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

Submission #2656: Acmlm's NES Destiny of an Emperor in 1:21:09.61

Console: Nintendo Entertainment System
Game name: Destiny of an Emperor
Game version: USA
ROM filename: Destiny of an Emperor (U).nes
Emulator: (unknown)
Movie length: 1:21:09.61
FrameCount: 292658
Re-record count: 11293
Author's real name: Jean-Fran├žois Lapointe
Author's nickname: Acmlm
Submitter: Acmlm
Submitted at: 2010-05-06 05:12:44
Text last edited at: 2010-05-07 18:38:50
Text last edited by: OmnipotentEntity
Download: Download (20979 bytes)
Status: published
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Author's comments and explanations:
I started working on this right after finishing Dragon Warrior, as this game's discussion thread had just been revived about improving the published run from 2006. This was another of my old favorite games, and it seems I was still in the mood for some heavy luck manipulation, so I decided to see what I could do ...

2 months and a cancelled submission later, I've improved the published run by 25:21 (91454 frames), and even my earlier attempt by 4:58 (17923)!

Most of the improvement came from the battles (now twice as fast), largely from better luck manipulation but also better strategies and route planning (sometimes at the cost of more walking or other delays, but always regained), and doing less inn trips.

For how linear this game is, there's quite a bit of route planning (who to get, weapons, etc.) ... I've redone fairly large parts more than once, and kept finding new improvements.

Main changes

  • All-Out is used exclusively through the first half of the game, until Ma Chao
  • I only use the inn 14 times (previously 27) and never ever heal in battle (it's slower than the inn anyway)
  • Max TP gains on level up are maximized
  • All gullwings are bought in one trip instead of two
  • I skip Huo Hu (I don't need him, and only lose 5 TP)
  • I go the long way to get Guan Ping and Lu Bu (they're so much better than the alternatives that it's really worth the time)
  • I capture Wen Hun and (much later) Tai Si Ci and Lu Sun
  • I don't execute Yuan Shu, it's faster to destroy him later
  • Some weapon changes, like getting the Nu Long but not the Qing Guang
  • Different parties/orders


When canceling the first character's command, a table index underflow (for TP used) clears a byte in the "character status" table. Guo Ji (from Xu Rong's battle, before Dong Zhuo 1) just happens to belong to that byte, so he's completely removed from the game!

An unexpected (but also minor) one came up near the end, when the game skipped the HP increase text on level up. I have no clue how it happened, but it did save a few more seconds (and looks funny) ...

Luck manipulation

The random number is 4 bytes (32bit), and changes in 2 ways:
  • Simple randomizer function (bit shift and additions), called every frame (except lag) and in a few cases where a random value is needed
  • Add one of the bytes to another and use that as random, in many cases (but not all) where a random value is needed

That second one alone adds a lot of complexity, as it changes the random value sequence and depends on timing. For example, it's called after every step where a random battle can happen, so different step delays before a battle (or anything) will each give completely different results.

During All-Out in battle, I can only manipulate whole turns at once, by introducing delays between each (and canceling/restarting All-Out, which however takes time). Because of this, and the endless possibilities, there's no way I'll get perfect luck or even optimal manipulation ... but I still make most of the game seem much easier than it really is.

I've looked through the game code for everything that happens during All-Out (attacks, tactics, formulas, etc.), and simulated all of it in C so I could bruteforce through lots of delay combinations (up to 1 billion per hour!) and pick the best one I find. Depending on the battle, this ranged from near instant to a whole day ... and that's from a single starting point. I still had to do the rest manually (try different step delays and such, bruteforce All-Out for each), so there's still quite a bit of potential improvement left. But that's easier said than done ...

I've also done the same for random encounters, mostly for manipulating (and optimizing) the few specific encounters I need. Han Zhong, Wen Hun and Zhou Yu each came almost instantly with minimal rebel forces, and each was done multiple times to pick the best All-Out manipulation as well. Then the more extreme case, Lu Sun and Tai Si Ci by themselves (and in this order), is about a 1/20000 chance, and was limited to a very small area at 1/32 encounter rate ... but it still only cost half a second to manipulate!

You can see a screenshot of both in action (and overall setup while working on this run) here:

Battle durations

From first command to victory, not counting manipulation delays before each battle:
Enemy leader Old New
Yellow Scarves
Zhang Bao 1591 1066
Zhang Jao (1) 2676 1869
Han Zhong (capture) 1469 390
Zhang Liang 850 690
Zhang Jao 1885 1139
Dong Zhuo
Hua Xiong 1878 1555
Lu Bu (1) 2325 1382
Li Jue 1215 877
Xu Rong 3441 537
Dong Zhuo (1) 10069 1766
Lu Bu (2) 7126 2806
Dong Min 1372 802
Dong Zhuo (2) 4038 1020
Yuan Shu
Lei Bo 2986 1422
Ji Ling 2848 1422
Han Xian 2853 1427
Liang Ji 980 667
Chen Lan 2481 1071
Yuan Shu 8592 1459
Yuan Shao (ambush) 787 618
Ji Zhou / Jing Zhou
Lu Guang 5644 1415
Jin Xuan 2640 1434
Han Xuan 8157 2589
Zhao Fan 892 690
Xing Dao Rong 493 502
Liu Du 590 439
Xu Shou 753 394
Wen Hun (capture) 97
Yuan Tan 891 308
Ma Yan 316 208
Zhang Yi 347 232
Yuan Shao 929 779
Liu Kui 3817 1243
Meng Da 2759 1148
Yan Yan 3192 2138
Huang Quan 1126 873
Ma Chao 3092 1825
Li Yan 747 709
Lei Tong 1874 869
Liu Zheng 2859 1449
Fan Zhang 2151 1397
Ling Tong 1730 1212
Gan Ning 2311 1497
Zhou Yu 2567 1967
Zhou Yu (capture) 949 360
Zhu Ge Jin 3188 2139
Ding Feng 1548 905
Chen Pu 3604 1880
Huang Gai 1089 554
Sun Yu 4293 2153
Sun Yi 1392 549
Zhou Tai 1024 693
Sun Huan 940 921
Tai Si Ci 1618 707
Sun Quan 3070 1305
Lu Sun, Tai Si Ci (capture) 342
Xia Hou Yuan 1334 646
Zhang Liao 1578 806
Cao Zhi 1624 502
Cao Pi (1) 3888 2421
Cao Xiu 1442 638
Xia Hou Shang 1645 655
Cao Pi (2) 5367 2371
Si Ma Yi (1) 5610 2890
Niu Jin 1341 548
Si Ma Yi (2) 4091 2233
Xun Huo 1065 913
Dian Wei 900 879
Liu Dai 1013 880
Le Xin 893 884
Si Ma Shi 1245 607
Si Ma Yi (3) 3202 2309
Total 170292 82089

adelikat: Accepting as a (big) improvement to the published movie.

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