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Recently the topic of flashcards and emulation has been brought up in the Discord chatroom. It's a fast moving chat where messages are quickly buried under walls of text and a lot of older FZC members don't use it, so I think it's much more appropriate to have the discussion here.
Historically, both emulation and flashcards have been strictly forbidden on F-Zero Central. However a significant influx of new players over the last few years come from speedruns.com which allows both. There is frustration over the lack of activity in many of the games which has lead to people calling for them to be unbanned.
Should one or the other, or both be allowed? If yes to either, then what new rules should be put in place to maintain the integrity of the competition?
Thanks to Ben for bringing this to my attention, guessing a lot of you "new" guys don't recognise my name. Well I've been part of the F-Zero community since 2002/3 I was actually the original MFO F-Zero Administrator who was responsible for managing the transfer of the records from the original f-zerocentral.com. I was responsible as well for recruiting the staff team back then (apologies if they've caused you distress).
As someone who doesn't play the game anymore I'm not going to tell you what you can or can't do, you really need to think if adding the inclusion of flashcards, emu's will actually add value to the site. How can you really be certain if people are really being honest with their times.
|Lego is the performance enchancing drug of choice for f-zero players...Stay clean kids and say no to Lego|
these days, even times on normal consoles can be cheated with good video edition. letting flash cart or emulation get in isn't gonna be that different.
i don't see why a flashcart would be that popular though. these things cost like close to $100. a regular cart is far cheaper, unless you're playing the EK or BS F-Zero 2 or Climax.
i guess we can still keep some of the old spirit by only allowing emulators and flash carts up to below top 10. any further than that you'd have to play on console with cart. also, you'd need to show your gameplay often when using emulator and do a livestream often to prove your ability is real and you're not just savestating your way to top 10. you don't need a capture card for streaming emulator so there should be no excuses on that front.
with a flashcart we'd have to watch out for cheats active but the same holds true for regular cart since a gameshark can still be used on normal carts. if we can tell cheats are used or not in a regular cart, the same will hold for a flashcart since the games themselves act the same when played without cheats active. load times between tracks wouldn't affect this site anyway since we only do ILs.
still, it's a good idea to wait until others respond, especially people who are interested in using flash carts and emulation for competing. we're not gonna change rules if this group is insignificant and never does anything meaningful in any game.
|"Patience is useful in any moment"|
Here's my thoughts:
As the one pushing this discussion the most in the discord, I should probably lay out my ideas for why I think both flash carts and emulation should be allowed for runs. My main premise for this stance is that I believe it's the job of a speedrunning community to do the most it can to welcome, support, and allow new runners to participate as best as the community can. For this, in addition to being friendly and tutorial content (of which there is varying amounts; for GX there is plenty and for X there is some, and for the others I'm not so sure), I believe a large part of this this includes allowing runners as many options as possible for running the game as long as they are not granted an inherent advantage, and as such, I believe we should allow runners to run these games through emulator, USB loader, or flash cart all when appropriate.
Before going into detail about what I understand as fair regarding these, I should address the main counterpoint, the concerns for cheating: partially via ROM loading a hacked ROM, and mainly for the concern of TAS in emulator.
I understand that there has been cheating in the past and that's a large part of the reason for the stiff rules. When it comes to ROM loading via USB loader (GX on wii) or flash cart, I believe keeping these banned doesn't even do anything to stop people who actually want to cheat from cheating. For example, let's say someone creates a hacked GX ISO where the vehicles are just a little bit faster, and they USB load this to play the game and they set a course WR. If we allow ROM loading and this person uses their hacked ROM to cheat an unfair time, they would be just as likely to cheat this way even if we didn't allow ROM loading. It's not like they're going to break just 1 rule specifically to cheat, but decide not to cheat if it would be breaking 2 rules instead. Currently there's no way to know for sure if someone is USB loading just from watching - the only way to know is to have video capture from console turn-on, and the next best way is try to measure for unnaturally fast loads that USB loading usually produces. The loads are even accurate when it comes to SNES flash carts; some investigation should be done before allowing n64/GBA flash carts for RTA, which I will explain further in the "what's fair" section later. We would have to rely on staff/community intuition to decide whether or not someone is cheating by looking at the gameplay and seeing if the speed or some other aspect looks unnatural, or by if a new player achieves a very strong time or WR unnaturally quickly. This method for identifying cheaters in any capacity is consistent with the way speedrunning communities for just every other game identify cheaters.
