Author Topic: Darth Blogger  (Read 10638 times)

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Offline SithOfSpades

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Darth Blogger
« on: April 04, 2019, 01:29:47 pm »
Where I have been:

Played a game or two of DK as a kid I am sure, although I had no particular attachment to it. Arcade games I played as a kid were Mario Bros, Pac-land, Vs. Super Mario Bros, NBA Jam, Street Fighter II, Morkat Kombat 1-3, and Killer Instinct 1-2. I am sure there were others, but those are the ones I remember. I probably put a handful of quarters into most of the classics in that era.

DK came back onto my radar through watching King of Kong (big surprise) around 2008. I remember thinking about getting a cabinet but didn't have the space. My wife was also not too keen on the idea (still isn't). I got MAME working on my computer, but it wasn't a great experience. I didn't play much more than a handful of games. In this time period, I did go watch Steve Wiebe play live in the Chicago area, and did get to play on a arcade machine.

Fast forward to July 2018. I start chatting with a co-worker and he mentions that he just bought a millipede arcade cabinet. I mention to him that I thought about getting a DK after watching King of Kong. I thought it would be neat to get a kill screen. We chat about the movie. About a week later, he tells me he got a DK machine too. I get the information for the guy he got his from and end up getting one too. On August 5, 2018 my quest for a kill screen begins in earnest with the delivery of my Donkey Kong arcade cabinet.

I have Double Donkey Kong board in an original Donkey Kong cabinet with Donkey Kong artwork. I really like the original DK artwork. It has been refurbished. That is my personal preference for what looks best.

When I first got my cabinet, my goal was a KS and maybe 1,000,000 points. However, I wanted to keep it casual and have fun. I started streaming mostly because my co-worker mentioned above was curious to see me play. We had a friendly competition at first, but I had outpaced him. I also found it valuable to watch my own play to find and correct consistent mistakes. This could have been done with just OBS, but I didn't really know how it worked at the start. I started submitting scores, because the forum began accepting DDK scores and I was starting to feel like a KS was getting close.

I achieved my goal of reaching the kill screen on 12/06/2018. I never really got tired of playing and didn't really feel like there was a grind element to it. I was also fairly lucky in that I didn't have any near misses. I had a game around 720K that I self died at 20-1 because I had to take my daughter to a birthday party. The next time I reached level 18, I made it to the KS. I have remained fairly lucky in this regard. I refined the same basic strategy and got 2 more PBs finally reaching 900K on 1/26/2019. I didn't get a near miss in that stretch either.

My generic approach during this phase was to play safe and get only top hammers in the barrel stages. Try and survive the pie stage. Take the most direct route in the elevator stage (only get the umbrella when forced by a stubborn fireball). Also, always return to the universal safe spot on long-long spring combinations. Try and survive the rivets stage.

After my first KS, I began getting the hat and umbrella on the elevator stages. I also will do some more advanced ladder climbs at the finish. This second thing I practiced and added because I think it is cool as hell. It is not a huge point source. Probably not really worth the risk and difficulty increase. I also make an effort to grab the top hammer efficiently and not waste too much time progressing up the barrel stage.

These minor tweaks got me to an 888K KS (double KS because I didn't listen to Jry) and then a 900K KS.

I believe my 900 K score was on the lower end of what I was capable of with that strategy. My reasons for this belief are that this game had some bad luck/play early leaving me on my last man at screen 8-1 with very low death points. There was certainly a long stretch (probably levels 9-17ish) where the pressure was fairly low, because I was in a mode with so little hope of a PB.  However, I was very nervous and cautious the last few levels. I also believe I have the ability to make it to the KS with men to sacrifice, because I have done it and I had a 650 K single man. I think I could make 920-930 K. Maybe even more with that strategy. However, I am playing mostly for my pleasure, and I don't want to grind out a bigger game with this strategy.

