Should Emulators be Banned in Speedrunning?


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I took an Intro to Computer Science class once. It was ok.

Special thanks to Spikestuff, TimpZ, aldelaro5, JMC, mike89, Werster, Tompa, XYX, PistonMiner, GothicLogic, Shenanigans, RWhiteGoose, and bad_boot

Emulators are software made to simulate the environment of consoles to play ROMs of games. It is an ongoing debate on how the speedrunning community should deal with emulator usage as in this video I cover a myriad of different benefits and issues when it comes to allowing them in competition. Hopefully after watching this people will understand why it’s controversial and hopefully I’ll start to see the question “can I use emulators in speedrunning” far less now.

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hello ladies and gents it's easy escape and welcome to the third episode of my controversial rulings in speedrunning history series today we're gonna be discussing emulators and whether or not they should be banned in speedrunning to start off let's talk about the pros of emulator usage for the first most obvious reason that somebody would want to use emulators is because official hardware is expensive this includes a console controller game and recording device but this is only generally speaking as the speedrunner attempting to reach the fastest time possible you're gonna want the fastest console available in my case it wasn't enough for me just to use these slim PS twos instead I searched around an eBay for a while and luckily low-balled $20 for a silver se pH 90 thousand which is the latest generation of ps2 that has been made and as a Japan exclusive release and if mine hadn't come with this limited edition black smudge on it it probably would have cost over $50 and maybe even closer to the hundred dollar range but then I found that unofficially released console 2 called the PS TV existed which saved almost 30 seconds in load time in the 14 talisman category for spyro 2 so I bought the console which was $60 spent an additional $40 on the memory card I wanted a real ps3 controller so I spent close to 35 dollars for a refurbish then I found out that the PS TV is copyright protected which means I had to spend another $20 on an HDMI splitter in order to even stream or record the game and even after all this I still had to buy the game this isn't really pertinent to the story but the Spyro trilogy is only available in the European PlayStation Store not the u.s. so I had to put it in a UK address and buy a UK PlayStation gift card for another 15 dollars just to be able to buy and play the games on the device and had I not already had an HD capture card I could have added another $100 on to the budget so as you can see here getting ahold of the fastest Hardware can not only be difficult to obtain but it can also be really expensive the other point I would like to make here is that the reason the PS TV saves so much time with the ps2 console is because the game is being read from flash memory and the PS TV is emulating the game the difference here though is this form of emulation also known as Virtual Console is generally accepted by most speedrunning communities reason being is because it's an official console and an official release of the game and official releases are always allowed in speedrunning for the record I'd also like to mention that the Spyro speedrunning community also allows emulator usage on the leaderboards but this reasoning is because ps4 emulators actually have slower load times this is because of ps2 and the PS TV both have fastest speed options which load faster than the ps1 and the ps1 emulators don't have this option so in this case emulator usage is allowed because it doesn't grant any advantages which is pretty cool but you go back to my original point if emulator usage was more widely accepted and I can match the load times of the PS TV I wouldn't have to go through all the troubles of spending $170 and hardware and setup and could have been instantly playing spyro no problem and if I did speed around on that emulator another benefit is that you can use just about any controller with the USB port to play your game or even just a mouse and keyboard this is already something that is made possible with multi-platform games that are available on the PC but with emulators this could be possible with just about any game the benefits of this would most likely be that you can use a controller that's more comfortable to you is more ergonomic or it could be just a controller you already have available as far as third-party controllers on official hardware goes I'm planning on making a video of this at some point this is a regular debate that goes on in the competitive Super Smash Bros community with getting third-party box-shaped controllers approved for competitive use and I think it's something that may also be beneficial to the speedrunning community so anyways back to emulators one point that I saw that would be an issue with speedrunning games on emulator is inconsistent load times this isn't really an issue with most earlier dated consoles like the NES as those emulators are highly accurate but for certain emulators having a faster PC means that your game will load faster – which could be both an issue in racing against consoles or even other emulators well this may seem like a big issue there's actually a very simple fix for it