Speedrunners Completely Break Ocarina of Time, Spawn Arwings from Star Fox Without Cheat Device / Hacking
Posted on January 27 2020 by Doug Kwiecinski
As I’ve gotten older and started a family, I’ve had to cope with one particularly harsh reality: it’s very difficult to find time to play video games. This truth helped open my eyes to the world of speedrunning, that is, trying to finish a game as fast as possible. Now, no matter if I have a half hour or a couple hours at my disposal, I can at least finish a game. Of course, A Link to the Past is part of my repertoire, among several other games.
One of my favorite games to watch though is Ocarina of Time, which happens to be the fifth-most run game among speedrunners. This dedication among the community has led to recent discoveries that completely break open the game’s code, allowing records to be shattered and behind-the-secrets to be exploited. They’ve even been able to summon a Star Fox 64 Arwing within the game without the use of a cheat device or hacking.
These tricks are executed using something called Arbitrary Code Execution, or ACE. By manipulating Link’s movement in exact, pixel-perfect patterns, and creating absurdly long file names, you can force the game to load a save as though it were loading a line of in-game code, rather than as a collection of player data. Confused? It’s okay. Most of us will never go to such lengths to try and break a game. However, the results can be quite mind-boggling.
The Arwing Takes Flight… in Hyrule
Right off the bat, I want to point out that the discovery of the Arwing in Ocarina of Time dates back to 2007, through the use of a GameShark. What makes this particular discovery so fascinating is that it can be done through game manipulation alone. Twitch streamer Zfg1 gives an in-depth look at the lengths he goes to in order to summon a squad of Arwing fighters. The process is arduous, but is an attempt to obtain what he refers to as Total Control of the game code.
Within the first fifteen in-game minutes, Zfg1 is simply navigating the map. Each point he moves to and every action is carefully calculated. Everything must be pixel perfect to reach his goal. In the end, he allows file names well beyond what the game typically allows. What he is doing, in fact, is accessing game code and forcing the game to do what he wants.
The explanation behind the Arwing fighters is actually quite interesting. Graphic designer Satoru Takizawa mentioned in a 2011 interview that the enemy Volvagia was inspired by the Star Fox ship. Game Boss designer Kazuaki Morita borrowed the existing Star Fox 64 code to test the dragon’s movement. Rather than remove the code when testing was finished, it was simply buried deep within existing game code. Naturally, it was destined to be discovered, first with hardware, and now within a vanilla cartridge.
Speedrunning Records Fall Hard
Of course, code manipulation means you can force certain game triggers to fire. That is the role speedrunners have embraced. In the few weeks prior to this publication, the world record has been improved six times, shattering old records by five minutes. This is, of course, within a very specific category known as Any%. Runners in an Any% category will attempt to finish the game as fast as possible. Period. Glitches, manipulations, and even skipping entire chunks of the game are perfectly in play. By using these movements and manipulating filenames, runner Lozoots now boasts a world record run of under twelve minutes. Most of the run has become cutscenes and map movement. Short of cutting out the cutscenes, it’s difficult to see if this time can be significantly improved further.
Moving forward, the real question is: what is the impact of these discoveries? My initial feeling is that Majora’s Mask, a game arguably as broken as Ocarina of Time, will be the next target. World records on the Nintendo 64 are no longer safe. If there is code, it can be broken. For many games in that era, the question isn’t how, but when.
If you want to stay current on all things Zelda speedrunning, be sure to check out our ongoing Zelda Runners feature.
What do you think of these recent discoveries? Do you find it fair to allow glitches like this to break world records? Should a new category be created for ACE world records? Let us know in the comments below.
Source: Zfg1 Twitch