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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.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019 by LotBlind

Animal Magic

While a walking sim seems to suffer in the area of "speed tech" (some are about as sterile as operation rooms), if you find one that strikes a chord, it should not be dismissed as an item of interest. They do leave themselves open for undiluted criticism, though, by putting all their scant assets in the same basket. In the prime galloping fox simulator The First Tree the player roves about in a lengthy dream sequence with a dialogue superimposed between who the ill of will might describe as a self-absorbed middle-class shoegazing dullard with the woes, and his stick figure wife. I do invite you to form your own opinions, which watching the run may well go a long way into doing. I don't want to be mean but I'd feel hollow if I had to chew the same niceties about every game, regardless of anything. Here's a snippet from someone else's five-star review (it's actually very divisive): "downright amazing storytelling and truly beautiful moments". The soundtrack is definitely quite potent.

Making good use of the few gameplay mechanics, an arcadey double jump and, umm..., downhill skiing without skis, 'Kelrycor' foxily jumps over the lazy dog that is the majority of the narrative. I'm unable to tell, as much by this skipped content as by my general listlessness, what exactly the eponymous First Tree here stands for, but I'm assuming it's a symbol of the sufficiency and perfection of original nature beyond vapid self-indulgence, something the protagonist finally comes round to at 0:19:26 or thereabouts. That would make speedrunning the game a noble pursuit indeed. NB: The video files have embedded captions/subtitles to provide some commentary. At least VLC can play them back for you.

I think this could be one of those cases where the name came first, in an intergalactic flash of random, and they designed the game around it. vApe Escape is about a gorilla on a space ship confined in a kind of inverted think tank: he's getting his alpha waves sucked right out of his otherwise perfectly competent monkey brain by the ship's crew, because this induces tingling sensations and more. Deus ex'ing his way out his cell, the deprived primate now has to convince the ship's officious and pedantic computer to change course to dodge a fate even worse than getting one's alpha waves sucked out.

But that's not what's interesting about any of it. Gamechuck, the developer duo, has innovated in the point'n'click genre by giving it the guise of the quintessential comic book. There are wider panels to furnish the full-room shots while interactions are rendered in familiar sequences of three narrow ones. It's so perfect a mash-up that you can even print out your whole adventure as a .pfd when you're finished. It's brilliant! This is Gamechuck's second interactive comic [s]trip. The first was another shortie, on an urban legend: lingering in an buffet diner for years because they supposedly can't pry you out if you just never leave. It's not quite as funny as this one though. See for yourself, vApe Escape is freeware and only 0:01:27 long if you know what to do. 'SteamFreak02', I command you to keep running their games, for all our sakes'!

Lastly, I get to return now to my atavistic comfort zone with Simtex's timeless 1994 4X classic, the illustrious Master of Magic. It is still regarded the number one fantasy-themed champion of its sort, taking the rough blueprint of Master of Orion – in its time described as "Civilization in space" – but carving out a very cozy grotto of its own with fantastic creatures, mythical heroes bearing enchanted arms, more spells to research than you can shake a +6 Staff of Doom Bolt at (with any degree of dexterity), and some of the most engaging battlefield engagements seen in a game of its ilk. You can even customize your wizard, splitting points between spell books in one or multiple borrowed-from-Magic-the-Gathering realms of magic, allocating the rest into various perks like "artificer" or "channeler".

Games like this don't get run too often because of all this complexity. It takes a real master... of Master of Magic... to come to any confidence about optimal strategies even for a short any% type of run on Impossible difficulty, which is what we're looking at here, courtesy of 'Krayzar'. The video evidence, the 0:00:51 of it, shows an improvement of 27 seconds revolving around a summon spell called Shadow Wraiths from the polar opposite realm of magic compared to that seen in the previous run. While you're watching, (which you will do), you'll notice a few moments of hesitation but the ample run comments should give you a profound peek into Krayzar's decision-making. This type of run can generally always be beaten by reliance on less and less likely die rolls, tying in with the chosen strategy, and on deeper-ingrained heuristics, so this might very well not be the last we see of it.

Thanks for all your submissions and ciao!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019 by LotBlind

Castle's Short

'AntonioPeremin' seems to be a fan of short runs more so than most... Case in point being this 0:00:01 he thought would make a nice addition to our collection. It represents an extreme type of RNG manipulation of the level 1 AI in Chess Titans, a brainy specimen from the Windows 7 games suite. I think someone should add some annotations to it...

   1. e3

As a quick sidestep off the beaten path, white champions Van't Krujis opening. That's one of those special slightly uncanny kinds of names the Dutch have always had a knack for. A move that states white feels more at home with early passivity and self-effacement, though leading on with moves like d4 and c4 wouldn't come as a surprise either.

