Monday, January 27, 2014

Top moments from Awesome Games Done Quick 2014

Every year, Speed Demos Archive puts on a marathon of video game speedruns for charity called Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ). Twice, actually; the other one is Summer Games Done Quick (SGDQ). This year's AGDQ was the biggest yet and brought in over $1,000,000 in donations for the Prevent Cancer Foundation! It was a week long event (longer if you count the multiple days of bonus stream), so it'd be understandable if you couldn't be watching for so many days straight. Or perhaps you didn't know about it and missed it entirely. Well there's good news: helpful Redditors, blazingkin and suudo have compiled lists of all the runs during the marathon with links to the VODs on Twitch. Still, that's over a week straight of speedruns to watch, so I compiled some of my favorite moments from AGDQ 2014. If you have to choose, these are the ones to watch!

TAS Total Control Hack Programs Pong and Snake Within Super Mario World
(Watch it! (5 min.))
This was a little different from the rest of AGDQ because rather than a person speedrunning a game, the speedruns were done via impossibly optimized and fast prerecorded inputs. These Tool Assisted Speedruns (TAS) are done frame by frame and show off tricks that would be impossible for a human to physically do, but are still possible in theory. In this case, the TAS exploited a glitch in Super Mario World to corrupt the memory and actually program Pong and Snake from within the game and make them playable. It's ridiculous and unless you're an expert in Super Mario World and computer programming, you'll probably have no idea what's going on. Chances are, that'll just make it all the more fun to watch. For more of the same kind of thing, check out this total control hack of Pokemon.

Composer Grant Kirkhope Joins Skype Call During Banjo-Kazooie Run
(Full run (1hr 34min.))
(Grant Kirkhope Skype call)
I don't know about you, but I'm definitely a fan of game music. That's why I was super hyped when during Stivitybobo's speedrun of Banjo-Kazooie, the composer of the game's soundtrack, Grant Kirkhope, started posting in the chat. But it got better! Several minutes later, the guys managing AGDQ contacted him on Twitter and set up a surprise Skype call with him. Not only did he sound like a totally cool guy, but he also dropped some knowledge bombs about the early development of the game, the progression of the soundtrack, and the origin of Mumbo's "eekum bokum". Fans of Banjo-Kazooie and game music will definitely want to check this one out.

Zallard1 Beats Super Punch-Out!! Blindfolded
(Watch it! (24 min.))
Punch-Out!! might not be as popular as other Nintendo franchises, but it's no less of a good game. What looks like a fighting game plays more like a puzzle game with an emphasis on timing and quick reactions as you figure out how to damage each opponent. Also, it's really hard. That's why it's really impressive that Zallard1 was able to beat it blindfolded by relying on the game's audio cues, often predicting exactly how much time he had remaining at the end of fights. Fans of this kind of challenge might also be interested in Sinister1's blindfolded run of the original Punch-Out!! and Peaches__'s one-handed run of Super Mario 64.

Metroid Prime Programmer, David "Zoid" Kirsch, Joins Skype Call During Metroid Prime Run
(Watch it! (1 hr 25 min.))
If game music composers like Grant Kirkhope aren't your cup of tea, perhaps you'd be interested in hearing from a game programmer. If so, you're in luck, because one of the programmers of Metroid Prime, David "Zoid" Kirsch, joined in for the speedrun of Metroid Prime on Skype. This was one of the guys responsible for scripting the game's many puzzles and other interactable elements like doors and whatnot. So not only do you get to watch a really cool speedrun with sequence breaks out the wazoo, you can also hear some interesting details about how the game works. Like, you know how the next rooms load when you shoot the doors in Metroid Prime? Well it turns out that there are actually invisible triggers before you even get to the doors which predict where you'll be going next and start loading the next room even before you get to the door. Pretty clever, I'd say.

Four-Way Super Metroid Race Comes Down to the Wire
(Watch it! (46 min.))
Forgive me for giving Nintendo games and Metroid in particular such a large portion of these highlights, but this four-way race of Super Metroid was one for the ages. Not only is Super Metroid one of the most impressive, fast paced, and technical speed runs to watch, this matchup pit four of the best players against each other in one of the best races I've ever seen. There were amazing comebacks, there were simultaneous boss kills, and I don't want to spoil it, but the ending was so close that you won't want to miss it. You've gotta check this one out.

