Glitch hunters are a vital, yet relatively small group of people who assist speedrunners. In addition, they can provide vital information about unused content in video games. In order to bring more awareness, I decided to interview aldelaro5, a user who is involved with glitch hunting for the Paper Mario games.
Why don’t you quickly introduce yourself for our readers:
Hi, I am aldelaro5 and I am mostly a guy who really loves the Paper Mario series to the point where it would be labelled as an obsession. I am also willing to do projects in my free time about the series. For example, I was working once on a Minecraft resources pack about Paper Mario :The Thousand-Year Door (which I shall call it TTYD from now on) and I was also very vocal on supporting Paper Mario as a playable character for Super Smash Bros for Wii U/ 3DS.
One of these projects that I am still doing is as you said, glitch hunting the Paper Mario games. I spent 6-7 months on TTYD before mostly moving to Super Paper Mario which I felt wasn’t tested enough given its potential. Now, I have 1 month spent working on the game and I’m still making progress today. I am very interested in programming and computer science so this is where that passion came for glitch hunting these games. I also am very active on the Super Smash Bros. forum, Smashboards when I was speculating and now mostly being active in social threads where I am known to love Paper Mario.
What made you fall in love with Paper Mario?
The story behind how I learned about the series and how I came to fall in love with it is pretty weird. I only learned about the series around 2012 by watching a twitch streamer named iateyourpie and he was speedrunning the first Paper Mario game. I thought the game looked good, so I played it and I really liked it and this is how I learned about TTYD so I eventually played it too. Playing TTYD was actually how I fell in love with the series: that game is still to this day my favorite game of all time and it blew my mind for various reasons. I would say that I never played a game that I felt catered so much to my interests so this is why it influenced me a lot and is still influencing me today. Eventually, I realised that the whole series was like that, so this is where I fell in love with the series and have played all 4 of the games released so far.
What’s your favorite character and area from the games?
If I had to answer with no restriction, I would simply say that Paper Mario is my favorite character as I just really love his personality, but I guess I should just pick one that is from the series only. I would have to say it’s Cortez because he is my favorite boss of the series and he is probably the coolest and most friendly boss in the series. Francis is my honourable mention because his dialogues were the most hilarious in the series.
For my favorite area, I would say it’s Rogueport from TTYD because I love the music and I found it to be a very detailed hub with interesting NPCs. However, it’s very hard for me to pick one favourite because I think most of them are really good in design and a lot of them are very memorable.
How do you find glitches?
Although, the philosophy on the question may vary from people to people, what most people seem to agree with me is that you would have 2 main ways to find glitches. Either you try to figure out what ISN’T a glitch, or you are insanely lucky. The former is simple: you try to figure out how the game works when it is played the intended way after performing several tests. After gathering information about this, you can eventually piece the information together to find a way to do something that normally would be prevented by the game.
The latter is however ‘just random’ and it might be inefficient to rely on luck, but a lot of major glitches were once found by people that were just very lucky. The best example I can think of is a glitch called “dry storage” from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker which was found by a beginner in speedrunning. This person who found it tried to practice another trick for his run and what happened was that he accidentally did a glitch that was unknown at the time. It turned out to be very major tool in speedrunning since it allowed to swim at absurd distances, which was previously only possible in tool assisted speedruns.
How exactly do you “glitch hunt”?
It varies what people do depending on their preferences and what is available to them. In theory, you would only need the game and a way to at least replicate its normal operation (so a console or an accurate enough emulator will do). In practice however, having just that is very limiting and I did learned this by experience from trying to do tests on TTYD. I realized that I would want to know more information than what the game would give me normally. So, if possible, people will try to use an emulator since it provides extended features such as frame advance and save states to make the testing more convenient.
However, in my opinion, the most useful tool I ever used in glitch hunting and one that is only possible with an emulator is a RAM search. What this program does is it would allow you to search inside the memory of the game and save a list of addresses that would be relevant. Then you can try to change their values to something that wouldn’t be possible by other means. This can allow for much more possibilities such as being able to go at any position in the current map or even something like going at any point in the sequence of the game (so, for instance, going from the beginning of the game to the middle or the end).
