Friday, January 23, 2015

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Tomorrow will feature the second race in the series of three being put on by the speedrun racing site SpeedRunsLive. The whole thing is flying under the banner of 'get yourself speedrunning' and I was really hoping these races would exist to help bootstrap people into speedrunning, but it turns out that isn't really the case. Anyone can create a race in SRL for pretty much any game as long as they have an opponent lined up so the only things that actually seem special about these races are that they have a scheduled start time and there's a stream running with commentary on the top players.

What I was hoping would happen would be that there'd be a lot of information easily available to let people know what sorts of things they should be doing in these games. A 'cheat sheet' if you will of the core tricks to the game and a sample route to follow. The Mario 3 one eventually had a route put up in a pastebin document. It was a good start, but there was no mention that such a thing existed on the website or in the main IRC channel. Or if there was I sure didn't see it. I only found out it existed when I joined the race specific channel an hour before it started and the link was in the topic. I didn't set aside any time to practice but part of that was not knowing what I should even be practicing. If I'd had that document in advance I'd have been more encouraged to at least do a trial run.

I have done some research and practice for the Zelda race. It's much shorter than the Mario 3 race (it only covers the very start of the game up until you get the Master Sword which is right after the 3 pendant dungeons) which is nice. But I wasn't sure what I could or should be doing. The rules for the race are rather cryptic to the uninitiated: 

Rules: S&Q allowed. Glitches banned: EG, YBA, OoB.

Ok... What is S&Q? What is EG? YBA? OoB? What run should I watch to model my game after? Are they abiding by those rules?

S&Q it turns out is the 'Save & Quit' option in the game. This lets you essentially teleport to any of the starting locations in the game which is rather convenient once you've finished a dungeon. Instead of walking to the next dungeon you warp back to your house and take the shorter route. It's not clear to me why people would run without using this option but apparently people do.

OoB stands for Out of Bounds. EG stands for Exploration Glitch. YBA stands for Yuzuhara's Bottle Adventure. All three are ways to skip past large chunks of the game. OoB is clipping through walls to take shortcuts. EG is an extreme form of OoB where you end up getting onto another layer entirely. This lets you walk anywhere on the map. Different dungeons and stuff are all actually just on one big map in memory (or two?) so with this glitch you can pretty much walk to anywhere you want as long as the destination has a way to end the glitch (a cliff of some sort to jump down I think). YBA is a crazy glitch where you use a potion in a bottle on a screen transition to rewrite stuff in memory to do all kinds of crazy things. Like getting the flute well before you should have it, which lets you warp to places you shouldn't be able to reach.

So basically they're banning all the things that let you skip parts of the game. Sort of like how in Mario 3 they banned the warp whistle but still let you use p-wings and clouds to skip/cheat your way through individual levels. With a whistle you skip entire worlds in one action and that's not good for a nostalgia run. In Zelda they ban all the weird glitches but they let you warp back to your starting point. That only cuts out some boring running around on the world map.

I couldn't find any routes for this category anywhere so what I did was watched a bunch of different videos people had posted for categories that sounded like they could be this one. They had enough similarities that I got a pretty good idea of what I'd need to do. Because you aren't using any crazy glitches you need to do the dungeons in order. You need the running boots from dungeon one to knock down the book to enter dungeon two. You need the gloves from dungeon two to pick up a rock on the way to dungeon three. Then the only thing left to do is run into the forest and pick up the sword. I saw one guy who went and got an optional ice rod to help kill the bosses but most people skipped that. It seemed like the only optional thing most people did was pick up the heart from a chest in the sanctuary you take Zelda to at the start of the game.

There are still all sorts of tricks to cut frames out by walking on some diagonals and people plan out specific arrow usages so they know how many pots they need to pick up. I'm a bad aim so I need to pick up all the arrows I can find!

I did a test run this morning and got done in a little over an hour. Real people finish in 23 minutes (or maybe less now... who knows how good the people I watched actually are) so this was already a better ratio than my Mario 3 run. And I got lost lots, and got knocked out of the third boss fight several times. I expect to do much better in the actual race.

And maybe they're intentionally making it hard to find this stuff. That's what speedrunning is... Find different tricks and glitches from a wide variety of sources and watch the people who claim to be good to see what they do. Try to copy it. When you're good enough to do what they do then you can tinker with ways to make it faster by doing different things. Which you either find yourself through insane amounts of trial and error or you find by watching other people in the hopes they stumble across something new.

I'm definitely going to get up in time for the Zelda race tomorrow. But after how much effort it took this week to find what I needed to do in a game I understand I feel like trying for the Sonic one next week is probably crazy. Maybe I could show up and expect to come last? I don't want to show up and end up forfeiting though, so that may well come down to if I think I'll be awake for 6+ hours after it starts.

I may even practice more in the morning... I didn't get any ranking points for coming 91st in Mario 3, but I feel like I could probably do well enough in Zelda to get some ranking points. Assuming as many random new players show up as last time, anyway! I don't think ranking points really do anything but they're a number that I could make get bigger, so I must make it bigger!

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