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Interview with Speedrunner Covert_Muffin: RTS Games are Awesome

01.10.18 | Zody 1395

Introduction

Covert_Muffin is a speedrunner, who is most notably known for his Jedi Knight Academy runs, but he is also invested into speedrunning Warcraft III. Speedrunning is the competive way of finishing a game's story or campaign as fast as possible. Twice a year, speedrunners meet at the Games Done Quick charity event to raise money for Doctors Without Borders, or the Prevent Cancer Foundation. At Summer Games Done Quick 2018, the speedrunners and their communities donated an impressive $2.122.529,20.

We sat down with Covert_Muffin and talked about his speedruns, his upcoming Orc campaign run at AGDQ 2019 (Awesome Games Done Quick), and his future plans of Warcraft III speedrunning.

The venue of SGDQ 2018

Hello Covert_Muffin, first of all, can you introduce yourself to the readers who are not familiar with your name?

Hello! My screen name is CovertMuffin, I speedrun a bunch of different games and if someone were to recognize me I suppose it'd be for my laugh or speedruns/commentated performances at a bunch of GDQs.

 How did you get into Warcraft III? It is quite an unusual game to speedrun.

haha yeah RTS games are awesome for their multiplayers on top of having amazing casual playthroughs! The thing that usually pulls me into trying a new speedgame is if I enjoyed the mechanics in the casual playthrough, and if I just had tons of fun playing/replaying the game. Warcraft 3 has some really intense mechanics associated with how you control individual and types of units in a way to try and reduce the amount of time it takes to finish missions as well as get away with minimal resources. In terms of sheer enjoyment over the years I've definitely done multiple playthroughs of the campaign casually as well as punched thousands of hours into the "custom maps" in multiplayer. With some help from a few friends of other speedgames suggesting I try it out, I did and have enjoyed punching in time to learning and improving since then!

Covert_Muffin in an interview after his SGDQ 2018 run

At AGDQ 2019, you will once again speedrun a Warcraft III Reign of Chaos campaign chapter. This time it is the Orc one, and you also ran the Undead campaign last time you were on the big stage. Can you tell us how time consuming it is to prepare the routes for those speedruns? In particular compared to other speedruns you do?

You know big stages like marathon events such as GDQ and ESA have a unique display for the viewers, but it is truly impossible to express the hundreds if not thousands of hours of collective effort by the community to push a game forward.  My performance of Undead itself didn't even showcase the fastest strats, but I can tell you that a runner by the screen name of Blasterpoard definitely pushed the Undead Campaign hard. Also shout-outs to Savusuka as well for his help in me learning the run, but Blasterpoard really took a lot of the base mechanics in each level and ended up demolishing some levels by minutes. The one level (Chapter 6) near the end of the run where I got a bit stuck in the marathon performance is a route he formed weeks before I flew out for the event which took me at least 30+ hours of collective practice to start to feel comfortable with the route and tech required to make it work. I'd wake up early each morning and drill it for an 20-60 mins before work, do it again when I got home and before I went to bed.

It's hard to compare the overall amount of time and effort with the other speedgames because the runs are always evolving and routes improving leading up to the event itself. At least 6 days a week leading up to an event I'll have put time into preparing the speedgame; maybe just 15 mins or maybe upwards of 8-10 hours on a particular day trading between commentary sculpting or trying different things, sometimes just straight mechanics practice. Definitely less time than my first performance at SGDQ, leading up to that I put on an average of 40 hours per week of work into that one for 3 months. It is a lot of time and energy spent, but I still could learn more, prepared a level a little better or even learned an extra trick

Covert_Muffin's undead campaign run at SGDQ 2018

What was the most difficult route to figure out so far in all the campaign chapters you ran?

Oh man well there were some scary ones. Definitely Chapter 6 and 8 are the clear ones, but each of the even numbers missions were brutally difficult. Chapter 6 was the one with the dragon roost to run around with arthas in circles while we built a base in their base, and Chapter 8 was the final mission where we took down the 3 human bases to skip the 30 minute autoscroller. Figuring out the actual route itself kind of breaks down into a routine checklist:

1) Establish what is the fastest thing to do

2) Can you do that thing consistently?

