by Robert T Mruczek - Twin Galaxies Editor and Chief referee
Reported on September 30th, 2002

Hello fellow gamers !!

After sixty days of heated competition, and just a tad bit of controversy, our first ever time-based decathalon has drawn to a close. Gamers competed on ten classic titles from the vintage Atari 2600 home console system, and after it was all said and done, five (5) world records were set, inclusive of two (2) first-time record listings. And as is usual for a Twin Galaxies event, the competition was spirited and inspired.

You probably want to know who here you go. Mind you...only competitors who submitted scores in all ten events could be considered for a ranking, and only non-TG staffers could be eligible for prizes.

If you see "DNQ", that means that the competitor did not qualify, and "TG" means the competitor is a TG staffer so can compete, but is ineligible for final rankings, prizes and certificates, although their scores are still included for calculations if they qualify. Thus, two gamers did not qualify, and the scores of two other qualifying gamers impact the overall rankings of everyone's scores, but do not count for prize consideration.

Here now are the final overall results in terms of percentages down to the 2nd decimal place, out of a maximum 1000.00%...

Rogers, Todd TG 959.92
Ewing, Jonathan 880.74
Mruczek, Robert TG 876.29
Gavigan, Ryan 839.61
Yancey, David 825.50
Drake, John 815.99
Knox, Stephen TG, DNQ 719.96
Corcoran, Ron TG, DNQ 611.28

As you can see, the gamer who accumulated the most points was Todd Rogers. However, as he is a TG employee, the Twin Galaxies recognized 1st place winner for certificate purposes is Jonathan Ewing with 880.74 points. In 2nd place is Ryan Gavigan with 839.61 points. In 3rd is David Yancey with 825.50 points, and in 4th is John Drake with 815.99 points.

This is also the highest final percentage rankings in memory for a Twin Galaxies decathalon event, out of a maximum of 1000%.

Incredibly, three players were all within 25 points of each other...a testimony to how tight the competition was until the very last day. Most gamers, Todd and myself included, kept at it, chipping away a second here, or a few tenths there, until we could do no more. The individual results are awesome.

Here now are the ranked results from the ten individual events in terms of the actual scores per events, along with the relative percentage per event out of a maximum of 100.00%, so you can see for yourself how right the competition was...

Skiing - Game 1 "B" - World Record is 32.63 Seconds
Ewing, Jonathan 32.72 100.00
Drake, John 32.73 99.97
Rogers, Todd 32.73 99.97
Yancey, David 32.75 99.91
Mruczek, Robert 32.83 99.66
Gavigan, Ryan 32.85 99.60
Knox, Stephen 32.98 99.21
Corcoran, Ron 33.63 97.29

Jonathan Ewing turned in a near-flawless run of 32.72 seconds, less than 1/10th of a second off the world record pace. Two gamers, John Drake and Todd Rogers, both tied for 2nd place with 32.73, just 1/100th of a second off Jonathan's pace, while David Yancey came in 3rd place with 32.75 seconds, just 3/100ths of a second off Jonathan.

This event comes down to minimizing your lateral movements and making the most minute adjustments throughout the race. Precision accuracy in most of the timed events was necessary in order to achieve the fastest results. And the beauty of the format is that a gamer could get perhaps two attempts in per minute...more in the case of "Dragster" where the average game lasts 6 seconds.

As was true with most of the Activision titles in this competition, the average results in terms of percentages was predictably tight, and in many cases, gamers were all within one percentage point of another. The reality is, games of shorter duration and those in whole seconds can realize greater disparities between contenders.

Barnstorming - Game 1 "B" - World Record is 32.50 Seconds
Rogers, Todd 32.67 100.00
Ewing, Jonathan 32.77 99.69
Yancey, David 32.77 99.69
Drake, John 32.85 99.45
Mruczek, Robert 32.90 99.30
Gavigan, Ryan 32.95 99.15
Corcoran, Ron 33.24 98.29
Knox, Stephen 33.70 96.94

During the competition, a new world record of 32.50 seconds has been officially established outside the parameters of the decathalon at the CGE and was not counted towards this competition's final results, as set by Todd Rogers. Within the competition, Todd managed to come close with a time of 32.67 seconds for 1st place. Tied for 2nd at 32.77, just 1/10th of a second behind, are Jonathan Ewing and David Yancey. John Drake is in 3rd place with 32.85 seconds.

