Weekly News Recap – January 5, 2015

Since this week was probably the first week back for most people in the world of games, this week has been pretty low-key for news. That said, there were a few things worth mentioning.

Games Done Quick 2015 Logo

AWESOME GAMES DONE QUICK RAISES TONS OF MONEY TO BEAT CANCER
This week has been the annual speed running convention Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ) which as of the writing this post, has raised almost $600,000 for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. I talked yesterday about my thoughts on speed running in general, which have been shaped mainly thanks to watching the GDQs over the last couple years. They’ve been archiving the runs on YouTube, slowly going as the week has progressed. There are a number of great run on the GDQArchive channel – Super Mario Bros. 3, Kaizo Mario World, Battletoads co-op – among many more.

Smite Cover

SMITE OPENS UP XBOX ONE BETA APPLICATIONS
One other nice little news bit was that Hi Rez Studios has started accepting sign-ups for the upcoming beta for Smite on Xbox One. While there’s still no firm release date for the full game, nor the upcoming beta; it’s always a good idea to get signed up as soon as possible. This week also featured a pretty cool cinematic trailer on the Store on Xbox Live to help promote the game/beta. Even not being a particularly big fan of MOBAs, I’m curious to see how well Smite will translate to the Xbox One.

Twitch.tv logo

MICROSOFT LOOSENS UP ON TWITCH/YOUTUBE MONETIZATION
One last bit of news that came out today actually was that Microsoft is making official their stance on YouTube and Twitch content creators making money on Let’s Plays and Streams. They’ve set up a series of rules that content creators will need to follow of course, but if they do, Microsoft Studios is fine with them making a few bucks showing off their games. It looks like the rules are set up in such a way as to give Microsoft a bit of legal protection to keep their projects protected, but in general, the people that really deserve to make money from the Let’s Plays and Twitch streams would be following the rules anyway.

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Speed Saves – How One Charity Event Changed My View on Speed Runs

Battletoads CoverI don’t think I’m totally alone with my original thoughts on speed runs. A few years back I thought of them as people missing the point of playing the games – they were just blazing through as fast as possible. My perspective on speed running has completely changed though – those original thoughts were just plain wrong. And my shift in thought is entirely due to Ray (of Achievement Hunter fame) continually talking up one runner in particular – Caleb Hart. I, on a whim, checked out his race of Mega Man X1 from AGDQ (Awesome Games Done Quick) last year with Zewing. I was 100% blown away. It wasn’t someone just racing through the game – it was a clinic on precision and skill to blitz through the game. I’ve since watched a number of runners, streams, and archived runs on YouTube – including a bunch from this year’s AGDQ, which is going on right now.

I look at speed runs now as more like an academic study of a particular game. The goal – ultimately a World Record time – is essentially your thesis, the lens you’re looking at the game through. The runners study the most basic elements of the games – frames and pixels – and break them down to help attain that WR. For example, Caleb is well known for a trick in Mega Man X called “Iceless.” It requires nailing a perfect wall dash jump, off of one specific pixel, and then grabbing a ledge thanks to again, one pixel. The precision required is unreal – I spent about 15 minutes trying one day to get it. And now Caleb is able to hit it, consistently, in the middle of a run. It’s incredibly common to hear runners talk about frame-perfect and pixel perfect jumps. The Mexican Runner, a runner who specializes in Battletoads, in his run from last year’s AGDQ explains the mechanic for dash-jumping in Battletoads. It’s an NES game that runs at 60fps, and in order to dash and carry that momentum into a jump, it requires frame perfect input – and watching his runs makes you realize just what level of skill these players are playing at.

Mega Man X

One last game that I think perfectly exemplifies speed running (MMX is a great one too) is the SNES classic, Super Metroid. It’s a game that has been run countless times, but even as recently as last summer had new tactics discovered. Go watch the videos on YouTube – Zoast’s run at SGDQ (Summer Games Done Quick) 2013, the four-way race at AGDQ 2014 and Zoast and Ivan’s runs from SGDQ last year – and you’ll quickly get a good feel for just how much that game’s mechanics have evolved and become more understood. The runs themselves are always impressive, but the best parts of these runs are the couch commentators – the other runners, not currently playing that help breakdown the crazy tactics required to play that fast. The Super Metroid runs all have Golden on the couch, Battletoads has PJ, and Caleb handles both duties with his runs generally. These runners understand that with these events, the audience is way larger than usual, thanks to the added aspect that both GDQ’s are also charity drives. This year’s AGDQ is raising money for the Prevent Cancer Foundation – and has raised well over $500K already.

If you’ve never thought about watching speed runs, this is the very best time to start – there are incredible runs online from the AGDQ already. They vary in games too – from well known classics like Super Mario Bros. 3, to hidden gems like Kid Chameleon. Regardless of which game you decide to start on, you’ll find a runner that’s supremely knowledgeable about their game, and shows off that skill with incredible precision.