Interview with Speedrunner Karol “dex” Urbanski

Diskussion - Deutsche Übersetzung (GamersGlobal) - Watch the run (SDA)

Bagdadsoftware: Please introduce yourself to our readers. Who are you and how did you become part of SDA?

Karol Urbanski: I'm Karol "dex" Urbanski and I had been watching SDA runs for quite a bit of time before finally joining the SDA community around April 2006. A year later, around March 2007, I was drafted in the Quake staff and I've been doing various stuff ever since.

Bagdadsoftware: You too are a speed-runner holding both records in Quake and in other games. Did you start speedrunning before or after you found SDA?

Karol Urbanski: After I found SDA, but before I actually started contributing. I am a huge Deus Ex fan, and I naturally saw the speedrun on it first. I wasn't very thrilled, and spent the next week actually recording my poor, first attempts at speedrunning. I've managed to improve it by 20 minutes without any external help, thinking up new strategies on my own, which is definitely an achievement for someone who was around 14-15 at the time :). I didn't decide to publish it, though, and good that I didn't - thanks to that my first actual contribution to the Deus Ex page was a much more substantial 45 minute improvement.

Bagdadsoftware: So how long have you been speedrunning?

Karol Urbanski: Since November 2006, so it's been a while already...

Bagdadsoftware: What introduced you to the scene?

Karol Urbanski: Curiosity, mainly. After a few watched runs on games like Deus Ex or Morrowind, I decided to check the Quake section up. There were some great runs, but a recently added map (hhouse) had two pretty mediocre demos. I took it on myself to learn some Quake tricks and beaten all the records on hhouse in a few days.

Bagdadsoftware: Let's talk a bit about your Deus Ex run. How long did it take you the beat the game the "correct" way the first time?

Karol Urbanski: Hard to say, it's pretty ancient history. I think it was around 30 hours on the game clock. I took my sweet time :).

Bagdadsoftware: And how long did it take you in the end to master the game and perfect the run?

Karol Urbanski: After my first playthrough, I did another, and another, and another, and like 5 more. Then I did playthroughs with 'house rules' ("melee only", "ghost" etc), then when I started contributing tricks to the Deus Ex forum thread, I spent even more time on it. I bet if you tallied the time I spent on the game up, it would come out to like a month of gameplay, or maybe even 2. And I'm actually rerunning Deus Ex now - still finding new tricks and getting progressively better. Practice makes perfect!

Bagdadsoftware: Did you have a general idea on what skills would be useful for such an endeavor from your previous playthroughs or was it more of a trial-and-error approach?

Karol Urbanski: I had an idea thanks to the fact of me running the game just for myself earlier. I knew it would require a lot of clever route planning, and I knew it would require a lot of patience to do.

Bagdadsoftware: Did you do a single-segment run or a segmented one and what prompted your choice?

Karol Urbanski: I did a segmented run. I'm a perfectionist at heart, and decided I could push the game to the limit in the segmented category.

Bagdadsoftware: What level/segment did you have the hardest time with and why?

Karol Urbanski: The boat level, or the helibase level. The first one is a horrible combination of a lot of password input, several hard tricks, several random occurrences, a huge amount of items to pick up (a huge annoyance in Deus Ex if you're trying to do it with 30 frames per second), and an insane amount of enemies using 'aimbots'. Yuck. The helibase level was hard purely because I had to avoid all leg and all torso damage (leg damage slows you down, and I already had only 4 points in the torso, in preparation for a cool trick).

Bagdadsoftware: Key to a speedrun is finding shortcuts, tricks and glitches to go around the pre-defined routes. Did you find and use any previously unknown tricks/glitches? How did they improve your time?

Karol Urbanski: Ho, its here where I shine. A large majority of all the small, clever cuts are mine. I love thinking up a silly/clever new trick that saves around 2 seconds. Sure, it's not much. But when I find several of them on each level, well, the improvement is very substantial. Many grenade jumping points are my idea (though grenade jumping is not my own trick), same with grenade warping through walls. Finally, I was the one to stitch all the found tricks together into a coherent route, probably the hardest of all things to do when route planning.

