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ulillillia Blog

New game - Final Fantasy Anthology - I'll be away

I just got a game that I've been wanting for a while - Final Fantasy Anthology.  I had it in my wish list here and I just received it today.  This means I'll be away for quite a while, a few weeks even.  This doesn't mean just here, it means away from my computer, my site, and the internet in general (except for a few checks on E-mail, but that's about it).

My greatest gaming extremes

It's not unusual for me to be playing a game for 200+ hours and some games pass 1000 hours. Outside extreme play times, I've done some other weird things as well. My greatest extremes are, well, quite extreme, especially with duration.

Most played game of all - Bubsy in: Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind. Estimates are from 3000 to 4500 hours' total time, with 4000 as the common value I use. Sure that's 0.456 of a year, but I've actively played the game almost ever since it came out. Follow-ups are Sonic 3 & Knuckles (≈1500 hours; mainly the use of debug and the fox's stupidity keep me at it), Jumping Flash (≈1200 hours; getting up extremely high on several levels keeps me at it, of which I have videos of), and the original Metroid (≈1000 hours). Mario 3 may be around 1000, but is more around 900.

Most played video game music of all - The song "Out Where the Lake Is" as I call it (levels 10 through 12 in Bubsy) hovers around a million plays with "Desert Zone" as I call it (levels 7 through 9 after stopping the train), around a half million.

Longest-lasting streak of playing games without sleep - 18 hours direct (with only 20 seconds to drink a 12-ounce can of lemonade in full and bathroom breaks), 40 hours indirect (as from renting a game and remaining hooked on it for so long and swapping with me at FF9 and my sister at something else which kept me awake for 53 hours, a record set around 2002. I ended up sleeping for 25 hours straight without waking up shortly after.

Longest-lasting streak of playing games - about 30 to 50 days or so - during summer vacation when I was in school..

Longest-lasting streak of listening to the same video game music - 46 days (Battle Zone, FF9's Battle Music at about 60% true speed) with 42 days (FF1's World Map music) as a close second.

Worst-rated but most played game - Bubsy 3D. I'm hovering around 800 hours at it, where 3/5 of that spent on the second level and 1/3 on the first level with the rest on the other much-less-liked levels. There are tons of self-made challenges to accomplish and bugs to find that keep me at the game.

Biggest accomplishment - Defeating Emerald Weapon in FF7 with more than 2/3 of the clock left.

Biggest stunt - getting tossed up at 4000 mph without getting "fallout" and bouncing successfully to a complete stop in Super Monkey Ball 2 with the "Bead Screen" stage, (theme park version, not possible at all with space version).

My first uploaded video - stunt in SMB2


I've recorded several videos of stunts like this in Super Monkey Ball 2. I'm otherwise a master at the game as I know it's ins and outs very well (a perfect in bowling, 24,000 points in target, completing expert mode ending with the same number of lives I started with, etc.). For the highest speed and height with the greatest success rate, Advanced Stage 8 (Inch Worms) has this. Bead screen has the fastest possible speed and height, to 4000 mph and more than double the clipping range, but even getting 1000 mph has a small 5% success rate on a good run (normally around 2%).

The next best after Inchworms is Organic Form which offers about 950 mph with a 20% success rate. Pendulums comes next with an even lower 15% success rate (increases to 70% with lots of practice), and only around 750 mph.

Edit:  This was also the first time I worked with stereo.  The original stereo track's channels were exactly identical (even in a hex edittor).  I decided to make wise use of stereo and recording my voice to explain a few things.

I got GameBridge! Now to wait a week....

1  History:
During 2002 and 2003, I had a TV tuner card, but it had many downsides.  First, there was quite a bit of static, as from this favorite screenshot of my top favorite Gamecube game (click it to view full size version):

Note the area where the map is and all that static.  The second thing is that the brightness could never be set properly.  The area on the left is roughly true color, just a bit brighter, but the area below and to the right is far brighter than it should be.  Third, it wouldn't record video at a frame rate higher than 20 fps and/or 320x240 resolution.  Fourth, and finally, it had serious interlacing that was easily seen in the screenshots.  It did have two upsides though.  It had no lag whatsoever and the motion was very smooth.

