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Sunday, July 12, 2020 by LotBlind

The Priority Lane, Social Events and Inspired Dining

Among shooters, this serious... umm... this series is perhaps most distinguished by its long arena altercations, and yet somehow it's not an arena shooter? The game by itself is, and what it might now be to some of you: Serious Sam: The First Encounter. Those arenas are pretty much exactly what Roman gladiators went through on a daily basis, you know! — bursts of bulls, surges of scorpions and wellings of witch-harpies. That's right, entire murders of those flying devils are expeditiously... murdered with explosive projectiles like at a gravity-spun ten-pin alley (one of many exclusive club membership benefits). In this specific run, you will see a cannonball scoring a triple on the buggers. These intense action scenes are interspersed with rather relaxing bubble baths in the etherial medium, alongside bovine-assisted self-golf. All in the pictoresque environs of Ancient alien-infested Egypt. Ancient aliens. But of course!

'Blacksecret' lops off a whopping five minutes (to 0:30:20) from the former (which was mistakenly categorized as "tourist" difficulty when both it and this one are on "normal") by jacking up the segments count and just being smart about things in general. The better half of Sam's austere arsenal is given air time (like those cannonballs) and any and all little time-cutters are tossed in the mix. All the critical points are discussed in the runner's comments. Let's see more quality segmenters, eh fellas?

The other run that was ready for today's update improves another shooter, if just one mission thereof, by 2:20 with the entire table nudged down to 0:39:46. Project I.G.I.: I'm Going In was last touched in 2018 (second update from the top). Those runs were of a very high quality and difficult to dislodge; however one particularly obscure option was overlooked. If I told you any more, I'd already have spoiled the new strategy discovered by 'umair.irfan786155' for the fourth mission so I'd better leave it at that, but if you'd like a "behind the scenes", head over to the verification thread.



I also wanted to point out there's a new swaggalicious template for strategy guides now! Those are an excellent way to store and present speedrun-related information about the games you've studied since they allow anyone to see exactly what is and isn't known, and to contribute to them at any point with their own findings. It doesn't make any community look exactly professional if you don't have one. It looks like a lot of them are not really being very systematic and so progress is pretty sporadic. That's fine for all I care, but don't pretend otherwise. As with any wiki, there's a "talk" page automatically created for each page that can be used for discussions about things like nomenclature. Feel free to use the template's talk page for suggestions on how to make it better. If this causes a lot of new guides to be created, perhaps discussion about whether the tricks sub-page (or some others) could also benefit from having a template made.

EDIT: A sentence was totally not left unfinished in the above paragraph. You've got some nerve to suggest that!

Finally, a marathon ad picked up from the forums. The Big-Bad-Game-a-Thon it's called, between Sep 18th and 20th. Follow the link for details.

Sunday, June 21, 2020 by LotBlind

New Big Quake Thing Imminent!


Sneaking in a rad tad here. It's been nearly ten full years since the last major Quake Done Quick release but that's all about to change in less than 24 hours. If you still haven't ever seen Quake runs before, the premiere linked right here is your chance to redeem yourself. Check it out and check it off!

Regular updates will continue, and continue to be rad as well.

Thursday, May 28, 2020 by LotBlind

Near-Total Eclipse of the Defender's Advantage

Can we turn an arcade run 'n' gunner into another mock history lesson today? You bet your ass, ma'm! The series we're thinking of is one with a somewhat abstract-sounding title, Contra. Is this creative perusal of the dictionary meant to be understood as "versus", suggestive of really any kind of confrontation or opposition? If so, almost anything could be called that. Homer's hexametric coverage of the Trojan War? Contra. Shakespeare's most famous and expansive tragedy about a Danish prince? Contra. The title of that video where little sister gets pissed off after brother has poured a bowl of wholemeal porridge into her hair? So Contra. However, truth be told, there may be another explanation. The first arcade cabinet appeared in February of 1987, a few months after the so-called Iran-Contra affair had become public. This had to do with American arms deals in Nicaragua where an anti-socialist "contrarrevolución" movement, "contra" for short, had stirred up after disappointments with the Sandinista regime that held court from 1979 to 1990 (initially, anyway). Probably the Japanese had simply decided "contra" was now go for any kind of resistance movement, which is what it is in the game's continuum.

I hope it's not a let-down that this isn't leading to that game, actually. It's certainly not a let-up either, in the area of furious opposition that is. 'FCJ2000' has come in guns blazing with a 28-second improvement for Hard difficulty Contra III: The Alien Wars. I'm surprised that Contra III has much less runs than the first one (at a glance at speedrun.com). I thought with its big swanky 16-bit sprite boots and more creative and varied design it might have garnered the larger crowd. Improvements come from the usual: better lag strats, better RNG, more risk-reward stuff. I doubt I have to add anything to this. If a picture says more than a thousand words, how many words are packed into a whole video then, even one that's just 0:14:14 long?

