Interview of Bisqwit for MTV News in 2006

This interview was answered by Bisqwit for MTV News in January 2006. The interviewer is Stephen Totilo. It was conducted by e-mail.
Links and formatting were added afterwards.
This interviewer asked many difficult questions. Some of them inspired good answers, some of them did not.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself: age (27?), what you do for a living, etc.
Yeah, 27. (I guess I’ve wrote that in too many places by now because you found it easily.)
I’m a software engineer, and a free (computer) software enthusiasist.
You mentioned in an interview last year that you don’t play a lot of video games these days. What is your gaming background and how have your playing habits changed over the years?
Yeah, I don’t really play a lot. Maybe once a year, I stumble upon some RPG that will suddenly take a week or two of my time, but otherwise I don’t really play that much.
At the Nesvideos site, I sometimes assist players in their movies by reviewing them during the making, and even going as far as demonstrating alternative ways by playing it. And, I have some own tool-assisted movie projects work-in-progress.
You’ve talked in the past about how you discovered tool-assisted runs by downloading Morimito’s Super Mario Bros 3 run. Can you tell me how you first discovered speedruns overall?
Internet speedruns, huh...
A friend introduced a Doom speedrun to me. Guess that was it. :)
Do you remember how you found out that Morimito’s run was tool-assisted and how you reacted to that? Were you disappointed? Intrigued? Confused?
No, I was already familiar with the concept, from the tool-assisted Doom speedruns. I don’t really remember the details. I saw the movie, went to Morimoto’s homepage, downloaded the FMV of various movies, searched for the program that plays FMV files, found Famtasia, and after that, I’m not sure how I figured out about the things. It’s been more than two years after all :)
How has your thinking about tool-assisted runs taken shape over the years? Did you always appreciate them the way you do now, or did it take time for you to come to your current views about them?
In the following explanation, I’ll explain things only from the Nesvideos perspective. I’ll ignore outside TAS feats, since my only contact to that part is from a Doom TAS I’ve watched, and I don’t thus consider myself being part of that culture.
Since the forming of my site, I welcomed people to start submitting TAS movies and the amount of them (both the players and movies) has been growing.
Tool-assisted runs have evolved. Our precision and methods have improved, and as such, so have the results and the appetite. What could have been “cool” 1.5 years ago, would now often be judged “sloppy”. Those of us who have seen hundreds of TAS videos, don’t become impressed as easily as those who see them first time. Most popular games have been played now, so it’s also harder to create something novel and impressive.
We've become more speed-oriented and less art-oriented. Sometimes we even compete on frames (an unit of time almost as small as a 100th of a second). However, just because we can, we try to accomplish as many things at once as possible. For example, if we can kill an enemy without taking damage, we’ll do it because it’s often more impressive than otherwise. If we can kill the player character without slowing down the movie, we’ll do it just for the show. We play on enemy fire, avoiding them closely or even passing through enemy objects just because it’s possible when you’re perfectly aware what the game is doing. Doing routinely feats that nobody could do in real time barring some freaky luck.
When did you first try making some tool-assisted runs of your own, and what were your early experiments like?
My first TAS run was an attempt to try beating SMB with as little score in the end as possible. It wasn’t very interesting. Later, I was encouraged enough to start making a SMB2 speedrun. I also made a Castlevania speedrun. When I gained more experience on that, I was able to make them faster, beating my own records many times. By now though, they’ve been beaten by other players who are more careful than I.
What is the most amount of time you've ever put into making a run?
Officially, the making of the Mega Man 1 speedrun took 8 months.
But not so much of it was spent playing but planning how to play a particular scene.
Now someone would think that if it took 8 months, it must have been created by animating fabricated screenshots in succession. Not only is that claim proven false easily, but I’m way too lazy to do such laboursome work. I’m a programmer, not a labour-craftsman. Programmers are lazy. :)
Can you tell me about any moments you can recall from making your runs, when you were particularly surprised by or pleased with a shortcut that you found?
