The Tangled History of Shmups’ Most Notorious Glitch
Glitch Found!!! Bounty now Canceled!
All Donation Drive Money Has Been Refunded.
Today, the Glitch Bounty Committee, which consists of Blackisto, Gusto, Jaimers, KZ, and myself, would like to announce that we have banded together to offer a sizeable bounty for a very controversial scoring glitch in the beloved shmup, Dodonpachi. As far as we are aware, a public bounty like this for a scoring glitch is unprecedented in shmup history and likely will never occur again.
The bounty is currently worth $2,000 plus an extra $260 added via crowdfunding thanks to the generous contribution of Rodarmor ($250) and Anthony A. ($10) 😀
The bounty total is now $2,260!
If you are unfamiliar with shmups or Dodonpachi, you may think this amount of money being offered for a mere scoring glitch is absurd — and it is — but it is also necessary. Sometimes money can help motivate people to do the right thing.
The Tangled History of the Dodonpachi Score Glitch
To understand the implications of this bounty, it is important to know the history of this glitch and the effect it has had on both the Japanese and Western shmup communities. As mentioned before, Dodonpachi is a beloved and widely played shmup with a scoring history that dates back to the 90’s. Even early in its lifespan, Dodonpachi was popular to play for score. During this time, while many players were digging into the game and exploring how to better optimize scoring, one player came across the mysterious Score Glitch. Again, this was back in the late 1990’s, more than twenty years ago, when it is speculated that the glitch was first discovered. Additionally, it is believed that this glitch was initially triggered completely by accident (as many glitches are).
Since that time, only a few players in the world have been privileged to know about how the glitch works and see its effects with their own eyes. Instead of being shared openly and credited to the original finder (like in the case of speedrunning), a culture of secrecy has developed around this glitch. Very few people outside this inner circle of players know what the glitch is or how it works, and the ones that do have sworn to secrecy themselves.
What is most concerning is that all three world records (for the three separate ship types) all utilize this glitch and are essentially unbeatable without it.
How is this possible? The reader may be asking. How can these players have world records, and yet not show the glitch in action? Couldn’t the players simply reverse engineer how the glitch works from the videos of the world records?
We probably could, except that no public replays exist. In Japan, the records for a scorekeeping organization called JHA (which has roots in Gamest Magazine) must be achieved in an arcade and verified by an arcade operator, so no video evidence is required for a world record. This is how The Glitch has managed to remain secret for so long. And this is why, outside the efforts of this bounty, it will likely remain a secret.
But Why? Why Would World Class Players Actively Conceal the Glitch?
Some may feel that the people concealing this glitch are merely acting out of spite or to protect their world records. However, I believe the situation is much more complicated and nuanced than that, so, as to not villainize these players, I want to explain my theory behind their motivation (which I think is well-researched).
To begin with, Dodonpachi is an incredibly brutal yet beautiful scoring game as originally designed. To get the scores that these world record holders have achieved, even minus the glitch, requires years — and perhaps decades — of intense play and study. However, as I understand, the power of this glitch, when made publically known, will nullify all that dedicated mastery and basically break Dodonpachi’s scoring. Think of it as an infinite in a fighting game, where once the player discovers the infinite, all the other aspects of competitive gameplay are thrown in the garbage.
Essentially then, the players who are keeping this glitch hidden are viewing themselves as keeping pandora’s box closed. They don’t want the glitch revealed because all the competitive gameplay will just come down to who can abuse the glitch the most effectively.
This is understandable, except there is one huge issue with this idea … the world records scores were achieved using the glitch, so pandora’s box is already open and the monster inside has boosted scores. But we’ll return to this point shortly.
First, I want to say that, in the west, there is an extremely obvious solution to this whole problem. Why don’t they just ban the glitch? Or why don’t they just create a glitched and glitchless category (as I proposed in another article on this very site last year)?
The problem comes back to JHA. Remember how I said that JHA does not use video proof and instead relies on an arcade operator to check the end score? Well, since there is no video involved and just an end score screen, this means that JHA has no means to create separate categories for scoring and so an 800 million score played glitched or non-glitched are indistinguishable from one another. What these players fear is not some distant Western player beating their world record on emulator (which JHA would not recognize anyway), but instead a fellow Japanese player who barely plays DDP, but knows the glitch, showing up in their arcade and counter stopping the game.
