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

Submission #1493: Bisqwit's DOS Star Control II in 35:03.5

Console: DOS
Game name: Star Control II
Game version: no lander bug
ROM filename:
Branch:
Emulator: (unknown)
Movie length: 35:03.5
FrameCount: 126210
Re-record count: 9761
Author's real name: Joel Yliluoma
Author's nickname: Bisqwit
Submitter: Bisqwit
Submitted at: 2007-03-24 23:44:07
Text last edited at: 2013-09-03 23:33:49
Text last edited by: Bisqwit
Download: Download (15923 bytes)
Status: decision: rejected
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Author's comments and explanations:

(Link to video)

Star Control II is one of the greatest PC games ever. It is a space adventure/exploration game that has a story, battles, exploration, thousands of worlds to mine, and a modular flagship that can be configured for whatever purpose needed. It sports a large number of different alien species, most of which can be encountered during the gameplay; some of which become allies, some of which become enemies, and some which become neither.
There were literally hours of dialogue, each species bringing out their characteristic conversational quirks, music, and even display fonts. Almost a hour of digital music is also included.
Because you can pretty much go anywhere whenever you want, there is no "sequence breaking" in this game. However, there are numerous things that are required for the game to be completed.
More information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Control_II#Star_Control_II


To watch, take the AVI (111 MB) here: http://tracker.tasvideos.org/starcontrol2theuqm-tas-bisqwit.avi.torrent

This movie is now also available at Youtube, albeit at a significantly lower resolution:

  1. Part 1/5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M11RkNmJBs4
  2. Part 2/5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFRum1aeEX0
  3. Part 3/5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJ8g8HpJYuY
  4. Part 4/5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDVKVwnBKWg
  5. Part 5/5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_kIRVEWGFE
(Split in 5 because Youtube has a 10-minute length limitation.)
This speedrun attempts to complete the game in a minimal amount of time, and the completion time ends up being 35:04.

It is the first DOS tool-assisted speedrun on this site. Although the method used to create it was not as robust as for the console game speedruns so far, it is still a legitimate TAS nonetheless, with savestates and frame advance being used and no file edit/TSR hacks.
Because it is rather unlikely anyone will be able to replay the actual movie file, given the myriad of ways the game installation or DOSBox configuration may differ, an AVI was submitted together with the movie file.

To playback this movie

You need to have:
  • A registered copy of Star Control II game
    • Ensure that the following files are present: androsyn.shp arilou.shp blackurq.shp chenjesu.shp chmmr.shp druuge.shp human.shp ilwrath.shp melnorme.shp mmrnmhrm.shp mycon.shp orz.shp pkunk.shp shofixti.shp slylandr.shp spathi.shp supox.shp syreen.shp thradd.shp umgah.shp urquan.shp utwig.shp vux.shp yehat.shp zoqfot.shp con1.pkg con2.pkg ip.pkg melee.pkg setup.pkg starcon.pkg starcon2.exe
    • Ensure that a following file does not exist: starcon2.bat or starcon2.com
    • Ensure that your version is not cracked. It must ask for a star name in the beginning, and not take enter for an answer. If there is a starcon2.exb, rename it to starcon2.exe.
  • A rerecording version of Dosbox
  • The submitted dosbox.conf file and the submitted movie.dof file present in the game's directory

Plot

SPOILERS

This game has a lot of subplots, but here is the most important one.

Portions of this plot are actually supposed to be discovered from different sources throughout the playing, so if you intend to play this game, do not read this chapter. (Go here to download a version of the game that works on modern operating systems.)

The Ur-Quan are an ancient, proud and naturally xenophobic civilized alien species. Twenty thousand years ago, when they were already avid space travellers, they discovered a talking pet, an animal of the species of Dnyarri resembling the cross between a toad and a mushroom.

This talking pet turned out to be a highly malevolent sentient creature that was capable of assuming complete mental control over other lifeforms. The single talking pet compelled the Ur-Quan to bring thousands of other Dnyarris to the Ur-Quan home planet, leading to the complete enslavement of the Ur-Quan species by the Dnyarri, for several thousands of years.

