Today will surely go down in the annals of Super Mario 64 speedrunning. No new records were set and most probably haven’t heard of any of the people involved, but two seeds were planted today that will blossom into a future that was unimaginable even this morning.
To understand today, you have to understand the star “The Big House in the Sky” in Rainbow Ride, one of the final stages of the game. Not only is this one of the longest stars in the game, it’s one of the most frustrating because much of that time is spent waiting on a slow-moving magic carpet that takes something like a minute to complete. While there was a theory of how to get the star without the carpet (so called “carpetless” stragegy), it required a long and complex series of frame-perfect inputs combined with incredibly precise analogue inputs. The run already has plenty of frame-perfect tricks, but carpetless has always been a mile beyond the rest. It’s at the end of the run, it requires a string of perfection, and there is no feasible recovery if you mess it up. Even as the rest of the game was getting optimized and shortened, this star’s time requirement stubbornly hasn’t budged, even for top runners.
Dedicated people had programmed tool-assisted speedruns of carpetless for years, but it was always understood to be outside the relm of human ability. Until a few years ago, when a japanese runner named Xiah completed the first known successful carpetless in a single-level run (without save states). This was certainly an astonishing feet, but top SM64 runners were unanimous: the trick was too inconsistent to attempt at the end of a long run. One person doing something once doesn’t mean that even the best can do it even one time in a hundred. Still, viewers requested “carpetless” in a “Freebird”-esque meme with enough frequency that top runner roll their eyes and ignore those messages. People would edit the TAS footage of carpetless over videos of grandparents struggling with controlers. Carpetless was relegated to the stuff of common internet tomfoolery, not serious implementation into full game human speedruns. Over the next few years, a few more people started hitting the trick (VERY INFREQUENTLY) and shaved some time off the human carpetless record. This is akin to Usian Bolt setting a new 100m dash record—it has absolutely no bearing on or implication for marathon times. Same arena, sure, but basically different sports.
And then. Earlier today, a top SM64 runner Parsee was on a run that was 10 minutes behind his personal best. It’s a dead run, pining for the fjords. On a whim, as a joke, for the meme, he decided to go for carpetless. After all, who cares if you waste another minute or two at that point? Well, as you can probably guess, Parsee hit carpetless in a real 120 star run. This is apparently the first time anyone has done that, certainly the first time for a top runner (Parsee, though not especially well known in the west, currently ranks 6th, directly ahead of longtime legends Puncayshun, Simply, and Batora, all of whom have held the record and competed at the top level for years).
Hitting carpetless was not enough to save Parsee’s run, but it captured imaginations. Carpetless, in a real run? Maybe carpetless was like every other speedrunning “impossibility” before, aka “inevitable.” But still, distant. Right?
I saw Parsee’s feat earlier today and kept stopping to marvel at the feat as I went about a busy day. I thought we’d eventually see this happen, but I didn’t think it would happen so soon. I figured we’d have to wait for the game to get a bit more optimized elsewhere and people (kids) to have more time to screw around with this silly stunt.
I was not surprised, then, to see a bunch of carpetless memes from the SM64 runners I follow. It’s maybe not as important as Rosh Hosanna, but it’s a big day worth celebrating. Upon closer inspection of the memes, it became clear this was more than just a celebration of Parsee’s accomplishment. No, these runners were sharing a new setup for carpetless. Found by the TASer (tool-assisted speedrunner, aka person who programs inputs frame by frame in a special emulator) Krithalith, this new carpetless cuts out several of the frame-perfect inputs and seems to simplifies the trick overall. We’ll have to give top runners a few days (at least) to mess around with this to see for sure, but if this new setup is in fact easier for humans, this could take it from a trick that fails 99.999% of the time to something that fails 90% of the time and who knows maybe even lower with practice (I’m making those number up, but they’re roughly in the ball park enough to give you the right idea).
It’s too early to say what exactly will happen or what exactly the impact of these two developments will be. Maybe it’s not actually easier, or maybe there’s something else down the line that will supplant this, but it’s definitely another step in the process of implementing carpetless into runs. Plenty of now stock-standard tricks started from little more than idle speculation and dedicated TASing. Maybe no one will hit carpetless in a run again for a long time.
But today, I’m convinced of two things. Someone’s going to hit some version of carpetless in a world record run one day. And when they do, the person writing the history of that day is going to look back to this day.
Speedrunning totally owns, dude.