[edit: corrected the time]

It's rare that a technology showcase will double as a passable ludological experience of its own right. There are exceptions, of course (*cough cough Half-Life 2 cough cough*). One of these would be the Penumbra Tech Demo. It was a kind of mini version of the first actual Penumbra games and the first stepping stone towards the Swedish Frictional Studios' (founded shortly after) stellar magnum opus, Amnesia: The Dark Descent. The tech being demoed was called the HPL Engine, named after H.P. Lovecraft. If you think about it, the "Gothic novel" that Lovecraft delineated in his essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature" and built upon himself is pretty much exactly what Amnesia was, too.

Anyway, to return to this game, somehow they first had a 2D-engine that was used to create something called Energetic, a game that "aims to enlighten and educate teenagers about the production and consumption of energy within our society", and that 2D-engine was later supplemented with 3D capabilities to make HPL 1. So what could the pre-Frictional framework do then? Well, the one thing that stands out is how it models grabbing drawers, doors and hatches and opening them bit by bit, as well as other physics, though this aspect was handled by an external component, apparently*, and the first first-person game to implement Newtonian-esque physics was 1998's half-baked precursor Trespasser. And, well, Half-Life 1 and 2 had also come and went. The engine wasn't perhaps so remarkable for trailblazing innovations, but rather by token of how adequate the DIY project was in an era when licensing engines from the big publishers was already commonplace.

* (see this interview)

Well, you may expect we have a run for the tech demo then? You're dead wrong! We've got two, one with large-skip glitches in 0:00:20.90, the other without, in 0:01:58.21. The former is an improvement of around 3-4 seconds to an older run (we've moved into sub-second tracking now). I gotta say, if you want to express what you're about as a speedrunner, making your monicker 'FPSDemoSpeedruns' is certainly one way to do it. To be clear, this particular demo is "SDA-friendly" since it's not really a shorter version of any particular game. I have to stick in a little bit of news here: we now have a rekindling of the aforementioned Amnesia series coming up on the horizon. Amnesia: Rebirth it's called. The trailer lets out there may be some parallelism between its narrative and The Dark Descent... Titillating!

Speaking of parallels, the final run today may have many with Sam 'Samtastic' Locke's own and others' past efforts on Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee, but not as many as usual. That's because the 0:41:24 launches a category that has been completely neglected up till now, the no-tricks-no-gimmicks any%. It looks rather like Mahatma Gandhi's frail body and ostensible pacifism has joined forces with John Rambo's lack of being stoppable. Whenever running into guards, there's typically a sequence of raspy "Freeze!" followed shortly by a stupefied "What?" as they just can't fathom the Gaul-like gall on this bird-bone zipping through traffic like an amped-up rickshaw driver. That's what they are, by the way. Birds. Mudokons are birds, not rickshaw drivers are junkies.

The continual near-misses in this run look like the pithiest and most punctual choreography. In a sense, I suppose they are! As ever, the magical boundaries between screens are abused the ever-living hell out of. This has to be part of the sligs' perpetual confusion: "Missed!" "But I shot right at you!" "Yeah, but I was behind the black." "...I hate you Mudokon! I hate your dastardly wiles. I hate your nasal tones. I hate your ability to possess sligs when we least expect it. I hate your... wait, why am I pulling this lever, releasing ferocious unfed hounds from their safe confinement? Why is my friend getting his face chewed off? This is so INANE!" I guess, now that I think about it, cinematic platformers often have quantized movement to make jumps etc. easier to time (or more like to keep the animations seamless). Maybe that's what enables a runner to replicate such a precarious route from run to run? Or are these guys just that damned good? It's probably both — plus the Oddworld guys knew how to keep their enemy AI dangerous but fair. Kinda like me.

Peace out next time!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020 by LotBlind

Headgear of Destiny

Would you believe what I did with that headline? Also would you believe there's a database for guns shot in movies and games?

That's one of the many tools toted by 'Skajdrovski' trotting through the merry little town of Berlin. It's springtime, 1945, but not for the Third Reich, nor indeed Hitler in specific. The seat of the last Führerhauptquartiere (which were Hitler's various HQs) is getting pincered by stampeding hippoes on both rapidly retracting fronts and there are covert operatives prancing up and down the streets, Führer... umm... further ruining the poor feller's day. One of these operatives is Karl Fairburne, a Sniper Elite, sent out to survey a ravaged childhood turf with no time for nostalgy. The crux of his campaign is the prevention of Nazi nuclear knowledge from falling in Soviet hands before it does the Americans'. Assassinations aside, Karl multi-classes as a demo man and in reconnaissance: a real Re[con]naissance man. So it is springtime for him! Am I nerd enough yet?