During those times, the Ur-Quan species were split into two: the green, who were the thinkers, and the black, who were the warriors. They were forced to commit numerous atrocities around the galaxy, including the annihilation of the only other alien species they had ever considered a friend, the Taalo. Ironically, the Taalo, who were naturally immune to the mental control of the Dnyarri, were just in the process of finishing a device that would have granted freedom of that control to other races as well.

One day, a green Ur-Quan scientist discovered that in the event of near-lethal pain to the Ur-Quan, the mental control by the talking pet was momentarily relieved. The word spread, and soon, all of the Ur-Quan were burning, hacking and poisoning themselves in order to gain the upper hand over the Dnyarri.

Once the Dnyarri were conquered, the Ur-Quan robbed them of sentience and assigned them into the role of translators -- a task they hated themselves.

The now two Ur-Quan species each developed doctrines to prevent such a catastrophic event ever happening again.

  • The doctrine of the green Ur-Quan (Kzer-Za), called "Path of Now And Forever", meant that all other sentient species must become either slaves to Ur-Quan ("battle-thralls") or be forever imprisoned on their homeworld under an impenetrable forcefield.
  • The doctrine of the black Ur-Quan (Kohr-Ah), called "Eternal Doctrine", meant the entire annihilation of all other sentient species, so that they can only be reborn as Ur-Quan.
Eventually, a war spawned between these two doctrines, and the green Ur-Quan came victorous through the discovery of an ancient weapon platform, the Sa-Matra. But the doctrines would meet again, and when that happens, whoever wins the Sa-Matra signifies the win of their doctrine as well.

The game starts at the time of that second conflict, and the black Ur-Quan, Kohr-Ah, seem to be winning. It is the task of the player to seek resolution to the problem, by ultimately destroying the Sa-Matra, with the help of the other alien species. Failing this task, the Kohr-Ah will eventually win the war (in about five years), and will start exterminating each and every alien species in the universe.

SPOILERS END HERE

The player pilots an advanced precursor vessel found on a secret scientific mission in another solar system, and has quite missed everything that has happened recently, such as that Earth now has an inpenetrable force shield, as mandated by the Ur-Quan law.

Strategical summary

What is required for game completion

This image summarizes what is required for game completion.


Green=item, orange=people.

For many of the parts of the route, there are alternatives, so the game is not that linear. For example, besides having the Ilwrath attack the Thraddash, you can distract the Thraddash by allying them (requires destroying 25 of their ships in battle) and just "going to have a kind of look at the Aqua Helix", or by allying them and compelling them to go fight the Kohr-Ah. Or fourth, I could just wait until the Kohr-Ah slaughter the entire species when they start their ominous tour around the galaxy, but that would take five years of the game time.

Route

This route mostly follows the speedrun walkthrough by lmfurb, available at http://db.gamefaqs.com/computer/doswin/file/star_control_ii_speed.txt -- however, with a few changes.

  1. Harvest Sol, equip ship. (160 fuel, max speed)
  2. First trip Travel to Alpha Pavonis to pick up a warp-pod from a crashed Ur-Quan ship.
  3. Travel to Quasispace and deliver the warp-pod to Arilou. Receive portal spawner.
  4. Warp to Arcturus and pick up the Burvixese caster.
  5. Warp to Gamma Krueger and ally the Pkunk. Receive ships and Ultron part.
  6. Warp to Alpha Taurii and trick the Ilwrath into attacking the Thraddash by impersonating their gods.
  7. Warp to Sol, equip ship again. (160 fuel, Arilou+Pkunk+Earthling and max speed+fueltanks)
  8. Second trip Warp to Beta Copernicus and pick up a Mycon eggshell.
  9. Travel to Epsilon Scorpii to receive some Mycon knowledge.
  10. Warp to Betelgeuse and fury the Syreen whose former homeworld was destroyed by the Mycon.
  11. Warp to Epsilon Cameleopardalis to get the Syreen some mobility.
  12. Warp to Betelgeuse to learn about a plan to take revenge on the Mycon.
  13. Travel to Delta Vulpeculae to befriend the Orz and to loot the Taalo shield.
  14. Warp to Epsilon Scorpii, execute the captain's part of the revenge plan on Mycon.
  15. Travel to Beta Brahe, attack (now weaker) Mycon and steal the Sun device.
  16. Warp to Zeta Persei, purchase the Ultron part and a lot of fuel.
  17. Third trip Warp to Beta Orionis, get attacked by ten zombie Umgahs and pick up the Talking pet.
  18. Travel to Zeta Draconis and steal the Ultron part.
  19. Warp to Umgah/Supox space, get Ultron from Supox, fix it and give it to Utwig, making both allies.
  20. Travel to Zeta Hyades, attack the Druuge and take the Bomb.
  21. Warp to Procyon, flood the planet with energy and ally the resulting Chmmr.
  22. Equip ship again.
  23. Last trip Warp to Delta Crateris, finish the destiny.

