This post isn’t going to have quite the marathon-to-MAGFest balance I thought it would when Silver and I embarked on the journey to MAGFest 8. But more on that later. Once again, most of this is behind a cut because it’s obscenely long.
We left, as usual, at about 8AM on Thursday. We got held up by a miniature snow storm at roughly White Plains, NY, but got through it with nothing lost other than time. A lot of other people on that particular stretch of road weren’t as lucky…there were maybe ten cars off the side of the road in a rather short stretch. In any event, besides my having to make an emergency bathroom stop a rather short distance from Alexandria (Maybe 45 minutes), we get to the hotel at about 5PM Thursday–fairly late for us, but respectable considering the snowstorm and the fact that the Buckymobile I rode in for MAGFest 4 and 5 would often not even leave Connecticut until about that time.
We check in and grab some food with Sam and MagicalYardGnome of The Shizz. After that, I get corralled into giving the two a ride to Church at about noonish on Friday. At some point Thursday night, I head down to the Challenges Booth despite giving it almost literally zero practice (The Super Castlevania IV and Ninja Gaiden III challenges were things I had done on my own long ago, and that was about it). It was at about that point that I should’ve realized that things for the Charity Marathon weren’t as smooth as they should have been by then, as I met up with Mike Uyama (Currently the head of SDA) and he essentially asked me if I knew where we were supposed to be set up.
Again, the head of Speed Demos Archive was asking me if I knew where the Speed Demos Archive Charity Marathon setup was.
This does eventually get squared away, at least tentatively–we’ll be set up in the Console Room, next to the Challenges Booth (And with a custom DDR setup directly behind us). This isn’t the end of the marathon troubles, however–it seems we don’t have an Internet (To my fellow computer-oriented people out there, I know this statement is ludicrously incorrect from a semantics standpoint–as I ranted during the weekend a couple times, “No, the Internet is not down! The Internet was built to withstand nuclear attacks! Your connection to the Internet may be down, but I assure you that the Internet itself is fine and dandy.”–but it amuses me anyway).
Now allow me to state once again for the record that we realize that this wasn’t MAGFest’s fault at all. In short, the company they got their Internet service from was bought out by another company called Clear (Which I’m not linking to for reasons that will become apparent, but after debating not even naming the company, I decided you should know the name if only to know what to stay away from if at all possible). Clear promised a seamless transition to their service, then not only failed to deliver on that promise, but made MAGFest spend additional money on equipment that didn’t work the way they said it would, or at all for that matter.
(QUICK NOTE: If anyone from SDA or MAGFest think I got anything I said in the previous paragraph incorrect, feel free to e-mail me and I’ll gladly change it. If you’re from Clear, on the other hand, don’t even bother–of course you don’t want anything that may make you look bad online.)
In any event, it’s possible that the Marathon will have to be moved to Mike’s house, about a 10-15 minute drive away. In the meantime, MAGFest staff are scrambling to do everything they can to get us a reasonable Internet connection.
Before the game room closes to allow staffers to not have to work during the New Years hour, I decide to make an all-levels run through Battletoads just to see if I can do it (The Pianotoads route uses warps). As it turns out, I can.
We go to bed Thursday and wake up Friday. I do a few Challenges, then bring Sam and Yardgnome to church. They give me fine directions to the Church, but as it turns out, I can’t go back the way I came because the way I came required a turn onto a divided road. Luckily, I have Silver’s trusty GPS, and manage to work out an alternate route back to the hotel. I do go and retrieve Sam and Yardgnome and we make it back to MAGFest without incident. At this point, it’s all but decided that the Marathon will in fact be taking place at MAGFest, with Mike and Nate trying to come up with some sort of contingency plan for the lack of Internet.
At this point, I decide I need food, specifically Pizza Hut Stuffed Crust Pizza. Since Pizza Hut utterly failed to get their act together in terms of delivery (Later in the weekend, I would call a Pizza Hut who said they didn’t deliver to the hotel and gave me the number of one who did. I then called that number, who also said they didn’t deliver to the hotel, and proceeded to give me the number of the Pizza Hut I had initially called to get their number. SOLUTION: Order online from Papa John’s!), I decided to run out and get it myself.
