By Mento 0 Comments
Here we are with another round-up of the good, the bad, and the weird of the games featured in this year's Summer Games Done Quick charity speedrun event, as well as the wiki pages that pertain to them. For those of you who are new to any of this, here's a quick primer:
Summer Games Done Quick is a week-long streaming event on Twitch where various members of the speedrun community - those that have trained their wits and reflexes (and a little bit of glitch exploitation knowhow) to finish games as quickly as possible, in order to have the fastest completion times in the world. Despite this competitive edge, the speedrun community is very gregarious and supportive, especially to those just starting out. Usually any big franchise of note - in particular any game of the Zelda, Sonic, Mario, Metroid, Mega Man, or Castlevania persuasion - has dozens of speedrunning tips and tutorials to get you started. As the name suggests, Summer Games Done Quick occurs in the summer; their other annual event, Awesome Games Done Quick, instead happens at the start of the year in winter.
Games Wiki'd Quick is a little task I set myself twice a year to earn my keep as one of the less busy wiki mods around here. In essence, the Twitch games database that the SGDQ streams use to pull their "now playing" info is derived from the Giant Bomb Wiki API, and will automatically update itself whenever new data enters our side of things. With that in mind, I go around to all the game pages that are either missing, empty, or otherwise in need of some TLC (the exception being ROM hacks and other fan games that pop up during SDGQ that don't qualify for pages, like those "Kaizo Mario" ROMs) and make sure the GB Wiki is in decent shape for any inquisitive Twitch spectators.
I normally go with some kind of theme for these round-ups, but this time I'll just stick with a handful of games to represent each category I usually cover:
- Category A: The most unusual games featured in this SGDQ. Getting the full breadth of what's coming up, there's usually a few outliers that make you think "Wait, you can speedrun that?" or just as often "Wait, you can speedrun that in that very specific, odd manner?"
- Category B: The games that required the most work for their pages. Happy to report that there are no SGDQ '19 games missing from our wiki. However, there are still plenty which demand a lot of attention.
- Category C: The speedruns I'm personally looking forward to most. I've earmarked these to watch live or via VOD, for any number of reasons I'll be providing.
Category A: The Whys
- If I hadn't just watched most of the stream last night, I would wonder how you could do a speedrun of Borderlands 2 when the game is not only so packed with content to run through (especially with the "all quests completed" modifier that this run has) but so contigent on random chance for all the game's dropped gear. Turns out, speedrunners have found a lot to exploit in the seven years since the game's release. The riotous three-person co-op playthrough, with additional remote commentary from some of the dev team, is an exhaustive look at every exploitable glitch and RNG manipulation in the book. Best of all? A lot of the tricks involve skipping huge swathes of the game's dialogue.
- I learned a couple of things about Divekick after seeing it in the schedule: the first is that it has a story mode (it does?). The second is that you could probably beat that game super fast already if you know how to cheat the CPU, so I wonder what makes this particular run stand-out beyond just kicking everyone very quickly.
- As far as I can tell, Laffy Taffy 3D Pyramid Challenge is a licensed browser game available (in archived form) from the Wonka Candy website. It didn't meet our requirements for a page - we only consider "significant" browser games, like the original Meat Boy and other famous franchises that started as Flash games on Newgrounds or Kongegrate - but it might become one after its debut in SGDQ. Makes me wonder if a speedrun for that Winnie the Pooh homerun derby Flash game is far behind.
- I was a little surprised to see Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti, a cutesy Japan-only Famicom spin-off of the gory brawler series best known for its localized Genesis and TurboGrafx ports, on the schedule but then when I opened its wiki page and found it was fully featured and my own name was in the list of contributors I realized where I last saw it: at the 2015 AGDQ, where it was part of a whole Splatterhouse block. One of those rare cases of a wiki self-own where I think "they're running Wanpaku Graffiti? What an obscure choice," before realizing I've only heard of it myself because of GDQ.
- Finally, I have no idea why anyone would want to run Jumper: Griffin's Story, but there it is. There isn't so much a single Awful Games Done Quick block this year than there is a handful of trash games spread across the week-long event. Jumper was a terrible licensed action game for the Wii which was based on a terrible movie featuring a teleporting Anakin Skywalker. Sometimes I suspect someone only runs a game like this so they could have the world record unchallenged, like how people apply for the Guinness World Records in the vaunted category of "sticking nine pieces of chewed gum to your face while singing the 'I'm Just Me' song while hopping around on one foot".
Category B: The Fixer-Uppers
- Timespinner's the most typical example of what I usually run into: a game only recently added to the wiki that editors haven't had a chance to flesh out yet. All a game really needs for the purposes of Twitch is a "default image" - the box art you see at the top left of the page - and the page name, and maybe a release (we mods are still not quite copacetic on that). Most new pages have these elements and some screenshots (even a header image, the one that takes up the background behind the deck at the top of the page) but usually no body text. Timespinner, the time-manipulation spacewhipper that came out last year, is one of those.
- The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia is another example of the above, and others in this year's SGDQ include Catleratal Damage, Nex Machina, Lethal League Blaze, and even the site's 2018 GOTY Tetris Effect. All recent games you've probably heard of, but little in the way of wiki love. Maybe a sad indication of how much dust the wiki is gathering these days. I'm hoping it turns around, as someone who's poured way more into the wiki than is perhaps healthy, but we could really use some more incentives. Hmm... I wonder if I could somehow convince the engineers to bring back Wiki Tasks...?
