Come On, Let's Go.

Super Ego Bros.

Back in the 90s, John Carmack -- a programmer knee-deep in some of the biggest computer video game titles, including Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake -- decided to prove that the PC could do video games (specifically, games using EGA) with smooth horizontal and vertical scrolling; an aspect they seriously lacked, compared to the console market. So he took his character Dangerous Dave and along with programmer Tom Hall and stayed up all night to make this:

Compare to the original:

The goal was to prove to Nintendo that the PC could do everything the Famicom/NES could and, therefore, the newly formed id Software should be allowed to port Super Mario Bros. 3 to the PC. Unfortunately, while they were impressed, Nintendo never had plans to release their properties on anything except their systems, so id never got the deal. However, the research and coding did give birth to Commander Keen -- a game fondly remembered by everyone who grew up on shareware discs. You can read more about it here.


Ghost Hardware

I previously described tool-assisted speedruns in this post. To summarize, this breed of speedrunners use special emulation tools which alter the speed of the game; anything from slowing the game down to play it frame-by-frame to rewinding a live game is possible -- the latter mechanic has been adapted into games like Prince of Persia and Braid. Combining these abilities with glitches let the user create a speedrun far faster than any human being playing the game in real-time.

Co. Instructables/pjgat09

These speedrun is not recorded as a video, but rather a series of button presses timed to the game. These recording can be used to replicate the speedrun on any computer with an emulator capable of reading it. Now, an Instructables member named pjgat has taken speedruns into the real world. Using an Arduino board wired into the controller, the speedrun's button presses are sent directly into the NES hardware. The game is in no way modified; there's just a robot at the wheel.

Co. Instructables/pjgat09

As you can see by the comments, there is some talk about this being a hoax. Most of the weirdness can be attribute to faulty collision detection -- it is, in fact, a game from 1985, a commenter helpfully points out -- but I'm still not sure why the NES boots so fast. So here is the video:

...and a Super Mario Bros. 3 which is slightly faster than the one mentioned in the previous post:


Don’t Touch!

Co. Club Nintendo

One of the first motion controllers was Brøderbund's U-Force. Resembling a laptop (or oversides Nintendo DS) when open, it meant for you to swing your hands over its sensors in order to control the game. Like the Power Glove, it also came with a number of preset configurations. It also came with a physical plugin resembling a pilot's yoke; as far as I can tell, it didn't add any element of physical control. Rather, it was only meant to put your hands in the proper position to control flying games and let you press buttons instead of relying on the sensors. I could be wrong, of course. Like most people, I have never actually seen one of these.

The U-Force was almost universally derided. This is an unsurprising fact; mass-produced IR sensors in the late-80s could not accurately capture even the minimal requirements of the NES controller. However, after putting out a loluforce article, Kotaku was informed of Joe McKenna, a man who has made it his (successful) mission to master the U-Force. Check out his playthrough of the first level of Super Mario Bros. 3 and Flash Man's stage from Mega Man 2. The hand-wiggling to move Mario's tail is great:


There is Time Now

As far as generalized statements go, people tend to have hobbies. Amateur taxidermy, the Society for Creative Anachronism, and arts and culture blogging all fit in that special category. The category that lets you know you’ve really accomplished something that doesn’t immediately involve formal schooling or your current occupation.

…and then there are the individuals, g’bless ‘em, who take precious time, Herculean effort (assuming Hercules’ thirteenth labor involved the Nintendo Entertainment System) and specialized software to see how quickly they can beat a videogame. You’ve probably seen (or attempted!) speedruns in the past. During our early teenage years, my cousin and I spent an afternoon attempting to beat the first level of Sonic the Hedgehog in under a minute. We had a blast doing it and watching the super-extra-humungo-bonus rack up after getting in at 0:5X felt like getting the gold in the Lazy Sunday Olympics. These sorts of amateur affairs are not at all what I am speakign (writing?) about. Dig on this and note the fluidity. Nearly every move is flawless and any idle time is used for to attain goals that aren’t central to advancing the level, but look damn cool (e.g.: the chained 1ups):

If you’re interested in the more technical details, Wikipedia has a rundown of all the different sorts of tool-assisted speedruns. And, as usual, YouTube is an infinite repository of them.


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