Tuesday, December 21, 2021 by LotBlind

Blind Guessing #1: The State of Play on SDA

One of the big upsides of having something of a lull in submissions is I've finally managed to pull off writing one of the several articles whose topics keep crossing my mind, which I've decided to call "Blind Guessing", to liven up the front page. Honestly we're still all about quality on this site so we'd much rather take less incoming runs but all of them passing with flying colors rather than a lot of iffy stuff that hardly punches through the whatever you call the tape suspended at the finish line of some running events. And that quality is a function of the run commentary as well. So let's address the topic of SDA's waning "relevance" (hard to find a word more steeped in soggy individualism). There are a lot of constituting factors given here in a haphazard order:

  1. Elaine Marley's election slogan is laconic but irrefutable: "When there's only one candidate, there's only one choice." If you wanted your run up on the Internet somewhere, for a long time for the great majority of games, SDA was it. Just because everyone was sending their runs over doesn't mean they were in any way subscribed to SDA's deeper philosophy or even aware of or in agreement about what it should be exactly (it was something that evolved over time and in part out of sheer pragmatic reasons). This goes for a lot of stuff in life. You can find threads on the forum brimming with displeasure all through the times. You can't have what SDA does without a greater amount of effort from both the runners and site volunteers, so now when easier alternatives to just plop it out there exist, it's not really a big statement to stop doing it the more complicated and slow way, with another big delay before publication, if you never appreciated any of the benefits it might have brought along with it. BTW: The same applies in equal measure to finding high-quality runs to watch – that was similarly an SDA monopoly once, although compared to a randomly selected run on any site with no specific standards to aim for (and especially if you care at all for clean audio/video and some helpful commentary), it still is! Just not on as large a scale I suppose.
  2. Ever since the marathons broke off from SDA (which I understand was inevitable due to the increasing complexity and workload of organizing bigger and bigger events, and whatever else), not only did a lot of the staff go with them (I don't know how many would have stayed without the marathons but we may assume some would) meaning less manpower to continue developing the site, but also SDA stopped getting regular shout-outs anywhere in particular. None of the current staff is particularly oriented that way either, to any greater degree than I am. When something stops being marketed, it starts being forgotten about. Even when newcomers become aware of SDA, it's often in a somewhat negative light because they're asking on sites other than SDA itself where people who've been around long enough to have anything to say about SDA at all, obviously, will be ones who have made the choice to stop using it (I suppose some small part use both). Or the information they're getting isn't sufficient to understand why some people see it as the "gold standard" to quote someone from not long ago.
  3. Relatedly, when someone finally took the initiative to launch Speedrun.com, it was obviously far better-suited for what it was specifically designed for: mainly leaderboards and active competition in single-segment runs. SDA is for single "ambassador" runs prepared for the benefit of those masses of people who aren't interested enough in a particular game to go out of their way to look for those "random runs" for it elsewhere like YouTube, which in many cases are very much just a work-in-progress at best. SDA wasn't ever amazing at constant updates of the game pages with each passing WR, which in some cases drop far too often. To submit a run on SDA is an act of extroversion (and altruism) that contradicts the generally introverted Discord servers etc. around a particular game.
  4. Popularity breeds popularity. YouTube isn't a gazillion times more popular than DailyMotion or whatever comes second because it's a gazillion times better by any other metric. It's mainly because it's THE site. What led to that situation is another matter. Of course being THE anything means you tend to have the resources to keep streamlining and improving your system, even if it's just more volunteers. Things tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies in a situation where decisions are made on anything other than principles, which don't seem to be of the essence these days in case they sometime were.
  5. Because independent communities became more commonplace, more commonly the advantages of SDA's universal rules started to be lost. They're not visible until you start zooming out and thinking about games as a whole. Why should one community make arbitrary decision X and another arbitrary decision Y when we have a tradition of going with X by default? And wouldn't more people participating in the discussion have more wisdom on the matter to begin with? (Here's a thread serving as an example of that.) Long story short, our rules aren't really even very often at odds with what communities are doing anyway (which in turn might be partly inherited from SDA, either that or they're just very natural rules to have), and whenever they are, we tend to have an argument that's not just "this is what the community decided". I have a big bone to pick with the words "the community". That tends to be an argument by popularity (and doesn't mean everyone who's not just sheepishly tagging along agrees with it anyway) which is a primary culprit in all kinds of harmful status quos. I know that SDA's argument is, to a large degree, an argument by tradition and thus in a similar camp on paper, but those are still useful in not having to reinvent the wheel so many times with different standards each time. I might have to write more on this some day but the main takeaway should be, because it's veritably true, that most of the time SDA is actually fine with the category divisions used by "the community" even though timing is done in a different (arguably more sophisticated) way and even though there's a limit to how many categories we'd accept. I mean, it's a fact not every category that's been suggested on speedrun.com is actually being run by anyone anyway. It's a line in the sand drawn differently for the benefit of the average run quality.
  6. Streaming: When Twitch took off, many people switched from local recordings to streaming, which naturally made them wanna interact with chat. It's just kind of the default these days to stream I guess, and also helps to prove your runs aren't cheated. If they don't know how to or think it's too much effort (it's not, in OBS at least) to separate the game audio into its own track, none of what they do is eligible for SDA anymore due to a lack of clean game audio. Also there's the temptation to tack something like a timer onto the game video. I don't personally understand what the big deal is to assume there's some portion of the audience that's really mainly interested in watching the game output and not hearing the random chatter and live reactions or knowing what exactly your splits were when most of that stuff doesn't mean much to the casual viewer anyway. Also the stream viewers (and YouTube comments as well) are more tangible than the "potential" viewership of SDA even if SDA's was the same size (in some cases it will be bigger, actually), so those wanting a quick-n-easy fix of gratification through social means won't be attracted to what SDA promises. To comment on someone's run, you need to go to the forums, find/start the relevant thread, and express it there. Just not what people are used to going through I guess.
  7. Unfortunately, the prices on console games and cartridges and such are skyrocketing because of increasing rarity and also recently, some kind of artificial speculation that can go to hell. Because SDA doesn't accept emulated runs or clone consoles (with a few exceptions), this can put a pretty major hurdle in the way of anyone interested in submitting for an older console. Of course, it's not like everyone needs to have that capability anyway: just one submission per game per category every several years is plenty when the SDA audience isn't collectively so actively interested in any particular game anyway. You can still look for strategy improvements and such on an emulator, or just practice various parts of the run individually. You should! Maybe you can even borrow someone else's gear for the time it takes you to complete a submittable run, once you're truly ready? In the future, let's hope we get more stuff like Analogue's hyper-accurate clone consoles, and more affordable too. And everyone who just cares for the games as they were back in the day is suffering from the current hyperinflation of prices, that's not just an SDA thing.
  8. A surprising number of people complain about the way the site looks. I know it's not had a mobile-friendliness pass done. Other than that, urm... I'll let you be the judge of it, but it's never bothered me at all.

