Earlier this week, Destructoid posted a video of Dark Souls 2 being completed in a mere twenty minutes and fourteen seconds by Distortion2, which was the world record (UPDATE: Distortion2’s time was beaten by Marksel in 19:45 after this interview took place). The catch? Well that depends on the perspective of the viewer.
Today we’re excited to post an interview with video game speedrunner, Bananasaurus Rex. Affectionately known by his loyal community as “Brex”, I’ve been following his recent Spelunky and Dark Souls 2 streams and I knew he’d be perfect to interview for this exact topic.
Q: For our readers that are new to speedruns or unfamiliar with your work, can you go ahead and introduce yourself?
My name is Aaron, and online I’m known as Bananasaurus Rex. I live in a small town in Newfoundland, Canada, and I’ve been speed running a variety of games for a few years.
Q: My interest in getting this interview with you is that I know you’re passionate about what you do and recently Destructoid posted a Dark Souls 2 speedrun that caused a bit of a stir in their community. There were quite a few replies that feel that using glitches is “unfair” and doesn’t count as a legit speedrun. What’s your stance on using glitches?
This argument about glitches is one that speed runners like myself have had to have countless times over the years. It really comes down to a few simple things that easily explain why glitches are perfectly acceptable in almost every case. Basically, unless you otherwise impose restrictions on yourself, the goal of speed running is to complete a game as quickly as possible. That means that you have to play within the boundaries of that game—obviously no cheating using external programs or built-in cheat codes is allowed. The fact of the matter is that anything that’s doable within the game without external interference is fair play, because even if it wasn’t intended by the developers, it’s still part of that package. Your goal is to reach the end of that self-contained game as quickly as possible by any means necessary. If using glitches yields the fastest time, then so be it.
Imagine that someone sat you down in front of Mario Kart and said “complete this track as quickly as possible within the boundaries of the game.” There might be a portion of the track that you can cut across with a mushroom boost that they never intended, but you found the fastest way fair and square. Glitches are very similar to something like that, just taken a step further. The developers never intended for you to do such a thing, but hey, it’s part of the game whether you want it to be or not. People also like to compare speed runs to real world things like sports, and that simply isn’t a fair comparison. Sports are head-to-head competitions and their entire value comes from a set of established rules that define the sports themselves. Video games are self-contained packages, and the very essence of speed running them is to challenge the game’s developers and try to find a way to get from start to finish faster than they’d ever have imagined. In a real life sport, what would be cheating is instead ingenuity and problem-solving in a speed run. People just seem to be sensitive to the fact that the game is not being played “how it’s meant to be played”. For speed runs, that simply isn’t relevant.
That being said, there are of course exceptions to every rule. It’s rare, but if a particular glitch is so completely game-breaking that it makes the speed run more-or-less pointless, that game’s speed running community might largely choose to ignore runs using that glitch, or at least focus on separating runs using it and not using it into separately considered categories. I’m talking about loading the credits within a minute of starting the game—that sort of thing. For the most part though, glitches are not only accepted, but tend to require more skill than simply playing the game the normal way.
I can think of examples from multiple games that I’ve done speed runs of. There’s bunny hopping in Portal 2, which requires precise movement and control, in addition to re-portaling which requires impeccable timing and sometimes very precise aim. There’s jumping over spiders that are hanging on the ceiling or mummies in tight corridors in Spelunky even though there’s no space to fit through, which require rather precise timings. And of course, there’s “pairywalking” (pAIRywalking) in Dark Souls 2, which is nearly frame-perfect. While these glitches do give you advantages in many ways, they and many others can actually be quite impressive when performed consistently and skillfully. That, combined with the wonder and marvel associated with a game being turned completely inside-out by a dedicated community of determined individuals are what make glitch-using speed runs interesting to me. But of course, not everyone has to agree.
