Speed Running and Summer Games Done Quick 2021 – Primer

I’d like to take some time here to talk about something a little different today…But don’t worry, the Qualbert team will be back to review the latest games very, very soon.

If you are like me, you have a tendency to love a lot of different things relating to this pastime/hobby/way-of-life that we call gaming.

We all get a kick from the experience of sitting in front of your TV or PC and firing up a game to spend hours in the shoes of a hero exploring some far-off fantastical land, kicking a goal to with the Championship for your team or even just getting the rush of adrenaline from solving that puzzle that has been bugging you for hours.

There is a reason that gaming is now the largest and most profitable arm of the entertainment industry and it isn’t just due to Covid-19 locking many people around the world out of theatres. Even before the virus the advent of high powered devices that fit in our pockets has made gaming accessible to almost everybody. Developers have adapted and nowadays there is a game for literally everybody. Sport, first-person-shooters, puzzle games, RPGs, visual novels…yes even Candy Crush.

But, sometimes you don’t quite feel like playing a game…

Maybe you just finished that 100 hour RPG and need to let the pain of a sad ending wash over you.

Maybe you hit a road-block and just need to take your mind of that puzzle, level or boss fight.

Maybe you just don’t have anything to play right this minute.

Fortunately, due to the importance of gaming to the lives of so many people, and with the sheer abundance of content producers, there are many things available that you can do to still be doing something related to gaming without actually having a controller in your hand.

You could take a few minutes to read a review of the latest release on your favourite website (hopefully that is why you are here). If you are musically inclined, perhaps you might simply go for a walk and listen to a classic game soundtrack or two (we’ll have some articles on this topic in the near future). Or perhaps you will join the masses on Twitch and YouTube and watch other people playing a game.

I’m sure all of us have dabbled with watching gaming streamers here or there. But today I’m here to tell you about a specific subset of streamers. Indeed, a whole section of the gaming world that you may not be aware of… Speed Runners.

What is a Speed Runner?

Quite simply, a speed runner is trying to finish a game as quickly as possible.

75+ Gotta Go Fast Memes Are About Sonic The Hedgehog - GEEKS ON COFFEE

We all want to be the best at something right? Well these speed runners often spend literally thousands of hours playing the same game over and over again to shave off just a few seconds from their personal best and claim that record.

We aren’t just talking about racing games here either (though these are obviously speed run as well). Games considered the ‘most popular’ or ‘best’ games usually have a strong community – examples being Super Mario 64, Super Metroid, various games in the Zelda series and Portal 1 and 2.

There are also a batch of indie games that are extremely popular in speed running, sometimes even developed with speed running in mind – examples in this group include Super Meat Boy, Celeste, VVVVVV and Undertale.

Are there rules to speed running?

Well, maybe…it depends on the game that the speed runner is playing. Indeed, within the speed running community of any one particular game there might be multiple different rule-sets and different ‘leader boards’ of times for each type of game. Taking the example of Super Mario 64, there are the following main categories that can be run:

  • Best time 70 stars = 46 minutes and 59 seconds
  • Best 100% time (120 stars) = 1 hour, 38 minutes and 21 seconds
  • Best ‘any%’ time (0 stars) = 6 minutes and 31 seconds

The first type listed here, and the main type of speed run for most games, is the quickest run through a game without any significant glitches being used. An execution-based run using level planning and pure skill (and prayers to RNGesus) to simply beat the game as quickly as possible.

100% times typically require completing all of the elements of the game. In the case of Mario 64, collecting all 120 stars will meet the 100% requirement. Some games such as Donkey Kong Country 3 on the SNES use an internal method to calculate completion of the game which reads as ‘103%’ when all tasks are done. In that case, getting the ‘103%’ would be required.

Often an ‘any%’ name signifies an ‘anything goes’ variant of speed running. Major game-breaking glitches can be used to knock literally hours off of a standard run. In the Mario 64 example above, you can see that the standard 47 minute time is literally smashed down to only 6 and a half minutes!

Interested in watching some videos of speed runs?
Well you can simply go to speedrun.com where there are vast amounts of videos you can watch.

Want to know what happens when a game is run literally as fast as possible? Faster than human hands are capable of even playing the game?

Then maybe ‘Tool Assisted Speedruns’, or TAS for short, are what you are after.

Using emulators and software that captures inputs on a frame-by-frame basis, TAS runners are able to break a game down into chunks as short as 1/60th of a second to complete input commands into a game. TAS runners are also able to do things that would be otherwise impossible for human hands, such as pressing ‘left’ and ‘right’ on a controller at the same time. TAS runs are insane and can also be hilarious to watch.

