Monday, April 21, 2014

Game 23: Double Dungeons (TG-16) - Speedrun the Game, As Is

Unexpected situations in games and software occur due to the complexity of different rules interacting in real time. Some go unnoticed. Some are innocuous graphical artifacts. Some cause an unrecoverable state. I'm talking about glitches of course. In speedrunning, the community largely accepts glitches as part of the game. Take a game, as is, and beat it as fast as possible. Who cares if pressing jump on the exact frame that Mario's foot touches the sixteenth pixel of a wall tile causes him to jump in mid-air? Take it, and use it.
Most useless feature goes to inns... better off gaining a level and saving up for a refresh to use on the boss
Now not everyone is as accepting of glitches. I understand some of the arguments against it. Some may feel it cheapens the experience since the game wasn't played and beaten using the same method most people use. It's taking advantage of a mechanic not normally obvious; however, it isn't outright cheating either. The ability to cause a glitch is there for everyone. It's not a game genie code, it's not altering the game in any way, but I think we can all agree it's probably not intentional. Intentional or not though, it's there... it's in the game. There are some who prefer to run games with restrictions: pacifist (minimal or no attacking), low% (no collecting power-ups), and even glitchless (refrain from obvious glitches). Whatever your preference there's an opportunity to speedrun a game.
Any idea what a Zagnal is?
Why do I bring this up now when I promised a bit on routing first? Well, glitches have a lot to do with speedrunning, but beyond that I found a glitch. Yes, even in a game as simple as a first-person grid based dungeon crawler there are glitches. I have a hard time explaining why this glitch works, but take a look at the video for a quick example of getting it on my first try.

So, here's how I (try to) reproduce it:
  1. Face an enemy and hold forward as if to move through them.
  2. Shift left and right while still holding forward resting for a moment facing the enemy.
  3. ???
  4. (Profit) Randomly clip through the enemy.
Normally enemies are a barrier to movement. An obstacle to overcome, one which prevents the player from progressing too far into the dungeon. Passing an enemy more often than not doesn't have much benefit as the next enemy is just as strong. There are times though a single powerful enemy is guarding a store or treasure, and it's beneficial to spend the 0 - 20 seconds it normally takes to trigger this glitch and progress quicker.
I tried capturing the glitch in screenshots... here's how the wolf normally looks
Finding glitches happens in two ways: either by stumbling upon them through normal game playing (seems to happen most often when trying to do things quickly), or by applying known programming defects (overflow, underflow, clipping near polygon edges, causing intentional lag). The speedrunning community thrives on the drive to push games to their limits, and an openness to share that knowledge empowers the community to contribute. If everyone kept glitches they found to themselves, they'd more or less be playing by a different set of rules. It's the ability for everyone to play at the same level that keeps things interesting.
The last frame we see the wolf as I pass through him and into his square
I hope someone will come along to explain how this glitch actually works, but the first step is to expose it. Seems I'm the first to stumble upon it, or at least acknowledge it online. I tested on a TG-16 emulator, and the glitch appears to occur in the original version of the game (I'm playing on the Wii Virtual Console). I'm not sure knowing exactly how it works will allow anyone to make it happen more often, but it's probably better than not knowing. Anyway, on to the dungeons.

