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Released in March 2001, Serious Sam marks the FPS debut of Croatian developer Croteam. Featuring an original 3D engine that can render large numbers of creatures on screen at the same time, as well as enormous indoor/outdoor environments, The First Encounter is the first game to feature Sam "Serious" Stone, who is mankind's last hope against the forces of Tah-Um (Notorious Mental). He has been sent back to the times of ancient Egypt using humanity's trump card -- Timelock, a remnant of an extinct civilization from Sirius. Serious Sam brings back the glory days of furious shoot-em-up action and paper-thin storylines, while throwing in a bit of crazy humor!

 

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Tourist difficulty Single-segment: 0:49:15 by Arran Kelf.

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Author's comments:

This run was done using version 1.05.

Originally I started running this without using Fraps to record, since using the built-in demo recorder would enable me to play at 1280x1024 at 60fps, which makes aiming/movement easier for me. After completing a very good run however, I discovered that every multi-level demo I created desynced at the second level, which was rather annoying, so I had to resort to Fraps for this, meaning I had to play at 30fps at 640x480. It wasn't as bad as I thought, and I came close to beating the run I'd captured on demo previously. (I was 45 seconds off that time with this run, which I find impressive considering that it's hard to do long distance aiming at 30fps) Anyhoo here's a list of tricks I used in each level, along with things you might wonder about in the run.

*NOTE* Ignore the very last time screen, it includes end-of-level cutscene times which aren't included.

Thanks to www.ssdq.org, stx-Vile, Kibumbi, TheVoid-, dex|, sarou and Ewil for the various tricks, strategies, shortcuts, routes and just general encouragement, and to AjAX for giving me reason to attempt this run. :P If you have any questions about the run, feel free to contact me via email at arran DOT kelf AT gmail DOT com, on irc.freenode.net in #sda (my name is either ShadowWraith or noeff|ketsuzoku there) or just send me a PM on the forums.

Individual-levels run of Serious skill in 0:52:45:

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Level # - name Time Date Player
1 - Hatshepsut 0:00:33 2007-04-16 Bart 'TheVoid' de Waal
2 - Sand Canyon 0:01:45 2005-04-28 Drew 'stx-Vile' DeVore
3 - Tomb of Ramses 0:01:36 2008-04-23 Bart 'TheVoiid' de Waal
4 - Valley of the Kings 0:04:35 2005-05-14 Drew 'stx-Vile' DeVore
5 - Moon Mountains 0:01:41 2005-05-03 Drew 'stx-Vile' DeVore
6 - Oasis 0:03:25 2005-05-04 Drew 'stx-Vile' DeVore
7 - Dunes 0:00:48 2005-06-02 Drew 'stx-Vile' DeVore
8 - Suburbs 0:01:06 2007-04-12 Bart 'TheVoid' de Waal
9 - Sewers 0:01:38 2005-05-07 Drew 'stx-Vile' DeVore
10 - Metropolis 0:09:18 2005-05-08 Drew 'stx-Vile' DeVore
11 - Alley of the Sphinxes 0:06:16 2005-05-10 Drew 'stx-Vile' DeVore
12 - Karnak 0:07:07 2005-05-11 Drew 'stx-Vile' DeVore
13 - Luxor 0:05:34 2005-05-13 Drew 'stx-Vile' DeVore
14 - Sacred Yards 0:01:24 2007-12-17 Bart 'TheVoid' de Waal
15 - The Great Pyramid 0:05:59 2005-05-13 Drew 'stx-Vile' DeVore

Additional individual levels with large-skip glitches in: 0:06:30:

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Level # - name Time Date Player
2 - Sand Canyon 0:00:35 2013-01-24 'Freezard'
4 - Valley of the Kings 0:01:51 2013-07-25 'Freezard'
5 - Moon Mountains 0:01:05 2013-07-29 'Freezard'
6 - Oasis 0:00:49 2013-01-22 'Freezard'
13 - Luxor 0:02:10 2008-04-12 Bart 'TheVoiid' de Waal

Drew DeVore's comments:

1 - Introduction & Verification

Hello, I'm Drew "stx-Vile" DeVore. You might remember me from such speedrunning bloopers as "Doom/Doom2 Done Nightmare Style" or "The Obscure Appearance in the Skillz Test #4 Reel."

With some awkwardness afforded by that opening, I'm happy to introduce my collection of speedruns for the fast-paced shooter, Serious Sam: The First Encounter. Serious Sam began life in 1996 and was developed for five years by the now-famous Croteam. Gamers were given an unexpected sample of Sam's first adventure in 2000 in the form of a tech demo, showing off expansive indoor and outdoor environments and hordes of enemies thrown at the player at the same time, which has become the Serious Sam calling card. Less than a year after the release of The First Encounter in March 2001, the aptly-named Second Encounter, Sam's next adventure, was released, improving upon the original in many ways but retaining the same successful shoot-em-up formula. Since then, Serious Sam has appeared on many different platforms in many new adventures, and continues to be the source for "serious" action. :)

Sometime after the release of the First Encounter, a forum for potential Sam speedrunners appeared in the form of "Serious Sprint," which was much like Quake's SDA or Doom's Compet-N. Unfortunately it has since disappeared, although some records of its existence are still available at the Files section of www.seriouszone.com. Check out the demos there for some solid walkthroughs of the levels.

