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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, Andrew 'Pokemonmaster888' D.'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!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020 by LotBlind

Demarbled Monk Cosplay Show Went Down Well

Not long ago (in SDA time), we had a total sweep of a particular Quake table and now we're overhauling another full haul of fame. The submitter, formally, is our timer Matan 'IsraeliRD' Weissman, but looks like the workload was split over a dozen runners, with 'Nature Freak', 'Xedron' and 'Xelna' tugging the hardest. This is in a game where the appeal comes solely from emergent complexities of the physics instead of story or visuals. You control a ball with timely jumps and by applying spin. If you're on the ground, this makes you roll. If in the air, it makes you bounce in the appropriate direction off the next surface you touch. Tapping into the full potential of the greatly elastic collisions increases the skill cap exponentionally. There's several extra gimmicks and glitches to add some zest.

I am, of course, talking of Marble Blast Gold. Even though I hadn't actually seen any runs before, I can tell there must be route changes in the mix given how jumbled some levels are. Specifically a particular sub-strain of gravity-twisters that crop up here and there. I think solving them was supposed to be a little bit of a puzzle to begin with when the game left the proverbial oven at the Garage Games kitchen. Looking these people up in an effort to understand the game's legacy and popularity, the studio was founded by four merry Dynamix alumni marooned by their overlords at Sierra. Jeff Tunnell (whose massive resume is lined with the likes of Heart of China, Red Baron, The Incredible Machine and Betrayal at Krondor) held the helm when they decided to respond to the rising costs of competing in the games market by cobbling together an engine that could facilitate the ambitions of smaller development houses at an affordable price point. A lot could be said about the engine's evolution since then: seeing as this was the same tool that Tribes, a rather famous FPS predecessor to games like Planetfall, was developed on, it's evident Marble Blast Gold was either just an early roadside billboard for the product, a fun side gig, and/or might Steve Jobs have actually paid them for rights to package it with various Apple systems?

Be that as it may, the IL table now has a "0:13:23.508" where it used to say "0:14:04". 40 seconds off therefore, and an average of 0.4 seconds of fat burned per level (as the plentiful run comments explain, a certain glitch that made some old runs faster was banned, so the actual increase in run quality is greater than indicated by that figure). Note the existence of blooper reel files and two (!) audio commentary tracks as well!

Pretty sure this isn't corroborated canonically, but in a moment of all-too-much charity, I though the "Knight's Chase" is supposed to be the (Anglicized) name of Time Gate: Knight's Chase's main romping grounds, a sordid monastery residing temporally in 1329. Sounds more like a fort, actually? Maybe it's called that because the protagonist, who ancestral recalls as a KNIGHT Templar, is CHASING after the antagonist's buttocks for profuse kicking? It's accurate if not exactly that exciting. This is a game that doesn't really even try to backdrop his main motivator in any way: they took yer doll, bud... aren'cha gon' do som'n boudit? What we do own their in-house team credit for is the work put into historical accuracy, quite prevalent here and instantly incrementing the score among the retrophiliacs. And composer Philippe Vachey's score is unscoffable too, as usual.

Aside from the high learning curve just to feel comfortable navigating a world of piecemeal perspectives, especially when playing the smutty non-SVGA version (the only one supplied by the digital storefronts) it's very easy to miss points of interest. That and you'd better have smuggled a modern GPS tracker down the time well to position yourself correctly in front of them (alongside some satellites of your own I guess, depending on the flightfulness of your conspiratorial fancy re. what Templar technology was like). I noticed there's also some bizarre and regular glitching of the polygons that's non-existent in the first several games... and the fighting techniques, in a speedrunner's hands at least, look like chi projection more than appendage projection. All in all, while I can only imagine this a relatively strong (and perhaps the least well-known) entry into the broad Alone continuum, it's evident Infogrames should probably have let Raynal lead the polygonal adventure charge he had single-handedly bugled (French horned?) up in a direction of his choosing, but that's simply not how Infogrames ever was. Hey, got it out for Christmas again, didn't they!