This isn't a complete listing by any means, just some stuff mostly off the top of my head. For more points that I missed, try this thread for instance (and probably a bunch of others). If you like SDA, it's likely the reasons are one or more of those suggested on this page. If you're new and interested in submitting a run, refer to this post. Okay, let that be all for today! Regular posting of runs will continue with the next update tentatively slated for January. Cyaz!

Saturday, November 6, 2021 by LotBlind

Overnight Retreat in Princess Howlch's Unmoving Castle

Apologies for any and all tardiness in publishing runs recently: I've been moving house and couldn't keep up my usual pace. The same certainly cannot be said for the runners featured in today's update however!

Speaking of moving houses, curious how it seems you can find utterly spotless yet A-grade affordable domicile inside bosses' hitboxes sometimes, eh? Is this at all akin to how you can poke your head inside a lion's maw and come off none the worse (something we surely discussed in that Lion King update)? Do you need to coat your pate with Marmite or fat-free mayonnaise for that to work? Are there similar preparatory measures for hitbox camping? Actually and obviously there are – like having lots of health for starters, or some kind of shield thing. I was gonna call hitboxes out for being an exceedingly abstract source of pain but it's in the name, isn't it? A hit-box. A hit-you-box. A smack-in-the-box! A slap-box?

The one promoting the ranger's mode of lodging here is Phillip 'ZELLLOOO' Shanklin who couldn't resist the call of the wild once again. The wild being the wasteland of the infected cyberspace in Mega Man Network Transmission. It's understandable a runner would feel at least somewhat entangled in its snares: where could you reallocate your know-how? It's too unique a combination of gameplay mechanics not to feel at least an initial sense of loss handing in your resignation letter from this particular game. If you want a full exposition on why that would be, hark back to the January 24th and June 25th updates, BTW. Maybe ZEL will dig something up and educate my proverbial ass on what is and isn't unique in the world of vidya games though. I think we could probably accommodate more card platformers, inside hitboxes and out. Anyway, to one-up previous efforts this time, it came down to things like saving a crusher cycle here, fitting in another damage boost there... Multiple gold splits culminate in a 0:54:06 of the any%, a cybernetic enhancement of 1:32 from his old already robotically robust record.

There hasn't been much news from the Toadstool Estate since about 2014. If I had the kind of paranoia that affixes all my experiences with the external agency of people who can, quite casually, read my mind, I would be inclined to think this prolonged dry spell of acrobatic takes on Super Mario 64's various run categories is only because they understand how much gnashing of teeth and subsequent jaw-locking needing to find an original train or strain or central European -style S-train of thought on a game whose want for talking-about has been as dotingly nursed would have incurred me, and is incurring right now gnash gnash. I don't normally go through any Action Button* -levels of preparation to pinpoint, for each game and run, the most rarefied of words that the reader, having exhausted all other ports of sacred insight, has been left most grievously strapped for...  but that's not because I'm at all confident what I'm about to say on each of them has not been, to some extent, said before somewhere sometime. Today, I'm almost perfectly convinced I'm about to rehash a thing even if I rig up a random number generator to a dictionary search bar, run it for half an hour and stick the resulting dough into an oven of faltering machine translations, going English-into-Icelandic-into-Zulu-into-Some-Dialect-of-Akkadian-Spoken-in-the-Western-Parts-of-the-Middle-Assyrian-Empire-into-English again, so long as I remember to spank a bright tag on it saying "Baked You a Cake". Speaking of, Gabe Newell says this game is his favorite ever. Valve's Gabe Newell. Valve? Portal? Cake??

As per the old venerable code of LotBlind SDA updates, this is where we're likely to enter the nitty-gritty of who and what, with some potential of a how or why. 'Xiah' is who. 0 stars is what. 0:06:44 is how [long]. "Cuz" is the most I can say on why. The run is significantly faster than the old SDA record, though how much exactly I'm not sure since it was timed using a different method.

