Author Topic: The Transition  (Read 2311 times)

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Offline up2ng

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The Transition
« on: March 14, 2013, 11:25:59 AM »
Ok, this Advanced Strategy section has been more dead than I would have hoped and perhaps I'm partly to blame for not contributing, so I thought I'd try to kick start some discussions again with a new topic.

I'd like to discuss some thoughts that I have on "The Transition" section of playing a barrel screen while attempting maximum point pressing.

I see playing the barrel screen breaking down into 5 phases:
Bottom Hammer Setup (or Early Game) -- Techniques and strategies for gameplay before grabbing the bottom hammer.
Bottom Hammer -- Maximizing points earned with the bottom hammer in hand.
Middle Game -- Techniques and strategies for gameplay between the two hammers.
Top Hammer -- Maximizing points earned with the top hammer in hand.
Cleanup (or End Game, sometimes including "Over Pressing") -- Finishing the screen after using the top hammer.

In addition, the Middle Game could be broken down into three parts:
The Transition -- Moving from the 2nd girder to the "Scoring Zone" on the 5th girder.
Grouping -- Techniques and strategies for grouping and rejumping barrels, mainly near the scoring zone on the 4th and 5th girders.
Top Hammer Setup -- When and how to get into position to grab the Top Hammer.

In this thread I'd like to focus in on The Transition and I really want to hear some other expert opinions on this.

For anyone who has been watching my streams lately, it should now be clear that I have been going out of my way to try some new and more risky strategies during this phase in hopes of finding a small amount of points that everyone else has been missing.  The results have been mixed and I'm still not positive that I'm gaining a significant amount of points beyond the more straightforward "efficient Transition" approach -- and, the risk/reward has certainly been poor to the point that I would probably recommend adding this to one's point pressing arsenel dead last -- even after grabbing the 3rd prize on the elevators.

And yet, there comes a point in this game where you search for more points because you are already doing everything else.  So, I'll try to simplify a few of the things that I'm trying and I'm looking for a discussion / debate on this topic.

First, I will often use the small ladders when going from the 2nd to 3rd and from the 3rd to 4th girders.  The idea here is that I will often be able to "catch" an oncoming barrel for 100 points that I would have missed if I had waited for it to pass and then climb the middle ladder.  In addition, there are sometimes opportunities to group barrels in "the corner" with the broken ladder, which has the dual purpose of jumping two barrels for 300 points and also creates an opening in the barrel train so that I might climb to the next girder while limiting the number of barrels missed.  There are some drawbacks though.  First, putting yourself in the corner is very dangerous and it takes a long time to feel comfortable playing from this portion of the screen without dying.  Secondly, and more importantly for this discussion, sometimes a barrel will roll down a different ladder on it's own while taking the extra time to climb the small ladder and this barrel is missed that perhaps could have been jumped otherwise. 

Another strategy -- while I'm on the right side of the 4th girder and moving left, I'll often try to group up a triple, using Kong's ladder and the left side ladders and I'll occasionally chase this triple back down to the 3rd girder for a rejump.  Again, when this goes smoothly, my sense is that I'm picking up a small amount of points here.  However, there are multiple drawbacks with this as well.  Again, barrels can roll down the left side ladders on their own and be missed.  Or, a barrel could come down the right side broken ladder and delay the ascent back up to the 4th girder which usually results in missed barrels and lost points.  Meanwhile, fireball movement up the left side of the screen during this process can sometimes really ruin a good idea.  Also, occasionally a bad group of barrels is formed on the 4th girder, forcing a retreat to the broken ladder or a wall jump (losing points), or death.  Lastly, but not least, jumping left on the 4th girder is dangerous because if you lose focus on Kong's animation you could jump into a wild barrel and die.

There are a few other strategies as well, but the idea is that they are high risk while trying to squeeze a few more points out of the barrels that are currently on the screen during the Transition.  On the flip side, there is certainly some "opportunity cost" associated with taking more time before arriving in the scoring zone.  Remember, if you could have arrived in the scoring zone with a timer bonus of 5000 instead of a timer bonus of 4000, this represents MORE than 1000 points since it is assumed that you would be "beating the clock" while in the scoring zone, meaning, you would have scored more than 1000 points while the clock was ticking down from 5000 to 4000.