The real bottom line is that it’s up to the individual viewer whether they find x, y or z to be interesting or impressive. If someone doesn’t like glitches, that is totally fine, and they are free to watch glitchless runs. The whole argument about whether runs using glitches are “legit” is pretty darn silly. I don’t know what it is with people wanting to so desperately diminish the accomplishments of others. If you watched an amateur artist perform their craft and weren’t particularly impressed, you wouldn’t stand up and tell them that—unless you were a jerk. The same applies to speed running. If it’s not your cup of tea, just move along and let those who are into it enjoy it.
Q: There is definitely a difference between using glitches already in the game and using mods or hacks. I know you don’t use any hacks, but what programs do you use in your streams to help keep track of your times, etc.?
I don’t use much and I’m actually new to speed running games that require an external timer, but the utility that I use for that is called livesplit. Most people use livesplit, wsplit, or something similar. I also use a small utility called XInputView to display my controller inputs on-screen, but I can’t think of much else that’s particularly relevant.
Q: Speaking of Dark Souls 2, how is your progression coming along? The last time I watched, you nailed a few gold splits but suffered a lot of downtime thanks to the RNG of Watcher/Defender.
I’m pretty new to speed running Dark Souls 2, but I’ve already got a pretty strong grasp on most of the glitches and skips. I took some time off-stream to practice the areas in which I was lacking, and almost snagged the World record on the day of writing this, but alas, random chance wasn’t in my favor near the end. I might be able to pull it off if I keep at it.
Q: Is there anything else putting snags on your overall time besides Watcher/Defender, like the randomness of pairy-walking?
Mostly just other things that rely on chance. Enemies choosing to behave in unexpected ways, resulting in death; inconsistencies with the skips that are accomplished through glitches; just luck of the draw sort of stuff. I mess up plenty myself, but random chance is what really puts a stopper on the run when you’re really on your game.
Q: What is your fastest time for completing Dark Souls 2 so far? Do you think you’ll overtake Distortion2 at some point?
Well, I’ve been to the final fight ahead of World record pace, but since I’ve only been running the game for a few days, none of my very few runs that have made it that far were worth continuing and finishing after I’d made a fatal mistake. I’m definitely capable of sub-20, and it’s definitely likely that I’ll beat Distortion2’s time. That being said, several other people are equally or more capable, including Distortion2 himself, when he chooses to improve his own time. We’re far from optimal quite yet, so the world record will probably change hands quite a few times.
Q: Do you speedrun for fun mostly, or is your main goal to obtain world records?
It’s a combination of both. I sincerely enjoy speed running, but it’s the most fun when you’re striving to do it better than anyone else. It’s always a great feeling to get a world record, and I think any honest speed runner would openly admit to that.
Q: Do you communicate with any other big names in the speedrun community? If so, is there anyone’s channel in particular you want to give a shout out to?
Certainly! I communicate with many people in the communities for both games that I’m running right now. In Spelunky, the current holder of several records goes by Latedog on twitch. Definitely a fantastic player. Additionally, Pibonacci and Samots are fantastic speed runners, and YamaYamaDingDong focuses more on score runs but is also highly skilled. In Dark Souls 2, I’m the new one of the bunch, but other than Distortion, there are several other great players, like Marksel, Noobest, Oginam, and Elajazz.
Q: Who is your biggest rival right now?
It’s hard to pick just one, but since Latedog is currently focusing on another game and therefore can’t be considered, Pibonacci likely has the highest chance of beating the current world records in Spelunky. In Dark Souls 2, Marksel has consistently been performing very well in the Any% category recently, and is likely to beat the record pretty much any day now.
Q: I know Spelunky is your main game. What made you go with that one?
I downloaded the game after being introduced to it via YouTube videos and enjoyed it a lot, and given my history with speed running, I decided that I should try to get the fastest time on the leaderboard, just for fun. Then I ended up doing just that, so I decided to livestream further attempts as additional proof. From there, it just kind of took off and I eventually ended up livestreaming full time and speed running Spelunky almost every day. It’s definitely a fantastic game, so I have no complaints about that.
Q: How close are you to Spelunky’s world record?
My best time is 10 seconds behind the record, but I’ve had countless runs that were ahead of the world record’s pace—and so have several other people. In Spelunky, sadly, the RNG is king. I’m pretty much just dedicating a bit of time to Spelunky each day, with the hope of eventually encountering a set of levels that don’t ruin a run in a way that’s completely out of my control.
