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03-09-2018 at 10:54 AM
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Dr. Mario questions, considerations, and stuff

@David Hawksett @Ben Way , I have a couple of things in regards to the Dr. Mario rule sets I've been thinking about for a bit and wanted to make a post about it.

1) Easy fix - Dr. Mario rules on gameboy all list low as the speed even for the high and medium variations. "1 Life, Low Speed, Any Music, virus Level May Be Freely ChosenSpecial Rules: Please note that this variation is for Medium speed." High speed reads the same but "medium" is replaced with "high" can we change "low" in both of those to reflect their appropriate tracks?

2) Harder question and an in need of discussion. The following is in the rules for most (maybe all) the Dr. Mario tracks -

"Please note that if at any point your game should freeze [This occurs when you make too large of a combination that the game can't properly process it], your scoring attempt ends with the last score seen before it freezes."

First some history: This rule was added around 2009-ish I believe (probably the exact thread can be found in the archives and I'll try to dig it up a bit later). It was made while Nik Meeks and PSP were still associated with TG. I'd recently started playing Dr. Mario and scores were being pushed up from the 400k range into the just shy of a million range. As a result some of us were starting to the cause huge combos which freeze the game in a couple of different games. There was talks of a rule being implemented which would ban the freezing. There is what is called a soft freeze - This is where the game screen glitches and pauses action, but it can be undone by mashing buttons on the one player controller. Then there is a hard freeze which does the same thing as the soft freeze, but has to be unfrozen using the second player controller. Then there is what I call a double hard freeze which is a combo that hard freezes, you restart the game with the 2p controller and the next viruses to clear are enough to soft freeze and this freezes the game permanently. Here is a youtube video I made a ways back about soft and hard freezing:

The concern was that the freezes increased the scoring in random ways and as a result luck, not skill could be a determining factor in obtaining the high score. As a result of the impending rule, I did an analysis of the soft freeze and put it all on tape. Essentially I found that soft freezes don't cause the score to change in anyway other than how it supposed to. I sent this on to PSP with a detailed description. about two weeks later this rule was posted. I never heard back about my tape, and attempts to contact through email about the issue went unanswered. As a result I never analyzed the hard freezes to determine if they increase the scoring.

Now to the present: Those of us who are serious Dr. Mario players all recognize the soft freeze rule as unnecessary. At least one score submitted and accepted under the adjudication process utilizes the soft freeze during the game. This suggests that even those who are not serious players recognize it as a legitimate tactic. So my question is this - Can we remove the rule banning soft freezing from then rulesets? Would we need video showing that it does not randomly assign a score? While I don't have the video I made previously (I naively thought there was no reason to) another could be made, especially if others were willing to piece together their footage. Is there something else we'd need to do or show.

IMO, leaving the hard freezes as not allowed is fine as it requires the 2p controller to be used and there is a precedent from other games that this is a no-no. So it would require a rewording of the rules. Something to the extent of - "If at anytime your game freezes and cannot be unfrozen with the 1p controller, your attempt ends" (whether we want to take the score shown or the score before that combo began or DQ the whole run I guess would be up for debate) It might also require the second controller to be in the screen on video at all times (similar to Duck hunt)

Does this seem like something that might be possible? Are there things I'm missing or overlooking or reasons it won't work?
@stygian @DanielW
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  1. Blackflag82's Avatar
  2. sdwyer138's Avatar
    Does the freeze occur across all versions of Dr Mario?
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  3. Blackflag82's Avatar
    It doesn't seem so. I have made combos that hard freeze on Nintendo which do nothing to the Gameboy version. I haven't played a lot of the newer versions, so I don't know, but I expect at least some don't. It affects the arcade version as well.

    This illustrates the absurdity of the rule to an extent. They didn't know what it affected, so they kind of just kind of threw it up on some variations. If they were really concerned about the unknown elements it would have been applied to MAME and Arcade as well, and if they were concerned about the actual issue, they would have done more testing (or just reviewed the testing done for them) and not thrown it on things like Gameboy where it doesn't seem to happen.
  4. Dave Hawksett's Avatar
    Looping in @Stephen Daultrey and @Ninglendo

    It will be interesting to see more opinions from our expert members on this. We will also discuss internally. Thanks for bringing this up.
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  5. BenMullen's Avatar
    I'm not a real serious player of Dr Mario but I know of the soft freeze issue and it should certainly be allowed.
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  6. Ninglendo's Avatar
    In my opinion the soft freeze should be allowed. The rule essentially punishes the player for playing to well by getting big combos. The player is still able to continue the game and the soft freeze doesn't offer any advantages in gameplay. So in my eyes I think the rule is not needed.
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  7. stygian's Avatar
    Hi, guys. I've played Dr. Mario and submitted for the SNES as well, and because the Super Nintendo's console processor is more powerful, it does not soft nor hard freeze at or after the the 7th combo, unlike the regular NES. I have never seen Dr. Mario freeze on the SNES, but, honestly, I don't know what it would take to freeze it up. I don't own the system, I just borrowed a church friend's SNES to get scores - she's no longer around - I can't get the SNES and game back to test the limits. Maybe Paul Tesi could help here.