Donation Total Reaches $1,000,000
(Watch it!)
After a week straight of games and several surpassed donation goals, the final goal of one million dollars was set. It seemed unachievable. But against all odds, the community and people around the globe pulled together during the final hours of the final run (Chrono Trigger) and managed to surpass the lofty goal to the cheers of many. It turns out video games can be used for good after all.

Even I couldn't watch all there was to see during AGDQ 2014, so there are plenty of highlights beyond these. Be sure to check out the Reddit thread and share your favorite moments in the comments. See also: SGDQ 2013!

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Other PSX

(Image source)
I had a PlayStation when I was younger and I still have it. When I first got it, I called it "PlayStation", because that's what it was and there weren't any other PlayStations. When the PlayStation 2 came out, I started calling the first PlayStation "PlayStation 1" or just "PS1". Also, soon after the PS2 was released, there was a newer, slimmer model of the original Playstation and that was officially called PSone - not even "PlayStation One", it was just "PSone". Of course, you couldn't tell this from saying it out loud, so every version of the first PlayStation console was then a PS1 to me.
A PSone
However, as you probably know, many people refer to the original PlayStation as "PSX". The reason for that is that the first PlayStation was code named "PS-X", as in "PlayStation Experimental", within Sony during development. Like Nintendo's DS, which originally stood for Developers' System, the name stuck with fans anyway and continued to be used, though in Sony's case, they never officially called the first PlayStation "PSX" after its release.

Oh, by the way, "pSX" is also the name of PlayStation emulator for Windows and Linux. Still following?
The other PSX (Image source)
Alright then, so what's this about some other PSX? Well, the only Sony console officially called PSX after its release was a PS2 combined with a DVR and was only available in Japan. It was released on December 13, 2003 for the price of 79,800 yen. For comparison, the PS2 was released in Japan on March 4, 2000 and sold for 39,800 yen at launch. If you compare those numbers and know anything about the value of Japanese yen, you'll realize that the PSX was hella expensive, costing around $800 USD - and that's for the cheaper 160 GB version. The model with a 250 GB hard drive retailed for 99,800 yen, which is around $1,000 USD. As such, its sales were pretty bad and it was discontinued in February, 2005.
The many inputs and outputs of a PSX. (Image source)
But, even still, it had a few points of interest. Just like a PS2, it could play PS2 and PS1 games, as well as DVDs and CDs. Of course, its main new feature was the DVR, which was able to record TV onto its hard drive. Even in its short lifespan, there were four different models (well, technically eight, since each came in 160 GB and 250 GB versions) and each model had minor variations in the kinds of inputs and outputs it had. The fourth and final model had the additional feature of being able to connect to a PSP by USB in order to transfer video, audio, and images. Speaking of inputs, the controller ports were on the back of the console and controllers were sold separately, because clearly you weren't paying enough already. It did, of course, come with a remote which looked just like any other DVR or DVD player remote.

Perhaps more impressively, the PSX also included video, image, and audio editing software. This was accessible from the console's menu: the XMB. That's right, the XrossMediaBar that you know and love from the PSP and PS3 was used first on the PSX. Pretty neato, right?
Even though the PSX is now discontinued, you can still find them used on for between $100 and $300. And that's that. Now you all know that I was right to call the original PlayStation a PS1 all this time.

Interested in obscure gaming stuff? Maybe you'd be interested in seeing the inside of a DS Download Station. Follow on Facebook for updates on new posts!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Going to town in Animal Crossing: New Leaf

I told this joke to some people around town too. Isabelle laughed politely, Tom Nook seemed annoyed that I was wasting his time and tried to get right back to business, Mr. Resetti pulled me aside and told me straight out that the puns needed to stop, most of the villagers face palmed and walked away, but Frobert genuinely loved it. Unfortunately, he tragically choked to death on a durian because he was laughing so hard. Dr. Shrunk, of course, was super proud of my progress as a comedian.

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