Separating TAS from real-time emulator gameplay is a little bit more difficult as there is no clear definitive sped-up vehicles or much of a load time advantage, so the methods of checking for unnaturally fast improvement/WR or perfect-seeming gameplay by staff/community intuition would have to do for cheating. Currently, the rules against emulation inhibit but don't completely stop TAS cheating - a keen cheater can apply a post-processing video/audio filter that blurs/dulls the video (and interlace it, I guess) to clear the sharpness of emulated video and make it resemble a console signal. While making a convincing console-looking filter would take some work, it's still little work compared to even the amount of effort required for someone to TAS a WR-level run (especially someone relatively new).
The nature of F-Zero games (X and GX in particular) make it very difficult/probably almost impossible for someone new to the game to create a convincing human-possible-looking TAS that beats the world record because of the time requirement to develop the familiarity with the tech. However, someone who has been a part of a game for a long time and is familiar with basic TAS tools could, if they want to, create a TAS WR that is believable and hides the emulator-effects to where it could stand as a WR. JAGG_ZERO is an example of this in X. However, in these situations we kind of have to rely on trusting the players' integrity that they won't cheat. Someone doesn't speedrun a game for 2 or 3+ years to cheat their way to the top, they play for 2 or 3+ years because they love the game. Just as someone who wants to cheat wouldn't be deterred by a couple of small obstacles, I don't believe someone who truly doesn't want to cheat would be enticed to by a lack of obstacles. Someone who could come in and start playing on emulator now wouldn't decide to cheat 2-3+ years down the line of playing the game just because "they can"; the shame of cheating their friends/rivals would probably be too much and the impact of failing to successfully pass off the TAS as RTA (complete banning from FZC and the community) would also probably be too much.
Going back to the main point about why we should allow alternate forms of running - many games have some barrier that makes it harder for new players to start running. A large barrier that affects all the games is the cost and hassle of preparing gameplay for the games, compared to the ease of gameplay on PC - while on PC you just need a decently-powered computer (varying based on game) and an acceptable PC controller/adapter, for an official setup you need the console, the game, a TV, and a video capture method (capture card) for high-level runs. In some cases, these may be difficult to find. In the case of all 3 GBA games, video capture setup is very difficult. As far as I know, the only two ways to capture GBA are using the gamecube GBA player hardware, or using a video-capture hardware-modded original DS. From a quick search just now it appears that a GBA player with startup disc is over $50 in the US. This price goes on top of the price for the gamecube itself. The cost of capture board installation is approximately $90 before shipping. The cost of FZ Climax is very expensive ($80+ from a quick search). I'm not sure if there's any way to play the FZX-EK courses well (via emulation or flash cart), but the cost of a FZX-EK setup to play is extremely expensive ($700-$1000 or so approximately I think). In all game cases, the act of having to buy and ship the game is still a large barrier for people interested in trying the game for the first time.
On the point of "what's fair" in what should be allowed regarding all of these questions, I believe we have some answers for things being fair vs not fair and some questions we still have to investigate before we can answer. I'll write what I know so far regarding these questions and also what I don't know so we can start to have an understanding. The questions here are if the game is time attack/in-game time accurate on console ROM-loading (flash cart/USB loading), if the game is real-time accurate on console ROM-loading, if the game is time attack accurate on emulator, and if the game is real-time accurate on emulator. The question of time attack accuracy is the most important question to answer and is basically if all movement is calculated correclty so that in a low/no lag time attack if the game would play exactly the same/fairly as on official hardware. The question of real-time accuracy primarily is a matter of fairness for RTA speedruns, which are much less common but are still worth discussing. FC means flash cart (& USB loading for GX), EMU means emulator, TA refers to time attack accuracy, and RT refers to real-time accuracy.
F-Zero (SNES): FC TA - accurate; FC RT - accurate, EMU TA - accurate, EMU RT - accurate
F-Zero X: FC TA - untested; FC RT - untested; EMU TA - accurate, EMU RT - INaccurate
F-Zero X EK: I don't know anything about FC-loading or emulating the EK courses.
F-Zero MV: FC TA - untested; FC RT - untested; EMU TA - untested, VBA emulator is considered gameplay-accurate for speedruns; EMU RT - untested, VBA emulator is considered load/lag-INaccurate for speedruns.
