Top 8 Projects by Video Game Hobbyists (Who Had Way Too Much Free Time)
Published 2 weeks ago
ITT: Lots of things you didn't know Mario was capable of.
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- Arbitrary Code Execution - Playing Flappy Bird in Super Mario World
- Machine Learning - “Teaching” a Robot to Play Super Mario World
- Building Functioning Computers in Minecraft
- Tool-Assisted Speedruns
- Getting Stars in Mario 64 Without touching any Buttons
- ROM Hacks
- Capture the Flag Competitions
- Console Mods
- Go Be Productive
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If you have parents, they probably think you spend too much time playing video games. Next time your dad tells you to go outside or read a book, just show him this list of insane feats pulled off by video game hobbyists for some perspective.
Arbitrary Code Execution - Playing Flappy Bird in Super Mario World
Some software or hardware (in this case, retro video games) have vulnerabilities that allow an attacker (or hobbyist with nothing better to do) to execute arbitrary commands to a running process.
As you can see from this tool-assisted run of Pokémon Yellow, some pretty interesting things can be done with arbitrary code execution (ACE). Here is the full explanation for the video below.
However, as impressive as the methods used above are, Twitch streamer and YouTuber SethBling took things one step further. As you might expect, code is usually injected into the target process with a computer. SethBling instead uses a series of glitches to inject the source code for Flappy Bird (331 bytes) into the system RAM of Super Mario World. The entire explanation is included in the video below.
SethBling is also well-known for executing a “credits warp” in Super Mario World to attain the (previous) speedrun record for the game.
Machine Learning - “Teaching” a Robot to Play Super Mario World
Simply stated, machine learning is the process of using data and pattern recognition to teach computers without explicitly programming them. This video breaks down how this is done and what is understood about the process:
This process is useful for a large variety of things. As CGP Grey notes, machine learning is responsible for the algorithms that are ubiquitous on the Internet and inseparable from your browsing experience.
Machine learning has also been used by video game hobbyists to teach computers how to play different game. Here we have SethBling again, who created the MarI/O program to play Super Mario World.
As a bonus, here is another YouTuber who used an evolutionary algorithm to teach a program how to play the original Mario Bros.
Building Functioning Computers in Minecraft
Because people spend too much time playing Minecraft, someone was bound to figure out how to make a computer inside of Minecraft eventually. The game includes an element called Redstone that acts as wires and allows you to build circuits and binary logic gates.
This video shows a functioning graphing calculator built in Minecraft:
And also a laptop:
This guy even made his own (albeit simplified) version of Minecraft inside of Minecraft:
A tool-assisted speedrun (TAS) entails feeding a set sequence of controller inputs into a video game to produce gameplay that would be impossible for a human to perform in real time. TAS are most often completed using emulators and tools such as slow motion, frame-by-frame advance, memory watch, and save states. Many TAS also take advantage of glitches in games.
If you have an hour and a half of free time, here is one of Mario 64 as well:
Getting Stars in Mario 64 Without touching any Buttons
Another YouTuber, pannenkoek2012, is well-known for his technical analysis of Super Mario 64 as well as completing levels in the game with self-imposed challenges such as not using the the joystick, “a” button, or any buttons at all for the matter. As with TAS, he also uses tools to accomplish this.
Bowser in the Dark World completed with no joystick:
Snowman’s Big Head completed with no buttons:
Watch Out for Rolling Rocks with only 0.5 presses of the A button:
The detailed explanation for this last video can be seen in the commentated version of the video here.
Links to both of pannenkoek2012’s channels:
Ever since the one true Christian God created ROMs, lowly man has been fiddling with his creation and making ROM hacks. Is it man’s place to do this? That I cannot say, but there is no question that there are some fun and interesting ROM hacks out there.
This series shows you how to hack your very own Super Mario Sunshine ROM. Part 1:
Capture the Flag Competitions
In computer security, capture the flag (CTF) refers to competitions in which participants secure a machine or program against attacks while also conducting their own attacks against opponents. These competitions are intended to give participants experience in defending against and adapting to real-world computer security issues.
CTF challenges are also practiced by video game hobbyists. Websites such as OverTheWire.org, SmashtheStack.org, and Vulnhub.com have tons of challenges for aspiring computer security professionals, 4chan-level hackers, or video game hobbyists.
Pwn Adventure is a series of MMO games developed by Vector 35, a computer security company that also hosts the annual Ghost in the Shellcode CTF competition. The Pwn Adventure series is intentionally vulnerable to hacks in order to allow programmers to get experience learning about flaws in game design.
Let’s Play of Pwn Adventure 3: Pwnie Island:
The first video in this series doesn’t involve much actual hacking. To see that, check out the playlist of the rest of the video series.
Anyone who has ever tried to play a Game Boy, Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Color, or Game Boy Advance, you’ll know that shit is impossible to see. Although thinks like worm lights and Game Boy mechs exist, there’s something about having a backlit screen that’s just objectively better in every way.
Enter: console mods. Although consoles can be modded in a variety of ways, adding backlights to older handhelds is one of the most popular.
Alternatively, old or broken DS systems can be converted into Game Boy Macros:
Of course, there are also console mods that exist not for practical reasons, but to test the limits of what can physically be done with the hardware. The Kill Mii is a Wii that fits inside of an Altoids tin. It’s not perfect, but it works.
Go Be Productive
If you’ve made it to the end of the article, and particularly if you watched the hours of embedded videos, then you also probably have too much time on your hands.
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Louis Cicalese is a person who has written about the hacker known as 4chan, the hacker known as
2channel 5channel, lesser-known search engines, CSS color names, Leeroy Jenkins, hiring Kermit the Frog impersonators and various other topics.
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