The game has a primary focus on realism, as you'd expect, with things like ballistic arcs and breath-baiting as optional involvements. These are, today, foregone for the fastest settings instead and Führer... umm... furthermore playing in segments to ensure optimal quality across the 0:48:27 board. I urge you to be on the lookout for those world-famous Opel Blitz dragster trucks. It's like they got springs.

PS: Not only have these Sniper games been novelized, short story-cized AND comicized, Rebellion Developments is even fashioning them into a board game now. That's one 7.92 x 57mm you didn't see coming. o_O

Many familiar robotic faces await in this next run for a game that amounts to a spin-off of a spin-off that lands where it all started more or less. Something like a 360 in revolving doors. It's a throwback to that NES difficulty as well, at least in parts. Speaking of parts, you're constantly tinkering with spares called "Battle Chips", to counterweight the one on your shoulder. It's virtually impossible to win without them but they may be something of a chore to manage.

Have I dropped enough hints yet? The game slide-tackled here by Phillip 'ZELLLOOO' Shanklin is Arika's 2003 Mega Man Network Transmission for the GameCube, co-produced by Capcom old-timer Keiji Inafune. In the rest of the Battle Networks all the battling is turn-based and locked to grids. In Network Transmission, it's largely the classic formula, though accessing levels is done through nodes plotted across an overworld map, with many areas crawled more than once. "Crawl" is probably not a good choice of words actually... A run time of 0:56:33 means over ten minutes of fat has been burned from the old SDA record with a much riskier and more refined approach, discussed in detail in Phillip's written comments. It's easily the WR as well as of writing this. While the old run went for the good ending, the differences are so minimal from any% that it has been deemed prudent to retire "good ending" as a category altogether. Which sounds kind of sad now that I've said it. I guess a runner wrestling with their game to get it to submit, so they can submit, is the always-available SDA good ending.

Saturday, March 14, 2020 by LotBlind

ASSUME HISTORY FACTS ARE MY SUBJECTIVE OPINION

This first game had tons of enemies because Switchblade II, programmer George Allan's previous title, didn't. And it should have. Apparently. While I missed it in my young years, albeit not the pervasive marketing, having tested the DOS port lately I can certainly now confirm there are enemies like there are... rocks... in yo feeble drinks. They even respawn so you can never run out. Like if you lived RIGHT next to a motorway. You wouldn't want to run out cause you might get hurt.

An early and somewhat infamous contender in the 90's mascot pageant, Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension was poised to skitch a ride on the second crest of the Sonic boom (even belligerently barging onto hedgehog homeland on the Genesis), and while reviewers at the time seem to have almost unanimously seen Zool as fulfilling the prophecy, the general sentiment of those looking back now leans on fair to middling. Cute graphics and honestly rather groovy beats on the versions that had them, but at loss for entirely fresh ideas. The yes-a-ninja, not-an-ant can wallclimb, whirlwind and acquire a shadow copy of himself, with other power-ups as well. You might stumble upon a bonus shmup and other minigames. In some versions, you have to go around hoovering every last knick-knack just to advance a level. The Mega Drive might have seen the quintessential one with a fully mechanized parallax backdrop as well.

I'm telling you all of this now because you're sure not going to learn much of it just watching the 0:00:00.62 today, provided by our buddy Jordan 'Greenalink' Greener. There's a random glitch in the Master System version, as you'll see. Maybe someone thinks fondly enough of this platformer to have a stab at a full-game run someday?

The scale of the witch hunts in the traditional sense is one of those few things the New World can't hope to compete in with the old one. The glory days were already largely over by the time of the fateful colonial moorings. Yet we shouldn't forget that what we in the industry address by the entirely necessary term "wiccaphobia" wasn't institutional through all of Medieval history. The fact is, in the early Middle Ages, you would actually have numerous denouncements of the whole concept of witchery, and condemnation of those acting vindicatively on such beliefs. It just wasn't a building block of the broad Christian paradigm at the time, though there was overlap between it and the far more obvious infringement of heresy, and there are writings in which the two would get conflated. In addition, witch trials could be mainly politically motivated, as was the case with Joan of Arc in 1431.

Then there was a rather austere take on the matter, issuing from the quill of one clergyman Heinrich Kramer in 1487, by its foreboding title Malleus Maleficarum, 'The Hammer of Witches', that became an early bestseller (printing presses had just been invented shortly after Joan's demise). This jolly tome hammered home, as it were, the idea those ungodly freaks really really were a thing, that they were a really really wicked thing, and that in all dealings-with, one had to be cruel to be... fashionable. Though the book was initially banned, the Christian philosophy had also started to shift, with it being decided witchcraft was heresy after all. With these and other sordid developments, the floodgates were swung wide. The totals are estimated between 40 and 60 thousand, the majority of whom sundry female deviants, but did you know there were also parts of Europe where most victims were men?