As it turned out, the convention, while always popular, was absolutely huge in terms of visitors this year, which created an utterly absurd parking situation, and I wind up parking in front of some random building near a parking garage after literally looking for a spot for over an hour (And stopping to fill the car’s gas tank, since the light was on). At around 6-ish, after Silver finished her shift at the Console Room checking stuff in and out, we attempted to find a parking space a bit closer to the hotel…which ended with another hour wasted and us even further away than before (Although we were at least in a parking garage this time). While on the way down the marathon, certain I had missed part of it (I had told Mike to feel free to make fun of me for failing to speedrun finding a parking spot in the event this happened), I ran into the other guys from SDA…who tell me the marathon was being moved to Mike’s house. Silver’s response to this is “not in my car, you’re not (going to Mike’s)!” Mike is kind enough to offer me a ride to his house, and we eventually get up and going. We have some technical difficulties with the commentary stream at first, but the good news is that we’re actually streaming video from the game feed, as opposed to the “occasionally moving screenshot” we were apparently sending from MAGFest. At this time, we’re three hours behind schedule (And still not up and running with commentary yet, just game), and quickly begin axing things from it in an attempt to catch up–S.O.S. (How did this end up in a marathon called “Classic Games Done Quick” anyway?) and Castlevania II were pretty obvious choices, the former for everyone sort of wondering how it got on the schedule in the first place (And rest assured folks, if I’m wondering “What the heck is this game?”, that’s a pretty good sign it’s too obscure for a classic games marathon–ask the other runners about the good 30 seconds or so I went off about what Faxanadu was during Breakdown’s run while they were basically looking at it confused), and the latter because it’s really sort of boring and neither of the potential runners of the game were really at the level they should’ve been to run it. TMNT II is also cut, due to the phenomenon of it being a fun game, but an utterly boring speedrun (Jump & Slash an enemy. Do it to another enemy. Repeat 800 times.) The good news about this is that the actual first run of the marathon (Andrew Gardikis’s run of Mega Man) was far better than the attempt he gave at MAGFest during the last ditch effort to get going there, causing me to joke with Mike “So now we all get a practice run before the real thing, right?”
Actually, there was an additional TV in Mike’s basement that was used for practice when it wasn’t being used for game races, and it was really fascinating to see who did and didn’t use it. I was personally of the opinion that if I still needed practice at the marathon, then I had failed in my duty to make sure I was up to par on the games beforehand. Others, like Andrew and Freddy “Frezy Man” Andersson (Whom I have given much love to multiple times on the site..see here for every post in which I’ve mentioned him), were frantically getting in last-minute touchups on their games (Both had volunteered to run a ton of games for the marathon, which makes sense as they were two people who have had full game runs exhibited at SDA panels; Frezy Man’s Contra and Andrew’s original Super Mario Bros. runs for the curious).
At around 2:30AM or so came my first run, a race with Daniel “Kareshi” Brown on Kung Fu (We had some difficulties getting even two systems for streaming up and running, and Frezy Man had already run a bunch of games already, so we decided that he would be the one to sit out the planned 3-way race). Suffice to say that I get through the game on one life and Kareshi doesn’t, which in such a short game is enough to give me a fairly easy victory. Then there was yet another delay to change the setup to accommodate the piano for Pianotoads Mk. II. Unfortunately, Pablo “DJ Mike Haggar” Bert couldn’t make it out due to financial problems, meaning my run was a solo run (Though in hindsight, I don’t know how we would’ve made a streaming setup work). And, considering it began at 3:15 AM or so, I can’t really complain about how it went. I definitely had a few stupid deaths, but on the other hand, I definitely had a bunch of times where I should have died and didn’t. The only thing I really would have changed overall was hitting the Boot Scuzz glitch (I failed miserably at it in this particular run). Kareshi, for his part, said that his piano playing was a lot better than at MAGFest VI, and the people watching online (Somewhere in the neighborhood of 600!) seemed to really enjoy it too.