Then I tried getting another TV tuner, but the buggy drivers posed problems.  I resolved that by downloading updated ones from the manufacturer's website, but then another, far more serious issue was present - lag.  Sure a quarter second doesn't seem like much, but when you've got an enemy coming right at you very suddenly and is only a half second away, the quarter second lag plus your reaction time makes it impossible to evade the enemy and you end up taking serious damage.  For my stunts with Super Monkey Ball 2, this quarter second lag is even worse since I need high-precision timing at times, especially for the inchworms stage.

2  GameBridge saves the day:
Along comes Gamespot and the suggestion pointing me to GameBridge.  After a few days debating on whether or not I should get it, I decided to get it and just today, it arrived and I immediately hooked it up.  Seeing that there was no lag (about 1/30 second, which is acceptable, far more than a quarter second which is nearly 8 times longer) and the frame rate rendered seemed to be around 20 fps, but this is all I need for what I intend on doing and it took a bit of practice to get used to.  I began recording my stunts and got 6 videos in the matter of an hour.  Being MPEG files, I'll need to find an MPEG to AVI converter so I can make use of Virtual Dub so I can, supposedly, add my own sound track (my voice explaining these stunts), and get rid of the black border around it, then it's processing this to full completion.  Getting rid of the black is easily done with my programming since I understand the file format of BMP images and the method needed.  437x299 seems like an odd resolution though....

3  Some samples
Just to give you a small hint at the crazy stunts I do, I took two screenshots that show you just what my stunts are like:

You may notice a similarity between the top screenshot with the larger sample above.  The bottom screenshot is new to my collection but is generally the same thing.  Note the speeds in both cases. Imagine going 5 times faster than that, my record.

4  The week-long wait for level 10
Because free users of Gamespot cannot upload user videos until they reach level 10, and paying for the subscription isn't worth it at all (see my previous blog and a link to my website's blog for an in-depth description on why), I wouldn't mind waiting roughly a week to reach level 10 so I can.  At least that way, I can get at doing some of my other stunts in other games as well.  Since it has a TV tuner with it (lag free!), I can hook up all my game systems (NES, Playstation 1, etc.).

My primary role with Gamespot

I don't do much on Gamespot. The main thing is with PC hardware since I know more about PC hardware (except LCD monitors, liquid cooling systems, and cases) than I do with PC games. This seems a bit odd, but I'm more into game programming than playing games, except classics.

My original intent for going here was to write a review for some of the games I've got. It was first Bubsy 3D as my original intent, but I went with other games. I was disappointed in that I had to wait for level 3 in order to do so. I also wanted to upload a video I have of Super Monkey Ball 2 and a fun stunt I do a lot - getting tossed up at mach 2 and faster. I needed to wait until I got to level 10 first though, but, I figured, I may just look after getting a TV capture card (aka TV tuner card) while waiting instead of using the very flawed one I had originally in 2002 and 2003.

When I first came here, I was wondering where forums were for game development, but I didn't see any (other than general games discussion).

Why not subscribe? It's not entirely the fact that I have to pay for it, it's the fact that pretty much nothing in the paid versions is of any interest to me (just a bunch of 1's and a few 1.1 affectors, hardly putting a dent in changing my decision - see my website's Jan 2007 blog for an in-depth look (news item #16) at how the different aspects affected my decision).

New PC game - Flight Simulator X

Ever since I saw the ads on TV, I've always wanted to get the Flight Simulator X program.  Due to internet problems and the router going dead, I went to the store and wanted to look at games.  I happened to see this on the shelves and got the Deluxe version.  I haven't installed it yet, but I'm eager to try it out.  I wonder if my home town area is decently detailed in here.  Too bad I can't put in my mind game's "game mechanics" where I'm gliding around at 800+ mph and other stuff, but, it would be nice to investigate the scenery and stuff.

Back at the NES - new tough self-made challenges fullfilled

Starting around Jan 25, I've been playing the NES while nothing much is going on on these forums and the other forums I frequent (2:00 AM Central Time - it's expected). With my newfound C programming skills, I had a much stronger ability of understanding game mechanics and exploiting their weaknesses. This made the 4 games I played seem much easier than I'm used of them being and thus, I needed more challenging self-made challenges available.