So you can see the Salem finger-point-caper of 1692—3 was small fry, or no "fry" at all in fact, seeing as most of those condemned died in hangings (not without discomfort, this having happened long before the noticeably more decorous long drop method had emerged) or vaguely, as only one can, while imprisoned. The burning business had been based on the idea this wouldn't allow any cheeky phoenixing on Resurrection Day. Maybe this was still attended to at Salem afterwards?

I think there isn't a pre-empting pyre in the world that could stop a certain perspicatious teenage clue-cumulator from reincarnating in the pink at steady intervals, such as in her latest, the 33rd on-screen sighting of Nancy Drew: Midnight in Salem. In this story, founded on the similarly 33rd novel The Witch Tree Symbol, Nancy is set to explore Salem's dark past and déjà vu present with old and new companions, including the Hardy Boys on second fiddles. Also rising from the ashes in a small way is the one, the only, Mr. Ms. Drew himself, Michael 'arglefumph' Gray. You can tell it's no copycat because the amateur-difficulty single-segment run, 0:26:05 of duration, is enhanced with authentifying audio commentary on track 2.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019 by LotBlind

Shaving Time by Shooting Guns Makes You a Gun-Shaver, On the Other Hand

Zwei extreme peanuts wer walking down die extreme Strasse und one of zem was Extreme Assaulted... peanut.

In this one you're an arcade helicopter pilot of an arcade helicopter, picking up transmissions from Guns-haver of the Cheat Commandos. He'll tell you where the slimy Blue Lazor aliens have taken slimy though awfully generic camp so you can duly deliver the eviction notice and the human hostages. Oh, that and the aliens themselves, from their unseen but assuredly slimy mortal coils; It's difficult to tell them apart from all the erupting debris. This DOS game from 1997 by Blue Byte was a departure from anything they'd done before, or have since. Was it them staking a claim in the watered-down waters (facts, peasants, facts) of the console market then? Well, there's no single gameplay reason it couldn't have been, but maybe its at the time rather exuberant eye emollient might have melted that poor PS1 CPU — 's potent stuff, y'know.

It's supposed to be very tough on the higher difficulties, and won't even give you a chance to play it all the way through for all y'all kiddy-leaguers out there. How could you play "Extreme Assault" on a setting other than "Extreme"? It. Just. Makes. No. Sense. To. My. Inner. Asperger's. No stranger to tough games, we've got our should-be-prize-winning-but-isn't-because-no-prizes-for-speedrunning-actually 'ktwo' on the mission, or should I say missions, and also a mission, and also a tear, and unmistakably a roll. An extreme roll. You KNOW you won't stand a iota uninformed after his usual, exemplary debriefing. There's even two encodes of the segmented 0:23:37, with and without the Gunshaver.



In other news, we've got a supremely extreme double dosage of Quake, assaulting every one of your senses, but in a nice sort of way!

Dose #1: Does anyone remember Vera Lynn? I sure don't. Does anyone remember that reference to Vera Lynn? It's Pink Floyd isn't it? Does anyone remember Thomas Stubgaard, and/or this silly old YouTube channel? In a splendiferous blazing comeuppance on dust, there are actual new renderings there with plenty more on this mythical man's agenda. Aside from agreeing to take over uploads, he's rather zealously taken over a few records as well, I see. As long as he understands he's never getting back all those lost years... Of course all this gets continuous coverage in the relevant part of the site (link up top) so once you've done your subscribing and thumbs-upping like the good girl you know you can be, let's inject the other extreme 50 ml.

Dose #2: Does anyone remember that grand Copernican U-turn when the first primitive FPS-playing humanoid, in a fit of undiluted lunacy, or possibly just totally bone-tired of getting all their hollow health points, at almost indiscernibly small intervals, smeared all over the steel-and-angst of the floor and wall meshes with bits in the ceiling as well, inflicted that radical surgery to remove the seemingly unremovable, raze the unrazable, extract the still-throbbing Shub-Niggurath kernel of the arena shooter... That is to scrag... the frag? Short of a heart but not disheartened, de-fragging lives on in 2019 like it's the year 2000 when it was first released. Any square squire may simply not refer to oneself as an adherent of the art sans seasonal sautéings in the sausage pan of the Défis Fragdome (which is what it officially stands for, apparently). I must warn you, for these are the very limits of wholesome verbal conveyance of the luscious ambrosia that is these De-Frag World Cup events. If you're totally new to them, I actually recommend you open up the 2014 video below instead of this year's start seeing as within it, [all hail The Most Benevolent] Zoot and his coherent co-hosts go over the nuts and bolts at length. The five-words-or-less: "extreme speedrunning pain/pleasure domes".

