Sunday, November 3, 2013

First Defender Mini-marathon in a LONG time!

On November 16th, I am going to take a run at the Defender Marathon World Record. Defender is an arcade game that came out in 1980 and has been called one of the most difficult arcade games ever

It is hard. Mostly because there's not a pattern or series of button presses you have to memorize. It's you against the machine, so you don't have to compete against a human that is completely unpredictable. It took me forever to get my score up to where I could roll it at a million. (My Defender Facebook group calls it "clocking" it).

Defender is a game where, essentially, you have to protect 10 humans from being abducted and turned into Mutants. It's a lot more than that, but that's the basic gist. There are a few enemies that have different movement patterns and artificial intelligence, and when they are all working in concert, they make for a very chaotic experience. A good Defender player can turn that chaos into a lot of fun.

Part of the challenge of going for a Marathon run is that you can't leave the machine. When you're playing Defender, you can't "pause" the game, and you really can't get too far from the machine itself because you lose ships at a rate that is around every 7 seconds. You can collect a bunch of ships to waste while you take a break, but if you get more than 255 extras, they roll back over to 0 extra ships. You have to be careful to count your ships, because the game only displays 5 on screen at a time. 

The Marathon World Record has stood on Twin Galaxies high score page since 1984 (see insets below). It's 79,976,975 points by Chris Hoffman. Defender players can rack up about a million points per hour, so the general thought is that that's around 79 hours of play. All of those 70 million + scores are CRAZY!

I have been scared of that length of time ever since I saw these scores. Heck I've never even been awake for more than 50 hours, and on those occasions, I actually was comparing that experience to thinking about a Defender Marathon, and it scared me how tired I was. It's pretty overwhelming to me. 

Last Friday, I played for 4 hours to get a feel of what it's like to be chained to that machine again. I stopped after going through all 255 waves on the machine and it flipped back to wave 1. I put video of the last bit on YouTube. 

Here is what I noticed:
  • My marathon mentors are invaluable. A few arcade marathoners are helping me plan this out and their advice is incredible. One thing they said was to do a short marathon to see how my experience would play out. Wow. I learned a lot.
  • Having Josh Jones here is an absolute necessity. He's my friend and will be officiating for Having someone that can walk around for you and get you little stuff is vital. I won't take advantage of his generosity, I hope.
  • Visitors. There is definitely a need to have company during this effort. I've asked people to come by during the entire attempt. Some have scheduled time to come so it'll be like a cool streaming "show." Reach out to me if you're interested!
  • Scoring rate is very important. I became highly aware of my scoring rate and wanted to track it over time to see how long it would be before I hit 79 million. (see below for more)
  • Breaks. Anything lengthy (i.e. over 2-3 minutes) is going to need planning and someone's going to need to watch the machine for me. Bathroom breaks are not going to be a problem. I can easily save enough ships for that. 
  • Standing. POSTURE! You really, really need it.
  • Sitting. Wow. You don't really appreciate it enough, let me tell you. The experts say I need 3 different types of chairs, all of which keep my arms at the same height as if I was standing. Still gotta get those. 
  • Movement. I tend to stand completely still for a long period of time if I'm not paying attention. I needed to get blood flowing, so I was doing some calisthenics and hopping around. I'm going to need to be reminded to move.
  • Power. It occurred to me that we may lose power to the house, so I'll need a UPS to be ready for an outage. It became REAL to me when we lost power later that night for 2 hours. Really. Thanks, universe, for the hint!
  • Sound. I didn't feel like I needed music to keep me entertained, so that was kinda nice. I just let my mind wander and I did all right. 
  • Smart Bombs. I use a lot of Smart Bombs. Keeps my count down and keeps play moving faster.
  • Humans. I like to keep humans alive. It feels better, and is really true to the nature of the "mission." I also suicide to keep them from being mutated. Oh yeah, they're also worth a lot of points. 
  • Extra Ship tracking. You need to count DEATHS rather than number of ships collected. 
  • Death. I die a lot. I don't think I'm going to have too big of a worry about keeping too many ships. 
  • Cinderella Zone. I get around 36-38 ships average in the Cinderella Zone (the time at 990,000 where everything you hit gives you an extra life). After a million, you have to pay back those ships. 
  • Post-Cinderella Zone sadness. I miss the extra life sound after the Cinderella Zone. It feels lonely. Who would have thought?
I could write volumes on the above, but I'll just cover the scoring part because it's most important to the record run.

Scoring rate is very important
As I was playing the one thing I couldn't escape was the enormity of an 80 hour session. So, I paid attention to the rate of my score over time.

I was making some good progress for the first couple of million, but my scoring rate seemed to slow down on the last part. I don't have all of the numbers now... I need to build a spreadsheet and do this again, but here is the top level view: I reached a little over 3.5 million in 4 hours. That's about 1,125,000 an hour. If I can maintain that rate of play, I can get to 80 million in 71 hours. Whew! That's a relief. ONLY 71 hours. And that's assuming that I can maintain a decent rate of play. It seems that the best way to do this is find a way to maximize scoring ALL of the time. Now I need to find a way to do that in a way that meshes with my style of play. 

I've started designing the spreadsheet in my mind. 

World Record Scoreboards 
This record is really just to see what I can do. I plan to beat the scores on Twin Galaxies and it would be nice to get this score on every board that's out there. It would be cool to get it on Twin Galaxies because it's such a lifelong "thing," but if I can't, that's no problem. I'll know I did it. 

More when there's more to report!

No comments:

Post a Comment