I first played Blaster Master and finished the game (defeating the final boss). Before, I had a lot of difficulty with the spikes in the eighth area, but, having studied the game mechanics, I mastered that unusually well. I still had quite a bit of difficulty..

Another challenge I accomplished was with Felix the Cat, my second favorite NES game. That game is so easy that there's otherwise no challenge. It's so easy that I could go through the entire game without getting extra lives. Just recently, I went through the entire game without losing a single life. That's about as challenging as making it to the sixth area in Blaster Master and is much more like it in terms of difficulty. I even made it through the first two worlds without getting hit at all.

A third game, Jaws, is one of my favorites. One challenge was to beat the game without docking at any of the docks (yes, that includes defeating Jaws at power level 1). Just today, a few hours ago, I wanted to reach one million points and I managed to do so and beat the game as well... with 9 lives, 99 shells, a power of 9, and 7 strobes, and losing only 4 lives (with one streak spanning over half the goal span). Jaws is a quick game to beat and it takes me around 15 minutes to finish it entirely.

The other game, Marble Madness, reminded me of Super Monkey Ball 2, my top favorite Gamecube game liked more than twice as much as any other Gamecube game (causing almost 5 times the sustainability). Just like with SMB2, I have developed many tricks for awkward courses. It was the last area of the final level that took a while to figure out but my skills with SMB2 made it look easy after just 3 tries at it (since I'm a master at SMB2 not just in the game itself, but the understanding of the game mechanics and it's general design - just from playing it).

Metroid was also played, but only for playing around. I find it entertaining to get hit by enemies as I like the sound effect.

What my user icon/avatar is

For a few days, I've been pondering what my avatar should be of. I was once thinking of an animated GIF where Hyper Sonic continuously falls (off screen), but encounters a sprite causing him to lose all his speed. Although the time it takes to make nor the length of it are the issue (I made my first cartoon in about 7 days and another one reusing the scenery in just 2 days), it's that I'd rather gain experience with C programming to get the output instead of using Gamestudio, which is packed full of limitations, annoyances, and other things. Another idea was that of my 2D game, The Supernatural Olympics, but due to a math error I didn't notice with the lighting, I didn't think it was worth posting.

Background to my avatar:
Since late 2001, I've been making animated GIFs that have only gotten more complex in both the massive, complex calculations and in the scenery*. I've since reached the limits of GIF. I've been known to make animated GIFs of over 300 frames, even over 1000 frames. 1000 frames!? Most would think of that as a joke, but it's actually for real - 3444 frames is my record. My first animated cartoon is 3444 frames and another one, made in only two days, is 1550 frames. Here's the proof of my claim (warning: huge files): The Mega Race, my first animated cartoon - 3444 frames (4.1 MB) (!); The Spinning board - 1550 frames (2.8 MB).

What my avatar is of:
My first animated cartoon was quite an accomplishment and may even be the world's biggest, most complex animated GIF (this is not confirmed). My user icon is one of the frames of the animation. If I posted the whole thing, you'd be looking at a 1 MB download, meaningless. In the scene, the character is going 109 mph and is about to land on the cliff to the right. The only modification I made was adding the black border around it otherwise it would've stretched it (I just tested it - 36x27 stretched to 36x36 causing it to look weird). I also scaled it down using the most precise scaling method. The original is this:

The graphics may be plain - that's a limitation of GIF and short of using double-compressed AVI's, I have no other alternative.

* If you're curious about my past animations, this is my collection. Some very old ones are not present here (as AVIs that can be converted to GIF), but this is the collection as I have it, over 20 animations with a few details about them and a preview of each.

Major computer problems and surprises in my games

I've had some major problems with my computer preventing me from even using it (it was freezing in the BIOS where I was only watching the CPU temp).  This resulted in 2 1/2 weeks without the computer.  Without being able to use it, I had to resort to my games to pass the time.

