AGDQ 2018 – Day One!

Well, that was a blast. Yume here and I’m gonna talk a bit about my experiences behind the scenes of Awesome Games Done Quick 2018, the winter edition of the biggest speedrunning event nowadays, over the course of this week.

Honestly, this day had a real slow start and there were not much “attractions” around yet, so I’ll cut to the general picture that I saw about the event today. Over this week, there will be a lot of events of different speedrunning groups that make a big part of these kinds of events in and of itself.

Being stationed in close distance to the international airport of Washington, the Hilton Washington is the location for this year’s event. The massive hotel offered space and everything needed to pull off this big event.

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The whole hotel is full of “Welcome to GDQ” posters. There’s a desk located in front of the streaming room where your badges are ready to get grabbed. For today, I’ll only have my attendee badge. I’ll organise a picture for a runner badge as well over the week, just because they are well made and look awesome in my opinion.

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Getting a bit of a look behind the scenes is a lot of fun, especially when you’re early on the first day. You see the organisers and crew getting ready for the first take before the speedruns start. Making jokes and refining their choreography to give out the best possible performance to the audience.

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As we are located in a big hotel, there are a lot of rooms this event can call their own for (these few days), like preparation rooms for the runners where they can practice for their runs that will take part in the event a few hours later. Casual gaming rooms, where people meet up to just play games with each other and talk, can also be found. This was kind of was where I got stuck for a long time. On day one I met a ton of people from communities I am part of for the first time.

There are also designated rooms where the community tournaments will take place and an arcade room with older and newer arcade machines. Sadly, it opened relatively late on this first day, but more will certainly be covered on one of the blog posts of this week, so stay tuned for that as well.

One event already took place on the first day though, the so-called Quiz-Bowl. Teams play against each other and answer questions to different gaming-related questions; a very interesting idea and sub-event of AGDQ.

As most of the stuff wasn’t accessible today or just didn’t take place on the first day, I’ll leave it at this. More stuff coming over the next few days while this amazing event continues!

Have a great day and stay tuned for more AGDQ 2018 blog posts!

Day Two, here!

Zelda Randomizer Tournament Finals – A Link to the Past

After months of matches, hammering enemies, searching for mirrors, and swagducks, the final matches for the Fall Open-Mode Tournament were played. Out of the 100 participants of the main tournament, Cransoon and ajneb174 clashed in the finals. And then there was the finals of the secondary Tournament. The secondary Tournament was available to anyone who didn’t make it into the main tournament. In here Zean and Xirtanul met in the finals. The grand price: Their names in the game.

The first match of the finals was played on Wednesday, the 27th of December. Before the match we were shown the best of the tournaments, which was a great way to relive the experience. With the first item found in the first match being the boomerang, the finalists set off. Very early it was known by a check of ajneb174 that the first game was an Agahnim required seed. The hammer and first sword were found fast, but the other sword upgrades were hiding in Ganon’s Tower. Cransoon lost time 30 minutes in the match due to two deaths to Mothula. In the first match, anjeb174 was already fighting Ganon before Cransoon entered Ganon’s Tower. He finished at a time of 1 hour, 17 minutes and 15 seconds. Cransoon finished 12 minutes later.

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The second match was played on Saturday 30 December. The early gloves in Link’s house made ajneb174 grab a bomb and enter in the sewers. There he found the sword and more bombs. This match really showed why these two belong in the finals. In this match, no dark rooms is required without a lamp. Both of them went through the dark rooms and finish the game without ever finding the lamp. Cransoon entered Go-Mode first with finding the Firerod in Turtle Rock 43 minutes in the race. Sadly he died on Vitreous after doing the Misery Mire Dark rooms. He bailed out directly, bought potions and tried to enter the Palace of Darkness. Then he discovered he had no rupees left. Ajneb174 entered Go-Mode 59 minutes in also with the Firerod. In 10 minutes anjeb174 closed the gap between him and Cransoon. While it looked like Cransoon would enter Ganon first, he had 2 hearts and decided to grab a fairy first. This allowed ajneb174 to enter Ganon first with 4 hearts and just blue mail. Finals ChampionOne hit would have killed anjeb174, but he managed to evade everything Ganon threw at him. While some would say Cransoon threw as soon as he grabbed the fairy, he took a hit during the Ganon fight. The race was close to the end. Anjeb174 managed to finished first, and Cransoon finished 15 seconds later. This means that ajneb174 is the champion of the Main Tournament.

