Jul 04

Why Do Speedrunners Say RNG Instead Of Luck? A Theory

On the speedrun subreddit, someone began constructing an “SGDQ Bingo” website, and asked for suggestions. There were two in particular I found amusing:

  1. A speedrunner says “RNG” instead of “luck”.
  2. That speedrunner then has to explain what “RNG” is, because they couldn’t just say “luck”.

I’ll admit to being as guilty of this as any speedrunner. Indeed, I’m aware of the absurdity of it–my spiel when I say “RNG” while running Metroid II is along the lines of “If you don’t know, ‘RNG’ stands for ‘Random Number Generator’, it’s basically what determines luck in your speedrun. But we’re speedrunners, so we can’t just say ‘luck’.” And yet I still say RNG.

Why is this? Why do speedrunners insist on using an alternate term when “luck” is perfectly adequate and gets the point across? I think there are two main reasons for this:

  • One reason is that there are numerous cases, especially in RPGs, where the RNG can be manipulated. There’s an obnoxious, but technically correct, copypasta that sometimes floats around that can be summarized as “RNG should really be called PRNG (Pseudo-Random Number Generator), since nothing in computers is truly random.”. Disregarding semantics, if you can manipulate the RNG (Luck), you can eliminate it as a factor. One non-speedrunning example of this is the North American version of Final Fantasy V Advance; by saving and reloading, you reset the list of encounters, which you can use to guarantee the encounter you want.

    But Note that even TASVideos, which can manipulate the RNG of a game to literally inhuman degrees, calls this Luck Manipulation. I think there’s another reason speedrunners don’t just say “luck”, and it relates to a phenomenon that can be applied to sports in general:

  • Speedrunners don’t want to admit how little they’re really in control.

Indeed, in any competitive endeavor, even all-time greats need some luck to achieve their ultimate goal. Most recently in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors, by advanced metrics a historically great team, nonetheless got lucky that A. They didn’t have to play either the Los Angeles Clippers or the San Antonio Spurs, and B. That the Cleveland Cavaliers were reduced to “LeBron James and Eleven Replacement Level Players” after game 1 of the Finals (And the LeBron Show still took two games from the Warriors before he ran out of gas). Moving to American Football, the 2007 New England Patriots were an absurd helmet catch away from completing the greatest season in NFL history; before that, though, they got lucky to remain in a position to make the attempt. If not for a terribly-timed timeout from their opponents in their 12th game, they would have entered the Super Bowl with a 17-1 instead of 18-0. Going back a ways, the 1985 Chicago Bears, one of the greatest teams in NFL history, were fortunate to avoid the Miami Dolphins (The one team that beat them that year, and did so decisively) in the Super Bowl when the Patriots beat the Dolphins in the AFC title game. They were further lucky that the Patriots coaching staff decided to run the same game plan as the Dolphins did, but neglected the part where the Dolphins had an all-time great quarterback (Dan Marino) with a skillset uniquely suited to taking advantage of the relatively less-awesome parts of the Bears defense.

It’s the same with most speedruns. For better or worse, “World Records” are currency in the speedrun world today. And for many of the most popular/well-optimized games, just being the best at your game in terms of skill isn’t enough (The role of “skill” in a speedrun could be a whole other topic)–if the game doesn’t want to cooperate with you, you’re probably not getting that coveted “WR” (For one example, if Phantoon doesn’t cooperate in Super Metroid, it basically doesn’t matter what happens before or after it–say goodbye to that record run.).

So my thoughts on why speedrunners can’t just say “luck” is that it’s a coping mechanism, a way to deny its power and influence on “the run”. By calling it “RNG”, speedrunners can avoid confronting how big a role luck actually plays in getting a good time.

-EE

Jun 14

The Future of Speedrunning and Streaming

Following up a bit on my previous post.

One thing that’s important to clarify that informs a lot of where people fall in the debate on “What comes next” is “What constitutes ‘Square One’?” I define it as “Those streamers have absolutely no skills that are useful in a non-streaming(1) context”. As such, I obviously disagreed with the position that that’s where big-time streamers would be five to ten years from now, which I mentioned in the previous post. Others define it as simply “The streaming money train has pulled away from the station and it’s not coming back”. I’ll admit that’s a possibility in the next several years, although I think it’s far from a certainty.

