Mega Cat Studios had the chance to interview the title holder of being the fastest person to finish Super Mario Bros. Any% with a total running time of 4m 54s 798ms, in the speedrunning community, Niftski! He shared his insights and issues with the community as well as some motivations for those who are aiming to enter this community! Here’s how our interview went!
How did you discover speedrunning?
I discovered speedrunning through Bismuth and Summoning Salt’s Super Mario Bros. speedrunning YouTube videos, and it greatly sparked my interest.
What made it interesting for you to check it out?
Super Mario Bros. was a game I grew up playing ever since I was around 5 years old and seeing people speedrun it gave the game a whole new feel and interest.
What were the biggest issues you encountered in the community?
Occasional bad apples and immature people that come along in the community are probably one of the only issues, but pretty much every community in speedrunning has to deal with that.
What would be the best memory or moment you’ve experienced?
Although I’ve beaten this run twice, the day I got my former world record of 4:54.948 in SMB1 Any% is still to this day the best memory I’ve experienced in speedrunning. It is also still to this day the happiest day I’ve ever had in my life.
Should other people also try and check out speedrunning? Why so?
Absolutely. If you are bored of casually playing games you’ve already played many times and want to add a fun and competitive aspect to it, speedrunning is probably the best way to go about that!
What makes the speedrunning community special?
Everyone uplifts and motivates each other while promoting positivity and the hope that they can improve their speedrunning times.
Who do you think would enjoy speedrunning as well?
Members from other gaming communities that take interest in competitive and fun games (like I was at one point with games like CS: GO) would likely also love speedrunning.
How would you describe your experience and stay in the community?
Out of a few other communities, I can say by far that this community is the best and most positive one I’ve ever been in.
What made you stay long in this community?
The friends I’ve made along the way, my interest in the game, and the positivity that has been spread along the way have made me stay with this community.
What are your suggestions for the speedrunning community?
Surround yourself with positive people and always believe in your abilities, as it is very likely that you haven’t even reached your full potential yet.
What is your message to those who admire and watch you?
You can do anything you put your mind to, my world records are not by any means unbeatable and at the end of the day, we are all human!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Always believe in yourself, because at the end of the day, nobody else can achieve things on your behalf 😊
*Ding ding ding! Think slapstick, pixel art, and boxing rolled into one. This is how our showcased game for this month is seen. Mega Cat Studios had a chance to interview one of the founders of Soupmasters, Martin Calander, about their upcoming slapstick boxing game, Big Boy Boxing! Ready for the punch? Here’s how it went!
How was this game born?
The game was born after we created many funny characters with personalities during school time. And we needed a game to showcase them, first, we tried to make traditional smash bro like fighting game, but that didn't work out. After a while, we decided to try making a punch-out-esque game with our characters, and it evolved from there.
What was development like?
We are still in the development phase, but it's been souperfun!
What did you learn about yourself through this game?
I've learned that things take double the time I think they will when developing a game!
What makes this game special?
The characters, the slapstick humour, and the fast-paced boss-rush gameplay!
How does sound play a role in the game?
In gameplay, sounds are used as "tells" for the bosses' attacks. And the voice acting gives the characters another level of personality and relatability.
Experiencing all the computer ports of Contra gives the audience the literal notion of masochism, and in this article, we inspect the important reasons behind this fact, by introducing the Arcade version first, and comparing these ports with the original title.
The original Arcade game utilizes automatic movement in the air, and this means that while you’re holding the right direction, for example, and hit the jump button to move in the air, the character goes to the right automatically, even if you released the desired direction during the process. But you cannot shoot upward and downward while moving along the x-axis in the air; as pressing up and down directions, in the same position, makes your character stop along the said axis. An automatic movement in the air doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot change your direction after each jump.
The game sometimes doesn’t detect the lowest platform on the screen, as descending through the lowest one can make your character die:
But the Amstrad CPC port is different; you have one button to fire, an up direction to jump, and a down direction to drop down to lower platforms, meaning that the whole control scheme is made up of the main directions, plus one button to action. Holding this button will result in shooting, with all the weapons acting like machine guns in the game. So, you cannot crouch, until you’re shooting, and you cannot jump, while you’re shooting! Also, there is no way to fire downward, the lowest platform detection remains the same, and the automatic movement in the air is dropped.
The ZX Spectrum one is weird, making it a unique title compared to the other conversions; automatic movement in the air made a return, but there is no stopping the character; the scrolling seems working, but you’re not able to go to the left; every other thing seems fine, but there is no shooting downwardly. Also, the ability to change your direction after each jump in the air, is only present in the tunnel levels, with no diagonal shooting in its boss fights. And here’s the worst part; if you jumped, the game pulls the last standing position, and is forcing you to aim only at that angle in the air, without any option to change so, until you hit the ground and repeat the process with another jump!
