Dragons of Flame is the sequel that was promised in the credits of the infamous "AD&D: Heroes of the Lance". While the game was better received than its predecessor, it was still limited to a Famicom release on Nintendo systems. The game follows the party from HotL after they recovered the discs of Mishakal, until they slay the 'Dragon Highlord of the North', Lord Verminaard. The gameplay can best be described as a (very) poor man's version of Zelda II for the NES.

Game objectives

  • Emulator used: Bizhawk 2.3.1
  • Primary objective: speed
  • Takes damage and uses death abuse to save time

Game mechanics

I haven't found any TAS-exclusive tricks. Everything of relevance for the game mechanics that I'm aware of is described in the SDA speedrun guide.

Route

The routes through the two overhead sections are fairly easy to see by studying the maps on https://nobusuma256.com/html/kouryaku/adddof/adddof.html . The game then continues with two dungeons with multiple paths. The route taken is indicated by red arrows in the first and second dungeon maps.
For reference, the slower yellow and violet routes have been uploaded in the user files. The blue route doesn't work because of too many strong enemies along the path and has therefore not been pursued.
Finally, the health management is important to consider for achieving a low time. A spreadsheet was used to find the best places to take damage.

Stage by stage comments

Overworld, part 1 - The road to Pax Tharkas

  • Every movement in the overworld moves the character 16 pixels in either direction. Each movement introduces a few random lag frames. I haven't found any pattern in how many lag frames a given movement will produce.
  • The enemies in the overworld home in on the player on average, making it difficult to avoid them, even in a TAS setting. I stopped for one frame in two different places to prevent enemy spawns. If someone invested more time into this game, I believe a script could be written to test the many different movement possibilities and find inputs to reduce stops and random lag.

Overworld, part 2 - Finding the entrance to the secret path

  • Same general comments as above. I stopped twice for one frame to prevent an enemy spawn.

Dungeon, part 1 and 2 - The secret path and Pax Tharkas

  • The dungeons appear to be completely consistent. I did a few iterations because of reroutings and the movie synched every time.

Bosses - Ember and Verminaard

  • The normal method to defeat Ember is to use magic missiles three times. However, it turns out it can be damaged by other attacks as well. When it lowers its head, a high sword attack will damage the dragon. The second time, the sword attack was timed to inflict a double-hit, which was just enough to kill it. The time gain of mixing sword attacks and magic missilies over simply using three magic missiles is just a handful of frames though.
  • Verminaard teleports to either the left or the right side of the screen after each hit. The new spawn location only depends on the player's x-position and is therefore easy to manipulate.

Possible improvements

I believe the biggest time save left on the table is the route through the overworld sections. There are too many combinations to try by hand, so a script would have to be written to more systematically calculate or test if stop frames can be avoided and if random lag can be reduced. I doubt we're talking about more than a handful of frames though. The problem with writing such a script is that empirical testing would take a long time, while calculating the RNG for upcoming input isn't possible with today's knowledge. Since the global counter in $79, which provides entropy to the RNG-calculation, continues to run during lag frames, getting knowledge of what determines the number of lag frames during a movement would be required first.

Memory: Judging
Memory: Optimization as far as I can tell looks good.
The run wasn't very entertaining outside two bosses which were sorta amusing. Otherwise the game was incredibly straightforward. Audience reception was fairly negative as well.
Accepting to Vault.
feos: Pub.

TASVideoAgent
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mklip2001
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Thanks for the temp encode. Honestly, though, there's not a ton that makes this run look interesting to the casual viewer. I liked seeing how you dodge all the monsters in the overworld, but then the dungeon has you just tank a bunch of damage, kill off expendable characters, and not engage with most of the enemies. The boss fights were neat but not enough to make this run really interesting. Meh vote.
Used to be a frequent submissions commenter. My new computer has had some issues running emulators, so I've been here more sporadically. Still haven't gotten around to actually TASing yet... I was going to improve Kid Dracula for GB. It seems I was beaten to it, though, with a recent awesome run by Hetfield90 and StarvinStruthers. (http://tasvideos.org/2928M.html.) Thanks to goofydylan8 for running Gargoyle's Quest 2 because I mentioned the game! (http://tasvideos.org/2001M.html) Thanks to feos and MESHUGGAH for taking up runs of Duck Tales 2 because of my old signature! Thanks also to Samsara for finishing a Treasure Master run. From the submission comments:
Shoutouts and thanks to mklip2001 for arguably being the nicest and most supportive person on the forums.
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"was still limited to a Japanese release." is a bit inaccurate. Only the Famicom version is Japanese exclusive (and going by GameFAQs is the only Japanese release).
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deuxhero, you're of course right. It saw western releases on many different platforms. Reading it again, I can see that it wasn't clear that I had "Nintendo systems" in mind when writing it. I have therefore updated the comments. mklip, I completely agree with you. The entertainment value of this TAS is most likely rock-bottom for anyone not already interested in the game. When I pick a game to TAS, I couldn't care less about how entertaining the end result is though (but I still try to play around whenever the game allows me to do so). In this case, I recently played through the game casually, then started to ask myself a few questions about the inner workings of it and eventually got interested in how fast the game could be beaten. Entertainment was never a factor in my decision. For those of us that don't care much about the entertainment aspect of TASing, I guess it's unfortunately not possible to submit directly for the Vault though. So there will always be this mismatch in expectations when verifiers look for entertainment in movies that weren't submitted for consideration of being "objectively" entertaining in the first place.
RetroEdit
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ktwo wrote:
For those of us that don't care much about the entertainment aspect of TASing, I guess it's unfortunately not possible to submit directly for the Vault though. So there will always be this mismatch in expectations when verifiers look for entertainment in movies that weren't submitted for consideration of being "objectively" entertaining in the first place.
I actually don't think this is a problem. In my personal opinion, it's best to TAS something you're personally interested in, instead of worrying too much about what tier it ends up in. Even if you're pretty sure it might end up in Vault tier, the audience can sometimes surprise you. It's not a problem if a judge decides something is Vault tier because of the audience reception, it's the system working as intended. But it's also not a problem if a game turns out to be surprisingly well received and exceeds your expectations and end up in Moon tier. You never know.
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ktwo, I hope you don't interpret my vote on the movie as being disapproval of your run. I understand what you were saying about trying to dissect the game and squeeze what you can out of it. I appreciate you going for it, and as RetroEdit says, you never really know what the feedback is going to be like ahead of time.
Used to be a frequent submissions commenter. My new computer has had some issues running emulators, so I've been here more sporadically. Still haven't gotten around to actually TASing yet... I was going to improve Kid Dracula for GB. It seems I was beaten to it, though, with a recent awesome run by Hetfield90 and StarvinStruthers. (http://tasvideos.org/2928M.html.) Thanks to goofydylan8 for running Gargoyle's Quest 2 because I mentioned the game! (http://tasvideos.org/2001M.html) Thanks to feos and MESHUGGAH for taking up runs of Duck Tales 2 because of my old signature! Thanks also to Samsara for finishing a Treasure Master run. From the submission comments:
Shoutouts and thanks to mklip2001 for arguably being the nicest and most supportive person on the forums.
Post subject: Movie published
TASVideoAgent
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This movie has been published. The posts before this message apply to the submission, and posts after this message apply to the published movie. ---- [4298] NES Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Dragons of Flame by ktwo in 09:56.23