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Submission #5530: Blazephlozard's GBC Pokémon Trading Card Game in 21:49.4

Console: Game Boy Color
Game name: Pokémon Trading Card Game
Game version: USA
ROM filename: Pokemon Trading Card Game (USA).gbc
Branch:
Emulator: BizHawk 1.11.4
Movie length: 21:49.4
FrameCount: 78207
Re-record count: 13791
Author's real name: Hunter Davidson
Author's nickname: Blazephlozard
Submitter: Blazephlozard
Submitted at: 2017-06-06 08:13:10
Text last edited at: 2017-06-19 08:36:58
Text last edited by: Spikestuff
Download: Download (18618 bytes)
Status: published
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Pokémon Trading Card Game


(Link to video)

(The horrendous tutorial is literally a third of the run; please skip it. Go to 7:26 in the video)

This is a 1 minute, 25 second improvement over the Pokemon TCG TAS from 2010 by p4wn3r & FractalFusion. Read the previous TAS's notes if you want to know more about the game. The basic gist is, every duel is won in as few turns as possible. You do this by finding a duel where the opponent has the right shuffle for the job and you win the coin flip (RNG advances every frame on the overworld), and then manipulating your deck's contents to get anything you need in your starting hand to take them out. RNG doesn't advance during deck editing, so you can go back and expand deck edits to do more. TAStudio helped immensely with doing all this; I don't think it'd have been possible to edit the input like I had to do here back in 2010.

This is the Lua script used (built off of p4wn3r's; R toggles the display, A toggles text autoadvance, D prints your deck's contents to console/file): https://pastebin.com/cYGsAKS7

Game objectives

  • Aims for fastest time
  • Heavy luck manipulation
  • Uses death to save time (wait, death? I just lose a couple optional duels, I don't get banished to the Shadow Realm or something)
  • Get put in Vault because it's 7 minutes of the slowest text ever in a video game, followed by 14 minutes of menuing so fast no one can possibly keep track of what's going on
  • Emulator used: BizHawk 1.11.4

Main improvements

1. Using Mysterious Fossil against Ronald

Mysterious Fossil is a Trainer card that acts as a Basic Pokemon, has 10 HP, and isn't worth a prize. There are two duels you want to lose as fast as possible, and Fossil is a better option than using a Pokemon. Using Fossil saves an entire turn over the old TAS's Ronald 1, and in both cases, it saves the animation of Ronald taking a prize.

2. Using Select+Up/Down in deck editing

This is a completely undocumented feature, but you can scroll an entire page at once in the deck edit screen with the Select button and up/down, which is much faster than moving one at a time. The old TAS does not use this at all.

3. Manipulating booster pack contents to not give new cards

This is an improvement that was listed in the notes of the old TAS. Basically, you want to minimize how many frames it takes to get to the cards you want to add/remove, mostly by minimizing new cards you get in boosters. What matters most is Trainer cards that come before PlusPower in the menu, as PlusPower is by far the non-Energy card most tweaked in deck edits. For the most part I didn't bother with avoiding any Pokemon cards.

The booster pack manipulation I do in this run does not actually lose any time at all, thanks to having to wait before starting duels for good RNG anyway. Like, if you found a good duel that you have to wait 10 frames for, you can wait some of those 10 frames to manipulate the last duel's boosters!

4. Naming the player "I"

For most of the game text is 'instant', but having a one-letter name saves time during the tutorial, and who wants that to be any longer than it needs to be? It's a bit funnier than "MARK" too! It might save some lag frames as well when displaying text during the rest of the game.

