Here we are again. 2014 is drawing to a close and with it comes the dawn of a new year, noncommittal resolutions, and the biggest speedgaming marathon of the year–Awesome Games Done Quick 2015 (or AGDQ 2015 for short)! For those of you who read about last year’s marathon, this time around there are some big changes that should make AGDQ even better. If you’re watching from home, things will mostly be the same, but some behind-the-scenes stuff will be making the marathon more enjoyable for all. Let’s strap in for a quick rundown of what’s going on, then I’ll pick out a few of my favorite games from the schedule and talk about what makes them and their runs so great.

AGDQ 2015 | What’s New?

AGDQ 2014 Chrono Trigger Speed Run

Since Summer Games Done Quick 2014 and AGDQ 2014, some changes needed to be implemented to make the experience better for all. This time around, the staff has been contracted by the Prevent Cancer Foundation itself (although most of its members stay the same) and some of the costs of running AGDQ will be reimbursed by PCF, including the conference room and some of the equipment. With donation totals getting higher and higher, this small cost will improve the marathon and allow it to grow in tandem with its audience, attendance, and scope.

Additionally, Games Done Quick has become its own organization which is no longer affiliated with Speed Demos Archive. This is not a bad thing. It was a necessary step for the future as work for the marathons run by Games Done Quick get bigger. SDA will still be heavily involved and will work hand in hand to help put on great events each year. As with any AGDQ, SDA’s involvement will remain relatively unchanged and both organizations will be promoted during the marathon. One of the most significant changes for the viewers is the location of the marathon. Rather than being streamed on SDA’s twitch channel, AGDQ 2015 will be hosted on the official GDQ twitch page and official archives for the marathon will be on Games Done Quick’s official YouTube channel. The official website, GamesDoneQuick.com will still be hosted by SDA, and most of the discussion has taken place on the SDA forums. From the outside, it might seem like no changes have been made at all, but everything has been done for the better of the event!

AGDQ 2015 | Where does the money go?

SGDQ 2014 Final Fantasy VI

As with AGDQs of the past, AGDQ 2015’s donations will be going toward the Prevent Cancer Foundation. With everything getting bigger and better, you might be wondering what the $$$ are actually going towards. Donations from this year will go towards the following:

  • A two year $250,000 research grant called the Awesome Games Done Quick Research Grant, which will fund cancer prevention research as well as the early detection of cancer. (Last year’s was $80,000)
  • Funding a one-time community outreach/education grant called the Awesome Games Done Quick Community Grant. This will primarily go toward cancer screening and education.
  • Sponsorship of the annual Dialogue for Action Conference, which is a conference members of the field use to spark discussion and share ideas about cancer research, prevention, and organize plans to provide more cancer screening in communities across the nation.
  • Funding for a smartphone app currently in development which allows young adult cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers to communicate with one another.

AGDQ 2015 | What’s on?

AGDQ 2015’s schedule was cut down numerous times. The submission process takes months. Mike Uyama and the rest of the staff, both contracted and volunteer, have spent countless hours going through submissions and organizing and cutting them down into a complete schedule. Some games will be missed, but the number of submissions rises every year and the marathon doesn’t get any longer. There are the familiar Marios, Zeldas, and Sonics, but also some more uncommon and wacky games like Little Samson and Sneak King. AGDQ 2015’s staff has made sure there’s something for everyone in this marathon, whether you’re a longtime watcher, new face, or fellow speedgamer yourself. I’ve picked out three of my most anticipated runs of the year and will provide a little history on each of them below.

XBOX/360 Sneak King, by Kefka14

Sneak King XBox 360 Speed Run

Did you know that back in 2006 Burger King produced a video game? Originally conceived as a game inspired by Spy vs Spy, Sneak King was eventually reworked as a stealth game where you play as The King, delivering Burger King meals to hungry people. While Sneak King is a 360 title, it still plays on the original Xbox, albeit with decreased speed. While the game received mixed reviews and was notably very buggy, it and the two other games sold by Burger King during their 2006 marketing campaign helped increase sales by 40% in quarter 4 compared to sales earlier that year.