* That guy's work comes highly recommended BTW. If you think the video game review had been perfected before him, I think YOU a damned fool!

In the left-field oddball of this update, in On the Run you're... you guessed it... actively retreating. In a vehicle. From other vehicles. I think that's about it. If you only watched the run, you'd be excused for thinking its storyline would make a great deal of sense only if framing a comedy: why do you need to do a full lap around the city first before getting to scoot over to the exit, thenceforth emerging into what looks like the Aqueduct trench from DOS classic Street Rod 2 (ultimately from Grease, no doubt) like it's some kinda pinball machine where the big booty is all stuck behind secured side lanes? Since you're also getting the benefit of reading about the run in this update first, you'll realize that... Those beams might imply an awkwardly timed train. Doesn't stop it from being a comedy though. As is statistically probable, this one wasn't particularly unpopular within the very large clan of what we cannot actively retreat from calling "random" Flash games that were effectively all freeware/adware and thus sort of "what-can-you-expect?" on the mean... or is that me being mean? In fact, as is statistically probable, this was some kind of hit in its own right with several similar sequels. At its core, this game series has honored its legacy all the way to the latest iteration, FFX Runner (a fair bit better-suited for trawling out of a search engine), being like a GTA 1 in mini-miniature through a chase cam if it wasn't out to shock the elderly and rouse the politicians who know that's who's voting for them.

On the Run [itself] now: One of those nostalgic or bored enough to give it a swift swing was 'RaulFran' who effects the laziest iteration of evasive maneuvers in 0:03:13.9, actually employing the AI drivers, bent to bulldoze, to overcome a far-too-languid maximum speed. This is the fastest run around in a competitive field so don't scoff at it, you scoffy person, even if you were for some reason going to.

Sunday, September 5, 2021 by LotBlind

Lost a Flying Tackle Box Lording Over Non-Fun Jezebels on the Open C

The next one really had me a bit lost as I confused it with one of its siblings. It's Lost Lands: Dark Overlord from an expansive series which are mostly pay-once, but a few of them Five-BN implemented something more mobiles-like in. A system where, while the download is free, your daily play time is limited by in-game "energy" obviously on offer for cash and I was wondering how the runner circumvented that but that was all in my mind. Secondly, I've lost the big difference between a traditional point-and-click adventure game and this "hidden object" game. The small difference is the specific emphasis on, well, hidden object puzzles, but in this game and presumably the whole series, there is also tons of everything else – rotating wheels, sliding tiles, and your common-or-garden item combination – so the lines are very blurry though certain conventions exist (like you need very crisp graphics to effectively hide things I suppose). Past that, I've been lost about what it means if a game is "casual". According to the definition currently up on wiki, shouldn't a lot of graphical adventure games always have been casual since something like Maniac Mansion or Loom? That is if we only require "simpler rules, shorter sessions, and less learned skill", since such games tend to be quite intuitive on a basic level. There's things you'll want to commit to long-term memory, and there's following the story through mindfully, whereas the little exposure I've had to hidden object stuff suggests the stories, at least, a child can understand. But wait, the Nancy Drew games are casual too apparently? I think "casual" is as much a calculated marketing/profiling move as anything.

Anyway, while this game is normally paid-for, there IS energy required in marathoning through all the puzzles without insensible stumbles, so
Michael 'arglefumph' Gray instead split his 0:33:26 into smaller, unerring morsels, numerically 28 of them, which conveniently also interrupts certain animations that otherwise hog up time at no-one's behest. There are subtler time-saving techniques here, too, including choosing the right way to pass between screens efficiently and trying to make many things happen concurrently, all explained in the pro-grade comments. This is argle's second go at the game with increased zeal after he found his first casual tryst with this casual game accruing views on his YouTube. NB: The StatID says something about a 34-minute run which is incorrect, and also segment 23 has the wrong segment number. Poop occurs.

Would you believe Marti Wong is selling NFGs now? That's my man, one half of the dev duo that wooed every freeware lover's heart with 1999's Little Fighter 2 smackstravaganza. Himself, Mr. Wong doesn't seem wooed, or even wonged, but rather woed, by the swashbucklers of the Waterworld we're increasingly living in, causing what was meant as a commercial sequel's, Hero Fighter's, all-important monetization scheme to capsize. Now, I have a soft spot for talk about pay-for-production instead of pay-for-distribution. It seems, on paper at least, like an ideal solution, removing a big nasty unknown from the aspiring software developer's calculations while also obviating the money-grubbing middle men where they still be a-lurkin' 'neath the waves. But that's not the sort of open seas* that these Chinese hackers in question are paving the... sea road... towards. "Pay-for-nothing-at-all" isn't some kind of lost evolutionary link between the traditional models and the one I'm presently espousing, waiting for someone to sea change my mind.

Anyway, what are NFGs? Beats me brother! The guy also has a traditional Patreon account, which, now that I think about it, kinda IS that missing link. So we've been doing it for so long already? Aside from the Hero one, Marti is also remaking the Little 2 one. Which you get a very narrow glimpse into through Antonio Peremin's latest run, completing the single-fight any% mode on Easy in an (apparently) record-tying 0:00:10, having made sure the opponent he's fighting is the weakest one.

* I swear I didn't realize Open Sea was also the Web's most saline... uh... salient NFG marketplace, lolllolololollullz! Is it kinda ironic that their currency is "Ether" when the reality of The [A]ether was disproven some time before the 20th century? Is this is what we all be investing in nowadays? I can't say I'm surprised after Theranos came and went.

