SPE­CIAL RE­PORT

How a com­mu­nity is keep­ing a 17-year-old game alive and ac­tive.

PC GAMER (UK) - - CONTENTS - Elasto Ma­nia Richard Moss

It may lack the spec­ta­cle of foot­ball’s great­est stage, but the stars of the World Cup have just as much power to amaze as the likes of Messi, Ney­mar and Ron­aldo. The long-lived share­ware elas­tic mo­tor­cy­cle puz­zler cel­e­brated its seventh World Cup this year with a sched­ule of vir­tual ap­ple con­sump­tion and in­tense höyling – a word mean­ing to play a level end­lessly – spread across 15 events in three months.

It took win­ner Zweq some 150 to 200 hours of play­time, dis­trib­uted across the en­tire tour­na­ment, to rack up the event rank­ings and con­se­quently the points needed to top a field of 138 com­peti­tors. Con­sis­tency was es­sen­tial to find­ing and mas­ter­ing his be­wil­der­ingly-dif­fi­cult ap­ple-col­lect­ing routes. “I tried to play one to three hours ev­ery day, even if I wanted to be some­where else,” he ex­plains. “If you try to pack in a 15-hour play ses­sion just be­fore the event ends, you just don’t get as good re­sults as spread­ing your play­time on ev­ery day.”

Zweq came to the World Cup fresh from a six-month break from Elasto Ma­nia, and while he ranked among the favourites to win, his own ex­pec­ta­tions were mod­est. “That was prob­a­bly the key to my suc­cess,” he re­flects. It made him work harder, more con­sis­tently. And smarter. For the first time in his Elasto Ma­nia ca­reer – after 14 years in the com­mu­nity, 20 years of ob­ses­sion with the game and its pre­de­ces­sor and 20,000 hours or so of es­ti­mated to­tal play­time – Zweq tried de­vel­op­ing his routes with a tool-as­sisted speedrun­ning patch. He couldn’t use it for of­fi­cial at­tempts, but the tool al­lowed him to save his prac­tice runs at any point and re­peat­edly at­tempt the same trick to per­fec­tion, with­out hav­ing to worry about re­do­ing ev­ery­thing that came be­fore it.

It worked a treat. With route-find­ing as­sis­tance from his team­mate, World Cup run­ner-up Zero, with whom he shared ideas and re­plays over a Dis­cord server, Zweq was top of the stand­ings after four events, and he bucked past trends by stay­ing there un­til the end. “I was sur­prised to ac­tu­ally see Zweq pull through and win,” notes co-or­gan­iser Sune ‘Kopaka’ Sørensen. “While he is ar­guably the best player in the world, and has been for many years, he has never made top re­sults in a big cup.” He would al­ways lose mo­ti­va­tion or run out of steam.

Slow and steady

Stamina and mo­ti­va­tion seem to be the big equalis­ers in events like the World Cup. “You’ll al­ways see peo­ple who

give up after a num­ber of events,” Kopaka con­tin­ues, “and see peo­ple who weren’t do­ing good in the start sud­denly be­ing able to com­pete in the top be­cause oth­ers fall off.” Case in point: 11th-placed Kazan was sec­ond when he stopped play­ing after the seventh event, while sev­en­th­placed Mira and eighth-placed pawq each man­aged to make the top five in only three events.

Not ev­ery­one tries to com­pete with the likes of Zweq, Zero and third-placed adi, though. More than just a con­test to crown the best player, the tour­na­ment has an im­por­tant role in main­tain­ing an age­ing com­mu­nity. “These big­ger events bring peo­ple back,” ex­plains co-or­gan­iser Ville J, who fin­ished 19th over­all (he took no part in se­lect­ing lev­els so that he’d be el­i­gi­ble to play). “Peo­ple who never talk any­where in our com­mu­nity, who haven’t been re­ally ac­tive at all.”

After com­pet­ing in all of the pre­vi­ous six World Cups, 28th-placed Tisk was happy just to par­tic­i­pate. With less spare time and ever-tougher com­pe­ti­tion at the top, he says he pre­ferred to sit back and go along for the ride — to play for five hours or so per event and then watch the top re­plays in awe of the va­ri­ety and raw tal­ent on dis­play.

Event 11 de­signer and 23rd-placed 8-ball shares a sim­i­lar sen­ti­ment. He ad­mits to lack­ing the com­mit­ment and per­se­ver­ance to match his top ten am­bi­tions, but he loved see­ing the skill on show else­where – es­pe­cially from Zweq, whose win­ning Event 8 re­play was lauded for the speed and ef­fort­less­ness with which he ex­e­cuted seem­ingly-im­pos­si­ble tricks like clock­work.

Master­class

Event 8 de­signer Ra­mone gushes that he’s seen Zweq’s “per­fect” win­ning re­play “well over” a hun­dred times. “Nor­mally, World Cup wins don’t look that un­flawed,” he ex­plains. Ra­mone went through 118 re­vi­sions of the level, which was an ex­per­i­ment in adapt­ing a ‘first-to-fin­ish’ short-yet-tricky bat­tle-type level for the week-long World Cup event for­mat. But he tried to get it pulled from the com­pe­ti­tion when he saw how hard the prior World Cup events were. He was shocked to see it voted best of the tour­na­ment by the com­mu­nity. He even jokes that maybe peo­ple ac­tu­ally voted for Zweq’s win­ning re­play, rather than the level it­self.

After an ex­hil­a­rat­ing few months, it’s now back to busi­ness as usual for the com­pet­i­tive Elasto Ma­nia scene. That means a con­stant stream of new lev­els for su­per-short 15-minute bat­tle events.

“We have thought that maybe it should be like 2021, be­cause that’s when Elasto Ma­nia turns 20 years old,” Ville J elab­o­rates. “And, of course, it’s four years from now so it would be kind of like the foot­ball World Cup. That might be nice.”

“I tried to play one to three hours ev­ery day, even if I wanted to be some­where else”

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