F-Zero GX: FC TA - accurate, very tested; FC RT - INaccurate; EMU TA - gameplay-accurate but can be quite laggy, requires disabling sand ocean shimmering to not be unplayably laggy (probably too messy to be fair); EMU RT - INaccurate
Finally, an additional personal reason why this is so important to me is because I probably would have never started speedrunning if the first game that I started running, Kirby Air Ride, didn't allow emulator. While new players can just play in unofficial capacities to try the game and start to run them, banning them from posting their times on the leaderboards/ladders unfortunately sends a cold "we don't really want you" message to new people. I definitely would never want to allow these methods if they gave an advantage, but I think relaxing our rules a little bit to allow easier options as long as they're fair would create a warmer and more-inviting atmosphere for new players.
I won't go into the technical stuff, but I'm one of these old f-zero players, think I started snes back in 2003 or 2004? well before that but only with a friend.
I am on the side that thinks everything should be allowed, as long as the flashcarts are there, and emulation is accurate enough for the game. As some people know I've branched out to the snes and nes side of speedrunning, and 99% of the communities allows flashcarts and emulation. And if it wasn't for that I would not be testing out those waters. And I do plan on eventually getting real hardware and FLASHCART. And as someone that done f-zero snes on both emulator and real hardware can tell you, no one gonna come and brake wr's on emulator, cause having input lag in that game is insane.(and if someone proves me wrong, I will donate during that stream)
For me the question isn't about if this is going to bring in cheaters into the community, cause cheaters will come in here either way, for me this is a question being a welcoming community, and to achieve that, we need, imo, allow flashcarts 100% and emulation where the emulation is accurate enough.
Side story: at the time I started to get into nes speedrunning, 2 others came into it as well, great people. We all used emulation. We all was greeted with awesome support. One of us got flashcart and holds a wr(or more?), the other still at emu, but crushing wr's in a few games, and me, being the lazy person I am, have none(have for snes tho, emu). However working on stuff, and usually helps people when they are trying out new games with new strats and such. These stories would never exist in the current rule-set of f-zero, and that makes me really sad.
So I hope you make the right decision, and MAKE F-ZERO GREAT AGAIN!
|Old and tired... ;p|
Hi all. Can't remember my password so I've made a temp account for this thread.
Basically just going to +1 everything Yazzo said. I'm all for extra activity. Attempts to make the site more inclusive and activity-friendly are fine by me. The points about players marking out their medium of playing and providing proof at higher levels I co-sign especially, though I'm in no great mind to say exactly what should mark the boundaries for such things.
Here are my thoughts:
I am all for allowing flashcarts on the rankings. The thing with flashcarts is that they are indistinguishable from playing a standard game cartridge. You could do a livestream while playing on a Flashcart but it would be completely indistinguishable to viewers it was not the original cart. So, any video proof would pass as if it was done on the original game cart. That means there is no point in banning it.
You could perhaps make the argument that you can run romhacks on flashcarts. This is pretty great for playing a game like F-Zero X Climax on original hardware but you could also do a hack with infinite energy or something similar. To me, this is no difference than running Gameshark on the original cart and any video proof would clear that right up.
Flashcarts are getting popular because they allow every game, no matter how obscure or rare or expensive, to be played on the original hardware with all the accuracy that brings along for the experience. Especially in the case of the rarer F-Zero games like Climax, F-Zero 2 and even the F-Zero X Expansion Kit nowadays, it would allow a wider audience to play them on original hardware and finally compete. The ladders of Climax, F-Zero 2 and the Expansion Kit especially, really suffer from lack of activity so I think this could provide a boost there.
Emulation… now that is another thing altogether in my opinion. I do know for a fact that many other time attack communities like Super Mario Kart, Mario Kart 64 as well as Goldeneye and Perfect Dark really do not allow this. On speedrun.com the rules are quite liberal in this respect. The dangers with emulation is, that it provides many tools for save states, running scripts for inputs and the option to hide the use of those tools as well. Really not something we want in a fair competition!
I do understand that with the age of the F-Zero games at this point, pretty much everyone has a PC that can run emulators to play all of them so that would mean pretty much everyone can compete. I am all for bringing more activity to the ladders. I am very hesitant towards allowing emulators as, also on numerous occasions in this community, people have been abusing emulators already to cheat and try to submit those times as legitimate. It is therefore obvious that not everybody can be trusted with the responsibility of playing fair game with all those tools at an arm's length to cheat.
If we do allow emulators I would only do so if the following conditions are met:
I think protecting top 5 times especially is critical to protecting the ladders. If someone really wanted to cheat with the use of an emulator, the restriction of not being able to enter the top 5 would quickly ruin the fun for them. Ideally, we would have a filter to sort out emulator times from console times in the ladders (similarly to sorting NTSC and PAL) if ladder development ever reaches that point.