We're going to briefly revisit something next that's probably still hanging on for dear life at the bottom of our rather longitudinal front page, in the November 16th update. I never found the time for 'HIKARI_MGS''s Single-segment European Extreme Foxhound Rank 1:17:30 but I DID for this new iteration in 1:17:09. I think I'm hopelessly late to any and all social events themed around pointing this out but... Metal Gear Solid 3 is hilarious. In case you're also still in the middle of brushing up your ballroom bangs or priming your party pumps, you can rest assured copious comedy awaits you on the other side of this alternate history portal to the high definition remake thereof.

There's plenty of small snack-sized snakes slithering about, but Mr. "Snake Eater" doesn't seem too peckish. Snake does, though, look like he's always about to eat the next trickily placed piece of masonry, flailing his arms and poking his head far forward like he's an anime... thing. Looks like Naruto DID come out a few years before this. The voice work is also suffused in that severely uncalled-for melodrama you'd be likely to hear in an anime. I'm pretty sure this effect always requires the translation to be uncanny valley at best to guarantee that authentic vibe. Is it just me or do all the guards sound one age rating too wide-eyed as well? They're always as readily beguiled by Snake's "C Box A" ("It's just A Box, C? An innocent cardboard box on its regular migration from Novosibirsk to Mumbai."), and the guard dogs always as fussy about whose permissionless passage it's worth their while stirring from rosy slumbers for. None of it is far from show wrestling levels of make-believe. Just look at the way Snake does that flying tackle special of his to INSTANTLY AND INDIFFERENT TO ANYTHING benumb a central nervous system, systematically overruling objections from causality.

Hmm... I seem to have made the assumption before that because this type-o-run goes for the elitest of grades, it must also be the least straightforward to flying tackle. However, just because removing that would give you a free hand on various grungy gadgets and less discreet modus operandii, its superiority in this sense doesn't strictly, by pure reason, have to be the case. What we CAN safely discern staring at the SRC leaderboard is this run is not only the fastest in its category that doesn't use a turbo controller... it's faster than ALL the other runs except those played on the other extreme, "Very Easy", difficulty. Those are runs awarded flimsy ranks like "leech" and "flying [tackle] squirrel". It's clear just from how cramped the times are near the top of the category Hikari has doggedly continued to whale away at that this very one is that which has been placed the most pressure on, making this an even more illustrious crown on his forehead. The run looks almost perfect. It's easy to forget it's not a scripted Machinima show or something. Just another brilliantly executed plan by the bright mind of Hikari and whoever else might be responsible for laying the groundwork for it. For paving... the sea road for.

Speaking of bright...

Blinding News Flash (sorry this is late, technical difficulties)

Another month, another marathon! This time it's the Big Bad Gameathon of 2020! Of 2022! Lulz just bein' funny ol' me... of 20X6! You wouldn't believe the "Stinkoman" emanating from these massive piles of whatsit! Thank our good neutral deity Jove for the swift decease of the Smell-o-Vision. Malodorous details in this thread in urgent need of sanitation.

Sunday, July 25, 2021 by LotBlind

Temporary Temporal Distortions in Confined Quarters

Never less a staple than last update's Quake III in global esports circuits, Starcraft also provides a much-liked one-player campaign for the introvert to enjoy. Earlier, I created this thread to discuss the "ideal RTS" as the highest skill cap game in speedrunning. Not every mission fits that pattern but there's certainly a little bit of it in two of the missions that are getting obsoleted today, Zerg 3 in 3:20 (down 1:27) and Zerg 4 in 1:28 (down 0:03), which are essentially more optimized abusings of some witchcraft that results in invulnerable and ill-tempered zerg workers. The third one, Protoss 6 in 1:58 (down 0:16), is an intestinally tortuous corridor, and an exceptionally torturous "Mor-ri-dor". Escorting of your tiny squad through all the nibble-happy zergdom would constitute a fine final exam at the Extreme Shepherding Academy in case that's a thing. These are from runner 'Plissken2097''s backlog but are, at a glance, more or less state-of-the-art, even by some margin. The new total is 2:27:04.

I noticed Freezard and Zergreenone created a nifty guide for this game in our Knowledge Base earlier. It's a good example of how to present and preserve such useful information in an organized and freely editable way. Starting a guide is simple. Wink wink! ;)

Chopin as Chopin in Chopin-land? I think every composer gets sucked up into their mind, like a leper messiah, when in the process of composing. It's the source of that endless etude, that infinite fugue... that Eternal Sonata. And so this game is a take on what Chopin's final biographical "movement", in part based on events from his life, in part specific compositions of his, dressed as an otherwise fairly traditional JRPG might have looked like. I got sucked up into thought myself, as I rested my eyes on the alternately resplendent and splendiferous visuals, about whether the names assigned to the characters and places were mostly quite logical, or to some degree whimsical and arbitrary. Like what makes the Chorus Plains "chorus" exactly? Maybe it's an area that you return to lots of times in regular play? And what connection do choruses have with Chopin who never composed choral works, or pop music for that matter? Glissando Cliffs I can see: the motion up and down the ropes is a smooth sliding one. And Forte City is big and pompous while "Ritardando" suits a peaceful small town. "Xylophone Tower", which is a tower made of xylophone parts, seems accurate enough. Can anyone explain to me "Mandolin Church" on the other hand? I think it's made of... church parts? There's a chick called "Falsetto", and the female falsetto actually is a thing, at least physiologically, and can cause female singers to be misclassified, with a potentially ruinous effect on many a promising faux soprano I'd imagine. The Adagio Swamp ('slow') really forces a subdued tempo on the runner, at least on the day of recording it did. "What do we call the mountain area?" – "Urrm... they're kinda jagged aren't they... Sharp Mountains?" The Wah Caves were named after... the wah-wah pedal?! The hot air does make everything visually undulate in that area, akin to what the pedal does to sound. If that really is the idea, I'll give you I would never have thought of that.