Where I am:

I have made the following changes to my strategy in order to pursue a 1 Million point game: I get the bottom hammer on all barrels levels except 2-1 and 3-1, I get the purse and leech the springs/fireball on 2-2 and 3-3. the reason I don't get the bottom hammer on levels 2 and 3 is to minimize the time I am exposed to type 2 wild barrels. This strategy has me finishing 2-1 before type 2 wild barrels are really in play. Type 2 wild barrels are often in play during most of the transition between bottom and top hammers in 3-1. I think the reduction in time exposed to the type 2 wild barrels in 3-1 gives enough safety to justify this choice. The barrel screens in level 4 have usually transitioned to type 3 wild barrel for the transition between bottom and top hammer, so might as well grab the bottom hammer and score points and wait out this time. I may also do pointless stuff in 1-1 like grouping on the 5th girder and 6th girder barrel leeches, because I like fun (low cost to reset the game). I also may do ridiculous stuff on 1-2 like trap a firefox in a rivet hole. Sometimes this seems like a good idea and always works out great when Wes does it. When I do it, the benefits are often marginal at best to me just sitting there pointlessly leeching it to make it look like there is value there. At any rate, it looks cool, so I will probably still shoe horn it in when it might make any ind of sense.

I feel like I am making good progress with this new strategy. I am starting to get 250K+ men with some regularity, so it feels like some practice and luck will get me there. Getting the bottom hammer makes the game much longer and more grueling. I have only reached the halfway board twice since making these changes (and one of those needs an asterisk because I played a strange start in order to get to level 5 and practice the "real" game). I have had sequences of beating the pace consistently over several levels, and instances where I continually lose pace over several levels. I may need a slightly lucky run to get to the million. The pies and rivets tend to be key. Also, I do think I may be too cautious on the barrels boards in the transition, but I don't really plan to up that aggression until I am sure I need it.

It has been a while since I got a PB, so I am considering trying to revert to my old safer strategy on my last man under certain circumstances. I am thinking about something like levels 10-15. Below 10, I might as well consider it practice and prepare for the next try. Above 16, lets get the 1 Million. Typing that feels dirty. I still don't really feel like it is a grind.

I still have a lot of fun playing. I do show some frustration in my stream from time to time. Most of the frustration is that I have a lot of external factors that leave me in situations where I really only have time for 1 game. If I have trouble getting a start, now I have 2 hours left to play. What do I do with that? This is the most frustrating thing. Not that the game is frustrating me, but that I can't really play long enough to pound out 3-4 attempts in a row. It is very rare lately for me to sit down in a situation where I don't have some time pressure to get a start in the next 30 minutes or risk having a game where I have to quit playing deep in. I have had to quit a 720K game when I still didn't have a KS. When I was pressing for the 900K, I got stuck in a spot where I had to quit a game where I was at level 12-1 with 450K and no deaths. I never did replicate that type of opening. The time pressure was bad, but not nearly as bad when my target games were going to be 2-2.5 hours. Now it can really be frustrating.

Where I am going:

I want to put up a score high enough that I believe <Billy> has never beaten it. I am putting this number at 1,070,000. I think I have the ability to work toward this as a reasonable goal. I will probably keep playing to 1.1 million or higher as long as I am having fun. I am less sure if that is inside my ability, but I think my trajectory makes it seem reasonable. I think I am closer to the beginning of my DK journey than the end.

At some point, I want to start mixing in some DK Jr. play. I am currently awful. I have probably played 10-20 games total, and the basics of safe play escape me. I am hopeful I can steal strategies from BarraNZ or other streamers now that interest there has picked up slightly. Really, only some dedicated play will help though. This will almost certainly come after the 1 million DK. A kill screen, then 1 million point game, and beat you know who are the goal for that too.

I want to say that even though beating someone might be my goal from time to time, I realize there is a difference between optimizing and executing strategies and developing strategies. I am not saying that because I beat so and so's score I am better than that person. I am better, but for completely different reasons  :P.

Hardware odds and ends:

I would like to make some upgrades to my streaming/playing set up and have started working in that direction.

My desired final state would be a set up similar to Wes's with my current DDK board and my cabinet being a stock Donkey Kong arcade machine. I would also like to be able to stream direct capture from either without too much shuffling stuff around. I would like to use my webcam to show my inputs while I play. I also want to get Remix for DDK.

I am waiting for the Mr. Video guys to call my number. I have the remix kit for my DDK board. I have acquired a Donkey Kong TKG-3 PCB (untested probably doesn't work).

