Game opinion: 4 Things I learnt about speedrunning

Game: Mikey Boots

Developer: BeaverTap games

Platform: iOS

Mikey Boots is the latest part of the Mikey trilogy, a series of awesome runners developed by BeaverTap games for the iOS platform. Touch Arcade recently did a fantastic review of Mikey Boots, and I highly recommend it if you’d like a thorough explanation of the gameplay. I also reviewed it in the October Issue of The Indie Game Magazine, so keep your eyes out on the site for when it’s out-there’ll be lots of cool other game reviews inside as well! Mikey Boots has presented me with an opportunity to take a brief glance at the world of speedrunning. I love speedrunning-watching it that is. It’s fascinating to see how far gamers can push the limits of a game in terms of timing, with or without glitches. I never intended to be a part of this world, but now that it’s happened, I’d like to share my amateur insights. Let’s begin.

1. It isn’t as repetitive as you might think-

I’ve read that when you start speedrunning something, it should be a game you absolutely love and won’t get sick of no matter how many times you play it. And I agree wholeheartedly. If it’s a game you love, it won’t feel like a chore, but rather like an eternal challenge that is waiting to be beaten. The anticipation builds, your chest constricts, and with a few elegant taps on the screen, keyboard, or joystick, you’ve smashed that time. I’ve watched quite a few people speedrun games like Banjo Kazooie and Ocarina of Time, and admired their skill and dedication. I never thought I’d do a speedrun. I definitely fell into it accidentally, and through actually doing it I learnt that it requires a certain kind of passion, and a desire to dig deeper into the game mechanics in order to master it fully.

2. Creativity and strategy are important, but you need lady luck on your side-

Luck is one of the most important things when doing a run aside from skill. Of course, depending on the game, sometimes luck will be more important than skill. Somebody once told me, “Perfect practice makes perfect”, and I definitely think that’s true when you’re trying to beat your PB (Personal Best). Sometimes you may need to try a level hundreds of times in order to get that perfect angle, or for the timing to be just right, but the feeling of succeeding is indescribable.

3. Glitches are your friend- Through my experience of speedrunning some of the levels in Mikey Boots, I was able to find one apparent glitch in level 17. Technically, glitches could be viewed as cheats but I view them more like ‘accidental assists’ already existing within the game. Against the rules, you say?

barbossa

It was an ice type level, and I was playing it in retro mode with a ghost line rather than an actual ghost to race against. I noticed, after many playthroughs of this level, that the line started to become choppy at a certain point. The point I’m talking about is the section with all the white spikes that requires a turn to the left and then a turn to the right:

mikey boots level 17 line glitch

I hadn’t noticed it before in normal mode, but what happened a couple of times was that when Mikey made some sharp turns near the walls, the line seemed to ‘break’. Now keep in mind I was a few milliseconds behind the line before these turns and it is nearly impossible to cut off a whole lot of time at these turns. However, the line was ‘breaking’. The result of this was, that as I made the second turn upward to the right, the line pushed Mikey at least -0.10 seconds in front the line, when he should have been behind it. Imagine the potential of discovering glitches in all the other levels!

4. You need to be passionate and committed to the cause- 

I think this happens naturally when you love a game, even if you’re not doing a speedrun. You live and breathe it, many moments in the waking world-and dare I say, even when you’re asleep!-are dedicated to figuring out how to conquer the game or a level in a new way. You develop an eye for detail, and your mind becomes more analytical like it’s always searching for answers-at least this was my experience with Mikey Boots. Mikey Boots is a fantastic game for speedrunning because it is split up into short, easily digestible levels with clear structure, and on top of that there is a handy restart button right in the top left hand corner. The design of each level is such that the cliffs/walls have a huge impact on your overall time, and what you do in between those walls doesn’t have much bearing-you just have to make sure you don’t get hit by any enemies or accidentally crash into some spikes. Below I’ve presented a breakdown of the key areas to watch out for in level 1, of which there are three. The first one is right at the beginning of the level as you dip down past some green slime pits; the second is in the middle and is a bit larger, and the last one has a ceiling encrusted with spikes you have to watch out for and demands some very sharp turning action.

The first turn

I find there are many ways to go about this. You can either choose to get rather close to the edge of the cliff and then press right so you zoom past it sharply at a 45 degree angle, or wait a little longer till Mikey falls closer to the bottom of the floor and then make the jump at the same angle. Not hitting that wall is the key, as it will slow you down. Next, as you travel upwards to your right there is a specific position in the air you’ll want to be in before you hit left.

mikey boots level 1 turn 1

This turn is the absolute best turn to cut down some time off your record, and if you can maintain it throughout the level, you’re very likely get a new record. With some recent attempts I’ve made, I’ve discovered you can cut -0.05, -0.07, -0.08 off of your time at this turn. And I even think it’s possible to take -0.10 off your time if you have impeccable timing and luck-anything is possible. (Update: -0.10 is possible!)

The second turn

This is wider than the first and I found to be much more difficult to execute well. Thus, I have named it the ‘massive time loss zone’, but I do think it is possible to cut down your time a little bit here, or even keep it even.

mikey boots level 1 turn 2

Once again, not hitting the walls here is paramount, as any time you’ve managed to save at the first turn can easily be disposed of right here. Focus, and practice this turn individually, and I believe it can be mastered.

The third turn

Can be a massive opportunity for time saving, and making up for any time lost at turn 2, or a massive time loss section because of the second wall. It is vital that you make a series of sharp turns, and time it perfectly when you make the final sharp turn on your way to exit the level. If you can get that pattern right, you should be able to shave a few milliseconds off your personal best, but it’s a lot harder than it sounds.

mikey boots level 1 turn 3

In addition, on the way to turn 3 there are two checkpoints. When you pass through the second of these, you’ll notice sometimes that your overall time is reduced by -0.02 automatically, which can also happen in some other levels. I’m not sure why this happens but it could be something that could be manipulated to your advantage. I found it tends to happen when you’re lagging behind your personal best, and even sometimes when you’re ahead.

Overall, this is just theory and in practice doing everything I mentioned is much harder to execute-as I’ve also come to discover. But these are my tips for getting a good time in Mikey Boots in general: try and perfect the art of sharp turning at the walls, memorise and attack each level one at a time, and never stop trying. With enough practice and some luck up your sleeve, you’re bound to improve. And for me, that’s what speedrunning is all about. Setting new benchmarks in a game that invites other players to try even harder, to promote a spirit of fun and challenge that can unite a community of players together.

Mikey Boots is available now from the App store for $1.99. I highly recommend it if you like runners and are a fan of the previous two Mikey games. And all the best to the speedrunning community out there, it makes me so happy to know there are people out there constantly trying to improve themselves, and it inspires me so much as well.

What are your thoughts on speedrunning? Have you ever thought about giving it a go?

Barbossa image source: http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3sizt4

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