In celebration of the release of Crypt of the Necrodancer, maybe, Valve has collected some of Steam's best roguelikes and lopped off much of the cost. The Steam Roguelike Sale runs over the weekend, and discounts roguelikelike heavy hitters like FTL, Rogue Legacy, Risk of Rain and Spelunky, and even a couple of fits-the-rigid-definition-of-a-roguelike, also known as 'proper' roguelikes, too.
My picks of the bunch would be Delver for 50% off, a first-person dungeon crawl with great music; the maybe-too-grindy-but-still-good Rogue Legacy for 75% off; the deeper-than-Moria NEO Scavenger for 33% less; Spelunky for chump change; and the fab One Way Heroics for a ridiculous 77p. You can also grab Binding of Isaac: Rebirth for 33% off, FTL for just under 2, and, well, browse the list yourself, there's a load of great stuff here.
The Steam Roguelike Sale ends Monday 27th April at 10am PST, which my brain always tells me stands for 'PlaneScape Torment'.
Speedruns are artistry. Not only do they demonstrate complete mastery over a game, but they also poke away at the edges of what a game intends you to do. Watching a perfect speedrun is similar, I imagine, to watching good gymnastics, but they're more than just skill-based. They're borne of a curiosity about the edges of games: the things we're not meant to see and the things we aren't supposed to do.
There's a whole science behind speedruns. Players spend weeks and sometimes years chiselling a perfect path through a game. They exploit minor traversal bugs to gain speed, they tap away at the outer limits of a game world in search of hidden routes, and then they move to execute all these tricks in one graceful swoop. There's a strong collaborative spirit among speedrun communities, because in the end, it's all about what's possible, not who wins.
There are lots of different speedruns, and the rules vary depending on the type of speedrun a player hopes to achieve. Most of the runs I've featured below are Any% runs, which simply require the player to complete the game under any difficulty setting as quickly as possible. These contrast with 100% runs, which as the name suggests requires full completion of the game (any secret worlds or any optional collectibles, for example).
What follows aren't "the best speedruns of all time" but instead a selection of especially impressive runs. I've tried to collect those most suited to spectating, so there are a lot of shooters and platformers. Meanwhile, I've generally avoided speedruns too heavily reliant on glitches that bypass huge sections of a game (like this Pillars of Eternity run, for example). I'm not arguing these aren't legitimate: just that they're not as fun to watch.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Bethesda made a big deal of Skyrim's 100 hour potential back in 2011, but I'm sure they're not surprised that speedrunner gr3yscale has beaten the game in less than 40 minutes. After all, Skyrim QA guy Sam Bernstein managed to complete the whole game, glitch and cheat free, in two hours and 16 minutes. If you know what you're doing, the biggest games can be reduced to a series of carefully timed leaps.
Gr3yscale's world record time of 39:24 uses a number of built-in exploits, but arguably more interesting than the run itself is this accompanying tutorial video on how he achieved it. The lengthy video is a step-by-step instructional, detailing everything from the graphics settings you should use (as low as possible) through to how to steal the Blank Lexicon from Septimus Signus in less than five seconds. If you've got any interest in the painstaking process of routefinding for a speedrun, it's a must watch.
For the best example of speedrunner Kahmul78 s thoroughness, look no further than the 1:56 mark below. The way he switches his inventory load out in the middle of a plunge attack demonstrates that every second is precious for an adept speedrunner. He won t need those newly equipped arrows for a while, but when you re looking to shave off precious seconds in a notoriously difficult game, you don t waste time.
After clearing the tutorial area, Kahmul78 takes a very unconventional route through Lordran. Using the Skeleton Key starting item he passes through New Londo Ruins and Valley of the Drakes into Darkroot Basin, then onto Undead Parish. This not only skips the second boss encounter, but it also means facing off against the first mandatory boss battle by the eight minute mark.
For the average first time player it s likely to take up to five hours to make that much progress (or about ten, if you re like me). The fact that this whole run wraps up in under 48 minutes naturally attracted a lot of attention when it was first posted. There are quicker Dark Souls speedruns out there which exploit a major glitch, but this is the real deal.