The routine fights in Eternal Sonata are from the Earthbound school: voluntary, or tantalizingly close to it. Herein lies the key, or if you will, the clef to fine-tuning run times, as 'valor' has here from his own 2:55:12 to a more concordant 3:51:01. If you can tell the new time is actually more than the old, you have nearly the same remarkable sense of arithmetic that valor needed when whittling away at the buff bosses, since tri-Crescendo made the ballsy move of completely scraping the health bars off enemies. Maybe the game needed all the bars it could get elsewhere in its musical design? Anyway, the trick here is the PS3 version simply has extra content compared to that of the PS2, hence the run time – and the number of barely dodgeable encounters – increasing. While the legibility of text boxes we speedrunning fanatics are, as a self-inflicted punishment, denied the joy of, we are not denied the joy of the voice-overs, which I find hilarious in parts. "Let us celebrate and be satisfied." I'm sure valor both celebrated and was satisfied with his run.

Compared to the other shooters we've gotten to relish recently, in Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil, it's less cozy arenas with an inordinate abundancy of leg- and headroom, and more a 3000-meter steeplechase event inside an office building that shifts between normality and horrid vistas of a plane of eternal condemnation (so an office building), with a hurdle every five meters, water hazards, sharks, and lasers on the sharks. Any wonder then 'lekolega' decided to re-stack the odds back in his favor, isolating the numerous problem areas and tailoring a solution to each, for just short of 50 segments in total? His sweat-and-tears 0:26:57 incorporates some boosts so subtle I couldn't really even visually confirm them while watching, but I think it really is more about not getting snagged by any of the myriad spikes and thorns, such as those growing from all the, you know, frothing denizens of hell.

But wait! Again, we have a very short-lived mystery at hand... What causes this run not to obsolete the existing one despite the upped difficulty? Isn't this kind of stuff like going back in time to murdlerize your own thoroughly unsuspecting grandfolks, damn the causative torpedoes? Again, the universe protects us from unseemly grandparent-doxes. There's no obsoletion because on "Nightmare" your endeavours are aided by the unlocking of all the three superpowers from the get-go instead of one by one after various tests and trials. (Like how those progressively more inclusive driver's licenses should work, I tell you!) That seems awfully kind given what nightmares the original two games' "not even remotely fair" highest setting left the Marine hounded by till the early hours when military types gotta get up and report for duty. [An almost continuous] "Resurrection of Evil" describes those games better than this one, surely. What's that? "The Marine takes 350% of the base damage. All medikits are removed from the game, and the player's health steadily drains until it's 25 or below." Well the kids are alright then!

Blinding News Flash

An upcoming Japanese speedrun marathon has been spotted on the curved horizon of the Earth we share. That event is called RTA in Japan, will take place between August 11th and 15th and please see this thread for info past that.

Friday, June 25, 2021 by LotBlind

Direct Connections to Delight

Fu! Fu! Ya! Chippu getto! Three peppy huffs for Phillip 'ZELLLOOO' Shanklin for keeping a difficult-to-keep promise. I made sure to highlight Mega Man Network Transmission's many complexities in a January update likely not yet to have tumbled into the oubliette behind the front page "black"... Well, things have only gotten more tangled-up since: the devious Professor's machinations are now getting undone in 2:00:42 while taking a more scenic, and decicively more OCD, road to get there.

Ain't no joyride on Route 100%! As I mentioned before, even the drops you get are meritocratic, with plenty of rare but compulsory pickings only available to men of swift and precise action. Not only that, a lot of the collectibles have at least some vague situational use, and thus have some kind of ripple effect after picking them up. A system of non-finite uses of special skills is akin to some early Final Fantasy games, cued in turn by AD&D CRPGs of the west. It causes ZEL to have to economize on even the lowly (more like highly?) double jump, something many other games treat axiomatically. That and there are tons of these cycling abilities – offensive, defensive and utility – the more of which you've gotten to grips with, the more fallbacks and redundancies you have for scooping from. Of the platformers, this must be Mega Man at its smartest. My belly tingles with joy!

There is a grind section but even that part's not as monotonous as they often get. Then there's another shorter gu-whack-a-mole and nacho intermission, which looks like it rewards fast reaction times. Anyway, not a run to miss, Miss!

But wait, where have YOU been all my life? We have an elephant-sized omission in the otherwise perfectly respectable gamepage list around the letter 'Q'. For a site that cut its mighty fangs on nothing but Quake for years, it's taken an awful long while for a showcase to surface of Quake III Arena. Now that has multiple reasons which I would enumerate as follows:

  1. The game always had significant online competition.
  2. The game is a big RNG fiesta.
  3. Grinding an FPS is rough on the hands.