Check out TASVideos / Front Page

But what if a speed running community gets almost ‘bored’ of the usual game. Knowing where literally every single item is and playing the best path through the game over and over again must be tiring eventually right?

Well, fear not – because Randomizers are here (and you can even play them yourself).

Randomizers are, as you probably suspect from the name, a method of randomization of items within a game. They can be very difficult to construct because ‘logic’ is required to ensure that whilst all items are placed ‘randomly’ there is still the ability to collect what you need to actually progress through the game.

In Super Metroid, for example, the morph ball is always going to be found in the first handful of items as further progression through the game without it is impossible.

Games with a ‘Metroidvania’ or Zelda style progression system are generally the best for randomizers as the pathway through the game itself will change every time. There is even an insane variant known as SMZ3 – or Super Metroid and Link to the Past Crossover Randomizer. Here there are four portals between specific places on the map in the two games, and the items from both games are randomly shuffled around both titles…craziness

For more information around SMZ3 specifically, you can go to Super Metroid and A Link to the Past Randomizer

Obviously there is a massive speed running community out there, all across the globe. Furthermore, even in the early days of YouTube and streaming, many of these runners were able to eke out a life and earn income by streaming their adventures on Twitch.

Making money from speed running? Yes.

So how can this community actually give back to the world?

Well, about 10 years ago (January 2010) a small group of runners in the US decided to set up an event to raise money for charity. Various speed runners would run their games live in a ‘marathon’ format (back to back) over multiple days without a break. Watchers were able to donate to the chosen charity through Twitch – this Annual event became known as ‘Games Done Quick‘.

The first event was relatively small and run over 3 days, but was able to raise  $10,532 (USD) for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. In 2011 the event was pushed to 5 days, and this time a total of $52,520 (USD) was again raised for the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

Awesome Games Done Quick‘ as it is now known (or AGDQ for short) has continued to run every year in January over 7 or 8 days. By 2020 the event was so huge a massive $3,164,002 over the 8 days of the event alone!

Due to the success of the event by just its 2nd year, a second event was started in 2011 and has become known as ‘Summer Games Done Quick‘. This event happens in either July or August each year, with donations from ‘SGDQ’ going to Doctors Without Borders.

The wide reach of gaming has allowed the Games Done Quick team to rack up a whopping 31 million dollars (US) for the two charities since January 2010.

20190927-NGO-05110.jpg
Great work boys, that’s a big donation!

Usually the events are completed live in a function centre, and if you live in the US (or want to travel there) you can attend yourself. Obviously with COVID impacting everyone, the event has changed to an online event with each streamer presenting from their own home – though one could argue this is in fact better as more international streamers can get involved.

The time is upon us again for Summer Games Done Quick. The event will be happening from July 4th to July 11th this year. In 2021 we will get a massive 146 games, run back to back to back, over the 8 days of the event.

It isn’t just the classics here either. Yes we have the usual suspects in Super Metroid, Mario 64, and at least 3 different Zelda games. But you can also find things here that you probably haven’t ever heard of before – what is ‘Manifold Garden‘ and can I eat a ‘Jelly Drift‘??

Pokemon Emerald‘…never heard of it. Must be some niche kiddie game.

Highlights for me at each event include the ‘races’ where multiple runners will play simultaneously for victory and bragging rights. This year some of the races include Mega Man X (SNES), Castlevania 1 (NES), Resident Evil 7 (PC), and Pokemon Black/White (DS).

I’ll definitely be tuning in for the Super Metroid race on the final day – always the most hotly contested part of the event. Other games I’m looking forward to seeing include Outer Wilds, Dead Space, Shadow of the Colossus and the finale game – Kingdom Hearts 2.

You can watch the 2021 SGDQ stream live at GamesDoneQuick – Twitch

Or get more information about the event, including the full game schedule at https://gamesdonequick.com/

Gotta go fast!

WCTV Podcast #4 – Hunting Season

Recently I’ve been invited to appear on WindyCornerTV’s channel to help record a podcast! Earlier this year we recorded and episode for the 10th anniversary of the Nintendo 3DS, and decided to make the podcast a regular thing!

In each episode we’ll discuss recent releases, games we played and reviewed over the last couple of weeks, and interesting topics from the games industry around the world. In this episode we discuss the biggest release of the last month: Monster Hunter Rise! Robert also dives into his experience with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 on the PlayStation 5, we chat about the recent VR version of DOOM 3 for the PSVR, and I discuss my time at the Hamburg Games Conference and recent review of Everhood on Nintendo Switch.

