– Typically, people compete to see who can complete a game the quickest – more often called a speedrun. This includes quite an amount of skill and knowledge of how a particular game works. There are general things to know, such as what’s covered in Learnin’ It, but overall setting a speedrun requires such fine-tuning of specific game mechanics that it’s almost impossible to teach someone how to do a general speedrun.
Let’s cover the classic Super Mario Bros, for example:
I would bet that the first time you played through Super Mario Bros, you didn’t go through this nearly half as fast. (I, for one, never even finished.) Notice the how the player pushes the games to its limits – barely missing enemies that otherwise would have killed him, or the timings of his jumps to get through the level as soon as possible.
There are, however, two kinds of speedruns. The difference comes not in the nature of the activity – beating the game in record times – but in how one does it. There is the traditional way of recording yourself playing a game and beating it as fast as you can, and then there is TAS (or Tool Assisted Speedrun). TAS gets its name from tools that players use to augment their ability. For example, one may use a tool to slow the game down to 1/4th of the regular speed or rewind a few seconds if a mistake is made. Here’s an example of a TAS of the same game:
Can you tell the difference between this video and the one before? In all honesty, sometimes it’s hard to tell because the tools people use allow them to record their playthrough just as though they were playing through it at normal speed. In the end, the best way to tell is through honesty. (The author of this video admits it, the first video’s author offered no comment.) Some people may view TASs as dishonest or cheating, but there’s another charm to them. Have a look at this Super Mario 64 video:
For this particular instance, you probably don’t have to be told by the author that this is tool-assisted to come to that conclusion. However, there’s something interesting in seeing how Mario can perform an amazing gymnastic feat in the game. It’s physically impossible for a human player to move Mario like this without the assistance of tools, however.
Interest in more TAS’s? Try http://tasvideos.org/
But what about non-tool-assisted speedruns?
As mentioned before, sometimes it’s difficult to tell. Did a player really master the game so well that he can narrowly avoid death so easily? Or did he use a tool? Here’s an example of a non-tool-assisted speedrun:
There are minor differences in the playthrough, but some of the amazing feats are still the same. In the community in which this was submitted, each speedrun undergoes the scrutiny of several judges which finally decide whether or not the game was tool assisted. The judges use knowledge of the game and known bugs with tools to try to detect the use of them.
Interested in speedruns without tools? Try http://speeddemosarchive.com/
– Just how crazy does it get?
Of course, setting a speedrun record, regardless of tool assistance or not, is a feat in itself. But what other tests of skill are there? Take a look at Kaizo Mario (a.k.a. “Asshole Mario”):
This, of course, touches on level creation and design, but still pushes a player’s knowledge of a game to its limits. Want to try this out? Check out a recent forum post: http://platformconnect.darkbb.com/level-up-f5/request-t14.htm
There’s more where this came from too. Check out the links in the description of the original YouTube video.