And so it all makes sense. The moment this glitch is revealed to the public, it is likely someone will figure out how to use it for a counter stop and Dodonpachi will become a dead game in arcades, just like all the other shmups with abusable glitches that JHA just bans for convenience.
So … maybe we should just let them keep the glitch hidden then, right?
And here is why.
Why Does This Matter? The Damaging Effect of The Glitch
To keep the length of this article under control, I have organized my thoughts into the following points:
- They have already used the glitch to achieve world record scores, so they can’t have their cake and bury it too.
- Keeping the glitch secret creates a concerning power dynamic where the secret holders get to choose who gets to compete on a world-record level and who does not. The conflict of interest is troubling to say the least. This privilege to know the secret has nothing to do with the gameplay at all and favors players who go out of their way to befriend secret holders. Eternal gaijins like myself are also at an extreme disadvantage.
- This secret keeping also reinforces a belief that needs to be squashed, that players can “own” strategies. The player who fell into this glitch initially and then decided to keep it a secret had no right to try and take ownership of such an important scoring strategy. This is no different than a collector who hides a rare game and refuses to share it with the rest of the world, just because he happens to possess the last physical copy. This holds true for routes as well. Allowing players to “own” routes means that the players who first begin playing and finding things back in the 90’s now have control over the entire competitive landscape just because they started playing first.
- The secrecy neuters the availability of resources and replays for the game. Due to all this secrecy around the glitch and DDP itself, the game is shockingly bare of videos and resources. Unlike a game like Ketsui, where SPS (the current world record holder) uploads many high scoring videos publicly (cheers SPS!), there are barely any replays of top Japanese Dodonpachi players. The highest A-L replay is not by WTN and WTN’s own masterful gameplay can only be seen in a live demonstration from Stunfest that did not show the glitch or other secret strategies. However, WTN has clarified that he did not know the secret scoring glitch at the time he participated at Stunfest 2014.
- It gives Dodonpachi a bad reputation as a scoring game (it’s a dead-end, in a sense) and causes a lot of unnecessary tension between the Western and Japanese shmup players.
The Crossroads, Where Do We Go From Here?
To be clear, as critical as this article may read when it comes to this issue of glitch hiding, I do also want to state that one of the goals of this bounty is to help bring Japan and the rest of the shmup playing world closer together. Taking a step back, I think the issue of the Dodonpachi glitch is a breaking point for a much larger problem. The larger problem being that the old method of score keeping via JHA in Japan needs to be abandoned. Let me make it clear that I have no problems with JHA themselves or anything like that, but it is simply a system of doing things that is outdated and holding back cooperation between the Japanese and Western shmup players. Of course, there are additional barriers like language and strange copyright laws that get in the way, but I do think that this devoted focus to the printed magazine-style score keeping hurts everyone in the year 2020.
For example, if the Japanese players started to move away from this arcade-only / end screen-only style of score verification and instead started to embrace contemporary proof standards (recorded video) then both sides would benefit. The west would benefit because we would no longer be completely out of the loop as to what Japanese players were doing and we would be able to learn from the game play in their videos. This would also open up many more avenues of communication between Japanese and Western players. On the Japanese side of things, moving to a peer-reviewed video standard (for world records at least) would allow much greater flexibility and future-proofing for their scoring categories. They could easily create glitched and non-glitched DDP categories and no longer worry about the game being murdered. In fact, even outside of this bounty, this will happen at one point or another if they stick with the current system, as another Japanese player is bound to figure it out and exploit it at some point.
WTN Speaks! Thoughts on the Situation from World Record Holder WTN
The following is a summary of WTN’s thoughts that he has expressed to the Glitch Bounty Committee that he has written to help clear up the many misunderstandings between the Japanese and western communities. Hopefully, this will also clear up misunderstandings about the bounty itself. WTN has kindly come forward to explain his side of the story as well as explain the situation in Japan. To not make this post even longer than it is, we will summarize it briefly, but you can find the full translated archive here:
In the west, there seems to exist a negative image that the Japanese players purposefully hide their replays and silencing anyone from talking about their strategies. This is not the entire truth. The reason why not many players upload videos primarily stems from these two issues:
- Japan’s high score scene has a different history that emerged in a different mindset and culture. In the west, we share all information and strategies with each other, but, in Japan, competition originally happened between individuals or groups of people. There were many tiny communities instead of one big one. Therefore, it was more advantageous to have more information than your opponent.
