This article is near and dear to my heart; not only did it give me the opportunity to interview someone I am honored to call a good friend, it highlights an event that I care deeply about; Awesome Games Done Quick (or AGDQ for the sake of brevity)
AGDQ is held in the Washington DC area every January and is a week long (24 hours a day for 7 days) marathon of video game speedrunning. What is speedrunning? it’s about completing video games as quickly as possible. Runners put hundreds of hours into practice, route hunting and in some cases glitch hunting and sequence breaking the games they choose to run.
Still a little confused? Well, just take a little while to watch a couple of runs over here on the Games Done Quick AGDQ 2016 Playlist
Got a better idea now? Excellent!
Today’s Interviewee put together one of my favorite runs of this year’s AGDQ and has been a favorite of mine for a long time; Halfcoordinated and he ran the new spectacle fighter Transformers; Devastation and before I say anymore about it, I’m just going to post a video of his run (as you can imagine with a week long marathon there is a lot of set up, so skip to about the 15 minute mark for things to get really good)
So what you just saw is what I like to call a “Total Package” run. The run itself was very well done, the commentary from the runner and his couch was excellent, the Host (who is the one you heard reading the donations) did an excellent job and there was entertainment abound. You see AGDQ this year streamed on Twitch.tv to an audience that reached in excess of 200,000 people, so entertainment is KEY in runs at the marathon, and this run was a prime example of that (Pun ABSOLUTELY intended.)
well having seen his run, lets get into talking to Halfcoordinated and learn a bit more about him.
Pop Culture Uncovered: Okay so why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself, tell us a bit about your history in speedrunning, and what speedrunning means to you.
Halfcoordinated: My name is Clint Lexa, much better known under my username “halfcoordinated”. Since birth I have had a physical disability called hemiparesis that lowers coordination, feeling, and strength in my entire right side. Due to this I play games better one handed than with two. I got into speedrunning back in late 2012, starting with the game RAGE. It was a bit of an odd choice considering it’s a FPS and I played it on PS3, but I didn’t really consider those sort of things at the time. From there I progressed into Super Monkey Ball before settling into Vanquish for about two years and picking up various other action titles on the way. To be honest it took me a while to really find my groove within speedrunning; realizing that I excel at intense action games like those made by PlatinumGames.
Speedrunning to me is mostly just a way to really get the most out of the games that I love. I get the most enjoyment out of a game when I really excel at them, digging into their mechanics and using whatever I can to play effectively and efficiently. Speedrunning has really just been a focused method to challenge myself and have as much fun as possible.
PCU: So for AGDQ you ran Transformers:Devastation, which for those unfamiliar with the game is a Spectacle fighter from Platinum (Metal Gear Rising, Bayonetta, Vanquish). why did you pick this game and category in particular and since I have seen the run, tell us a little about how the main gameplay of the speed run differs from the casual play of the game.
HC: I picked the game because I absolutely had to; no really, I had to speedrun Devastation. I love G1 Transformers, particularly The Transformers: The Movie (1986) and listen to the soundtrack to that multiple times a week. Add into that Platinum being my favorite development studio and I knew right away when the game announcement got leaked that I had to speedrun the game, no matter the cost.
The category I run in the game is New Game+ Prime Difficulty which is the highest difficulty setting available. I run on NG+ largely because of the very random and expansive loot system would make routing the speedrun on a fresh save nearly impossible and obnoxiously luck-based. You’re meant to kind of grind for weapon drops and spend time upgrading them, that’s just how the game is designed. I run on Prime difficulty as the weapons you eventually get are incredibly powerful, and running on a lower setting would eliminate almost all of the challenge and technique from the combat. It really showcases how far the game’s mechanics can be twisted and pushed.
The speedrun plays very differently from the casual experience. The game is generally meant to be played with melee combat, with a wide variety of combos and other aspects built into that; It’s good fun! Turns out that some of the guns were not balanced so well however, and there’s an exploit where swapping guns while holding fire down allows you to shoot up to 3 guns nearly simultaneously. This results in much of the run involving dodging enemy attacks then blasting them to bits with reversal (counterattack) shots. It’s very intense and clears out enemies remarkably fast! Other than that there’s pressure to optimize the platforming and driving as much as possible, but I feel that is to be expected regardless.
PCU: And How many hours did you put into setting up this NG+ file? and what did it require as far as weapon modding etc?
HC: Trying to gauge how long it took to set up my NG+ file is a bit difficult since technically that’s still a work in progress. The weapon drops are incredibly randomized- two otherwise identical weapons of the same rank, level, and added upgrades can have vastly different attack power. I still don’t have the absolute best equipment and I’ve played close to 100 hours (though since AGDQ this has increased to 125 hours.) I’d say it would take around 30-40 hours to get a solid weapon set for speedrunning, but that leaves plenty of room for improvement. There’s a lot of different upgrades that need consideration when fusing weapons to get the most effective equipment that you can. On top of that there’s also “T.E.C.H” you can equip which augment your stats and abilities. What T.E.C.H you get when creating them is randomized, and it can take a while to get good pieces for the speedrun. I’ve seen a few people accuse me of using a modded save file with hacked in maxed out gear, but that is 100% not the case! A lot of time went into getting everything set up.
