Author Topic: Beginner's Guide to Getting Started With Competitive DK  (Read 17207 times)

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Beginner's Guide to Getting Started With Competitive DK
« on: August 17, 2014, 10:06:29 am »
As more newcomers have come into the community, I've noticed the same questions getting asked over and over: how exactly do I get started playing DK on the most basic level, from setting up the correct version of MAME to learning the game to practicing?

Hopefully this thread will answer some of those questions.

Why is Donkey Kong so competitive?
This question has a lot of answers, but typically they center around these points:
  • The game ends at L22. This means there is a finite amount of points to earn in the game and it cannot be "marathoned", or played forever.
  • The skill ceiling is ridiculously high, to the extent that you could watch two kill screeners play against each other and it be glaringly obvious who the better player is.
  • The game is very challenging and tests a wide array of skills including: reflexes, multitasking, decision making, critical thinking, patience, and endurance. Lacking in any of these is a barrier to becoming a top-tier player.
  • So many people are playing the game now that there is always someone to go head-to-head against at your skill level, whether you're a complete newbie or a tip-top pro.
  • An online open tournament with cash prizes usually occurs once every few months. The Kong Off, a big tournament with a relatively large prize pool, occurs usually once a year (give or take a few months).  This is our equivalent to an MLG, GSL, IEM, Invitational, or Proleague.

Skill ceiling? What is the difference between a kill screen, 1m points, 1.1m points, and 1.2m points?
In the 80s, the holy grail of Donkey Kong play was to reach the final screen of the game at L22, the kill screen.  To do this, a player must survive a little under 120 boards on only four men.  In the 80s and 90s, the game was much less figured out.  The average kill screen was typically around 850k to 890k, and this is usually the range a new player's first kill screen falls in.  For a long time, a score of 900k to 1m was believed to be impossible.

An ~850k kill screen score is achieved by finishing the game in an extremely safe manner, by avoiding most dangers in the game and by not grabbing risky hammers.

The difference between 900k and 1m is significant.  Much more risk is taken.  The difference between 1m and 1.1m is a further exponential increase in risk.  The difference between 1.1m and 1.2m is, again, and order of magnitude greater increase in risk to earn points.  To get a better idea of the different paces/risk levels the game can be played at, take a look at Chris Psaros's wonderful pace chart he put together on his blog:

Donkey Blog: Understanding Pace

While a 100k difference in score may not sound like much, it's actually a huge difference. Consider this: a 1m point game typically takes an hour or so longer to complete than a 900k game.  That's another hour of avoiding obstacles, another hour of staying focused, another hour of being in the zone. Dean Saglio's 1,206,800 point game took nearly four hours to complete.

Do I have to own a cabinet to play? How do I set up MAME and start playing?
While owning a cabinet used to be a huge barrier to entry, with emulators like MAME this is no longer so.

MAME is a program you can install that will run Donkey Kong, as well as other various arcade games, on your computer.  Scores from MAME can be submitted to the DKF official high score list and are considered legitimate official scores here.

There are many versions of MAME floating around the internet.  An official score must be submitted using some edition of WolfMAME.  This is a tournament version of MAME that disables any feature which could be used for cheating.  This ensures all MAME players are on a fair playing field and that all scores are legitimate.

The most popular version of WolfMAME is WolfMAME 106.  v106 is the "Twin Galaxies standard".
  • Download WolfMAME 0.106
  • Extract the contents of the WolfMAME exe archive to a folder on your PC, for example C:\WolfMAME.
  • Download the Donkey Kong (US Set 1) ROM. There are many places you can grab this zip file, such as here.  Once downloaded, you don't need to extract this file.
  • Go to the folder you extracted WolfMAME into. Create a new folder called roms -- eg C:\WolfMAME\roms.
  • Place the file into this roms folder.
  • Open the command line by pressing the Start Button on your PC and typing "cmd".
  • Navigate to your WolfMAME folder. NOTE: "cd" is the command to change directory (see image below for example).
  • Once in the WolfMAME directory, type "record dkong dkong".  This will start a game of Donkey Kong.  Options for controls (such as coin input and start game) can be accessed by pressing Tab on your keyboard.
  • To restart, hit escape to close MAME and start the game again.

I suck!  How do I improve?
This game is very hard.  An important thing to note is that while many deaths appear to be impossible to avoid, nearly every death in the game is caused by an avoidable circumstance.  While there are a few notable exceptions, most players do not reach their first kill screen until after at least three months of practice.  There is a lot to learn, but several resources that can help:
  • The Donkey Kong Manual -- A great guide for beginners with a wealth of content on how to reach your first kill screen. Co-authored by several professionals including Vince Lemay.
  • Donkey Kong Genius, Barrel Board Training Part 1
  • Donkey Kong Genius, Barrel Board Training Part 2
  • Donkey Kong Genius, Rivet Board Training
  • Playing Donkey Kong to Win -- While this book does contain a lot of useful information, do not follow its patterns/strategies for clearing anything but the barrel boards unless you want to have a really bad time.
  • How to Win at Donkey Kong -- Do not follow the rivet ("ziggurat") board patterns. Refer to the Donkey Kong Genius video linked above for this.
  • Watch other Donkey Kong players. There's almost always someone in the "Active Streamers" list at the top of the page. We're a community and we all learned from each other.
  • Learn how to use save states in MAME to practice boards that give you trouble without having to start the game over and over again. This is akin to not having to play an entire game of basketball just to practice free throws.

If I missed anything or you think I should add anything please let me know.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2015, 02:28:57 pm by WCopeland »

Offline Weehawk

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Re: Beginner's Guide to Getting Started With Competitive DK
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2014, 10:27:46 am »
WolfMAME will not allow save states

I don't know jack about competitive Donkey Kong, but I use save states in WolfMAME just fine.
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Re: Beginner's Guide to Getting Started With Competitive DK
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2014, 10:31:12 am »

Offline mrvaya

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Re: Beginner's Guide to Getting Started With Competitive DK
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2014, 01:27:06 pm »
Great job Wes!
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Offline D.B. Cooper

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Re: Beginner's Guide to Getting Started With Competitive DK
« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2014, 05:13:39 pm »
I played many hours of DK as a kid but we never considered the idea of the retreat.  This is still something I've not been able to master.  Any advice?

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Donkey Kong Genius

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Re: Beginner's Guide to Getting Started With Competitive DK
« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2014, 05:37:03 pm »
I started with Donkey Kong on the NES. It is required to learn how to go up, come down, go to left, go back to right, back up, etc as many times as it is needed. Did it for many, many hours. That is how I learned how to retreat.

Start at 8:00 to see what I mean.

Donkey Kong (NES) Kill Screen
« Last Edit: August 18, 2014, 05:39:24 pm by Donkey Kong Genius »