None of this bears any relevance to the age-old question of "to speedrun or not to speedrun" as the stalward 'arnaud33200' has taken it upon himself to do! The game, and certainly this run, has its charms. Speaking of, this is arnaud's 3rd time braving the verification high security gate. The second was confounded by unfortunate A/V issues, but this time he's making headlines on his roundabout 300th Single-segment attempt at the game, cleansing the corrupt cloister in 0:19:57. Run comments give glimpses into that invisible matrix of other possibilities.

'kazn' hasn't relented with anime button-and-facial bashing in the framework of Melty Blood Actress Again Current Code, either. The character is the same as last time (Tohno Shiki), but the run still looks quite different, owing to the sequence of fights ramifying based on RNG. This, with the same proficient keyboard manipulation (i.e. execution), results in a 33 seconds scrunched time of 0:06:17.01 in the same Arcade mode, Hardest difficulty category. And it does NOT look like chi projection! As before, the run comments are bilingually English and Japanese.

Monday, November 16, 2020 by LotBlind

This Update Has Been Here for Like a Month It's Just So Well-Concealed...

It's a funny word, "spank", as things go. The jolliest form of physical abuse; generally very tame, and to tame. Just sort of a goof, at the end of the day – or whenever strikes your fancy, Nancy. Now when you tack "death" onto it, questions arise. Is this an episode of history; perhaps the doings of Ivan the Terrible? Is this an episode of "Kenny vs Spenny" midway season 3? IS this... an episode... of the chimerical mind... of the Ron Gilbert?!

Like so many legends of interactive entertainment, Gilbert started out in obsessed reverse-engineering and not entirely un-monkey-like imitation of the games he had access to, and even those he didn't. This might be what made him hilarious... we're talking about software so primitive the system they ran on had barely been equipped with a hard drive. It's dearth in which the imagination blossoms. Or maybe he just had a funny mom? What we do know is there's probably a whole matrixful of dots to connect from Maniac Mansion (1987) through Monkey Island (1990) to a game called DeathSpank from 2010. But now it's an action RPG. I honestly don't even know, I knew he'd made another P 'n' C adventure with Thimbleweed Park in 2017, and I knew he had dabbled in other genres throughout his career. I mean, it sounds like I'm totally fixated on this one guy when he's not even listed as the sole designer, but in a sea of chaos and time constraints, the auteur is a raft that's not on fire. Also Clayton Kauzlaric's Wiki is a tad too scant to extract his essence from.

Speaking of time constraints, there's no more time for hiding this 1:11:34 (with resets), very constrained in time as well, with the unfortunate side effect of condensing the guffaw-rific dialogue to an almost subliminal stimulus. This way it goes straight to the brain's funny center past the pee control unit (yup, that's a puddle of piss you're sat in, Mister), but no-one's telling you not to strategically time stretch it in your media player, wink wink. 'retailescapeartist''s first unavertible heroic deed is killing some chickens. I think I've said enough.

The next one seems to have been the most popular on our site of the many many Metal Gears in recent memory. The "Metal Gears" in those games are heavy combat mechs with nuclear armament (at least some of them?). In Metal Gear Solid 3 HD, we switch POVs to an agent called "Naked Snake" (who later in the canon becomes "Big Boss") in a 1960s Soviet jungle setting... which sounds like some very niche genre of music. You can't say "jungle" without saying "camouflage". Trust me... you can't. And so there may well be a bit of that here. Also compounding the third of the "Solids" is hand-to-hand fighting, a stamina bar and injuries and un-injuries. 'HIKARI_MGS' has mastered all of this on the PS3 for his new 1:17:30 that improves the single-segment SDA record on the European Extreme setting, achieving Foxhound rank, by basically two minutes (and is a clear WR as well), which is more than it sounds considering there's several parts where you just auto-ascend a ladder or otherwise aren't able to overtake any "ghost drivers" on the "track" easily. What is it with me and "quotation marks" today?