BUT, part of my motivation for trying these alternate strategies is in part due to the recent discovery that Kong releases barrels differently when the Timer is above 4000 than he does when the Timer is below 4000.  Specifically, unless he releases a wild barrel, he will always have 5 quick releases followed by a short pause, then repeat (above 4000), which often results in barrels that do NOT line up to be grouped and you will stand around jumping singles pretty often anyway.  Once the Timer falls below 4000, Kong gets "tired" and takes short pauses more often, yielding more groupable barrel combos.  So, why not take advantage of this early dead period and just make a longer transition, trying to group and rejump barrels on the lower sections of the course?

The math becomes pretty complex trying to figure out possible points gained versus points lost but my sense is that you might be able to average an additional 200 - 300 points per barrel screen by taking more risk in the Transition.  Any thoughts?
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Offline LMDAVE

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Re: The Transition
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2013, 11:45:31 AM »
Interesting observation on the pauses leading to grouping.

I always believed the pauses are directly correlated to the number of wild barrels thrown, because the timer has to be at 000 during the last barrel, and wild barrels are released faster than normal rolling. So, by that, if you get a lot of wild barrels early on your barrel board, could you then assume you'll get an increased set of groups then?
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Offline mikegmi2

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Re: The Transition
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2013, 12:36:31 PM »
If your 4000 timer asumptions about getting more groups is true, then yes I would totally agree with putting in more effort during 'the transition' to form groups, jump all possible barrels...and overall earn more points as you make your way to the top.

Even if it isn't true, being able to look ahead, and group barrels as you are making your way up to the top, for sure holds extra points within. The barrels that you are steering while climbing to the top, and successfully grouping for more points are not barrels that you would have been able to group anyway (because you can say it wouldn't have been possible for Jumpman to make it to the top in time to group those barrels from the 5th girder).

So as long as you can take advantage of a hole created by grouping from the 3rd/4th girders...and make it up to the 5th girder without having to steer barrels out of the way, or lose them down broken ladders...then yea that's where the transition becomes another aspect of maxing out barrel screens.

I guess a simple example formula could be as follows:

You successfully steer and group up 2 barrels as you are climbing from the 3rd to the 4th girder, you jump that combo, netting 300 points. This puts you ahead +100, from normal non-grouping game play.  You then use the hole you created in the barrel chain to climb to the 5th girder without missing any barrels...call this another +100.  Finally, you are able to group immediately after making it to the 5th girder, netting +100 for the jump and +300 for the rejump.  Overall, efficient play during 'the transition' could net you a minimum of +200 points, and a maximum of +600 points.
I don't know if it would be fair to include the luck factor/points gained of being able to group immediately after utilizing 'the transition'.

"He'd have to have a really good game. I don't know if he knows the tricks Billy knows..."

Do you think 'the transition' was one of the tricks Billy knew about?

Also, I always thought the same thing Dave.  More pauses were due to more wild barrels thrown.

The problem is, even if you prove that more wild barrels early on during a barrel screen lead to more grouping opportunities, the randomness can still mess up your groupings...stubborn unsteerable barrels mean no bonus grouping points.
I guess you could also argue the other way though. If you take advantage of this observation every barrel screen you will net more points because over an entire game...the extra grouping chances you got would eventually pay off 75% of the time.
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Offline ChrisP

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Re: The Transition
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2013, 02:17:25 PM »
"He'd have to have a really good game. I don't know if he knows the tricks Billy knows..."

Do you think 'the transition' was one of the tricks Billy knew about?

Greg said that in 2005, when steering down the broken ladder was advanced play.  ;D
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Offline Jeffw

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Re: The Transition
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2013, 03:16:13 PM »
I agree that there are likely a few extra points to be gained by playing the transition more aggressively rather than. Obviously you have to be very careful and accurate in your decisions during this phase because a bad decision could mean you end up losing points rather than gaining points or you could end up putting your self at too much risk. Currently, I still play the transition pretty safely and usually get over a 1.17m pace, but I will definitely start doing more in this phase once I start playing for 1.2m+ scores.