The Commodore 64 is not official, but rather a romhack. It's still being included because it is well done, and Commodore 64 is awesome. It inherited its own issues and limitations for controls: no shooting downward, no automatic movement in the air and no lowest-platform detection. However, all the weapons act like machine guns, and no problem can be experienced with diagonal shooting in the game, but for some reason, the jump button (space bar) doesn’t function normally, and you have to tap it multiple times to make it work! Not to mention that the fire button means JOYSTICK, and the jump button means KEYBOARD:
The MSX2 title, has the nearest controls to the Arcade game, as you have the ability to fire downwardly from the air. However, the automatic movement in the air is gone, with the jumps pulling the sensitivity of the button you’re pushing, with no shooting left-upwardly.
And even this port doesn’t solve the lowest-platform detection problem.
The Arcade version is your typical Contra; a variety of arsenal with pseudo-3D levels, and technical achievement, with visually impressive features. You have 3 continues, even if you have hundreds of coins, and you’ll get killed if you dive into your enemies. Also, the game uses some methods to make one of the oldest examples of level design with just two buttons, where an obstacle fixes the player’s position in the last level:
The original title gives the player an opportunity to ignore a few mini-bosses in the game, creating opportunities to fool them:
And about the Amstrad CPC port; the R power-up is replaced with a machine gun, no continues across your journey, and the scrolling effect is not smooth as well:
And what’s the problem with the scrolling effect the game has? Well, the bullets of your enemies, for example, can go through sections of a level, but a weapon, as the power-ups of the game, disappears when the screen gets scrolled.
In the ZX Spectrum port, there is no design for the power-ups that you’ll get; you hit their cases, and you get the weapons, and losing your lives doesn’t mean losing your arsenal. However, the game is still hard, since you’ve got no way to increase your lives through your progress (with no continues), and the scrolling effect creates big problems in the waterfall level (with bad enemy placement):
But thankfully there are some tricks for the final bosses, as they don’t react to you while not being revealed completely:
The ability to fool bosses in the Commodore 64 conversion, to an extreme degree, is its ridiculous gameplay feature, as this boss is ignorable, and you can scroll through the level with no threat ahead:
The opportunity to play with unlimited lives, WITHOUT any cheat codes, is the main benefit you could get from this version, as the game asks so from the player:
The MSX2 port, feels a lot like a bootleg version, as the enemies seem to come from another world:
While the weapons came from another universe:
As you have to aim in the worst ways ever in your gaming life:
And you must go through nearly 20 stages, to put an end to this expedition!
The scrolling effect is a lot like the Amstrad CPC port:
And the whole game feels like an RPG version of Contra:
While it’s the first time that you have a health bar for each of your lives.
The original Arcade title is a technical achievement for its era: more than just one design for weapons’ looks, and different kick-back effects with a great game-feel:
The game also uses parallax scrolling, with parts of the background moving at a different speed than parts of the foreground:
The Amstrad CPC port seems like a demake version; no different design for the weapons’ looks, and no different kick-back effects, like the Arcade game. And the main problem is that the color of your bullets is the same as that of your enemies, so you don’t know when to crouch. The ZX Spectrum port has the same problem, plus the fact that the color of your bullets can be the same as the whole environment:
There is nothing special about the Commodore 64 conversion, as it’s like a demake version of the Amstrad CPC title. Compared to the Amstrad CPC port, the color of bullets is clearly distinctive, and compared to the ZX Spectrum port, every object has its own visual identity.
The MSX2 version is more colorful than the Commodore 64 port, and unlike the CPC one, is the closest conversion to the original game with its great color palette. However, since it’s like a bootleg version of the original game, you can sometimes see the character changing its color scheme from stage to stage, with no logical reason!
If you wait for minutes in the Arcade game, you’ll see some objects diving into the character and enemies appearing, to punish the player for waiting for too long:
The Arcade version also, looks more realistic than the other ones, because if you want to start shooting diagonally, the character shoots some bullets, somewhere between your main angle and the desired direction, till he reaches the desired diagonal direction you want:
As a sad conclusion of your ultimate efforts, the Amstrad CPC port has a dark message at the end of the game:
The unique feature of the ZX Spectrum title though, is its main menu, providing the player with a variety of options, as you can see:
In the Commodore 64 one, you can complete the game with unlimited lives, as said above in the Gameplay section.