Dungeon 4 - Current Best: 17:15
The longest of the early levels, this one is a pain to get a good time on. I'd thought this would be easy what with 3k gold in chests, but it's all hiding behind poison toads. They are terribly long to kill even with a long sword at level 8 or 9. Add on to that the fact that the boss is the most difficult of the level 1 dungeons (the dungeons are separated into 6 levels: 1-8, 9-14, 15-18, 19-20, 21, and 22). Even at level 12 I still had difficulty and needed 3 refreshes.
About to die this time
Dungeon 5 -  Current Best: 5:50
This level, so fast. This is probably the first level I'm really going to dive into and optimize. Introduced on this level are the invisible men. They're stupidly weak, easily defeated at level 1 with basic equipment, but give 16 experience and 20 gold. By far the best deal. I grind through the level, pick up a star jewel (sells for 200 gold) and purchase the best equipment plus a refresh. In no time I'm level 8, and raise to level 9 just outside the boss door. I may even try to get through this one at level 8. It's strange that the boss shares the same name and sprite as a normal sorcerer.
Once again, thanks to nirexine for the original. Additions noted in red (Source: GameFAQs)
Dungeon 6 -  Current Best: 9:45
This dungeon is where things really start to get interesting. No longer is there a good area for grinding. Instead the monsters are all mixed up. Imps and mummies standing next to slimes and skeletons. It's a bit touch and go initially. As soon as I grind to level 5 I can hit up the iron heads, buy the long sword, and clean up the tarantulas. Something a bit strange about this level, a couple of the iron heads actually respawn. Normally there are enemies which don't respawn at all, and in all previous levels (including a select few on this one) iron heads are one of those creatures. By level 11 I should have enough to purchase a refresh and take on the boss. I feel like I can tighten my path a lot on this level.
So far bosses have very generic names
Dungeon 7 -  Current Best: 11:20
There's a balance here, as in most dungeons, but here especially. I can potentially take on skeletons as early as level 4. I mean I can eventually defeat them. It's not until level 5 though that I tend to do so within a couple blows. Same with goblins and queen ants, both are encountered often in the early parts of the dungeons. Taking this further, the sylvan wolves and guarders here are potentially taken out at level 8 or 9, but to do so takes more time than I believe it's worth. I haven't tested, but if I can knock a full minute off the above time it'll tell me I should definitely put my focus on the quick kills rather than the larger payoffs. This is where routing optimization really comes into play. I have a general plan, which works, but is far from the best. It all comes down to timing each fight.
Testing the waters in a new dungeon
Dungeon 8 -  Current Best: 8:50
This is one of the riskiest levels. I dislike spending time grinding on lowly death spiders when sorcerers and king spiders (just as easily killed) offer much better rewards. I take my chances early on by taking out two goblins at level 4. I could potentially wait until level 5, have a much easier time (a guaranteed success), but this isn't about playing it safe; it's about grinding up as quickly as possible. Now does grinding to 5 get me through the goblins faster? That's a question I'll have to answer when I get back to this level. The time above includes one use of the glitch. The falcons on this level are a bit difficult, and have a high potential to hurt me even as I'm ready to face off with the boss. Knowing that, I've been taking my chances with a late glitch through one bird right before the boss door, and a couple attempts at the necromancer before hand (he doesn't hurt as much, but takes just as long to defeat).
Each boss begins with a taunt
Dungeon 9 -  Current Best: 18:00
Welcome to level 2 dungeons, we've increased the dungeon sizes threefold as well as boss strength. To give you an idea of the size (and also due to a couple corrections) here's the map for dungeon 9.
Red X's mark where I removed a square, and white boxes are where I needed to add one (Source: GameFAQs)
There are now two stores to assist with the greater need for upgraded strength. Unfortunately I don't have time to grind for the best equipment. I settle for the best sword, and pick up the wooden armor when I can. Due to that I'm probably pushing it as I take the boss on at level 17 and use up all 3 of my healing items (actually I've managed to pick up a fourth from a random troll drop). As I optimize this a bit more I'm going to explore buying the second most powerful sword instead and some better armor. Seems I might get away with a few less refreshes that way. We'll have to see how that goes.
The mighty Kraken... strangely when I looked back at the video my HP didn't decrease with this message (another glitch?)
Dungeon 10 -  Current Best: 18:00
This dungeon is another where the glitch comes in very handy. There's a sylvan wolf that blocks the best store. It's the same one displayed in the screenshot where I try to capture the glitch in still screens. Normally it'd take all my HP at level 9 to bust through, but with 800 gold in hand I glitch through at level 8. At this level with the bastard sword and stone armor (really? stone?), I can easily take out the two in my path. Strangely the imps on this level respawn, unlike other levels, so I can grind quickly on the 100 exp encounters once I hit level 9 or 10. The boss is another tough one.A full 4 refreshes are needed at level 17. Also, don't let the map at GameFAQs fool you, the item marked as Berserker is just beef (a 20 HP healing item).