Besides this, they also have a culture where it’s common practice that you need permission from the person that first found a route or strategy when you want to make something public that includes these findings. For us westerners, this is culture shock for sure.
- Another limiting factor has been restrictions set upon the players by arcade operators and some game companies. Players can share videos between themselves, but in order to make a video recorded in an arcade public, they first need permission from the copyright holder. Because of various incidents that happened in the past, such as fake scores and leaked strategies, certain arcade operators deemed this a necessary measure. As a result of this taboo, people don’t have the habit of making replays public.
WTN states that he has no problems with sharing the DDP 1-5 full chain when asked and that it was never supposed to be a secret. The only problem was just that he can’t make his video of it public because of a local rule of the arcade where the footage was recorded. This has been a massive point of confusion for everyone.
In regards to the DDP bug, he states that he doesn’t have the authority to reveal the bug because NAL is the one that first found it, but he also doesn’t want to reveal the bug because it will ruin the game for everyone. This was mutually decided between the three players that were in the know.
Lastly, he states his views on the topic of making routes public:
- “It’s up to the freedom of the player whether to make a route public or not.
※ It’s fine if other players/communities want to request information, but no one is obligated to give it out.
- A player that makes his own routes public should naturally be praised, but one that does not should not be slandered either.
※ Information warfare is also a valid form of competition, and to completely refuse to acknowledge this is to reject diversity.”
He closes with the following statement:
“Japan and the western communities both have good and bad parts. You can’t say that only one side is totally in the right. In the current situation it comes across as if Japan and the west are both on the extreme opposite ends of the spectrum, the important part is finding a balance between the two communities. Here in Japan in recent years people, with the newer generation of players at its base, have started to make videos of their WR’s public. I believe that with the passage of time the situation will gradually change. Myself have also started to ease up on this and have started to gradually make my uploads public (my recent streams of Raiden and Tatsujin Ou are a direct result of this).”
Mark MSX’s thoughts and reply:
Again, I would like to emphasize that this bounty was not born out of hostility towards WTN or any of the DDP players involved, but instead to promote a healthy competitive spirit for the genre moving forward where players begin to interact more on a global, rather than local, platform.
I will start with the points that I agree with. I agree that both communities have their own issues and growing pains we both need to work through, there is no doubt about that. Both sides have many common goals and share similar challenges. Each side has its own unique challenges as well. I definitely agree that slandering each other is absolutely uncalled for and counter-productive to what we need to be working towards (which is unity).
However, the divide between our two outlooks is absolutely going to be this issue of strategy hiding and whether players have ownership of the strategies and routes they come up with. Just to be clear, I don’t feel this is an all or nothing sort of issue, but I do think there need to be limits as to how much ownership a player can claim on a strategy and how long they can hold that ownership.
In the world of Super Metroid speedrunning, there is a perfect example we can look towards as a parallel to this discussion. There is a well-accomplished Super Metroid player by the name of Behemoth. Behemoth has achieved world records in one of the most heavily played and optimized speedrunning games in the world. Super Metroid speedrunning and Dodonpachi have comparable competitive histories. What makes Behemoth an interesting figure is that he would achieve his world records (mostly) by devising new strategies and routes in secret and then using them to claim the world record. Something I think WTN can identify with and appreciate.
However, the difference is that, once Behemoth had achieved his world record, his strategies then became public and part of the pool of knowledge about the game. From there, if he wanted to improve he would have to continue to innovate and push the game. So I do agree that he does have ownership over his new strategies for a limited time and can use them to cash in on a new world record, but I do not think a player is within a fair competitive spirit to hide these strategies from his fellow competitors for years and incorporate a social dynamic into their sharing and usage.
In the case of DDP, what has happened is that a small selection of players have innovated and helped each other, but kept their work secret so that there has now become this massive gap between themselves and the rest of the world, especially with the usage of the glitch.