I will also note that I intentionally didn’t draw a distinction between speedrunners and other streamers in the previous post–besides the fact that people go fluidly back and forth between speedrunning and not ([nosrl] is a tag for a reason), if a large scale streaming crash happens, everyone, speedrunner or not, is going to feel the effects.

A conversation about the future of speedrunning specifically is a conversation worth having (Maybe an “SDA Roundtable” or something like you’d sometimes see leading into GDQs). So let’s go there.

First, I think that speedrunning is probably, if not at its peak in terms of viewership, approaching it–while part of it was a broken tracker not listing all the donations (Those things tend to snowball), AGDQ2015 “only” raised ~55% more than AGDQ2014, the slowest year-on-year growth to date from a percentage standpoint. I also think that certain pillars of speedrunning–Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, etc.–are nearing their theoretical limit. New discoveries are always possible if not inevitable, of course, but that can only last for so long. Plus, the improvement in popular categories in Mario 64 will be limited by that pesky “Having to grab the stars” thing. For the GDQs, I don’t think that will matter too much–it amuses me how the “outside” attitude of Mario 64 in GDQs has gone from “We are going to rain hatred on anyone Not-Siglemic for playing Mario 64 regardless of the actual quality of their run” to “But how can you possibly not have Mario 64 in a GDQ it’s an institution by now!!”–but it will definitely have implications for the larger speedrunning streaming community and its popularity.

So where does speedrunning go in the next several years? I see one of two paths:

The first is what would be the result of the inevitable passage of time–a new generation of runners emerges, with different “nostalgia” reference points than those of the current big-name runners. Instead of Nintendo systems, their love is for the Sony/Microsoft consoles, and the next Cosmo/Siglemic/AdamAK/(Insert Other Mega-Popular Speedrunner Here) in terms of celebrity isn’t known for Mario or Zelda, but for, say, Little Big Planet, Ratchet & Clank, Uncharted, Mass Effect, or another franchise from those systems.

The second possibility is that the community(2) begins to move away from its obsession with World Records and toward a more competitive/race-centered mindset. Those iconic speedrunning games retain their status, but the “best” runners are determined by who consistently gets low times in race/no-reset situations, as opposed to who has the “World Record” (To the extent that these are different). I honestly don’t think this would automatically be a bad thing, though I bet that’s a minority opinion. “Playing through games […] skillfully […]” is part of SDA’s slogan, but adapting to non-optimal RNG and recovering from mistakes to still post a good time is, to my mind, a better indication of skill than resetting a million times waiting for the stars to line up for “THE RUN!”, even if “THE RUN!”‘s time is lower. To some degree, with the increase in races at GDQs, we may be seeing this already, although that’s countered by the fact that Speed Runs Live activity, while still plenty healthy, is down compared to last year.

Regardless, I think that popularity-wise, speedrunning is here to stay, but as a bunch of sub-communities focused around specific games–there won’t be a “monoculture” based around SDA, or even SRL. Whether this stays in the streaming/Youtube realm, or moves on to another medium, I can’t say.

I’m curious as to what everyone else thinks about this, though. Feel free to tweet at me or leave a comment here with your thoughts.

-EE

(1)- I say “non-streaming” instead of “non-Twitch” because, while Twitch are currently the dominant player in the video game streaming world, that could change.

(2)- To the extent that “the community” even still exists today in a cohesive form, and not as a bunch of smaller communities that occasionally get together under one banner.

Jun 09

On Life After Streaming Big

First, a disclaimer: I am someone who has tried and failed to Stream Big. This probably colors my thoughts on this issue.

In any event, last night on Twitter, speedrunner Vorpal made a series of Twitter posts expressing concern for people trying to make a living off of streaming. It ended with this tweet. Being me, I have some thoughts on this.