With so many tools at his disposal it's little wonder that Corvo Attano can get the job done quickly. He's not really meant to do it this quickly though, with speedrunner TheWalrusMovement completing the stealth adventure in 34:35. Attano's Blink ability a lightning quick dash mainly used for covert operations is utilised a lot in this run, to the extent that it's difficult to keep track of TheWalrusMovement's routing.
Nonetheless, Dishonored is a surprisingly enjoyable game to spectate, and TheWalrusMovement is forthcoming with his secrets. This world record run can probably be improved the runner's commentary points out a couple of areas of improvement but this is the best out there in the meantime.
Picture this: you ve just returned from Hell only to find that Earth is in worse shape. You were really looking forward to having a beer though, so you want to save the world as quickly as possible. But how quickly is as quickly as possible? How s 23 minutes and three seconds sound? Not bad at all! Start pouring.
The work of speedrunner Zero-Master, this Ultra-Violent mode playthrough managed to topple a record set in 2010 by Looper. That s a long time in speedrun years and it only managed to come out on top by 22 seconds. A backseat speedrunner will no doubt see areas of improvement in the below video, which Zero-Master concedes to in his YouTube description, but for the time being this is the quickest run there is.
While Doom 2 is probably the most popular speedrunning instalment in the series, it s worth checking out speedruns of the two Final Doom WAD packs too. These outings upped the difficulty dramatically, and if you want to see a run with a few clever rocket jumps, look no further.
Duke Nukem 3D
Duke 3D s Build engine is home to a lot of glitches very handy to speedrunners. As Duke speedrunner LLCoolDave explains in this video, a major one is crouchjumping . If you crouch while freefalling and then hit the jump key before touching the ground, Duke can clip through certain walls and structures. The engine in Duke 3D is less than stable, allowing for switches to be triggered from unintended vantage points and whole regions of levels to be skipped.
As in most glitchy speedruns, triggering the engine s limitations at just the right moment is an impressive skill in itself. Speedrunner Mr_Wiggelz manages to complete the game in 9:19 below, though it s worth noting that only the first three episodes of the Duke Nukem 3D Megaton Edition feature (the fourth episode didn t appear in the original game).
Mr_Wiggelz admits that he messed up a couple of times during this run, so it probably won t be long before we see it bettered.
Some genres, especially platformers and shooters, are particularly suited to the speedrun. Others, like the open world RPG, definitely are not. That doesn t stop people from trying to beat the likes of Pillars of Eternity, Skyrim and Fallout 3 in the time it takes to prepare an English breakfast, but there s inevitably glitches involved. Games like these are designed to eat up your time and life.
Rydou s 18:53 speedrun of Fallout 3 (that s 18 minutes, not hours) utilises a few glitches, but no cheats or third-party programs. As he explains on his YouTube page, this run makes liberal use of a quicksave bug. Basically, if you rapidly quicksave and then quickload you ll briefly have the ability to clip through walls. In this way, the player-character goes from birth to saving Washington in less than 20 minutes.
After a bit of publicity off the back of this speedrun, Rydou moved to emphasise the difference between cheating and exploiting glitches. For those who wonder about the legitimacy of the run, using and exploiting glitches have always been a part of the speedrun community. This is a way to push the game even further, and [is] not considered cheating.
An hour and 32 minutes might not sound impressive for a Half-Life 2 speedrun: the game's an all time classic and ten years old to boot. You can blame the game's regular unskippable dialogue sequences for that record, but hey, at least it gives record holder Gocn k some time to take a break. He needs it.
There are some interesting strategies in this video. GocAk makes liberal use of two traversal glitches common in Valve's Source Engine, namely Accelerated Back Hopping and Accelerated Side Hopping. For a stunning example of the former skip to the 29 minute mark, where a sequence of careful jumps actually propels the player into the air.
Sourceruns.org has a more detailed description: "When you exceed the game's speed limit, the game tries to slow you down whenever you jump, back to the desired speed. By default the game thinks that you're moving forwards, so when you exceed the speed limit, it'll accelerate you backwards. If you are facing backwards, this will only increase your speed. So, the faster you're going - the more you will get accelerated."
No big tricks or glitches here, just an exceptionally talented player. Speedrunner Dingodrole completes Hotline Miami in 20 minutes and seven seconds, but his ultimate goal is to get below the 20 minute mark. If you watch the whole run you'll notice there's very little room for improvement, and Dingodrole seems to have the routing down pat. He's been steadily chipping away at the time for a while now, so it's probably inevitable that this will be beaten some day.