which PC speed runners have been using for a while now which has helped level the playing field the solution is Auto splitters if you're not sure – not a split areas nada splitter is a built-in feature of livesplit which is the timing software that is used by the vast majority of speedrunners this feature is great for PC games because by reading the games RAM on your computer livesplit can start and stop the timer automatically split automatically and most importantly they can time the game without loads this means that the timer will only be active during gameplay so doesn't matter how fast your PC is everyone will be timed by their gameplay alone and in a world where everyone speedruns an emulator we would essentially all be on an even playing field should name a few other cool things that we've possible – emulators is that the inputs made during a speedrun to be recorded on the emulator and then be played back later for analysis this is really great for optimising movement or to even discover how which works if it were discovered by accident there are also some specific cases where emulators are used as a main console for speedrunning in the games or goal pages in lufia 2 there exist glitches which you can potentially break game cartridges I plan on talking about these coaches more extensively in my next video but it's pretty good reasoning for allowing emulators so people don't ruin their games in Toy Story 2 emulator was the dominant method of play across the board for several years the main reason why is because the game was priced at $30 which is a lot more than what a lot of people would pay for an old Toy Story game there's also a rare chance that when getting your copy of the game that it wouldn't be the version of the game that is good for speedrunning because in the version 1.1 of the game they patched an important skip and Andy's basement which would lose over 20 seconds to the 1.0 version recently has been confirmed that although carts with version 1.1 do exist the chances of you purchasing it are extremely low now it is a game is only ten dollars so there really isn't any excuse for not being able to afford it for this reasoning the community has decided to depart from its old ways by splitting the emulator and console categories apart as it first steps and once the console section starts getting filled up with runs it will take over as a default category in my opinion I think this change was very necessary due to emulation inaccuracies with the project 64 emulator for this game specifically when it was ran on the project 64 emulator the basement skip is performed much easier that is virtually no lag during gameplay on the emulator which would be present while playing on console which made emulator superior and every way to console emulator accuracy is one of the biggest issues when it comes to the legality of emulators in speedrunning but I'll get more in depth on that later so it's clear that there are lots of reasons for emulators to be accepted in speedrunning they eliminate the need for expensive hardware and capture cards and not only in the fact that you'll be emulating the game but timing without loads means that you don't have the fastest hardware in order to compete for world record some games literally wouldn't have a competitive scene if emulator usage wasn't allowed some examples include dragster ET and arcade games like Metal Slug which are normally played on an arcade cabinet hardware for these games can be pretty expensive and who in the world still has an original Atari and furthermore who is even trying to buy one just to play these games Oh there are many advantages for speedrunning games on emulator but a big concern is how does emulation compared to official hardware since speedrunning the standardized by using official releases of games if an emulator were to perform better than the official release then we run into a series of problems with allowing them there's no doubt that speedrunning is a completely arbitrary competition with completely arbitrary rule sets but of a speedrunning community were to allow emulators which made the game faster to run in any way compared to console releases then where did we draw the line even though the community bans the use of emulator tools like save States and frame advance in this instance you could consider speed running on an emulator by itself a tool as it's giving an advantage to the speedrun I guess a good question asked here is why don't emulators run exactly at console if the ISO files are exactly the same games that run correctly isn't just an issue with emulators it can also occur in multi-platform games in order to get games to work on different hardware sometimes changes have to be made Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 is a game that was released for the PlayStation 2 Gamecube and Xbox it runs fairly consistent throughout the different versions but one difference is that the water effects don't work in the GameCube and ps2 versions of the game this is a porting error due to how the consoles deal with brownian floating point numbers floating point numbers are used by systems to store different types of data when it comes to these systems rounding numbers there are a lot of different methods they can use let's use the number 2.7 as an example you can run 2.7 to the nearest number to get three to the floor value to get two into the ceiling value to get three there