The finals of the Secondary Tournament was between Zaen and Xirtanul. This was played on Friday 29 December. In the first match, the gloves were found early. However, the hammer was hiding at the bat. They found this after 1 hour in. The final item they needed in match one was Bombos, so they could enter Misery Mire. Xirtanul was the first one to find this medallion at Kholdstare. Zaen was doing Ice Palace at that time, and it didn’t take him long to find this as well. While Zaen was climbing the Gauntlet, Xirtanul was fighting Ganon already. He finished Ganon before Zaen entered Agahnim2, taking the victory in race 1.

Finals 3

The second race was played soon after the first race. This time the hammer was not as elusive as last time and found in Eastern Palace. While they found most items, this time the Hookshot was hiding. After Zaen took out Lanmolas in Desert Palace, he found this item. With only the Firerod left, he found Silver Arrows in Swamp Palace. He entered Go-Mode after going into Hookshot Cave and finding the Firerod. Both did Turtle Rock before Skull Woods in this race. Moldorm was trying his hardest to throw Zaen down, but he managed to stay on the platform. Entering Ganon first, he managed to take him down with his silver arrows and take the second match, forcing the third decisive match.

The third match was played after a 10 minutes break. This time there were early mirrors, moon pearls and flippers. The seed this time was fast, and Zaen was quickly taking a big advantage this race. He kept expanding his advantage during the entire game. While he forgot that he had the boots, he started using them when entering Moldorn in Hera’s Tower. When he went to check the Spiral Cave and finding the bow, he had the game. Xirtanul decided not to check the Spiral Cave when he had the opportunity and missed this item. It was thanks to this decision, that he won the game. Xirtanul was 5 minutes behind when he entered Ganon’s Tower. Zaen was already fighting Ganon. This made Zaen the champion of the Secondary Tournament.

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If you didn’t watch the matches yet, it is worth to watch back. Congratulations to both anjeb174 and Zaen for winning their tournaments. If you want to see more ALTTP randomizers or these racers, you can see them again in the next Tournament. The top 8 of the Main Tournament and the top 4 of the Secondary Tournament will be in the main tournament. The Key-sanity tournament will be starting at the end of January where our latest Author will be participating in.

An Interview with Veetorp – Legend of Zelda Randomizer (ALTTP)

The Legend of Zelda A Link to the past Randomizer grew big in a short time. Today we will be having one of the developers of the program in for the interview. It is Veetorp, one of the lead programmers of this project. Without his dedication, this would never have become as good as it is today.

From several people I have heard that you are the one behind the randomizer code, who first started working on it. What pushed you to make that randomizer?

I rewrote the randomizer code to what it is today based on code that Dessyregt originally wrote in C#. He had written a Super Metroid Randomizer and adapted the ideas from that into A Link to the Past. It wouldn’t be fair to say I first started working on it, but I certainly made it what it is today. For me personally, I love this game, and I love the logic puzzles of all the ways the game allows you to get different things. I am a programmer by nature, so once I got my teeth into it, I couldn’t stop writing code and making it better.

A programmer by nature is a good thing to be these days, and that definitely made the randomizer into a piece of art already. I have seen many runs of this game and played a few randomizes as well. I can agree this is a great game for this. Yet while making the Randomizer, I am sure you have run into many hardships. Like changing the item location would require a lot of work. What was the hardest thing you have encountered so far in making this? 

We have a great team of guys around the project, really brilliant guys. A lot of the time, if something seems impossible, just talking it out with them or asking help has gone a long way. From a randomizer perspective, one of the hardest things has been working out a fill algorithm that is both fast and achieves the most varied results possible, as well as the logic involved in some of the more “interesting” dungeons. Palace of Darkness has had its logic overhauled countless times, including an eight-hour call between me and ChristosOwen, where we tried to figure out every possible way someone could key-lock in the dungeon.