Point one is a poignant one: Whenever the primary metric for skill is play against other people, self-confidences deflate like blown-out tyres, and no-one tends to have the balls to get the ball rolling. There's always a bigger fish with their latest recammed frag movie taking names on a server you're not even allowed to join. This is to some degree true of all speedrunning: we generally tend to only get what are WRs at the time (as many, though not all, of these runs are) even though it's not strictly compulsory. Still, the effect is more noticeable when skill metrics exist outside of the speedrun prowess itself. The most obvious of those would be universal typing speed tests vs. running the likes of The Typing of the Dead. So it's not a surprise the one to finally break this highly influential shooter for us is 'fearZZz', someone with experience in very high tier team deathmatch play especially, with those requisite recammed frag movies to testify.

Point two is poignant too: All your times are at the mercy of bot spawn locations. This initial 0:15:49.67 ILs collection is on the "You Can Win!" setting... More like "You Can't Lose!", actually. Quite uniformly, the more bots a-herpin' and a-derpin' around in your vicinity, the faster you reach the frags target that gradually goes up in increments of five. On the higher settings you could actually get overwhelmed as the bots will start to fight back. So this is, at the end of the day, a very long parade of prodigious skill and propitious RNG, more so than anything, but also of intelligent planning (just read the per-level comments) and good judgment calls. That makes this one required viewing also, or you're NOBUD. No bud o' mine, anyway.

Monday, April 26, 2021 by Akiteru

Community Column: Akiteru's Advice on Assumptions

Hi everyone!

I'm Akiteru, and I have been a member of SDA since late 2012.
My main speedgames have historically been Mega Man X and The Lion King (SNES), though I have ran other games at lower levels
of play as well.
Given that this article is associated with my 12:25 submission of The Lion King Difficult, I figured I would talk a little bit about
the game's progression and how important it is to experiment and think outside the box.

In late 2015-early 2016 I went on a pretty intensive grind to lower the Difficult record to a point where I was comfortable
submitting to SDA. I ended up getting a 13:48, the first 13-minute run in the world, which I was very happy with and
submitted shortly after. This run stood for over 2 years with no competition and no desire for me to lower it myself.
That was, until speedrunner Veo found a major skip in the Genesis version utilizing a leopard clip to skip nearly the entire
stage Be Prepared. Of course, since SNES and Genesis share a very similar engine, the skip worked in SNES as well.
I played the game on and off over the next few years, but eventually ended up with the 12:25 I have today. Had it not been for him,
I may not have touched the category again.

Veo did not have a history of running the game before finding the skip and grabbing the Genesis Easy world record.
It was an instance of a new set of eyes taking a look at the game and seeing a new opportunity. We had already been
using leopard clips to skip barriers one stage prior, in Simba's Destiny. At the time, I would have never considered
this new use of the tech. I was comfortable where I was in my grind and it had never crossed my mind to try it.
I was certainly impressed by this find. It came totally by surprise.

To this day, I keep it in the back of my mind when I'm working on optimizing a new game. It reminds me to never stop being
curious about what is possible. If you come up with an idea, it may be easy to convince yourself that someone must have
already tried it, but clearly that is not always the case. Give it a try anyway just to make sure.

I hope you enjoy watching my run of The Lion King. There is still some room for improvement but overall it is pretty solid
and I'm happy with it.

(LotBlind's addendum)

Didn't expect an improvement of over a minute for The Lion King, that 1994 animation tie-in platformer that's not exactly run-of-the-mill – for starters, it's super-tough for a kids' game as a response to the lesser cash-in-ability of a game that could be mostly completed during a rental. Take it from this guy. At the same time, he's saying it's not that much tougher than other platformers of the time? Maybe it's the cute guise provoking naive expectations then. Many of us never made it from "Scrub Cub" to "Neo Leo". Many of us are forever scarred by the villain's unopposed domination over the languishing lion nation. Be prepared... for real life, eh? Aside from bricks-tough it was also bricks-state-of-the-art in animation wizardry owing to collaboration with Disney's own artists. And similarly the music inherited from the movie OST like Simba, after some tribulations, from his dad. I did notice the Pride Rock fight and some other Scar-starring scenes, esp. "King of Pride Rock", are accompanied by a less subtle use of the classic "Dies Irae" theme than the movie, which seems to only have had a few individual quotings here and there.

As for speedrunning, this game has several SNES/60Hz frame-perfect tricks according to 'Akiteru''s run comments. It's also precise spatially as you can tell in a few of the stages, with some tricks of the trade making it all a bit more manageable. The 0:12.25 is also also precise RNG-wise. It's tamed some aspects of it kind of like wicked man used to tame the lions themselves. Where is that King of Beasts in its khaki kingdom? They're not called "prides" for nothing you know! Take a look at that golden number one next to that victorious smirk at the end and you'll understand how it feels to be firmly seated in the all-encompassing Circle of Life. I call for all to pay respect to the Panthera leo, our maned main man!

Waylaid by weariness? Waterlogged with wanton work? Well don't waste your weeks with wishy-washy woodledoo, wishlist the wacky and well-wadded-out Waladdin and The Why-oh-why-on Wing by wese wellas wover were. And wire ME to woo your WARKETING for woo! Weez, I can wange! This compilation really is worth mentioning though, with extras of the kind usually loaded into DVD releases of films, including a Mufasa-ton of mood-mellowing cheat options. An exemplary effort in software preservation AFAICS.

Saturday, April 10, 2021 by LotBlind

Gringeworthy Pilferama

I realize not all of our audience are native speakers, just judging by who's submitting runs. For that reason, I started this thread for asking questions about these updates if there's something you didn't quite understand, or you have a correction to make. Now onto today's update...