- Split/Second is the winner of this GDQ's dubious award of "most 2nd person". The lack of any formal style guide for the wiki, especially early on when it was basically the wild west (the wiki wiki wild wild west, if you prefer), means that a lot of pages made years ago would not pass the revised moderation standards of today. One of the most profuse of these style guide "no-no"s is writing in the 2nd-person perspective: i.e. "you," and "your." Any given GDQ event will throw up a dozen pages with significant 2nd person usage, and Split/Second - the "cinematic" racing game released in 2010, early in the site/wiki's lifespan - has (or had) a whopping 99 uses of yous and yours. Naturally, this level of pedantry is low on my list of "wiki triage" priorities, but I usually address them anyway in case those games show up in a future GDQ and I end up cursing the indolence of my past self.
- Nothing attracts memes like Shrek, so seeing Shrek Extra Large - a long-forgotten GameCube game - on the schedule isn't the biggest shocker. It does mean that we have a mostly empty page that will need some sprucing up, which also means looking at a bunch of Shrek game clips and figuring out the logic behind it. The fifth and sixth generations are the worst when it comes to making good game pages, because emulation problems make accurate screenshots hard to procure (and in a decent resolution and quality if scouring G.I.S.) and gameplay footage less common. Anything older and you have more or less perfect emulation to draw from; anything newer and there'll be an abundance of decent screenshots on the internet.
- Sylvester and Tweety in Cagey Capers, conversely, is a fine example of the type of empty game page I usually like to work on. Released for the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis), it'll be no problem at all to put together all the elements that make a good wiki page: screenshots, gameplay, release data, and a solid header image. It does raise the question of why someone would want to speedrun a so-so Looney Tunes licensed game from over 25 years ago, but sometimes the strangest games make for the best runs: it all depends on how quickly a dedicated runner can take those games apart and put them back together, and quickie licensed stuff is usually less stable than most.
Category C: The Must-Sees
- I always enjoy watching anything related to Super Mario Sunshine - hence why Steal My Sunshine remains my favorite feature Giant Bomb East has ever had - and in AGDQ earlier this year the runners had this cool "bingo lock-out race" where they had to quickly pursue a set of randomized goals, with every attained goal disappearing as an option for the other runner. This time it's just a straight race, but it's still entertaining to watch that admittedly buggy game get dominated. (It's actually running as I publish this, I sorta ran out of time today.)
- Dark Souls II is perhaps my least favorite of all the Soulsborne games but it's still a fantastic title, and one I'm looking forward to seeing put through its paces. DS games are great for speedruns because of the amount of risk involved taking on bosses with comparatively little in the way of equipment and levels - impressive enough, seeing how much trouble I had originally - but because they're such popular games with huge communities, there's a fair amount of optimization, bug exploits, and ruminating on ideal routes and stat builds. There's also a Dark Souls 1 run this year, but I gave this spot to DS2 because it's been such a long time since I've last seen this game, and I've never seen its DLC bosses beyond Fume Knight (all of whom are also included in this "all bosses" speedrun).
- Almost every GDQ pays homage to the King of Platformers, Super Mario World, and its ubiquity usually results in some off-beat variants and unusual challenges for its runners. As well as a few separate Kaizo Mario ROM hack runs, this year's Super Mario World run is a blind relay race: two teams of four runners, each taking on stages they've never seen before. These kind of races are fun because they combine the high-level play of speedrunners with the "surprise mechanics" of a blind run, where no-one's sure what to expect.
- I have no specific reason why I'm looking forward to the otherwise standard Banjo-Kazooie 100% race, I've just had the bear and bird on my mind a lot recently between their unexpected induction into the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate roster and my recent first playthrough of its flawed but ambitious sequel, Banjo-Tooie. A 100% run will pass through every stage grabbing every object, giving me all the time I need to absorb Grant Kirkhope's great soundtrack and submerge myself in nostalgia for a few hours. (I'm also curious to see if there's a specific optimal route, or if the two racers go off in different preferred directions.)
- Finally, we have the A Link to the Past + Super Metroid Combo Randomizer, which rather than a race is a co-op run. This was shown off during a GDQx, or Games Done Quick Express, which is a shorter event that last occurred in October. It is, as you may have guessed, a ROM hack combination of SNES games A Link to the Past and Super Metroid - two well-represented games already - where exits in one game might lead to exits in the other. It's a little chaotic and very challenging to keep track of all the exit warps, in addition to the randomly placed items which could also be in either games' maps (Samus's Varia Suit may show up in one of Zelda's Dark World dungeons, for instance). I have no idea how this co-op run will work - if both players are playing separate instances of the same seed and liberally share item locations to each other whenever one makes progress, or if one is playing and the other is navigating - but I'm curious to find out. It'll be a serious undertaking, hence why it appears in the penultimate speedrun of the whole event, and I'll be there to cheer them on.
That's going to do it for highlights for SGDQ this year. I'm supposed to be doing all sorts of regular life stuff, as well as reviewing trailers for this stupid E3 thing I do each year, but I can't help but get distracted by the GDQ streams every time the event rolls around. My approbations go out to the runners, the crew behind the event making everything tick along smoothly, the nerds behind the always entertaining TASBot Block, and everyone who donates to the worthy cause at the heart of it all.