The game itself was almost originally designed to handle moving around items around. Moving 1 item from a chest on one side of the world to another chest is surprisingly easy, but when you modify some of the more interesting item locations, that becomes harder. Bombos Tablet is an example of this. Karkat had to rewrite large portions of the item draw code to enable randomization of the standing items locations like that.

So the normal items itself were easy to move around. Were all item locations found already by the time you started, or did you have to dig deep into the code to find them all?

A fair amount of them were found or created. Most of the recent deep digging into the code has been for all the extras and added modes we have been working on currently and recently.

One of your recently added modes is Key-sanity. Was it easy to implement that, besides changing what the maps and compass do in the game? I can imagine it harder to make sure the keys and dungeon items stayed in their own dungeon.

For Key-sanity we had to create 58 brand new items to the game. The keys, maps, and compasses were tied to their dungeon. The game only had generic versions of these and based the item you got on where you got it. We also had to completely reimagine our randomizer to understand what it meant to find keys outside their own dungeon.

So it required a lot more work after all. Did this reimagining give you any new insights? Any possibility for new game modes or variations?

Very Much so, we have 2 larger variations we are working on right now. It also made the logic a little easier to maintain, although it is a little more complex.

Anything you can reveal about the two larger variations, or is it all a secret for now?

One involves a more Zelda1-esque key situation, currently named Key-Sanity-b. The other one will be a fun surprise.

Sounds interesting, and a possible new article as well when the surprise has been released. But to the other point, today in the daily race, I noticed that Christmas has arrived to Hyrule. While many online games nowadays do something for this season, what inspired you into doing this?

The whole team has thrown around ideas of special randomizers at different times: April Fools, St. Patricks Day, Valentines Day. It struck me this season to really just push for it. It certainly helped that many of the hackers of AlttP could help out with their specific areas of expertise. Plus, it is always fun to spice up the game, it is what we do.

The ice mechanics in the overworld is annoying, but the fact that you don’t need flippers to access several areas also changed the locations you can visit earlier. Did you account for this while making it?

Annoying? Festive! We had a discussion about having the logic account for iced-over lakes and rivers but decided the time would be spent better making all the features we did. I believe in the future we will adjust the logic when we make adjustments like this. The sequence breaks for not having flippers is mostly harmless.

It was an early decision to keep the Ice Physics only on the overworld. Dungeons would have been way too hard, and there would be countless bugs to solve.

And we are all glad that it stayed in the overworld, well maybe except Moldorm. With this festive edition, there is a poem on the site and at the ending as well. As a poet myself, I am wondering who thought up the poem.

That is our very own walking_eye, one of the newest members to the team. I asked for a short description of the mode without giving him too many details, and that poem arrived. It was like getting a gift myself, so amazing.

I can say he has talent. How long will people be able to enjoy the festive randomizer?

Currently, we are planning to keep it available until the new year.

That will give our readers a chance to try it out on the release of the interview. One subject that we did not touch yet, however, are the custom sprites. From what I know of trying to change sprites of SNES games, this is a hell. How did you overcome this?

Surprisingly, Link’s graphics are all in a single location and not compressed. With a few graphic editing tools out there it is actually relatively easy to swap them out for a different set. We also have a large active group of sprite developers that have been pumping them out like candy.

That is a surprise for a SNES game. And the large group is certainly helpful for that as well. What is your favorite sprite so for in this and why?

I really do like them all, laughably original Link is my favorite. It holds so much childhood nostalgia. I will say to try the updated Santa Link, he got a little spruce up for the season.

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Some of the sprites people can select for the randomizer.

Original Link because of the nostalgia is a good reason. Personally, I prefer to take the Touhou characters. While I will be waiting for more of them to appear, I heard that V28 of the randomizer will appear very soon. What can we expect in that one?

It certainly is getting closer, V28 is adding a feature on the site of a “Daily Game” where is pregenerates 1 game each day of different settings. This way people can play the same game at different times, or try new modes they hadn’t thought of before. We are also updating the link Entrance Randomizer to have some of the new features that Amazing Ampharos has been putting in, like Key-Sanity Entrance Randomizer. There will also be a slew of fixes for the Customizer we put in V27.