"Then I Wallie Kickflip Mctwist onto the pipe and 50-50 Madonna into a 360 Japan Air for the max score" is a completely believable utterance in the rad realm of digital skateboarding. The spirit of the sport is there: doing whatever you and your low-friction plank feel like doing like wherever you and your low-friction plank feel like doing it, effortlessly in a manifold mastery of motion. Like parkour but less focus on translocation. Getting that "whatever, wherever" sorted out is a good way to start gaming the judges in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater to make not just a big impression but a quick one as well. Obviously, the games in the series have also always followed their own arcane/arcade logic that contrasts with more realistic alternatives like Session and Skater XL. Like what the ... is going on with the combo at 2:08?! The more you push it, for speedruns or superplays, seems all the more abstract the relationship between the game and IRL shreddin' becomes.

Scanning the skateparks for lean lines we have 'Nami', inhabiting a skater called Rune. "Ruiner". That's not part of the categorization but felt critical to point out nonetheless. The old record is certainly in ruins, 0:03:19 all that's left after well over a third has been grinded away. It's the N64 version but using in-game time, as we do, the different consoles are equivalent anyway. I have no doubt this run will be particularly flocked to at the metaphorical airport (with deference to corona restrictions) given its short length and self-evident quality. I can tell not a lot of concessions were made to practicality on the runner's part.

BTW: I'm personally quite excited for the olympic skateboard event to be held in Tokyo in August – fingers crossed – especially in the midst of this prolonged dry spell in live events. Cringe. Grind-ge. Gringe.

The next game has less stops unpulled than there are full ones in this paragraph. What WAS stopped short of was making it run on period hardware and disincluding cheat-like options (though back in the day you could still have some sort of secret God password or something). The great gospel of Ladder-Game Saints is preached with plenty piety in The Adventures of Elena Temple. It was made to play like a platformer from the early 80's – and before "platform game" became the staple, there was at least one reviewer who tried calling them "ladder games" instead, according to Wikipedia. I think this one just has ropes though, so I think the right choice was made. The game window is framed with an old machine of your choosing, and even the machine is lined with comfy scenes that I think also emulate the 80's experience – at least I'm not seeing fancy smartphones and tablets disgracing those domestic sets. Escapism was in its infancy...

You can't see those props in the run itself since the game allows zooming to trim the trimmings. That sounds an awful lot like speedrunning to me! The inaugural run for this ladderless ladderer was run in 0:01:49 by 'riccTheThicc'. It completes one of the three separate merrily ransackable temples that the game comes with, while using NG+ options for some safety in a fundamentally hostile environment. No harm done. Not even to that frail-lookin' crockery. You'd expect things to smash a bit more. Gringe.

Saturday, March 20, 2021 by LotBlind

None of this Would Pass a Safety Inspection

Here's a gamepage from a prodigiously early layer of SDA's ecumenical era – that is from when Quake hasn't been its entire gig – with some very dusty runs on it as well. The oldest ones remind us how far we've come in recording technology in our race into the singularity, but you can just about make out a run time. By contrast, 'Pokemonmaster888''s 2009 video wasn't due for a replacement because of eye cancer prevention, but many other evolvements do inform his new 0:00:27.10 Classic Mode Ganondorf Very Easy record by about 5.5 seconds. Super Smash Bros. Melee is a fighting game but what's the subgenre called exactly? Effectively you've just opened up the arena more vertically and done away with guard rails. I picture there's a 50-gigavolt electric fence running all around it, doling out vehement punishment upon those who try uncourteously to drag the camera too far. The bully's logic, I know...

Should you choose wisely, to watch this run that is, you'll be in very good hands between a full audio introduction alongside the normative written comments. The runner has to challenge pairing RNG as well as the hare-brained easy AI so a solid next-to-WR like this can't be taken for granted.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz was originally for the Wii only, though now having joined the evergrowing list of games reanimated (and presumably retextured) for a second round of commercial distribution, including for the first time for this series on the PC. <very broken telephone>Apparently surgeons play these games to cut patients more precisely</very broken telephone>. Today, we cut more precisely with 'BeastlyBro26' for 0.08 seconds off in one of the bonus levels, the Monkey Island (not that Monkey Island) one, from 14.81 seconds down to 14.73. You can't deny this run is less bumpy than the old one, by two bumps to be exact.

From now on out, when submissions are this minimal, their introductions will be likely to be matchingly minimal.

Suggesting a class struggle doesn't inform Abe's Oddysee is like saying jazz didn't inform David Bowie. There's the classical Marxist milieu of a factory for starters, and it's pushing out soylent turquoise... Despite potential appearances, I'm not, in fact, particularly well-read or well-watched, other than in speedruns. I largely base my writings on what research I'm able to do within the confines of the vaguely monthly schedule. Thus quotes like this, on an as-of-yet unreleased animated movie the developer Oddworld Inhabitants had on their agenda, work overtime for me: "Citizen Siege was based in a near future where the policies of recent White House administrations continued onward unabated; ultimately landing us in a dark totalitarian landscape where people have been reduced to pure commodity." Yeah, they're guys inspired by the political landscape, alright. At least one writer has done us the service of any kind of analysis of Oddysee / the remake played here, Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty!, a few missed spellings notwithstanding.

