Forums  /  Speedrunning  /  "Timer starts upon taking control"--why?
  kobepilgrimkobepilgrim

Why is it so common for the rules of a game to be that the timer starts upon taking control of the character? Considering that a player will inevitably go through whatever sequence comes before gaining control, why not start the timer at a point before it coincides--and possibly interferes--with gameplay? It also seems as though starting upon control would be more consistently inaccurate than starting at a point that is more easily discernible. The margin of error may be small, and it may be easy to compensate for by re-timing post run or by starting the timer with a negative value, but why not eliminate these steps entirely by starting earlier?

I ask because I've always wondered. I also just got an arcade stick, and I'm looking into running a few games that don't have boards here. If I end up requesting them and writing some rules, then I'd like to know if there is some relevance to starting when taking control of the character.

Also, am I just doing something incorrectly? Is it easier than I realize to accurately start the timer upon control? Is there a method that I'm unaware of? (I've been re-timing or starting negative.)

Thanks for any help 🙂

CrockeyCrockey likes this. 
  xDrHellxxDrHellx
(edited: )

iirc that was one of the rules on SDA (probably still is), and it actually makes sense most of the time.

Still, that doesn't mean it HAS to be like that for every game.

I'll take boktai as an example; for runs, we start the timer after pressing "Yes" (kinda like just pressing New Game in other games), even if there's a long intro, to me, that always felt right. Mostly because that's when the game actually starts, technically 😛

Also, sometimes, runners just adds a "delay" (not sure if you've seen it before, like they start the timer at -8.32 seconds and so on). While i'm not exactly sure why, i believe it's because it feels more "competitive" and probably accurate compared to SDA timing.

HowDenKingHowDenKing likes this. 
  EmeraldAlyEmeraldAly

Any game I mod for, time begins at first input (unless it's a game like I Am Alive that has its own IGT, then it doesn't matter when you start your LiveSplit timer, since it's unofficial anyway). I really dislike 'time begins at new game select' (one of my runs, Murdered Soul Suspect, is like that. You do NOTHING for the first 2 minutes the timer is running, it's so dumb.

 
  kobepilgrimkobepilgrim
(edited: )

@xDrHellx

"[...] and it actually makes sense most of the time."

That's a big part of my question. How and why does it make sense? It makes sense relative to SDA timing, but why is SDA timing like that in the first place?

"Delay" is actually the word I was looking for when I described "starting the timer with a negative value." 😃

@emeraldaly

I figured that's a big reason for a lot of people. That's an understandable sentiment, but the player sits through those two minutes, whether a timer is going or not. It's not a bother to me. Do you start the timer at the same time as you put in your first input? Is it always accurate? Also, how can you tell when your input is? Whenever I try to eyeball it, I always find a slight inaccuracy, post run.

 
  xDrHellxxDrHellx
(edited: )

Quote

It makes sense relative to SDA timing, but why is SDA timing like that in the first place?

Now that's something i'd kinda like to know also, actually.

I wonder if it's related to TAS Timing, now that i think about it... (you know, timing starts on first input, ends on last input)

kobepilgrimkobepilgrim likes this. 
  TimmiluvsTimmiluvs

Timing beginning on character control makes sense and was/is a thing because for some games, there is no reason to time the intro, especially if it's the same for everybody.

For a lot of older games where this type of timing is still used, the length of the intro is known down to the frame so delaying your timer start is easy (like Zelda 1, it's known that from when you select your file to when you gain control of Link it's 1.97 seconds). Timing started this way and made sense because why time to the 2 second black screen before you gain control? You're not playing during that black screen, so there's no influence on the final time. Same goes for A Link to the Past - they started on character control because timing the opening text just didn't seem worth it since you're not doing anything other than pressing some buttons to advance it. Eventually for games that had text openings, most of them changed it so timing was ultimately changed because for races how fast you mashed mattered so the end result was the game changing how it was timed.

So yeah, basically, it made sense because in some games, if the intro is nothing but loading or a pre-rendered scene, there is no reason to time it because it's not actually affecting the run in anyway and there is no way to speed it up or advance it faster so it has no reason to be timed.

xDrHellxxDrHellx likes this. 
  kobepilgrimkobepilgrim
(edited: )

@xDrHellx

Yeah, my assumption would also be that it could be related to TAS's.