That would be very interesting to see. Do you have any tips for new runners of this randomizer? Anything they should begin with?

First I would suggest joining the discord, there are so many great people in the community that are very happy to help out. Then I would certainly suggest playing through the original game, getting a feel for the mechanics is very helpful. This also helps with the general knowledge of Vanilla locations. Then I would suggest watching a few people stream the game, they will give great tips on routing and how to get through certain sticky situations. Don’t get discouraged by your early runs taking over 2 hours, my first rando took me 5 hours. People who sub 1:30 randomizer regularly have played it a lot. And most of all, just have fun playing it.

My first 4 runs ended in unfinished runs, the 4th one sadly due to a crash of my console at Ganon. Crossproduct’s tracker did help me a lot in learning the different item locations and what is required for those. Would you recommend his tracker as well for beginners or do you have a different one in mind?

I would absolutely recommend Crossproduct’s tracker, that guy is both amazing and brilliant. The world map tracker is super valuable to new runners, just knowing where you can go is probably one of the most important things in item randomizer. He is also my roommate for AGDQ (Awesome Games Done Quick) this year.

That is great. We do plan to cover AGDQ as well, even if none of our team can be there. I did not check the schedule of it yet, but will there be a randomizer at it as well?

You’re in for a treat. Saturday night ChristosOwen and Andy will be doing a race.

Living in Europe, I guess I will miss the best stuff once again. Anyway, we are nearing the end of this interview. Do you have any last words to our readers?

Thank you all for your time, I hope you guys get a chance to try the randomizer and enjoy it as much as I do.


For more information about the randomizer, check our previous article where we cover the basics of it here.

Completely Custom Zelda Game – A Link to the Past Randomizer

After mostly disregarding what happened in the first two games, Link awakens to his uncle leaving his house. He just runs out the door, into the rainy night. Ganon has moved all items around Hyrule. You have to find all the items necessary to beat Ganon. This is your chance to be a hero. This is A Link to the Past Randomizer.

Earlier this year, a small group of programmers managed to make a program to randomize A Link to the Past. In a short time, it grew exceptionally, and the runners of this game, together with the viewers can’t be compared to other speedruns. With the ability to even change the player sprite into something else, and lower or remove the hearth beeping, runners jumped on this game.

ALTTP Randomizer Logo

The original game itself is one of the Nintendo classics that a lot of people played in the past. The addition of this randomizer gave a big boost in the replay value and makes the game unique every time you generate a ROM. This is what makes running, or watching the game an interesting experience. Nobody knows what you get when you open that chests. Will it be the gloves, the hammer, or just the single rupee? Even the pendants and crystals are shuffled among themselves, so the first dungeon Eastern Palace in the original game can here be a crystal instead of the green pendant. And if you try entrance shuffle, even the dungeons and caves can be at different locations than you are used to.

Since the items are randomized, there has to be a way to make sure the game is still beatable. Else you can end up with the bow behind an enemy who requires a bow to beat it. This is where logic comes into play. The most commonly used logic is the No Glitches. This logic requires no knowledge about the game and will prevent you from getting stuck anywhere. Of course, this also makes it so that you don’t have to do dark rooms without a torch. As the name says, no glitches are required, but you can use minor glitches still in progress. This is known as a sequence break. Sequence breaks can allow you to skip certain parts or items, but can also sidetrack you. Going into a dark room without a torch is known as doing a sequence break as well. It is never required to do a dark room without a torch. Experienced runners can do this, but if you are just starting out, try to avoid it.

World Map Overworld

Pendants are shuffled with crystals.

Because of the logic of a randomizer, you don’t always have to fully clear a pendant dungeon. The pedestal, where you normally get the master sword, can have any item of the item pool. This can also be rupees. With the items randomized, you can get the items required to access the dark world early in the game. Requirements to get into the dark world are the Moon Pearl, and Either Titans Mitts or Gloves and Hammer. Or if you are unlucky, a torch, Master Sword or Cape and a sword so you can beat Agahnim1.