Alright, those are my thoughts.
Would it be possible to allow one but not the other? I reckon flash carts would be completely fine, but emulators should still be banned. Like many have said, there are just too many tools that allow people to easily cheat with emulator. At least with a flash cart it is played on an actual console. And if anyone is willing to spend the money on a flash cart, it should show that they are serious about running the games and will most likely not cheat.
Although when it comes to the SNES F-Zero, it seems that emulation has no difference compared to the console version, so we could possilbly be a little lenient with that one?
I don't mind flashcarts or emulators being allowed if all the following is established on FZC:
To start, if allowing emulators/flashcarts, the ladders should be able to sort emulator/flashcart times from console/VC times. This is key.
Next, there is no sense in making it so that a player has to switch to a console/VC if they want to continue to submit times. Making the top 3 or top 10 times console/VC only is arbitrary and unnecessary, it's either all or nothing. However, I understand people who play on console/VC are likely concerned about having the integrity of the ladders compromised (especially top times) by including emulator/flashcart times. My take on this? I say we make it so console/VC times are the "official times" for the ladder. These official times can be the default listing for the ladders when people go to view them. Any other times, (emulator/flashcart) can be deemed "unofficial times." As a website default, the ladder would not list any unofficial times when going to view the ladders. However, the site should include a functionality that allows users to view official times and unofficial times in a combined format if they so choose.
Lastly, World Records can be official times only, i.e. played on a console/VC.
The way I see it, my suggestions: keep things simple; allow newcomers to actively compare their times regardless of format; and still maintain console/VC times as the official standard by which FZC measures times across the entire competition.
|"It's the F-Zero spirit!" -Yazzo|
@edward406: I would also be fine with saying that just WRs need to be set on console/VC. It definitely would be a bit arbitrary to put the limit at top x, and really at the end of the day what matters the most are the WRs if you want to keep the integrity of the competition intact. I'm not so sure though that I like the idea of hiding the unofficial times from the ladders and only showcase official times by default. I imagine that may be a bit discouraging for a new player, which is obviously not what we want to accomplish with these changes. So I think I would personally still prefer having a combined ladder showcased by default to avoid that from happening.
I'm against emulators. The issue of cheating has already been discussed, no one has mentioned legality though. Is that not important? These rankings have existed since the early 2000s, they have a legitimacy and prestige about them that a lot of other sites don't have. I don't want that to change. If we really want to be considered the defacto place on the internet for F-Zero records, it's important we stay clean.
I am unconvinced allowing emulators will make a significant difference to activity. It seems like it's just a few newer members saying they'd submit times on emulator if they were allowed. GX has had a huge surge in activity the last few years from the popularity of players like CGN streaming. Surely the same could happen with most of the other games if people pushed it. Wii, Wii U, 3DS (and SNES Mini soon) offer a means of playing a lot of F-Zero games. Surely most Nintendo fans who have any interest in F-Zero have access to at least one of them?
"... no one has mentioned legality..."
In regards to allowing emulator/flashcart times, I suggested that they be made 'unofficial' times, be it that they are incorporated to the site. To be clear, my understanding is that if a time is unofficial, then it's not legal or to be taken seriously by the ladder.
I'm in agreement with you Mandalore when you say "These rankings have existed since the early 2000s, they have a legitimacy and prestige about them that a lot of other sites don't have. I don't want that to change. If we really want to be considered the defacto place on the internet for F-Zero records, it's important we stay clean." I feel this can still be achieved if we keep the emulator/flashcart submissions separate and unlisted from the official times as a default.
To Yazzo, I understand that keeping unofficial times hidden from the ladder could be discouraging. However, if my suggestions were to be enacted, and despite being unlisted by default, this would be the first time emulator/flashcart users could use FZC's ladder to compare their times to other people's times on the ladder. This alone can still have an appeal to new players.
|"It's the F-Zero spirit!" -Yazzo|
Don't get me wrong, but I do think it's a bit troublesome to say that other communities are not as legit or have as much prestige just because they are allowing emulators and/or flashcarts. IMO it gives the impression that we are better than them, and are standing on some sort of legitimacy-highground -- which I honestly don't really think is the case. Especially since there's no stopping someone from submitting (non-WR) times set on these devices to the site today (or in the past), and because of that I think it can make it seem a bit superior to people saying we are the legitimate or prestigious ones when we can't even prove that to be the case. There are lots of striving communities that are enjoying a higher degree of activity because of their more liberal point-of-view on the matter, and there don't seem to be any problems with it as far as I can tell. They are still well-regarded communities by a lot of people.
