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Offline Minim

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Challenges board: How it works
« on: October 21, 2019, 08:07:08 am »
*Thread updated with new information displayed by asterisk.

Welcome to the Challenges board. To avoid confusion, here is an introduction as well as some reminders as to how they work, and how you can take part.

Each challenge thread is traditionally based on the whole set of levels from one game and finding out what are the best records - or if that doesn't apply, which levels can be solved - under one specific criterion. One example is the Maximum Lemmings Saved Records thread, where the record for the most lemmings saved on each level is kept on the opening post. Of course, there are some challenges that only relate to one individual level. For this, we have the Oh No! More Challenges thread.

The results for each challenge are used by a certain engine. Each engine has different physics which can affect the solution for the same level. The engine must be displayed before the thread's title, written in square brackets. If a topic doesn't have an engine / version tag, you should assume it relates to the DOS version.

The format needs to be used like this:

Code: [Select]
[NeoLemmix] My NeoLemmix Challenge
The link to these engines can be found here. For DOS challenges, DOSBox and LemmixPlayer are acceptable engines. NeoLemmix is not allowed. To clarify, the version of LemmixPlayer allowed is the older versions with seperate EXEs for each pack (downloads archived on the NeoLemmix website); there is a newer all-in-one version that has not yet been verified as accurate-to-DOS (and was known, at least at one point, to have some intentional inaccuracies by the developer).

Incomplete Challenges
Any challenges that are incomplete will be displayed in paraphrases (circular brackets) at the end of the thread if needed. The incomplete tag should only be applied to the main set of levels of each Lemmings game only. Games such as Oh No! More Lemmings and Xmas Lemmings are regarded as expansion packs rather than a main set; whereas Lemmings 2 and 3 are regarded as main groups of levels because they play completely different to each other.

Replays
For solutions to more complicated challenges, a replay is recommended. *To ensure that they are the best quality, it is encouraged that all replays (including screenshots) should be captured from a PC and not from external sources, such as a video recorder or camera. Blurred content would make it unnecessarily harder for readers to understand one's uploaded content.

LemmixPlayer's replay files use the .lrb file extension. The controls are:
L = Load replay
U = Save replay
R = Restart level

NeoLemmix is able to save your level automatically (Unless you've turned this off) when the level is passed. The "Load Replay" icon appears on the far bottom right corner of the full-size skill panel. If you can't find it, Go to the Main Menu, press F3 and click on the "Interface" tab. Uncheck the "Compact Skill Panel" checkbox and the icon should be there the next time you play a level. Modern versions of NeoLemmix use the .nxrp file extension.

For games involving the DOSBox (2, 3, and 3D), you can use a video recorder - There's a useful document here on how to use it - but if you don't know how then using screenshots is fine, as long as you include text as well as precise cursor locations and lemming placements. A .png file is preferred for uploading screenshots.

For Lemmings Revolution, unfortunately I haven't found any information on how to save replays there. You'll probably have to record a video or make some screenshots with descriptions.

Uploading the replay is easy. Clicking the "Attachments and other options" button followed by "browse" should open up a window for you to find the replay you want to upload.

So there you go. Hope everything is clear. Have fun playing the Challenges board! 8-)
« Last Edit: April 15, 2020, 06:52:49 pm by namida »
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Offline ccexplore

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2019, 10:05:05 am »
A .png or .jpg file is preferred for uploading screenshots.

I would go slight further and say to use PNG only, especially for the games that have pixel-precise physics (so I guess the ones based on Lemmings 1 or Lemmings 2 physics).  JPG's compression is lossy and will tend to blur out some pixel-precise details, and with challenge solutions you can bet there often will be critical moves that are pixel-precise.

For screenshots, one key thing would be to depict any precise locations and/or timing a lemming needs to be assigned skill to.  Or for something like Lemmings 2's archer or roper skills, I would also try to make sure the screenshot depicts the precise cursor placement for the target point of the skill, especially if it needs to be pixel-precise.

A video is likely easier in explaining all the intricacies of a solution.  If you can't do videos, consider having some text as well as screenshots.  Note that DOSBox has video capturing feature built-in, please consult documentation on use.

Offline Minim

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2019, 12:56:57 pm »
Thanks for your useful technical input. 8-) I'll see if I can reword this.
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Offline WillLem

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2019, 05:41:10 pm »
Thanks for the clarification on these points. I'm guessing that NeoLemmix is not an acceptable engine for challenges due to its precision capabilities (timestepping, etc)...?

Offline Proxima

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2019, 06:46:24 pm »
Not at all. Lemmix has all that and is perfectly acceptable. The difference is that Lemmix is a perfect clone of the mechanics of DOS Lemmings, while NeoLemmix has many, many mechanics differences (steel glitches are fixed, there is no "sliding", etc). That means that results for NeoLemmix don't give us any confidence about what would and would not be possible on the original game.