are many more ways systems can round numbers which can give a wide variety of results when it comes to floating-point values they also have limited precision so if you have the fraction 1/3 the decimal value will be 0.33 333 repeating and eventually the last 3 around up or down depending on the system's rounding mode so if a game has to perform a floating-point add instruction with a number like 0.33 added to itself the answer will be the result of whichever rounding method that console uses even if it doesn't make any sense this issue is demonstrated in the latest glitch discovery in Super Mario 64 which has made it possible for people to beat the entire game without pressing the a button a single time speed runer Andrea discovered after leaving as we on overnight platforms and Bowser in the fire sea were risen above the lava this is due to the Wii Virtual Console floating-point rounding mode in the Nintendo 64 version the rounding mode such around to nearest but in the virtual console it ignores us and instead rounds to zero this causes the platforms to very slowly move towards zero and raise into the air once the platform gets high enough you can clip through a fence and ride an elevator skipping the a press that normally need to be used climbing the pole the wait time for the platform to rise high enough is eight days for speedrunners and three days for tool assisted speedruns if you want a more detailed explanation of this glitch I've included a link in the description to a video made by bad boot floating-point rounding is similarly a problem that occurs in PC emulators since they are also running on modern systems it is possible to get emulators to perform the rounding the same as console but it major drawback of this is that it requires far more processing power from the CPU this is because instead of the processor competing what it does normally there are now manual instructions put in place for how the computer should handle it this is always problematic to emulator depths because their job when making an emulator to aim for accuracy but in doing so portion of its users may no longer be able to use the later versions of the software due to not having powerful enough pcs and truthfully a large portion of the emulation user-based doesn't really care whether or not their emulators around floating-point numbers correctly they only care for the emulator and game to be playable this is another big reason for why emulators aren't accurate to console now that they couldn't be made to be accurate but because the devs don't actively try to make their emulators accurate and instead make them close enough and this is fine for the majority of the public but can get problematic for speedrunners who want to be able to speed around their games on emulator emulators have also played a large role in the history of cheating and speedrunning and it's often that rules are made to counter them a good example of this would be werster's 1508 anypercent speedrun of sonic 2 in 2014 this was an amazing speedrun for its time and it was a huge step in the game's history but in contrast to all previous world records it was ran on an emulator the thing is during this time emulator usage was completely allowed but following the next couple of months the community decided the emulator usage or at least a specific emulator that Wurster used called Jen's would no longer be allowed in the leaderboards there were two reasons for this the first reason was that the emulator wasn't completely accurate to console but this wasn't the main concern at the time the main reason was because of the specific emulator that Wurster used called Jen's be recording an emulator developed by moderators at has videos for the specific purpose of making tasses speaking of tasses i don't believe i've talked about what they are in this video yet task stands for either tool assisted speedrun or super play and they are essentially the theoretical fastest way to play a game by using emulator tools like save seats and frame advanced testers are able to record perfect inputs into the emulator save them and play them back Jen's rear accordion was the most powerful emulator to create assets at the time which may that was very easy to create cheated runs and pass them off as real during this time there's a spike in submitted tool-assisted and spliced speedruns on the Sonic Center forums they refine these runs with no set rules on emulators meant that a lot of time had to be spent on each submission and in the case of runs made on Jen's it was impossible to conclusively prove whether a run was real or fake in the case of the Sonic Center there was a decade of history behind the rules on the site and they mostly revolved around the honor system so because of that it was impossible to simply ban the emulators without voiding thousands of records most of which went without any proof submitted at all in fact werster himself has even admitted to submitting fake toms on the sonic center leaderboards that he never actually achieved due to the lack of needed proof despite the community's attempts the sonic center wouldnt budge on their stance on the rules fortunately shortly after this speedrun com a website for global leaderboards for speedrunning was released most of the same people that were moderating or verifying suspected cheaters on the Sonic Center and ended up becoming mods and speedrun.com as well and moving on they decided