5. Starting deck + club route change

The old TAS gets the Bulbasaur and Friends deck, and starts with Rock Club. I get Charmander and Friends, and start with Lightning. These two changes go together, and here's the pros and cons of the changes:

  • Can use Paras against Gene instead of Nidoran, saving Horn Hazard coin flips and RNG manip time
  • Saves about a second of world map movement
  • Can beat Lightning Club trainers without a deck edit
  • Starts with Ponyta/Rattata/Machop in the deck
  • Bulbasaur starts with 2 PlusPower/1 Defender; Charmander starts with 1 PlusPower/0 Defender :(

I think this route went very well, although my PlusPower count was very bad at the start, partially because I had to get a Defender before Isaac. I was curious about Bulbasaur+Lightning first and tried it out, but since I had to edit in a Hitmonchan + Fighting Energy to take out Jennifer, I was already over 2 seconds behind the Charmander route. Charmander & Friends also saves deck edits by having valuable cards like Ponyta and Rattata deep in the deck from the start, which definitely made me confident about my decision.

6. Everything else

If you watch the old TAS, it looks incredibly fast... besides the tutorial of course! But, on a frame level, there are actually a TON of improvements to be made to the old input.

  • Old TAS only uses A when closing text boxes, wasting a frame to depress A
  • Old TAS doesn't use Right to skip pages in the hand, losing time getting to slot 5/6/7 in the hand
  • Old TAS didn't close prizes with B, sometimes wasting a frame to get an Energy prize instead of a Pokemon prize
  • Old TAS didn't combine some inputs together (for example, with cursor on slot 2 of your hand, you can select card 3 with down+A on the same frame)

This image shows an example of the menu improvement possible, taken from placing a basic Pokemon in Ronald 1. All of p4wn3r's input has time saves like this.

There's other little things like choosing the prize which results in the least lag frames; it takes longer to display a card with a ton of text (PlusPower, Double Colorless Energy) than a Basic Energy. This wasn't relevant in VBA, which had far less lag frames on displaying text.

The biggest time save is probably deck edits; the old TAS did 17 deck edits, while this TAS does 6. My edits are quicker for the most part as well.

Obligatory comparison

Unfortunately, this TAS is in that limbo of appearing slower than the old one because of emulator accuracy. VBA-rr is absolutely ridiculous for this game. It saves about a minute and a half from having less lag frames. The first thing I did before starting this TAS was to take the old input file and resync it in Bizhawk, so I'd know what I'm actually competing against. Here's that file: =userfiles/info/39509855853896324

VBA-rr TAS: 21:40.67, 78041 frames (11867 lag frames, 66174 non-lag)

VBA-rr TAS synced in BizHawk: 23:14.08, 83265 frames (17310 lag frames, 65955 non-lag)

My TAS: 21:49.39, 78207 frames (15517 lag frames, 62690 non-lag)

I'd hoped to beat the VBA time, but it was a losing battle. Even on clubs where I save an edit, I'd only save less than a second. Ronald and the Dome are the only big time saves over VBA. Times where Bizhawk gets 10 lag frames, VBA would get 1. You just can't compete with that. I came out only 160 frames behind, and it's still great to save about a minute and a half! Here's a chart that may or may not be accurate (it's confusing to compare since the club routes are different)

Segment Bizhawk 2017 VBA-rr 2010 Bizhawk resync Main reason
Intro 27591 27602 28133 -1 edit, name change to I
Lightning 6109 6158 6777 -2 edits
Water 6829 6314 6968 +1 edit, bad Amy (still saved time on Bizhawk!)
Ronald 1 1333 1627 1746 Fossil
Grass 1 5443 5466 6035 -1 edit
Science 3939 3637 4064 Bad Rick
Fire 4114 3986 4377 No change
Rock 3930 3822 4202 -1 edit, but took 2 trips
Ronald 2 1308 1419 1502 Fossil
Psychic 2632 2621 2875 -1 edit
Grass 2 2452 2454 2676 -1 edit
Fighting 2760 2365 2599 Bigger edit, worse Mitch
Dome 9219 10045 10755 -5 edits(!!!)

Deck edits

These notes were more for my own reference than anything, but they might help if you want to actually understand what goes on. Detailing the cards I put in helped a lot for returning to this TAS after taking breaks from it, and it doesn't hurt to put it in the info here.

