1 Key TAS: GDQx Appearance, New Improvements, & Future Improvements – Ukikipedia News Week 2

The current iteration of the any% TAS category, dubbed the “1 Key TAS” (named so since it only collects the 1 Key in Bowser in the Fire Sea), has had an interesting couple weeks. The TAS made an appearance at GDQx with commentary by speedrunning legend cheese, improved by one frame that lead to an accidental total six frame improvement, and could potentially be improved by utilization of the new “quantum tunneling” tech described last week. Overall, there has been quite a lot of activity for a TAS that’s had notably little activity since 2016.

GDQx Commentary

Back in July, GDQx announced the TASes that had been accepted for their TASbot portion of the event. 1 Key was among those selected, and while it had made an appearance at a GDQ before, it was never narrated by a member of the Super Mario 64 community. With this in mind, the community began to try and find someone either involved with making or at least had thorough knowledge of the TAS who would be able to commentate at the event. When it appeared no one would be able attend, the commentary was given to the man available who would know the most and was coincidentally also running the game at the event, cheese.

This presented a clear challenge- commentating any TAS that is so involved would be very difficult for even an author of the TAS, but hoping someone would learn how the TAS works and also be able to commentate it would be another challenge entirely. However, cheese seemed to immediately recognize that doing this would not be easy and took steps to start learning the TAS. Many Discord calls over numerous weeks with community members bad_boot, Tyler Kehne, jongyon, and JoshDuMan eventually gave cheese the knowledge to tackle such a challenge, more than even many people involved in the TASing community would know.

Last week at GDQx, cheese did incredibly well with what can only be described as an incredibly thorough and possibly the best commentary of the 1 Key TAS. It was no small task- cheese even joked that the narration was harder than his 120 run. And again, a big thank you to cheese for taking on such a challenge!

New Improvements

Unbeknownst to most viewers, the TAS shown at GDQx was actually a public debut of the new 1 Key TAS world record. Earlier throughout the year, Plush found  one frame improvements using a slide kick in both Bowser in the Fire Sea and Bowser in the Sky. The Bowser in the Sky improvement was inserted into the TAS in preparation for GDQx since it was a special event (the Bowser in the Fire Sea improvement had unexpected amounts of lag). This improved TAS was only temporarily world record, however, lasting only a few days.

Viewing the new version of the 1 Key TAS, dar gos and Superdavo0001 noticed that there was potential time save with how Plush went about his quarter-frame transitions. A frame is the unit of time the game functions in which everything is recalculated (about 0.03 seconds). Mario’s movement is split into quarters within the frame, meaning that if Mario was moving with a speed of four, the game would break it up into 4 movements of 1 unit. This matters particularly when going from air-to-land or land-to-air since Mario’s movement stops on whichever quarter frame has the transition. In other words, if Mario lands on the first quarter frame, he would only get that first quarter frame of movement and not move for the last three. Because of this, transitions should generally fall on the last quarter frame to get four quarter frames of movement on every single frame.

In the original improvement, Plush seemed forced to have a frame where he only went one quarter frame, meaning he only traveled a quarter of his potential distance. The root of this was a singular frame on the ground used for turning, which even with the best angle possible still didn’t allow for the full quarter frame motion later. Superdavo’s discovery was that by taking an additional frame of turning you could later get the full frame of movement. This came at the cost of both Mario’s speed and an additional frame (for turning), but ultimately allowed Mario to move enough to save a large amount of distance.

This improvement was nearly enough to save a frame, but needed a least a few other small improvements elsewhere. dar gos managed to find small improvements here or there that had been unnoticed, which when he combined them with Superdavo’s improvement was enough to save the full frame in Bowser in the Fire Sea.

Unexpected Improvements

Compared to the pre-2018 1 Key TAS, there was a total three frame improvements, bringing the time from a 4:21.23 to a 4:21.13 when timed on emulator. The last improvement was unknown to the community until console verification was done by rcombs on Twitch on October 29th. That’s when the surprise no one saw coming appeared- compared to the pre-2018 world record’s console timing, a whopping eight frames were saved, improving the time from a 4:21.32 to a 4:21.04. Five of these improved frames were unexpected, which was more than the three improvements found in 2018. These five frames are due to less lag frames on console in the newer run. This new timing was particularly astounding since the camera seemed to have been fairly similar to the original camerawork for the old world record. Additionally, this timing marked another stunning first- the console timing was now faster than the emulator time (Mupen). This is possibly caused by the lag frames on console contributing less time than the increased emulator loading times.

Lag frames are overall very unpredictable and not easily routed for on emulators, which is ultimately the reason they are not typically routed into Mario 64 TASes. So while these five “free” frames of improvement are nice, there wasn’t really any work put into them like the three frames saved this year by Plush, Superdavo0001, and dar gos. This has lead to some discussion over whether or not it would be worth looking into more console improvement time options based on lag, despite its difficulties.

Future Improvements

It’s hard to predict the future, but since the 1 Key TAS is so close to breaking another second barrier (4:20.xx) it is hard not to wonder about potential improvements to save those last two frames. There are a couple potential, although perhaps unlikely, options that have been raised that may make that time possible sometime in the foreseeable future.

The fact that five lag frames can be saved accidentally makes it seem that there are likely other potential frames to save in the run. This would likely just be through different camera angles and modes to see if any could notably reduce lag. Optimization like this could be somewhat unfortunate from a viewing standpoint, however- while the fastest method may be to lock the camera at the start of every course, this is perhaps the least interesting method in which to present a TAS.

Quantum tunneling, which was discussed last week, has been suggested for multiple potential saves. Tyler Kehne has brought up the idea that an overlap (a point on a wall seam that gives extra push) could perhaps be used when swimming right after first entering the castle to push Mario closer to the door. He has also brought up the idea of using the extra wall thickness to allow Mario to avoid clipping though the wall with more speed, potentially improving the elevator BLJ in Bowser in the Fire Sea and the wall kick on the castle clock. The issue with any of these improvements is mostly just how precise they are- they would possibly take a new program or programs that don’t exist yet to be able to possibly reach them, and aiming for such a specific spot may either be impossible or cost more time than it saves.

Other ideas have been raised (primarily by Tyler Kehne) involving more complicated high speed techs, but overall it is encouraging to see potential improvements talked about, especially considering nearly two years went by without one prior to Plush’s first improvement this year. Hopefully these last couple of weeks don’t lead into another long break for news for this TAS, especially with 4:20.xx seeming like such a feasible concept.

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