Unfortunately, the next run didn’t go so well, although it wasn’t my fault. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles simply refused to cooperate, freezing on me three times–twice late in Area 1 and once right at the start of Area 3. After that third time, we agreed to make the game the first casualty of the “Mercy Rule” whose intended purpose was actually to kill off runs where the gamer was struggling–while watching someone struggle with a difficult section for a few minutes makes you root for them to overcome it, watching them struggle for much longer than that eventually makes you wish they would just kill the attempt and move on. Anyway, we agree to come back to the game if there’s time–which, considering we’re already behind, is not looking good.
I threw in a bit of guest commentary on the next couple runs because I felt bad about not being able to finish TMNT, even though it wasn’t my fault. I made an effort to sleep on Mike’s floor at about 5AM, and went back downstairs shortly after 8AM Saturday morning, although I’m pretty sure I got no actual restful sleep in that timeframe. At that point, I discovered that the planned commentary had pretty much devolved into a group commentary/conversation sort of thing, which was fine with me. I watched a few more people do their runs, and then came Rygar and Marble Madness. Rygar was amusing, as someone asked if I was going to threaten the SDA record of 24:59 (My response: Oh God no.). I did end up beating my now obsolete 30:30 run though, coming in just under 29 minutes despite a death and a few more conservative moves put in on the fly. Marble Madness was…amusing to say the least. I had gotten in my practice on the 1P side of the screen, and Andrew said he had been practicing some with the 2P Marble…but neither of us had really practiced a proper 2-player simultaneous game before, which is a completely different experience. Oh, and the game froze near the end. Despite my being ahead, we decided Andrew won because he technically didn’t lose. Works for me…
After that, I went back to the hotel to freshen up, get some food for myself and Silver, and try to sleep a bit. This time, I was actually successful, although not for as long as I would have liked. I laid down shortly before 5PM and got up at about 8PM, though I think I only slept for a small portion of that. I then, just out of curiosity, decided to see if I could watch the stream from my hotel room…and discovered that it was actually pretty watchable from there. I went downstairs to tell Silver about this, but she said that they had problems connecting to anything at all Internet-wise down in the game room. Incidentally, at about this time someone came up asking where the Marathon was, and I had to relay what went on and point out that it would be available to watch later.
This was where I at least tried to experience some of MAGFest proper..after I woke up, I toured the game room a bit, and did a few of the Normal challenges (Winning myself a “Normal” patch in the process). This would wind up being rather amusing later on. I also stopped to chat with some of my fellow Shizzies, relaying what happened with the marathon and sort of updating our progress with it. At about 1:30AM Saturday-into-Sunday, I went to sleep.
Sunday morning at about 9-ish, I woke up from an actual full night of sleep. More showering ensued, and then I tried to move Silver’s car back into the hotel parking lot. I actually succeeded, and as a bonus, I was let out of the parking garage I had been in for free when the gate simply opened right up. I then played a bit of Vs. Excitebike, and managed a high score on the machine before Kareshi and I headed back to Mike’s house and the Marathon. From the beginning of Contra to the end of Contra: Hard Corps was, frankly, one giant highlight. This began with a successful donation drive to have Frezy Man play Contra shirtless and wearing a bandanna. When Super C came up, someone jokingly said that Frezy should rip off his t-shirt. His response was “You mean..like this?” as he proceeded to actually do it, something I didn’t even think was possible without a t-shirt specifically designed for that purpose. It’s then decided to auction off the shirt, highest single donation from this point to the end of Contra: Hard Corps wins it. Even better, a donation drive was started to add TMNT back onto the schedule (After Mike found out I had actually gotten a full night of sleep, he asked if I would be game for giving it another try, and I said “sure”. It was then that it was decided that $30 in donations specifically asking for it would get the game back on)…and it was successful. Out of nowhere, I go from “Not running TMNT again” to “Running TMNT immediately following the conclusion of Super C”.
At this point, we’re at about $4500 in donations, almost to our $5000 goal. Remember this.
The first 2 Areas of TMNT go well..then the game glitches like crazy. But it doesn’t freeze. Mike moves to kill the game, saying “Okay, we’re gonna have to reset.” …and I stop him. “No, wait….I wanna see how far I can actually get with it like this.” After a couple of basically joking “How crazy would it be if he actually finished the game like this?” comments, a couple of people pledge to donate some money if I actually pull it off.
Including one person who pledged to get us over our goal if I did it.
No pressure or anything.
