Live at AGDQ, Austin James sits down with speed running legend SpikeVegeta; as of this transcript and interview SpikeVegeta is the world record holder for Rayman Legends with a time of 1h 24m 25s without loads on Speedrun.com. Don’t forget! The IAmThink podcast is now available on the iTunes Podcast Directory!
(Note from the Interviewer and Scribe Austin James: (It was a great pleasure to work with SpikeVegeta, the man is brilliant and a passionate gamer. We here at IAmThink sincerely wish him fast runs and are looking forward to his future successes.)
Transcript from the interview:
Austin: OK, I am sitting here with SpikeVegeta. Mystic7Audja/Austin James as you guys know me on IAmThink. And I was actually able to snatch him a little bit earlier this week for an interview and here is what we’ve got. So my first question for you would be what inspired you to start speed running and what was your AHAH moment when you decided to start learning games inside and out?
SpikeVegeta: I started speed running when I was very young, I never called it speed running. What intrigued me was taking any game that I love, so for me it was games like Donkey Kong Country, Mega Man X, as a kid those Super Nintendo classics and just beating them in one sitting. It got to the point where I wanted to try to beat it faster every single time. It’s inherently trying to find that challenge before we had the days of leader boards it was just enough to beat the game. But having Mega Man X, having Donkey Kong Country and being like I beat it in 45 minutes the next time I beat it in 44 minutes you know and so on and so forth. Inherently speed running a game a lot of the time is just being good at the video game. It’s just feeling like I know all of this game just like the back of my hand, it just got simpler and simpler as I went and I felt cooler especially in platformers watching my character move across the screen like this is how the developers wanted you to do it. Surely enough with speed running these days we do things not necessarily how developers intended. I love watching my skills on display.
Austin: Excellent, excellent. That leads into my next question what do you look for in the different games that you play to develop your different strategies to try to beat your own time?
SpikeVegeta: Yeah, so going back to the movement aspect of it there’s a couple different things there are probably two things that excite me most about speed running and the first flavor is within my platformers, I need what you call ‘Movement Tech’. It’s not just a straight forward platformer where you are holding right and jumping on things. You know one of the games I speed run is Rayman Legends and there’s like 45 different ways to move Rayman and you have to take full advantage of all those because the terrain is not flat in almost any regard. There’s usually some sort of hills/slopes you’re going over and if you are not being optimal with your movement you are losing so much time in that run and it is not even the amount of the time just the difference between someone who knows the basic “Ok I spin, then I jump, I spin, then I jump” and someone who is working in the all the different tech. It just makes it that much more exciting in a speed game. So something where I have a lot of movement options. Another thing I look for and love is very challenging fights, like another series I run is Kingdom Hearts. It’s all about fight optimization in that series for the most part and figuring out different strategies of you know it’s not a turn based rpg, it’s a action rpg. You’re moving around a lot. Just figuring out like you’ve got one thing Kingdom Hearts does really well particularly in the main series like Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 is they give you a lot of options combat-wise whether it’s limits, different magic spells, different physical keyblade attacks you can use. Different arenas that you’re in even and figuring out the best way to utilize all of those with completely different AI’s in every fight, I find completely fascinating. Because that’s once again I think the audience really takes it in very well and are very intrigued by the fact that we know these fights inside out and you have to to be able to adjsut to whether it’s rng or random number generator, randomness within the fight or your own human error which you are going to have. You have to know that immediate backup on the fly what to do.
Austin: So would you say it’s more reactive or proactive?
SpikeVegeta: You know speed running inherently you want to be proactive about it, but I think a lot of great speed runs out the such as Zelda 1. Legend of Zelda 1 you never know what the room is going to look like, you never know what the enemy spray pattern is going to be. Speed running calls on both of those skills and more, I mean you got to have an amazing amount of dedication to practice all the time. I’ve always been told you know 10 times whatever a speed run is going to take you, when you feel like you are not progressing, you’re not getting a new personal best or the world record or anything. You need to go back and put in that much more time. That and just like you say, both being so practiced towards a script but also being able to just, just in an instant switch off of that and be reactive to what happens.
Austin: So it takes a little bit of both then?
SpikeVegeta: Absolutely. Yes. **Laughs** To answer your question simply, yes. It takes both. Absolutely.
Austin: Excellent, you know this. You run them. You are part of the Rayman and Kingdom Hearts communities, you are a large part in both in regards to strats and different contributions you’ve made. Are there any other communities that you are considering branching out to, I know you mentioned you mentioned Donkey Kong are you fairly large in their community as well?