The official site for info.
2019 Round 1 runs start at 3:42:25.
The currently more viewer-friendly 2014 cup starts here.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019 by Elipsis

Community Column: Elipsis' Marble Reflections

You never forget your first love. That's what they say, anyway. I had known about Speed Demos Archive going as far back as the early 2000s, but to me the videos on SDA were untouchable pristine gaming achievements that seemed well beyond my capabilities. I would jump in every few months and download the latest updates for my favorite games. I still have the video of Marble Madness for the NES performed deathless in 3:13 by Elliot Feiertag saved to my hard drive, back from when it was the fastest run I could find. I didn't think of this as a thing I could do. Not at that level, anyway, until many years later.

I dabbled, though. As far back as my college days in 2005—2006, we were racing Mega Man 1 through 6 on adjacent televisions. Someone had to play on the jenky CRT with the color distortion in the corners, and the other person got the giant ~200 pound LCD screen. We didn't research glitches, or what other people were doing... we were just coming at it by trying to play well. My friend SeamusOdrunky and I never lost that joy, and in 2013 we finally had the technology to release this little production to YouTube. For all the mistakes in those runs, it was always a race... there was something in me that wanted to go fast.Megaman races

I started speedrunning proper in January of 2014 after some guy made headlines in a bunch of gaming news sites by beating Mike Tyson's Punch Out blindfolded. I started frequenting his Twitch channel to watch him go after the game's WR and learned from his chat that there were other people racing other games just... all the time... on a site called SpeedRunsLive. The exciting thing about this to me was that you didn't have to be world class in order to participate, you could race any game you wanted at any skill level, as long as you could find another person to play against. I remember setting up an emulator and LiveSplit and working on a livestream setup, as was required. My first Marble Madness race ended with a 4:09, and per my comment my PB was 3:36. My opponent couldn't finish. That's how it started. I was a speedrunner now.

Over the next few months I did thousands of runs and pushed my time lower and lower. Sub 3 minutes happened. Deathless happened. One day I looked at LiveSplit and realized that my sum of best was actually faster than the current world record, which at this point in time was a run by AndrewG. AndrewG was one of those legendary names that I recalled from SDA as someone at the pinnacle of execution for retro games. His time, a mind-boggling 2:54, was better than anything I had ever done... and yet there was LiveSplit whispering quietly in my ear, "You might be able to do this." And then it happened. You can hear the complete disbelief... almost panic, when the run is over. It was my first world record and first SDA submission, which came in at 2:52. It was a powerful moment for me when I learned that AndrewG was one of the verifiers, and he both praised the run and encouraged me to push harder. Indeed the 2:52 would never see the light of day on SDA because several days later I decided to get back into it. AndrewG's run was 2:54, but with a wand. A wand is an RNG element that shows up and randomly wastes 2 seconds of real time, among other things. I realized that if it wasn't for that, the two runs were effectively identical in execution time. I didn't just want a run that was technically the WR, I wanted a run that was the best-executed Marble Madness gameplay of all time. I even went as far as frame-counting AndrewG's run minus the wand frames and learned that his run would have beaten mine by a few frames if not for the wand. This really motivated me to improve, and three days later I completed what would become my first actual SDA publication—Marble Madness in 2:50.

They say nobody ever really owns a WR... you just borrow it for a while. If I thought that my run was strong enough to go unchallenged, I was wrong. Another runner named Big Walsh turned in a time of 2:48.8 later in May of 2014 and really pushed me to up my game. I reclaimed the record in July of 2014 with a 2:48.6, and pounded it down to 2:47.5 by October. I was streaming it all at this point, and I was starting to get a few regular viewers and chatters as I was working on the Marble grind.

And so followed the second major time that Marble Madness had a major impact on my life, AGDQ 2015. I had made enough connections from the speedrunning community that I had developed a serious interest in going to the event that was the catalyst for my getting into speedrunning one year earlier. For real-life type reasons, I was two years into an acute depressive episode and thought that the vacation might be a welcome distraction. Without exaggeration, the event was transformative and life-changing. I went there having never met a single soul, and was floored to find that some people knew me. Several people who I followed and seriously looked up to preempted my introduction with "Oh, Elipsis! Yeah I know your run, you're the Marble guy." A couple of people stopped me in the hallway that week and said something along the lines of "Oh hey, I recognize you from your stream, I loved your record video." I remember the distinctive surreal feeling of hanging out with people who I saw as some of the world's best NES runners and realizing that they were treating me like one of them.