   1. ...f5?

Having made few preparations for such a contingency, black takes a firm grip on white's bag of opening tricks and shakes it into a motley heap on the floor. Having effectively disarmed each other of any theory, both players now rely solely on general principles and presence of mind.

   2. Qf3?

White, claiming a branch of his own in your chess opening database, puts the immediate question on black's loose center pawn, all the while parrying thoughts of developing the queen's bishop with b6, and inviting a return to something sound and sane with 2. ...d6.

   2. ...g5??

With his second move, black is revealed to be as interested in sanity as The Riddler at the end of Batman Forever, obviously on tilt from a stalemate trap in the previous match. The smiley that best encapsulates this move would probably be this one: ~°·_·°~

   3. Qh5#GoodMoveButYouCanDoBetter

Also known as the Fool's Mate Reversed.

If you need a more serious distillation of what this strategy's merits might be, you'll want to glance at the verification thread. You'll find out getting even the level 1 opponent to be this complying takes some effort.

The second game in the update is one where fighting wears the robe of mincey bubble-blowing and umbrella appearances are highly instrumental but to be be timed with prudence. Would you believe it's not Bubble Bobble? Milon's Secret Castle is tinted Legacy of the Wizard -ish by somewhat open-ended exploration replete with those titular secrets (we've got Milon's Secret Shops, Milon's Secret Doors, Milon's Secret Boss Fights...). I think it's a "secret castle" more in the sense a treasure chest is a chest with treasure in. Though developer Hudson Soft had already launched some fireworks in Bomberman, Milon's wick must have gotten wet since the majority of reviewers thought it arcane and patently unfair.

Matthew Havoc, too, reminisces "constant consultations" of the walkthrough on his first playthrough. I assume what happened next is a textbook case of Stockholm syndrome. Through the past five years, Havoc has trodden a ditch into the castle's flooring and managed to incorporate virtually every minute (mi-NUTE) time-saver, with even purely cosmetic stunts thrown in. The outcome: a very satisfying 0:08:25 – as much as 38 seconds off the previous SDA run – that makes the game look enjoyable in the ignorance of the layman. To remedy said ignorance, you'll want to get to reading in the Deluxe Edition run comments about the unfathomable boss patterns, frugal health pickups, and the I-frames that Weren't. This could really be the last improvement to the run you're going to be seeing in a very long time. Perhaps even... ze fainaru rebishion!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019 by LotBlind

Adorable Word Play, but Sporable Puns

Would it make me popular if I brought up the so-called "Mandela effect"? According to some forums, I'm not the only one in whose mind Spore had something to do with Peter Molyneux. On this occasion, the explanation is fairly mundane. It is a game liable for comparison with some of Molyneux's and Maxim's hugely ambitious designs like Black & White and the Fable series and certainly fell short of expectations for a not-insignificant number of people due to overall simplicity, contrasting with initial design concepts and probably also the marketing hype. A curious amount of attention was put on Spore by the scientific community because of being a high-profile game that, at least at some point, was going to render natural biological evolution and double as a learning tool. It's obviously not quite that, and there have actually been more fidelitous life simulators around for the longest time, just in the very SimFOO franchise alone, lead designer Will Wright's bread and butter. Still, to stand out, Spore attempts the game equivalent of a rhapsody, stitching together disparate genres of arcade action for the Cell stage, real-time/4X strategy for Civilization and Space, and whatever you'd call the other two.

Talking about stitching together, we have the perfect DIY kit for crafting an Individual Levels table of Easy mode runs of the five stages (in
0:30:41) plus an extra one for Space NG+ (in 0:03:23), the only stage that allows for it. The runner, 'KinglyValence' you'll remember for a Single-segment run a handful of updates ago, and he's taken our advice to go slow and steady, so even though he already had what technically counted as WR runs, he's honored the "above and beyond" philosophy that all SDA runners should uphold. The mechanics of the game, even coming from blank-slate starts, are complicated enough for speedrunning to make planning and routing far from trivial, and thus the supplied written commentary will certainly not go amiss with novices like me. They are... if you will... a door into Spore.

Sunday, December 16, 2018 by Worn_Traveler

Your Destiny is in the Cards

Yu-Gi-Oh! Power of Chaos: Yugi the Destiny is an introduction of sorts to playing Yu-Gi-Oh!. In this game the opponent is Yugi. 'AntonioPeremin' has beaten him before and he has beaten him again, this time in 0:01:26, a seven second improvement over his previously published run. The improvement comes from playing the game with the sound and music turned off. There are other games where this is done (Heroes of Might and Magic 3 comes to mind) and it may become more common in the future.