The easiest thing I can do next on this front is test the TKG-3. This has a much different connection than my DDK board. I will have to figure how to get this connected in order to test it. When it doesn't work, I will have to figure out how to fix it or see if it is hopeless. I worked in a physics lab as an undergrad and I have done my fair share of soldering and circuit tinkering (been a while though). I hope this is a fun side project. I have to get some of the stuff for this, as my old stuff is lost/broken. The only working thing I could only find was a multimeter. I am hoping I get lucky and it just works. I plan to test the board this weekend and hope I don't destroy anything important.

I need to install the remix kit, but I may wait until I get the million. I don't want to leave myself without a working board for too long. If the TKG-3 works out, I will speed this up.

In order to complete this set up, I need a CRT of some kind for the DDK remix board (probably try and get a nice PVM), a power supply, some place to put these things (I don't want them just sitting out because I have small kids and pets), and some joystick and buttons. I would like to build something to house the joystick and buttons that will give the same form factor as the DK cabinet and build a small box to put the PCB and power supply in. I would like to set myself up a work space in the basement for light wood work and circuit stuff. We will see how it goes.

That is all for now. I know the first one was a long one.
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Offline NWnike

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Re: Darth Blogger
« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2019, 02:47:26 pm »
Sith, you know I like watching your stream. My main question is "How do you have the time to stream as much as you do without the wife getting mad?" My wife got mad just because I was watching your stream! Good luck reaching your milestones. You can do it!
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Offline SithOfSpades

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Re: Darth Blogger
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2019, 06:00:32 pm »
I asked my wife and she said she does get mad, it is ridiculous how much I play. She said I should see the fact that you asked this question as proof that it has gotten out of hand. Also, funny is that my primary rant is about not enough time to play. She doesn't know about that because she would never read my enormous post.

I liken it to the boiling frog parablehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog. I actually play much fewer games of Donkey Kong than I did when I first started. The time spent is a lot more, but the game count is way down.

I do try and play more when she or the 6 year old is asleep. Which probably helps also. I used to have the cabinet in the dining room and we used to have on stream arguments about it and how much I play quite a bit.
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Offline NWnike

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Re: Darth Blogger
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2019, 07:44:13 pm »
Ok, first allow me to clarify: I don't think you are playing too much. It was just as a married man, (25 years in November) I know, I mean KNOW, that my wife would never stop complaining about how much I was playing if that was me. However, I wish  I could play that much. She already thinks I play too much and thinks I'm  "obsessed." I do practice some on the switch but mostly when I'm home and she's not. I did mention that I would like to have my own cabinet and whoo! That did not go over well at all.
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Offline SithOfSpades

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Re: Darth Blogger
« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2019, 08:00:55 am »
I don't really have another side hobby right now. I tend to focus on one thing at a time. I am not out playing golf all day Saturday or going out after work for drinks. I think that has a lot to do with it. I am at work, playing DK, or spending time with the family.

I continue to feel like I am due for some breakout games. Over the last week I have had multiple times where I have had 1st men over 300 K. Unfortunately, I have been really having a lot of clustered deaths in almost every game. I think I am ready in the sense that I know how to execute things, but I am having a mental block in that I don't really believe I am going to get the 1 million. I will bust through, but this last run of games had been frustratingly close in some ways.

I am going to have more time to play over the next week. I am trying not to set my expectations too high, since I know that is highly likely to lead to massive frustration. I think that if I can just stay calm and execute, I have a good chance to break though this wall at like the 400 K level that I seem to be stuck at lately. I feel like once I hit a game like that, it will just be a matter of time.
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Offline SithOfSpades

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Re: Darth Blogger
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2019, 06:28:37 am »
Quick update. Twice this weekend I made it past 12-2 (the halfway board) with half my men or more still on 1 million pace. My best game with bottom hammers is a little over 700 K well above pace. I feel like I have made a lot of progress on the barrels and am back into a place where all I need is to play well and have solid pies and rivets.

I expect to have some close calls, but am hopeful some big results are on the horizon.