You can watch the podcast here:

Stay tuned for future episodes and be sure to check out WindyCornerTV’s channel!
In the next episode I’ll be talking about my weekend playing the Diablo II: Resurrected technical alpha.

The Funniest Game on Switch? Say No! More Review – Nintendo Switch

Did you have a ball playing Katamari Damacy? Did you think Untitled Goose Game was a honking good time? Looking for another light-hearted, hilarious game? Then Say No! More.

Have you ever been in a situation where you just wanted to shout “NO!”?
Can you imagine if you didn’t even have the option? If refusal was considered taboo?
Where no matter what was asked of you, even the most tedious of tasks, you had to say “yes!” with enthusiasm.

Welcome to the world of Say No! More, a game that developers, Studio Fizbin, claim to be the world’s very first “NPG (No-Playing Game).” Through literally teaching the player to say “no” more, the game emphasises the power behind using this simple word that we too often take for granted. With its unique simplicity, quirky sense of humour, heavily-stylised visuals and superb voice acting, Say No! More delivers a unique experience I KNOW you won’t want to pass up.

So what makes such a simple concept so entertaining?
Well there’s NO time to waste, read on!

Say No More Nintendo Switch

PLOT

It’s your first day at a new job, you’re one of three new interns hired to work for an unnamed massive corporation. Exciting, right? No.

Only minutes into the new job you find out there is a hierarchy that must be obeyed. And as a lowly intern, guess what? You’re the bottom of the ladder. Anything that is asked of you must be done with enthusiasm, in fact it’s impossible to refuse. But why is that? The word “no” does not exist. It has has been completely outlawed, banished and hidden from society.

Get your superior a coffee? Sure, that’s reasonable!
Unjam the printer that your work colleague so kindly stuffed up? Rightio!
Work unpaid overtime for the fifth time this week? Yes, I would love to!
Even give up your adorable unicorn lunchbox because your supervisor forgot their lunch at home? Of course!

Say No More Nintendo Switch Unicorn Lunchbox
Yep, everyone in this game wants a piece of your badass unicorn lunchbox. Who wouldn’t? Just look at it. Majestic.

But this all changes when you stumble across a hidden tape above your dilapidated office desk. A tape containing a forbidden word that has been lost to society. In listening to this tape you gain a power that others in the world would not even speak of: the ability to say NO!

Say No More Nintendo Switch Tape
The world’s shortest audiobook.

In possessing this unique newfound skill, the oppressed intern seeks to rise up and quite literally spread the good word. What follows is a plot that is not only hilarious, but at times meaningful and strangely heart-warming. What starts out as a simple concept, evolves over 8 chapters into something much more dramatic than I had ever expected from a comedy game.

But how do you say “no” more?

GAMEPLAY

Before assaulting office workers and superiors with a barrage of refusal, you’ve got to look the part, right? The game begins with a detailed character creator, despite the very minimalist low-poly graphics. It feels like a combination of Mii Maker and creating a character in The Sims, allowing you to stylise your character’s facial features, clothing and accessories to be as exciting or boring as you wish. I went for a pretty generic salaryman look (that somehow looked a bit like Robert Downey Jr?).

Say No More Nintendo Switch Character Creator
Change your face? No plastic surgery required.

After creating your character, you need to give them a voice. Impressively you can choose from shouting “NO!” in seventeen different languages, each with a feminine or masculine voice. The voice acting is in English, but this shouldn’t stop you from exploring all the different ways you can refuse someone! Definitely a nice touch. For your entertainment here’s a short clip of how to say “no” in the languages available:

Ever wondered how to say no in Gaelic? No?

Once you’ve created your character and chosen your preferred language, the game drops you into a story that takes place across 8 different chapters. Each is about 10 – 15 minutes long and is packed full of hilarious dialogue, amusing conversations between characters, clever easter eggs, and silly slapstick comedy. Levels follow a linear route akin to an on-rails shooter, but instead of firing bullets you’ll be blasting office workers with the sheer power of your words alone. This is simplistic gameplay at its finest and is approachable enough for literally anyone to play. Even my wife (who is usually terrible at games, sorry!) enjoyed it.

Say No More Nintendo Switch Gameplay
Probably don’t do this in your real-life office though…

As you progress through the chapters, you’ll be given additional means of saying no. Certain situations may require you to respond with an angry, a lazy or a sarcastic no. To further humiliate your colleagues, you can perform actions like sarcastically clapping at them, laughing or nodding your head, all of which have certain situations where they are most appropriate. You’ll also be able to hold down the button to charge up a more devastating “NO” that usually causes havoc by launching the unfortunate office workers or inanimate objects that stand in your way. These are all clever ways of adding slightly more depth to a game that could otherwise be finished just by pressing a single button.

