The Long-Standing TG Policy on "Free Play"

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  1. 01-05-2015, 10:37 PM
    Quote Originally Posted by Jace Hall View Post
    I would encourage the community to try to adhere to the well established TG policies whenever they can while adjudicating.

    I'm confused. Jace, is the "no free play" a rule, or is it a guideline?


  2. 01-05-2015, 11:35 PM
    Quote Originally Posted by lexmark View Post
    I'm confused. Jace, is the "no free play" a rule, or is it a guideline?


    It is a guideline that should be reasonably followed.
    Jace Hall
    Chairman of the Board
  3. 01-05-2015, 11:44 PM
    Quote Originally Posted by Jace Hall View Post
    It is a guideline that should be reasonably followed.
    What do you mean by "reasonably followed" ?


  4. 01-06-2015, 01:39 AM
    My personal opinion is that there should be a set of standard rules, that EVERYONE abides by. No if's or but's.

    Those of us setting arcade records are (I would hope) all going to film inside the machine at the end and show DIP switches, what is so hard about putting the machine on the specified existing settings?

    Jace is exactly right about what he said from a programmers standpoint, and unless someone is going to analyze every single arcade games code, there is always going to be doubt on certain titles if free play has an impact.

    And to add to the freeplay argument, what is the story with inserting multiple coins before starting? It does have an impact in certain games, it has been shown that it does. Certain games also play differently if not hard reset between attempts (Wonderboy is one I know off the top of my head). Why should some games be allowed to not be reset between record attempts and others must be turned off - is it that hard to turn the power off and back on?

    I do agree that some of the old TG requirements were probably over the top, but certain things regarding setting world records are just no brainers, they take seconds to comply with - why complicate things by allowing players to do whatever they feel like?
  5. 01-06-2015, 01:46 AM
    Quote Originally Posted by Jace Hall View Post
    I have a computer programming background, so please bear with me.

    It is possible that the "state change" of the software being in "free play" alters the outcome of the seeded psuedo-random number generator that the game uses.

    What this means is that it is possible for games like Pac Man or Donkey Kong which probably utilize this method of creating randomness will produce a different experience depending on the state of the software when started. This is because it is possible that being in "free play" versus "1 Credit mode" changes the "seed" number that gets produced when the code that generates random numbers makes a call to that function.

    From my point of view, the policy must have been put in place to try to make sure that everyone was playing from the exact same starting point with the same starting conditions. The smallest differential, no matter how slight, can in theory make a difference - and when you are dealing with top players who are THAT good, that small differential can mean the difference between a world record and not.

    So, I would encourage the community to try to adhere to the well established TG policies whenever they can while adjudicating. Most of them evolved for a reason and were not just made up for the heck of it.

    I hope that made sense,


    Do you happen to have access to the "old" guidelines? I tried accessing the FAQ on WayBackMachine but I can't. I would be interested in reading them again, and I think it would be a good starting point for debating issues.

    I hope I'm wrong, but I can see arguments starting in the future when WR's are community accepted, and then someone from 2010 says "But he did this and that, and I wasn't allowed to"

    We've all been waiting for score submissions for so long, and I'm as happy as the next person that they are being taken, it just seems like a mistake to all of a sudden ignore so many of the old rules.
  6. 01-06-2015, 03:10 AM
    Here is the response by Matt Osborne who develops free play kits today across many different golden age arcade hardware platforms:

    The validity of that argument hinges on the coin drop being some kind of magical global reset of the machine state. And that is simply not the case. I've studied the code of many games, and never have I seen one that reset on coin drop. There's no logical reason to do so.

    You can never ensure that players are starting from exactly the same machine state. Even if you took two identical machines, turned them on at the same time and tried to drop a coin in each at the same time, the probability of any pseudo-random number generator getting seeded the same is very slim. That's because the seeds are typically generated from some processor register or counter that's changing value thousands of times per second.

    As far as freeplay goes, that should not provide any advantage over coin drop. How a game implements freeplay can vary, but one thing you can count on is that when Start is pressed the code goes into game mode just the same as if you had dropped a coin first. The whole coin drop ritual clearly came about based on the assumption that that somehow gave players a known and level starting point. There is no technical argument behind that assumption that holds up.
    Last edited by pwnasaurus; 01-06-2015 at 03:16 AM.
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  7. 01-06-2015, 04:05 AM
    Quote Originally Posted by John73 View Post
    My personal opinion is that there should be a set of standard rules, that EVERYONE abides by. No if's or but's.

    We have been provided a vehicle to implement our own vision of what we feel is reasonable evidence that a score was accomplished via elite skill on a title. It is up to you, myself and the rest of the community to accept or reject submissions. If you feel a player did not accomplish their score truthfully, or in what I expect is a bulk of unaccepted cases, there is not enough evidence provided to make a clear distinction, then I would recommend downvoting it or not voting as it were, as you see fit. That's the role the community has been tasked with. I'm under the assumption that folks voting on a performance have some degree of familiarity with the title/platform and if the evidence provided supports their score claim, at least that is the way I am approaching it from my perspective. All the votes I've given are on games which I have spent significant time on and feel comfortable with evaluating a performance, though everyone's mileage may vary in that regard, that's the path I'm taking so far.
    Last edited by pwnasaurus; 01-06-2015 at 04:10 AM.
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  8. 01-06-2015, 04:30 AM
    Looks like the topic is well handled above.
    So I'll now throw in a side angle. These programmers at the turn of the 80s were focused on coin profits, they didn't have the time nor the monetary motivation to assess how a game played to a master who had spent excess time learning the nuances of a game. It has been stated that they tried to make interesting enemy dynamics, mixed with a certain amount of unintended bugs that hopefully had the charm to make them "features" and the rest was left to the fate of 1's and 0's and human psychology.