Q: As you mentioned you’ve been speedrunning for a few years now, what’s the first game that you really dedicated yourself to?
The first game that I ever did speed runs in was Portal 2. I met someone during online co-op play and we exchanged alternate solutions, and eventually came up with the idea of trying to complete the co-op levels as quickly as possible. From there, I switched to solo levels after a while and was able to simultaneously hold the world record for as many as 48 of the 51 levels at once. Eventually I lost interest and the times got beaten, but that’s where my name first became well-known.
Q: Outside of speedruns, what games are you playing for yourself right now? I remember you mentioned Mario Kart 8 in your last stream and saw some Transistor tracks on your playlist.
Mario Kart 8 is pretty much the only one at the moment. I don’t spend all that much time playing video games off-stream these days, but it happens from time to time. I instead choose more passive hobbies like binge-watching tv shows, because 5-8+ hours of gaming tends to be more than enough for me most of the time.
Q: As something that has just come in to the light, are you familiar with “fire hopping” in Mario Kart 8? Do you think it’s something Nintendo should patch out, or do you see it as using the drift mechanic to its full potential?
Actually, I hadn’t heard of it until you mentioned it. I looked it up to see what it was, and while Mario Kart certainly isn’t a “sim”-type racing game, it’s clearly not intended as hopping to retain speed doesn’t make much sense, and it seems to give too much of an advantage for too little effort. They should probably change it in a balance patch.
Q: Do you plan on adding any other games to your speedrun rotation?
I don’t have any in mind at the moment, but it’s probably inevitable that there will be others. As long as there are games, there will probably be some that I’m interested in speed running.
Q: You’ve done an awesome job building a welcoming community in your Twitch channel. You’ll always have the occasional trolls, but for the most part it’s always comical and positive, like welcoming new subscribers with the Rexspecs emote. Did the members of your community build themselves up that way, or is this something you’ve molded as time went on?
Thanks for the compliment! It’s definitely a team effort, but a great community certainly could never happen if the streamer doesn’t have the right attitude. While I couldn’t have established the community that I have without a lot of great people, it’s definitely very important to know how you want your community to be early on and to stick to making it that way. I have a large team of moderators that I trust, and with whom I’ve become great friends over the course of my streaming career. We all hang out in a Skype group as friends, but when necessary we work together to figure out solutions to problems and come up with new ideas to push the stream forward.
If you have a positive attitude, your chat will mostly mirror it. In my channel in particular, I strive to provide an environment that’s completely open to almost any sort of discussion, as long as everyone treats everyone else with respect. Being completely silly is encouraged, while still being mature and responsible when it calls for it. Everyone is welcome and no form of hate speech or bigotry is tolerated. I’ve definitely learned a few things about what works and what doesn’t in a twitch/chat environment over the months, and adjusted my policies accordingly. It takes a lot more work than you might think at first glance.
Q: And lastly, for our readers who are interested in following you on Twitch, how often do you stream and what does your schedule look like? Is there any other way they can show you their support outside of joining your live streams?
I usually stream every day except Tuesday, and I’m pretty much as much of a night owl as it gets. I typically start somewhere between 11:30PM and 1:30AM EST with the streams usually lasting for a minimum of 5 hours. Following me on twitter wouldn’t hurt, but just coming out and watching the stream is more than enough and is always appreciated!
So let’s hear it XBRO’s. What’s your stance on speedrunning? Either way, everyone here at What’s Your Tag? wants to give Bananasaurus Rex our own “rexspecs”, as we appreciate him taking time to answer our questions pretty much immediately! Good luck grabbing that world record!
Bradley Keene is an avid gamer & aspiring writer from Baltimore, MD that handles news, reviews and editing here at What’s Your Tag?. If he’s not writing or knee-deep in an MMO, he’s usually watching low-budget horror films or following Orioles baseball. Follow him on Twitter, Twitch or contact him by e-mail. Love gaming? Join TEAM XBRO today!