And, the ending of the MSX2 version is its reward for your hard attempt:
Managing people is a challenging skill. Managing our own lives is already a difficult task, and the day-by-day can sometimes be stressful. That's not to say it's all stress and whatnot cause despite the bad days, there are good days too, and they happen in equal measure.
Nowadays, video games have become so meta that simulating the management side of things can be a gamified experience. For fans of the genre, virtual stress can be a dopamine/endorphin-releasing experience. Paradoxical? But that’s a mystery we can solve in another article.
Let’s list down the best sports management simulation games released over the years. Popular franchises like the NBA 2K Series, FIFA Series, MBL, and many others inspire these management games. The only difference is that instead of controlling every minute action of the player, such as shooting or passing, you take on a more hands-off-the-ball approach. By hands-off, I mean making the crucial decisions that’ll make or break the team, drafting, scouting, player development overview, and contract negotiations.
The amount of text and graphs you have to sift through with these games is complicated and possibly overwhelming. But I think it’s a natural expansion of what a sports video game should be and how it should play. So, wear your best suit and tie and hustle and huddle with us as we take you to the rabbit hole of sports simulation games.
You may be familiar with football or soccer games like FIFA and PES. But some of you may have heard about Football Manager. It is striking and is considered one of the most in-depth sports management sim games of all time.
The first game in the series was released in 1992 by Sports Interactive and published by Eidos under the name Championship Manager. After the developer’s fallout with Eidos in 2004, SEGA picked up Sports Interactive and released it under its new title, Football Manager.
Since then, the series has become widely known and critically acclaimed. Modern game iterations have many features: maintaining the budget and finances, developing infrastructure, taking up press conferences, indulging in transfer market activity, engaging in coaching sessions, experimenting with formations, scouting young talents, and signing potential superstars to secure your club’s future.
The number of decisions you make is varied, and to add realism, it uses real-life football metrics to measure activity. Real football clubs use the game to do scouting runs! If you’re a football/soccer fan, why don’t you give it a whirl? Who knows, it might even inspire you to get a Coaching license in the future!
If football fans have Football Manager, baseball fans have their version called Out of the Park Baseball. Starting as a simple text-based game released in May 1999, it created a buzz among online gaming sites. It wasn’t until OOTP 3 that the game took off, and players started noticing. At this point, the developers were still in the indie gaming scene. By 2005, Sports Interactive purchased the franchise, but Markus Heinsohn, the lead developer, still directed the game.
By 2007, Sports Interactive split from the franchise and gave the reins back to OOTP Developments. Since then, the game has been constantly praised as one of the best games on PC. A true testament to the staying power of simulation games such as this.
It has since moved on from its simple text-based gameplay and added modern features for better immersion such as officially licensed MLB rosters; better 3D graphics, an interactive and dynamic user interface, a recoded scouting system; a new fielding ratings development system; achievements; new trading AI; more realistic player creation among many other features. This game certainly knocks the ball out of the park!
So far, we’ve only discussed two popular ball games, and now we’re on to the third. Another critically acclaimed game due to its realism, Tennis Elbow Manager sets the bar high for most sports management sims games, let alone for Tennis sports. It currently has no other rival in its niche, making it the only available Tennis simulation game. But would you ask for anything more if your game is as polished and balanced as this? I certainly wouldn’t! Every iteration released since 1996 has continually improved over the previous games.
Its latest iteration is Tennis Elbow Manager 2, which features a complete 3D match engine, improved AI with new player strategies, and more realistic behaviors. It even has a system to accurately measure player statistics such as fitness, power, and precision, to name a few.
You can tweak the level of realism in the game, such as turning “fatigue” on or off having the indicators of where the shots will impact the court displayed or not. There are different CPU levels (6 in total, from "beginner" to "incredible"), and choosing from Arcade, Simulation, Elite "Controls" affect gameplay. What makes this game unique from other sports sim games is the ability to take control of your players and play the actual 3D tournament matches. A new release is said to be in the works, and although there is no official announcement yet, we’re curious about what new features it brings to the table and hope it’s something smashing!
Enough about ball games! How about we pick up the speed with the next game on this list: Motorsport Manager Racing! This game puts you behind the wheel of a racing team manager as you create your own motorsports team, hire engineers to give you the best car performance, recruit new drivers, build new infrastructures, and the usual micromanagement of your finances.
Although initially released on mobile platforms only, it has since been released on Steam thanks to Sega taking on the publishing reins for Playsport Games. The PC version improves on the mobile version by adding a more in-depth gameplay experience and a massive improvement to graphical fidelity.
