seems like it ought to be pretty easy. EDIT: Nope, it's definitely slower to taxi back to Vlad's after dropping off Jacob than it is to just start a new segment and run across the road.

Other than that, there's probably not much I want to change about segment 7 from my old, aborted run (see it here:

Edit 2: I'm currently taking Silmaranza's advice from a year and a half ago and creating a test run. At each stage I'm recording my segments and writing notes on what gets unlocked at the end of each segment and what things I still need to test before creating the real run. Every half dozen videos or so, I'll post here. Once the test run is done, it'll be on to the real thing with confidence.

Edit 3: The puzzle I'm currently wrestling with is whether it actually makes sense to put Uncle Vlad in the same segment as Ivan The Not So Terrible. I think it probably does, but I need to time the alternative route, which would use more taxis.
Please, contine this.
Pumped to see you back on the horse for this run. I still remember my first time seeing that awesome crash in segment 4 from the last thread.