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Submission #4016: Chef Stef & Kiwisauce's DS Super Scribblenauts in 1:01:52.63

Console: Nintendo DS
Game name: Super Scribblenauts
Game version: USA
ROM filename: Super Scribblenauts.nds
Branch:
Emulator: DeSmuME 0.9.8
Movie length: 1:01:52.63
FrameCount: 222112
Re-record count: 36556
Author's real name:
Author's nickname: Chef Stef & Kiwisauce
Submitter: Chef Stef
Submitted at: 2013-07-16 03:38:23
Text last edited at: 2013-07-19 08:04:57
Text last edited by: feos
Download: Download (60815 bytes)
Status: published
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Author's comments and explanations:
FractalFusion: As per henke37's post, this movie probably requires the firmware setting as given in the movie file to sync.



(Link to video)

This TAS completes the 10 main worlds of Super Scribblenauts. Speed is not the main goal; instead, the levels are completed in funny or unusual ways.

Spoiler warning: The rest of this submission text contains spoilers about various level solutions. We recommend that you watch the TAS first before continuing!

Game Objectives

  • Emulator: DeSmuME 0.9.8
  • Is a demonstration
  • Abuses programming errors
  • Manipulates luck

About the Objective

Super Scribblenauts is a game ultimately driven by the player’s own imagination and creativity. Because of this, we felt that the best TAS of this game would be one based on creative or unexpected solutions.

In general, the levels aim to be as entertaining as possible at the cost of speed. There are a few exceptions where we decided that a level or part of a level was not entertaining enough on its own, so we opted to just get through as quickly as possible. These are explained below in the individual level comments.

The TAS completes only the 10 main worlds (the puzzle worlds) of Super Scribblenauts. In particular, this TAS does not complete the two bonus worlds. They were skipped for a number of reasons, but primarily because they are more platforming-oriented (similar to the first game’s Action levels) and were felt to have less potential for entertainment compared to the rest of the run. Since the credits are automatically shown upon completion of 10-5, we considered this a reasonable end to the TAS.

Tricks and Techniques

“Object-Mapping”

The Scribblenauts item dictionary contains over 20000 words - this is its main selling point as a creativity-based game. However, the actual number of unique objects in the game is far smaller. This is because many words will ultimately map to the same object. As an example, the following words all summon the same thing in-game: “Auto”, “Automobile”, “Bait car”, “Car”, “Motor car”, “Muscle car”, “Sedan”, “Unmarked car”, “Vehicle”.

Interestingly, when the game checks if the summoned object will solve the puzzle, it does so by checking what type of object was summoned, not the phrase that was used to summon it. We exploit this fact constantly throughout the run to summon objects using their funniest or most-interesting name in the game. Using the above example, if a level solution involved a car, we might summon it using “Bait car” to increase the entertainment value.

While plenty of “Scribblenauts word lists” exist out there on the internet, to our knowledge there aren’t any lists that show which words all summon the same object. So, we assembled this list ourselves by pulling this information from the game ROM with a small program. This was invaluable in coming up with the best solution for many levels.

UPDATE: The word list is now available to the general public!

“Adjective-Mapping”

This is exactly the same as the object-mapping technique, except that it applies to adjectives. We generated the grouped adjective list in the same way as the object list and used it constantly to pick funny adjectives as needed in the levels.

Glitching Through Barriers

The original Scribblenauts had some very easily-exploitable collision detection that allowed for many trivial solutions to levels. In Super Scribblenauts, the developers shored up the collision detection significantly, but there are still some properties that can be exploited.
  • Glitching objects through walls and ceilings: It’s normally impossible to summon an object into a room that’s too small to contain it. However, if you make the object “Handheld” you are allowed to have someone hold it, regardless of any walls nearby. If you have that person drop the object, the object can be forced into the room and will usually start zipping back and forth as it collides with the room walls. With the right manipulation, the object can also be ejected into other rooms entirely.
  • Glitching Maxwell through the ceiling: When Maxwell rides a vehicle smaller than himself, his hitbox shrinks to the size of the vehicle. If you make this a “Flying” vehicle and press up into the ceiling, you’ll notice that Maxwell’s head sticks a fair bit into the ceiling. With the right timing, dismounting from the vehicle will cause Maxwell to be ejected the wrong way and into the ceiling.
  • Glitching Maxwell through walls: If you have Maxwell hold a rideable object and position him next to a wall, letting go of the object with the right timing will lodge the object into the wall. You can then have Maxwell ride the object and dismount to get into or through the wall entirely.