I mention none of this is to toot my own horn, or try to put myself on some fictional list of god gamers... I mention it because imposter syndrome is a real and brutal boss fight, and somehow through the kindness, comradery, and acceptance of the speedrun community I managed to leave AGDQ 2015 with a massive weight finally lifted from my shoulders. I remember the four-hour drive home, my mind racing with all the (fake) names of my (real) friends who I was excited to watch stream when I got back. I remember all of the hype for the new runs I had learned in the practice room that I was going to try when I got back to my setup. I remember all the incredible tricks and skills that my new friends had shown off that I couldn't believe I got to see in person. And the invasive, depressive thoughts? They actually stopped. I remember so clearly the realization that I hadn't so much as slightly struggled with any of that pain in the last twelve days... and it was such a relief that I cried. It never came back. Speedrunning changed my life.

The third time Marble Madness left a permanent mark on my brain was SGDQ 2017. By this point in time, the record had been improved significantly, thanks to an extremely prolific runner named Toad22484 suddenly smoking my 2:47 with a 2:46 and a day later a 2:45 in July of 2015. I'll never forget the inspirational words runner Svenne said to me as we were discussing Toad's two-second improvement over my time. Simply, "Now you know what is possible." It took me until December of 2015 to reclaim it, and even then by less than 0.1s. Still, I kept pushing, and by the time SGDQ 2017 rolled around I had ground it down to 2:44.2. This would make my fourth GDQ attendance, but more significantly, my very first time on the stage as a runner. While people put varying amounts of stock into GDQ appearances, it was a really special moment for me. Overflowing with nerves and everything that that comes with, I completed Marble Madness with no resets with over 100,000 Twitch viewers in 2:56 and tied the marathon record. It was an exhilarating moment that made me feel like I had come full circle from a passive viewer just a few years earlier. In 2014, being invited to be on the biggest stage in speedrunning would have sounded like a fever dream. In 2017, the dream came true.

So where is Marble Madness now? It's in very capable hands, and I don't mean mine. Let's rewind to AGDQ of 2017 for a moment, when as a somewhat casual River City Ransom runner I was invited to couch the game by a fellow named Yelsraek. It was a fantastic run, and the GDQ adventure lead to some hanging out in the practice room. Yelsraek spent some time helping me improve my own RCR game, and mentioned in passing an interest in learning Marble Madness. I was happy to give him a crash course, and I remember making the statement "I hope you decide to run it more seriously sometime." Boy. Did. He. Ever. If you missed his 1p2c bonus run after our co-op run at SGDQ 2019, you'll want to check it out... he's still the only one in the world who has ever completed the category. As it stands now, Yelsraek has crushed the single-player record down to a once-thought-impossible time of 2:40.8 and swept through the other less contested categories. His latest run improves on the prior record of 2:41.1 by Spef, one of several Spelunky runners to float over to NES Marble Madness and contribute important routing and strategy optimizations.

And that brings us up to present day. The human sum of best is now 2:39, and the world record is currently 2:40... there aren't a lot of games that are this optimized, and yet there is still room to improve. The TAS is significantly faster than what humans have achieved to date, mostly due to the amount of ridiculous offscreen gameplay required. Still, there is nothing about the current TAS that a human isn't theoretically capable of reproducing—so with enough practice and patience, maybe a sub 2:40 is out there one day. If speedrunning has taught me anything it's that you never know when the next player, the next glitch, or the next discovery is going to come out of nowhere and change everything. I, for one, am not boxing up my marbles just yet… even as I run 30+ games now, this is the one that most loudly calls to my heart. You never forget your first.

Cheers friends, thanks for sharing a part of my Marble journey.

-Elipsis



(LotBlind's addendum, quotes from Elipsis)

Thank you so much Elipsis for writing our second Community Column! Aside from all the links in Elipsis' epic essay, to pick out the two new SDA Marble Madness submissions, we have Steve 'Elipsis' Barrios & 'yelsraek''s co-op 0:03:07 which improves the previous by 10 seconds, "rolling in at 3:07 and showing off some new tech. There are times when you can feel 'the run' trying to come out, and this one elicited an immediate hat throw in the practice room. As is often with two player co-op runs, it can be hard for top players from disparate parts of the world to get together for such a collaboration, so you can anticipate that this run will be around awhile... or at least until the next GDQ." The other run was already mentioned, a new 3-second improvement to the previous SDA 1-player category by 'yelsraek', down to 0:02:40. "Only about a second slower than the human sum of best, this run is one of the cleanest and most polished I've ever seen, an absolute must-watch for any NES speedfans out there."