3) If answered no, practice a ton and re-ask that question:

4) If still no, then take something slightly slower but safer or easier for you to do and do that thing instead

 Leading up to the events themselves, there are always new things that are found, and some strats and routes I left out for marathon safety and/or I just didn't have the time to be able to encorporate them confidently. The good news in WC3 (and RTS speedrunning in general) is if the openers (first minute or two of a mission) goes really smoothy and you nail everything immaculately, it tends to make the rest of the route or missions easier. There are a few difficult engagements but I'm pretty confident when it comes to my micro to be able to get through them with reasonable mistakes/spaghetti haha

The RTS genre is quite rarely seen at GDQs. What is the reason for that in your opinion?

You know, that is quite the tough question hahaha I guess I can start by saying I am not GDQ staff nor have I ever worked for the games selection comittee. I do think that there isn't one direct answer but rather a bunch of things that each may or may not influence a game being accepted into the event. Things I often see behind games making into the event have large gaming and/or speedrun communities behind it or the game garners a lot of nostalgia. At the end of the day I think the big reason is there are over one thousand submissions and only a tiny sliver of a percentage of spots to fill with games from that ocean. I definitely think with our past few successful performances at GDQs (especially the WC3 ones) might bring a bit more of a surge of awareness for that type of speedrun. Definitely having more runners or even people just pick up the RTS genre would bolster the scene I think too. There are other amazing RTS speedgames out there to watch out for, and I think if runners are looking for a speedgame to get into a GDQ event Starcraft Broodwar Remastered could be a treasure trove and I fully intend to continue to submit Warcraft 3 if I feel the campaigns can bring something unique.

The first speedrun of Warcraft III I watched was Sajiki’s speedrun at AGDQ 2018. He impressively managed to come up with unique routes and finished the Human campaign in about 54 minutes. I like to hop into the campaign from time to time but never came up with such unique strategies. How big is the rivalry between you two to best each other at the game?

Hahaha actually the entire reason I ended up picking up WC3 Human was because Sajiki told me he was doing it and asked me if I'd be interested in helping with some of the routing. Between us we both have a fair bit of RTS experience, but really the story is just we are really good friends and enjoy cheering each other on. I met Saji when I first started running Jedi Knight Academy (JKA) which has an insanely complex movement system and infinitely high skill cap. We both loved that a lot and spent a lot of time working through the game sciencing our way to improving the route by fractions of a second and pushing each other when we tried to accomplish our goals. I've never really been competitive in a sense but we pushed each other through failures and frustrations and to keep learning and improving. For that AGDQ 2018 before submissions closed, saji knew 100% he would be capable of attending the event, so we had hatched a plan to have me submit JKA and have him submit WC3 Human (so I dropped my submission) because we thought that was the best probability of 1 or both of us getting a run into the event. He is a really talented speedrunner but also insanely good at commentary.

Sajiki's human campaign run at AGDQ 2018

As you might know the Warcraft III competitive scene is still quite lively. Do you think a Warcraft III progamer could pick up your strategies and beat your best times handily? Considering that they must have the better macro and micro.

Freakin heck yes they could, every one of my speedruns on a leaderboard is beatable by lengths and strides, it just is up to the person to put in the time and (more importantly) the energy it takes to be capable of continuing to learn and improve. I think if anyone has played a few hours of the game could pick up the speedrun and learn it in a day or two. The nice thing about WC3 is it is really accessible as a speedgame for people of all experience levels. We even have strategies that lose minutes of time, but make some of the scarier levels a thousand times easier for a starting point.

Can we expect to see the other campaign chapters at future GDQs? Are you guys already looking into them?

Oh yeah absolutely, Warcraft 3 Reign of Chaos ~ Orc Campaign was just accepted for a run at AGDQ2019, so that is going to be my current speed  project for the next few months as I prepare another performance! Blasterpoard actually just posted a video in the discsord the other day of an improvement on a routing choice in one of the levels hahaha so I need to sit down with that and play around with it for a bit. Each of the other campaigns do have a fully fleshed out route in place with potential time saves to still be found so I definitely plan on continuing to learn and submit these runs to future events; the Night Elf one will be a bit tricky because there is a 45 minute unskippable autoscroller where you just win after like 15 minutes and have to sit there doing nothing for the final 30 mins, but I have a plan for that submission I think could make for a really epic performance hahaha

Thank you for your time! The last words are yours or is Lok-tar Ogar enough?

hahah that should be enough, thanks for having me! FOR THE HORDE!!!

 

 

If you want to get into Warcraft III speedrunning, check out the speedrun's leaderboard and the official RTS speedrunning discord.

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