There are many other minor tricks used for specific levels; these are described in the individual level notes below.

General Level Strategies

Coming up with level solutions was an iterative process that involved lots of testing and brainstorming. The version that ended up in the TAS is the one that we ultimately decided was the best in terms of overall entertainment.

Generally, the level strategies fell into the following categories:

  1. Summoning the funniest item that still completes the level objective(s).
  2. Summoning a more typical item to complete an objective, but then using the item in an unusual way or for comedic effect.
  3. Summoning an item as part of a running joke. (We leave the nature of the running jokes as an exercise for the viewer.)
  4. Glitching through the level boundaries to skip objectives entirely.

Method 4 was only used as a last-resort strategy when we felt that completing the level normally would either be boring or would be too similar to an average player’s run-through.

The emphasis on entertainment means that the TAS contains lots of comedic-effect pauses, carefully-chosen camera views, and general tomfoolery to produce an interesting result. We also deliberately leave the level messages open for a short time so that viewers can understand the level objectives more clearly. (In many cases the messages are particularly funny in-context, so it makes sense to show them anyway). We opted to leave every message open for exactly one second (60 frames); this is enough to catch the gist of the level (or pause the movie if you want to read it in detail) without being especially interruptive to the flow of gameplay. Finally, the level intros are skipped most of the time, but are sometimes allowed to play through to give further context to a level.

Individual Level Notes

This section lists comments for various individual levels. These are intended to highlight interesting tricks or explain the technical side of various solutions. Direct spoilers have been avoided when possible, but inevitably some levels’ solutions will be given away. Again, we recommend that you watch the TAS before continuing.

World 1

1-3

The car goes careening off because the racer attempts to drive away in fear from the mask, while at the same time the level attempts to pull the car to the right as part of the objective-complete sequence. The car’s movement is also manipulated to destroy the pit stop.

1-4

The second object summoned here is a good example of the object-mapping technique. “Sunscreen” is what the level is expecting, but for whatever reason the developers decided that this object maps to the same thing; thus, our solution works!

1-5

The glitched text is due to the game trying to put up two dialogs at the same time. This was achieved by timing the “here’s the next objective” level message to appear while the “you got your first merit” message was coming up.

1-8

“Lethal” (or “Deadly”, “Deathful”, and “Fatal”, which map to the same thing) causes an object to kill or destroy anything it collides with, so we use this to destroy the ice. Since we applied it to a food item the boy also tries to eat it, with tragic results…

World 2

2-4

This level shows off the power of adjectives. The game doesn’t really care what object is summoned as long as it has the valid attributes for the solution.

2-5

Movable walls are a great way to glitch things into the ceiling. The timing has to be just right, or the object will be ejected to the left or right instead.

2-6

This level has quite a bit going on. First of all, you are only allowed to place one food item into the level; once you do, the level progresses and you either win or lose. However, we can get around this restriction by placing it into a container first, which doesn’t trigger the level progression. We can then summon more objects into the container and release them all at once by emptying the container. This exploit allows us to get a perfect score.

The glitched graphics that show up in the secondary screen are due to us opening the keyboard menu at the same time that the game tries to award a merit. This messes up the animation and colors until the merit is done displaying.

Finally, the starite appears after the first successful connection is made, but it’s not possible to walk around to collect it since the level keeps panning around to show the other connections. We carefully position Maxwell and the container so that the starite ends up right on top of Maxwell, allowing him to collect it as soon as it becomes active. This is also done in other levels that use this strategy.

2-7

The explosion is due to the RC car being destroyed. (Note that you can still beat a level after dying as long as Maxwell’s body touches the starite very soon afterwards.) The graphics on the secondary screen glitch up again, possibly because the game tries to clear the merit screen at the same time it tries to show the “level complete” screen.