I Wanna Be The Guy
It pays to know a game intimately before embarking on a speedrun, but that rule has a different meaning when it comes to I Wanna Be The Guy. A parodic love letter to 8-bit platformers, I Wanna Be The Guy subverts every reliable trope in the platformer rule book. Shiny red apples aren t collectibles: they ll kill you. Don t worry about reaching those spikes: they ll come to you. Nothing is predictable, and everything is learnt from the experience of dying. You can t learn this game, you have to memorise it.
So it s always fun to monitor the speedrunning community s progress with I Wanna Be The Guy (as well as its many follow-ups). You need a great memory and superhuman dexterity to complete the game once, let alone in 28 minutes and 40 seconds without glitches, as Tesivonius has done.
A few caveats: this is a segmented Portal speedrun, which means the game wasn't completed from beginning to end in a single playthrough. Instead, the best level times were stitched together for the final video. Additionally, there were four different speedrunners involved: Nick "Z1mb0bw4y" Roth, Josh "Inexistence" Peaker, Nick "Gocnak" Kerns, and Sebastian "Xebaz" Dressler. Some would argue a segmented speedrun is illegitimate, but wherever you stand on that matter, it's still interesting to see what's possible.
This run uses neither cheats or hacks, but it does exploit a number of glitches. "This run first started after the discovery of a new glitch, which snowballed into a whirlwind of discoveries of new tricks, skips, and glitches," the team writes. As you'll see below, the glitches make for a disorientating watch, but its fascinating nonetheless.
The Quake speedrun scene used to be massive, boasting its own highly organised community in the form of Quake Done Quick. The below video sees all four episodes of the game completed in 11 minutes and 29 seconds (on Nightmare difficulty!) and demonstrates world class bunny hopping and rocket jumping skills. The occasional glitch is implemented and whole chunks of certain maps are skipped with the help of rocket jumps, but no cheats were used.
Twitch streamer Bananasaurus Rex is, or was, the world authority on Spelunky. It was he who figured out how to kill the game s invincible ghost. It was he who achieved a solo Eggplant run (this involves carrying an Eggplant to the end of the game, obviously). It was he who collected $3.1 million worth of gold in a single playthrough. Arguably the highest bar he set was the legendary 5:02 Hell speedrun. Simply reaching Hell is difficult enough on its own, but completing the whole game using this route is punishment. Doing it in five minutes is God tier.
Unfortunately for Bananasaurus Rex, someone managed to beat his Hell run, and not by a measly couple of seconds. Youtuber Latedog beat secret boss Yama in 4:36, creating a new record which let s face it will probably only be beaten by accident. Like Bananasaurus Rex he utilises the warp device, which is somewhat reliant on luck but pretty much crucial if you want to shear minutes off a playthrough.
Super Meat Boy
When humankind is wiped off the face of the earth by some malevolent alien society, the planet s new inhabitants will learn a couple of things as they sift through the rubble. First, we really liked bottled water. Secondly, Coca-Cola was an especially totalitarian leader. Thirdly, we were really bloody good at Super Meat Boy.
Speedrunner Vorpal has been chipping away at the world record for a while, but this is the best he/she has managed so far: the base game completed in 17 minutes and 54 seconds. That stat doesn t include the dark levels or any of the retro themed ones, but anyone who has spent half-an-hour with Team Meat s punishing platformer will peek through fingers as Vorpal passes the final boss run by the skin of his teeth.
Speedruns can be beautiful. Twitch streamer sheilalpoint completes VVVVV in 12:12 in the below video, and watching it (with the sound down) can be like watching a weird 1970s art film about a little man s efforts to euthanise himself in outer space.
The beauty of this run is that there aren t really any major tricks, just a thorough knowledge of the game s layout. Sheilalpoint pulls some interesting maneuvers with the game s checkpoints particularly in one sequence where hitting them as they collide with spikes actually increases the momentum of the player character but otherwise, this is plain old fashioned mastery.
Why I Love
In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. Today, Phil explains why he loves Spelunky's biggest asshole.
Spelunky's Tunnel Jerk is an asshole. Seriously, screw that guy. Here's why I love him.