I first started with Final Fantasy 2 from Final Fantasy Origins playing a new game (with normal difficulty).  As soon as I got Mindu, I made no further progress with the story, even though the game time is passing 40 hours.  Each character has at least 5000 HP and around 400 MP.  Strange how I haven't gone any further than 10 steps into Semitt Falls, the next area, and I've got end-of-game-type of statistics.  When the characters max out at 9999 HP and 999 MP, that's when I intend on resuming the story starting with Semitt Falls.  This makes the game a lot of fun.

When I got the Gamecube from my sister, I immediately went at Super Mario Sunshine, another one of my favorites (except those complicated block courses such as those with "secret" in the episode title).  Then again, playing the Delfino Plaza area for a long time getting something like 1400 coins (displays as 999 in the "score" part - annoying) to get extra lives for those block courses really comes in handy (that's 28 extra lives).

However, when I went to "Action Replay Central" on another computer, I found two codes of great interest, one of which I've been after for so long.  Both of which are for Super Monkey Ball 2 - moon jump and debug mode.  The moon jump code was one I've been after for ages.  I've only found it for the PAL version of the game and not the US version (NTSC).  The views I get from holding the B button to rise are actually nothing new to me.  With bead screen, I've been tossed up so high that the whole stage is beyond the distant clipping range, more than twice that so seeing the whole stage in view (the background scenery and the white borders (white in the case of the theme park world) is nothing new.  Afterall, I have a screenshot of this dated 2003.  I've always wanted to do it for the forest, back yard, whale, and city worlds (worlds 6, 7, 4, and 8 respectively) but no stage allows for this.  I can do it with world 2 (volcano), 5 (theme park), 3 (ocean), 9 (space station), and, by a collision fault, world 10 (the UFO).  With the debug mode, I can play the golf courses (particularly stages 174 and 175 (holes 14 and 15)) as you would with the main game's challenge mode (fall out and you lose a life).  With the infinite time code combined with moon jump, I've been able to impact the slopes at nearly 10,000 mph (60 CU/fr according to the debug panel - 1000 mph is 7.45 CU/fr (±0.002) - the ball is about 1 CU and thus, if you travel the ball's diameter in one frame, you are going about 1 CU/fr, which is about 134 mph).  Bead screen only gives 4000 mph (~29.8 CU/fr).  There's actually 420 stages in the game, many of which exact copies containing a single black-and-white checkerboard pattern with a goal (it's as easy as the stage "simple" (beginner stage 1)).  The only thing missing that I would love to have is collision detection on all background objects for all worlds, not just 4 of them.  The theme park and forest worlds are highest on my list.  Also, preventing fallout in practice mode (meaning you can fall forever (infinitely low)).  Having found this, I've been hooked with SMB2 for several days as I immediately came up with nearly a dozen new challenges.

The original SMB doesn't have any of this stuff I enjoy which makes it not all that fun.  I managed to get a score of -12 in the golf game in SMB with 3 known holes where I've gotten a hole in one.  I like SMB2's golf game three times better.  If only I had the sort of things SMB2 has (moon jump and debug), I'd easily double my play time from about 40 hours.

New area found in Bubsy 3D - extremely high

While I was playing Bubsy 3D last night, playing the only worthy level, the second one, I found an area where you can get up so high, a height of UE with the coordinates cheat, that, upon jumping, the ground can easily be seen fogging away.  It's in the mountains near the end of the level marker.  As you face the area with the electric enemy with the fan leading up to the final platform visible, it's the area in the mountains a little to the left from there.  It's tricky to get here as you need fine jumping skills.  I've been up 5 times higher though with the help of a fan in that same level, one of the many bugs I've found.  It was by using this bug that I was able to get here quickly.

Why do I bother doing this?  I'm always attracted to high places, trying to get as high as I possibly can.  I first start playing a game like one normally would going through the levels normally.  When I'm done, I begin making my own challenges and getting as high as I possibly can is almost always one such challenge.  By making my own challenges, I can play games for a much longer duration and I still play games I've played for years.  I've probably played Bubsy 3D for about 700 hours in all, 2/5 of that in the second level and 1/3 in the first level.  The rest for the other levels which are much less liked since I'm not able to make up my own challenges anywhere near as much as the first two levels.