One of its features is a random events system that provides choices to the players, which either improves their relationship with a different team or compromises the player’s popularity with the current team. The random events system in place may also provide optional upgrade choices to the three research segments in the game but may increase cash costs. These research segments include manufacturing—which determines car reliability and tire wear, design—which generally affects all aspects of the car, and aerodynamics—which affects car downforce and acceleration. These random segments can trigger during or at the end of a racing season.
With that said, the exhilaration doesn’t just come from behind the wheel while zipping past other cars; sometimes, it's the satisfaction that you made all the right decisions during race day, allowing for a smooth team workflow, essentially grabbing a win for the whole team!
We’re down to the last game on this list, and it certainly packs a punch! World Championship Boxing Manager™may be an old simulation game, but its influence is evident across different gaming generations. It was initially released for the Commodore Amiga in 1990 and is one of the earliest boxing management simulation games.
For modern gamers looking to try this out, it is now on Steam if they want to get a hold of a classic retro game. Gamers may consider much of the gameplay elements to be clunky nowadays, but it still holds on its own and adds to that element of deep and immersive mechanics that’ll pull you in to play for hours and hours.
These features include designing boxers' training regimens to get their skills and physique in fighting shape and negotiating with managers and promoters to secure fights with top-rated fighters that provide good payouts. In addition to this, coaching boxers in each round will make sure they come out on top; and keep your boxers healthy and motivated to take the number one spot.
Most modern boxing simulation games released recently follow these formulae laid down by WCBM, attesting to the adage that “if it ain’t broken, there’s no need to fix it.” With almost two decades in its life, WCBM needs a proper sequel. Fortunately, for us fans of the genre, Mega Cat Studios, in collaboration with Ziggurat, is up to the task of bringing us the much-awaited sequel: World Championship Boxing Manager™2.
The franchise's next iteration will be adding more features such as a story mode with branching narrative choices and multiple endings. If you're a skill buff, extensive skill trees and deep statistics will keep you occupied for hours. The features don’t end with more deadpan humor and goofiness, an improved user interface, and real-time cinematic fights. Recruit and grow your staff, such as physical therapists, trainers, cornermen, and secretaries, to help you in your efforts. That is just scratching the surface of what is to come, and by the time the game comes out, you’d want to channel that inner Rocky Balboa of yours and start shadow-boxing to the tune of Eye of the Tiger! In the meantime, add the game to your Steam wish list!
YOU MANAGE TO HAVE FUN!
That ends our list of some of the best sports management simulation games in the past few years. The sports sim genre is certainly not for everyone due to the steep learning curve and the amount of patience you need for the entire playthrough. But different strokes for different folks!
There’s undoubtedly fun injected into tycoon and management games, and if you think about it, everyone can use it to learn specific soft skills. Even real-life sports managers and aspiring ones are already using these games with actual scouting and drafting sessions. All these real-world applications show how much video games can be a force for knowledge and learning, and though some people may not agree, it’s not just pure fun and games.
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If you play enough modern titles, you will inevitably, at some point, find yourself numb to the violence that has made itself at home with the most recent games. A dozen AAA releases a year featuring a first-person military shooter or boring open world and a dull protagonist cut from the same piece of thick cardboard as last year can become quite grating as every session seems to blend.
The cure to this grave illness has been indie games for a while now. Gems such as Celeste and Hollow Knight have started to gain legitimate attention and are complete departures from the copy-pasted open-world objectives. In contrast to the mainstream, playing these indies gives you an appreciation for the amount of work small teams put into these games, every interaction and level unique due to the team's personal touches.
However, another growing trend is the increasing difficulty of some seemingly cute and innocent games. These games are undoubtedly masterpieces, but it often feels as if a state of panicked stress has replaced the irritating ubiquity of the yearly franchises as you try to make a dozen pixel-perfect movements in a row during late Celeste levels. Both of these types of games have a place in the industry; however, there is room for a different kind of game; a more slow-paced experience.
Many people believe that these are casual, easy games, but that isn’t the case. Management sims are an excellent opportunity for the player to explore slow and deliberate thinking instead of the twitchy reactions that come with most games.
These titles give the player opportunity for creativity, spatial and logical reasoning, and much more. For most people, these are not skills tested consistently. There is also tremendous satisfaction in completing a project within a management game. Automating a section of my Factorio factory is far more satisfying than leaving behind another room of lifeless ragdolls in a shooter, even if the moment-to-moment gameplay is not as explicitly “fun.” There is also an essential distinction between management games and management in games. You’d be surprised to see how many titles have little touches of spatial puzzling to make the action seem less mindless.