The bolded "trips" mark the points where the fuel tank was refilled.

Space battles

Each of the mandatory battles were handled with a different ship:
Battle Fought with Why
One crippled Ilwrath Spathi Equal in a sense: Also crippled staff-wise.
Five Mycons guarding the Sun device Pkunk Pkunk was faster than Arilou, but it was also very fitting for Pkunk to continuously insult the Mycon for running into their own projectiles.
Ten Umgahs controlled by Talking pet Arilou Equal in a sense.
Five Druuges trying to steal the bomb Earthling Equal in a sense.
Six Ur-Quans guarding the Sa-Matra Various Demonstrated various powerful ships.
Sa-Matra shields Chmmr Chmmr's laser has lots of power.

After the end of each battle group, I destroyed both ships together, to save the time of the last victory ditty. With the exception of the battle fought by Fwiffo (Spathi); I needed to sell Fwiffo's ship, and therefore I couldn't have it destroyed in the battle.

I admit the battles could be improved a lot with techniques like luck manipulation (for the starting position&orientation of the enemy ship relative to own ship) and using improved fighting strategies.

Details:

Ilwrath

Three BUTT missiles and one pellet. The most accurate and fastest way to kill the Ilwrath with a Spathi ship.

Mycon

Because the Pkunk Fury has low firepower and the Mycon Podship has high firepower, my strategy involved having the Mycon finish itself off. So I purposefully avoided shooting the Mycon from behind until it has shot at least two plasma blasts. (Doing otherwise means the Mycon will spend its resources to regenerate crew instead.) After the blasts appear, I maneuver the Fury to a position such that the Mycon ship will end up being in the between of the plasma blasts and the Fury, forcing the Mycon to receive its own blasts. They do a lot of damage.
For one of the five battles, I demonstrated the inferior strategy.
The last battle was most difficult because I had to make sure that the Mycon and the Pkunk die almost at the same time. But it ended up being the fastest.

Umgah

Both the Arilou Skiff and the Umgah Drone have low firepower. Both have very erratic maneuverability. My strategy involved staying immobile beside the enemy ship and just shooting it. However, the Umgah is keen to use its special function; superspeed backwards teleport. So I had to occassionally keep up with the movement.

Druuge

The Druuge Mauler and the Earthling Cruiser are quite similar design. Both are narrow and long, and both fire projectiles that travel far.

But the differences end there: The Mauler regenerates batteries by tossing their crew into the furnaces, and they fire tiny, extremely powerful and high-velocity projectiles that travel straight, causing a huge of recoil to the firing ship, whereas the Cruiser fires homing missiles and has the ability to laser-zap close-by offenders. There is nothing special to the strategy employed here; I simply try to ensure that all the missiles hit their target.
Like in the Arilou-Umgah battle, I gradually sacrificed the crew in the Cruiser to enable it to be killed at the same time as the last Mauler.

Ur-Quan and Kohr-Ah

My first plan was to annihilate all six ships with a single Utwig Jugger. After the third try, I came up with another plan; using three pairs of ships: Two Chmmr Avatars, two Orz Nemesises and two Utwig Juggers. By dedicating each battle its own ship, I can have them always destroyed at the end of the battle together with the enemy. I chose three different ship types instead of one or two for better entertainment.