In the randomizer, there are three modes, known as Standard, Open and Swordless. Standard mode is the closest to the original game. You start in Link bed and see your uncle leave the house. As you make your way to the castle and your uncle, you will get the sword. Because the first chests do not need to have a torch, there are several changes made in this. You will be given a free lightcone during the escape only. This makes the game easier for those who are just starting out, as you will have a guaranteed sword. The second mode is Open mode. Here Zelda has been rescued already and you can start at the Sanctuary or Link’s house. You do not get a guaranteed sword, and might be weaponless for a long time.

And then there is Swordless mode. Imagine a sword without swords. For this, you need the alternative weapon known as the hammer. The hammer has a shorter range and a longer delay after using it, making you more vulnerable to enemies. Because Ganon can only be damaged with a sword, and some items only accessed with a sword, there have been made changes so that a hammer can be used instead. And unlike in the other two modes, Silver arrows are available in all difficulties.

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The item you gain is randomized each time you generate a seed.

Besides, the modes are the Variations. These offer new ways to play this game. The Timed Race variation has a timer counting up. There are 20 green clocks that subtract 4 minutes from the timer, 10 blue clocks that subtract 2 minutes of the timer and 10 red clocks that add 2 minutes to the timer. When racing this mode, the one who has the best time wins the game, regardless of who beats Ganon first.

OHKO (One Hit Knock Out) mode makes it so that you can’t take a hit. If you do, you die. It is this variation that altered the logic for some items, as all items should be accessible without having to take damage. There is also a timed OHKO mode, where the OHKO mode starts after the timer reaches 0. Depending on the difficulty, you have more or less time. Here you also can find clocks, which adds time to the timer. Red Clocks, however, sets your timer to 0. This only exists in Expert mode. If you find another clock after the timer reached 0, leave the OHKO mode till the timer reaches 0 again.

Blue Mail Upgrade

A blue mail on the ledge.

Triforce Hunt is a nod to the original Zelda game, where you had to find the triforce pieces. Here, instead of 8, you need to find more pieces, depending on the difficulty. Also, the difficulty decides how many pieces can be found. The only way to win this game is by collecting the required amount triforce pieces, not even beating Ganon beats the game.

Key-Sanity is the newest variation. All dungeon items are shuffled into the item pool as well, this includes all small keys for a dungeon. Keys found on enemies or under pots will stay there like in any other randomizer. In this mode, it is worth collecting maps and compasses. The overworld map no longer shows any dungeon information unless you collect that dungeon’s map. Compasses show how many chests you have checked in a dungeon after collecting it. It is important to know that in this mode, the dungeon music is randomized as well, so you can’t hear if it is a pendant or crystal dungeon by the music.

Item Menu

All crystals have been gained.

If you became interested in try this out, you are recommended to join their discord first. There are a lot of helpful people in the community who will teach you the basics. And most runners use trackers to keep a track of there items. The recommended one for beginners is Crossproduct’s tracker, which you can find on his twitch channel. You can watch several streams, tournaments and play it to get familiar with the game. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t beat a seed the first few times. It is not that easy to beat this game when first starting out, but you will get a feel for the logic, and slowly learn all item locations. Eventually, you will finish a seed, and this can take a long time for the first finished seed. For me myself, I could not finish the first 3 seeds, the 4th seed ended due to a crash. The fifth one I tried gave me a time of 4 hours. Now, if you want to run it, or want to know more, visit their official site: http://vt.alttp.run/randomizer. It has all information you need to get started.

Speedrun: McDonald’s Treasure Land Adventure

McDonald’s Treasure Land Adventure is a platformer for the Sega Genesis made by Treasure. It was released in 1993 and contains 4 stages. These stages are known as the Magical Forest, the Magical Town, the Magical Sea and the Magical Moon.

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In this game, your health is represented by gems. These gems are used to pay to get past certain parts or to be able to damage bosses. But the gems are not the only things that are related to health. Throughout the levels, you can find flowers. The Gold flowers represent half HP and the white flowers 1/3rd HP. If you get 2 gold flowers, your gems recover, unless you are at full health. Same with 3 white flowers. And to make sure you don’t lose your life if you accidentally jump into a death pit, you can get balloons as well. To increase your magic attack, you can collect magic upgrades. Level 3 is the max level you can have. If you lose a life, you lose all you have collected and end up with the initial values for everything, except balloons if you have more than 1.