This game got all kinds of awards and so I'd imagine I don't have to say too much on it? You go around completing sub-objectives while intermittently radioing and rendezvousing with other essential chaps and/or chappettes. There's a heap of limitations for the Foxhound runs: no special items, alerts, kills, and not much damage taken. The hard mode of hard modes. The game had various version differences between regions (such as that peculiar difficulty setting), and also there's the expanded "Subsistence" release that quite generously came with the first two games in the series, and a longed-for unbound camera rig. The camera and some of the other new features went on to be subsumed by yet another version, the HD one here. That might be why Subsistence has seemingly been ignored for speedrunning. Now you know.

Another one level takes a big hit in the Project I.G.I.: I'm Going In shortlist (when it's speedruns, all the items are short, and select). That one level is not level one but rather the eight numerically, with the aim to demolish a SAM vehicle and ride the choppa outta there. This run utilizes a collision bug to get into position faster, then something... even more interesting happens. The new tricks were found, and the run submitted, by OdDzBall, and it makes the table 32 seconds faster, now a 0:39:14.

Reminiscent of the theory that Pokemons named themselves and informed human languages, it's possible that uncouth utterances originated from barnyard animals as well. That, and perhaps the callousness of industrial meat (meat-eating on the whole is a more nuanced question), might really be the only morals to be gained from this brief click-through of Can Your Pet?. Thanks to an additional quality-of-life improvement in a later patch, your all-too-jovial chicken pal now CAN in about 8 seconds less, 0:00:04. The run, from Herbert 'Water_is_wet05' Stevens, is too ridiculous to comment on intelligently. Clu-Cluuuuuck!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020 by LotBlind

But what... about... dragons?

I can't say I've seen a game quite like this before. It's a small army-vs-army kind of arena where the friendlies consist of one human player and an unhelpful AI sidekick, two human players, both of whom helpful, or hidden option C, one crazy human player (that would be 'Manocheese') on one regular and one desk-mounted controller, which I understand is also quite helpful. At no point does the other side – the un-friendlies, that is – get to pick their meal. It's unaberratiously an entrée of Tibetan death dumplings followed by an exquisite main course of steaming death cassarole with a zestful side order of death nukage soup and for deathsert, the classic, a parfait of preeminent perishment.

It is a little difficult to follow what's happening in Gotcha Force despite the simple premise, so the abundant written comments caulk up a pretty massive gap (like prosthetic dentures). It really seems to have a microcosm of its own. You can magicate custom mobs for your army by waving a wand and invoking arcane incantations in the menus. The abuse is HEA-VY. Like multi-nationals and tax havens. These runs cover both the 1-p-w-u-AI and "2-p" sub-categories of the Challenge Mode over a 0:35:08 stretch and they really do exude every intimate evening of the super-long, super-sexy affair Manocheese has had with this game. Loving it!

In another rather unique title from the shooting star Adeline Software, a one-man damsel recovery detail (let's just call him 'RK.Walnut') tours time and space like a regular Dr. Whrecking ball, starting from the Neolithic, through Roman times, Medieval times... a whole times tableful o' times. And everywhere he goes, trouble awaits: polygonal adversaries in every shape and ethnicity. Time Commando is essentially a 3D brawler with twisty paths and all kinds of cool concepts strewn everywhere, and it looks really nice for 1996 too because the camera panning is all pre-rendered.

Just a sampler, the Japanese middle ages: It's hard to keep the fighting clean when you've got sharpened steel and they're coming at you with their this-dou stances and their that-jutsu grabs, most of them honor-bound to fight one-by-one... I might as well hand the sword over and I trust you know what to do with it. ^^ Speaking of, I tried to figure out if it was a tanto or a wakizashi. It has one straight edge like a tanto but looks longer than 30cm, which would normally make it a wakizashi but I think those are always curved. There's a type of sword called chokuto that's got a blade like this one but they predate the Japanese middle ages. And so it can't be a chokuto either dog dangit! Whatever you do, do NOT call it a katana! I'll summon herpes, you know I will.

