One of the more interesting developments in Super Mario 64 speedrunning has been the use of brute force solvers.
Basically, rather than relying on luck or trial and error to find new glitches to exploit, some of the most dedicated Super Mario 64 speedrunners come at it from the opposite direction.
First, the examine the game’s decompiled source code to identify game-states that might be fruitfully exploited.
Next, they describe, in general terms, what sorts of sequences of inputs might result in the game ending up in that state.
Third, they write a computer program that systematically tries every possible sequence of inputs that fall within those parameters – this is the “brute force” part – and reports on the results.
Finally, they hook that program up to a Nintendo 64 emulator, set it running, and see what happens.
By running many copies of the program in parallel and/or overclocking the emulator, sequences of inputs can be tried many thousands of times faster than a human player; even so, exhausting all possible sequences may take hours, days, or even weeks, depending on what’s being attempted.
Or, to put all that plainly, they put an AI in a time-accelerated simulation and make it spend thousands of years playing Super Mario 64 until it figures out how to break the game in the way they want it to.
I know the joke that we live in the dumbest possible cyberpunk future is old hat at this point, but... well, come on. That’s cyberpunk as hell.
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