Say No More Nintendo Switch Controls
Next time you have to say “no” to a work colleague, try sarcastically clapping at them while doing so. It’ll go down well, I promise.

Though the gameplay in Say No! More is simple, its comedic delivery is where it truly shines.

COMEDY

I’m in no way exaggerating when I say that Say No! More is quite possibly the funniest game I’ve ever played. Throughout the few hours playing the game, the vast majority of the time was spent either in legitimate laughter or with a big cheesy grim on my face. The game is absolutely packed full of superbly-written clever dialogue, witty responses, and a satirical take on the office lifestyle (which I can really appreciate being an office worker myself).

A few snippets from the game, including a reference to some obscure monster-fighting RPG.

My personal favourite parts of the game are delivered in the form of motivational speeches. The tape which teaches you how to say “NO!” is actually delivered by a character that I can only describe as if Hulk Hogan became a motivational speaker. Levels will be scattered with excerpts from this character as you listen to more of the tape, allowing you to unlock further secrets of this powerful word bestowed upon you by your brawny teacher.

Say No More Nintendo Switch Hulk Hogan Nogan Motivation
Your mentor, or as I like to call him: Hulk NOgan.

VISUALS

As you may have already noticed, the game employs a distinct low-poly art-style with vibrant colours and exaggerated animations. I’d say it has a similar aesthetic to Katamari Damacy, which in my opinion is a very good thing. Though detail is limited, this seems to fit well with the comedic style of the game and means the screen can be full of activity with little-to-no drop in framerate. The game performs well in both handheld and docked mode and looks vivid and visually-pleasing.

The low-poly art style of Katamari Damacy Reroll (2018) vs Say No! More.

AUDIO

The soundtrack is quite simple, comprised of peppy, upbeat music that you might expect to hear in the background of an office training video. During the tape sequences however, you’ll feel as if you’ve been thrown into a workout video, as heavy riffs accompany “Hulk NOgan” yelling motivational lines at you.

While none of the tracks in the game will likely find their way onto your favourite game music playlist, the voice acting and delivery of the game’s hilarious dialogue is something worth writing home about. Every single word in the game is voiced, including all the office worker NPCs you’ll often fling out of the way without a care in the world. If you stop to listen to them you’ll enjoy short monologues that aren’t only amusing, but often also insightful.

Say No More Nintendo Switch Dialogue
Take the time to listen to your co-workers. You might learn something from them.

CONCLUSION

So is Say No! More just another indie game on the Switch that you should ignore? NO!
It’s a unique comedic romp through an office that can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone thanks to its witty dialogue and simple, approachable gameplay. Surprisingly, the game also delivers a deeper message about the importance of being assertive and by the end you might even take onboard some of the life advice it provides.
Completion will only take 2 – 3 hours and you’ll be laughing and smiling the entire time. I’m predicting this game will be quite a hit with YouTube “let’s players” looking to share a hilarious game with their viewers.

So, why should you play it?

  • You enjoy light-hearted games filled with humour.
  • Can’t commit to 100-hour JRPGs? Here’s a brilliant game that you could finish in a single sitting!
  • Work in an office? You’ll relate to this satirical take on the office lifestyle.
  • You’d prefer a game for sheer enjoyment rather than a challenge.
  • Needing to learn to assert yourself? Say No! More.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Bland sense of humour? Don’t enjoy silly games? Maybe not for you.
  • There are NO other reasons not to play this game!

Say No! More launches TODAY for Steam, Nintendo Switch and iOS.
You can find out more about the game here: https://www.saynomo.re/

A Nintendo Switch review code was provided for the purpose of this review.

10 Iconic Love Songs From Videogames

You won’t belove number 7!

Valentine’s Day is here again, and I’d like to take this opportunity to explore some of my favourite songs from videogames that represent the theme of love. Whether it be a mother’s love for their children, romantic love between a couple, or even love that blooms on a battlefield, there has always been emotive music in games to emphasise these themes. If your favourite doesn’t make the list, please leave a comment below or reach out to me on social media! I’d LOVE to hear from you.

  1. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – “Romance in the Air”

Until Skyward Sword, Link and Zelda never really had much of a romantic relationship, it was only implied. That all changed when this theme played, which seeks to represent the connection between the two characters. The track has a light, airy, orchestral sound which is very fitting of the game. And the track says it all, romance really is in the air (on top of a flying Loftwing).