PCU: Now this run, on top of what I called earlier in the article a “Total Package” when it comes to a marathon run, has been garnering some attention from sites that have been talking about your disadvantages, however I have been watching you run games for years, and you have a way of turning a negative into a positive, can you talk a bit about your approach to this?
HC: The way I look at my situation is fairly simple. What would I gain from not trying, from just saying something is more challenging and giving up? I would gain nothing, and that’s a poor reason to not do something that I love. I’ve also realized something else more recently- if my life only affected myself, of course I would rather have not been born without hemiparesis. My life doesn’t just affect me though, and having my disability has put me into a situation where I’ve been able to help and inspire so many more people than I could have otherwise. This honestly makes me feel very fulfilled, more than I can properly put into words.
Speedrunning is also a very freeing activity for me. With my disability I often have to do day-to-day tasks slower or in more convoluted ways. Speedrunning is my chance to things as fast or often even faster than others and that just feels excellent.
PCU: The Speedrunning community is a very.. intense one.. all about pushing themselves to get better and better, how have you found their reactions to you and your gaming?
HC: It can be a bit strange and lonely at times trying to push a game to it’s limits while starting with less to do so. People within the speedrunning community are generally very nice to me though! Often they seem to be very impressed with my abilities and some people kind of put me on a pedestal as a gaming god of some sort. I think that’s not quite warranted, but I won’t deny that it feels nice despite making me a bit flustered. I’m lucky enough to have friends throughout most major facets of the community, and I feel more welcomed and accepted here than I have anywhere else.
PCU: You know, with visibility for runners, and Charities like Ablegamers.com and Special Effect.org.uk it is looking to be a good time for those with physical and mental issues to step into the gaming sphere, do you have any advise for them?
HC: Don’t let anyone else tell you what your limits are. That’s for you to discover yourself and if you try to push your limits out you may be pleasantly surprised! If you require alternative methods of control there is hardware and software available to assist you. It may be difficult at times, but you owe it to yourself to not give up.
The next thing is to reach out to developers! Having a disability it is very easy to hide and just try to be unnoticed, we’re practically trained by society to do so. Unfortunately if we do that very little will change, so if something in a game is preventing you from being able to play, let the developer know. It is in their best interest to make their game or future games playable by as many people as possible, and telling them what accessibility features are needed is a great place to start.
For example, I’ve been testing and talking with indie developer Alpha Six Productions for their upcoming title “The JOYLANCER: Legendary Motor Knight” regarding general gameplay and largely for accessibility. They have since implemented a very impressive array of custom control capabilities and other accessibility options. Because of this I’m able to speedrun their game effectively, and I’m so glad that I reached out to them.
PCU: A couple more questions and we’ll call it a day. First of all where can people find out more about running Devastation or any of the other games you play?
HC: This is a tough one since I’m admittedly very poor at documenting strategies and guides for the games I play. That’s something I need to change, but in the meantime just reach out to me. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you may have about something I run! For Vanquish at least Xaerock/Zaarock has made an excellent tutorial on some advanced techniques present in the game, for speedrunning and otherwise. you can watch that here.
PCU: I know you have a special message you want to send to Platinum if they ever get to see this, what is that?
HC: Platinum, please start including fully customizable controls in your games! Typically you just include a few control presets, but it’s impossible to predict every configuration that will be best for each individual player; whether they have a disability or not. You do a great job on accessibility by having a wide variety of difficulty options, but with a lack of custom controls you really fall short in making it so everyone can enjoy your fantastic games.
There are a few other accessibility issues as well, I have friends who are photosensitive that can’t play or watch Devastation at all for example; but that is more complex to address without sacrificing the vibrant feel that Platinum just naturally exudes. Start with the custom controls and work out from there!
PCU: Well thank you so much for the interview, Where can people find you on social media and where can they check out your streams?
So there you have it, and interview with a fantastic runner, a good friend and an amazing man.
My thanks to Halfcoordinated for taking the time for the interview and if you like what you see here, you can go to twitch.tv and there are runs happening all the time, but the next 2 marathon events are RPG Limit Break (which is al RPG games, so longer style runs) which runs May 9-14, 2016 and Summer Games Done Quick (another various game marathon) which runs 3–9 July 2016 so stay tuned for more!
Have you seen any speedrunning, or are you new to it?
Would you like to see more speedrunning content on the site?
Did you enjoy the Transformers Run and the interview?
Can you come up with decent Transformers Puns?
Let us know in the comments below and ROLL OUT!