Barnstorming is an enjoyable title, even moreso once you recognize the birds' flying patterns and how to fly inbetween the birds. As you can see by the results, all gamers were within 1 second of each other...tight indeed.

Grand Prix - Game 1 "B" - World Record is 29.47 Seconds
Rogers, Todd 29.61 100.00
Ewing, Jonathan 29.61 100.00
Yancey, David 29.64 99.90
Mruczek, Robert 29.69 99.73
Gavigan, Ryan 33.13 89.38
Corcoran, Ron 34.80 85.09
Drake, John 37.35 79.28
Knox, Stephen 40.22 73.62

Due to the speed involved, and the ease at which your vehicle can come to a screeching halt due to the most subtle of contacts with another vehicle, the tightness between gamers widened in this event. Still, four gamers managed to stay within 8/100ths of each other, the fastest being very close to the world record itself.

Tied for 1st place are Todd Rogers and Jonathan Ewing with 29.61 seconds, a fast time indeed. In 2nd place, a fraction of a second behind, is David Yancey with 29.64 seconds. I managed to tie my own previously submitted personal best of 29.69 seconds for 3rd place.

What most gamers probably do is adopt a single pattern for solving the event, and then stick with it as long as they can. After viewing everyone's attempts, I can safely say that there are three (3) distinct patterns to use...two are identical up to a certain maneuver 2/3 of the way thru, while the other is a radical departure and focused on the central two lanes, thus has the most risk.

Sky Jinks - Game 1 "B" - World Record is 34.73 Seconds
Rogers, Todd 34.73 100.00
Yancey, David 34.74 99.97
Ewing, Jonathan 34.76 99.91
Mruczek, Robert 34.83 99.71
Drake, John 34.83 99.71
Gavigan, Ryan 37.79 91.90
Knox, Stephen 39.73 87.42
Corcoran, Ron 39.81 87.24

A new world record has been set in this event !! After re-evaluating an earlier score which was found to have been accomplished on a prototype cartridge, the previous record holder, Todd Rogers, reclaims his stance with a winning time of 34.73 seconds in this tricky performance of aerial maneuvering and timing. His 2nd place competitor is David Yancey with a speedy 34.74 seconds, just 1/100th off Todd's pace, followed tightly by Jonathan Ewing in 3rd place with 34.76 seconds...3/100ths off Todd's pace.

Like "Grand Prix" and "Barnstorming", the gameplay of this title is extremely reliant upon how fast you are travelling, and for what duration !! Reaching a certain point too quickly can be as bad as, or worse than, getting there too slowly, so the perfect blend must be found to achieve the fastest times possible.

Dragster - Game "B" - World Record is 5.51 Seconds
Rogers, Todd 5.64 100.00
Yancey, David 5.67 99.47
Drake, John 5.81 97.07
Corcoran, Ron 6.01 93.84
Mruczek, Robert 6.04 93.38
Ewing, Jonathan 6.31 89.38
Knox, Stephen 6.34 88.96
Gavigan, Ryan 6.57 85.84

"Dragster" is hands down the shortest Atari 2600 time-based challenge of all time. And due to the duration of the event, a player can crank out maybe 6-8 attempts inside of a minute.

Todd Rogers, the only person OR computer on Earth to have achieved a 5.51 seconds on this title, takes 1st place with 5.64 seconds. He was given chase by David Yancey, whose 5.67 seconds time easily qualifies him for 2nd place...and due to the nuances of the game, where the ending digit must be either a "1, 4 or 7", no one could come between Todd and David in this competition.

John Drake zoomed past the finish line in 5.81 seconds, the only other sub-6:00 time this competition. What did I like most about it as a referee ? Well...the 6 second verifications, that's what !!

