Robots Playing Video Games???

January 13, 2019 12:50pm
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This is a really cool video of Super Mario World, and not just because it’s an incredibly fast speed run featuring all sorts of exploits that I’d never seen before, but also … the game is being played entirely by a robot!!!

So apparently what they’ve done here is hacked the SNES controller so that instead of sending inputs to the SNES via physically pressing buttons, they can have a computer send the commands … which is obviously much faster and can enable some pretty neat exploits that are (usually) too quick for a human to pull off.

For example, and I thought this was super interesting, apparently the fastest way to move Mario in Super Mario World is to rapidly change the direction that he’s facing as you move (i.e. pressing left, then right repeatedly). And we’re talking within a single frame of the game, so it’s not exactly something that a person could do, but when its just a computer sending signals to the console, it’s just another command.

Now as far as I can tell (and please correct me if someone reads this and sees that I’m wrong!), but the computer isn’t necessarily reacting to changes in the game – it’s essentially running a script that the designers have testing out and tweaked to get the best possible outcome, whether it’s triggering a Level Complete action before the level is actually complete by playing to an exploit in the game or defeating bowser at the end.

One of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed watching speed runs is because I think it’s incredible to see people play that have such a mastery of a given game that they not only know where every last item or power-up is, but also things like which order to kill monsters in because they understand how the game tracks those kills and determines what power-ups to drop next. So to then be able to take it another step and know what location in memory various statuses get held so that they can exploit weaknesses to make the game do things that it’s not supposed to – just wow!

Just one more example – here’s a glitch in Super Mario World that somehow triggers the end credits less than a minute into the game…

You can read the link above to explain the glitch better than I can, but it’s pretty cool stuff. 😉

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