to scrap the honours and require all run said video proof and only allow specific emulators but since the emulator that werster use wasn't on that list is removed from the leaderboards it was an awkward situation for the community to not have we're serious world record time on the leaderboards but a few people were happy because they had suspicions that it was fake this reason it wasn't just because of the emulator he was using but from a compilation of evidence from community member HDL for Worster Sonic 3 & Knuckles speedruns this was a big deal at the time as werster was and still is a top-level speedrunner so it was a pretty controversial call out this document question more serious consistency when it came to running sonic 3 and knuckles because HDL didn't think it was possible werster would regularly hit inconsistent frame perfect tricks and had nearly perfect luck almost every single run to the point he was getting new personal best within one to two attempts each stream because of our history is fake runs on the Sonic Center leaderboards people had their suspicions all of this information came out in late 2013 so when werster achieved his world record speedrun in Sonic 2 in 2014 performed on same emulator people were skeptical I have no opinion one way or the other on whether or not the speedrun is done legit because as we'll learn here in a few it is almost impossible to side whether or not emulator runs are legitimate but looking at game footage alone but before we move on I want to mention that did not include this information just for the sake of discrediting werster this was all public information I wanted to share in this video the main reason of that is because we're service played a large role in how a lot of communities deal with emulator runs on their leaderboards in 2014 werster spoke out in the Pokemon speedruns comp forums that he didn't think emulator runs should be allowed for world record play scenes which in turn to value to zone records but was done in the community's interest this stands from the rules eventually became the standard for Pokemon speedrunning and combated a lot of people who are submitting fake runs interestingly enough the present-day Pokemon speedrunning community has actually gone full circle on their stamps and emulators and they are now allowed again however they only allow a community-made emulator called combat speedrun which can be used for generation 1 and 2 games while the story didn't really have a conclusion emulators have played a large role in the history of cheating and speedrunning mainly because emulator tools make it much easier to cheat runs while simultaneously making it harder to get caught common cheating methods using emulators include creating key binds and macros to either chained and put together which you automatically perform perfect tech using I'm watcher Lewis grips to see information about the game you normally wouldn't be able to view during a speedrun and also modding the game directly a good example of someone modding the game or at least speedrunning with a modified ISO is this speedrun of Tekken 3s Tekken force mode performed ten months ago the speed runner was using a modified ISO which removed music out of the game while the speedrunners intentions of removing music were because he didn't like listening to it the game now had less things to load which ended up saving roughly 14 seconds for the duration of the run so more extreme cases up cheating include passing off tasks footage as a real speedrun the more recently exposed case of this would be a handful of speedruns performed by Lee SDA in Lee's case he was caught playing back SMD files of pre-recorded gameplay on the SME 9x emulator during these replays Lee made sure to make the gameplay look within human reach making it virtually impossible to tell if they were faked since telling the difference between human gameplay and tool-assisted game plan emulators impossible like I said he probably would have gotten away with it but for some reason some of his runs he performed on stream were done with a hand cam all it took was the leader board moderators showing that Lee's inputs on the controller didn't match the inputs performed on emulator and he was exposed because it's impossible to know which of Lee's runs were faked and which ones were illegitimate all of his runs were removed from the leader board although Lee cheating like this was deplorable I think the community can learn something from it the first one obviously being don't cheat and also that when it comes to approving emulator runs having a webcam pointed towards the controller is a great way to verifiably make sure that they aren't cheated if you want to see a more detailed explanation on this case I've linked a video made by rwhitegoose in the description so although there are multitudes of benefits that come along with speedrunning games in emulator there are also a lot of negatives emulators that aren't accurate to console either provide an unfair advantage over console resulting in them being banned or are slower than console making them impractical for competitive play also with emulators cheating is made much easier with all the different tools that are both available on the emulator and PC another issue with emulators isn't the emulators themselves which is why you didn't really talk about it much in this video but is that the roms of the games played on them are almost