Offline namida

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2019, 06:53:02 pm »
I don't see any issue with using NeoLemmix for challenges, as long as NeoLemmix results are kept clearly separate from DOS / Lemmix results - they should probably be their own separate topic, and we'd need to also agree on which version of the levels to use (as the official-pack-conversions and the Redux versions of levels are not always identical; eg. Redux removes most time limits and often reduces the lemming counts).

Likewise, NeoLemmix results would need to be kept separate from, say, SuperLemmini results.

The main concern is, yeah, we do not want to mix entirely different engines together. We generally even separate almost-but-not-quite identical ports, such as Amiga vs DOS (almost identical, but Amiga lacks the nuke glitch and has slightly different digger physics, and has water across the bottom of most levels which usually doesn't matter but can make a difference in some levels, such as Save Me).

Let's also not suddenly spam the board up with every possible engine-challenge combination. We should start with a simple and common challenge on one engine, perhaps "maximum saveable on NeoLemmix". If there's enough interest, it could then expand to other common challenges (skills you can't live without*, or minimum total skills, are usually the next step). If interest still sticks around, it very well might be time to try some of the crazier ones. I really don't think SuperLemmini challenges are worthwhile; I know you're personally a fan of it but you're part of a very small minority (ie: pretty much just yourself) on that one so unless you intend to go through the entire game yourself for that challenge...

* In short, the "skills you can't live without" challenge is about finding what skill(s) are common to all possible solutions. For example, if a level has three solutions - one of which uses 2 builders + 2 bashers, one of which uses 5 builders + 1 basher + 2 miners, and the last uses 10 bashers + 10 miners; the "skills you can't live without" is 1 basher, because no matter which solution you use you need to use 1 basher; everything else can be avoided by using a different solution. If I remember correctly, this challenge has been done for all L1-style games as well as 3D Lemmings.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2019, 06:59:18 pm by namida »

Offline Proxima

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2020, 03:42:52 am »
For NeoLemmix challenges, the tag in the topic title should be "NeoLemmix", with no version number. It's understood that if any results vary from one version to another due to changes in the gameplay mechanics, only the latest version counts. Also, now that new-formats is out, mechanics are pretty much stable and I don't think there should be too much worry about results being obsoleted.

I don't want to sound like I'm picking on Minim, but just to use an example -- his "Which levels could be beaten with the new skills?" topic was tagged [NL 12.7.3], which could easily give the misleading impression that participants were required to stick to that version even after 12.7.4 comes out.

Offline namida

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2020, 03:57:19 am »
Quote
Also, now that new-formats is out, mechanics are pretty much stable and I don't think there should be too much worry about results being obsoleted.

The only physics changes in the foreseeable future are:
1. Fixing the "survive ridiculously long fall" bug that would not be possible to set up in any official level anyway
2. Adding the Jumper, which is again irrelevant to official levels

So indeed, it's safe to make this assumption. Keep replays of any that aren't trivial, of course. ;)

Offline namida

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2020, 06:54:37 pm »
I've updated the original post here to clarify, for now, that when it says "Lemmix may be used for DOS challenges", it's referring to the old versions of Lemmix. Last I checked, the new one deliberately chose not to reproduce a few edge cases accurately - I believe EricLang is working on implementing these. On top of this, most people are still using the old one, and replays from the new one are not backwards-compatible.

If / when someone with good knowledge of DOS mechanics (such as ccexplore) can confirm the former issue is resolved and the new Lemmix is suitable for these challenges, I'll remove that note and point towards the new one instead.

Offline WillLem

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2020, 09:28:40 pm »
What about when a challenge specifies a particular platform, but the OP clearly states that any platforms can be used to participate in the challenge - is this OK etiquette-wise?

Offline Proxima

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2020, 09:47:09 pm »
Usually, it's up to the person starting a challenge thread what platforms they want to accept. If the challenge title and OP contradict each other, post to ask for clarification.

DOS is considered as the default and should always be acceptable except for challenges that don't apply to DOS at all (e.g. SNES point scores; these are a feature only found on SNES Lemmings). Lemmix (original Lemmix, not the new versions) is always acceptable for DOS challenges because it is designed to mimic the physics of DOS Lemmings exactly.

Offline ccexplore

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2020, 10:57:40 pm »
On top of this, most people are still using the old one, and replays from the new one are not backwards-compatible.

That's a little disappointing.  I seem to remember back when I updated Lemmix to support a few DOS glitches that weren't being reproduced or recorded, I still managed to have it such that at least for solutions not making use of those newly-supported glitches, the resulting replays remain fully compatible with older LemmixPlayer versions without my updates.  At least I think that's the case, it's possible I remembered wrong.