First off, the bigger issue to me is that sites like Stream Big (Which I’m a fan of, despite some of the things I’ll be mentioning here) downplay some aspects of streaming. First off, as I mentioned in reply to Vorpal, streaming is like any other “creative” pursuit (And yes, I’m aware I’m stretching the definition of “creative” here) in that you can do everything “right”, but you still won’t make it to a point where you can make any money at all out of it (Let alone enough to make a living) without a healthy dose of luck. Stream Big and related sites are great, and give a lot of sound advice, but just following them blindly won’t be the automatic path to streaming superstardom that some seem to think.

Another frustrating aspect of streaming is this: Essentially, a person streams so that they can be noticed by other people. While not all streamers want the kind of relative popularity that comes with, say, MAN vs. GAME, a streamer, in the back of their mind (If not the front), wants people to see their stream. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t stream–it’s a lot easier not to buy the equipment, take the time to set up, and so on, if you’re only going to be playing for yourself. Yet admitting this, for a long time, wasn’t allowed in the streaming world–even now, asking “How do I get more viewers?” is likely to get you called a sellout (At worst), or told something to the effect of “Don’t stream for more viewers, stream for the fun of it!” (At best) That’s all well and good…except that “more viewers” is inherently part of the fun of streaming. If nothing else, I’m grateful to Stream Big and its ilk for showing A. a path to get more viewers (Even if it’s far from guaranteed–see the previous paragraph), but also by implication B. the fact that wanting more viewers and/or to make a living off of streaming doesn’t automatically make you the worst streamer ever.

This is all ancillary to my point though, which is as follows:
First, while Vorpal is correct that the Internet is a giant boom-bust cycle–though I think it’s more accurate to say that time moves much faster in the Internet Age in the sense of “What’s hot now is old hat six months from now”–there’s just as much evidence that streaming is here to say as there is that it’s going to die out anytime soon. Recall that video games themselves were thought of as a fad ~30 years ago. Now, they’re healthier than ever, and despite concerns about the age of Twitch’s audience, the average video game player is 34 years old according to ~2010 data from the ESRB. It stands to reason that streaming’s audience age will follow that of the larger game-playing population.

The second aspect of this is that I disagree that, should the streaming wave crest and break, that bigger streamers are “Back at square one.” If they’re entrepreneurial enough, they can leverage the things they learned in streaming into other careers. As some examples, working with mixing/streaming software gives people audio-visual skills they can use elsewhere, and the very act of streaming shows an ability to multitask (A skill basically any workplace would want). There are probably other things I’m missing, but the point is that streamers can leverage what they learn to fit into either the more “traditional” marketplace or whatever video-based technology succeeds streaming.

In short, those people will be fine.

-EE

Mar 29

Thought Exercise/Discussion Question: The Inaugural Speedrunning Hall of Fame

Recently, a discussion started in Sinister1’s Twitch chat that spread to Twitter. The question was, “Which five people would you put into the inaugural class of a Speedrunning Hall of Fame?” Other than that real-time speedrunners and TASers were both allowed, no other criteria were provided–people were free to use what they saw fit to pick their five people.

Given this, I came up with a top-of-my-head list. I decided to make this post because it’s a better option than spamming my (And Sinister’s) Twitter feed with a bunch of tweets elaborating on my position. I’m going to cheat a little bit here and name six people, because five is just not enough. After the first name, the rest are in no particular order.

With that:

Honorable Mention: Tom ‘rdrunner’ Votava
Pre-SDA*, and during its early days, rdrunner was almost single-handedly responsible for giving the NES section of the site a respectable amount of content. Some of it, like his Ironsword run, is still on SDA to this day (Read his comments to find out just how different the SDA of today is to the SDA of all those years ago). But it’s a long-obsoleted run that I think of when I think of rdrunner. His 34:04 run of the original Legend of Zelda is, in my mind, one of the greatest runs in history when you consider the time and environment he did it in. Imagine if, say, Feasel (A well known speedrunner, with zero stated interest in Ocarina of Time) all of a sudden showed a video of a 17:30 Ocarina of Time Any% time, with no warning. That’s what Votava’s 34:04 run was–a time that no one, including the elite LoZ runners of the day (One of whom was later found to be a cheater, it should be noted), thought was possible. And he did this in an environment that wasn’t nearly as open as it is now–the Zelda competitors of the day only agreed to start really sharing what they knew with one another when it was clear Votava, a relative outsider to the Zelda community, was going to destroy them anyway; The previous best time in the category was 35:50. This isn’t his only notable contribution–PJ mentioned his Castlevania 3 runs, and getting through Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels without dying is an awesome achievement regardless of the speed–but The Legend of Zelda is the first thing I think of when I think of rdrunner.

