The other day I posted a brief introduction to speedrunning (https://scorum.com/en-us/cybersport/@reverendrum/speed-running-aka-you-thought-you-were-good-at-games), which is the art of beating video games really really fast. And judging by the comments it seems like a lot of you fine Scorumites are big fans of speedrunning as well.
Well what if I told you that speedrunning is actually slow? Would you believe me? Would you believe that people have transcended the limits of human ability to beat games even more ridiculously fast? Well that’s where “tool assisted speedruns” come in. If I’ve peaked your curiosity, and I know I have, read on to learn about the coolest way to do speedruns and see some amazing examples!
What are tool assisted speedruns?
A “tool assisted speedrun” (aka “TAS”), is different than human-played speedruns (aka “real time attack” or “RTA”) in that a TAS is done using emulator provided tools to play games frame-by-frame and perform the right inputs at the exact right time.
tl;dr explanation: a TAS is a theoretically perfect playthrough of a game, far surpassing the capability of humans to pull off.
Longer explanation: Console emulators have the capability to rewind games, slow down games, and record inputs for playback. It’s like recording a movie almost. TASsers use these tools to essentially record a perfect run of a game, and let the computer perform it later on, almost like watching a movie. By advancing a game frame-by-frame (most games are 60 frames per second) and choose which controller input to do on each of those frames, a TASser can pull of frame-perfect tricks with ease. Many TASses also utilize major glitches in the games for hilarious effect and/or massive time saves.
During a normal speedrun, a single mistake or hesitation by a player and ruin a good run. A TAS is not hindered by this issue as emulators can rewind to earlier segments of the run. A TAS can take months to complete, as there’s no constraints of time.
Isn’t that cheating?
Not at all. This is a common misconception about TASses. TASses and RTAs are not compared against each other. If the TAS runs were made to compete with the RTA runs of games, yes, that would be cheating. Obviously our human bodies cannot match the fine tuned TAS runs. TASes tend to be more for exhibition than competition, although they may also be challenged and beaten.
Cool TASes to check out:
Here’s a side-by-side comparison a Super Mario Bros TAS vs RTA. The TAS was made by HappyLee and completed in 4m 57s 31ms. The RTA is run by Kosmic (remember him from my previous article?), beaten in 4m 55s 913ms. (This was a previous world record, the current is 4m 55s 746ms, which goes to show just how close these runs can be.):
Baxter and Acmlm’s Tetris playaround TAS (at SGDQ2019), prepare to go “wow” and “but...but...how?”):
Back to another Super Mario TAS, because those are always fun and easy to watch, except for this one because it’s like “wait...wtf just happened?”. This video shows how much power having frame-perfect inputs can have. Masterjun, somehow, through the use of sorcery and pure genius, codes other games into Super Mario World. This has to be seen to be believed (and even then you may not believe):
(Check the video description for a link to an explanation for exactly what just happened)
Because there’s so many cool TASses out there, and it’s hard for me to pick just one more, here’s just a big collection of cool ones: http://tasvideos.org/Movies-Stars.html
Pretty cool, right? I think so. While on occasion I try to speedrun some old games I like on my RetroPie, I think I’d be in far over my head with a TAS.
And as always, are you a streamer and/or speedrunner? Leave links and plugs to your stuff in the comments! I need some new people to watch.