Figuring out these edits is like a puzzle, trying to move everything into place as efficiently as possible. Six edits is way less than I expected, I feel like I got really good luck with some shared card IDs between battles! (I.E. if two duels both have card 55 in their starting hand, putting a card needed by both of them in that slot, like a PlusPower, can help save edits)

Deck Edit #0 - Jennifer, Nicholas

No edit needed. I managed to find a frame for both of them where I had my 1 Machop, and a Fighting Energy, and they had just one 40 HP basic, and I went first. Wasn't expecting it. Only Charmander and Friends can win a duel without edits, as the other decks have no high-damage cards in them by default.

Deck Edit #1 - Brandon, Isaac

Shift Machop (Slot 45) to Slot 40 by removing 5 Fire Pokemon
Shift Bill (was Slot 52, now 47) to Slot 46 by removing Oak
Remove/readd PlusPower into Slot 58
Add Defender into Slot 60

Both battles have Slot 40 in the opening hand, and Machop is only 5 away, so that's perfect. Brandon's got an Eevee out so I needed the PlusPower to knock that out. The Bill gets me Slot 60 from the top of my deck, which was the fastest way to get a Defender in my hand.

Deck Edit #2 - Sara, Amanda

Shift Machop (Slot 40) to Slot 23 and PlusPower (Slot 58) to Slot 41 by removing 17 Energy
Add Paras into Slot 56
Add Double Colorless Energy into Slot 57
Add PlusPower into Slot 60
FOR THE FUTURE: Fighting Energy into Slot 47, Farfetch'd into Slot 49, Rattata into Slot 50, Item Finder into Slot 53

Sara has a Goldeen, so the best way to take it out is 20 + 2 PlusPowers. My starting hand against Amanda, who has a Poliwag out, has cards 56 and 57, and it's pretty quick to add a Paras while I'm already removing/readding all that energy to shift my Machop/PlusPower down together.

Deck Edit #3 - Joshua, Amy, Ronald 1, Brittany, Michael, Heather, Kristin

Shift Machop (23) down 8 slots
Shift Defender (43->35), Fighting Energy (47->39), Farfetch'd (49->41), PlusPower (60->52), Item Finder (53->45) down 1 more slot
Add Mysterious Fossil into Slot 54
Add PlusPower into Slot 56, Slot 58
FOR THE FUTURE: Machop into Slot 53

Farfetch'd isn't the fastest way to kill Joshua; coin flip attacks are to be avoided; but my options are limited because Amy is very very tough to beat, and you can't do an edit right before her. I also need 4 PlusPowers to beat her without any coin flips, and only have 3 (bad Colosseum pack luck), but I have an Item Finder I use on turn 2 to get one of turn 1's PlusPowers back. I end up using EVERY single card I get in the Amy fight, all but two of which (Item Finder discards) had to be manipulated. This fight could definitely have been faster (her Energy Removal didn't help), but the no-edit Grass Club I got after makes up for it.

Ideally you'd want to go second against Ronald instead of first, but the battle I found here had the Fossil in a position that minimized deck edit time. I tried some other seeds, but I kept going first in them too, or Ronald would have extra actions on his turn, like placing more basics on the bench (and just one action like that takes longer than me going first and passing control).

From there, I manage to do the entire Grass Club without editing. Brittany had a seed where she just has Fat Pikachu out, and I have my Machop and Fighting Energy. Michael has just a Mankey out, which I Rattata PlusPower Bite, the PlusPower gotten off the top with a Bill. I had to wait about a second for that Michael fight, but the next fight I didn't wait at all for, so it all balances out. Heather has just a Venonat, and I've got Ponyta + DCE. Same goes for Kristin.

Deck Edit #4 - Joseph, Rick, Jessica

Shift Machop (15) down 6 slots
Shift Rattata (41->35) down 3 more slots
Shift PlusPowers (56->47, 58->49) down 1 more slot, and remove the Bill in between them
Add PlusPowers in slots 56 and 60
FOR THE FUTURE: Defender in Slot 53, Fighting Energy in Slot 54

Ideally, Rick would have 2 Porygons, which you could easily take out with Machop. But I wasn't able to find that, so instead I need to use 3 PlusPowers against his Koffing lead. This deck edit ended up being very quick though, so I'm happy with it. It all shifted into place very nicely.