It’s always fascinating to discover new techniques.
That pretty much covers it all.
What were some of the particularly difficult challenges you faced while making any of your runs (for example, was there something you tried to accomplish in one of your runs that you just couldn’t do no matter how many times you tried?)
Yes, there have been some occassions. In Castlevania, there’s one scene where I would very much like to pass through the roof with the help of an enemy hit, and in Mega Man, there was a scene where I wanted to “zip” through the ceiling to skip two screenfuls of boring progress. A fellow player named finalfighter found a way to accomplish the second shortcut, but the first one is still deemed as impossible. In Castlevania 2 (Simon’s Quest) there’s a certain rumour on a famous glitch collection site that we spent great effort recently trying to prove true, but it didn’t work out even when we programmed a robot to try it tens of thousands of times.
Please tell me about the size of the tool-assisted run community?
How popular are these runs? How popular is your site?
This question is difficult to answer. The aspects you asked are difficult to measure in a meaningful way. I’ll ignore the question.
Can you talk to me a bit about the Mario 64 run? I’m interested in learning when you first saw it, how you reacted to it, and how the community on your site reacted to it. How significant is that run?
This question contains an assumption of an outsider perspective. The movie was developed within our site. I find it difficult to answer that question.
You talk on your site about how one of the main goals for these runs is to “create art.” Do you think these runs are making art out of something (games) that wasn't already art?
This question contains a faulty premise. Games are art. Games don’t need to be not art in order to be able to make movies of them that are also art.
You clearly value the beauty of the runs on your site. That makes me curious about your thoughts about the beauty of games. Have you always found games to be aesthetically pleasing? Do you find that tool-assisted runs games have changed your views on when or why a game is beautiful?
Some games are more, some games are less. There’s visual aesthetics and aural aesthetics. In the movies we make, there is performance aesthetics. It is an extension, not something that changes the game.
After reading through your FAQ I get the impression that many people criticize the idea of tool-assisted runs. How much of that kind of feedback do you receive, and why do you think people have a problem with what you do?
I think the general atmosphere is quite educated about tool-assisted runs today. Back two years ago, I fought against claims of cheating and other bad-mouthing. Today, although I still see some people who hate the movies and consider them cheating, I see much more people who recognize the values of both types of speedruns.
I believe things wouldn’t be this way now if it weren’t for the information we have made available regarding tool-assisted movies.
So the feedback we receive also reflects the today’s situation.
I’m interested in what runs you’re working on now. Your site states that you have a Chip n Dale NES run coming and you say that it will be “interesting.” What stands out about it? Is it because it's two-player?
Thank you for reminding me! I should update this page. I dropped the Chip’n Dale project because someone eventually did it ahead me.
I wrote ‘interesting’, because the movie applied some unusual playing strategies such as letting one of the characters die in suitable places and other tricks that give speed.
What do you think the future holds for tool-assisted runs?
More consoles, more games. Also, new techniques.
More computer-aided search for timings and techniques.
Is there anything else you would like the MTV News readership/audience to know about these runs?
The time it takes to create a movie. It is one of the biggest mysteries to people who don’t know the details of the moviemaking.
Planning takes a lot of time of course, but so does playing too. Because we usually play the games at very slow speed, even frame by frame, making a 10 minute movie can take as much as two hours because of the slowing alone. But because the core idea is to make movies that don’t have mistakes, we re-record, which is, undo, each sequence that didn’t work out as wanted. The sequences that are undone might vary from a few frames (fractions of seconds) to entire stages (a couple of minutes). Because of this re-recording process, making a 10 minute movie can take anything from two hours to two weeks, depending how difficult tasks are involved in it. Typically, abusing the game programming errors require much precision and patience, and thus, many retries too.

Interviews/Bisqwit/MTVNews last edited by adelikat on 1/21/2022 2:52 PM
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