Sometimes a creator has a central hook to what they make videos about and it’s nice and easy to share. OneShortEye makes videos, at the moment, about speedrunning adventure games, a type of game that’s largely seen as not being about speedrunning.
And they’re great.
You can just watch the channel by glancing it any time you want. It’s just a list of videos, and you can pick the ones that interest you. I want to talk about the ones that interest me, specifically. And disclaimer: I like pretty much all these videos. Like, the Laura Bow videos are interesting. The Monkey Island ones are interesting. The Owl Quest one, which is a joke, is interesting.
But if you want a sort of sense of continuity across these things, I want to draw your attention to the near-complete anthology that describes the speedruns of the Kings Quest games.
If you’re not familiar, the Kings Quest games is a series of videogames that basically encapsulates, in time, the entirety of my childhood. They’re graphical adventures, and thanks to their place in the game history, they have some unique strangeness, like their relationship to the hardware and software that makes them go. In the case of the early games, from the 1980s, these games are capable of running faster than humans can perceive. As a speed game, then, King Quest I is a question of trying to find out how little you can feather the brake on this game that’s nearly impossible to control.
I wrote about Kings Quest I earlier this year in the context of what ‘history’ really looks like.
Then there’s Kings Quest III, which is complicated by the game itself being extremely complex. Where Kings Quest I is at its heart a game where you explore to find a route for success and then find the best combination of those to win, Kings Quest III has this competing rats nest of genuinely random components. Oh, Kings Quest I has some randomness (hi, stair dwarf, you butthole), but Kings Quest III is full of competing randomness, where to give the game a sense of life, characters move around and appear in different places and then
There’s a fourteen minute
It’s an interesting run particularly because it’s actually pretty beatable, according to the people who play it. It’s the matter of having patience enough to endure the opening part, where you have to roll the dice a lot, then fourteen minutes later, make no mistakes and roll a few more dice.
Then when the games graduated from a CGA-compatible simple graphics, and a text parser, we got Kings Quest 5 with its indulgent full-screen videos and voice acting and upwards of twenty megs of compressed material.
The speedrunning history of Kings Quest 5 is the video that got me to tune into this channel at first. The game is difficult and has some real absurd logic built into it, and finding out that at one point you fail because you ate the meat and not the pie, or vice versa, means you’re not getting feedback from the game that makes working these things out easier. Basically, you have to guess, and sometimes it’s easy to imagine that the game might be broken.
Turns out it is!
Just you know, you need to understand it on a really deep level to appreciate how broken and get around its brokenness.
Weird, I wonder why these videos skip the even numbered ones? Oh wait-
And oh boy are we talking about the games and unintended functions of interface elements, check out how in Kings Quest VI the memory handling of a spacebar key can create unintended consequences for routing around the game’s speedrun.
I think this is also worth checking out because Kings Quest VI is a game whose players and speedrunners form something of a cast you’ll see in all the other videos here. There’s even an evolution of things, watching as ‘Top Kek Shrek’ decided to y’know, change his name to TKS and move away from ‘Kek’, a term that has become uh… a red flag?
Then there’s Kings Quest 7, a new type of game with a new type of energy. It’s got this classical visual aesthetic, something that pushes the at the time current SVGA graphics card, and looks like… well, almost Don Bluthy? Almost Disney-ish? Style of animation. And it’s impressive, the needs of this game meant that the game had to get more complicated and the game getting more complicated meant it found new and interesting ways to break.
And well, how much more complicated could these Kings Quest games get?
Oh hey, they tried to make Tomb Raider.
I’m not joking, Kings Quest: The Mask Of Eternity is an adventure game that wanted to weave in combat systems (which Kings Quest had always kinda eschewed) and free movement. The result was that in a time of 3d animation and level design being done by specialists who could handle the complexities of these systems, the Kings Quest makers had to pivot to trying to do something completely new with no previous grounding and the result is a game that’s…
I know I’ve been using the word ‘broken’ liberally here and it’s only because it’s the language of the speedrun space. Realistically speaking, it’s the opposite of broken; these games are resilient. When you give them impossible or ridiculous demands they find a way to work with what you give them. When things in the system of the computer fail or the technology outmodes them, they still find a way to meet the demands you make of them and continue to exist as a game.
But it’s pretty easy looking at Mask of Eternity and feel, very clearly: This is not how they wanted this game to work.
I don’t know if there’s any plan to tackle the other Kings Quest games – two, four, and the more recent episodic adventures. I do think these videos are really interesting treatments of the complexities of these kinds of speedruns, and their historical explanation – talking to the people doing the speedruns and sometimes even the creators of the games! – is a great way to contextualise games that have been seeing play, regularly, for twenty to forty years.