I do believe allowing emulators/flashcarts would attract new people to the site, especially for a less popular game-series such as F-Zero. I've already given my reasons as to why I think that is the case in my first post, so I won't go into it again. Thus if the goal really is to try and bring more activity to the site, then I think the decision is an easy one. But if the goal is instead to keep FZC the same, then by all means we should continue as before. But personally I just don't think that's the right decision.
Edward: It might be enough, but if I was that new player that wanted to submit my times to the site, I question if I would feel that welcomed if my times were essentially hidden under the rug. However, I would maybe be okay with my times being listed as "unofficial", as long as they're not hidden. I think that might be the better action to take in this scenario. It would still hopefully attract new people and not discourage them, and also still make it easy to see which times were set on official Nintendo devices and which ones were not -- which hopefully would satisfy those who are worried about the site losing its reputation.
But again, if this is what we need to see happen to also allow emulators/flashcarts, then I am concerned it might take a very long time before someone shows up willing to code these changes into the site. So I still wonder what people think about my idea to allow emulators/flashcarts now, with the requirement of having to list your times accordingly in the comments as a temporary solution, while we in the meantime wait for a proper sorting-function to be a reality. Then we'd already have the data on the times, and it would only be a matter of carrying them over to the new system once we have it set in place.
Most of you new players won't know who I am, but I am probably considered the greatest F-zero player of all time. I first played F-zero in 1805 and have even travelled to the future to compete in the real life version of F-zero (where I finished in a credible 11th place in my debut season). In addition I was briefly world #2 in F-zero MV (MV is regarded the king of F-zero games).
Seems a logical solution would be:
- Allow the use of emulators.
- Reserve the right to demand evidence of a suspicious time and if it is not satisfactory, the player is removed. Simply, any new players posting times near the top (emulator or otherwise) will need proof. We can probably assume that players posting times further down the ladder are not cheating as this would be pointless.
|F-zero MV World Champion
You make a good point with the fact that since we cannot prove the legitimacy of any of our times from the ladder, there really is no way to say our ladder has any prestige/legitimacy. It's hard to deny this truth, and once taking it in fully, I agree that the legitimacy/prestige argument really has no basis.
As long as emulators and flashcarts are just as accurate as the real deal, then I'm in agreement with fully combining all console, flashcart and emulator times on the ladder. Also I am going to change my mind on the idea of listing times as official or unoffical. Rather, a more informative alternative may be for people to just list whether they played on console, emu, or flashcart.
|"It's the F-Zero spirit!" -Yazzo|
I'm going to try and keep this brief.
The worry about cheating is incorrectly tied to emu/console in my opinion. The issue is proof. A screenshot or video is enough proof for console runs as it's difficult (but not impossible) to cheat. However if an emulator run has enough proof to be proven legit, then why reject it? Of course you'd have to go to far greater lengths to legitmize an emu run: livestreaming, full window or even monitor capture, webcam that displays hand movements + on-screen gameplay, a recorded demo / input file of the run, etc. All of these should be considered, but none of it should be explictly required. Basically change the rules to go from "play on console to prove you're legit", to just "prove you're legit", as the console part really isn't the important part.
If emulators are allowed however, there needs to be rules to make sure the competition between emu & console is comparable. Mainly, just make sure the rules don't allow emulator players don't gain advantages by modifying their control setup. For example it could be possible for someone to cheese DTDs by binding the triggers to the scroll wheel. And yea, I believe X should be allowed to emulate along with all the other games (except for GX), assuming that their's no important inaccuracies.
For GX however I'm against emulation even though Dolphin seems accurate enough nowadays. It's just that I'm sure most people don't have a strong enough PC to play the game at fullspeed at all times. While it can assumed a cheater would go for a good enough time that would get noticed / proof-called, but an unintentional advantage like random framedrops could compromise the competition at any skill-level.
Oh, and I believe marking times as unoffical and/or hiding them by default would be pointless. Might as well just not bother if they're going to be hidden away. They should definitely be labeled however. It'll have to be in the comments for now, but hopefully there can be a filter later on in the future.
My only concern about this, is that bad GX NTSC-U ISO that's floating around the internet. It's a bad dump which messes up displaying some custom parts, so who knows what else might be messed up.
If someone's USB loading, then it should be assumed that they can easily extract / upload replays to be verified.
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