The best thing about watching speedrunners is seeing just how far they'll go to break their favourite games. No matter how old a game is, no matter how 'solved' its speedrun may seem, there'll always be new surprises just around the corner.
Super Mario 64 has long been a favourite of the speedrunning community, and it's just had another massive tech discovery that'll likely be a part of any 120-star world records going forward, shaving off close to a minute of playtime.
That might not sound like a lot, but the more perfected a speedrun gets, the more impressive saves like this get. Even a few seconds is huge when you get to the big leagues, but a whole minute? That makes this tech basically mandatory.
There's a level in Mario 64 called Rainbow Ride, which has a Star—a mission objective—called The Big House In The Sky. The typical route involves sitting pretty on a slow-moving carpet which, as you can imagine, is speedrunning poison. In 2013, a runner named Snark122 showed off a potential tactic using a bomb that allowed them to skip gaming's slowest joyride.
This, according to YouTuber Simply (who posted a fantastic summary earlier this week), "sparked a lot of discussion in the community [and] created a lot of comedians who thought it would be really funny to go into chats and spam 'do carpetless', not grasping the fact that it is nearly impossible to do." This tech requires a whole lot of frame-perfect inputs, so it's not a reality outside of tool-assisted speedruns (called TAS in the community).
There was a non-TAS run of the strat in 2019 by runner Xiah7s (thanks Gamesradar), but runners need tech that's consistent and fast. There are a lot of things that can go awry in a 120-star run, which usually lasts about an hour and a half—executing everything perfectly, then beefing it on a technique that has such a low success rate? Not really possible if you want to keep your sanity. 'Go carpetless' would remain a warp-pipedream meme.
However, there's one other option—something called a Glitchy Wall Kick (GWK). There are a few versions of this technique, such as quarter kicks, cardinal kicks, and "Eru's GWK constellation", which sounds like a special attack in a shounen anime. Thread the needle on a specific frame at a specific angle, and you're able to fling yourself just so. This has the same problem as the bomb trick, though, in that there are so many ways to mess up that it'd be hard to find one that sticks.
Enter the deus ex machina of this unfolding story—first things first, though, the tech itself. The GWK strategy was nearly impossible because it needed players to hit a certain height on their initial launch so they could do a buttslide right at the end. However, as speedrunning magician Krithalith sussed, this can be done "assless". Yes, that's the terminology that's caught on. I don't make the rules.
The only issue is that this strategy was pretty inconsistent, and only worked on controllers that could do diagonal inputs. Krithalith fixed that, though, with the power of science. On September 19, Krithalith created an algorithm that scraped together 2,000 input combos and arranged them in a "dictionary".
This produced a setup named Orthogonal Jones, which let speedrunners pull this off on a wider range of controllers, with greater consistency. It only gives a couple more frames of leniency—but when we're talking about speedrunning sorcerers, that's massive.
All this work and maths wizardry means that gamers—like streamer and speedrunner Suigi here—are getting this nailed down. Here's a video of Suigi pulling off the carpetless run 11 times in a row.
Carpetless 11 times in a row. All saving 45+ seconds at least. 10 minutes straight of perfect carpetless is CRAZY LMAO pic.twitter.com/VEbgyvqZ9uSeptember 21, 2023
I spoke to Suigi, who reckons it's consistent enough to change the game entirely. "This strat will kill runs, but in my opinion, it's not the hardest star in the game. Since it’s new, people may fail it a lot… I think you can be super consistent at it. Right now I’d say I’m more than 70% consistent at it."
That's not to say Suigi didn't put in some work himself, though. "I’ve put in about 16 hours of practice, and I’d say around hour 12 I was getting it very consistent, which is very quick for a strat. I did a lot of analysis beforehand." Again, while 16 hours might sound like a lot to the layman, we're talking olympic levels of speedrunning here—16 hours is chump change when you're trying to get a world record.
This is a huge development for the game. It's one of the biggest time saves discovered in years, and proof that no matter how solved a speedrun seems, no matter how absurd the maths become, no matter how RPG-sounding the technique names are—there are always limits to break.