4. TASing Methodology

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TASing Methodology

This chapter is dedicated to the principal activity in TASing – the way of creating an optimal Input for any given segment of the movie. TASes look so shiny exactly because of persistent manual polishing of Input. The size of working segment can be anything, criteria and factors of optimality can vary, but the method is basically one and the same: retry all sorts of approaches and choose the best one. The only question is how to do it with minimum time and effort.

It's rather difficult to convince yourself to spend time on alternative ways to play through the segment once it's already completed and all obvious mistakes are already fixed. After achieving the current in-game goal people usually want to set another in-game goal. But you must remember that TASer's goal is different from player's goals. So try to abstract away from the game rules and not to retreat from the segment until you complete real goal, not just player's small goal.

That's actually the most difficult part – to invent new approaches to solving one and the same task. TASers mainly consider the same approach a regular player would have used in this place of the game. That's why people mostly use evolutionary way instead of revolutionary. You keep modifying the existing basic approach, both fixing its mistakes and conducting experiments. In the process of these thoughtful modifications you enrich your knowledge base about the game, and as a result you produce an Input that isn't immediately obvious.

Of course, sometimes you have a flash of inspiration, when a revolutionary idea leads to tremendous improvements that surpass all polishing gains. People love TASing exactly for these emotional moments. Yet it doesn't exempt you from the need to polish this new revolutionary approach using the same methods to bring it even closer to an ideal.

Instead of reading the techniques described here you can just immediately start real TASing, so in a course of several projects you would work out your own methods. But most likely after a year of TASing you'll come to the described scheme of work.

So, the process of creating the best Input for the segment of optimization can be basically described as a loop of fixing mistakes in previous versions of Input of the segment. A mistake is any kind of divergence from the perfect yet unknown Input. Such statement of question is very advantageous, because it means that you can gradually approach the perfect Input by making small steps that you can elaborate even without being a genius. The majority of mistakes can be successfully fixed by repeated examination and modification. That is, even when you don't have any original ideas, you can achieve a success by persistence. The successful progress motivates you to continue the work and thus prepare the ground for breakthrough ideas.

To correct a mistake in the Input of a movie you have to:

  1. Become aware of the mistake.
  2. Conjecture a solution.
  3. Navigate to the place.
  4. Apply changes.
  5. Verify the outcome.

1. Realizing a mistake happens either when watching the movie in Read-Only mode or right when recording/editing the Input.

Comment: Instead of detecting a tangible mistake TASers often just assume that current segment is still improvable. It's always wise to doubt the perfectness of current result and try experimenting with the Input – sometimes you indeed find unused possibilities.

2. The means of solving the mistake are either immediately obvious or are found experimentally. In rare cases you have to resort to calculations and comparisons. A correctly chosen segment usually encompasses all key factors of optimality. The information from previous or next segments is rarely needed.

Comment: Sometimes while fixing one mistake we unwittingly create another mistake. In this case the optimization process would go in wrong direction, but fortunately such situations are extremely rare in TASing, because videogames are much more straightforward than real life, so player can find all factors and an unambiguous criterion of optimality. Taseditor additionally simplifies the process by data visualization.

3. The ability to navigate to the place of making the mistake is the essential distinction between TASing and normal speedrunning. Regular players can detect the mistake post factum, but it's TASers who always return back to correct it.

In traditional method of TASing the navigation may take noticeable amount of time and effort. Taseditor makes the navigation much faster.

Comment: Sometimes the place of making the mistake is located long before the segment where it is revealed. In this case you have to find the segment affecting the mistake and edit it according to the information given by the played segment. And in this case the speed of navigation between those two segments is even more important.

4. Applying modifications to Input is how you make your thoughts real. The less the delay between an idea and its implementation is, the better.

In the traditional method of TASing the Input modification generally takes longer, because in addition to rewriting erroneous frames you also have to rewrite adjacent frames  In Taseditor this is often not necessary.

Comment: Since any Input modification entails a change in the game flow, sometimes even in Taseditor you have to resync the old Input that follows the place of fixing mistake.

5. To see the outcome you need to resume playing the movie from the beginning of current segment of right from the frame of fixing the mistake. There's no need to re-check previous segments of the movie, because the mistake fixing affects only subsequent events.

Comment: Although, when you're making an entertaining playthrough instead of a pure speedrun, after fixing a mistake (e.g. making the movement trajectory more smooth) you should ensure that this correction fits with the general sequence of in-game events, so it's recommended to rewatch some previous events together with the current segment.

You almost always have to watch the current segment up to its end, that is, to the moment when the target event occurs, so that you can confidently apply the optimality criterion. Because the correction may seem profitable at first but appear worse in the end.

After evaluating the outcome, the mistake is either considered to be fixed/non-existent, or you have to return to step 2 and rethink the situation.

Before Taseditor, all mistakes (both explicit and supposed) were being fixed by creating and reloading savestates. If you're not familiar with the traditional method of TASing, here's its basic principles:

As you see, almost everything in the traditional method of TASing is done using savestates (Bookmarks). In Taseditor some of their functions are replaced by the Greenzone and the History Log, yet Bookmarks still play important role, allowing to keep alternative branches of the movie in a single project. The Playback cursor navigation now can be done faster by either drag'n'drop or mouse wheel. In fact, now you don't need to put Playback cursor to the frame of modification, you can just scroll the Piano Roll to the place and change the Input by mouse.

Since the Recording is less effective than direct editing, there's no more need to constantly switch modes. Now the emulator is always in Read-Only mode.

The game is always paused, as before. But now you are seeing the outcome of your Input only when you actually want to see it. At first this may seem inconvenient (as you don't feel the habitual feedback from your keypresses), but it's actually very advantageous, because it means the higher level of independence from the game. Instead of the standard mechanism of "involvement into the gameplay" there are other mechanisms of data transmission. So in any case you will receive all needed information on how the game interprets your Input, it's just that this data stream won't continually flow into your mind, it will be delivered on command.

And when it's really necessary, you can have an intensified feedback by switching to the third method of TASing in Taseditor.

Let's review pros and cons of all three methods, one by one.

The three methods of TASing in Taseditor:

  • navigating the Input using the Playback cursor by jumping to Bookmarks
  • recording sequences of Input using the keyboard/joypad
  • watching interim results of the Input automatically

  • navigating the Input using the mouse
  • editing the Input using the mouse/keyboard/joypad
  • watching interim or final results of the Input by user command

  • navigating the Input using the mouse
  • editing the Input using the mouse/keyboard/joypad
  • watching interim or final results of the Input automatically

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