From tricks I like very much, a trick to shoot the LAW through walls was found by another person. I then used it on the boat - in a place nobody thought of it being usable - and thanks to that I shaved about 5 seconds AND got additional resources :). An example of a 'clever, small' trick is having the 'end of level' helicopter spawn on me in the graveyard level - immediately making me board it, and hence save a small amount of time :). Also, one very useful trick I found is that talking to people through normal conversations immediately ends all incoming transmissions, which comes as a very helpful trick in the Vandenberg level.

: Which known tricks/glitches did you use that had a significant impact on your run-time?

Karol Urbanski: Grenade jumping definitely takes the cake here - the derivatives of this trick let me skip significant portions of the game, for example most of Denfert-Rochereau. It works by having you 'surf' on a grenade you throw underneath yourself. Then, when midair on the grenade after it bounces off the floor, you can jump, and your velocity is added to the velocity of the grenade, letting you jump a lot higher. Also, the grenade warping trick is very helpful, letting me skip 60% of the entire Vandenberg level. That one works by having you pushed into a very thin barrier when the grenade you're on 'flips'. You can then pass the barrier with ease.

Bagdadsoftware: Was there a glitch/trick you thought to yourself: "How could those developers have missed that?"

Karol Urbanski: Yes. There are several invisible walls in the game, most levels are literally encased in them. However, developers often miss HUGE holes in them, for example in the graveyard level, there's a man sized hole in the invisible walls you can jump to with ease. The most insanely baffling thing is a conversation bug in Hong-Kong, however. Basically, you can break the ENTIRE level sequence and have Tracer Tong summon the helicopter you use to advance the game... 2 sub-missions before he's supposed to do that! Even more baffling is that this glitch doesn't happen if you just walk into Tracer's textbox (then the conversation script works fine). However, if you initiate the conversation by 'using' Tracer, the glitch will happen. Technically there's supposed to be no difference between those two, yet there the glitch is.

Bagdadsoftware: How could you even think about something like the friendly text breaking or using a grenade to go straight through windows and solid gates?

Karol Urbanski: Most of the 'big tricks' weren't found by me (grenade jumping and grenade warping), but I did use them in places people haven't thought about (warping in the Vandenberg level, for example). Sometimes the ideas for tricks hit me out of nowhere, while I'm doing something else. It's hard to explain that my giddiness is caused by me finding a video game trick when it happens in public :). Other times, while I'm running the level I decide this or that might work, then test it out. Finally, one or two cuts I actually found by accident, while toying around :).

Bagdadsoftware: How much did the community and Thrull's first run of the game help you with your run? Could you've done it without them?

Karol Urbanski: I would probably get 1:05 without the input from the community, at most. They were (and still are) a huge help, even if I was the one tasked with having to make all the tricks they found actually work. As for Thrull's run, well, not saying I haven't used a few ideas from it, but the impact here is definitely smaller. I used a lot of different routes even in my 'test' run. And no, no way I could have done it without them :).

Bagdadsoftware: Be honest: Did you really memorize all those door codes and computer access data or how did you know which one to use where under that time pressure?

Karol Urbanski: Yep, all memorized. In fact, I'm pretty sure I remember almost all the door codes and passwords in the entire game by now. Something that goes over into your blood after a while :).

Bagdadsoftware: Was it really necessary to kill off JC at the end or was that just for kicks? :)

Karol Urbanski
: Just for kicks :). I like including fun stuff people will be amused by. It makes both the run making and the run watching a lot more pleasurable. Adds some soul, so to speak.

: Deus Ex was praised for its freedom inside the game world. Do you think that your run validates this compliment or did you discover many unavoidable obstacles that showed obvious limitations of that freedom?

Karol Urbanski
: Both, actually. I think it says a lot about freedom when the game lets you finish it in 43 minutes, when the normal playthrough takes about 30 hours. Many people told me "that's not how it's meant to be played" but I don't agree with that. The designers gave a lot of freedom in this game, I just took more than they thought they were giving ;).