What you want mainly is just being able to observe the game reactions to everything. You want to know what would happen if something that would be unthinkable occurred. This can also allow you to figure out why certain glitches work. Essentially, you perform several tests to figure out stuff or make theories about the game and then attempt to break its mechanics afterwards. That is how I would sum up what a glitch hunter does.
Also, it often happens that doing this would reveal unused contents in game. It’s not necessarily what a glitch hunter would want to find first, but it’s only natural to find it. You look so much into the game that it might just become obvious. For example, I recently found a set of unused maps in Super Paper Mario by finding addresses on how to warp to any maps and I had to document how to go to each map. These tests lead that some of these maps were never used in the game normally as there’s no loading zone that lead to them.
What are some things that you need to know for glitch hunting?
The very first thing I would say that is in my opinion required is knowing mainly the game you would glitch hunt. I would say a minimum is to at least beat it and ideally, trying to get all of the extras from the game normally. It is very important because glitch hunting might require you to ask questions that are very deeply related to the mechanics of the game…so I can’t imagine a glitch hunter being effective without playing a lot of the concerned game. Also, liking the game is also important, it might take several hundreds of hours of tests seeing the same game so having a game that you enjoy is essential.
There’s also other stuff that helps, but are in theory optional. Knowing the basic of programming and computer memory can help a lot if you intend to figure out addresses and data in the game. I know a lot of glitch hunters who are also interested in computer science. I don’t think that’s a coincidence, but a person can very well glitch hunt without being able to write programs, but a basic knowledge just helps in research.
Lastly, just be aware that glitch hunting can have its downside too, it can become demotivating to run out of ideas to tests, so being persistent is also a nice quality to have here.
What has been the most interesting exploit that you’ve found?
It would have to be the bookcase jump from TTYD. I actually performed a lot of tests and very little findings in my experience, but this trick is definitely the most major one I found by far.
As weird as it sounds, the reason I found it is entirely by luck. I was told by someone to try it as it was known that the air duct cover has no hotboxes. Therefore, it was possible to access the air duct in a certain way which would have triggered a cut scene and make the sequence advance to the point after that cutscene which would skip almost the entire chapter until the boss.
I was very lucky that I actually remember that day I took hours to replicate it and yet record it to finally get it on Youtube. In the end, I couldn’t upload it so I had someone else do it and they even credited me in the description as being “persistent” which I found quite funny.
Although it took other findings for the glitch to be useful in speedruns, it is major enough so that the current route of the game has this glitch incorporated. As for why it could be possible, it’s just a bug in how collisions works, and can be observed elsewhere.
However, I am going to mention an out of bounds glitch that I found recently in Super Paper Mario as honourable mention simply because it looks cool, despite not being useful in speedruns.
Can you tell us more about the speedrunning community?
It’s a community that wants to reach a simple goal: play games as fast as possible. This community has a very strong sense of cooperation where pretty much most if not all active members just help each other and have a great time. This is why I got into this community, I was very fascinated by how organized and how this community was very persistent to do any form of progress.
There’s 2 main branch of speedrunning, RTA or real time attack and TAS or tool assisted speedruns. The former is simple, you use a console or a very accurate emulator known to be accurate enough and you simply play like a normal human. TAS is very different, you use tools with an emulator to make the play through in theory possible to playback on a console, but such actions would be impossible for any humans. For example, mashing 30 times per seconds is possible in TAS with frame advance, but humanly, it’s impossible. The goal of TAS is to just show the full potential of games that RTA can’t show. RTA demands an high amount of work, but TAS are very fun to watch in the end.
These two branches often talk each other because they can help where the other branch doesn’t have that much experience. It happens very often that doing a TAS will reveal the finding of a ton of glitches because a TASer has to study their route, they have to go much more deeper than an RTA runner would. However, the RTA runner can have a better idea of how the RNG would feel because they has done a ton of attempts with different RNG which can help TASers figure them out and manipulate them.