World 3

3-5

Using adjectives, we can complete the level by summoning the same thing into both boxes. We were hoping we could use this strategy for all such “math equation” levels but we weren’t able to find working strategies for any of the others. The “dark energy” starite that appears is yet another graphical glitch, possibly a side-effect of the electricity from the summoned objects.

3-6

There are two things going on in this level.

First, certain adjectives will summon an object with other objects attached to it. (For example, a “Scary car” summons a car with a mask attached to it.) At the same time, this level automatically rejects (and destroys) any summoned object that’s not a vehicle. This means that if we summon a vehicle with one of these adjectives, the level will both accept and reject the vehicle. This allows the vehicle to stay around for a little bit but ultimately destroys the vehicle.

Second, the level advances to the next objective under one condition only: when the accepted vehicle crosses a threshold near the right edge of the level. Thus, we can place the vehicle over the spot to instantly complete the objective, which allows us to take advantage of the window of opportunity described above.

3-7

Similar to the previous level, what counts for objective-completion is the customers crossing the screen edge (which would normally correspond to them walking away satisfied). We can therefore skip most of the level by pushing them all to the edge instead.

World 4

4-3

Thanks to adjectives, the second object we summon fulfills the second and third categories at the same time. This is used in a few other levels in the TAS.

4-7

“Surgical” on an object summons it with a scalpel attached, which conveniently satisfies the third objective automatically.

4-8

This graphical glitch is due to equipping the object before its graphics have fully loaded. This is highly timing-dependent at the sub-frame level so it’s more a matter of luck to encounter it.

4-10

Amusingly, you don’t actually need to summon monsters to beat this level. In fact, you only need to summon one object! (With the right adjectives…). In case you’re wondering, the rockets all have mini tiaras attached to them (the result of “Classy”).

World 5

5-1

This level takes advantage of the glitch-through-ceilings trick to skip everything.

5-3

Maxwell automatically gets teleported into the second area upon completing the first objective, so we place a box there to glitch ourselves out and get through the rest of the level quickly. “Dark matter” is very handy for pulling objects around, but it explodes on contact with anything so we have to keep moving it constantly. The result is a highly chaotic gravity-defying trip to the finish.

5-4

This level is one of our favorites, and is one of the best examples of object-mapping. For the last part, the game considers “Chlorine” a valid object for hair-bleaching, and we map to by summoning something rather more sinister…

5-8

Looks like squirrels can survive a nuclear apocalypse just fine! (Forests spawn a squirrel when destroyed, and this happens after the nuke has gone off, so the squirrel survivies.)

5-12

We ran out of categories for historical figures, so we opted to go in a crazy direction for the last two. In case you’re confused, “COO” refers to “Chief Operating Officer”, and “Sean” summons one of the game’s developers (who is represented by a slime in-game).

World 6

6-4

With this level we had the goal of completing everything by summoning just one item. At the end we place the park ranger in just the right place so that the starite will fall to the lower area, making this strategy just barely possible.

6-7

This level is another of our favorites. The level progression messages make this solution even funnier.

6-12

The stairs, stepladder, and monorail cat are placed extremely carefully so that the starite will bounce and roll down to the lower area. This doesn’t serve any real purpose aside from time savings but was added for fun. (Fun fact: it was also the segment that took the longest to TAS!)

World 7

7-2

“Elizabeth” is another one of the game developers. The object at the end maps to “Large Hadron Collider”, which is why (?) it summons a black hole when destroyed.

7-3

The “Tornado” is thrown away after use because otherwise the girl will run off the edge of the screen and “die” (triggering a level-failure message). This level is a reference to The Wizard of Oz, in case you were wondering.

7-4

While investigating this level we discovered that the level actually destroys and recreates the summoned objects when moving them around. If the object is also “Explosive”, then the destruction will cause an explosion that can damage parts of the level. Normally, destroying part of the level will prompt a level failure message, but with the right timing the game will skip these for some unknown reason. We abuse all of this to wreak havoc on everything in the park.