Also, https://www.twitch.tv/videos/421210629 12,500 level 5+ rivet!! When I played it, I felt like it went just about perfect. It missed the WR by 200 points, so I was curious why. Here is how I break it down: We both get 11 smashes. We both get 800 for the umbrella and hat. I didn't get the purse, he got 800 for it. I outscored him 7100 to 6900 on non-smash points. He outscored me 5800 to 5400 on smashes. I believe expected points per smash is 525. I ran slightly unlucky at 491. He ran almost right at average at 527. If I get an average points per smash of 525 I score 12,875. It would have been cool to have a legit WR, but luck is a big part of this game.
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Offline NWnike

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Re: Darth Blogger
« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2019, 05:27:51 pm »
Congrats on that rivet board. I know I  have seen a couple really good games unravel for you. Patience is a vengeful mistress. Keep grinding buddy!
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Offline SithOfSpades

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Re: Darth Blogger
« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2019, 11:48:48 am »
I recently had a bittersweet PB of 991,900.

The sweet first. I had started having some creeping doubts that maybe I didn't really yet have the skill to achieve the 1 million. Although I fell just short, this has erased any doubt from my mind that as things currently stand I have the knowledge to get a 1 million point game and the ability to execute at a high enough level for a long enough time to get that score. It is not every day I get a new PB, so that is a nice feeling. Now I know I just have to do it.

Now the bitter. I was so close. I think I was a pretty big favorite (probably higher than 95%) to get the 1 million if I had just run the last barrel board with no bottom hammer and run the game out. My thinking at the time was that I was playing the barrels at a very high level and the rivets are among the highest variance, deadliest boards, so I felt like going for the million on the barrel board made sense. I probably survive if I aggressively chase the fireball with the hammer and smash him. I swing back to get a barrel on the middle ladder and from that point on, the fireball goes perfectly against me to kill me. It was rough to be so close and fall short. I think the primary reason I didn't get the million were being tired and nerves. I had 2 bad deaths. On a weeknight, I am just worn out from the day. I like to get to bed by 10 PM local time, and that game was just getting under way. at that time. Adrenaline was probably carrying me at the end, but I don't feel like I was at my best for the last half hour or so.

Overall, I see this as a positive. I can do it.

I am still in a bit of a honeymoon period with the new PB. I have a lot of other stuff going on that is going to make it hard for me to do much more than the periodic attempts here and there. I need to find something to do when I can't really play full games. Maybe some mix of max out start attempts (although if I get  big one, I might feel bad having to abort a game) and running the board starts and starting to practice for higher scores by adding some grouping on the 5+ barrels. Also, getting the purse efficiently on the higher level springs.
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Offline SithOfSpades

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Re: Darth Blogger
« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2019, 01:21:08 pm »
Still no 1 Million. Have been going through a rough patch of playing. Having trouble staying focused and putting a run together. Right now, I am not feeling very confident, but I still feel like I can do it. I do feel like when I am playing well, I am getting unlucky boards.

Hardware stuff:

I got the Mr. Video and that has been great.

My DDK board is having an issue where the background music will cut out and become a high pitched screech. You can still hear jumping, walking, ladder climbing, and DKs stomping. It can happen after a few minutes or take an hour to go bad during a session. It will fix itself if I switch games. Seems to happen quicker after a switch the longer the cabinet is on. The fact that it works and can produce all the sounds makes me think it is not an issue with a chip. I suspect a capacitor failing. I am far from an expert though. I am going to try testing the voltage across some capacitors when it is working versus failing at some point.
I am going to try my hand at fixing that for a bit. I suspect one might be shorting out as it heats up.

I got around to testing the TKG-3 I got a while back. It is not fully working. I don't know what the sound is like, because I don't have the extra power cable it requires to go to the sound board. The video works with some glitches and the control works. I am going to try and remove and clean the video eproms and see if that helps. You can play the game, but the sprites have some issues. The backgrounds all look correct.

I am getting a TKG-4 from Mike's Arcade. Should have it soon. I guess I will be able to submit real deal arcade scores soon. Once I get that, I will start working to repair the DDK. I would like to have some way to play before I risk making the DDK worse. Work on the TKG-3 will be slow, because I can't use the edge connector, so no direct feed and connecting it is a pain compared to the 2-board sets. I want to get the DDK repaired so I can put in and play a DDK remix kit. I may try and get a switcher to go back and forth between those 2 boards without taking them out.
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Offline SithOfSpades

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Re: Darth Blogger
« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2019, 09:04:08 am »
TLDR: Still no 1 million, but I am feeling optimistic and having some longer stretches of solid play. My hardware situation is looking good, so I expect more play time and less dealing with hardware.