Management in Traditional Games
The Witcher 3 has several inventory menus. You can customize protagonist Geralt’s armor, weapons, and other gear, as well as his horse’s armor. You can craft potions using ingredients found in the game world, each with a unique effect. Taking too many potions can cause damage from alcohol poisoning. You can also slot upgrades known as “mutagens” into limited inventory spaces to improve Geralt’s skills further.
Certain materials are worth selling instead of using, but determining which is at the player's discretion. These mechanics are examples of management that optimize Geralt by giving him minor advantages over opponents in the open world. You can almost consider them two different games; one takes place in the inventory menus to improve the other in the open world. Next time you notice a game with some mechanic inspired by management sims, take note. The Witcher 3 is far from unique in this strategy, but it requires another level of commitment to creating a game that exclusively revolves around management.
City Builder games might be the first subgenre you think of within management games. This subgenre has two different types: casual or survival. Casual games, such as Cities: Skyline, have the sole goal of placing buildings and other infrastructure until you’ve gone from a small plot of land to a metropolis.
Gain cash by making room for more civilians and make decisions to improve the economy, such as free transportation to reduce traffic or restricting a coastal district to certain types of businesses to improve their output. It’s a low-stress environment for future politicians or anyone who would enjoy seeing the fruits of their labor manifest in a vast city, and you might find hours slip away before you can blink.
Survival games, such as Frostpunk and Surviving Mars, are different beasts. It boils down to a stressful slow-burn that can shave years off of your life as you watch your civilization’s oxygen meter in Surviving Mars deplete with no way to recover it. These games also exist in the Real-Time Strategy genre, with features that tend to overlap.
My favorite of this group is They Are Billions, the post-apocalyptic zombie flavor of the subgenre. This category is usually more about space and resource management. In They are Billions, resource management uses sawmills and quarries to gather resources, barracks to train soldiers, and walls and other defenses to keep the endless hordes at bay. Loads of other buildings such as farms, inns, warehouses, and research centers affect your progress.
The less compact your territory is, the more you need to invest in new resources to keep it sustainable. It’s more about functionality than appearance in this case, as one ill-defended corner of your settlement can topple hours of progress in seconds. If you want a chance of making it to the end, you’ll need to plan ahead of the threat. In contrast to more casual experiences, every second can feel like an hour as you run through the countless possibilities that stem from placing a building in the wrong spot.
Online Management Games
The Civilization games are the quintessential online management game. You’re duking it out with other players, representing a different historical nation. Negotiation, deception, and simultaneous economic and physical power over your opponent are essential.
Joining the Civilization games are Anno and Age of Empires. They are perfect for history buffs, as fighting a human is often more exciting than a predictable computer.
You have tycoon and business management games on the less morbid side of the genre. You can find a lot of these titles on mobile devices and Steam. Idle Supermarket Tycoon and AdVenture Capitalistare a surprising amount of fun.
On PC, Rollercoaster Tycoonis a classic. These titles are more about optimizing cash. Cookie Clickerhas a straightforward and efficient design, cutting out everything but the essential, and that’s part of its charm. It's like running a business with the bonus of not having to respond to angry customers.
Factory management games like Factorio are about maximum satisfaction. There is a lot more freedom in these games, and you have to get creative so that, with enough skill and effort, you can get the factory to run itself without any of your input.
Factorio, and most other games in the subgenre, are about as much logical thinking and creativity as you can spare. Try them at your own risk; however, I have known more than one friend to lose weeks to these games once they got sucked in.
Sports also have a place with management sims. Football Manager,Pro Cycling Manager, and more are popular due to the built-in interest of each sport, so getting the player’s attention isn’t difficult. World Championship Boxing Manager is a classic in this subgenre, as you spend time managing boxers in how they train, when they rest, and when they fight.
For its time, this game was a big step away from the arcade-inspired games that dominated sales by allowing the player to see the slow but steady progression of their boxers. Boxing is the perfect sport to adapt to this format, as boxing in real life requires a lot of time, effort, and strategy in training to see results in a real fight.
This slow build to extreme satisfaction defines what makes management games work, and World Championship Boxing Manager™ understands that perfectly. It was revolutionary at the time and, to this day, stands toe to toe with some of the most significant management games. These games focus on individual teams or athletes, giving the player a much more intimate connection to their success than managing a vast city. It’s also worth mentioning World Championship Boxing Manager™ 2, as it will shortly be joining this genre’s roster by reviving what worked in the dated original with modern touch-ups.
The management sim genre is an important one so that players have an opportunity to step away from the endless bullet hell that is modern AAA gaming as a more intelligent alternative. If any of these sound interesting to you, give them a shot, especially if you haven’t dabbled in management games before.
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