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September 2023 Time Trial & Mini Comp!
#1
The Time Trial

It's that time of year again. You know, when things happen that haven't happened yet so far this year. It's time for a Time Trial!

I might have mentioned before that I have some levels sitting around that could eventually be used in these competitions. I finally took a good look at them and mapped out a plan for their release. A decent formula for a Time Trial has been to pair up a level that is a bit shorter with something that might take a bit more effort to optimize. Neither type of level achieves its goal if it grows too complicated. Both types need a concept that makes the level interesting and some point of inspiration that gives it direction. An obvious place to dig for some inspiration is to look at what has worked, or even not worked, in the past. Other times a relatively original idea comes by and the level builds itself. The source of inspiration and type of puzzle a level presents are factors when considering which levels to use together in a competition to give them some coherence. Sometimes this leaves levels hanging around looking for the right place to finally appear. This month, I gathered FIVE such levels together, all of the shorter variety, to test your CC faculty! (Also, you can try to figure out the source of inspiration for some of these levels.)

Your task is to download this file and enjoy the levels!

.ccl   CCZ-TT-2309.ccl (Size: 4.39 KB / Downloads: 97)

The primary playing mode for the second level is Lynx, but for the others it is MS. (This is a method to lump both modes into just one category. You can play in either one, but you might not get sole first place if your best score is not in the primary mode.) The last level has separate versions for MS and Lynx. I would love to hear any comments and thoughts you have on the levels!

I prefer it if you send me your solutions at valeosote (at) hotmail (dot) com, or if necessary, you can also hit me up on Discord. The deadline for this competition is the end of September where you live. As always, please feel free to ask any questions about the competition!

Don't forget that you can also participate in...

The Mini Competition

With the advent of more tools to use in optimization, the actual playing of levels, particularly TT levels, may take a back seat. To reward going old school and actually playing the levels, Chip Cup points will be awarded for sending in solutions. You don't even have to optimize the levels, so don't be scared away by a single blob roaming in a level!

Mini comps reward upto five points for entry, so for this one, you receive a point for each level you solve that matches your personal best route on the level. (If you don't separately enter the TT above, any solution you send is automatically your best route. This wording just requires the more competitive players to earn these points as well.) As a bonus for yourself, try to see how many of the levels you can solve on your first attempt :-)

I think that's all I have on my mind for now! I'll post some teaser pics of the levels on Discord. Off to the races!

-Miika
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#2
By my count, it is no longer September. Here are the results to the Time Trial.

1. ChosenID  (44+284+281+147+61=817)
2. M11k4    (44+283+273+154+58=812)
3. Bacorn    (44+282+276+145+58=805)
4. G lander  (37+232+0+82+47=398)

Congrats CID! Were you ever in doubt? But I got you on one level! I finally snuck in a trick into a level that none of the (other!) participants utilized. Jeffrey did this once as well, and I've been green with envy for years. It wasn't even a super difficult trick, just something that can be overlooked. Some could argue that Bacorn might deserve second place over me as I had an advantage, but uhm, I should probably get to the mini comp results and not dwell on these old things for too long...

MINI COMP
Bacorn -  4 points (ABCD)
G lander - 4 points (ABDE)
Miika - 3 points (ABC)
CID - 2 points (AC)

Nice work people! Thanks for participating. I really liked seeing what you guys did, specially G lander's (ʐ̈ PERSONNNNNNN) casual solves.

There you have the results that you came for, but if you care to stick around, I can share a few more thoughts on the design and stories of these levels, plus the winning routes.

.gif   MT_2023_MoxRuby.gif (Size: 117.11 KB / Downloads: 50)

Mox Ruby - as I said in the announcement post, I try to pair a more complicated TT level with something a bit more relaxed. This level is one of my favorites in the relaxed category. I find it to be a very replayable level where you can attempt an idea and react to the monsters too. However, it's maybe a bit too short and that's why it sat on my harddrive for some years without seeing the light of day. With this competition I grouped together levels like this that had been waiting for one reason or another, and I think this one was a good one to start the set.

The solution you see above is by ChosenID. Note that the fireball is trapped for a move so that it arrives on the better parity and scores 44.3. Similarly in Lynx ChosenID found 43.8, which is necessarily slower due to explosion delay.

[Image: MT_2023_Explore.gif]

Explore Why Zebrafish Feed - back in 2016 I was playing around with this concept of releasing all blocks from the clutches of pop-up walls and used 3x4 formations in a time trial level. I included ice around the formations as the blocks were getting in each other's way without it, but as a side effect this made the level heavy on boosting. It wasn't even that I disliked performing the boosting, but I was annoyed that it also had an effect on the routing, because I had wanted this to be more about the block pushing. An earlier build of the concept used 3x3 formations instead. I think this played differently enough that it was worth a revisit. I did update the level a bit by moving the exit closer to the center, which I think plays a bit nicer considering the chips require the player to move back and forth anyway.

The solution above is again by ChosenID, with a time of 284.95. He also reported a 284.25 that used the thief, and a 281.0 in MS.

[Image: MT_2023_Amulet.gif]

Amulet - this might be the newest level I made. I was looking at previous TT levels for inspiration, and came across Rockdet's Talisman. It wasn't a very good TT level, but I liked the symmetry and thought I could build something similar. I also had wanted to make a cloning TT level, so this was the place to try that. The result is not really that great. The required cloning wasn't clever, nor was going around to gather the chips. The last updates I made to this level were to make it a bit easier. I also decided against naming the level something more specific, like Amulet of Vigor, but figured it can just stay as a generic amulet instead.

The solution above is by ChosenID, 281.9. He also found multiple 281.70 solutions in Lynx.

[Image: MT_2023_MrsB.gif]

Mrs. Braintime - this is the another direct sequel to a previous TT level. I made Braintime in 2014 while fiddling around with ice formations that allowed for bugs to move all around them. I wanted the level to include a trick where you disrupted these bugs with a block to shorten the item swapping puzzle. However, I wasn't able to calculate the best route without this trick, and both methods ended up being as quick. (JB smashed us in that one.) I thus built a version of the level where the item swapping took more time and shelved the level until I was desperate enough to again release something that is visually this corny. This might be the longest time between making a level and using it in a TT.

The solution above is one of the 154.7 routes I found. It has three waits on the bug when entering the upper room. In Lynx I found 149.20.

[Image: MT_2023_Aster.gif]

Aster - all the other levels in this competition looked backwards at other time trials for inspiration. This one looks forwards, as it is a prequel to a future level. It's difficult to talk about that one yet, but I can comment on this central ice area and why I wanted to make it. I am intrigued by the different types of patterns or topology that ice in CC can provide. An earlier attempt at making something interesting in this vein can be found in my level Ordinary Measure, pictured below. That level turned out pretty boring otherwise, but this was a concept I wanted to try again, that is, how to make a symmetric yet mind twisting arrangement of ice. I think I found the right ingredient by combining this with some invalid tiles. The ice is revealed as the player picks up chips. From a casual perspective, you never cook the level as every chip is reachable from every other one, but for the optimizer it also provides a bit of an extra hurdle to figure out how to find the best boosting opportunities.

The solution above is again the wizardry of ChosenID, clocking in at 61.5. For the LX version of the level, he reported 56.95 Lynx.


.png   MT_CC_2023_ordinary.png (Size: 34.95 KB / Downloads: 53)

There you have it, an overly complicated history of levels that three other players played. But that's how we do things around these parts of the intertwebsties. Thanks for tuning in, and maybe we'll do something overly complicated again before the year is out. :-)

-Miika
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