From another point of view, in every level I stumbled upon a lot of invisible walls, I stumbled upon a lot of artificial limiting of the game experience. In fact, several of the tricks I do in the run are specifically to bypass those 'security' measures. It's even more glaring in this game than in others; it's supposed to provide a large degree of freedom, and then surrounds the player with layers of invisible walls. Not very nice. I think invisible walls are very detrimental to the experience, more than natural barriers. For example, you see a huge wall - sure, it limits you, but it's realistic. It doesn't break the immersion. With invisible walls, you're running somewhere and then BAM, you can't go further, because air is somehow condensed enough to stop you. All immersion is immediately lost. And immersion is what makes games fun.

Bagdadsoftware: Do you see places for significant improvements in your run or do you think the 43min will stay mostly the same without resorting to scripts or mods?

Karol Urbanski: Yeah, there are several improvements I can think of already, and this is why I've already started an effort to beat it. After just a handful of segments all my new clever, little cuts shaved over 30 seconds already and I haven't even gotten to the more significant route changes yet! On the other hand, I don't see this going much lower than 40 minutes, even with scripts (which I don't use, mind you).

Bagdadsoftware: Do you think publishing a second or third run would be justified if they were working towards one of the other possible endings or doing an entirely different approach? Or would that defeat the purpose of a speedrun in your opinion?

Karol Urbanski: There's definitely a point in making a single-segment speedrun. Now, different endings... well, the 'kill' ending (those who have played it know what I'm talking about) is largely the same, except I would have to run through a bunch more rooms. Heck, even the trick finishing it would be the exact same thing finishing the current speedrun! Now, the Helios ending is a bit different, but in my opinion not really different enough. So, I picked the fastest ending when doing the speedrun :).

Bagdadsoftware: How did your record the run?

Karol Urbanski: I used FRAPS to record in-game footage to my hard-drive. Due to the fact my computer sucked it was a pretty painful experience - 30 frames per second, slowdowns etc. Sometimes I restarted a perfectly fine try just because there were lost frames! Wanted to make something pleasant to watch, lost frames aren't very pleasant (though I didn't avoid them altogether...). I bought a high-end computer about 1.5 years ago and it's serving me great when it comes to recording.

Bagdadsoftware: Are you still playing the game regularly or were you so sick of it after all those countless hours that you haven't touched it ever since?

Karol Urbanski: I'm still playing it, though it's hardly a regular schedule. More like 'hey, Deus Ex time!', and off I go run another segment. I also did a normal playthrough since finishing the first published run.

Bagdadsoftware: What is your latest run and are you currently working on a new one?

Karol Urbanski: A few Quake levels and runs of a few Max Payne 2 levels. I'm working on several new runs: Deus Ex, Ballance, Outlaws, a secret project and some Quake. I'm a busy speedrunner!

Bagdadsoftware: Do you think that someone needs to have played the game or share your passion for speedrunning before he can enjoy watching one?

Karol Urbanski: Well, not necessarily, but I think either of those makes enjoying a run that much more likely. A person that played the game will notice all the skips and will be impressed. A person that knows what goes into speedrunning a game will also be impressed by how refined a run is, and will therefore like it.

Bagdadsoftware: What speedrun would you show to someone who has never before watched one and why?

Karol Urbanski: Hmm. I'll avoid the question expertly and say 'the speedrun of the game you want to watch'. The reason being you're going to see all the cuts, all the planning and all the effort that went into making a run at first glance; and you'll be naturally entertained. If I show you my Deus Ex speedrun (assuming you haven't played the game), you might be impressed by my gameplay, but you're not going to be that hot about it. If you, however, played and liked Deus Ex, you're probably gonna be heavily impressed by everything from route planning to execution, and constantly interested throughout the run. So, newcomers should watch a run of a game they know!

If I had to point some out... the Super Mario Bros. run, because it's a very well done speedrun, but also because I refuse to believe someone hasn't played that game :). I would also show the e1m3_100 Easy 100% (a run of a Quake level), simply because the sheer smoothness can be admired by anyone who has ever touched an FPS. And many have played Quake, as well! Finally, I'd point out Hotarubi's any% run of Super Metroid, for the sheer impressiveness of gameplay (and again, many people played that game). The Morrowind run is also awesome. Ultimately, however, the best choice is always to watch a run of a game you like first.[CH]

(Veröffentlicht am 05.07.2010)