It's less than a week away. Many of the top speedrunners in the world are about to gather for Summer Games Done Quick 2020. Twice a year, Games Done Quick comes together, just as they've done for the past decade, to run through the top games as quickly as possible for charity. Things will look a little different this year. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Summer Games Done Quick 2020 is going to take this year's event online.
There are handful of amazing runs lined up for this momentous week of speedruns and Shacknews is among many looking forward to it. We reached out to some of the runners before they take the online stage. Today, we're spotlighting a special run. Because beyond standard runs, Games Done Quick often takes part in categories that are far off the normal board. So we're talking to Bubzia, who will be running Super Smash Bros. 64's Break the Targets mode. And he'll be doing so blindfolded. We made sure to ask about what got him started on this category and his approach for this year's Summer Games Done Quick.
Shacknews: At what point did you look at Super Smash Bros. 64's Break the Targets mode and think to attempt it blindfolded?
Bubzia, Super Smash Bros. 64 speedrunner: I was at the RTAinJapan live event in 2019 with my blindfolded run of Deltarune, and scheduled after my run was Super Smash Bros. Melee Break the Targets by the current world record holder, Zer0_ssbm. At that time I still did not have much of a clue of these speedruns, but when I was in the practice room practicing before my run, he was sitting next to me and totally destroying those targets with crazy fast inputs on his GameCube controller.
Since I am constantly on the search for a new blindfolded challenge, I instantly thought of trying to learn Break the Targets blindfolded myself. But as it happened, per coincidence, for a few days my GameCube wouldn’t work, so I switched to my N64 with Smash 64 first and tried the Break the Targets category there. And I am very glad I did!
Shacknews: What are the common strats for this category across all characters?
Bubzia: It differs somewhat between the optimal visual and blindfolded run, but for blindfolded, the general strategy is to go for targets concerning moving platforms first, even if it would be slower than getting them later on. Getting to moving platform cycles early only needs a small beatstring to remember and, from there on, its more safe sailing. If you would do them last, you would need to keep track of the same rhythm from the beginning of the stage the entire time in order to keep track of the cycles, or else you don't know where the platform is located. In a visual run, you can, of course, just see it, so you can do more optimal routes.
Shacknews: What's the secret to pulling this off? What sound cues do you check for when attempting this run blindfolded?
Bubzia: There are multiple techniques I use in this run, but the most dominant one is beatcounting. It is a common technique I use in my blindfolded speedruns and, especially in Smash 64, I am basically counting rhythm for the entirety of the run. That is 95 percent what I rely on without my vision. For example, if the stage starts I count the rhythm of the background music, and I know that on Beat 1 I need to punch, on Beat 1.5 jump, on Beat 2 hold left, Beat 3 an aerial attack ... With these kind of beat-input stings I have strategies for each individual stage. Combined with some normalized movement, like shieldrolls, it gets me consistently through the stages without looking.
Shacknews: Which character has the hardest set of targets to hit?
Bubzia: I start my runs with Yoshi, Fox, Luigi and Ness. Mostly because they tend to be the most reset-heavy stages for me. Especially Yoshi is notorious for the last target, because it is an extremely precise jump with a failure window of a quarterbeat to half a beat. And since it is at the very end and you die if you miss it, it leads to lots of retries always. Same as Fox. Luigi, in general, is just a very complex stage where a lot can go wrong in terms of inputs. And Ness has blindfolded thunder shooting, which is at least safe in terms of dying but it can lose some precious time.
Shacknews: Are there any advanced strats that the community has found over the years that cuts the time of a usual Break the Targets run?
Bubzia: I am not a top level runner in this game for the visual speedrun and I definitely do not know the community with its long history as well as others do. But I know that there are tiny optimizations and new strats, saving a few frames here and there, are found and implemented all the time. It all comes down to optimal movement, techniques, and inputs. The current world record holder for most Break the Targets, KM, showed me his document lately with the community's entire history of breakthroughs and top level runs. Besides that, the community also keeps all the techniques documented.
Shacknews: Since you're blindfolded the whole time, have you ever accidentally gotten lost trying to navigate the menus?
Bubzia: Oh, it happens way more than I would like to admit. Since it is a real-time run, the menus actually present a challenge in themselves, which often surprises the audience when watching blindfolded runs. The easiest things that we go by without thinking in visual runs can become your worst enemy. Because of that, I actually spend some time off stratting the menuing with timed stick inputs, so at least it has gotten more consistent by now with lots of practice. Still, menus are scary.
Shacknews: There are a lot of Super Smash Bros. Melee players out there. If one of them were to ask you what the difference is between the Break the Targets modes for Smash 64 and Melee, what would your answer be?
Bubzia: Smash 64 is much simpler in some aspects, which makes it very difficult to optimize in the top levels of runners. Melee has a lot of crazy movement options, it is generally way faster paced, and the stage layouts are more complex. On top of that, there are way more characters too. But I don't think that makes Smash 64 less intense. It makes it extremely difficult and rewarding to get small timesaves with tiny new optimizations and, on top of that, the game with its controls and all has its own unique charm to it.
Shacknews: How do you feel you've grown as a runner since you first started, aside from the obvious that now allows you to do this blindfolded?
Bubzia: To be completely honest, I have never really run this game visually! I started instantly with routing my own run and optimized it from there on. That is the usual approach I take to blindfolded speedruns. I study the visual speedrun from top players, check out different strats, etc., and then I get to work to route my own blindfolded version of a game. In this sense, I am very satisfied with how the run looks now. The strategies for nearly every stage has changed since I started. There have been tons of new optimizations that I implemented, which not only make it faster, but also more consistent. From a personal point of view, this run taught me a lot about just grinding runs out with lots of resets. I have been doing blindfolded speedruns for more than three years now, but the games I usually do are categories in the length from 30 minutes up to 3 to 4 hours. So with a run this short and reset-heavy, I can really dive into optimizing and striving for perfection in a blindfolded setting, where a mistake does not simply mean a bit of time loss, but the entirety of the run.
Shacknews: What's more intimidating to you: A GDQ run in front of a live audience or an online GDQ run?
Bubzia: An online GDQ run, 100 percent. I have played with a live audience before and it was surprisingly very relaxing for me. With some good headphones, you cannot hear the audience anyways. With online marathons, I am always scared, because imagine my internet dies in the middle of the run or some other technical problems occur. And then? I will sit there playing for the entirety of the run thinking everything is fine, but the marathon organizers and my commentator are desperate to how to contact me. It puts a lot of pressure and stress on me every single time. With offline events I don't have this kind of stress.
Shacknews: What advice would you give somebody looking to get into speedrunning for Break the Targets, with or without the blindfold?
Bubzia: I think this applies to more general all speedruns but the few tips I can give are: Get familiar with the game first, learn about all your movement options, techniques that are at your disposal, all the attacks and characters, etc. Running a new game is always scary and difficult, because one needs to get used to it. But with enough time and practice, the results will come naturally. And most importantly, have yourself as the opponent and not some records. To me, speedrunning is a hobby about self-improvement and dedication. Of course records and other milestones are important and nice to strive for, too, but to get there, you will always have to beat yourself first. And even more important than that, have fun and enjoy the journey!
Summer Games Done Quick 2020 will begin on Sunday, August 16 and continue until Saturday, August 22. Bubzia's Super Smash Bros. 64 Break the Targets blindfold run is scheduled for Saturday at 12:25PM PT. Join the runners at Games Done Quick and raise money all week for Doctors Without Borders. And join us all week here at Shacknews, as we talk to more of next week's runners.