The good news is that, as Area 3 starts, it becomes clear to me that, while the game is visually borked, the actual data seems fine–all the enemies are the proper enemies in their proper places, all the pizzas are where they should be, etc. It all just looks a little strange. So I keep going, expecting that the game will either fix itself or simply freeze and force me to restart anyway.
I finish Area 3, and it starts to set in on me that I may be in this for the duration of the run.
There’s a brief moment of “Oh no, it’s about to freeze!” in Area 4, when the game goes into slow-motion mode every time I enter a side-scrolling area, until I can scroll the screen forward and it resumes normal speed (One-screen areas simply stayed in slow-mo until I exited). Area 4 was also the one time the borked visuals messed me up, as what I thought was a boomerang (That would hit me once and disappear) turned out to be a laser (That hit me three times and did not disappear) and I didn’t realize what was going on immediately.
Long story short, despite a brief moment of panic in Area 6 when I don’t quite scroll a laser soldier off the screen quickly enough and have to engage it, followed by my briefly forgetting where in the alternating whirlybird-laser soldier sequence I was (Knocking Don down to one and a half cubes of life), I actually manage to finish the game in this glitched state. With no deaths.
And even though the gap to get us to our goal at this point is about $360 dollars (Or twice what the person thought it was), the person who made that pledge keeps his word and we hit our goal.
Then it was time for Mike “Contra III Is Serious Business” Uyama to play…well, Contra III. He blazed through the game, although he did die once. Not long after this, I head back to the hotel one last time to get some food with Mickey_Mage (Who wasn’t actually running anything for the marathon, but showed up to provide moral support regardless) before heading back to the Marathon for the finale–Tigger77’s run of Link’s Awakening (In German!), followed by Kari “Essentia” Johnson’s runs of Dr. Mario and Final Fantasy VI. If you never thought you’d see “Speedrun” and “Dr. Mario” in the same sentence, you have obviously never watched Ms. Johnson play the game–I’m not kidding when I say that watching this was one of the highlights of my weekend. As for Final Fantasy VI, it made a great grand finale, even with a very forgivable brain fart toward the end (As it was 4AM or so and all)…”I didn’t Float. I just realized that!” *First tier Quakes the party to death*. It also brought in several thousand dollars on its own, which was absolutely incredible given how viewership dropped off due to it getting on toward Monday morning when we finally finished. As Mike said, “Suddenly I totally understand how people get all excited about donation drives to name characters!”, as several of us actually donated in-house to help out the names of our choice (Plus the “See Sabin [Named “Frezy”] Suplex a Train Fund”).
When all was said and done, we raised just over $10000 on the Chipin widget alone, plus another $500 or so in combined Paypal donations (That didn’t hit the widget) and in-house/MAGFest donations from before we moved to Mike’s house. Considering that some people in the IRC Chat (And, I think in the back of his head, Mike Uyama himself) thought even our initial $5000 goal was optimistic, that we more than doubled it was absolutely mind-blowing.
Monday was spent packing up, saying quick goodbyes to Shizzies and SDA Members alike, and claiming my Challenge Prizes. Yes, despite my utterly miniscule amounts of practice given to the Challenges Booth, I managed to finish high enough to win some prizes (18th; the top 20 got prizes). These included a free CD, a poster or two, 8 MAGFest Dollars (Good in various stores that were still up and running at MAGFest on Monday)…and a copy of the SDA DVD, with a mocking “Have you seen these SDA guys? I hear they’re pretty good.” from Ryon.
Amusingly, despite my spending less time at the convention proper than I had any of the four previous years, I came away this year with a comparatively huge amount of NES games, ranging from Nightshade to The Bard’s Tale to Wizardry I to Air Fortress, the last of which is another ridiculously difficult game later on (To say that the first level is a mere warmup of what’s to come isn’t even right…it doesn’t prepare you at all for what’s to come).
In short (Or not..), the weekend was great, and in hindsight, the fact that the Marathon had to be moved to Mike’s house was probably a blessing-in-disguise–it made the whole commentary atmosphere a lot more casual and conversational, and we didn’t have to compete with the din of the Console Room like we would have at MAGFest. And I certainly can’t complain about raising $10000 for a great cause. Definitely a huge success.