I like Castlevania: Dracula X. True, the final boss is a bit of a troll and the game can be very hard, but the music is great, the graphics are good, and it’s Castlevania'lildingus' takes Richter Belmont on a walk, flip, and slide tour through a burning village and Dracula’s castle in 0:16:17, an improvement of 36 seconds. The big improvement comes in the form of a damage boost off of an Armor Knight in Stage 5 that helps Richter reach his goal faster. Like the previously published run, Maria and Annette are left behind to perish in the depths of Dracula’s abode. Maybe Richter will remember them one of these days…

Friday, November 9, 2018 by LotBlind

From Russia With Metamorphosis

What is it with Russian runners and realistic military shooters? I swear there's a 90% correlation between being a Russian runner and running games like Project I.G.I.: I'm Going In. But does that mean if you're Russian, you're more likely to run them, or if you run them, one cold Siberian morning you'll wake up huddled inside a matryoshka doll with no recollection of how it happened? Perhaps "I'm going in" were the last few words you might have been heard uttering before your sudden disappearance.

Once Mihail 'horned' Petrov had managed to hatch from his ogre egg (cause ogres have layers), he was seen flourishing not an AK, SPAS, or even a Deagle but a 2:35 improvement on the old Individual Levels table. Basically every level has been whetted down a lot or a little, down to 0:42:06 total. There's nothing to hate on in an FPS where velocities only top out once you've mastered the Way of the Bunny Rabbit, maximizing odds at winning a flash round of "The floor is lava" by staying in the air as much as possible, as well as teetering on chain link fences and prancing irreverently across furniture.

The only natural course for Horned to have set from here was right into the next assignment. This one has the pretense of "stealth", being called I.G.I.-2: Covert Strike. It did actually make a stealthy infiltration into China, where it was only banned for its depiction of the Chinese military as power-hungry and notably evil after six months of covert operations under a "fake ID": the copy sent to the censor board simply didn't have the China missions included!

The second run is a segmented self-improvemement of 3:43 down to 0:50:05, played on Easy. I gotta say both the games have very nice graphics for 2000 and 2003 respectively. In case you're a fan, you might be pleased to hear some subset of the old Norwegian team behind the games is working on a new sequel. News are sparse for now... that's probably cuz they've "went in" as per its title.

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I thought I'd say a few words on segmented runs in general seeing as they seem to also have "went in" lately. Please read the short preface on the forums and leave comments!

Monday, October 22, 2018 by Worn_Traveler

Planet Hopping

Hola! Abe and his Mudokon buddies return to SDA! While a recent run of Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee showed Abe saving all of his friends from becoming food, this time Sam 'Samtastic' Locke has decided that the fewer Mudokons Abe bothers with the better and he gives us a quick tour of Abe’s world in 0:10:18, beating his own large-skip glitches single-segment run by 10 seconds. Samtastic has given us some audio commentary as well this time to enhance the experience of this any% tour. Like the 100% run, Samtastic has the game audio set to Spanish.

Spore reminds me of several games: E.V.O: The Search for Eden, The Sims, Age of Empires, Civilization, and Alpha Centauri come to mind. Spore is divided into different phases and each provides a different experience than the previous episodes. 'KinglyValence' takes on the hard mode and makes it past the Great Barrier to meet a higher power in 1:03:21. Spore can have a lot of variance based on prior playthroughs. KinglyValence shows us how the game works from its “out of the box” state.I suggest you read the notes so that your immersion into virtual biological evolution, hunting and gathering, tribal diplomacy, city building, and space exploration can serve you well should you decide to give Spore a try some day.

Cthulhu and Co. are no strangers to SDA. The Old Ones can be seen in Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth and Prisoner of Ice. Wilson Luiz 'VonDrake' Oliveira, who provided the latter run, returns to the dark world of H.P. Lovecraft in Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Comet. ‘VonDrake’ explores a dreary town, crypt, forest, and even learns a new language in 1:01:19 as he tries to stop something otherworldly from… well, I can’t say any more without giving too much away. This any% run does skip a few key events so you may want to read the runner’s comments to get a better understanding of what is going on in this cool adventure game. For an ever better understanding, you may want to read Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror” and The Shadow over Innsmouth. Of course, you may also want to play the game. For those of you who play the CD version of the game, you will see a whopping two extra characters... who you cannot interact with. You may also need a magnifying glass to deal with copy protection if you are playing the floppy disk version.

[Old News]