The Jessica fight also uses the PlusPower in slot 56, as well as a different Rattata that's been deep in the deck from the start of the game.

Deck Edit #5 - Ken, Gene, Murray, Chris, Nikki

Shift Machop (9) down one slot and Mysterious Fossil (24), Water Energy (26), Staryu (43) down 2 slots (take out 1 Fighting, and Machoke)
Remove 1 PlusPower to shift Defender (53->51), Fighting Energy (54->52), PlusPower (56->54), PlusPower (60->58) down 1 more slot, remove 1 Bill between the PlusPowers
Add Double Colorless in slot 57
Add Double Colorless and Paras in slot 58/59
Add PlusPower in slot 60

This part went through a lot of changes and redos, and a 1+ year break. I originally went Ken, then Murray, but the Murray frame I found was abysmal (Energy Removal + Psyshock succeeds). Switching Gene and Murray, my luck was MUCH better for both of them. I couldn't find a good Chris frame after Gene, so I go back to the Rock Club a second time; it does lose about 2 or 3 seconds of overworld movement, but I believe I more than saved that with my duel luck and being able to beat these 5 duels (including 4 club leaders) with one edit. This edit only removes/adds 4 cards, yet sets up 12+ cards in positions I need. I could not be happier with that.

Deck Edit #6 - Mitch, Dome

Shift Machop (8) and Rattata (10) down 3 (remove Growlithe, Arcanine, Ponyta)
Shift Computer Search (14) and Defender (23) down 5 (remove Raticate, Switch)
Shift PlusPower (60) down 13 more to 42 (remove 3 Fire, 6 Lightning, Raticate, 3 PlusPower)
Add a whole bunch of things in slots 43-60: 46: PlusPower, 47: Water Energy, 48: Water Energy, 52: PlusPower, 53: PlusPower, 55: Machop, 56: Defender, 58: Staryu, 59: Staryu

Unfortunately, I couldn't find a fantastic Mitch frame (two Mankeys only is ideal). And I was all out of route changes, since he was the last guy! So, I needed all 4 PlusPowers to beat his Machop+Mankey. But I managed to do the entire Pokemon Dome with no edits afterwards, which is great! The old TAS did 5 edits in the Dome, one for each trainer. I got lucky, and used a Computer Search and Item Finder to help out with getting PlusPowers in a couple duels.

Every Dome fight except Rod can be beaten on turn 1 even though they have 2 Basics, because their AI doesn't play their Legendary card during setup. They save it so they can use its Pokemon Power on their turn. Too bad they don't get a turn!

Possible improvements

Any change to the duels/route done in this TAS will result in completely different RNG, so it's impossible to say how much faster this theoretically could be. Here's what I'm aware of:

  • Doing the Water Club second was a bad idea, as my deck was relatively weak for Joshua/Amy. I didn't even have 4 PlusPowers yet. Doing the Grass Club second could go better. Also, Amy drew an Energy Removal (you want Leaders to do as little on their turn as possible)
  • Some Club Master duels had subpar Pokemon out (especially Rick having Koffing, and Mitch having Machop), requiring more PlusPowers/menu time
  • Extra trip to Rock Club to fight Chris
  • Two coin flip attacks used
  • Any Item Finder/Computer Search/Bill usage is slow compared to already having the PlusPower in hand

However, an extra deck edit would lose you a lot more time than any individual improvement would save. Water Club second and the two Rock Club trips are not things I'd do again if starting over, but as it is, the luck worked out to do only 6 deck edits, and changing the order might ruin that. A deck edit is around 5 seconds; each of these is 1 or 2 or 3 seconds lost.

Thumbnail suggestions

40764. epic


Fog: Judging.

Fog: Nice improvement.

Accepting as an improvement to the previous publication.

Spikestuff: Go fish.


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