Firstly, when climbing from the 3rd to 4th girder I do often use the short ladder, often because I wanted to jump an extra oncoming group of two barrels on the 3rd girder, which puts me closer to the right ladder than the middle one. I'm doubtful if its worth it to this same thing if there's only one barrel that you will be jumping on the 3rd girder because climbing the small ladder instead of the middle ladder delays you for more than one timer tick I think. In the particular scenario you described where there is a barrel coming on the 4th girder that you can "catch" with the small ladder but can't catch with the middle ladder, whether or not its worth it to go for the small ladder is highly dependent on the situation. It is faster to steer the barrel down the middle ladder and leach it as it comes down than using the small ladder to the right, however, doing this can undesirably steer barrels down the ladders on the left delaying your accent or costing points. So I think if there's a lot of barrels on the left side of the screen you would probably want to use the small ladder like you described, but steering down the middle ladder and leaching would be preferable if you can do so without risking a delay or loss of points.

Next, regarding whether or not to re-jump barrels before the grouping spot. Currently, I rarely go back down to re-jump barrels before the grouping spot because it can be risky but I do think that you can gain points by doing this. I haven't done any real analysis of this but my intuition would say that it is usually worth it to go down to re-jump 3 barrels, but 2 barrels is usually not worth it. This is because you often miss a barrel or two climbing back up, and if you miss two after re-jumping a double barrel combo you almost definitely haven't gained anything. Also the path you have to take down the middle ladder, over the barrel group and up the short ladder on the far right is considerably longer than the typical path when re-jumping in the grouping zone (down the large left ladder, over the group then up the short left ladder). It's worth noting that I find going back down to the third girder to re-jump barrels is extremely risky when there are fireballs on the 2nd girder.

Also, you mentioned that its harder to group above 4000 on the timer because kong has fewer pauses but I don't think that's necessarily the case. As long as you steer barrels down the far right ladder you can set up groups without getting a pause, just be sure not to steer down that ladder when kong does pause because you will miss a potential group (a mistake I make more often than I should).
« Last Edit: March 14, 2013, 03:19:45 PM by Jeffw »
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Offline up2ng

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Re: The Transition
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2013, 05:18:33 PM »
Quote
I always believed the pauses are directly correlated to the number of wild barrels thrown, because the timer has to be at 000 during the last barrel, and wild barrels are released faster than normal rolling. So, by that, if you get a lot of wild barrels early on your barrel board, could you then assume you'll get an increased set of groups then?

I used to think that it worked this way also with that same reasoning, but it turns out that this is incorrect.  The Timer works differently on the barrel screens than it does on the other 3 screen types.  On the other screen types, the Timer ticks down at a predetermined constant rate based on which level you are playing.  On the barrel screens, the Timer is not constant.  Instead, it ticks down by one tick for each barrel released.  In other words, the Timer does not determine when barrels are released -- it's the other way around ... depending on when the barrels are released determines how quickly the Timer ticks down.  For example, you could play out a Level 5+ barrel screen all the way to 000 (with no hammer smashes) and finish at the last moment and 140 real time seconds will have elapsed.  Then, on the next Level 5+ barrel screen you could again play it all the way down to 000 (with no hammer smashes) and finish at the last moment, but perhaps 145 real time seconds elapse this time.  The differences will be due to the number of wild barrels released (which tends to speed up the amount of real time remaining) and the number of pauses by Kong (which tends to slow down the amount of real time remaining) -- these two factors are NOT specifically programmed to cancel each other out -- they are both somewhat random events.

Believe it or not, it IS specifically programmed for Kong to "get tired" in the second half of a Level 5+ barrel screen (once the Timer hits 4000) which causes him to pause more often between barrel releases, generally causing more opportunities to group the barrels with Kong's ladder.  This is independent of how many wild barrels have been released.

Quote
If your 4000 timer asumptions about getting more groups is true,

I agree that this is still somewhat of an assumption -- but it is known that Kong pauses more often after the Timer hits 4000, and in my experience this yields more opportunities to group the barrels.