Hardware update:

I believe I have fixed the issue I was seeing with the sound on my DDK board. I found that the ground wire from the control panel had fallen out of the black connector that goes into the board on the control panel side. I found this when replacing some switches I thought were bad because I was having some weird jumping/movement issues. I now suspect that the switches were fine too, so I kept them, but I found the wire after replacing the switches. I think all my issues may have been due to ground loops due to this broken connection. I suspect this got pulled out when I converted to using all edge connectors which lines up pretty well with when I first started having the issue. I have not had any sound issues since finding this, and I have had some medium deep runs. Feeling good about this. I am planning to get the DDK remix kit for this board soon.

I now have a working TKG-4 board (rev 14 for those that care). I got this from MikesArcade. At first, there were some sprite issues, and I was very frustrated. This turned out to be caused by one of my connectors to the power supply (specifically the CLK power connection) not making good connection. I reseated that connection and changed how the cable was supported in the cabinet in order to not have the weight of the cable put any pressure on the connection, and that cleared up the sprite issues. This weird connection caused no problems with my DDK board as I could swap back and forth and have the DDK look fine while the TKG-4 would have issues. This may have also been a contributor to my previous DDK sound issues though.

I finally got around to testing the TKG-3 (rev 7). I got this for $75 as "untested." I bought this as a project to get into some light board repair stuff. I fully expected this to be a complete mess way beyond my skill set, but I have been pleasantly surprised. Here is a brief video of my first test: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/463133950. It plays fine and the sounds are all correct. There appears to only be a sprite issue. I did some research and came across the great resource: http://www.brasington.org/arcade/tech/dk/. This lead me to focus on the 2716 EPROM at 4N on the CLK board. I went ahead and purchased the equipment to read, write, and erase those. I pulled the 4N out read it and replaced the appropriate file in dkong and I get output that looks almost identical to that in MAME (I saved this version for future reference), so I think this is actually going to be a pretty straight forward fix. I have hit one snag. I didn't read the fine print and the chip reader/writer I got won't actually write this EPROM. It requires 25 V in order to write, and my writer will only provide 18 V. I have purchased a 2816 EEPROM which I can write with my device and should be a drop in replacement for reading. So that is an option. However, I believe I can write the 2716 in the device I have if I supply the 25 V externally to the correct pins. I don't have a variable DC power supply, but the DK power supply provides 24 V at one of the pins. I measured mine, and it actually is giving about 24.6 V under load. This should be within the write tolerance listed on the 2716 datasheet. I am considering rigging this up to write that EPROM. Even if I ruin the chip and the writer, I can get a programmed 2716 from MikesArcade for $15. Really, this is more of a teach a man to fish type rather than cost thing. I want to be comfortable maintaining my cabinet, and the more stuff I can do for myself, the better.

If anyone is interested in me streaming any of this fiddling around with hardware, let me know. If I attempt writing the 2716, there is a decent chance I burn my house down!

Playing update:

I should have more time to play, which I think will translate into bigger scores. I have had more frequent long lives, but not yet put a couple of good lives into 1 game since the 991,900. I am pretty consistently holding pace across levels, so I think I have the technique in place. I just need to have a good session where I can focus a whole game and get this done. I do think pressing too hard on the start has hurt my overall play. I am not getting as much level 5+ practice because I am resetting too much. I will probably tone this down. I plan to keep pressing level 1 hard, but revert back to the star pattern for level 2 rivets.
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Offline SithOfSpades

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Re: Darth Blogger
« Reply #10 on: October 31, 2019, 08:25:52 pm »
I have been avoiding this since I have been a little embarrassed that the 1 Million has continued to elude me for this long, but here goes. I took it light on DK during the Junior open, and finally made some progress on that game. I think I have the knowledge to go after a KS, I just need to work on consistent execution. However, I am going to step back from Jr., skip the Crazy Kong Open, and keep my eyes on the prize. I have had some great advice from some great players and I am going to put the following plans into action:

  • Back off on starts
  • Play full games
  • Practice without streaming
  • Regular million point sessions

I am going to always be more conservative during starts. Simple bottom hammer strategies. Limited grouping or rejumps on barrels. No apex predator on rivets. Don't max leech the springs. I think getting bogged down in starts is hurting the amount of time I spend actually playing DK. This is in turn making me not as sharp throughout the bulk of the game.