Boxing - Game "B" - World Record is 24 Seconds to KO
Rogers, Todd 28 100.00
Gavigan, Ryan 45 62.22
Yancey, David 60 46.67
Drake, John 70 40.00
Ewing, Jonathan 75 37.33
Knox, Stephen 77 36.36
Corcoran, Ron 91 30.77
Mruczek, Robert 95 29.47

There were a few events this competition that resulted in widely disparate scores. Activision's "Boxing" was one of them.

Todd "Hurricane" Rogers came to within 4 seconds of his world record pace, knocking out his opponent in 28 seconds. His next nearest competitor is Ryan "Sugar Ray" Gavigan who performed this feat in 45 seconds. Ranked 3rd the Twin Galaxies equivelant of real-life prize-fighting is David "Bigrig" Yancey who KO'd the computer in an even minute.

For ranking purposes only, the above reflects the time of the KO, but for Twin Galaxies record tracking on the database, the times will reflect the seconds remaining out of a 2:00 starting timer. Thus, Todd has 1:32 left on the timer at the moment of KO, Ryan has 1:15, and so forth.

Adventure - Game "3B" - World Record is 40 Seconds
Ewing, Jonathan 40 100.00
Rogers, Todd 54 74.07
Mruczek, Robert 55 72.73
Knox, Stephen 57 70.18
Gavigan, Ryan 60 66.67
Yancey, David 72 55.56
Drake, John 72 55.56

A new world record was set, rather shattered, on this event. Chopping down the previously verified record of 49 seconds by 9 entire seconds, Jonathan Ewing is now recognized as one of the greatest Atari 2600 "Adventurers" of all time, solving the random game 3 adventure in a previously unheard of 40 seconds. However, the possibility exists that the time may be, upon further investigation, 39 seconds. As chief referee, I verified 40 seconds using a stopwatch, but the absolute way to find out for sure requires that worldwide Atari editor, Ron Corcoran, take a final look and evaluate thru his own eyes, just to be sure. In the event that the record is found to be 39 seconds, the overall competition rankings will change ever so slightly, but we will definitely notify all of a slight change in relative winning percentages.

Coming in 2nd place is Todd Rogers with 54 seconds, followed by myself at 55 seconds. Note that the official Twin Galaxies ruling is that the game starts from the instant a gamer moves to the instant the grail is brought back to the gold castle AND the music starts.

Game "3B" is random in nature, having an estimated 15-20 solutions, perhaps even one or two more. The challenge is recognizing which solution is required from just the barest evidence.

Superman - Game "B" - World Record is 57 Seconds
Rogers, Todd 61 100.00
Mruczek, Robert 70 87.14
Gavigan, Ryan 86 70.93
Ewing, Jonathan 89 68.54
Yancey, David 99 61.62
Knox, Stephen 113 53.98
Drake, John 125 48.80

Easily among the top two most frustrating titles this time-based competition. As "Superman" you are required to re-build a bridge and re-capture several crooks causing havoc in the city, as well as capturing the diabolically clever Lex Luthor. Well, as this is the Atari 2600, he's not really "diabolically" clever...just clever enough to set free any prisoners that you captured.

Todd Rogers achieved a blazing fast 1:01 (61 seconds), proving that he's the "Superman" of this competition...and he almost caught up with his world record pace of 57 seconds to boot. Achieving a personal verified best of 1:10 (70 seconds), I came in a distant 2nd place. Coming up in 3rd is Ryan Gavigan with 1:26 (86 seconds).

There are three (3) tricks in the game that are banned...failing to build the bridge, failing to do anything, for that matter, and simply walking to the Planet (such a cheat is rumoured to exist, though I don't know how it is performed), and useage of the "Pause" (select button) at any point in the game. All times above did not utilize any of these tricks.

One variable does seem to exist...the very beginning of the game when Clark Kent witnesses the bridge explode and walks back to the phone booth to change into Kent. Sometimes the timer begins immediately, sometimes only after you enter the phone booth, and sometimes just after the bridge explodes. The difference between the three could be as great as 5 seconds, but Twin Galaxies does not differentiate times based on this random factor.