So, in summary, while I don’t think WTN or the other DDP record-holders have to share their strategies, continuing to conceal them is damaging the overall health of the game, especially now when shmups are at a low in popularity. Back in the heyday of arcades and competitive playing, strategy hiding had no negative impact on the health of the genre and scoring communities, but given enough time and a starved player base (there really are not that many serious DDP players in the world) then these actions take on a new context and meaning. I am hoping that this article is helping to express this context more clearly and that the competitive health of the game overall is more important than the individual achievements of the players.
Also … there is one last thing I want to mention.
WE HAVE A LEAD ALREADY! THE GLITCH IS NOT FAR FROM BEING DISCOVERED!
During our time of re-organizing, we were presented with extremely useful confirmation that aligned with many theories that the Western shmup scene had gathered regarding the nature of the glitch. We will now be presenting this information to the public right here, right now. This info greatly narrows down the search and honestly, if you want the bounty, I do not recommend waiting too long before coming forward.
What We Know:
- The glitch can be triggered with the re-spawning turrets in stage 6.
- We particularly advise you look closely at the second spot in stage 6 where 3 small groups of turrets re-spawn while the bees fire green walls of bullets.
- At this point in the chain, normally (without the glitch), the chain value is around 14 million.
- It is believed that at this point, but maybe also elsewhere, doing some inconsistent trick (like a frame perfect double kill) can mess with the gp value of an enemy in the same fashion that Blackisto describes in this POST
- This error then snowballs as the chain continues throughout stage 6, due to how the chain is calculated.
- A regular stage 6 full chain for an experienced player (like Blackisto) gives 53 million. The best players in the world push the stage 6 full chain to 57-58 million.
- To see if you triggered the glitch, you may carefully record the normal gp values of the turrets and other enemies in this section as you play the section. The gp values are the numbers just above your life icons and below your max counter.
- As you play, do some turret kills and monitor if the chain value evolves normally or if there are some sudden unexplained points.
- An alternative idea is to play this section in a full stage run, record your gameplay, and repeat the section many times with save states. This method requires that the person is a DDP player with stage 6 chain knowledge, however.
How Can You Help? How to Collect the Bounty
Obviously, if you are reading this and do have information about how to trigger the glitch, PLEASE come forward and reveal the information. Continuing to hide this glitch is harming everyone and prolonging a much-needed update to how shmups are played competitively. To collect the bounty, feel free to message me or anyone on the committee. I will leave contact info for everyone at the bottom of the post.
To collect the money, you will be invited to the committee’s server where you will deliver the information.
Take note! Due to the information we have already received, we are prioritizing those who come forward with complete information and video evidence. Before you tell us any of your information, please indicate if you have full knowledge and evidence, or incomplete knowledge and evidence. Until the day of April 1st, 2020, we will only be accepting an informant who has complete knowledge and video evidence. This video evidence will include a glitch that the committee can then use to create a 860 million or higher score TAS. If no one has collected the bounty by April 1st, 2020, we will update with smaller focused bounties for further information. Until that time, do not come forward with incomplete information unless you want to contribute your information without payment (which is cool, but just to make the money situation clear).
If you just start messaging us information without establishing the money situation with us, you will not be paid for your information because otherwise, this could get out of hand with multiple people making claims at once.
If a group of players wants to claim the bounty together as a group that is also acceptable, just be sure to make clear to us how the group of players would like the money distributed between the group.
A member of the server can also communicate in Japanese if that is needed. The goal is for us to be able to understand the glitch well enough to trigger it based on your information and then share the strategy with the rest of the world. The more thorough your information, like a video and a guide, the faster we will be able to replicate the glitch and pay you. Again, until April 1st 2020, only complete info and video evidence will be accepted.
Also, if the person revealing the glitch so desires, we can keep your identity completely anonymous! In this case, please contact us with an alternate identity for extra protection. Being double-blind is the most effective way to maintain anonymity.
If you want to reveal the glitch to us (which is the right thing to do), but do not want to receive the bounty, we will then donate the bounty to a charity of your choosing. If we find the bounty on our own before a claim is made, the bounty will be dissolved and the money raised from crowdfunding will be donated to charity.
The Bounty Donation Drive!
Thanks to the generous contribution of Rodarmor ($250) and Anthony A. ($10), the bounty donation drive now has met it’s goal and added an extra $260 to the bounty!
Contact Info (These are Hyperlinks)