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Tool-assisted game movies
When human skills are just not enough

Submission #1445: Baxter's SNES Biker Mice From Mars in 05:12.62

Console: Super NES
Game name: Biker Mice From Mars
Game version: USA
ROM filename: Biker Mice From Mars (U) [!].smc
Branch:
Emulator: (unknown)
Movie length: 05:12.62
FrameCount: 18757
Re-record count: 31215
Author's real name: Lennart W.
Author's nickname: Baxter
Submitter: Baxter
Submitted at: 2007-02-07 20:53:49
Text last edited at: 2010-08-14 12:51:42
Text last edited by: Flygon
Download: Download (3011 bytes)
Status: published
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Author's comments and explanations:

(Link to video)

The game

Biker Mice From Mars is a completely underrated racing game for the SNES. Many probably never played (or even heared of) it, but those who have all seemed to enjoy it a lot (for instance, there isn't a single review rating below a 9, at the Gamefaqs reviews (Editors note: Someone rated it 8/10, but it's still a highly respectable score)).

In this game, you are able to choose from 6 different characters. They all very different in their top speed, acceleration, steering, special moves, weapons and more, but the game is still balanced. You are able to play a championship mode (which I'm doing in this TAS), battle mode (where the goal is to kill your opponents) and practice mode (where you can choose any track you want). There are three difficulty settings, and after beating 'Hard', a fourth 'Super Hard' option will become available. The harder the difficulty, the more tracks need to be completed to finish the game. At 'Hard' and 'Super Hard', the championship consist of 6 rounds, each round having 5 tracks. Each of these five tracks has a different theme: City, Islands, Sewerage, Circuit and Fortress. Depending on how well you did in the race, you get some points, and some money. This money can be used to buy parts for your vehicle. There are 'Engine'-part, 'Tire'-parts. 'Armor'-parts and 'Shot'-parts. All parts do what you would expect them to, and they can be upgraded five times each. After the second lap, you can use your weapon (each character has a different weapon) three times. For each time you upgraded your weapon, you get one more shot per lap. After the second lap, you'll also get an item, which is much like the question marks at Super Mario Kart.

The movie

  • Genre: Racing
  • Snes9X v1.43+ v9
  • Plays at hardest difficulty, 'Super Hard'
  • Uses a password
  • Abuses programming errors in the game
    • Note: The great speed acquired is not a programming error. It is attained by using various techniques used as optimally as possible. The programming error I am talking about involves taking a shortcut at the second track which wasn't intended by the programmers.

The Password and it's consequences (This is a Q&A of the questions I can imagine to rise, about the movie itself (not about the racing:

  • What does it do?
    • It allows me to start at the last (sixth) round of at the Championship mode with Vinnie, at difficulty level 'Super Hard'. It also gives me fully upgraded 'Engine'-parts and 'Shot'-parts.
  • How did you get this password?
    • I obtained it by playing the game normally. You get a password after each round (five tracks). The password saves the round you were at, the player you were playing with, the money you had and the parts you had upgraded. I checked the password I got for several amounts of money, in order to get a password which was very easy to type fast.
  • Why did you choose to play only the one round (five tracks), and not the entire championship?
    • An entire championship consists of 30 tracks. This would mean, the TAS would be 30 to 40 minutes long. That's very long, I think, for a racing game. It would also be a ridiculous amount of work, TASing 30 tracks. After each round, you get to see an ending movie. The points are reset. A round is perfectly comparable with a "cup" at Super Mario Kart. However, in this game, there are only five themes: City, Islands, Sewerage, Circuit and Fortress. Each of the 6 rounds features the exact same 5 themes.
  • Why did you pick this particular round?
    • This is the last round of the 'Super Hard' difficulty. It has by far the most complex and beautiful tracks, which make them the most suitable for a TAS. It's also the hardest round.
  • What are the upgraded parts you got from this password, and what do they do?
    • This password gives me fully upgraded Engine-parts. Engine parts give you a higher 'maximum speed' (by higher maximum speed, I mean the speed you obtain by pressing B, up to the point where the vehicle basically stops accelerating). The password also gives me fully upgraded Shot-parts. With the five shot-parts I can use my weapon 8 times in a lap, instead of only 3 times (you can't use your weapon in the first lap). The Tire-parts and armor-parts are of no use when doing a TAS.
  • Why did you use a password which gave you these upgraded parts?
    • Basically, I think it makes the movie a lot cooler and interesting to watch. Both parts I have upgraded allow me to be faster than if I didn't have them. A movie without these parts would, in my opinion, be a lot less entertaining. This way, I can truly show what is the fastest possible way to complete the laps. Besides, if you played the game normally, you would have gathered the money to buy these parts anyway (note that, like I said before, I obtained this password just by playing the game), so it's actually quite natural to have these parts in this stage of the game.
  • Don't the upgraded parts conflict with completing the hardest possible goal in the game?
    • For a normal speedrun, I would agree. For a TAS, it's not hard to beat the computer players anyway. Just look at the movie, and trust me when I say I could have beaten the computers too without these parts (in a TAS). As for the TASing itself, I think these upgraded parts make the TASing actually harder, since you have to consider a lot more things.
  • Why did you pick Vinnie as a character (doesn't he have the lowest maximum speed?)?
    • Vinnie may have the lowest maximum speed, but actually, I'm way above this maximum speed the entire time. The main reason why I choose Vinnie is because of his weapon. He jumps in the air by pressing Y, and attacks downwards by pressing Y again. For attacking others, it's a pretty bad weapon. However, it increases your speed, and more importantly, it enables you to manoeuvre in mid-air. More about this in the section "technique's".