In other epochs, you get to meet, greet, and beat up both the Conquistadors AND one of the funny cultures they brought to riggedy ruin. This time, the sacrificial ritual is on YOU! :) Wild West is my fave. You'll see the dude casually picking up live dynamite and packing it away for later. Maybe we're meant to imagine snuffing the fuse... with his calloused murderer's hands! After this, you've got a score to settle with WW1 Germans, who are obviously still Nazis. The Future world has probably the pinnacle of another groovy Philippe Vachey soundtrack. If the name of the last time period flashes by too quick, it's "Post-modern world". Here you'll see Post-Modern Bear, Post-Modern Byakhee and Post-Modern Shark-o-Dolphin that looks like what happens when you mash buttons randomly in E.V.O.. It's not a fun-packed 0:55:37 family holiday you wanna miss out on!

To see off this pseudo-monthly feature, 'ktwo' does more justice to NES Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of the Lance than any mere mortal before him, including past versions of himself. Does it even deserve this much justice? In service of inevitable fantasy righteousness, the dungeon-crawling heroes look like they're heroically tripping over their own feet everywhere. Kind of Scooby Doo; I'm sure there's ultra instincts at play. It's far less brutal though, in fact it'd well-nigh pass for pacifist. What you think are swords bobbing in their hand may just as well be empty platters they've been sent to refill with grapes and mead for the larp party up top.

Speaking of tripping, the way ktwo explains he stumbled upon the biggest time-saver is a very good example of how inefficient it really is to start grinding out runs without having spent adequate time with testing first. Yet that's all most speedrunners seem to want to do, or even have the wits for. The NES in particular is known to be a dwelling of simple but erratic games. You never know how anything was implemented given all the trickery coders relied on to make things work in the first place. And if anything ever splashes over, there's almost guaranteed to be something ridiculously cordonned-offedly important in the next byte over. Like the pointer that tells the game which enemy is the final boss or something. Speaking of, judging by how massive the dragon in question is, the one unceremoniously cancelated at 0:04:45, I think the other repliloids are probably just velociraptors. If you have been missing that sense of elation and achievement, the victory fanfare ktwo's letting ring out should do for you.

Thanks for all the runs this Summer!

Saturday, August 8, 2020 by LotBlind

All Politeness is Sarcasm

Catharsis. Is it a pot of gold at the end of the story arc of a play following the classical rising and retracting format? The requital of villainous deeds? The restoration of social seemliness? The lovers' embrace? The hero's fanfare? Well... no. It's an otherwise mild-mannered and obsequiously polite anime maid beating the sh*t out of any and all other life forms she happens to cross ways with. Doesn't matter where they're from, why they're fighting, and what part of their injuries are covered by their insurance policies. What does matter is she's basically housekeeping them to submission with furniture, pots and cleaning utensils. This has to be the closest to the literal manifestation of "mopping the floor with someone", or something. In the last two fights, it's with cat-arses.

The glorious individual whom we are all to praise for this divine offering is our new friend 'kazn'. He's parading his great manliness on the hardest difficulty setting of the arcade mode of a game that can immediately be placed onto the natural-disaster-bound shores of a particular Far Eastern island state. Yeah, it is called Melty Blood Actress Again Current Code after all. This looks like a job for SDA! That's right, I'm pulling out the Semantic Disambiguation Automaton. Hmm... after some beeps and boops it's saying with 98% confidence it's a combination of two different three-word addresses somewhere in the space between which you will find the final resting place of dadaist Marcel Duchamp. The words on his tombstone are actually fairly fitting: "D'ailleurs, c'est toujours les autres qui meurent" ('Besides, it's always the others who die'). The others take 0:08:40.83 to do so.

But wait, there's more! The same runner submitted another run after I'd already written the above and do I really have to sacrifice such a gorgeous piece of writing because of it? No sir, I cannot boogie! Not like that. The same parameters apply otherwise, but the character in this one is called Tohno Shiki. Actually, I suppose the run time won't be exactly the same either... but it could have been! 0:06:50.16 this time around. Tohno is one of two brothers it seems at first. They're both suave senpai types that you would really love to share a matcha ice tea with. Really, though, Nanaya Shiki is an alternate version of Tohno. It gets pretty messy. Synopsis, if you like. It's all part of a wider world of Tsukihime (月姫) that also begat a visual novel, a TV show and a manga, as well as other games. Very popular, apparently. I'm pleased to have made its acquaintance.


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 Omair Irfan 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 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!

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