Key to the fastest times possible lies in a combination of map memorization and some good old fashioned luck. The crooks can be anywhere, but eventually, you will catch a large group congragating by the jail cell after so many hundreds of restarts. Such "parties" can lead to sub-1:10 times easily, and then some !!

Private Eye - Game 1 "A or B" Fastest Completion - World Record is 1:02 Remaining (1:18 Completion)
Rogers, Todd 118.00 100.00
Ewing, Jonathan 118.00 100.00
Drake, John 118.00 100.00
Gavigan, Ryan 119.00 99.16
Yancey, David 119.00 99.16
Mruczek, Robert 124.00 95.16
Knox, Stephen 130.00 90.77
Corcoran, Ron 137.00 86.13

This is the first time this event was ever contested or submitted for, and I am pleased to announce that not one but three players all share the rank of 1st place in this event. The game traditionally allows a start time of 3 minutes (180 seconds) and displays time remaining as the record. Although that is what will be entered into the TG database, I needed the time of completion to best assess the relative performances.

In the 3-way tie for 1st place are Todd Rogers, Jonathan Ewing and John Drake, each finishing the mission with 1:02 left on the game timer, meaning they accomplished all the goals in a time of 1:18

Ryan Gavigan and David Yancey share 2nd place with 1:01 left on the game timer, taking 1:19 to accomplish all the tasks. I came in 3rd place with 56 seconds left on the game timer, accomplishing all the goals in 1:24

This title also has commensurate scoring (points) with every attempt, and worldwide Atari editor Ron Corcoran has been made aware of the scores relative to each submission, so that they can be tracked as well under a separate scoring category.

Breakout - Game 1 "B" Fastest Completion - World Record is 3:45 (225 Seconds)
Mruczek, Robert 225.00
Drake, John 234.00
Rogers, Todd 262.00
Ewing, Jonathan 262.00
Gavigan, Ryan 301.00
Yancey, David 354.00

About two years ago, I suggested to Ron Corcoran that Twin Galaxies needs to re-vitalize this venerable title in which most gamers could achieve the maximum score of 864 points on as little as their first ball. So, I thought of a speed completion, and he liked the idea, so here we are.

In the never before contested category of fastest completion of game 1 "B", I have to modestly point out that I happen to have set the competition record of 3:45 (225 seconds), which for the moment is the world record on this event. In a very close 2nd place is John Drake with 3:54 (234 seconds), the only other sub-4:00 time achieved and verified thus far. As incredible as this sounds, a tie for 3rd place occurred...both Jonathan Ewing and Todd Rogers achieved a completion of 4:22 (262 seconds).

Fans of the game realize quickly that the key is to get the ball moving at top speed as fast as possible, and there is only ONE (1) way to do this based on a particulat angle that the first ball is released from. All it takes is six precisely placed returns and you're off with a chance to set a record.

The trick here is knowing when you are in a loop, and releasing a new ball rather than waste time in the ball loop, a trap every gamer, myself included, often falls into. In fact, not one score above was free from repetetive hits, thus I am fairly positive that much faster is possible. How fast ? Well, I am gauging that 3:05-3:15 is not outside the realm of possibility. As it stands, the fastest 1st set of bricks completed is 1:46 from what I've seen, and the fastest 2nd set is 1:28 so together that's 3:14...and even these two "best of" times were not completelt flawless. So I suspect there will be some more jockeying for the privilege of being number one on this event for a little while longer.

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The four winning players will each get a place certificate from Twin Galaxies. The players have a choice of prizes based on their relative rankings, and we will announce their final selections after I have contacted each player and confirmed their choices.

We view this event as a success, and plan on having another such time-based event soon, perhaps in as little as six months from now, with cross-platform appeal, more prizes, and new events to keep things fresh.

Until that time, keep practicing your favourite time-based event. You never know what could be next. Who knows...could even be the fastest 99 points versus the computer on "Fishing Derby", or the fastest victory on Activision "Tennis" !!

Robert T Mruczek
Twin Galaxies - Editor and Chief referee
Star Wars classic arcade champion
[email protected] (work E-MAIL)