Highlights from ESA Winter 2021

ESA Winter 2021 was a great success, entertaining us while raising funds for Alzheimerfonden. Let's check out some event highlights!

By Ben "EBen" Elvidge

Filed Under: event

With European Speedrunner Assembly (ESA)’s winter event coming to a close last week, 400,000 SEK ($47,000 US) was raised for the Swedish Alzheimer’s Foundation. Alzheimerfonden is an organization that supports research and projects to eventually find a cure for Alzheimer’s and other Dementia-related diseases. The money raised will have a huge impact on people’s lives, and personally, it’s times like these when I am extremely proud to be part of the speedrunning community that constantly works to make the world a better place. With our passion and contributions, we can change the world via speedrunning and that is incredible. Let’s take a look at some highlights for the event, shall we?

Incredible Luck

We’ll start off by looking at some incredible luck in some of the runs featured at the event. It’s no secret that speedrunning takes an incredible amount of skill to execute well, especially in front of an audience of thousands. The confidence and talent required to remain calm under the pressure is astounding, but sometimes runners do make errors and need a bit of good fortune to bring them back into the game.

Here, we have MedicCasts’s run of Hades, where Medic made a mistake early on by filling the dash slot of his character’s build with a dash that is almost useless in the run. This cut down his damage significantly, making boss fights much slower as a result. However you are offered replacement dashes later on as seen in this clip, and thankfully Medic was offered the Poseidon dash which is a huge boost back in the right direction. Getting Poseidon Dash this early is calculated to be around a 14% chance, so lady luck was definitely on Medic’s side to bring it home!

Onto another stroke of fortune, many speedruns done at a marathon will involve a “farming” segment (attempting to get a rare drop over and over as they cannot reset if they get bad luck). This section of a run can sometimes be circumvented, but some games require you to grind the old-fashioned way. In this clip of Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, Diagongdx is getting ready to farm the Black Panther ability, as it’s significantly faster than any other movement type in the game. You can hear in the clip that he and his commentators are preparing the chat to sit back and relax as they will likely be there for a while.

However, Diagongdx calls that he will get the ability first try and does just that. This ability has a less than 5% drop chance so getting it first try is extremely rare, calling the first try at a live event is even rarer. Definitely a moment to remember as it’s not just a stroke of luck, but perhaps even a stroke of runner intuition as well.

Dealing With Downtime

Taking a little break from the crazy luck and insane plays we’ve seen from the event, our next clip is simply a nice little moment from Kyoslilmonster’s Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition run. Usually, during runs like this, runners can do whatever they like in the downtime of unskippable cutscenes or sequences, as long as they keep the timer running. Some runners use these moments to take bathroom breaks, or mentally prepare themselves for more difficult sections ahead. Kyo has a personal tradition where they like to do something out of the box such as cooking or long marathons, especially if it comes to raising money for charity. In this particular cutscene, we got to meet Freya the ferret. She’s only a few months old but has apparently taken a liking to sleeping in her own little race car bed, so maybe we can see a co-op run from Kyo and Freya in the future?

Friendly Competition

Bobby Cruz (otherwise known as TheBlacktastic) is a well-known community member in both the esports scene as an event producer and the speedrunning scene as a top-level runner in many games. It is quite rare you see these two communities have a large amount of overlap due to how different each scene is, but that wasn’t the case during Bobby’s Mega Man run at the event.

During the run, a good friend of Bobby’s who is a member of the fighting game scene by the name of TuboWare donated and created some great banter on the stream. BOWIEtheHERO (another well-known esports commentator) was reading donations at the time, and even he was caught off-guard by Tubo’s donation calling out Bobby for “speedrunning away from this UMVC3 rematch for months now!” It seems that poor Bobby cannot get away so easily for this Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 rematch, and both communities will be sure to remind him!

Solving the Impossible

Kainalo is well known within ESA for his outstanding humor and overall silliness, and what better clip to showcase this than him solving puzzles as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. This particular TMNT game is known for its overall jankiness, so it’s not out of the realms of reality that a puzzle could be bugged in a way to make it impossible. However, in this particular instance, the game is definitely working as intended as Kainalo quickly realized.

The puzzle itself is very similar to the extremely popular “Flow” games that blew up on app stores a number of years ago, where you must simply connect the colors together like a pipeline without crossing any colors over. This usually means starting from the outside and finishing in the center to avoid any overlap. Kainalo’s turtle has an ability to make these puzzles extremely simple, as usually there are a larger number of colors you must deal with. Applying the aforementioned logic to this puzzle makes it extremely trivial, but as someone who has done marathon runs in front of thousands, I can absolutely relate to sometimes making silly mistakes as a result. We still love you Kainalo, keep your head held high!

Not for the Faint of Nikoheart

Alien Isolation on the Nightmare difficulty setting is no laughing matter, or is it?

Nikoheart is an absolute mastermind at Alien Isolation, his coverage of this clip is so in-depth with mechanics that I was absolutely mind-blown at the deep knowledge and understanding of something that seems so simple.

In this clip, the Xenomorph proves that even the most knowledgeable can still be caught by surprise on occasion. On the Nightmare difficulty setting, the Xenomorphs are extremely prone to noise and movement so some strategies are used in order to move quickly while making minimal noise. These strategies, unfortunately, didn’t work for Niko in this case, so he had to quickly think of a backup solution before he was caught. In this section of the run there are two Xenomorphs you must escape from, one as the door opens and another on the bottom floor of the facility. The one below should in theory be distracted by a flare that Niko has thrown prior to the clip. While Niko was waiting for the first Xenomorph to head up into the vents, he attempted to silently run down the stairs in hopes that he could also avoid the second Xenomorph. To his extreme surprise, it was two steps ahead and was waiting for him behind the doors. Personally, I would have turned the game off at that point, but I respect Niko for sticking it out and finishing strong.

ESA raising almost $50,000 for a great cause is an awesome way to kick off 2021, and I hope that this positivity continues in a time period where we definitely need it. This will not be the only event we will see from ESA this year, as their schedule is consistently filled with smaller events even when the big ones are being prepared. Not to mention other fantastic organizations that raise money for amazing causes around the world all in the name of speedrunning. If you missed the marathon and want to watch it on demand, check out ESA’s Twitch channel in order to find all the runs available to watch whenever you like. You can also follow this link in order to find them on social media and find the latest news from ESA directly.

Personal thanks to Museus, romscout, Kyoslilmonster, BOWIEtheHERO, Kainalo & Nikoheart for help with accuracy and context for the clips.

Header screenshot from ESA Winter 2021.

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