Technique's

I basically tried to optimize a movie, by keeping the speed as high as possible. I did this mainly by watching 7E1790, which gives the speed of the vehicle. Here is a list of data which follows from this adress:

  • If you press B, your speed will increase untill you reach maximum speed. For Vinnie, with fully upgraded engine, which speed is 2673
  • Each 28 frames your maximum speed will go up by 1. If you slow down, you will be at this new maximum speed again. If you bump into something, your maximum speed will be 2673 again. (This increase of 1 isn't of importance for the movie.)

  • Tapping B five times will add 1575 to your speed. This van only be done every 99 frames. This can be seen by watching the following RAM address: 7E17C1.

  • Vinnie’s weapon (available after the first lap) makes him jump in the air, by pressing Y, and move him down very fast with Y again. Jumping in the air can make you go both faster and slower, depending on your speed. Pressing Y the second time will add 1000 to your speed. It also allows you to make corners in the air, and have more control over your height

  • Before starting (when the game goes 3…2…1…) tapping B as much as possible will make you have a faster start. There is a maximum however, with tapping 31 times. It can be seen with the following RAM address: 7E17C0.

  • Pressing L or R when making a corner will make you spin. This is faster than the original maximum speed, but since I am going way faster than that, this technique is only used twice (at the third track) in the entire TAS.

All of these thing will add to your speed. This is why eventually Vinnie moves ridiculously fast. There is however a maximum. If you go faster than this maximum, you will travel backwards instead of forward. This is why I can’t go any faster than 16384. When watching my speed at the TAS, you’ll notice (most of the time) the speed goes up to ~16300, then decreases to ~15000 and some form of speedup is used to go up to ~16300 again.

There are also things that slow you down. With slowing down, I mean that the speed is getting lower until it reaches you reach the maximum speed of 2675. There is a clear difference between slowing down before you use your weapon, and after (read after the first lap) it:

  • When normally driving (pressing B) you slow down 24 per frame. After using the weapon, you slow down 40 per frame.

  • When in the air, you won’t lose any speed, after using your weapon, you will lose 16 per frame while being in the air.

  • You will lose even more when braking by pressing X (yes, I also brake in the TAS to keep under 16384) and when moving uphill.

Camhack?

Nitsuja tried to make a camhack for this game (thanks!), but unfortunately didn’t succeed. So no camhack was used when making this TAS. It was pretty tedious, but with enough testing, I knew exactly where I was and what to do. I doubt that I would have gotten a faster time with a camhack. I (and I bet some others too) would like to see this TAS with a camhack, so if someone is able to make one, please do!

Lap times

Track 1
  • Lap1 0’12”43
  • Lap2 -’--”--
  • Lap3 0’05”81
  • Lap4 0’04”93
  • Lap5 0’04”84

Track 2

  • Lap1 -’--”--
  • Lap2 0’04”53
  • Lap3 0’03”55
  • Lap4 0’03”53
  • Lap5 0’03”41

Track 3

  • Lap1 0’13”96
  • Lap2 -’--”--
  • Lap3 0’05”17
  • Lap4 0’04”58
  • Lap5 0’04”51

Track 4

  • Lap1 0’15”88
  • Lap2 -’--”--
  • Lap3 0’05”61
  • Lap4 0’05”47
  • Lap5 0’05”52

Track 5

  • Lap1 0’14”84
  • Lap2 -’--”--
  • Lap3 0’05”64
  • Lap4 0’05”46
  • Lap5 0’05”44

You will notice that at all tracks one of the laps didn’t register. This is probably due to the fact that I complete the tracks faster than planned. This also keeps the game from telling the final time, which is a pity. Generally:

  • Lap 1 is by far the slowest, since I am not able to use my weapon.

  • Lap 2 is building up speed mostly, it will be a few seconds slower than the third lap.
    • Funny thing is, the only track where the second lap time appeared is the second track, where the second lap is only one second slower than the third lap. This was because at the second track it was easy to build up speed, since there were a lot of jump (and by jumping in the first lap, you don’t lose speed), so lap two was entered here with a larger speed than usual. At the other tracks, the second lap is a few seconds slower than the third lap.

  • Lap 3 starts of very fast so it will be significantly faster than the second lap. The maximum game speed (16384) is achieved somewhere in the lap. This is why the third lap generally is a little slower than the fourth, but not a lot.

  • Lap 4 start usually starts at the maximum speed (with this I mean somewhere between 14800 and 16384), so this lap will be a little faster than the third.

  • Lap 5 also starts with about the maximum speed, so technically it is about as fast as lap 4. Since the conditions are never exactly the same it’s not possible to get the exact same time on each lap. Like I stated before, the speed at maximum varies between ~14800 and ~16300, since it cannot exceed 16384 at all cost. Sometimes you have to wait with taking a speedup or something, so lap four and five are not exactly the same most of the time. Mostly lap 5 is a tiny bit faster than lap four since you don’t have to consider you have to keep racing. Only at the fourth track the fifth lap was slightly slower due to circumstances mentioned above (and note that 0.05 seconds is only 3 frames).

I’d like to thanks everyone who posted at the thread on the forum, knowing people are interested is always a great help. I’d also like to thank some people at IRC who watched some wips, such as JXQ, adelikat, Brushy, mikwuyma and AngerFist. Finally I’d like to thank nitsuja, for trying make a camhack.

Two small notes:

  • Watching the map at the bottom left is a great help.

  • I could also have retired on the last track, and I still would have been first in the total ranking. This, however, is lame.

Adios!

Baxter


adelikat: Very impressive run. Accepting for publication.

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