"It's not always about speed though (What?!). Yelsraek also took the time this year to get the high score record! It's a silly run where you actually need wands, but he summoned good RNG for two of them and finished with a high score of 181,850."

Friday, August 16, 2019 by LotBlind

To goad goats so they go to where I go, too, ... is my go-to.

Nebulus indeed. What is this lopsided creature trying to accomplish? On the wiki page it says it's on a bombing run, which would explain one of the game's several titles, Tower Toppler, but I don't see the entropy-acceleration device anywhere. And planting them at the tops of buildings to make the whole thing tumble down has the same foul smell as certain other officially endorsed theories. You get points for "technique" so I'm thinking it should be called Tower Diver instead. See, my best guess is The Thing is half-pelican-half-flounder, pulled by primitive drives both sky- and water level -wards. It can't really fly because of its flounder side, but it can glide like the acest of squirrels.

You haven't actually seen this one on SDA before. The game gets very laggy (even the credits song sounds laggy to me) and isn't necessarily the most fun to play but it sure looks pleasing to see the 3D rotation trick that was an NES first. A solid rather unique concept might be why the runner took the time to add a 0:14:06 into the collection, right around also TASing it as he is wont to do. Knowing what the game is running on, there's at least a 50% chance it's 'ktwo''s vaunted artisanship. I'm thinking at some point he paid SDA money for the exclusive rights to the console, and I'm just sad cause I seem to have missed any slices of the corruptalicious pie. Because I'm feeling anarchistic, I'm telling you now that he's the culprit for the next 0:05:11 run as well before bothering to inform you of the game in question.

The game in question, that is, being something you wouldn't firstly associate with the NES at all. When I hear "AD&D", aside from grisly Accidental Death and Dismemberment insurances, I think complex PC games like Pool of Radiance, Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights. The licence has also seen outings with less focus on byzantine die-roll-athons and more on the general fantasy setting, as in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of the Lance. Cynics will doubt there's any actual reason why this game is AD&D-infused other than it having been hot stuff at the time, smack-bang in the middle of the so-called CRPG Golden Age ('C' for 'Classic'), with the likes of SSI's "Gold Box" series and the Ultima games on triumphant parade. Historically, PCs and consoles have mixed like flaming oil and boiling water, and while the PC versions were kindly welcomed, no love was lavished on the NES port at the time despite having the same basic side-scrolling action gameplay, with spells and stuff.

So, this death-abusing run was improved by 8 seconds, mainly from a shortcut. I could link it again but I already did, when I was going through my anarchistic phase. I think I was listening to Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" at the time, which is oddly apt for these tesselating dungeon environments as well.

I do have one more run for y'all. Have you ever felt the goats in your life were simply running out of control? In need of acute physical consolidation? A good, hard, authoritative round-up? If you thought the floundelican from the first game was memetic, get a load of this 0:00:15.40, Ma'm! Cause it's about herding goats. In a minigame from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Now, I'm far-right even at my least governable by contrast with guys like 'Habreno', for whom one frame in nine years of collective efforts is within the bounds of reasonable time allocation. It's not mentioned in the brief comments, but there has GOT to be a real-life pop-up for the level-up after you're done with something like this.

But wait, is this how goats work, or is Goat Simulator how goats work? They can't both be right, can they?

Sunday, July 14, 2019 by LotBlind

The Mudo of All Kons

Amazingly, the correct pronunciation, at risk of sounding white[r] and nerd[ier], seems to be /muːˈdɒkən/, moo-DUCK-n. I have, as of writing this, self-induced much mirth saying that out loud a dozen or so times, and I feel like I've just gotten started. It's like you're answering the question: "What's your favorite stellar object?" but the sudden flying intrusion of one of those deadly Oddjob steel-braced hats breaks your flow for a couple of tenths.

Speaking of "odd jobs", the main Mudo-man of Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee certainly works one in a less-than-sanitary food processing plant. One fine day he finds out his kind are, funnily enough, both the subjects AND the objects at the production line. You know the drill: Abe goes flip-flop out, Mudokons incur penalty slaughtering, Abe stumbles back in with furiously bobbing backscratcher where any amount of emergency relief supplies or ninja gear could have been hoisted, remaining Mudokons lift one finger each... You've got a gratifying pocket-sized 0:10:11 presentation from the artist himself, Sam 'Samtastic' Locke, in the fastest Single-segment category, headlined "RuptureFarms' Instant Karma: 9 out of 10 Sligs can't tell the difference with the brewed variety". The run knocks off seven seconds since last August, mainly by oiling the bees more and being generally flawless.

