Saturday, June 20, 2015


I've been interested in speedrunning games for a LONG time.  Nearly a decade ago, I spent hours trying to find the optimal route for picking up all the items in Metroid Prime.  I kept spreadsheets (which I have sadly lost) tracking my times and celebrating my progress.

Of course, this was well before I knew anything about the speedrunning community at large.

More recently, I've followed a number of speedrunners and speed games through livestreaming and Youtube channels.  The annual "Games Done Quick" marathons are always exciting, and I'll occasionally kill time by watching someone demolish an obscure game.

Despite all my interest in speedrunning, I've never really gotten into it.  A year ago, I toyed around with Rogue Legacy a little bit, but it didn't really enthrall me in quite the way I'd hoped.  The biggest issue was finding the right game - if I'm going to spend hours learning everything there is to know about a game, I better love it like no other.

Another obstacle in my speedrunning quest is the fact that the most celebrated speedruns are those that break the game in incredible ways.  I've always been more interested in optimizing a game while playing the way the developers intended.  Finding the most efficient paths for collecting items or completing quests is a fun puzzle, and mastering movement or combat techniques to dispatch enemies quickly adds an additional layer of skill to the whole thing.

This week, I revisited this idea of speedrunning with Guacamelee, and holy hell did I love it.  It's such a fun game with fluid enough controls that there seems to be a pretty high skill ceiling, which leaves a lot of room for optimization.

So here's the deal: my primary interest is completing the game after grabbing all the items (100% completion on the end game screen) without using glitches or save-and-quit or any other random strategies.  I want to play the game as intended and get the fastest completion time I can.

I've been working on that over the last few days (which has been a blast), and my current personal record is 3:14:09.  I will livestream each of my attempts, all of which you can check out on my twitch channel:

One additional note: I'm kind of excited about the idea of investigating a game and learning it inside and out.  A lot of speedrunners will talk about tricks that save 15 seconds or something of the sort, but you rarely get to see the study that goes into determining ideal paths or techniques.

Some of my interest in this speedrunning endeavor, then, is to document my thought process along the way.  Why did I choose the route that I use? How did my movement techniques develop?  I'm hoping to be able to provide an (amateur) view of the process of breaking a game down because I think that would be pretty interesting.

Coming up soon, I hope to have a little document showing all the lessons I've learned to date (and anything else I learn between now and then).  In the mean time, drop into my stream and say hello while I'm trying to master this wonderful game!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Achievement Guide - Chemophobia in Rogue Legacy

This achievement is for defeating Ponce de Freon, the remixed version of the game's third boss (in the Tower area of the map).

To unlock this boss fight, you must defeat Ponce de Leon and then obtain Ponce de Leon's Obol, which is a random item you might receive when praying at a shrine.
One of these things.
The next time you try to enter the castle, Charon will comment on the Obol and take it from you.

Next, you need to find the Tower boss room.  Usually the doors to boss rooms will be closed after you defeat the boss, but once you give Charon the corresponding Obol, the room will reopen.  If you enter, you'll be taken to this special remixed boss fight.  Failing one of these fights will drop you back outside the boss room, so you can retry immediately, making it very easy to practice until you can get them all done.

The remixed bosses are the hardest challenges in the game by far.  In each, you'll play as a special character, so you can't just grind out gold to get a better dude.

A shot of about one quarter of Ponce de Freon's arena. It is as wide as Ponce de Leon's arena, but missing most of the platforms.  There are, however, a few platforms along the top of the area.
For Ponce de Freon, you get Sir Dovahkiin, a level 0 Barbarian King with OCD and Dementia, neither of which make any sort of difference here.  His basic stats are:

495 HP
60 MP
176 Strength
75 Intelligence

and he comes equipped with several runes:

6 Vault (a bunch of air jumps)
Sprint (dash)

Here's a screenshot of his stat page, if you'd prefer:
It feels like there's a reference in here somewhere...
Basic Strategy
Ponce de Freon's moveset is identical to his brother's, though the fire trail he leaves takes longer to dissipate and the fireballs may be a bit closer together.  As such, the best strategy is basically the same: try to lead him around the stage so that the first fireballs start disappearing by the time you return to that part of the map.

One boon in this particular fight is that you don't have to contend with anything else in the arena - the spike balls from the fight with Leon are absent here.  That means you can comfortably focus on avoiding Freon's attacks without worrying about ramming into an off-screen enemy.

Another important note: you have to perform a series of air jumps to reach the floating platforms and circle the stage.  When you get pinned against a wall, jump up to the ceiling and continue looping.

Because Sir Dovahkiin is a Barbarian King, you can use his Barbarian Shout to clear lingering fireballs.  You only have enough MP to use this ability three times, so you need to be somewhat conservative with it, but it can get you out of tight spots when you really need it.

Unfortunately, there's not really much else to say about this particular fight.  Here's the video of my successful fight against him to give you an idea of how it goes:

Let me know if you have any questions about any of these tips or if you have any suggestions of your own.

Good luck!

Game Review - Rogue Legacy (Xbox One, 2015)

I picked up Rogue Legacy when it was first released on Steam last summer and started playing it immediately.  Next thing I knew, the sun had come up.  I play a lot of games, and while I will often get deeply invested in them, it's rare that I will completely lose track of time like that.