always obtained illegally I don't really feel the need to explain why this is a negative just that this could be an issue depending on how laws are enforced when it comes to it so which of the speedrunning community' do about emulators is there a silver lining well if you've been following this series from the start and you would probably know that global speedrunning rules don't really work well due to every game being so different that one rule set doesn't suit all games which is why with the addition of speedrun.com rels are made on a community by community basis but this doesn't change the fact that emulators are universal and controversial issue when it comes to majority of games I'd like to include a few solutions which solve the issues I've already covered emulators not emulating games identical to the console is an issue that doesn't have a strong solution because on one hand communities want to allow emulator use on the leaderboards to make the games more accessible to everybody but at the same time want to keep everyone on the same playing field I think the Super Mario 64 community deals with this the best as they are one of if not the most competitive speedrunning communities and they also don't have any emulators which are accurate to console what they do is simple split up the runs based on console when you to the sm64 speedrunning page you see three categories in 10 to 64 Virtual Console and emulator this way emulator runs are still allowed and don't affect the console ad board and everyone is still able to compete against one another on a level playing field the next issue is how do we prevent cheating as I stated earlier in a video it is impossible to differentiate between emulator gameplay that was ran with or without tools by looking at the game screen alone but this doesn't mean that there isn't any way to counter cheating the first solution is a pretty simple one which I already talked about real inner video which is if you show a hand cam while streaming moderators are easily able to tell whether the inputs that are happy on screen are yours or not but similarly streaming speedrun attempts in general is enough to lessen the suspicion of the community if people can see all your failed attempts alongside your personal best it's far more believable than someone that only submits their PBS common rules that communities have made to counter cheating with emulators is forcing speedrunners to use a reset function on their emulators instead of using something like save states and requiring runners to record their inputs include an input file with their submissions while these rules definitely do help counter cheating and speedrunning it's obviously not foolproof but that really goes for a speedruns made on any console cheaters are always going to find a way to cheat it's just the nature of our hobby but we shouldn't let these bad eggs be the reason for people not being able to speedrun on emulators back in the day emulator rules against cheating made sense because the community didn't know how to deal with it but now things are different and speedran communities are much better equipped to deal with cheaters emulators are always being updated and are slowly being made to be more and more accurate to consoles as we learn more about them so maybe in the future emulators could possibly end up being almost identical to console and be allowed in the main leaderboards as consuls slowly become more and more outdated increasingly expensive the speedrunning community needs a viable way to be able to compete without ostracizing the portion of the community that can't afford it luckily most of the time the less complicated the console or game is the easier it is to create an accurate emulator for them large speedrun community is like Pokemon is Super Mario have already made huge steps by allowing emulator use on their leaderboards and it's up to other communities to follow in their direction when the time comes anyways guys that's the end of this video if you liked it make sure you leave a like as it's the best way to show support but don't leave yet because I want to give a special thanks to everyone who helped contribute to the making of this video special thanks to all DeLauro 5 and JMC 4 7 8 9 or contributors for the dolphin emulator they fed me a lot of information on emulation accuracy we're a large source of the information in this video special thanks to piston miner and bad butwho attackers that helped me out with additional information and looked over my work social thanks to werster Tim Z and X YX for helping with explanations for the history of their speed games also thanks to Gothic logic and shenanigans for helping out with general info and pointing me in the right direction also huge takes of spike stuff and Tompa for both helping with the entirety of this project the hope that I received from the community when it comes to these videos is extremely helpful and I don't want it to go unnoticed I could just make these videos with information I know and find online but making sure everything is accurate is something that truly strive for when it comes to making these videos thank you everyone for watching this far make sure to subscribe for more speedrun related content and share this video anytime you see an emulator debate stirring up let's all up to say guys so as always have a beautiful life

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