World 8

8-2

For the third segment, applying “Fiendish” to a handheld object prevents you from holding that object for more than a few frames. This causes the hero to go unequipped for the treant fight… but apparently his fists are fiery, so it’s all right! For the fourth segment, the hero dies as a consequence of the “Deadly” object he carries in. Finally, the weapon we give him for the fifth segment is too weak to kill the enemy, so the level automatically kills him off after a while.

8-5

The furniture here is extremely touchy and can wake the dragon up very easily. Maxwell has no such concerns, though! Here we just zip through and complete the level quickly. At the end, the huge furniture crash doesn’t matter since we collect the starite before the dragon wakes up.

8-8

The glitch-through-walls trick is used to skip the first half of the level. In the last room, the game automatically destroys the grenade on a certain frame (blowing it up) so we manipulate the timing and positioning to blow up the obstacles precisely.

World 9

9-2

Similar to 7-4, we use explosive objects to destroy most of the level. Destroying the pipe also reveals a spot where the developers didn’t bother to finish off the boundaries (revealing, as Kiwisauce puts it, “the shoddy level design”). Also similar to 7-4, the level destroys the initial objects to move them, so we abduct the final cheerleader by putting her in the car.

9-7

We manipulate luck at the beginning to make the selected color green. This allows a “one-shot” solution.

9-9

This level uses the glitch-objects-through-walls trick to glitch the starite into a box, then all the way to the beginning, allowing us to skip the whole level. Note that we can’t just pick up the box once it has the starite in it, since that causes the starite to pop out.

9-10

For some reason the timing was just right in this level to showcase a strange glitch: objects are placed into the container, but still have their graphics memory shown on-screen. This quickly creates a mess of glitchy graphics as data is loaded into memory for new objects.

World 10

10-2

The game normally destroys any objects you attempt to carry room-to-room, but with good timing these are avoided, letting us take the gun through the whole level.

10-4

This level is actually a small logic puzzle: you have to figure out who lives in which house based on a set of clues. Naturally, we just skip that and put the “correct” gifts into everyone’s boxes immediately.

10-5

During the second half, for some reason the game allows access to the keyboard during the cutscene. We exploit this to finish the level early, which causes some interesting behavior when the next level message shows up.

Kiwisauce's Comments

Chef Stef and I had previously talked about specialized runs through Scribblenauts (such as trying to use the smallest item set possible), so I wasn't too surprised when he suggested we collaborate on this run. However, we struggled quite a bit with the idea of 'optimizing' for humor, due to its subjectivity. There weren't clear methods or metrics that we could rely on while creating the run, and we had some early ideas of what might be amusing, like showcasing objects that were incorrectly rejected as solutions, that were eventually scrapped.

Luckily our senses of humor work well together, and we were usually able to find solutions that at least made us chuckle. Even if it sometimes took us hours to settle on a good solution when the level gave us little to work with. Hopefully others can appreciate the humor in our odd object selections, exploitative solutions, and fairly morbid running jokes...

Chef Stef’s Comments

Ever since I bought the original Scribblenauts, I always thought it would be great to see a TAS of the game. Over time users on TASVideos or other sites would post short segments that completed a few levels, and while many of them were interesting, none of them completed the game. Many also aimed for speed over creativity, which I thought was the wrong choice for this game.

I eventually had the idea of making the TAS myself, aiming for creativity all the way. However, I didn’t think I could make an especially funny TAS on my own, so I approached Kiwisauce about making this a collaboration run. I’m very glad I did - his creativity was invaluable during our long discussions about each level, and he played a significant part in shaping the tone and style of the TAS. I’m confident that, working together, we’ve made this run far better than any one person could have accomplished alone.

Humor is always subjective, and this run is definitely modeled after our particular tastes, but I believe the end result captures the spirit of Scribblenauts. I hope everyone enjoys watching!


Mothrayas: Judging.

Mothrayas: Added YouTube stream.

Mothrayas: This run has been received very well. The game has a lot of room for playaround humor, and the run uses it very well. Very entertaining demonstration. Accepting for Moons.

feos: Grabbing...


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