If / when someone with good knowledge of DOS mechanics (such as ccexplore) can confirm the former issue is resolved and the new Lemmix is suitable for these challenges, I'll remove that note and point towards the new one instead.

Hmm, that might take some time but I'll keep that in mind.

===========================

For challenges that don't request a specific platform, you should always be very clear in your posts which platform you used to produce the particular results you are reporting.  In most cases, records from different platforms will be tracked separately for obvious reasons, though I supposed it's up to the person starting/maintaining the thread.

Offline namida

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2020, 11:47:47 pm »
On top of this, most people are still using the old one, and replays from the new one are not backwards-compatible.

That's a little disappointing.  I seem to remember back when I updated Lemmix to support a few DOS glitches that weren't being reproduced or recorded, I still managed to have it such that at least for solutions not making use of those newly-supported glitches, the resulting replays remain fully compatible with older LemmixPlayer versions without my updates.  At least I think that's the case, it's possible I remembered wrong.

If / when someone with good knowledge of DOS mechanics (such as ccexplore) can confirm the former issue is resolved and the new Lemmix is suitable for these challenges, I'll remove that note and point towards the new one instead.

Hmm, that might take some time but I'll keep that in mind.

===========================

For challenges that don't request a specific platform, you should always be very clear in your posts which platform you used to produce the particular results you are reporting.  In most cases, records from different platforms will be tracked separately for obvious reasons, though I supposed it's up to the person starting/maintaining the thread.

The versions on neolemmix.com include your changes, as well as some subsequent ones by me (most notably, fixing a bug where traps finished 1 frame faster than they were meant to, and implementing the pause-for-time glitch). EricLang's new releases continued from his old source code, not from our upgraded source code. He did reimplement some of the missing features, but not all.

Offline Minim

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2020, 09:11:28 am »
For challenges that don't request a specific platform, you should always be very clear in your posts which platform you used to produce the particular results you are reporting.  In most cases, records from different platforms will be tracked separately for obvious reasons, though I supposed it's up to the person starting/maintaining the thread.

That's a good point. At the moment it is hard to tell which challenge threads are DOS only and which ones allow all engines. I could add the [Free] tag to any challenge thread that doesn't limit the use of multiple engines/consoles, like this one for example.
Level Solving Contest creator. Anybody bored and looking for a different challenge? Try these levels!

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Both Engines: #3

Offline Proxima

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2020, 01:45:36 pm »
That thread, and nearly all threads here, are for a specific version: Genesis when we cover its unique levels, DOS Lemmings for everything else. Sorry to fans of other versions, but that's how it is.

The Challenges board has evolved and now has two main functions: one is to post our achievements and challenge others to match them; the other is to maintain compilations of best known results for the various challenges. So as to maintain the integrity of our results compilations, we must not mix results from different versions. (That also means staying away from the new Lemmix players, unless they can be confirmed to be valid.)

As far as I know, the only challenge thread at the moment that's truly "free" is the no-pause challenge, because that one doesn't include a list of results; we know every level is technically possible without pausing; it's just a topic for posting what we personally have achieved.

Offline WillLem

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #15 on: April 16, 2020, 11:27:39 pm »
DOS is considered as the default

Why is this? Lemmings was originally written on and for the Amiga, I would have thought that would be seen as the standard. Plus, the DOS version is known for its many glitches and slight differences in physics.

Don't get me wrong, the DOS version is a classic and it's well-loved for good reason. I'm just wondering why it's seen as the default...

Offline grams88

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #16 on: April 16, 2020, 11:57:37 pm »
Good point there Willlem with the Amiga I think the amiga was the very first one to have lemmings and probably could be considered the default, maybe it might be the dos because a lot more people could probably access the game, I think with the amiga it was harder for the Americans  to get it working on the amiga and the atari st. (I could be wrong completely)

Offline Proxima

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #17 on: April 17, 2020, 02:28:18 am »
The DOS version was the most familiar to the majority of active members, and even more importantly, it was the easiest version to share replays for, thanks to the existence of Lemmix players, which mimic DOS physics almost exactly.

(In fact, I believe the DOS version has a claim to be the joint original alongside Amiga; I don't know much about the development process so I'm just going by what I've read here. The DOS version is not notably more glitchy than others; it does have some bizarre unique glitches such as the nuke percentage glitch, but most glitches, such as sliding, stuck climber, steel digging etc. work on multiple versions.)

Finally, because we have a wealth of results collected over the years, there is no chance at all of switching over to another version as default, and especially not a version like the Amiga that doesn't offer convenient sharing of results.

Offline namida

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #18 on: April 17, 2020, 02:54:37 am »
I believe it comes down to that the DOS and Amiga versions - as well as Atari ST, if I'm not mistaken - were all developed alongside each other. Amiga was the first to be ready for release, but this is more just a "how things ended up playing out" than anything else.