With this more conservative approach I want to commit to playing out the full game. I feel like this will make each life matter more to me and increase my focus.

I want to add off stream practice. I plan to work on barrel transitions first. 5+ grouping next. Efficiently getting the purse on 4+ springs. The first thing is because it is the weakest part of my game. The other 2 things are because I could use them if I end up in a pinch for points near the end of a game. I want to have some comfort level with those 2 strategies as a possibility. I have a remix kit with the trainer, which should help facilitate this.

The final thing. I want to commit to playing a few sessions a week scoring a total of 1 million points even if they are not all in one game. I need to have the stamina and focus to keep playing that long, and I think this will help me improve there.

After the 1 million, I will put DK on the shelf for a bit and go all out for the JR KS.
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Offline rayfinkel

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Re: Darth Blogger
« Reply #11 on: October 31, 2019, 08:31:17 pm »
I'm really happy to see you following my "don't worry about starts" advice, bro. Like I said, you have great potential and I think the million is WELL within your current abilities, but with life getting in the way (as it does), I strongly believe worrying too much about start scores is a massive mental energy drainer. Yes, they're fun to get, but far less important than your level 5-21 average.

I can't wait to watch!

Offline SithOfSpades

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Re: Darth Blogger
« Reply #12 on: September 03, 2021, 08:43:31 am »
First off, I got the million and that felt great. I am going to be doing 1.1 million attempts for the foreseeable future. I think I have the right strategies and can play at high enough pace to achieve that score. Right now my major blockers are time and the passion to play enough. Without getting in enough hours, it is hard to maintain the consistency required to play at that level across 3.5ish hours. I am trying to squeeze in practice, but it is not a great substitute for getting in several attempts in week. It is becoming relatively rare for me to have both free time and a desire to make attempts happen simultaneously. I am going to try and push through and get more attempts in, but it is what it is.

On the hardware front, I currently have 3 boards and all are working correctly. I currently have a TKG-4 board with remix chip in my cabinet. My DDK board has been repaired and works well. It doesn't currently have the remix in it because I have to snip a wire and solder something to put it in, and my poor job at doing that was the cause of my old problems. Since I haven't had that in, I have almost completely lost my ability to play JR. Finally, I have a TKG-3 revision 7 (it has the correct roms). It is working, but it doesn't look as nice as the TKG-4. I am thinking about getting a JR board with a JR remix chip so I can take advantage of the new JR trainer rom. I also may just play JR on mame. I would like to go for a KS there also.

I am considering putting DK aside and going for KS and then the million on JR. My concern with that is that I am worried my 1.1 DK strats would suffer too much if I took 2-3 months (or maybe many more) to achieve that. However, part of me thinks some time away would make it easier to come back to DK and grind at the volume necessary. I may try a mixed approach, but that has some complications too.

I want to give my perspective on the Robbie Lakeman score submission. I am putting it here because I don't really think I have much to add to the discussion, but if someone wants a different perspective and cares here it is. First, I voted to accept the score, but I fully understand why it was not accepted. I voted to accept because I don't believe Robbie's attempt to cheat really influenced the game play, I believe Robbie has the skill to achieve the score without cheating, and I saw nothing in the gameplay that lead me to think otherwise. I also think that I am heavily biased by the fact that it is Robbie, some of the details around the score, and that it is the highest ever score. I think many of Robbie's supporters fall into this boat to a much higher degree than me especially on point one. For me, my only bias towards Robbie is that I believe he is capable of the score.

It is my opinion that if I (or some rando out of nowhere) submitted a similar tape and then someone else produced facebook posts of mine where I said I was planning to cheat at Donkey Kong all these "the gameplay speaks for itself" people would be firmly in the "easy reject" camp. I do see some of the other facts around the submission as making things more grey than that, but I put the blame for this situation on Robbie.
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