@Timmiluvs

That's all very reasonable, but I see this type of timing for games that are far from being as well-played as the Zelda series. I even see it for games that have no runs on the board at all. In these small or nonexistent communities, I also don't often see players uniformly using a delay, nor do I assume anyone has calculated the correct interval. In these cases, the rule seems gratuitous. Maybe it just comes down to, in my eyes, somewhat lazy moderation.

Here's a new question: if I am moderating a game, does anyone think that it would be too much to ask to require timing to start with a delay from the effective "new game" selection? This is assuming that I have calculated the exact time, so everyone involved with the game would know how the timing works.

Edit:

"[...] especially if it's the same for everybody."

My thought is that if it's the same for everybody, then what difference does it make if it's timed or not? It makes no difference, but I still see where you guys are coming from.

Oh, and does your opinion change for games that don't involve the player advancing anything, pre-input? Or what if the timer were to start on whatever would be considered the final "advancement", pre-input. I guess I forgot that not all games start almost immediately after pressing start.

Also, thank you for responding so far, everyone 🙂

 
  TimmiluvsTimmiluvs
(edited: )

I mean it's up to a community how they want to time their runs and one would hope the moderators make sure that everyone follows those rules. It doesn't really matter what their reasoning is as long as everyone follows the rules and starts at the same time.

And right, if it is the same for everybody then it does make no difference whether it's timed or not and it just comes down to community preference. That's kinda what this whole thing boils down to - community preference. It's really a game by game basis whether or not they time at first input or character control and I'm sure they each have their own reasons for justifying it.

That being said, if as a moderator you get community approval for standardizing a place on which to start the timer, then go for it.

kobepilgrimkobepilgrim likes this. 
  kobepilgrimkobepilgrim

I was considering "character control" and "first input" to be the same thing, this whole time 😛 I see the difference, though. Most of the games that I play, first input actually is character control (pressing start leads directly into character control), or else within seconds of each other. That's why I'm so baffled by the idea, but it makes more sense for other games.

And I don't bother with trying to sway communities on things like this. My concern is with creating solid leaderboards and rules for games that I might request, in the future. Basically, if I made a delay part of the rules from the get-go, then I would hope that's a reasonable way to set it up.

tcd11tcd11 likes this. 
  tcd11tcd11

i favour rules wich start time at a distinc visual cue, like a countdown reaching 0. Or just have an autosplitter with auto-start^^

kobepilgrimkobepilgrim likes this. 
  LivLiv
(edited: )

IMO, best way to RTA time anyway is to start alongside some form of confirmation.

'New Game'
'Load Game'

or a confirmation of difficulty.

For TAS, the method used is Power ON;

(Taken from TASVideos: "The movie must begin from the game's power-on state (no loading of saves). That is, the following option must be chosen:

"Record from power-on/start", or
if the above isn't applicable, then "Record from reset" and any check box that has "Clear SRAM" or similar must be checked.")

This is to prevent pre-run manipulation of RNG. The same reason a lot of Japanese communities also opt for 'Power ON', rather than menu confirmations.

kobepilgrimkobepilgrim likes this. 
  EmeraldAlyEmeraldAly

"Do you start the timer at the same time as you put in your first input? Is it always accurate? Also, how can you tell when your input is? Whenever I try to eyeball it, I always find a slight inaccuracy, post run."

I mean I don't run anything short enough where the possible hundredths of a second variance on whether you hit the button on your controller at ¤precisely¤ the same time you hit your split key matters. If you had a run that was like one minute long, I could see that mattering. Shortest run I'm doing right now is about 10 minutes.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by how can you tell when your input is. When you press a button on your controller and do something in the game world for the first time, you start the timer. Some of my runs that are like this:

Infamous (actually....every game in the series is like this, bar Second Son) -- the first thing you do in the game is look up. So, you start the timer when you look up. We've actually had a problem with some of the times in Second Son because some of the runners ¤did¤ start their timers at new game select, and there's an unskippable 1:50 long cutscene before your first input (shaking the spray can).