Our first hint at a semi-coherent story
Dungeon 11 -  Current Best: 13:15
Strange, but this boss is much easier than the previous two. I get to spend less time grinding due to five iron heads all in a row. Thanks to a 1k gold chest I glitch through a ghoul and mummy early to pick up the strong sword. This thing is a hot knife to the buttery goodness that are iron heads and hobgoblins. By the time I can get through the gremlins (level 13 minimum realistically, although 12 might work) I'm rushing for the key and then the boss... too bad they were put on opposite ends of the map. If only there were a glitch to move through the walls (I've tried, hasn't worked yet).
Looks like only one face to me
Dungeon 12 -  Current Best: 16:45
There are two useable items that increase attack (speed ring) and defense (defender). The difference in power is quite noticeable at low levels. Thankfully there is one of each early in the dungeon floor. One alone allows me to take out the goblins at level 4 instead of 5. I discovered a purchase of a long sword (instead of saving everything for the strong sword) allows me to break through early to the point past the death crows (marked in blue with white letters on the map).
A small addition that matters little for the route. (Source: GameFAQs)
Now, the warrior armor is more powerful than any I can purchase from the store, so I forgo all protection. Strangely, and unlike all previous levels, the boss requires no healing items at level 17. It seems the added protection from the new armor proves invaluable. I skip getting the refresh and focus on affording the strong sword. I forgot about selling the long sword, so I ended up grinding out an additional 100 gold. Managing gold just when I need it is another area of optimization I hope to bring to the route. Thinking on it now, it might be worth getting the refresh and selling it to save another 150.
So, this is all happening in one kingdom? That is strange
Dungeon 13 -  Current Best: 14:00
Oh my, the possibilities here. I believe getting an early long sword as soon as possible is necessary for the speed of the run. When I first looked at the map I picked up the 3k gold chest, bought the strong sword and silwer armor (sic), and headed off to grind for the boss. That may still be the best way, but this current time considers another route. I raced over to get the dragon armor, both the 2k and 3k gold chests, and grinded up another 1k by the time I reached the second shop. There I bought an earth shaker for 6k. There are useable attack items, and as far as I can tell, they all have unlimited uses. The earth shaker makes the boss and all other enemies ridiculously easy.  I take out the boss as early as level 13 (I think the dragon armor protects me from most of the attacks).
It's hard to judge attack strength when the game hides a few damage rolls like this
Dungeon 14 - Current Best: 9:00
The last of the level 2 dungeons seemed like a good place to stop for this post. This again has another use for the glitch. I use it to quickly get 300 gold from behind a gremlin. Due to the placement (not right next to the monster) I need to have success with the glitch twice. I may seek an alternative way, but getting through the shamans and death flies takes some time without it. Speaking of which, the latter guards a 5k gold chest that I use to buy a 4k Gradius (sic) and a full assortment of refreshes. The Bloody Armor is also nearby, which offers superior protection. Level 14 seems to be the minimum, but I may try to time level 13. Still, with the imps, the difference between the levels is very little. May even be faster to go to 15 before the boss.
Maybe I should just throw all my gold at Durahan instead? I have enough of it

At least the next set of dungeons don't triple in size again (not 'til dungeon 19 at least). I touched a bit on optimizing here, and I'll give a bit more focus on that and routing in my next post. I figure that and a won post will follow quickly. I'm looking forward to wrapping up the gaming year, so I've been going through a dungeons speedrun route only once before moving on. It'll probably take the rest of the year or longer to finally get a full speedrun of the game to an acceptable level. Once that happens I'll submit it to Speed Demos Archive, at which point anyone can come along and improve individual levels. Because it's a first submission, all levels need to be submitted at once this time. I hope I haven't bored anyone yet, but I probably have. Stick around though, this one is over soon.

Elapsed Time: 7h40m (Total Time: 10h15m)

6 comments:

  1. Cool glitch. I say glitches are fair game.

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    1. It does tend to make the game easier to run at least. There's one level I push through 6 enemies to get a chest, and push back to reach the store. Still faster than trying to grind out the 2k gold.

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  2. I did a GIS for Zagnal and came across this: http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/3206177

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    1. Ah! I failed to do an image search. It's strange that is the first and only image of a weapon when searching for Zagnal. That thing looks pretty deadly. I may have to favor it over the "strong" sword.

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  3. You're certainly not boring me. Keep up the good work!

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