Monday, April 22, 2013

Missile Command Insanity

I just stumbled upon an interesting website that tracks video game high scores for all sorts of games. The company started back in the 80s as an arcade tracker and now have all sorts of crazy rules when it comes to submitting a new high score. Like you have to video tape the entire playthrough, including turning the console on. And if it's an arcade machine you need to film the mother board inside the machine in order to prove you're playing on the right settings. Oh, and you have to pay them a bunch of money to even look at your submission. But for a chance to put your stamp on history? Worth it!

At any rate, it turns out there was a high score set all the way back in 1982 for Missile Command. It took that guy 56 hours to set that record. FIFTY SIX HOURS! What?!? Playing an arcade game for more than 2 straight days seems absurd. And the record tracking website rejects plays that abuse glitches in a game, so it's not like Pac-man where you could just hide in a corner and go to sleep for 8 hours while the game runs. (Though looking at their Pac-Man leaderboard it seems the fastest perfect game is less than an hour, so I imagine using that little glitch isn't actually needed.)

A guy from Sweden made it his goal to beat the Missile Command record score. He streamed his game live on Twitch and you can actually go and watch all 56 hours and 15 minutes of it over two videos. I jumped around a bit to check out what was going on and it seemed like a lot of the time he was just staring at the screen without trying. It turns out while you have 6 cities to defend on every level the enemies will actually only kill 3. Once 3 cities and all 3 missile bases are destroyed the wave ends and you move on to the next level. So you can quickly move through levels by not defending and just letting yourself get blown up. This lets you trade in extra lives for mental sanity and also moves you closer to levels 255 and 256. Which is apparently important because they have absurd score multipliers. Wave 255 has an insane amount of incoming bullets to shoot for points. Wave 256 has no enemies at all so you just score up all your missiles and cities with a huge multiplier. And then because you get extra lives based on how many points you score you actually rack up a ton of extra lives just by clearing wave 256. The game then resets at wave 1. So if you possibly made it that far once you're pretty much set to go infinite since the first time around you had no extra lives as a buffer and now you have 80 plus whatever you'd earned up to that point. Around the 36 hour mark or so the guy actually mentioned he needed to lose a bunch of lives because he was about to collect a huge number of them and would end up rolling over his extra life counter.

So he didn't need to play perfectly for 56 straight hours, but he did have to pay enough attention to track his extra lives, millions, and current level. He set up a program to track it when he typed on a keyboard that auto-updated the stream with the info which was pretty sweet. Oh, and when I said it would be easy to go infinite after wave 256? For a robot, maybe. But humans start to degrade after staying awake that long. There was an article up on the tracking website that talks about how he'd started hallucinating. He was getting paranoid that someone was watching him from behind, and he started thinking the game was a multiplayer game and he only controlled one of the three missile bases. And yet through that he still played pretty darn well to keep going and going and going.

It reminds me a little of when Andrew wanted to try to break the world record for longest bridge game. It was something like 5 days? I would have gladly tried, but I feel like we would have actually gone crazy at some point. I just checked again and it looks like the longest card game was 170 hours which is a little more than a full week. But they cheated. They used 6 people are just tagged in and out. That seems like something that would be pretty "easy" to beat with a little commitment from people...

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