Tool-Assisted Speedruns From Summer Games Done Quick 2015

Over the weekend the annual Summer Games Done Quick video game speed-running marathon took place and raised over $1.2 million dollars for Doctors Without Borders.  One of the most interesting events was the TASBot block which showcased tool-assisted speedruns (or TAS) of classic video games.  With a TASBot run the input to the video game is recorded ahead of time and optimized for speed by exploiting glitches or stepping frame-by-frame through the game.  The recorded inputs are then played back using hardware like a Raspberry Pi connected to a video game console, and the result is an amazing super-human playthrough of the video game.

This year there were three games featured in the TASBot block:

The Mega Man run starts with a demonstration of how most TAS speedruns are made by using an emulator to step frame-by-frame through the video game and build a perfect playthrough.  It’s also fascinating to hear how more advanced speedruns are made by scripting an emulator to search through all the possible controller inputs and reach a desired state.  For example in the Mega Man run they had a script run for 15 days trying different conditions to find the perfect moment that can end a level early.

Following the Mega Man run was a TAS of Sonic Advance that was made possible by modifying the Gamecube Gameboy Advance player hardware to expose player input and video frame synchronization signals.  A Raspberry Pi reads the video frame sync signal and uses it to send player input at just the right time to perform the run on real hardware.

Finally the Ikaruga run demonstrates an incredible 2-player TAS run to achieve the maximum possible score in this difficult scrolling shooter.  One of the commentators summed up the event and why tool-assisted speedruns are so impressive with the quote, “almost everything you see is impossible for a human unless you can do 22 frame perfect inputs in a row.”  Very nice work to all involved!

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