MY GOD listen to Sherry McKenna in this part of this short feature on the making of Oddysee from presumably around '97 or '98! She's being a superhero avatar CEO in these times when "people [in the AAA games industry] HAVE been reduced to pure commodity". The rest of the commentary breaks down the process of making the organic animations for those very inhabitants of Oddworld. The most populous of those, by the way, aren't the Sligs, the Slogs, or the Mudokons either... it's actually the Zips, as evidenced in Sam 'Samtastic' Locke's latest touch-up of an existing run of the fastest category, slicing off about six seconds of delicious chops with a few new strategies despite (PUN ALERT) difficulties on the tough last leg. The new run time is 0:21:31.

Sunday, January 24, 2021 by LotBlind

Aren't the Flame Ones Kind of the Default?

'ktwo' has provided massively followable per-play notes with time stamps for this efficient 0:09:43 demo of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Dragons of Flame for the Famicom. What's the polar opposite in followability is the story, because no official international release exists and so everything is a jibblie-inducing jumble of kana. (Kind of like the jumble of musical scales in the theme heard in the second overworld section. Very unlikely running into an effect so garish in a new soundtrack.) The game's overseas chances faded with poor JP sales, I'm assuming, so this cover art was never used. This theory, not all that unfollowable, is corroborated with how the next two tabletop modules were combined into one game that, two years later, further only released on PC systems, with a noticeably more advanced gameplay loop than this or the other one; having a kinship with the more famous Eye of the Beholder series of 1st-person dungeon crawlers.

The story is still followable by proxy through the second tabletop module and the latter half of the first Dragonlance novel, actually. Based on the run alone, we get that one variable sprite, representative of all the eight of the goodie-two-shoes-es (that's sixteen units of footwear in total), makes sure to counter-offend an offending Draconian army in the most pinpointed possible way, skimming past all low-ranking ranks into the filthy innermost dens to smack down another pretentious dragon (I'd be aghast if there wasn't one), free some prisoners or something, then fish-slapping-dance away a warlord who's left cursing the utter inadequacy of its AI routines. Then more kana happens and everyone intersubjectively verifies the power of friendship in mirthful, let's suppose, banter. It's a classy though straightforward run that doesn't quite represent everything the game has to offer... something about gearing up to increase defense (increase what?), more fancy-schmancy spellcasting (what you were promised is dungeons... and dragons...), and I dunno what else. Moving on...

Still furious, still battle-bound, still ktwo... it's Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road. All the characters are scaled up so this is graphically like going from 2 to the x bits to 2 to the x+1 bits even though it's not. It's still got the odd garbled sprite we remember from IW1 to help us orient ourselves now that the forlorn warzone setting has been replaced with a... nother setting. There's now randomly a menu to visit like it's your granny. The music doesn't use the same exact themes but is reminiscent nevertheless. Couldn't find out if the composer was the same one or not but the two arcade cabinets seem to have come out the same year of 1986 (why?) so probably could be, why not? Also, for an NES game an extensive use of voice samples is present. They recall the age-old question "English or Narglish"?

The run, stretching across 0:07:52, looks so simple and easy it's difficult to appreciate what "the problem" is with a layman laying down the same run like train tracks across levelled plains, but that's obviously quite specious. The changes from the previous 2014 record are small (6 seconds' worth), and in large part owe to profound TAS-ploration of the niceties* of the game mechanics. I gotta say, that stuttery half-diagonal walk is kind of lascivious... hypnotic... I'm okay, I'm okay! Another run firmly entrenched in unscoffable territory, then.

*This is my revenge on the word "niceties", which I admit to once having used wrong. It was its fault.

This game that we know as Mega Man Network Transmission, in Japan was known as "Rockman EXE Transmission" what where why? EXE as in .exe, an executable file. There's a Rockman/MegaMan.exe on kid Lan Hikari's computer who he uses as a personal incarnation (or "NetNavi" in the game's terms) in the virtual space that society has relegated many of its functions to. This space is dipped in an out of with generally crimefighting thoughts on Lan's mind. On kid Phillip 'ZELLLOOO' Shanklin's mind are thoughts of RNG- and tardy-movement-fighting. The incarnation of his adamancy about making them exert the least possible influence over Lan's online life is a 0:55:38 that's trodden the mill for another 55 seconds lost on an already slim run, making it a WR by a fairly wide margin. I hope it goes without saying all of ktwo's submissions have been WRs since time immemorial.

The puffing and sweaty run notes for the Rockman game are similar to before but not a total dejavu. What's brand new is at least the precise damage maths for the whimpering starting weapon that you can, and should, Cinderella to its ultimate state. "MP", I've been told, stands for "memory points" which makes sense given what it does, and the Custom Gauge is something that charges up with time and it filling to the max is the cue for getting a fresh set of Chips. Those are the special attacks and abilities Zelllo is talking about.

Multiple parallax graphics mirror the multiple parallel layers of strategy, with health, MP, the Custom Gauge and money all demanding attention like the open mouths of a hatch of hungry fledgling birds. Or the open mouths of a hatch of speedrunners hungry for games like this? Even the way in which you kill enemies affects what they'll drop... it's 5-D chess with bullet time controls. Execution is always present, too, between the text box mashing and the constant slide jumps, with no small amount of luck improvisation in demand as well. We sense the full spectrum of emotions from a gold split to a near-death experience. I wonder if ZEL remembered to check above the cabinet for the hidden word the nurses left there? Maybe the word was "enough"... seeing as it sounds like it will be Zel's last dabble in this gabble, where gabble is the any% category. What might he be planning next? Kitto nani ka aru! Shirabete miyou!

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