*By this, I mean “Pre-SDA as we know it today”. SDA existed as an archive of Quake demos (Hence its name) for about 6 years before it expanded to other games and began to turn into what is now the popular conception of SDA.

And now, my five names:
Nolan “Radix” Pflug
There are two main reasons Radix is on this list. The first is that he was the founder of Speed Demos Archive, and ran it from 1998, when it opened as a repository of Quake demo files, to about 2006 or 2007, as it transitioned into hosting runs of all video games. The second is his Metroid Prime speedrun, which wound up on Slashdot and was probably a lot of people’s introduction to speedrunning as a concept. In a general sense, his being the founder of SDA is hugely influential; in a specific sense, the 1:37 100%, which has long been surpassed, was the first exposure to the Internet at large of speedrunning.

Morimoto
One of my criteria–probably the main one–for inclusion in this list was influence on the community in some fashion, a fact which Sinister pointed out. If Radix’s Metroid Prime run was a lot of people’s introduction speedrunning, Morimoto’s Tool-Assisted Run of Super Mario Bros. 3 was the introduction to the concept of emulated runs designed to well, emulate human perfection. This is especially true in the west, where the run blew up the gaming corner of the Internet for a time. This was due, in part, to a language barrier–Morimoto, a Japanese TASser, put the run up on a Japanese webspace with an explanation of what TASsing was and his goal with the run. The run made it to the English speaking internet, but minus the explanation, causing all sorts of debate as to whether the run was “faked” or not. Personal note: I remember, circa 2003, trying to make a similar emulated movie with Rygar, ignorant of the TASsing aspect. Suffice to say it did not go well, although I did later do an honest-to-goodness console speedrun of Rygar that I called “the finest of my […] speedrunning career” at the time.

Mike “mikwuyma” Uyama”
Mike is probably best known nowadays as the main organizer of Awesome Games Done Quick and the owner of Games Done Quick LLC. Given that the last AGDQ raised over $1.5 million for cancer prevention research, this by itself would probably be enough to get him into the inaugural class.
That’s just the latest act in a long involvement in speedrunning, though. Uyama was one of the first people to openly acknowledge using TASes in improving his real-time speedruns. This, as much as anything else, helped ease tensions between the two communities (Metroid 2002 would rather you forget their forums once auto-filtered “TAS” into “emu-rape”, such was their hatred of tool-assisted runs). He was also one of the first speedrunners to adopt the “I lost a tiny amount of time, so I’m going to reset” mentality prevalent in the community today. Finally, after Radix stepped down as the main runner of SDA, Mike stepped up and, I would argue, helped the site mature into what it is today–a repository for high-quality speedruns (There’s a very early Radix update where he says of a Yoshi’s Island speedrun “Just fast-forward five minutes past the death near the end of the long autoscroller”. Stuff like this stopped passing muster when Mike took over) beyond Quake.

Cosmo Wright
As with Radix, Cosmo is here for two main reasons. First, he’s one of the founders of Speedruns Live, a site that’s probably the main place to go for watching, well, live speedruns. With the rise of streaming, SRL has, whether I want to admit it or not, probably replaced SDA as the first site people think of when they think of “speedrunning websites”. Secondly, in part because of his absurdly informative commentary, Cosmo is one of the most popular speedrunners in history. There’s a reason that Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker (I argue that Cosmo single-handedly made Wind Waker cool on the Internet again) are two of the most popular speedrunning games, and Cosmo is that reason, especially in the latter case.

Mike “Siglemic” Sigler
If you search hard enough, you can find a hilarious-in-hindsight log from the #speedrunslive IRC where another speedrunner berates Siglemic for “wasting [his] time” with Super Mario 64, essentially saying “You’ll never beat the Japanese runners, and I’ll get good at a whole bunch of games in the meantime”. Suffice to say that that other runner was not correct on the first point. Siglemic was one of the first speedrunners to have a Twitch.tv Subscription button, when it was an additional “tier” above and beyond merely being partnered. More importantly, though, Siglemic is an example of what happens when you don’t believe “Oh, that time is untouchable and it’s a waste to even try”–you end up becoming, even if temporarily, the person whose times that applies to.