As far as glitch hunting is concerned, I feel the process is much closer to a TAS, but a TAS requires a lot more work; so I respect TASers on that matter.
How do you help speedrunners?
By doing what every speedrunners would want: finding ways to save time. It could be saving a single second and people would be happy because speedrunners whether RTAs or TASs will try to get the lowest time possible and that would help the entire route would be optimized. If I find an easy trick that saves just 5 seconds, there would be no reasons to not do it as it saves time. Glitches are accepted and even encouraged in the community because they don’t alter the normal operation of the game which is what speedrunners want.
But I also believe it also helps the people who watch speedruns too. People seem to really find appealing glitches that makes the game completely different than what it was normally intended to be played so it brings more appeal to the runs and more entertainments for their viewers.
Also, even if I don’t find anything, just the fact that I could help find out more about the mechanics of the game would help because someone could be testing with the information I find. The speedrunning community has a strong sense of cooperation so my contribution to this community is helping them in the end.
How do you feel about Sticker Star?
Going to be straight, I don’t like the game and I felt it wasn’t a right direction to take for the series. I already wrote online extensively why, but the short version is I have a hard time to think the game is an RPG which really makes it hard to feel it would be a Paper Mario game. However, it is supposed to be one which raised a lot of questions. Also, I noticed that the game simply felt very rushed on multiple aspect, the game flow being very affected by this. I am aware that Miyamoto made decisions on the game development which changed the game for what eventually became Sticker Star, but in the end, I think it’s mostly a misunderstanding of what people wanted. Intelligent System, from what I understand had very good intentions and the game seemed promising, but I think Nintendo didn’t had appropriate communications with their fans at the time and I feel Sticker Star is just an instance of that.
I do feel however that since then, Nintendo keeps improving, so I am still optimistic for the future of the series.
How do you feel about Paper Jam?
Despite my negative opinion on Sticker Star and this game featuring many (perhaps too much) elements from that game, I am very happy about the game and I am looking forward to playing it on release day. Because after seeing some trailers of the game, I realized that the game would act more as a transition for the Paper Mario series to move away from Sticker Star while at the same time to be another entry in the Mario & Luigi series. I am not really a fan of Mario & Luigi, but having one game featuring Paper Mario and his series sounds like the Paper Mario series has a bright future. Actually, this reminds me that a Paper Jam costume was released recently for Super Mario Maker and this makes me happy because I feel Nintendo just wants to push the Paper Mario series forward after the controversy that was Sticker Star.
I would also say that I really love the personality of Paper Mario from what I have seen, it’s pushed very far and the character just fits him well so I feel that the game goes in the right direction for the Paper Mario series. But what makes it even better is this isn’t even a Paper Mario game. I can’t wait to see if Nintendo will go further now that they gave Paper Mario a name, and now clearly defined what makes both Mario different from each other.
How can people get involved with the glitch hunting/ speedrunning community?
For learning more on RTA speedruns, I recommend checking speedrun.com which is a site that has tons of resources and leader boards on RTA speedruns. You could find forums on the specific games community which you can then learn more about them. For TAS, I recommend TASVideos.org which is really the site that has everything about TAS: from game resources to author comments about their TAS. You can find a tons of informations and this site has an IRC channel and a forum so you can then learn more about them here.
For glitch hunting specifically, I would suggest to simply get in touch with the specific game community, as from my experience, communication is very important when you glitch hunt. This is because you want to be aware of the findings of others and also make the others aware of your findings so it goes smoothly when testing. You can use the forums to get in touch with a real time chat, I realized a lot of communities use chat such as discord to talk about the games they speedrun, this is by the way the case for me and the Paper Mario speedrunning community.
The one advice I can tell if anyone wants to get involved is to pick a game that you will be sure you won’t get bored by playing a lot of it.
Any final comments?
Well, I have to thank you for allowing me to do this interview and I hope I will continue to find glitches for Super Paper Mario, which I recently started to work on. In my opinion, it is a very underestimated game when it comes to glitches potential. I actually am pretty much the most active — if not the only very active glitch hunter on the game currently. I hope my work would motivate other people to come in.