Submission #8659: Technoturnovers's Arcade Defender "maximum difficulty" in 03:01.99

(Link to video)
maximum difficulty
BizHawk 2.9.1
Submitted by Technoturnovers on 10/5/2023 4:56:24 AM
Submission Comments
Increase warp drives to LUDICROUS SPEED! WE'RE GOING STRAIGHT TO PLAID! (Time ends when parser says, minus one frame. Also included: More MAMEHawk jank!)

Game objectives

  • Complete five stages at the game's maximum possible operator-set difficulty of 99-99 as fast as possible.
  • Figure out how the operator screen even works, and ponder why Williams didn't just use DIP switches like every other manufacturer.
  • Ignore rescuing the helpless settlers that get captured by the aliens- as a matter of fact, don't just not rescue them, KILL THEM. They are a liability and a waste of frames at the level transition, SHOW NO MERCY TO THOSE WORTHLESS FOOLS. MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!
  • Ends input early
  • Utilizes an intentional death
  • Force the judges and encoders to deal with jank in what should be an ordinary BizHawk movie, again!

Encoding/Playback Instructions

  • You need either of the following:
    • The two ROMs DEFENDER.ZIP and DEFENDERB.ZIP, placing the contents of the former into the latter to create a merged ROM.
    • A pre-merged DEFENDERB.ZIP ROM.
  • This is necessary because when loading DEFENDER and DEFENDERB together with the multi-disk bundler, BizHawk will simply load DEFENDER, the parent ROM and not the one we want. We use DEFENDERB because this release enables usage of the hardest possible difficulty setting of all released versions.
  • Also, an extended recording that gets past the name-entry screen is uploaded to userfiles here for encoding purposes.


Stage 5 is selected as the endpoint of this run because it is the stage where the difficulty maxes out at 99-99 settings, an additional benefit of running this game at max difficulty considering that it isn't actually known where the difficulty maxes out at this game's default settings, and there isn't a "loop" to judge completion off of in the traditional sense.
The key principle of TASing this game is to NEVER let off the thrust button, EVER. Your maximum speed in this game is so fast that it is NEVER worth reversing to shoot an enemy behind you, because simply continuing along until you next encounter the enemy past the screen wrap WILL be faster. The only point at which it is ever acceptable to slow down is when you are about to kill the last straggler of a stage, and reaching it by moving forward would require traversing the entire screen; this is the only scenario in which slowing down saves time. I managed to only ever have to let go of accelerate two times in the entire recording, at the ends of Stages 4 and 5.
There is a form of "routing" in this game, insofar as any planning is possible in an ultimately RNG-based arcade game; you are given a limited supply of smartbombs, the game's designated screen-clearing weapon which refills at regular, 10k point intervals. Having any smartbombs left over at the end of the run signifies a waste of resources, as each smartbomb can save you time, but knowing when to use them is difficult due to how impractical it is to redo entire multiple levels just to perform trial and error. As such, I use up the majority of my smartbombs in Stage 4 and save the last for Stage 5, utilizing them kill enemies that would require slowing down, wrapping the screen more later in the level to kill later, or to end the stage as soon as possible; I feel that I made pretty good use of my smartbombs throughout this run, all things considered.
Finally, there's one last trick I pulled at the end of Level 5, dive-bombing the last enemy ship when it was impossible to shoot; this would lose time in any other situation due to the long death animation, but end-input timing means that I get away with it. I also actually bother picking up settlers as an added safety-net against having all of the settlers die, as I don't need to worry about the stage transition in this case.
One last thing to mention is the operator screen. First of all, while it might look visually like I only set the second difficulty parameter to 0, that's only a visual artifact of how I navigated the menus as fast as possible using combined inputs; I double checked in another branch, and it was set to 99. Interestingly, this arcade game actually has SaveRAM functionality for the difficulty sliders, which would have enabled me to skip the operator screen; however, uploading a verification movie to userfiles to save only ~30 seconds for an arcade game felt like it would be rather excessive, and I thought that the operator screen was worth documenting besides. I've already uploaded an extended recording to userfiles that actually gets past the high-score name entry screen for encoding purposes, and having 3 whole recordings for this game uploaded to the site in some form would be dumb.
One last LAST note: re-record count is lies, again, because I use the TASStudio piano roll. I didn't manage to TAS Defender in only 47 rerecords, that would be dumb.

feos: Claiming for judging.
feos: I found a 400-frame improvement in the first level and pinged the author on Discord about it, but there's no response so far. It's hard to tell if the latter levels are also improvable, because we still don't know exactly what makes a level end. But depending on spawn positions of the most important enemies, it still could help to slow down and turn around at times.
Now even though I couldn't complete the last level faster than this submission does, my 1st level test makes a point that there's more work to be done with this game before the movie can be considered good overall. If the improvement was smaller (like only up to a second) I would have considered acceptance. But as is, I'm leaning towards a rejection.
Last Edited by feos 12 days ago
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