So there you go, my five selections for a hypothetical inaugural Speedrunning Hall of Fame (Plus an Honorable Mention). This was a lot of fun to think about, so if you have an opinion on this, feel free to post in the comments or Tweet at me.

-EE

Feb 07

Vote on the Post-Spider-Man/X-Men Suffering Saturday Game!

Today I beat Lagoon for the second time, in a single six-hour playthrough. I didn’t even need to be at the maximum level for it! So with that, it’s time for a new Suffering Saturday poll. All of these games have made previous appearances in the poll, but feel free to Youtube them if you need a refresher course. Anyway, once I beat Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge (Or give up out of frustrations), what should I play next? Help me decide!

-EE

What Suffering Saturday Game Should I Play After Spider-Man/X-Men?

  • Ecco: The Tides of Time (Genesis) (38%, 36 Votes)
  • The Revenge of Shinobi (Genesis) (26%, 25 Votes)
  • Vectorman 2 (Genesis) (21%, 20 Votes)
  • Cosmo Tank (Game Boy) (15%, 15 Votes)

Total Voters: 96

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Feb 02

Vote on the Post-Lagoon Suffering Saturday Game!

Another week brings another poll for Suffering Saturday. I have to admit that I’m surprised Lagoon won the day, but regardless. Joining our three established competitors is another Genesis game. The Revenge of Shinobi is an early Genesis game featuring a Yuzo Koshiro soundtrack, and a door maze (Because every action game in the late 80s and early 90s needed one of those). It’s also pretty difficult–I got to the final boss when I was younger (On the easiest difficulty, with the unlimited shuriken code), but never actually beat it. Maybe I’ll do so!

Vote for my fate!

-EE

What Suffering Saturday Game Should I Play After Lagoon?

  • Spider Man and the X-Men in Arcade's Revenge (SNES) (37%, 13 Votes)
  • The Revenge of Shinobi (Genesis) (26%, 9 Votes)
  • Ecco: The Tides of Time (Genesis) (23%, 8 Votes)
  • Vectorman 2 (Genesis) (14%, 5 Votes)

Total Voters: 35

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Jan 25

Vote On the 2/7 Suffering Saturday!

So!

After some time off for the holidays and AGDQ, Suffering Saturday is making a comeback! In order to give people time to get pumped for it, instead of closing the poll the day of the stream, I’m going to close it the week before. That means I have a game planned for this upcoming Saturday. That game will be Iron Tank, which purports to take place during the invasion of Normandy in World War II. Gameplay-wise, it’s basically if you took the parts of Ikari Warriors that take place in a tank, made it not terrible, and then expanded it to a full game.

Replacing it in the poll for the 2/7 Suffering Saturday are three games we’ve seen before, plus a pesky newcomer. I’m bending the rules a bit for this entry, because I’ve actually beaten it before, and I also got a head start on any hypothetical playthrough of it yesterday. Lagoon is a SNES game that became a giant meme on SDA about four years back. While it has some amusing elements, I never agreed with the memetic assessment of the game as “So bad it’s hilarious”–it’s either not all that bad, or not all that good in an entirely generic and forgettable manner depending on my mood.

Either way, though, you may feel differently. Vote vote vote!

-EE

What Game Should I Play For Suffering Saturday #17? (2/7)

  • Lagoon (SNES) (46%, 13 Votes)
  • Ecco: The Tides of Time (Genesis) (29%, 8 Votes)
  • Spider Man and the X-Men in Arcade's Revenge (SNES) (21%, 6 Votes)
  • Vectorman 2 (Genesis) (4%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 28

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Jan 21

2015 Goals

I suppose it’s a bit late for a New Year’s Resolution type of post. Besides, these aren’t Resolutions per se as much as things I’d like to accomplish in 2015.