SpikeVegeta: I am large there, there are kind of different sub-sects. The spirit of the community has become so big, I mean we have 1500 people at this AGDQ event alone. There’s over 10,000 of us all across the world. The subsect within the Donkey Kong Country community you usually got a classic community DKC 1, 2, 3 for the sets. And you’ve got a most prominently a Tropical Freeze community who also dabble in Returns, DKC Returns as well. I am very prominent in Tropical Freeze. I have the number 3 time in that game in just the any% category and when I say any% I mean just beating the game as fast as you can as opposed to say doing all levels or doing 100% or whatever you want to call it. So yeah, I’ve been very prominent in their community as well, I’ve tried to dabble all over the speed running community. I generally have no qualms about just going into a chat with four other people and watching someone speed run a game just because I love speed runs of games, particularly ones I’ve played before and mean a lot to me. It’s just fascinating seeing the routing of the game and finding out the what is the best way to handle a situation.
Austin: So that really goes into what I originally asked about being reactive/proactive and the different strats you would employ there?
Austin: Do you take a lot of time analyzing other runners in regards to their strats and routing.
SpikeVegeta: You have to.
Austin: You have to?
SpikeVegeta: Yeah, no matter how much you think there is an optimal route there’s a lot of games where it’s “Oh they’re doing something here that is completely different from mine” and I like those games as well. The Raymans, the Donkey Kongs, the Kingdom Hearts where it’s not down to frames. It is not a 100% set way how you go through it. You’re always analyzing other people and saying like OK they’re using a little different strat here is it the same speed, is it slightly slower but it’s more consistent for me possibly? Sometimes you can try out a strat on a certain fight or level and seemingly just beat your head into the ground just over and over and over again, when it never works. Then all of a sudden I go and analyze this other person who, I might be first place in a game and I’ll go analyze whoever is sixth place in a game, and find “Wow they have a strat there that is way more consistent and faster and looks cooler.” So yeah, it constantly takes that. There’s not a text book on the perfect way to run Rayman and Kingdom Hearts. We only have each other and we have to work off each other in order to push these games as far as we have.
Austin: So you would say that competitiveness really brings the edge and and speed to the games?
SpikeVegeta: Absolutely. It’s the same thing as in sports. I don’t want to recruit just one great quarterback for my college program, I want to bring in two great quarterbacks. I want them to push each other and you see that there are countless runs all over the years where we say “Oh, sub X time is never going to happen” We’re never to have less than a 5 minute time in Super Mario Brothers. We’re never going to have less than an hour in X game, whatever it is. All of sudden you see more people come along, more sets of eye balls are looking at the game and you’re just naturally pushing each other and that’s when it turns our favorite single player games into multiplayer experiences and that what people I think inherently at the core most love about speed running.
Austin: It is the social interaction with one another and being able to excel at that.
SpikeVegeta: Yeah, absolutely.
Austin: Excellent, that kind of goes into what my next question was. Currently on Speedrun.com you hold the record for Rayman Legends without loads at 84 minutes and 25 seconds. Moving forward, you’ve already somewhat answered this, you’re still considering other alternate strategies and looking at other peoples streams to try at excel and push that time further?
SpikeVegeta: Rayman Legends is a beautiful speed game in that once again; there are so many different options for how to move your character. There is advanced techniques that people use in individual level attempts, which are just little thirty second levels that are potentially seconds faster than what I already do. Which if you add that up over the course of a run, those seconds can become minutes and those frames can become seconds. It’s just little things here and there and it just makes the run look cooler. That’s ultimately what you want, you’re creating art to a certain extent. People might laugh at that but we are creating a form of art.
Austin: It is supposed to invoke emotion.
SpikeVegeta: Yes, absolutely. We can see it here at this GDQ we’re getting a lot of that here.
Austin: So moving somewhat more into that. Is there a Goku to your Vegeta with Rayman? (SpikeVegeta laughs) Who would you say would be the closest person to drive you to the next level?
SpikeVegeta: The last time I had held the Rayman, I had just achieved it in November of this past year, 2015. The last time I had held it was January of 2014. Since then three other people have held the record including Spire7, FearfulFerret and EnsgMaster. And I’m actually over the course of it, I’m trying to convince all of them that we need to work together to push it. If I had one runner I had to pick out from that group, that I think could genuinely push the game with me and be the Goku to my Vegeta. It would be FearfulFerret. He is an amazing speed runner. A lot of the Bioshock games; has worked on stuff like Minecraft, Dark Souls. We’re completely different in taste to speed games but somehow we meet up in Rayman Legends and he’s very, very talented. He’s got a big Twitch stream. I would love nothing more. He’s been kind of retired from the game lately, but I think he could come back and certainly give me a run for my money.