Quote
The problem is, even if you prove that more wild barrels early on during a barrel screen lead to more grouping opportunities, the randomness can still mess up your groupings

This is actually false.  The increase in the number of pauses starting at a Timer value of 4000 is independent of the number of wild barrels thrown.

Quote
Also, you mentioned that its harder to group above 4000 on the timer because kong has fewer pauses but I don't think that's necessarily the case. As long as you steer barrels down the far right ladder you can set up groups without getting a pause, just be sure not to steer down that ladder when kong does pause because you will miss a potential group (a mistake I make more often than I should).

Jeff makes a good point here.  I have not done enough exploration into "alternate" grouping methods which take advantage of steering barrels down the top right small ladder as Jeff has done.  I agree that there are likely methods available along those lines which may somewhat increase barrel grouping opportunities.  However, without deeper analysis, my hunch would be that the number of grouping opportunities is something like this:

"Standard" methods under 4000 > "Alternate" methods above 4000 > "Standard" methods above 4000

So, I guess the better question is whether or not enough can be gained during the transition to create points at a greater rate than can be gained by EITHER of the methods used above 4000?  I believe the answer is yes, but again it's more of a hunch than anything else at this point and look forward to further thoughts and analysis by others here.

Another related thought for this discussion:

The concept of "efficiency" becomes very important when trying to point press at the highest levels.  However, in my opinion, the concept means something different on the barrel screens than it does on the other 3 screen types.  On the other 3 screen types (conveyors, elevators and rivets), being efficient with how real time is spent is directly related to points earned since the Bonus timer ticks down at a constant rate on these screens.

But, on barrel screens, the Timer is directly related to barrel releases, so I tend to think of efficiency on these screens not so much in terms of how the real time is spent, but in terms of how I'm using each of the barrels released to score points -- how many barrels are missed, and so on.  I guess "points per barrel" is a relatively accurate way of describing it.

So, for example, if I happen to create a group of 2 barrels on the 3rd girder at the very beginning of my Transition when there are very few barrels remaining on the screen -- I might decide to jump these and go back down to the 2nd girder for a rejump.  Now, from the top of that middle ladder, climbing back down to the 2nd girder, running all the way over to the short ladder, climbing up, and running to the right all the way back to where I started at the top of that middle ladder -- I would not be surprised if it's common to see 300 points tick off of the Bonus Timer during this process.  So, rejumping that double gained nothing right?  WRONG.  You are thinking in terms of real time, or perhaps in terms of Bonus Time.  However, in this situation, thinking that way is deceptive.  When the process began, there were very few barrels on screen.  After this process, with those three timer ticks there are now 3 MORE barrels on screen . . . and I haven't missed any of them yet!  In fact, it's not uncommon to be able to group the NEXT two barrels at the left side broken ladder on the way back around to gain another 100 points (300 points for 2 barrels), and simultaneously creating a hole to move on to the 4th girder with minimal barrel misses.  Even though it appears like we are not beating the clock with this maneuver, there are actually very significant points gained if it works out this smoothly.  I believe that thinking about efficiency on barrel screens in this way is something that even most of the best players are still missing (maybe).

Of course, it doesn't always go smoothly, so you have to consider what happens on average.  But, if it works out that on average doing one thing like this on every barrel screen during the Transition yields an additional 100 points per barrel screen ... remembering that there are 51 L5+ barrel screens in the game we've just created an additional 5000 points of pace, which, at the highest levels is very significant.

Again, this is still mostly a hunch at this point.  Hopefully one of us will eventually dive into the minutia of properly analysing it to determine which strategy should yield the most points on average.
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Offline marinomitch13

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Re: The Transition
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2013, 07:54:02 PM »
Dean, I can at least say, from watching you, that your pace has increased quite a bit since you really started working on the transition more. How you played the transition was actually one of the biggest things that I was missing in my game and had to tweak. I remember that one game you had a 1.235m pace and ended around 600k -all those extra points were coming from the transition more than anything (albeit, you were quite lucky in getting so many situations where you could have very long transitions and not be bothered by fireballs).
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