In the Chmmr vs Kohr-Ah battle, it turns out I misestimated the amount of crew needed aboard the Avatar. The battle didn't go as I wanted. Hence, I ended up having one excess ship at the end. If I had correctly estimated the amount of crew needed, the Avatar would have been destroyed together with the Marauder. I tried to hex-edit it, but it resulted in desyncs, and because every battle is different, the amount would have been wrong again.

Sa-matra

The Avatar's zapstats were very useful against the Sa-Matra's shields, conserving the power of the main weapon.

Luck manipulation

In Star Control II, the randomness is updated every time it is requested. Unlike in NES games, this randomness does not sample any information about the game state.

You can only influence the randomness by influencing the need for randomness. For example, when you enter a solar system, the configuration of enemy ships in the solar system is decided. To influence that, you need to enter the solar system later or sooner and from different positions on the map. This helps, because the hyperspace view uses the randomness function to decide the appearance of other hyperspace travellers (especially the Slylandro Probes), as a function of proximity to different spheres of influence.

To influence the randomness used to displace the planet lander from its intended destination, you need to first influence the randomness calls done in the solar system to permutate the actions of the enemy ships flying there.

In Mycon-Pkunk battles, the Pkunk's insult words are selected randomly. Hence, your decision of whether or not to insult, will influence the enemy ship's spawn location. (The Pkunk ship insults the opponent in order to recharge its own batteries. This is the action of the spacebar button.)

Details about the route

Beginning

I harvested Io for precious radioactives. I also harvested Mercury. And Luna. This time-wasting diversion not only gained me enough resources to maximize my speed boosters in the very beginning, but it also meant I ended up having a lot of _slack time_ while waiting for the Quasispace window to open... Oops. The route from Pluto to Jupiter was carefully selected considering the peculiar space-time geometry in the solar system (an artifact of the zoomed views). It was significantly faster than any other way.

I actually sold all ships and weapons; I would do the first trip around the galaxy completely unarmed. I also sold the mineral storage module; I had no intention of honoring the Commander's "bring back lots of minerals" wish. I still needed the planet lander though, and hence, at least one human present in the flagship, and hence, a crewpod.

I named the alliance "The Empire of Bisqwit". Contrary to popular belief, this has no effect in the difficulty level of the game, but I thought this would be a nice touch. This was also the shortest name available.

Expedition 1

From here on, I head straight to Alpha Pavonis, where a crashed Ur-Quan Dreadnaught happens to be waiting for scavenging. I pick up a powerful warp-pod from there, and then head into the only region of space where a portal to Quasi-space happens to occur in the 17-20 days of every month, naturally. After entering the portal, I travel to the Arilou homeplanet where they'll be happy to equip my ship with a Portal spawner, using the acquired warp-pod as a core ingredient.

After the meeting with Arilou is over, I warp to the other edge of the galaxy, and go salvage a hyperspace caster from the moon of former Burvixese homeworld. Next, I head to the Pkunk homeplanet and ally them. Last, before returning home, I go to the Ilwrath system, and use the hyperspace caster to communicate with the Ilwrath, posing as their gruesome gods, ordering them on another murderous conquest.

Back at starbase

After a long and enlightening expedition throughout the galaxy, the fuel tanks are nearly depleted, and I'm back at starbase.

After I gained Arilou and Pkunk as allies, both of them were kind enough to donate some ships for me. Showing the kind of emperor I am, I sell them for scrapmetal, except for one of each kind.

I could actually keep a few Arilou ships so I could sacrifice some of them when fighting the Umgah later on -- this would save some time, but there's another party I'm planning to humiliate later on, so instead of battleships, I'll pack my flagship full of fuel tanks.

I bought just enough fuel to get me to the next refueling point, and I bought crew for the rest of the money. I needed some plasmafodder crew to be able to escape some stupid Mycon battles quick.

Syreen subplot

The Syreen homeworld, Syra, was invaded by the Mycon, who habitually de-terraform Earth-like worlds into molten worlds with violent volcano eruptions and earthquakes happening all the time.