First, let's backtrack a second. I love so much of Spelunky, so deciding what particular element to hone in on should be difficult. The procedural generation is a given: it makes the game what it is, and allows for a difficulty that's based on learning systems over memorising routes. Those systems are brilliant too. Everything that happens in Spelunky makes sense, and is the result of its individual elements interacting with each other. It can be surprising, but it is so in a way that's consistent with its rules.
There is bullshit in Spelunky, but it's traceable bullshit. You can enter a level, hear a distant explosion and be informed that the shopkeeper is very angry with you. Make no mistake, this is bullshit—but it happened because a Fire Frog was caught by a Tikki Trap and the resulting explosion caused a rock to fly into the shopkeeper's face. Chaos theory. A Fire Frog jumps in the jungle, and now a shopkeeper will murder you in 3-2.
Spelunky, in so many ways, is perfect. Infuriating, but perfect. It's a bundle of nasty surprises waiting to punish any mistake, and a series of rewards designed to tempt you into making one. For me, Tunnel Jerk is the personification of this principle.
Tunnel Jerk—referred to as "Tunnel Man" officially—is an ostensibly helpful NPC. He appears in the transitions between worlds, and offers to create a shortcut to the world that you're travelling towards. This is helpful. Most people's experience of any unfamiliar world in Spelunky is to die within seconds. New worlds take on a semi-mythical property. They are the unknowable land of death beyond the comfort of the familiar. Spelunky is always difficult, but knowledge is your shield against its most homicidal tendencies.
Tunnel Jerk offers a way to kickstart that familiarity. Learning the jungle is hard when you can only get there by first traversing the mines. But if you can skip straight to the jungle, you can more easily absorb its tricks. And it's not like Tunnel Jerk is asking for much. Two bombs? Fine, whatever. Given that you'll probably die in the first three seconds of entering the jungle, it's not like you'll be using them.
It doesn't end there, though. Oh, you want ropes now? Yeah, okay, I guess? And now you want... wait, what? $10,000?! Seriously, dude?
At this point, you have a goal. Spelunky is great at this. In addition to its primary success state, there are multiple potential goals along the way. Jetpack? Nope, I'm $5,000 short and the ghost is here. Alien base? Maybe, but it's a long shot. New character? Only if I stumble across a coffin. Well, I guess I could always give Tunnel Jerk the thing that he wants.
Completing Spelunky is an achievement to be proud of, but it's also a long-term battle. I'd played it hundreds of times before I ever completed it. I'd reached the damn City of Gold before I ever completed it. I would never have brought down Olmec if it wasn't for the smaller successes along the way; if it wasn't for the feeling of progress, no matter how small. Reaching a new world is an obvious mini-triumph, but so are Tunnel Jerk's most absurd challenges. They feel impossible. $10,000?! That's a lot of money when you're starting out, and a lot to blow on a shortcut.
From there, it escalates. A shotgun? You want me to take a shotgun to the ice caves and then just give it up?! Are you a crazy person? Well fine, I'll do it. I'll do it to prove I can. See, Tunnel Jerk, I was prepared to give up a shotgun. What else have you got?
Chaos theory. A Fire Frog jumps in the jungle, and now a shopkeeper will murder you in 3-2.
The reveal of what else Tunnel Jerk has got is almost beautiful in its audacity. If you've not experienced it, consider this a spoiler of sorts.
Tunnel Jerk's final request—the one that unlocks a shortcut to the Temple, and an end to his dominion over you—is a key. The key that unlocks the chest to the Udjat Eye. The Udjat Eye that lives on one the last few levels on the mines. It's so wondrously arbitrary. Away from the chest, the key does nothing. It has no use. Worse, it stops you picking up genuinely useful items like the shotgun, damsel or idol. To take it all the way from the mines, through the jungle, and to the end of the ice caves? It's the definition of pointless.
But it's also a goal, and so you try it. You lose the key in the rivers of the jungle, and you lose it in the void of the ice caves. Maybe a boulder crushes it, or you die trying to retrieve it after leaving it in a "safe place" in order to rescue a damsel. Every time you fail, you curse that Tunnel Jerk's stupid request. You curse him over and over, until the glorious day when you finally bring him his idiotic trinket. All in all, he seems pretty happy about it.
For me, defeating the Tunnel Jerk was more satisfying than completing the game. He's an asshole. Seriously, screw that guy. That's why I love him.