Over the past four-ish months, I fell off the wagon with my weight loss, and managed to gain most of said weight back. This is bad. While I won’t claim that I’ve had a lifelong struggle with my weight or anything like that, it is true that I knew it was going to suck when my hyperactive metabolism inevitably slowed down, which it did about ten years ago. Since then, I’ve kind of yo-yoed between anywhere from 140 to 165 pounds.

This time around, I’m trying a different tactic. I’m still going to go (back) to the gym a few times a week, and I’m going to focus on getting stronger and watching my calorie count…but I’m not going to worry about what I weigh. This is for a couple reasons. First, worrying about the number encourages me to slack off when I do finally hit it. Secondly, I can’t find the Fitocracy post about it now, but it’s possible to gain weight but get slimmer with exercise, because you’re putting on muscle and not fat. The way I see it, if I make sure to go to the gym, and watch my calorie count, the weight will take care of itself, and more importantly, it’ll be sustainable.

A secondary goal of mine this year is to get Twitch partnership. Don’t get me wrong, I have no plans to quit my job to stream full-time. Doing my 2500-follower special in December convinced me that streaming full-time would be too draining, even if I could make a living wage off of it. That said, I’ve pretty much always maintained that, if I like streaming (I do), and I’m good at it (Debatable), why shouldn’t I try to make some extra money from it? To that end, I’ve revised my streaming schedule to Sunday/Monday/Wednesday/Saturday. This should help me be more consistent, as well as allowing me to stream longer on Sunday as opposed to Tuesday or Thursday (Two days I was previously streaming).

On that note, I have some games I want to speedrun. Besides keeping up with Metroid II 100%, I want to improve my Super Mario Bros. Warpless run, and I’d like to see about the feasibility of speedrunning The Sword of Hope as well.

A couple other things I’d like to do this year is resume development of SETUP, as well as get back into music in some form. We’ll see what comes of those.

Lastly, I do want to ebookify (It’s a word now) the Games I Beat In 2014 series. I have a lot to learn about e-books if I’m to do that, and as I mentioned before, I do want to find some sort of value add if I were to do this, be it interviews with the developers of the indie games I played, Second Opinions of some of the games, or just talking about stuff I didn’t mention in some of the articles (For instance, how everyone in the world is an idiot in Golden Sun).

We’ll see which of these I can actually stick to!

-EE

Jan 01

Games I Beat In 2014: The Breakdown

So, 2014 is in the books, and with it, my writing about Games I Beat In That Year draws to a close. This is a look back at that year and the series. Part of it will be a simple statistical analysis. Other parts will delve into more subjective aspects–entries I liked, entries I didn’t, games that beat me even as I beat them, and so on.

Let’s begin!

Total Games Beaten in 2014: 76

Games Beaten For the First Time in 2014: 40

Total Words In the Series: 61788, which doesn’t count the hub pages.

Average Words Per Entry: 813

Shortest Entry: Lawn Mower is a svelte 420 (insert drug joke here) word entry. As an NES homebrew game that lasts about an hour your first time through it, there wasn’t much to say about it. It’s the shortest entry in the series by almost 100 words.

Longest Entry: Funnily enough, the shortest entry was immediately followed by the longest. Golden Sun is the 800-pound gorilla entry, clocking in at 1476 words, nearly two hundred more than the runner-up. This time, I had a lot to discuss, not all of it good. And I even left some stuff out of this entry, like how pretty much everyone in the world is a colossal idiot.

Games I Was Happy To Beat For The First Time: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! is certainly on the list. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse is a notoriously difficult game I was glad to finally put away. The Legend of the Mystical Ninja doesn’t have that reputation, but it did irritate me that I only got 2/3 of the way through it when I was younger, so I was happy to beat that one as well.

Games That Beat Me Even As I Beat Them: 3-D Worldrunner and Rad Racer were two games I needed to use a continue code, included in their respective manuals (And thus fair game to use), to beat. The runaway winner here, though, is Ecco the Dolphin. The Welcome to the Machine/The Last Fight gauntlet is legendary for being unfairly hard, and it didn’t disappoint. I actually had to save state using the Sega Genesis Collection before The Last Fight to finish the game for the first time, which was the closest I came to outright cheating. I will note that I did go back and do the Welcome to the Machine/The Last Fight sequence “legit”–which still took me an additional hour or two–before calling the game “beaten” for purposes of this series.