Austin: That’s always good to hear, aside from being within about a minute of your record time with this past run on…. (Lost train of thought.)
Austin: Yeah, as of this run. Was there any other AHAH moments or any moments that excited you during that run?
SpikeVegeta: This is probably not recommended when you’re going in a GDQ run, where you are going into a big performance in front of people. I wanted to change everything. I worked with a individual level runner known as CaneofPacci who is also very prominent in a lot of the PlayStation platformers Crash Bandicoot, has done a little bit of Spyro the Dragon. I just said, rack my brain. Do everything you can to change this run, literally if you see a place where I can save a frame. I want to know about it, I may or may not use it but I want to see everything I’m not doing and we found a couple dozen strats out of all of them where the most prominent one probably saved me two seconds. But we’re talking once again about all these little frame savers, all these second savers are adding up to a lot of time over the course of the run and it is just making it a better product.
Austin: Would you say that’s the reason it was so close to your best online?
SpikeVegeta: Yeah, it’s probably a balance. When I come to a marathon run I’m not thinking about just getting a good time. That’s not important to me, to people watching at home that’s just a time, that means nothing to them. What they want to see is what this game looks like at it’s best. So I treat it as a showcase, so yeah it was cool I came not to far off my record. Some of those tricks I was showing, yeah I screwed them up and I wasted more time than I would have saved. But, it was also just forcing myself to play the game a lot building up to the marathon. I think it’s more so due to that than necessarily finding different strategies.
Austin: So you were just having fun with it and doing what you do best?
SpikeVegeta: It’s being loose, a lot of people up here. Everyone does stress a lot about their runs. It’s getting competitive, you’re in front of 150-200 thousand people a lot of the times when you’re on that stage which is crazy thinking about that. I think I’ve done enough of these to where I don’t stress about it more so. I’m very confident about it.
Austin: That leads well into this next question. On your runs and as a commentator you always have a upbeat, inspiring personality, how do you actively maintain or make a conscious effort to always be that person and how do you keep that high of energy?
SpikeVegeta: The number thing you need to have is confidence in yourself. I am a funny guy, I’m not saying like I’m a funny person. I’m just saying that is what my personality is. That is who I want to be in a group of people, I would much rather make you laugh than impress you or anything else. So when I get up there, there’s a lot of people who hold that because you know you are in front of 150,000 people to 200,000 people and it’s the internet. It’s this terrifying YouTube comment culture where they’re going to take a dump on your face. They’re just going to say all these horrible things about you, no matter what you do. So you accept that going in and say “Alright, you know what I’m not going to make everyone happy. I’m just going to make myself happy.” As long as I walk out here feeling like I was laughing at it and I was having a good time and I felt like it was a good showcase. Then whoever wants to feel that way, great! Otherwise, you cannot stress about it. You cannot convince everyone that you are cool. It’s not worth the time.
Austin: Fair enough, moving on a bit further. How do you ultimately handle your success? You have about 33,00 followers on Twitch and you’ve had about 3 million views. How do you maintain that, is it the same perspective? Just be yourself and they will come?
SpikeVegeta: You almost can’t control it, there is a million different ways to decide success and a certain amount of it is randomness. Talk about how TV shows, how you find out if they’re successful or not it’s just the stars aligned right on that day. It’s really been an amazing ride the last… How many years has it been? Almost four years I’ve been involved in streaming/speed running much longer I’ve just been speed running in general. I’m grateful everyday that people are interested in what I do. Because I don’t feel like I do anything special, I barely have sub notifications. I just get out there and try to play games and I’m very passionate about playing them well. I promote kind of a chill stream in all honesty, I don’t want it to feel like I’m putting on a face for you when you’re coming in. I just want to talk to you like a friend coming in. I always think of my stream as a living room of a party and people come in I’m playing the game on the main TV. You can kind of do whatever you want, you want to drink with your friends in the corner. You want to come up and watch the game and talk to me. That’s fine either way. I think sticking true to who you are would be my number one recommendation to at least keep you from going insane from the whole thing.
Austin: Good tip, good tip. Moving further along there are there any new games on the horizon that you are looking out for that you would consider speed running? Or any new games in general that you want to get your hands on?
SpikeVegeta: There are literally dozens. There are so many people that say, “When are you going to run this, when are you going to run that?” and I’m truly fascinated by all of them. Man, if I had to pick one..
Austin: You could do top three if it’s easier.