Well this is a surprise. Not just the fact that someone has set a new Spelunky any% speedrunning record with a time of under 2 minutes, but also that you can use the game's Teleporter without immediately becoming fatally embedded inside of a wall. Both of these feats were performed by "Pibonacci", and have now been uploaded for all to see. Just make sure you've turned your speakers down... he becomes understandably, er, animated towards the end of the run.
Spelunky HD earned our Game of the Year award last year, thanks to its systemic difficulty and new Daily Challenge mode. But, should its smooth and unpixelated graphics feel like an afront to the almighty retro gods, you can now enjoy a modification to the game's original (and free) incarnation. Called Spelunky SD, the mod not only offers fixes, but also introduces a 2-player online co-op mode.
"For the past three months I was working on a Spelunky Classic modification called Spelunky SD," writes 'YellowAfterlife', who for the past three months was working on a Spelunky Classic modification called Spelunky SD. "It is a pretty broad project, implementing a number of fixes and improvements to original game, and, most importantly, adding a 2-player cooperative online game mode." That project is now available as a first public release.
It's an impressive change to the game; one available as a standalone executable, thanks to original Spelunky being open source. And 'YellowAfterlife' plans to continue development of his mod: hoping to add a PvP mode and other game-extending features.
Of course, if you don't want to do co-op, Spelunky SD's text chat also lets you narrate (short) campaigns.
It was less than two months ago that top Spelunky streamer Bananasaurus_Rex smashed through Spelunky's $3,000,000 barrier to take the high score world record. It's an achievement I thought would hold, thanks to the incredible luck of finding a plasma cannon and jetpack on the first two levels. It wasn't to be, as now YamaYamaDingDong has broken that record by just $3,975. More impressively, he did the majority of the run without the level-blasting power of the plasma cannon.
You can watch the run via the archived Twitch stream. Be warned, though: it's over four hours of highly methodical ghost shepherding, gem collecting action.
Mar 23, 2014
It was teased a couple months ago, but it's now been released! The Metroid Mod for Spelunky slickly brings the sci-fi world of spacefaring Samus Aran to the subterranean perma-death platformer. It's the best of both worlds: monsters, items, pick-ups, character skins, music, background art, and even the title and menu screens have all been Metroid-ified. The core game, however, is still pure, unfiltered Spelunky. Fans of either game -- or both -- will love it.
From the intro movie to the splash screen to the selection menu, it's clear that modder joey4track did his best to squeeze as much Metroid as he could into Spelunky. Everything from the color scheme to the UI to the music, including background art of the cavern carvings, has been given attention. It all looks great, and is clearly the work of a real Metroid fan.
Can you figure out what everything is before it kills you? If not, after works as well.
Another great touch is in what the modder didn't touch: the gameplay. As far as I can tell, the changes are all aesthetic, and nothing about the core game has been altered. It's still 100% Spelunky. Controls, weapons, enemy speed and behavior, it all still works exactly the same while looking completely different. I found I was immediately running around, jumping, climbing, fighting (also, dying) without ever feeling like I was playing a different game. However! There's a little bit of learning to do.
Spikes look the same. Everything else has gotten slathered in Metroid.
For instance, you might spot a zebesian pacing around below you. You can tell it's a space pirate... but what did it used to be? A skeleton? A caveman? A tiki man? What about that sova (or nova, depending on which Metroid era you come from ) walking back and forth? Is it a reskinned snake, easy to defeat? Or is it a scorpion that's going to leap onto your face? After observing a creature's movement patterns for a moment, you'll probably be able to guess, but re-learning which monster is which becomes its own little mini-game, and freshens up the experience for those of us who are now completely familiar with all of Spelunky's threats.
Behold the Moai! Or maybe the Moaitroid! Or Metromoai. Whatever. It's the thing the thing is hidden in.
Even once you start learning who is who, it can be tricky. Little spiders are now skrees, which give them the appearance of bats while they're hanging from the ceiling, which means even when you know it's a spider, you'll keep thinking it's a bat until you get used to it. Actual bats appear as wavers, and are much harder to spot while roosting, adding a little extra challenge. It's just enough confusion to slow you down and make you think, which might be a welcome change for players who have become accustomed to letting their reflexes do all the work.