Developer With the Most Games Represented: Konami, with 10. Nintendo, with 9, was second (And depending on how far you extend the Nintendo umbrella, may actually have more games than Konami–Super Metroid was credited to “Intelligent Systems”, and an additional three games were done by HAL Laboratories.).

Publisher With the Most Games Represented: Reflecting the fact that I was a Nintendo kid, Nintendo were the runaway winner here, with 18 out of 76, nearly a full quarter of the games. Konami, with 9, were second, though their total increases to 12 if you include the games they released under the Ultra Games imprint. Shoutouts to independent developers as well–8 games had no published; I counted these as “Indie”.

Notable Omissions: Some big series were under-represented–Mario only got a single entry–or not in the list at all–there is zero Zelda or Sonic in the list. Other “modern day” series also struck out–Halo, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, etc.–though that has more to do with my taste in gaming/inability to keep up with them.

Articles That Were Challenging To Write: Trio the Punch, as a game that defies logic, likewise resisted my attempt to write about it in a logical manner. Super Mario Bros. has pretty much no new ground to tread in terms of writing about it. Cat Planet was another “There just isn’t a lot of game to write about here” entry in the vein of Lawn Mower.

My Favorite Articles In the Series (Or “The Games I Beat In 2014 Sampler”): Metroid was the very first entry in the series, so it has a special place in my heart. This is true even though, like the game itself, it hasn’t aged well (It’s amazing how much my writing improved as a result of doing this exercise). Final Fantasy II was the first entry where my writing found its footing. B. O. B. was a fun attempt to write sarcasm into my opinion of the game, though it’s arguable how well I did. Dragon Ball Z: Buu’s Fury was a nice comeback after the Trio the Punch entry (And in riffing on the “Next time on Dragon Ball Z!” outros for its beginning, is probably the best intro in the entire series). Finally, Lesbian Spider-Queens of Mars was a ton of fun to write about. I’m not sure what it says about me that I pulled it off, but finding a 100% work-safe way to link the words “bondage lasers” in that entry is one of my crowning achievements in the series.

So what’s next? I may write about/review games in 2015, but I don’t think it’ll be a formal series like this was. As for the series itself, it seems like a shame to waste 60000+ word of writing. I’ll probably learn how to do e-books, polish up the writing a bit, and from there, try to release it on Amazon. If I do this, I’ll also try to make some kind of value-add for it, like interviews with some of the indie game developers, second opinions on some of the games from my speedrunning friends, pictures of handwritten first drafts of some of the entries, and so on.

Either way, though, the writing was a lot of fun, and I hope to do more of it this year.

-EE

Dec 16

A Funeral Dirge for Blocks Gone By

NOTE: Direct links to SDA Forum posts don’t work all that well. When linking to one of those, I’ll also note the post I intend to link to with “User X’s post that begins ‘blah blah blah…'”

So, it’s over. Minecraft is cut (Romscout’s post, beginning with “The major change made to the schedule…”) from AGDQ 2015. Now, I have no opinion on Minecraft as a game one way or the other; as a speedrun, I can say I watched the run done at AGDQ 2014 and enjoyed it well enough. I also have no opinion on GiantWaffle and Bacon_Donut as people outside of “They are very popular Let’s Players with no stated speedrunning experience”. Rather, these are some thoughts about how it ended up at this point, and why emotions ran so high (On both sides, though mainly the “anti-Minecraft”* side) about this run in particular.

I’ll preface this by saying that overall, the Games Done Quick events are amazing. The staff behind them do a far better job setting a schedule for them than I ever could (“Golgo-13-a-Thon” is a running joke regarding my game selection abilities), and the events themselves are a ton of fun to watch and to participate in. That said, there’s a balancing act that goes into putting one on, which has some unfortunate consequences.