2. Mother 3 – “Love Theme”

This song in particular really represents the love between family members. If you’ve played Mother 3, you’ll know how much this song hurts; it really tugs the heartstrings. Just listening to it I can picture the scene in which it plays. Despite being a Gameboy Advance game, I think Mother 3 is truly one of the best games at conveying love in such an emotive way.

Honourable mention to the gorgeous Because I Love Youand Polyannafrom other games in the Mother series. Both absolutely gorgeous songs.

3. Yakuza Kiwami 2 – “Shiawase Nara ii Ya (As Long As You’re Happy)”

Goro Majima is an absolute psycho. There’s no denying that. But he’s got such a soft side, and this is highlighted during this Karaoke song from Yakuza Kiwami 2. He sings about his love and dedication to a character from Yakuza 0, and even though they cannot be together, all he wants is for her to be happy. The song is interesting because his style of singing is hardly romantic, but the lyrics and message behind the song are so heartwarming.

Honourable mentions to the song that became a meme: Baka Mitai, for being a love song that sings about the heartbreak and foolishness of love, and to 24 Hour Cinderella for being the funniest love song from a game.

4. Metal Gear Solid 4 – “Love Theme”

Metal Gear Solid has taught us that love CAN bloom on the battlefield. But when it does, it is often wilted by grief and sorrow. This love theme is incredibly emotive and bittersweet – with lyrics describing a woman’s loss of her loved one who has been taken by war. Originally sung in Hebrew, some of the lyrics translate to:

Wishing for the world that ran out of tears.
My heart is already dead.
The hope…
Missing you hurts so much.

Honourable mention to “Love Deterrence” from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, for being the most anime-sounding and upbeat love song from a videogame.

5. Final Fantasy IV – “Theme of Love”

Nobuo Uematsu has created many gorgeous pieces of music for the Final Fantasy series, and almost every game has its own “love theme”. Suteki Da Ne from FFX, Aria de Mezzo Carattere from FFVI, Tragic Love from FFIX, the list goes on! But in my opinion none come close to my favourite love song of all time: the Theme of Love from Final Fantasy IV.

My wife walked down the aisle to this song.
A moment of true love in my life that I will never forget.

6. Hades – “Lament of Orpheus”

Love is pain, and nobody knows that more than legendary musician and poet of the underworld, Orpheus. This song is his lament for his lost loved one, Eurydice, and has an incredibly melancholy sound as he mourns her through his melody. It’s a gorgeous piece of music made only more impressive by the fact that the voice of Orpheus is actually the composer himself, Darren Korb!

7. Persona 4 – “Heartbeat, Heartbreak”

Of course I had to sneak a Persona song onto the list! A game all about bonds and relationships, naturally there are going to be songs related to love. One of the catchiest songs from the entire series – this song plays while exploring the town of Inaba after school on cloudy days. Not your traditional love song by any means, but a seriously catchy melody and lyrics about heartbreak mean I can justify having it on this list.

8. NieR – “Song of the Ancients (Devola)”

Though this might not specifically be a love song, it is a song I associate with love – I learned to play this song years ago on guitar and it’s part of how I met my wife. The lyrics are written in an entirely fictional language that was created by the composer for the purpose of the music of NieR. The song is associated with the characters Devola and Popola, who are twin sisters and feature heavily in the original game. Perhaps the lyrics could relate to the love between siblings?

9. Fire Emblem: Three Houses – “A Place to Rest”

Building relationships between characters is a key part of modern Fire Emblem games, especially the most recent entry in the series: Three Houses. Throughout the game you have the opportunity to romance characters, and if you’re successful they’ll confess their love for you (cue the music). There are several songs like this in the series (mainly from Awakening onwards), but I think this track does the best at conveying a sense of commitment and deep affection.

10. Katamari Damacy – “Katamari of Love”

Love does not have to be for a single person, family or friend, or even a beloved pet. How about love for your planet? This is the message in Katamari of Love. Though the lyrics are in Japanese, the message of dedication to Mother Earth is clear, as we should love and look after her. Here’s a short excerpt of the lyrics translated to English:

Love. Connect with one another, then our hearts will beat as one.
Try. We want to roll everything in, Then we can all be together.
Don’t stop, let the love flow, then we will be together forever.

Thanks for sharing the love – I hope these songs filled your heart. Share them with a loved one too!
If your song didn’t make the list, please leave a comment below or reach out to me on social media.