Kefka14 is the only runner for Sneak King and he himself has created the game’s two categories. The category most worked on is “50%.” Sneak King is a game divided into four levels, each with 20 challenges. Completing 10 challenges in each stage is required to advance to the next. To complete the 50% category, you must finish 10 challenges each in the first and second areas. The reason this category replaces a more traditional any% is because the game is so poorly programmed that after the halfway point, the chance of the game failing to render something or missing a required event trigger is very high and it’s very hard to finish a run due to the game soft-locking. Sneak King is random, funny, and slightly disturbing. It’s a short run but it’s so weird you’ll at least get a kick out of it.

NES Contra Race, by DK28 and TheMexicanRunner

NES Contra Speed Running

Contra is as classic as they come. It’s a great and notoriously difficult run and gun game for the NES, Arcade, and several other systems. The NES version was released by Konami in 1988 and consists of eight difficult stages with many different weapons to wield and tons of bullets to dodge. Times for this game have fallen slowly over the years due to the very high optimization the run has had. The current top two times are owned by the two runners in this race. It has been reported that DK28’s time is the current World Record (WR) at 9:58, while TMR’s time clocks in at 10:03. While the record has been broken numerous times, the record two years ago was only 10:11 and in early 2011, it was 10:17. A good run in Contra is very hard to achieve. Due to the high level of optimization, any loss in time will kill the run. This is because any single hit, and most mistakes, are fatal. DK28 might be top dog now but TMR is right on his heels. This race will be one to remember.

SNES Super Castlevania IV Race, by FuriousPaul, JoeDamillio, hanage, and one more.

Super Castlevania IV

Super Castlevania IV is an amazingly complete game. It has excellent music, addicting gameplay, and 16-bit graphics on par with any game of the era. In SCIV, you play as Simon Belmont on a quest to subdue Count Dracula. As a remake of the original NES Castlevania, you’ll find some familiar enemies, levels, and music. However, the game stands on its own as one of the best in the series. Simon has the ability to whip in eight directions and use it to swing from conveniently-placed rings scattered throughout the game’s eleven levels. As before, Simon also has access to a number of useful sub-weapons that consume collectable hearts as ammunition.

Super Castlevania IV’s record has changed hands many times over the last year. While the three known runners for this year’s four-way race are in the top 5 on the game’s leaderboard, JoeDamillio and FuriousPaul are a cut above the rest. The current world record run happened on Christmas day and is only a second faster than FuriousPaul’s 32:28. Beyond that, third and fourth place are essentially tied at 32:38. All five of the top 5 players have set new personal bests as recently as 12/21/2014. They’re feverishly (or Furiously in Paul’s case) practicing, and I have been tuning in on most nights to watch them grind out runs. SCIV has very few random elements that impact the run so how close these times are to each other is a testament to how skilled each of them is. Keep an eye on these guys. This is the run I am most looking forward to in this marathon.

UPDATE (12/31/2014): FuriousPaul has furiously taken back the WR with a time of 32:24 just last night!

AGDQ 2015 | Where and When?

AGDQ Star Fox 64 Speed Run

AGDQ 2015 will be live from Noon Eastern Standard Time on January 4th until the finale just after midnight on January 11th. You can find it being streamed live on www.twitch.tv/gamesdonequick or on their official website, gamesdonequick.com. Check out their main page for links to the schedule and to find out how to donate. As always, most games will have donation incentives that allow viewers to donate toward naming characters, choosing categories, or even bidding between different games to be run. Last year, AGDQ generated over a million dollars for PCF. Let’s see what they can accomplish this year!

One final thought: I’d like to make a big shout out to all of the staff, runners and volunteers involved with AGDQ 2015. It’s from their time and effort that this wonderful marathon was put together. The battle against cancer can be fought by anyone, but it takes a gamer to make this run 100% deathless.