The Captain presents the Syreen the proof that the Mycon were behind the destruction of Syra, and thus the Syreen start planning revenge. The revenge plan involves telling the Mycon about a new planet for them to de-terraform, and ambushing them there, while the Captain uses the distraction to steal the Sun device from one of the Mycons' holiest planets.

After the Mycon are cheated, I could visit the Syreen commander again to participate in some rather intimate scenes. However, this doesn't aid a speedrun so I left it out.

Sometime this route I also ally the Orz in order to gain permission to visit one of their holiest planets -- the moon of the Taalo homeworld. Conveniently, the Orz ship which handled the honors of alliance negotiations existed in the same screen with the planet in question, through luck manipulation.

Druuge trade world

At the Druuge trade world, I exchange the Mycon egg shell for a Rosy sphere, an item which will be used later to repair the Ultron.

I also sell them the Burvixese Caster, which I no longer need. For this, I gain my tanks full of fuel. Because I had previously packed my flagship full of fueltanks, this invokes the rare treat of the Hideous Deal dialog. This little diversion loses me some seconds of time but I thought it would be cool to feature it here. What am I going to do with all that fuel?

Umgah world

The Talking Pet recovered from the crashed Ur-Quan spacecraft was delivered to the Umgah, who used their superior genetic manipulation techniques to restore the Talking Pet into its full intellectual potential. The pet immediately assumed mental control of the entire species, for the purpose of planning revenge against the Ur-Quan. Here comes the Captain, and although he is now shielded from the mental powers of the Dnyarri, he still will have to battle ten mindless Umgah commanders who are being compelled by the Dnyarri. This task is delegated to the Arilou pilot Oowbabe, who does so in the most honorable manner.

After the battles, the Dnyarri has no choice but to come to my ship. I could now communicate with the Umgah, who would be very happy to reward me richly for freeing them of Dnyarri control. However, I have no use for their reward.

After claiming the Dnyarri, I visit a certain Thraddash planet stealing their holy artifact, the Aqua Helix. The item will be used later to repair the Ultron. Normally, I would have to destroy 25 Thraddash fighters to earn the friendship from the brutal Thraddash, but since I sent the Ilwrath to war with the Thraddash, they're too busy to guard the planet and hence I can just go there and take it.

Supox and Utwig

I travelled to the quadrant of the space that is occupied by two species in symbiosis: the plants, Supox, and the wearers of masks, Utwig.

The task here is following:

  • Find a Supox ship. Communicate with them. Ask about Utwig. Receive the broken Ultron.
  • Fix the Ultron using the three parts collected earlier.
  • Find an Utwig ship. Give the repaired Ultron to the Utwig.
  • The Utwig will be so overjoyed, together with Supox,
    1. permit access on their planet containing the most powerful bomb in the universe.
    2. contribute the design of their ships to the Earth starbase.
    3. go and fight the Kohr-Ah, giving the player some extra months of time for winning the game.
Of course I only care about their bomb.

But it turned out that finding those Supox and Utwig ships was really difficult. They appear randomly on each of their territories, and hours of luck manipulation was required to get them appear relatively fast. I had to redo the Umgah-Thraddash route a couple of times to make it happen.

When I go fetch the bomb, I have to fight the Druuge, who have came to steal the bomb to themselves.

Chmmr and back at starbase

After retrieving the bomb, I go and flood the planet of Chenjesu and Mmrnmrhm with two decades of sunlight in a couple of seconds, and the Chmmr race is emerged. They kindly transform my bomb into a superbomb, redesign the structure of my ship, and give me infinite resources. I use this opportunity to buy some ships, and go hunt the Sa-Matra.

At this point, my flagship has no crew. All the crew reside in those ships. Since the Utwig Jugger has perfect shields (at least in a TAS), it only needs one crew member. The Orz Nemesis relies on being able to *Go!Go!* "intruders", so it needs full crew.

Sa-Matra

The Dnyarri is employed to send away most of the Ur-Quans guarding the Sa-Matra. This happens according to the game plot.

Then the mandatory battles are performed.