    Playing at low or medium speed levels on the NES requires alot of thinking ahead about how many combo drops you will string together. IMO, I see the soft freeze rule should be allowed to act as a WARNING to the player not to put another large combo together. I played the low speed version for 14 hours, and could have easily fritzed out my score with an 8 combo hard freeze - maybe a few dozen times - but I was forced to keep things modest in my combos.

    So, a hard freeze means you were too good at this game or too greedy in the combos. This rule should stay, and the score BEFORE the hard freeze should be the final score. (Because of the random points that come with this hard freeze).

    The soft freeze that can be undone by the player 1 controller should be allowed, and the player can keep playing with normal points awarded.

    Any run that involves the mashing of the player 2 controller to unfreeze should not be allowed. The score BEFORE the hard freeze should again be the final score.

    Remember these are my opinions and are up for debate.
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  8. sdwyer138's Avatar
    So if one type of freeze can be fixed with p1 controller, and the other freeze can be fixed with p2 controller, what’s the real difference? I don’t see one. Either way the game is stopped and you have to do a thing to start it again.
  9. Ninglendo's Avatar
    @sdwyer138 The hard freeze gives you a bunch of points you didn't earn.
  10. Blackflag82's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by sdwyer138
    So if one type of freeze can be fixed with p1 controller, and the other freeze can be fixed with p2 controller, what’s the real difference? I don’t see one. Either way the game is stopped and you have to do a thing to start it again.
    the main difference is that we don't know if the hard freeze affects the score differently each time. It seems like it does but I'm not aware of anyone that has analyzed it from this perspective. So the concern would be if you and I create a hard freeze with the same number of virus and you get 40k more because the points become random since the hardware can't calculate, it ceases to be skill based.
  11. sdwyer138's Avatar
    Ah gotcha...
  12. Snowflake's Avatar
    This interesting, i'm not a competitor so many opinion should carry litte weight, i'm more interested in a general rules point. I dont like changing rules, unless of course its to undo a change -- as is the case here. especially when the stated reason for the rule change was found to be incorrect and no discussion was allowed, yeah, thats a rule that should be reverted.

    as for punishing the player for being too good, eh, i good see it either way, view it as an extra skill to not get too much. In a way the rule adds complexity. I could see someone wanting a novelty track where this rule was implemented, but it shouldnt have been added to the mian track.

    one either point thats interesting, is the freeze (glitch) is undone with another glitch which i'm sure can have debate in itself. but in my opinion using a glitch to counter a glitch cancels out

    tl;dr -- assuming evertyhing stated by @stygian is correct (and i'm inclined to believe it is) then the rule should be reverted.
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  13. DanielW's Avatar
    1) The issue with LOW speed instead of MED/HI is the same for the PAL tracks of the NES version as well.
    The track name has the speed stated in it, so I don't know why the speed has to be specified in the rules at all.
    As it is now it is even stated Twice, but with different speeds.
    So when you look up a score, you see:
    "PAL - Points [Medium Speed]" and then in the rules "1 Life, Medium Speed, Any Music, virus Level May Be Freely ChosenSpecial Rules: Please note that this variation is for Low speed..."

    Short and clear rules are preferable if you ask me.

    2) I agree with what you say in the video that the points glitch both with and without freezing.
    So the freezing isn't the determining factor for point glitches, although it is strongly tied with hard freezes(doesn't seem tied to soft freezes).
    Sometimes(when you make large combos) viruses disappear that shouldn't, and you get points for them.
    This can happen both with freezes and without them.
    I strongly believe this is what causes most of the occurences where we see the score going wild in hard freezes.
    Let's say I do what I intend to be an 18 combo. The game might hardfreeze after computing 16 removed viruses, leaving me to believe I got too little points.
    The game might also take away 2 "bonus" viruses, giving me points for 20. This is not always visible(possibly beacuse the game freezes and can't draw it to screen), but in all my videos of hard freezes, the points awarded fit with a few more or a few extra viruses.
    For me it's always the exact score for like 1, 2 or 3 extra viruses or whatever, never 2 extra viruses + 600 points (if 3 extra viruses is more than 600 away).
    Different combos, all of which you perceive to be 18 viruses big, can definitely result in a different amount of points.

    There also seem to be a consensus that anything that requires the p2 controller shouldn't be allowed.
    I am totally fine with this, and I think it is reasonable that the the attempt ends Before the hard freeze.
    Both because it has been in the rules a long time, and because it is really hard for people to know exactly what is going on when the freezing has started.
    It makes for a much cleaner adjudication if the attempt is cut at a point where everyone can agree on the score and why it was awarded, needing no advanced knowledge of the workings of the game.
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  14. DanielW's Avatar
    Regarding platforms, I've only done combos on the NES and on the Gameboy.
    On the NES it freezes on PAL, NTSC and Famicom(all versions).
    I have not had it freeze on the Gameboy.
    It freezes on NES emulators, and apparently on the Arcade version.