Speedrun Event? Or Charity Event?
In the name of raising as much money as possible for the charity of choice, all games are not created equal. Certain games (Super Metroid is a literal automatic in, having been in every Games Done Quick so far) and certain runners (ZZT and Castlevania 64 probably don’t get in if Not-Cosmo submit them) have a leg up on others. From that perspective, if you think of a Games Done Quick event as “Charity event first, speedrunning event second”, then having two incredibly popular personalities do a run of a mega-popular game is a logical endpoint, even if they have no previous speedrunning experience (“They’re just Let’s Players” is a bit disingenuous here–a number of speedrunners started out as Let’s Players, and I had beaten Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a grand total of one time when I volunteered it (My post, beginning with Uyama’s quote about “Battletoads (Emptyeye will be here)”) for CGDQ). Frankly, it’s surprising that this is the first instance of it, or at least the first one that caused such an uproar.

That said, a lot of the hostility started here. There were plenty of worthy speedruns that were rejected from AGDQ2015 (The hot-button run this year was Final Fantasy Tactics), in favor of a play purely designed to raise donations. Despite this, I think the anger over this would have subsided had the two put in at least a token good faith effort at practice. But…

We’re Talkin’ About Practice!
Time passed, and to put it charitably, GiantWaffle and Bacon_Donut did not make that good faith effort to practice. One of the forgotten aspects of the genesis of Games Done Quick was the aspect of “We can do better than The Artists Formerly Known As The Speed Gamers“; to that end, “PRACTICE YOUR GAME!!” has been a rule since Classic Games Done Quick. Despite that, while Minecraft was setting up to be a trainwreck, it wouldn’t have been the first time. The Halo run from AGDQ2011 is Legendary for its being awful, The Minish Cap from either SGDQ2011 or 2012 is the reason the “Practice your game” rule is now “No, really, practice your entire game”, and there’s still a part of me that thinks the co-op run of NSMBWii I did with Mrs. Emptyeye for AGDQ2013 is the worst run in GDQ history. The good news is that as streaming has become more, well, mainstream, and the GDQ events themselves have increased in popularity, Mike Uyama and Co. have gotten better at detecting and heading off a lack of practice before it infects the event itself. Except…

SDA:IDIDNTHEARTHAT
To recap: Two incredibly popular personalities submitted a run of a mega-popular game. Since they have no speedrunning experience, it stands to reason that they were only accepted due to their popularity. They did almost no practice after getting accepted, which upset (Bismuth’s post, starting with “I’d like to mention that…”) even people who had initially defended them (Bismuth’s post, starting with “I’d like to say, first…”). Several people pointed this out (A number of posts on that page, but starting with Naegleria’s post, beginning with “what about the Minecraft…”), albeit more sarcastically than they could have. Mike’s response?

“Minecraft: As Deuceler pointed out, they’re working on it” (Mikwuyma’s post, starting with “So I completely forgot…”).

Deuceler was actually pointing out (Deuceler’s post, starting with “Naegleria they have been getting after it”) the exact opposite in a sarcastic manner. This, from my perspective (And to me, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back), was confirmation of some people’s worst fears–Mike figured “But donations!” and was going out of his way to avoid the reality that the run was not going to be good. Which, if “donations” is the primary goal, then fine, although at that point, you’re drifting into the event becoming “Games Done Quick and/or By Famous Let’s Players”. If that isn’t the primary goal, though, then there was little logical reason to ignore the issues that were presented, at least publicly (One reason I could think of would be if Mike had spoken with them in private, and they had showed tangible progress in some kind of private session. There was no reason to believe this was the case).

Luckily, there were some extenuating circumstances–Mike has been sick of late, and when some of the GDQ tasks were publicly** delegated, it turned out the concerns were being taken seriously. While GiantWaffle and Bacon_Donut did get some practice in, it wasn’t enough, and the run was ultimately cut. It was the right choice, and no doubt made a lot of people happy, but I admit that I kind of wanted the run to work. Regardless, what’s done is done, and the replacement, Vanquish, is going to be a pretty amazing watch.

-EE

*- I’m using this as shorthand; more accurately, this would be the side that was “Anti This Particular Minecraft Speedrun Which Had a Bunch of Factors Intertwined With it”.

**- There are always people helping out behind the scenes, of course. Typically, though, Mike has been the “face” of any AGDQ communication. Romscout, Sumichu, and others posting in the last few weeks “On behalf” of AGDQ is the first time I can remember that happening.

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