After the Sa-Matra's shields are gone, the flagship is led into the opening with the bomb on timer, to annihilate it and everything else within a planetary radius. The Talking Pet is "forgot" into the ship.

Auto-pilot strategy

The auto-pilot plots straighter courses than is possible to do oneself. In theory, it saves fuel and it saves time.

However, while making this speedrun, I lost completely the confidence in the auto-pilot; I often found the manual steering to be faster (even when taking the map screen delays out of equation), and not consume noticeably more fuel than the auto-pilot does. It is unfortunate, because I would have liked to feature the mapscreen more, to give some idea where I'm going at a given time.
I showed the mapscreen once right before entering the Delta Crateris system at the end, just for the show. It's not like this is the perfect movie if I left that out, and I think it's interesting to see.

Questions and answers

Q: What was the long wait for after acquiring the Urquan warppod?
A: The Quasispace portal appears between 17th and 20th days. I had a lot of slack time. However, I did not have slack fuel, so I couldn't move around. Also, I couldn't travel to the portal first, because the Arilou would have popped in and asked what I'm doing. Communications do not consume the timer. I could have equipped the ship with less speed upgrades... (and used the RU for ship rotation instead), but I believe this was faster in the end.

Q: At the first visit in the Mycon homeworld, why didn't you drive directly to the planet?
A: I wanted to get the attention of the patrolling Mycon ship, so that it comes closer instead of ambushing me when I try to leave the planet later. This prevented one fight. To get there to be only one Mycon ship in the first place, I luckmanipulated the entry to the solar system. The same was done at a few other places.

Q: That's it?
A: There were a lot of races we did not meet face-to-face in this speedrun -- even of those which we battled with, such as Kohr-Ah and the Umgah -- and lots of subplots that were not visited. The Melnorme traders were never met, and hence, no alien beasts were collected on any planets.

Q: How much do you estimate this movie to be improveable?
A: If the strategy is not changed, I'd say around 30-60 seconds (mostly through luck manipulation). 2 minutes at tops. If the strategy is changed, things might be different.


Future improvements (timewise)

  • Manipulate planet entries so that the lander displacement works in favor to minimize manual cursor movement.
  • Don't use the autopilot. Or use the autopilot. Figure out definitely which way is the faster one.
  • Buy only the fuel you need. (I had to take some extra because I did not know the precise amount used)
  • Buy only the crew you need. (I had to take some extra because I did not know the precise amount lost; it varies depending on luck)
  • More optimal Orz encounter.
  • Actually finish off the second Chmmr ship in the battle.
  • Pick up Eggshell from Gamma Scorpii rather than Beta Copernicus. It costs 2.5 fuel units less, and is faster in travel time.
  • Receive Mycon terraforming knowledge from Arilou who linger around the natural quasispace portal, rather than from the Mycon homeworld where one must escape an inevitable battle. This is a large time-saver.
  • Consider using the Melnorme as a refueling station. Their fuel is really cheap. One Rainbow world (say, Beta Pegasi) is enough to cover the fuel needs for the entire game.
    • Concerning fuel, you can get 184 credits worth of BIO from Alpha Wolf IV-A, conveniently en-route to Alpha Pavonis. This is worth 3680 RU. You can get to Alpha Wolf with just 5 fuel, which means you don't need to buy any fuel at Starbase. The 2500+1151+1800+1060 RU = 6511 you get in the beginning, from Cruiser, from Fwiffo, and from Mercury (ignore Luna & Io) is enough for 2 extra fuel tanks, full thrusters and two extra turning jets.
  • Trick the Ilwrath before allying the Pkunk. This way you don't need to dodge Ilwrath ships on both trips, only the first one.
  • Don't do the fueltank thing. Save the Caster. You can call Melnorme with it.


Truncated: While this is a very interesting movie, technically, being the first PC TAS, viewer feedback has been negative, and it is obvious why. Probably more than 80% of the movie is just seeing stars zooming by on red/green tinted backgrounds, which I started skipping after the first minute. The space battles are interesting, but few, short, and far apart, which isn't a very good combination. Therefore I think this movie should be rejected.


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