I know this is WAY off base for this venue. But I was reading a great book I picked up about HACKING and that book goes into a story about the first group of HACKERS. It went something like this:
There was a group of miniature train enthusiasts. One day, an old telephone system was discarded and replaced by a newer system. The story doesn’t tell you whether some of the members in the group were already engineers, nor do they give a precise date as to when this story took place, but the book cited certain computer systems that seemed dated to the 60s. At any rate, one of them had the bright idea to reuse the old discarded telephone system to improve the signal calling of all the trains. Apparently, the current system was mediocre and using an old telephone switching device for the purpose of what is not intended was considered the ‘first hacking group’.
Such a loose and sweeping definition of a HACKER was not MY definition. Because I have been re-purposing processes and devices for quite sometime, but I never considered myself a hacker.
Then that day, I accepted that I too may be one of those old miniature train enthusiasts. For I have many projects. My tendency is I engage in them and then my time is obsessing with one project (for example, GNS3 is one of them that I “repurposed”). My Default Topology expanded GNS3 in ways not conceived by Jeremy. And the world has not grasped all the things I can do with it.
The other project I had is my Wario Woods journey. But first a little backstory:
Wario Woods came out in 1994. Although I didn’t even blink when it came out, years later I found my wife and I had nothing to do one day and we decided to rent the game. I HATED it. The way the puzzle game progresses, it became maddening to me how anyone can even BEAT this.
Although popular in Japan, there wasn’t a real blog or corner of the Internet to find a hack code (like the famous Konami code) for this game. I played this game with my wife off and on since it was redistributed through the Nintendo Wii. Between my wife and I, we developed techniques to advance to the next level.
After taking turns, I realized what she was good at. She was good at setting up ‘chains’ of explosions which would prevent Wario from taking over the level and causing the ceiling called a “Thwomp” from coming down and killing you. Her reasoning is sound. “If we can continue the chain reactions, we won’t have to see Wario and therefore, we will win the level”.
Problem is, she is not quick enough to do the setup before Wario comes in and wreaks havoc. Her right hand was mangled from a freak accident where the doctor from St. Josephs hospital in Burbank, CA literally twisted her spine as she came out.
Now my skill set is different. I have exceptional eye-hand coordination. For the first 60 levels, I can out pace Wario whether he shows up on screen or not. Therefore, “brute force” is effective up to a point. But around 65, I start dying because I can’t keep up even with my finger speed. The other thing I realized is my ability to see 5 items in a row or diagonal and I applied my finger speed to align the critters. When that happens, as soon as you explode those items of the same color, you get a hidden diamond. That diamond when paired with a bomb/critter or some combination, will eliminate ALL of the same type.
I realized after playing Wario Woods off an on for 20 years, I finally had a workable plan to beat this maddening game.
1.) Deploy a game strategy of “First and Second Perspectives”. There is an entire discussion on what that is as it relates to business processes and resolving cyclic issues in networking. I would be in the First position interacting with Wario Woods due to my finger speed.
2.) My wife would sit in the “Second Perspective” watching me play Wario Woods. With this perspective, she can watch me clear animals and create space in the harder levels and formulate “chains”. At times she would calmly say ‘pause’…other times she would SHOUT in my ear. Either way, it was effective. I would pause the game and she would lay out how to setup a chain. If I was fast enough, we could pull it off and there was a 90 percent chance of beating the level.
Between her view and my view, I would decide to pause the game and deploy her strategy. At times, I would see a “5er” and would find the hidden diamond to eliminate the type of critter.
At this point, it was a matter of training my mind of the priorities:
- Clear away enough space at the top to stack chains or 5ers.
- In the early part of the game, do chains first to keep Wario away.
- About halfway through the critters, you will have 1 or 2 dominate colors.
- Create a “5er” and eliminate 1 color.
- When Wario comes on the screen…”stay alive” by finding diagonal 3 of a kind. That combo reduces or raises the ceiling from falling on you.
- When Wario leaves, continue to do 5ers or use finger speed to eliminate the remaining critters.
If you did a GOOD job, you get coins which get cashed into continues. I like that because you can mess up in a placement of a bomb or critter and you have a pool of up to 9 continues on any existing, single game.
Coupled with the fact that the Ninendo Wii saves your game at any point is an added bonus. If you played this game on the original NES and you tried to pause your game or turn it off, you loose your exact place. With the Wii, you can take a break for months or years and you can pick up right where you left off.
The last added feature is the PAUSE button. By allowing your mind to take a break without the noise and agonizing pace of Wario, you have total control over the environment that I’m sure the developers didn’t anticipate. The simple PAUSE button was my way of hacking this awesome game.
Here the developers of this game (who I wish to find out and thank) was a wonderful game both from the perspective that I spent time with my wife and had a lot of laughs working through these puzzles. The second thing is finding out what happens when you truly get to the end of this game.
Google results show someone will post that they ‘beat’ the game at level 99. That’s partially true. After you beat level 99, you get the last animated segment where Wario basically messes up and tries to fly away. I was actually content with that ending for some time. Years really.
But when I started playing it again a few months ago…I got to that level “without dying”. When THAT happens, level 100 is unlocked! This level came AFTER the classic NINTENDO license screen comes up. At that time, I had 9 credits so I said to my wife, “hey, let’s see how far we can go”…
2 months of playing off an on and we got to level 200. I Googled online and as far as I know, no one has gotten to 200. Furthermore, one site said it basically ‘goes on forever’.
Last night, I found out it is not true. When a person gets to level 256. (An interesting 8 bit reference), the game doesn’t end, but it actually repeats ONLY level 256. My wife was watching and talking to me for a half hour as I feverishly continue to the next level and it was “too familiar”. When she told me what’s going on…I didn’t believe it. I beat the level 2 more times and I confirmed it. For 40 minutes, I was playing level 256.
We have FINALLY and definitively come to the end of Wario Woods. I think Nintendo and the creator of Wario Woods, would be pleased to know, that game is STILL giving joy and challenges 23 years later! Bravo!
At that moment last night (May 4th), I realized I’ve been hacking stuff for quite a while now. But it was never malicious or to cause problems for others. And if Hacking entails innovation and loving the art of reason and logic…then I accept that is part of who I am. I also am proud of my wife. Despite her nerve palsy, she figured out how to use her heart instead of her busted hand to play a game through me.