    Here is one you guys probably don't realize in that vein of thinking. On blue romset for robo. it was coming back from the field that robo on the original yellow/orange/red romset was too difficult (which affects coin op profits). so they chose to drop the default difficulty from 5 to 3 and they added a "bozo" mode. on wave 1 if the player is doing poorly the difficulty of the game was dropped to the lowest possible for that wave. It made sense and quite ingenious...but probably blows the mind of an intensely pedantic classic gamer.

    thankfully the classic game programmers went well beyond the mindset of being a pedantic player (lots of them enjoyed chess and math).

    Are you inspired to find the joy in gaming?

    TG employee (82-84)
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  9. 01-06-2015, 08:17 AM
    Hey guys! This is my first post on the new TG forums.

    I'm in agreement with Robert and the others. Unless there is a proven exploit to a particular game, I see no reason to disqualify a submission that was done on freeplay. The code logic behind freeplay is usually quite simple. It typically works like this: the game will read the coinage setting DIPs on boot, and if the freeplay combo is found it will set a flag somewhere in memory. I search the code disassembly for any read instructions on that memory location, and also set a read watchpoint in the MAME debugger to catch any tricky (i.e. indirect) reads. I then analyze the code around these reads to see how it's using the flag. I have never found a case where is was used during gameplay. It is only used during attract mode (e.g. when a Start button is pressed to determine whether to go into game mode).

    That's my experience anyway. And I've probably studied 30+ classic games up to this point. I've found that games from the same manufacturer (at least on the same or similar hardware) use the same basic logic for this kind of housekeeping stuff. Which makes sense, since they are going to recycle as much common code as they can.

    Sort of unrelated to the topic at hand, but I thought I'd mention anyway... When I add freeplay to a game that never had it, one simple way to implement it is to simulate a coin drop. I essentially trick the game into thinking a coin has been dropped when a Start button is pressed. I always take the simplest and least intrusive approach first. I know games with freeplay or high score save mods added are not allowed for submissions, but I want people to know that I take great care in making sure any changes I make do not affect gameplay in any way. I sometimes find bugs in the original code too... but I leave them in! They're usually just stupid inconsequential things. Very tempting to fix sometimes... but you have to leave all the quirks in!
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  10. 01-06-2015, 09:10 AM
    Quote Originally Posted by gstrain View Post
    Dave, patterning on Pac-Man Plus is possible regardless of whether the game is set to free play. Threads giving details can be found both in the historical TG forums and on the forums. Here's a starting link:

    I don't think patterning on Ms Pac-Man is possible for a human even on free play. My understanding based on what I've read David Widel (who added Ms Pac to MAME) write about the Random Number Generator (RNG), at least for the random fruit generation, is that it effectively modifies itself continually based on user input each frame which in practice makes it impossible to pattern. In Pac-Man Plus if you've got the same starting RNG seed and you run a single continuous forward motion pattern for the whole game, it can be fully patterned like Pac-Man. For Ms Pac-Man you'd need to have the same starting RNG seed and also run a pattern that has identical input every single 1/60th of a second for the whole game. So you would have to not only do the same pattern, but you would have to push the joystick the same 1/60th second frame of the game AND release the joystick after the exact same number of 1/60th of a second frames. Which just isn't physically possible for a human. You can also do an experiment in MAME. Create a save state in Ms Pac-Man after starting a game and just before you take control on the first cherry screen. Try to run just the start of a simple pattern that makes a loop around the screen. Reload the save state and try to use the same pattern 10 times. You won't be able to, even though the save state started with the exact same RNG. As a human you just can't duplicate even the beginnings of a pattern with the frame perfect precision Ms Pac-Man would require. Here's a relevant thread:

    That said, it's certainly possible from a programming perspective that having the free-play dip switch, or ANY of the seemingly irrelevant dip switches, set to a non-standard value could affect gameplay on a game. However I'm very skeptical that all of those extra non-difficulty/lives related settings have always been strictly enforced in the past. As such I could probably be persuaded to allow them to be "players choice".

    Hi George!

    Actually, I knew that about PacPlus. The difference here is that one can do it EVERY TIME as opposed to 1 out of every 64. This amounts to a HUGE difference in my mind.

    As for MsPac, I wasn't speaking of the fruits (which I already knew were unaffected), I was speaking exclusively about the ghost behavior. In my mind, being able to CFP MsPac goes contrary to the intentions of the developers, who very definitely intended to eliminate this possibility.

    Naturally, controlling the fruit in this way would be far more useful than controlling the ghosts, and I don't think having a game set to free play would allow one to beat the WR. As you point out, the fruit behavior is unaffected by this. Nonetheless, the possibility of creating CFP patterns by taking advantage of free play bothers me enough to believe that the technique should be banned, whether or not any records are at stake. Ms. Pac-Man was designed to be unpatternable (or at least, not patternable for the first 30 seconds of every maze).

    [EDIT: I meant to say "the first 5 seconds of every maze." Naturally, after the first reversal, it is possible to group and fall into a pattern of sorts.]

    Last edited by anningmay; 01-06-2015 at 09:15 AM.
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