When the game was released for the Xbox One last week, I downloaded it and did the exact same thing.

That's already a strong testament to the overall quality of Rogue Legacy.

But let's talk a little bit about why Rogue Legacy is so compelling:

On paper, the game sounds unlike most others - you take control of a knight who, along with a long string of his heirs, explore a constantly-shifting castle to liberate the treasures within.  When a character dies, his or her possessions are passed on to the next generation with a simple catch: to enter the castle, an adventurer must relinquish all the gold in his or her possession.  Thus, each generation must spend their inheritance immediately or lose it all.

The result is a surprisingly deep experience.  The game's learning curve can afford to be somewhat steep because your characters will slowly improve as you learn to control them more skillfully.

Because of this one simple feature, Rogue Legacy is a tough (and therefore satisfying) platformer.  When you start running, jumping, swinging your sword, and occasionally flying through the randomly-generated castle, basic enemies and obstacles will pose a significant threat.  You can spend your hard-earned gold improving skills or purchasing upgrades to make your offspring stronger, more resilient, and even more maneuverable, eventually making the hardest of foes trivial bumps in the road.

Rogue Legacy's skill... manor?

As you explore the castle's four unique zones, you will discover blueprints or fairy chests.  Blueprints give your armorer the information necessary to craft new swords and armor, while fairy chests contain runes that your enchantress can apply to your gear to give certain bonuses, like mid-air jumps or increased movement speed, but only if you can complete a challenge first.  The combination of enchantments and equipment give you a lot of customizability, allowing you to emphasize your particular style of play.

When a character dies, you'll get to choose an heir from three possibilities.  Each will be of a class you've unlocked, covering the traditional RPG spectrum - some are agile and powerful but can't take a beating, others sacrifice strength for a larger HP pool, and some focus powerful magic spells.  The selection of classes is random, so you'll be forced to try new ones on occasion.

Of course, if you don't like the classes you're stuck with, you can just die immediately and try your luck in the next generation.

Offspring also demonstrate some of the game's unique humor.  Each character will have up to two traits.  Some have positive effects, like OCD restoring some MP whenever you destroy one of the random doodads throughout the castle.  Some are distinctly negative, like near-sightedness causing the outer portions of the screen to be blurry (unless you can find some Nerdy Glasses to correct that condition).  Some of your characters will be bald or gay, which has absolutely no impact on gameplay.

Sir Cohen the Near-Sighted begins his legacy.

These traits add another layer of complexity to choosing your next-of-kin, and a few of the effects might make you chuckle.

Speaking of the game's humor, the story is told through a series of journal entries you may find scattered throughout the castle.  There aren't too many of them, and they're pretty brief, but they're well written.

To make each trek through the castle enjoyable, the game's control scheme is nearly flawless.  Responsive and intuitive controls make precision movements a true test of skill, so it's hard to blame your failure on bad design.  There is one place where I think it falters a bit because it's too sensitive, but that only comes up with a specific set of enchantments in specific scenarios; I only encountered this once, and I've put over 30 hours into the game, so it's a pretty minor complaint.

As for the challenges you'll face, there are four distinct sections of the castle, each with its own array of baddies and a boss to top it off.  For the most part, the game proceeds as a typical 2D platformer, except that the world changes structure each time you die.  Thankfully there are some constants to keep things from getting overwhelmingly complicated (the forest is always to the right of the entrance area, for example).

The castle's forest, complete with headless horse leaving a flaming wake.
In total, you can probably expect your first playthrough to take 7-10 hours as you develop your characters (and your skills) to tackle the bosses.  There's a lot more to do, though, if you're up to the challenge.

The most obvious is the classic "New Game +" option.  After defeating the final boss, you can start over with all of your previously-unlocked goodies.  This time, however, all monsters are replaced with their more advanced counterparts, upping the challenge all around.  If you finish the game again, you're treated to "New Game +2," further increasing monster levels.  As far as I know, there's no limit to how high you can go, but the game gets absolutely brutal before too long.  If you're looking for a hardcore challenge, Rogue Legacy will happily deliver.

Remixed bosses are a less infinite way of testing your skills.  It's possible to obtain artifacts that unlock alternate versions of bosses, which you'll fight using a pre-defined character (so you can't grind out gold for a stronger character) in a modified version of the boss's usual arena.  These are significant challenges, and beating them is among the most satisfying gaming experiences I've had in the last few years.

Here's a video depicting my eventually successful run against one of the remixed boss fights to give an idea of how it goes (it definitely took 20+ attempts to reach this point):

Rogue Legacy offers more than enough content to keep you busy for 20 hours or more, if you're up for the challenge.

And finally, it's worth noting that the visual style and soundtrack are fantastic.  Graphically, the game is quite simple and nostalgic, but the different areas are diverse enough and the sprites are detailed enough to look pretty good overall.  The sound effects are pretty solid, too, with good audio cues for various hazards and the like.

The music is a slam dunk.  The different themes for different areas and bosses do a great job of accentuating the action and enhancing tense boss battles.  It sounds awesome.

What I'm trying to say is that Rogue Legacy is amazing.  Great gameplay with surprising depth, awesome challenges, and solid replay value make for a fantastic game.  I can't possibly recommend it more highly.

My Rating: 10/10 - epic.