The shopkeeper has changed into a kihunter. Unchanged: still a dick if a boulder touches his shop.
There are some other wonderful touches. The ghost appears as -- naturally -- a giant spectral metroid. Instead of sacrificing to (or angering, as the case may be) Kali, you're now paying tribute to mighty Kraid. Instead of stealing a golden idol from a boulder-trapped carving, you're now stealing a Varia suit upgrade from a carving of a Chozo. Unfortunately, you don't get to wear the Varia suit, it's still just an item to sell. But I love the incorporation of the Metroid themes into the Spelunky ruleset.
High Jump Boots for sacrificing a dog to Kraid? The deity has changed, but not the reward for evil.
And, of course, items common to both games, like bombs and high-jump boots, now look like they did in Metroid. Pickups, loot, and items like rocks, crates, gems have all been replaced with Metroid-style images. And, naturally, all your weapons from whips to shotguns have been replaced, again, just aesthetically. Ropes are still ropes. Good old ropes.
Anubis becomes Ridley? That makes a good amount of sense.
Naturally, I didn't finish a game in the time I played, as I'm not particularly good at Spelunky. Last I heard, Olmec was still Olmec, but you're welcome to confirm or refute that for yourself. In terms of playable characters, you'll have a few different versions of Samus to choose from, and one green bug-lookin' dude whose name I don't know. The modder has mentioned he may add more characters in the future from other games, such as Mario or the Castlevania guy.
Don't do it, Samus! It's not what you think it is!
Look, I can keep on describing how great this mod is while showing you pictures, but it's not really going to come across until you play it. So, if you're a seasoned Spelunker looking to spice up your Daily Challenges, or just a long-time Metroid fan, give it a try.
Installation: It's easy, though you're going to be overwriting Spelunky's original assets, so you'll first want to back up your data folder. On Steam, you can find it in Steam > steamapps > common > Spelunky > Data. Just make a copy of that entire folder and store it somewhere safe. Download the mod from this forum page: just scroll down past the screenshots to the Dropbox link. (I don't want to link directly to his Dropbox). Extract the contents (three folders) into your data folder and replace the files when it asks. Then just start the game and say hello to Samus!
To get your old Spelunky back, you'll have to re-overwrite with your original Data folder contents.
Spelunky was our 2013 Game of the Year, and this is why. Streamer/legend Bananasaurus_Rex has beaten the previous, piddly world record of $2,980,000 with a titanic $3,105,850, and all it took was seven-and-a-bit hours of incredibly patient play, a deep understanding of the game and its systems, and a ton of skill. Man, Spelunky is easy. It's the polar opposite of Rex's recent full speedrun, which he completed in just under seven minutes, and you can watch it below if you have most of the day spare (alternatively, you may want to skim it instead). Rex's other achievements include killing the ghost, and making the first successful solo eggplant run.
If you're a Spelunky player and you've not yet plumbed its infinite depths, then for heaven's sake don't watch this video, which reveals almost the full scope of Spelunky's secret-packed world. Achieving that 3-mil score relies on a technique known as ghost mining, which accounts for a good deal of the run and is perhaps not tremendously exciting to watch. The amazing thing about Spelunky is that, even when you know the outcome, watching a run is still a tense-as-hell experience, particularly after so many hours of investment.
My favorite thing about Spelunky, our 2013 Game of the Year, is how endlessly replayable it is. Between randomly generated levels, Spelunky Death Roulette, and the daily challenge, there's always a reason to come back. If those modes aren't enough for you, an upcoming conversion mod will add character skins, music, levels, and enemies from Metroid.
The creator of the mod, Spelunky forum user joey4track, is still finishing the conversion and will release the mod when all four worlds have been remade. So far, two of the four worlds are complete. Here's what the mines look like so far:
Video via YouTube user AGamerInBrooklyn.
The Spelunky Metroid Mod is a great example of what dedicated fans can do to extend the life of a game for a community. Samus can be skinned in either a couple of variations of the classic armored suit or you can just go as Zero Suit Samus. Equally impressive is the inclusion of a music pack that replaces Spelunky s natural tones with Metroid s 16-bit era midi music that continues to haunt my childhood memories. joey4track says he'll release the mod once all four worlds are complete. In the meantime, you can get the mod's music pack at the Mossmouth forums.