SpikeVegeta: Top three? I put a little bit of work into Chrono Cross last year. That I achieved a world record in. Probably my favorite RPG of all time. Actually snagged the record from somebody, then another runner came back and took it back from me a few minutes faster. So I’m probably going to put a lot of time into that this year. Other than that I think I’m going to put a lot more time into just the games I have already established. Rayman Legends, Tropical Freeze I want to go back to and learn the 100% category where you do all the levels. I think it has a lot of dynamic challenging levels that you don’t just beat by achieving the credits. Yeah, so we’ll kind of stick with that for now. Maybe go back to Final Fantasy IX. Depends on how some things happen this year. Chrono Cross is my number one I really want to look more into.
Austin: Awesome, awesome. Good game to do it on too. Large amount of time that you will have to dump into it.
SpikeVegeta: Yes, without a doubt.
Austin: Are there any up and coming runners that you follow that you feel everyone else should be aware of?
SpikeVegeta: Oh my gosh. There are literally hundreds of runners out there who stream everyday for a dozen people if that. That are incredibly skilled at their game. You know one runner that just did the Kingdom Hearts 1.5 run here at AGDQ is Zetris. Zetrile on YouTube. That’s Zetris on Twitch. Zetrile on YouTube. Please follow him, he is for lack of a better term a God Gamer. He’s incredibly aware of his situation, I talk about being able to adapt to whatever is going on around him. Always keeps his cool and I’ve really grown to really respect him as a skilled gamer. So that’d be my number one, somewhere to start.
Austin: Alright, alright. Excellent. One of my last two questions for you. For new runners entering the scene, what is the best bit of advice you would offer them?
SpikeVegeta: If you want to get into speed running itself. Don’t feel afraid to ever ask questions. You don’t ask questions then nothing can happen. There is way too many people out there who I think are still intimidated by speed running. That they somehow feel like “Oh I can never do what these people at Games Done Quick events do or these people I even just watch on my stream.” Hey we all start at the same place, we just really liked a game and we just started speed running it. We just play the game, put up a timer and just saw. OK, how fast can I beat it. Little 12 year old SpikeVegeta would just say how fast can I beat Mega Man X? I did it in 45 minutes. The next day I did it in 44 minutes. There’s no needed amount of progression that you need. Get in there, ask a lot of questions to people if you ever can’t figure something out. It’s usually something pretty simple. Even the craziest looking tricks, they look crazy a lot of times they’re not actually that hard to pull off. We just don’t know how to do it. I guarantee you 90% of the tricks in Ocarina of Time, all these big glitches people know about. You go and ask ZFG and Runnerguy and some of these guys how do they do these. Usually there’s a setup for it. If you ever just want to see what you can do, don’t be afraid to jump in. It’s easier than it looks. Achieving world record in a lot of games that’s a different story. Don’t get into it for just that.
Austin: So don’t get into it for the glory and it’s ok to ask questions?
SpikeVegeta: Glory can happen.
Austin: Shouldn’t be the focus though.
SpikeVegeta: Shouldn’t be the focus.
Austin: The unscripted question I have for you, spur of the moment. What is your favorite line as Julius Caesar? Because you do have a background as a professional thespian so I have to ask.
SpikeVegeta: Oh my gosh, I am trying to remember there is one line of material. Of course there’s the famous, I’ll go with this in case I can’t remember this line. Just “Et tu, Brute?” When I played it I had a very strong connection with the actor who was playing Brutus, who has to be the one to betray him who obviously loved Caesar but had been corrupted and convinced that this is what needs to happen; we need to kill Caesar to progress, to take power, to make everything better than it is. So looking him straight in the eyes and delivering that every night as he stabbed me, was really a really powerful moment. Trying to remember… There’s something about lions, that was like five shows ago so I’m trying to remember the line. It was something about just like screaming out to the crowd, because his wife is trying to convince him you cannot go out there. I have a bad feeling about this, they’re going to attack you and it’s just like “I am Julius Caesar, I am made of Lion. As I roar, hear me roar you cannot stop me.” I am killing it, Shakespeare is rolling in the dirt right now. It’s something in the way of just saying, bring it on. I remember having fun with that line every single night and you’re doing theatre for hundreds of crowds. Sometimes you’ll hear little chirping going on in the crowd when it’s a younger crowd. Every time I said that line, just everyone shut up. Just a really powerful moment.
Austin: So you really connected with it and felt it.
SpikeVegeta: Absolutely, like I was basically getting to deliver it to the audience. As much as you try to not break the forth wall.
Austin: You kicked it down.
SpikeVegeta: Hey, letting people know like I am Caesar. Which is then great with the ajex position of that leading up to afterwards in the scene, me getting stabbed to death a million times. I think it makes it a much stronger moment in that show.
Austin: Excellent, I appreciate your time and I know I am taking you away from other runs you could watch. But, we definitely appreciate it here with IAmThink.
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