Escape Plan -- you click on the character to wake him up. Start the timer when you click on the character.

Never Alone -- you begin the game running away from a giant polar bear. Start the timer when you first hit right on the D-pad to run (this particular one would actually be the same as "time starts when you gain control")

I mean there's no right and wrong here. I understand why some people prefer to start at new game select, I just don't myself. Especially in the case of a run like Murdered Soul Suspect, where there's SO MUCH TIME that passes before you do a goddamn thing. There's no graceful way to remove the time for unskippable cutscenes in the midst of a run, but when they're at the beginning, it's perfectly simple, just don't start the timer right away.

 
  kobepilgrimkobepilgrim
(edited: )

@emeraldaly

"I'm not quite sure what you mean by how can you tell when your input is. When you press a button on your controller and do something in the game world for the first time, you start the timer. Some of my runs that are like this: "

For many games, things are happening in-game before an input is made. Things happen in the game world before the player does something in the game world. When I play a game, I'm usually holding forward or some kind of input in anticipation of something that will happen as the game starts. In such cases, starting the timer with first input involves coordinating my first act in the game with starting the timer, which can be inaccurate, and it can also interfere with gameplay.

I assumed "first input" implies "first moment of possible input". That is, the moment where the player has control, regardless of whether the player actually takes an action.

Edit:

Also, I was referring to the exact moment of input--the exact frame. From what you said, you're not specifically concerned with being able to tell when the first input is, so that is another possible discrepancy between our perspectives.

Another thing is that, in the games that I play and that I'm interested in, gameplay starts within moments of pressing the equivalent of "start". There are no cutscenes to watch or skip. There is pressing start, and then there is gameplay, yet the rules will often say to start the timer with the first input. It seems arbitrary, as though it stems from convention, rather than--as is the case with your examples--being done with a reasonable purpose.

 
  andypantherandypanther

In the Gex community, we use different timings for the PS1 and N64 versions of Gex 2. PS1 has a main menu, so we just start from file select, but N64 doesn't, so we use power-on instead.

 
  stootstoot

I know at least one game that starts timing when the console starts.

 
  DrakodanDrakodan

For at least some games, this is done so as to establish consistency between RTA and IGT. For instance, in Streets of Rage 2, you select your character, but then time only begins once you gain control in Stage 1, because that's when the ingame timer starts ticking. Digimon World is another game that does this, timing begins after you've began the game, chosen your name, skipped the cutscenes and progressed the first text box.

For other games, the standards can change. QuackShot was previously done by SDA timing, and time began when you gained control in the first stage. I changed this rule when I started moderating the game and time now begins when you select New Game, because there is text progression and menuing to be done before you even get into the first stage, and the first stage you enter is arbitrary; you have a choice of where to go first. Obviously one choice is 'correct' because it's faster than the others, but it doesn't alter the fact that different runners could opt to start in different stages.

tl;dr most of the time it's situational and depends on the game. It makes sense for some games, and is completely illogical for others.

Shade667Shade667 likes this. 
  EmeraldAlyEmeraldAly
(edited: )

I understand those objections Kobepilgrim. But unless your timing method is entirely automatic (in which case the point is pretty much moot), you have all the same problems with "time begins at new game select." You can never be sure you start your LiveSplit at the same exact hundredth of a second every single time.

CrystallineKingdomCrystallineKingdom likes this. 
  HowDenKingHowDenKing

^ although I have to say having a definite point of start (e.g. the button press when pressing new game) that you can synch up to seems to be a better option than having to just know when you gain control.
imo it's a lot more secure for inexperienced people.

 
  EmeraldAlyEmeraldAly

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Either I start my timer ¤pretty much¤ when I press a button to do the first in-game input, or I start it ¤pretty much¤ when I press a button to confirm new-game select. One doesn't seem clearly better than the other (I have a preference, but it's nothing more than that, my own opinion).

 
  stootstoot
(edited: )

HowDenKing: Can confirm. I ran the first section of Arkham Asylum pretty briefly and it was really difficult to tell when I was actually supposed to start the timer.