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As for the plot of this game, it is not even related to food. There is also a rumor that it was intended to be a completely different game, and McDonald’s elements were shoehorned in at the last-minute. Considering the number of bugs, this is debatable. The plot basically goes like this: One Day, Ronald McDonald was walking in the magical forest, where he found a piece of a treasure map. He then goes on the hunt to find all pieces of the map, which will lead to the treasure.

This game can be considered a speedrunners worst hell. A large percentage of the game are autoscrollers or things you can’t control. A lot of getting a good time comes down to just nailing a precise input moment on the stuff you can control. A runner of this game known as WhoaConstrictor calls this game a “Negative Space” run for this reason.

This game has a considering lack of bugs to abuse. There is only one glitch that can be used in this game. It is known under the runners as Balloon boost. Basically, when Ronald falls into a death pit, he uses a balloon powerup. This powerup lets you float freely in the air for 255 frames. While Ronald is in balloon state, the game stops checking what platform he is on, since it assumes he is floating around. If you touch down on a moving platform during the state, the game engine assumes he is in the air, and on the platform as well. This increases his speed. This trick was found in November 2017, so it is a relatively new trick.

Balloons are abused a lot in the moon level. There is a section where there are long gaps of bottomless pits, and balloons decrease the time you need for that section. There is no need to worry about your balloon count since during the game you should pick up enough naturally.

Health management in this game is not as easy as in other platformers of that time. You need to keep in mind that you have to make payments or have enough for boss fights. The flowers are what makes the health management harder. If you are not at full gems, and you collect enough flowers, you get a gem. At times, you do want to avoid that, as you know there is a gem a bit further ahead you can grab. Beginner mode is mostly run because health management is easier than in Normal and expert. This also makes Beginner mode a lot shorter.

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While you can collect gold in the game, in a speedrun you won’t be using it. There is only one time where you enter a shop, and that is in the train stage. When you enter and then immediately leave the shop, the default screen position is ahead of where it would normally be if you waited. This saves one second of the run. The community of the game says that WhoaConstrictor hated that stage so much, that he found the 1-second skip.

The current World Record holder at the time of writing is Boon, who got a time of 20 minutes and 10 seconds. He achieved this time at 10 November 2017.

And this was the game that was chosen by the Speedrun Weekly community to be raced for the 7th race of the first season. With some runners joining the SRW discord and share all information required, the races were able to learn the game and set good times in the first race.

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After a week of practice, three runners entered the first race. After a lot of mistakes, problems on the restream with the racers starting early and other issues, the one who claimed the first spot with a good time of 20 minutes and 34 seconds was WhoaConstrictor. Second place was Knight with a time of 24 minutes and 56 seconds. Third and last was Legs with a time of 26 minutes and 32 seconds. WhoaConstrictor felt he cheated considering he already knew the game, but that is how SRW works. Knight messed the first stage up

The second race had 5 participants. The WR holder Boon entered the race as well and ended up first with an official SRL time of 20 minutes and 27 seconds. YumeTsubasaCH managed to get a new PB during the race and finished seconds with a time of 25 minutes and 36 seconds. Legs had entered this race as well and again finished third place. His time was worse this time around with 27 minutes and 59 seconds. The only one who went in blind in this Speedrun Weekly race was DarQ_Massacres. It took him 1 hour, 2 minutes and 8 seconds to complete the game. WhoaConstrictor entered this race as well but ended up with a forfeit.

When we take these two races together, only the best time counts for the winner standings of this week. With that, the clear winner of this weeks SRW is Boon, followed by WhoaConstrictor on the second place and Knight in the third place.

Standings
1. 0:20:27 Boon
2. 0:20:34 WhoaConstrictor
3. 0:24:55 Knight
4. 0:25:36 YumeTsunasaCH
5. 0:26:32 Legs
6: 1:02:08 DarQ_Massacres