    It is my belief that the game freezes for two reasons, both because the console can't process scoring/removal of viruses fast enough, and also because of error(s) in the source code.
    On the NES, removing more than 11 viruses will lead to the scores going from its normal nice pattern(a virus adds 100 times 1,2,4,8,16,32,32,32...) to stuff that doesn't make mathematical sense(100 times 10,3,256,1,2,4,256...).
    The same happens on the Arcade version if I'm not mistaken.
    On the Gameboy and SNES, after virus 5, you only seem to get 3200 points for every additional virus, so it seems unlikely that it would freeze.

    The NES and Arcade versions look very similar and were released closely in time, perhaps they share a lot of the code?

    Any version that is newer than SNES and doesn't look more or less exactly like the NES version is running faster hardware and is most likely coded in a different programming language. It should not be too slow, and the same error(s) in the source code would be very unlikely.

    Therefore I would say it is likely to freeze on NES, Arcade and emulators of both systems.
    Likewise very unlikely to freeze on Gameboy(it's slow, sure, but tested and the score is nice), SNES, N64, Dr. Mario Online Rx for the WII etc.

    With a quick, non exhaustive search on youtube I only found videos of freezes on platforms that predate the SNES.
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  15. Stephen Daultrey's Avatar
    Were the current scores on the site all achieved with the current ruleset, which prohibits freezes of any variety?
  16. Blackflag82's Avatar
    No, a lot of The scores predate the rule
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  17. Stephen Daultrey's Avatar
    We're looking at these tracks here?

    Okay, so theoretically removing the soft-freeze prohibition won't suddenly put all previous scores at a disadvantage? Could those who have played with the current ruleset feel aggrieved if it was suddenly removed?

    Interestingly, several of the current high scores on the above link were all achieved in 2016, so after the freeze rules were implemented.
  18. DanielW's Avatar
    Stephen, I suppose people could feel aggrieved. It is certainly something that should be taken into consideration.

    I don't know when this rule was added, but in the link you posted, there are no scores above 650000 points from anyone other than me(Daniel Wallin) and Stygian(Steve Germershausen) since february 2011. While people below 650000 points could have held back on their combos, I think the lower the score the less likely that is, and the less likely they are to care. Perhaps Paul Tesi could be asked for his opinion to bring the number down even further.

    I somewhat feel that this digresses from the point though.
    The point, as I see it, and made a post about in early 2016 ( ) is that we are not really talking about changing from one set of rules to another.
    Rather we want a line to be drawn in vague/poorly written rules.

    A freeze can be everything from a flicker of the screen, to a freeze for a few seconds, to a freeze where you have to press one button on p1s controller once, to a freeze where you have to mash the buttons on p1s controller, to a freeze where you have to mash the buttons on p2s controller, to a freeze where nothing can be done.

    I believe most would find it absurd to disqualify a run of say 5 hours just because the screen froze for 1 second.
    And how do we know if a button/buttons were pressed? And if the game got back to normal from the buttonpresses or by itself?

    So when I asked on the forum where the line should be drawn, if I remember correctly, the consensus was that all is okay apart from p2s controller. With motivations like what would be okay on a tournament should be okay here, like if the game freezes but then everything seems okay, that would be fine on a tournament. If the game freezes and nothing can be done, then obviously your run ends. However, there is a longstanding precedence that p2s controller can't be used. So that is where the line was drawn unofficially.
    After that post runs with soft freezes were voted onto the scoreboard.
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  19. Blackflag82's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen Daultrey
    Interestingly, several of the current high scores on the above link were all achieved in 2016, so after the freeze rules were implemented.
    Hey Stephen,

    The freeze rules were put into affect around 2009ish (I want to say it was implemented after Josh Taylor's scores, but I could be miss remembering). It was around the time when a handful of players were getting close to breaking 1 million. At the time, none of us were good enough to routinely cause freezes in our play. Nike Meeks and Scott Patterson (both Dr. Mario players and refs) talked about the freezing and decided to make the rule without any real research into the issue. The result is that we all just kind of adapted for a while. Steve's high scores were actually recorded a few years ago, he just finally submitted them recently.

    Arguably, the lack of new submissions (not counting Steve's since they were recorded much earlier) is because most of us who play Dr. Mario seriously decided a while back that adhering to the "soft freeze" rule was an arbitrary handicap on high scores and many lost interest in submitting.

    I know from conversations with Will Nichols that at the time he submitted his scores (2nd to Steve's on medium and high speed) he wasn't adept enough at freezing the game for the rule to have a major effect on his play.

    All of that to say, I don't think anyone would feel aggrieved as a result of the rule being removed.
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  20. Megaretroman's Avatar
    Hey all. Just now saw this. Basically Glen was right when he says the games freezes because it's "punishing the player" for nailing an extremely large combo. Knowing this, yes, I've had to kinda tone down the combos in fear of freezing the game, be it a soft or hard freeze. It can also freeze if you clear too much on the screen at once. I've only frozen the game on the NES version of Dr. Mario, and believe it or not, NWC Remix on the Ultimate NES Remix for the 3DS.

    Personally, if you can unfreeze the game and continue, I think it SHOULD be allowed.
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