snaking and strafe-jumping


Screencap from Team iT‘s movie “DeFrag”. The gaps between the floor elements to be seen in the background could not be crossed without the technique of strafe-jumping. Run done by cyrus.

The currently featured game innovation at GIDb is the first use of snaking in the game F-Zero GX (2003):

Snaking is a technique that takes advantage of the “mini-boost” technique that is popular in many racing games. Basically, the players have to powerslide into a turn, and upon release, gets a slight boost of speed. Now, by applying this technique repeatedly, especially on straightaways, a player can constantly weave back and forth, harvesting constant mini-boosts, and maintaining a speed far higher than normal.

This innovation was important because it added a whole new layer of complexity for top players worldwide. While many people consider snaking to be a form of cheating, Nintendo has confirmed that it was put in the game intentionally. It’s also worth noting that snaking cannot be done effectively without a craft of highly-specific stats, hours of practice, or insane amounts of skill and physical dexterity.

Compare that to strafe-jumping [from Wikipedia]:

Strafe-jumping is a form of trickjump used to increase a player’s speed in computer games based on the Quake engine. The technique is common in QuakeWorld, Quake II and Quake III Arena, and widely accepted as being part of the game. In Half-Life (which uses a heavily-modified Quake game engine) based games, such as Counter-Strike, strafe jumping is viewed by many as being an exploit or as cheating. Several Half-Life mods have introduced changes that limit or prevent strafe jumping along with bunny hopping.

Strafe-jumping requires a very specific combination of mouse and keyboard input. The exact technique involved depends on the game itself; however, most games follow a certain pattern of user actions.

The movements are usually as follows:

1. The player presses the forward key, preparing to make the first jump.

2. Still keeping the forward key pressed, the player jumps, adding either the strafe left or the strafe right key.

3. To gain maximum speed, the player must now move the mouse smoothly (i.e., turn) in the direction of the strafe, while still holding down the two aforementioned keys. This part is called airstrafing, which is responsible for increase in speed during the jump.

4. For successive strafejumps, the player immediately jumps again on landing, swapping the direction of strafe as well as mouse motion.

Done correctly, this will dramatically increase the player’s velocity with successive jumps. The only way to learn this technique is by practice. Sequential strafejumping is mainly a matter of muscle memory, as the maximum angle of mouse motion increases slightly with consecutive jumps.

To understand strafe-jumping in better detail, watch demos of pro strafe-jumpers at low timescales (<.5).

In respect to the ethnography of gaming culture there are some interesting points contained in this issues. As I stated earlier, I take game-related accounts at Wikipedia, or now at the GIDb, to be emic voices from within gaming culture. The quoted entries on snaking and strafe-jumping clearly are attempts of verbalizing embodied knowledge. But obviously even the specialists reach the limits of the possibilities of description by language, hence the hint to “watch demos of pro strafe-jumpers at low timescales”. Here the qualities the medium computergame is able to offer [specifically ↵demos and slow motion] are used at large to communicate cultural knowledge.

And I insist that trickjumping and speedruns are instances of the cultural appropriation of gamespace. This practice even cumulates to exploration of and research into gamespace from the gamers’ side. Take e.g. the article Zigzagging through a strange universe by Anthony Bailey, which has a twofold goal:

The motivating one is to explain some techniques that QdQ [the Quake-done-quick speedrunner collective] have recently discovered for making the Quake-guy run faster than normal without cheating. These techniques depend on a peculiar anomaly in the physics implemented by the Quake engine that came to light in the course of my, er, research. You could see the trick I describe as the Quake version of DooM’s strafe-running.

The second, broader theme is a more general look at anomalies like this one; things that started as bugs, or at least were unexpected by id Software, but which have turned into well-loved features over the course of time.

To my knowledge the possibility of strafe-jumping has been discovered in Quake II (1997) by gamers. Seemingly it was a glitch in the engine’s code, which allowed a ‘physics anomaly’ to appear which could be exploited by gamers. And in the beginning it indeed was seen as an ‘exploit’ or even a ‘cheat’ to prey on those ‘anomalies’. But things changed and a whole subculture arose, condensating around said bundles of practices called trickjumping and speedrunning. And the gamedevelopers reacted: The ‘glitches’ were left in the engine, appeared in other games based on the same engine, and now are deemed to be ‘features’. With ‘snaking’ Nintendo obviously took the same path. Computergames indeed are co-creative media. To back that up, here is a quote from A brief DOOM demo history:

Before DOOM was developed, the great minds at idsoftware had taken notice of the modifiability of their previous games like Wolfenstein3D. When DOOM was released on December 10th 1993, they proved their genius to the world for the first time. The DOOM experience is so configurable that playing possibilities are virtually endless. Out of the box, DOOM allows five skill settings, player speed modification, respawning monsters, fast monsters, IPX 4-player multiplayer, and innumerable ways to play in an unbounded gaming world. Being able to create your own levels, modify the game’s engine, play single-player and multiplayer games, and replay playback demos are the key to DOOM’s longevity.

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