Don't nothin' spell "radical" more than arcade run 'n' guns. At any given time, two thirds of the VRAM is filled with explosion sprites. When people get hurt, they get heard. The intense drum-atic midi data is solely dedicated to the One God of Awesome. The overarching hallmark for all us prissy prose-pushers is the romantization of war and the idea of the untouchable one-man army (though "untouchable" may be a foregone conclusion to an Average G.I. Joe). Am I overanalyzing things? I think going overboard is very much par for the course here! I've just witnessed a tank jacking itself up to make room for a massive flamethrower turret hooked on its underbelly.

Whatever mama said, I'm really not convinced there actually WERE better uses for small change in the arcade era, other than maybe coin magic. Like, what, am I gonna feed it to that greedy piggy bank? It's 0% interest, mom... but this game is 100% of interest to me! "Coin magic" is apropos for what 'Koston' here has done with Metal Slug, going for the default level 4 difficulty with no sissy boy death abuse. The game's undoubtably mesmerizing attract mode has drawn in casuals as well as speedrunners to the fray since the beginning of its personal timeline, so every strategy has been double-checked like Santa on Christmas. This 0:11:44 combines a load of old and new insights and wipes blood-drenched floors with its competition. Put it in the playlist or I'm telling!


BLINDING NEWS FLASH

Prompted by a forum enquiry, after some ponderation we've decided that Analogue's awesomely accurate mimic consoles are A-OK on SDA! This comes with a few basic caveats, mainly just being careful in case there are any leftover bugs that change the games' behaviour, and helping us by showing the Buffer Mode settings and firmware version before or after your runs. The three kinds of consoles Analogue produces or produced are the NT Mini (NES and Famicom), the Super NT (SNES and Super Famicom) and the Mega SG (Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega CD, Master System and Game Gear). They're not exactly cheap but do come seriously close to the real things, each of them, with luxury options to tinker with. We won't stop you from running even more systems through officially released adapters. Again, just let us know how exactly you've recorded your run so we can time it fairly.

We'll see what the future holds in terms of replacement consoles. Expect more announcements like this at some indefinite (but definite) time in the future.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019 by LotBlind

I Suppose I[k]ar[i]us Could Be Described as the Original "Ray Man"

Ciao!

Today's first run gives cause to keep on the Italian a little longer. Who would have known "hello" and "goodbye" can be said with the same word? While last time I suggested the "escape" in Rayman 2: The Great Escape was one into the great wide OOB open, I suppose you could similarly ascribe it to the incrementing dimensionality: 2D->3D. Such a bold passage brings about one inevitable snag in particular: where to stick the dog-darned camera so the players don't dog-darn it all the way to Dante's Inferno? I'm seeing a decent primer in cinematography here as it seems it could probably fill in the most crucial "whos", "whats" and "whens" in a stern police interrogation.

Through this floaty, adaptible eye we bear witness to trudging totem poles, mobile magma, what I'm going to call bog wraiths, a whale bird, and the occasional just-a-patch-of-ground-because-lag-management. What? Oh, the whale? I'm not seeing Rayman respecting the regulations of sub-aquatic movement much so I've formed an alternative hypothesis. They're in a large cavity filled with gaseous tungsten hexafluoride at 100atm... Or the size-impaired ocean-occupant  is made of aerogel. Or filled with helium. Or made of aerogel filled with helium. Or – *OCCCCAAAAAM'S RAZOOOOORRRR* – it's a bird! The runner, as before, is the amazing amalgam 'Manocheese' and with an any% w/ deaths improvement of 17:48, bigger than the whale most certainly, breaks into sub-2 territory (1:59:37), something marathon runners are somehow still struggling with.

Ikari is Japanese for 'fury', and the whole of what was painted on their cabinets as well. They took it from the Japanese title of the second Rambo flick. If you invert Rambo (so you tear his skin apart and pull whatever is deepest in furthest out), you'll find the embers of a kind of slow-burning inner fire that will, hackneyedly, illuminate your path to great success. I don't quite know where I was going with that but I can tell you that, with the game in question, that path's now both straighter and narrower than ever.

Whether the old and the new with-deaths runs are viewed one after the other or side by side, you still struggle to catch the moments of divergence in the 0:26:16 for the game that 'ktwo', out of all of his games, is or ought to be most famous for. Talking about the 8-bit meat grinder that is NES Ikari Warriors – except the majority end up in more than eight bits actually. That parallel playback option creates a typical kind of cacophonous and euphonious welter, in turn Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #6 and the wayward middle cadence of "A Day in the Life" (try 1:45 in). Desync the runs do, and dutifully, one winding down 19 seconds ahead of the other, with itsy improvements scattered all through. That's what you'd expect when the basic goal is to hold up arrow as audaciously you think you can get away with, and the old run was no proverbial slouch.

I think the game's win screen has never meant it more: "You are the very prevailer" indeed.

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