Offline WillLem

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #19 on: April 17, 2020, 03:13:23 am »
It does seem likely that the game would have been released on multiple platforms at the same time, particularly DOS and Atari. However, I believe the game itself (or at least its graphical content) was developed using the Deluxe Paint animation program on the Amiga.

That said, the various reasons people have given seem perfectly reasonable as to why the DOS/Lemmix version has prevailed as standard for the community, particularly when it comes to sharing levels/replays. The only way I can share my Amiga playthroughs is by streaming and uploading videos to YouTube, which can be quite a cumbersome process. So yeah, I see why it's gone that way, for sure.

Still, it seems to me that someone could just as easily have had the idea of making an Amiga clone, in the same way that Lemmix is a DOS clone. Or has DOS always had level editing/replay sharing capability even before Lemmix?

Offline Proxima

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #20 on: April 17, 2020, 03:23:56 am »
No, the vanilla DOS version doesn't have replay editing capability, and yes, it is pretty much a historical accident that things ended up as they are.

That said, regardless of how we got here, it's a done deal now, and I am not prepared even to consider an action that would involve abandoning the collection of results we have, so it's time to close this discussion.

Offline namida

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #21 on: April 17, 2020, 03:56:49 am »
Quote
That said, regardless of how we got here, it's a done deal now, and I am not prepared even to consider an action that would involve abandoning the collection of results we have, so it's time to close this discussion.

^ It should be noted that this doesn't imply we couldn't additionally look for Amiga results too; simply that the existing DOS results would not in any way be considered "invalid" by doing so (nor is it likely that Amiga would, overall, become the new "primary" version for challenges).

Offline WillLem

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #22 on: April 17, 2020, 12:55:16 pm »
I am not prepared even to consider an action that would involve abandoning the collection of results we have

At no point did I suggest this.

It should be noted that this doesn't imply we couldn't additionally look for Amiga results too; simply that the existing DOS results would not in any way be considered "invalid" by doing so (nor is it likely that Amiga would, overall, become the new "primary" version for challenges).

Good to know that the Amiga platform can be considered for results.

I'm just curious as to why DOS was the platform of choice when making a clone engine, as opposed to Amiga. I am not suggesting that either is more valid than the other, or that the Amiga should have been the choice, or anything else that might be read into what I'm saying. I'm just genuinely interested in why DOS was chosen as the platform to clone.

Offline ccexplore

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Re: Challenges board: How it works
« Reply #23 on: April 17, 2020, 01:12:03 pm »
Since PCs running DOS and Windows took off in a way that Amiga didn't, the DOS version of Lemmings ended up likely the most widely played, and certainly the one most easily obtained and installed nowadays, and even so stretching back years.  Remember that the community had been around (well not all the same people, though some definitely had been here all this time) for over a decade, and back 15 or so years ago if you don't actually have access to an Amiga computer, your success of running the Amiga version decently on whatever emulators were available at the time for PCs was probably not great.  (Well, maybe things were different in Great Britain and Amigas probably a little more common; I lived in USA.)  I'm certainly not the first person in this community and certainly not the first person to do challenges, but even at the time I started, when Lemmix hadn't even existed yet and there was really just maybe one or two challenge threads discussing free-formed challenges, challenge results were already primarily reported for DOS versions, because that was the version most people can actually play at the time.

As for development of Lemmix, I happened to have the most technical knowledge and tools available to reverse engineer the DOS game.  Remember this was more than a decade ago (in fact like 15 or so years).  At the time, I'm not sure I can even easily run the Amiga version given the state of emulation back at the time.  And I think Erik himself was most familiar with DOS Lemmings.  So for all those reasons, Lemmix also became based on DOS Lemmings, and of course its capabilities make doing challenge solutions easier and also enable better sharing of solutions than screenshots or videos (for the latter, remember that youtube hadn't existed 15 or so years ago).  Together with challenge enthusiasts like ClamSpammer, the challenges really started taking off with Lemmix being the primarily program used to discover and share solutions.

It had crossed my mind over the years to consider reverse engineering some of the other versions (primarily Amiga and Mac) and possibly get Lemmix to support them.  But it'd be a lot of work with relatively little demand, so hard to drum up motivation.  Actually, Amiga emulation had come a long way since, so in addition to being much easier now to run the Amiga version decently on your PC through emulation, you can now probably easily do savestates and even possibly input-recording-based movies on an emulator, which in some ways help fill in some of the tooling capabilities Lemmix offers.  Thus making it even less interesting to port Amiga mechanics over to Lemmix.

The Amiga, Atari and DOS versions are co-developed around the same time.  But yes, early prototyping of the game was done on the Amiga, as was the level editor they had in-house which as far as we know from Mike Dailly, was only ever an Amiga program.

People could start new challenge threads based on other versions like Amiga and keep another set of records, although I'd expect a relatively low level of participation for obvious reasons.