Since no real speed records remain, just walkthrough runs with all secrets collected, I tried my hand at some demo recording and eventually completed a set of runs for the entire game. These runs were recorded (using version 1.05) on Serious difficulty from scratch using the Custom Level menu, which I will explain in a bit. These were NOT recorded like a traditional QDQ project, where the stats you have in one level are carried over to the next. All levels were recorded individually as to allow improvements for earlier levels without affecting the rest of the runs. Anyone who wants to try a run like that are welcome to do so. :)

Unfortunately, I don't remember what sort of validation process was implemented in "Serious Sprint," hell I'm not even sure how it's handled for Quake or Doom. However, I've come up with my own measures to assure that these and future runs were done legitimately. First, it should be noted that the tally screen, which normally appears at the end of the level describing the time taken for completion, total kills, secrets found, etc. does NOT appear in the demo playback. However, capturing a screenshot of the tally screen and packaging it with the demo is just as effective.

Why is this method of validation so important? Well, at first I only intended the screenshot as a bonus because of the absense of the tally screen in the demo, but further exploration into the commands in Serious Sam revealed something else. The game allows the action to be slowed down with the following command, taken from ShellSymbols.txt in the Help directory:

gam_fRealTimeFactor:
Realtime factor in game.
<1 = slower
1 = normal
>1 = faster

As I found out, demos recorded in values lower than 1 can be played back at normal speed. I'm not sure how speedrunning admins determine if a demo was played using slowdown, but the screenshot helps verify that it wasn't. On the tally screen, there are values for the time taken to complete a level, say, "06 - Oasis" which is 3:25 and Playing Time, which is 3:31. Playing Time is the cumulative time spent playing the game in a particular session. For legitimate runs, the total Playing Time should only be a couple seconds higher than the time needed to complete the level. I believe it includes the time needed to complete the level, as well as the loading time for the level itself, which for me can be between 5-10 seconds. Anyway, when demos are recorded in slow-motion, the Playing Time for a particular level will appear much higher than the level completion time, which would mean that the game was either played at a very slow realtimefactor, or the player restarted the level multiple times without quitting that particular session, IE pressing fire after dying and being sent to the start of the level. Confusing? Well... I stink at explaining this stuff. In short, please take a screenshot of the tally screen at the end of a run, like I did, if you intend to improve my runs or make your own! :)

2 - Run Mechanics and Rules

Firstly, for those who intend to speedrun the game, I'd like to help by talking about the recording process. The game has an option in the main menu called "Custom Level" which allows you to select any level from the game, provided you completed it in normal play first. Otherwise, only the first level will appear here. When you select a level from this menu, you'll start the level with certain weapons and some ammo for each. The weapons you are given are ones that would have been introduced by that time in a casual run through the game. Weapons that are found on the intended path of a previous level are provided, not ones that were found in secret areas. For example, in level 2, you are given the shotgun, which appeared on the main route of level 1, but not the rocket launcher, which appeared in a secret area in level 1. So, when you select a level from the menu, hit ESC while it's loading, which will bring you to the menu first-thing when it finishes loading. From there, start recording a demo and kick some ass. :P

As far as console commands are concerned, I only used two which proved helpful:

hud_bShowTime = 1 --- Gives you an ingame timer, which is nice for guaging your progress.
hud_bShowMessages = 0 --- Keeps NETRICSA from bugging you about new messages to a degree while playing.

Next, there's a distinction about what tricks I did and did not implement in my runs. For instance, in some maps, you can either use a rocket jump or a monster boost to reach places that were not intended by the level designers. Some things, such as reaching a key early or jumping over a wall, are allowed. Also, running along the outside walls of some large open maps, like Metropolis or Karnak, were also deemed allowed. I had to go to Radix for a ruling on that one. However, there are some instances in the game, such as in Valley of the Kings, where you can actually reach an area outside of the boundries of the level and essentially noclip your way around the map. These types of shortcuts were deemed NOT allowed, and although some can argue otherwise since it's not really cheating if you can reach these areas by normal means, it does maintain some level of sanity regarding the runs. I had to draw the line somewhere to keep the runs from becoming too boring. :)

Finally, the time taken to complete a level is measured from the point that the level begins to where the final cutscene of the level STARTS. For example, in level 1, the time was 0:35 when the final cutscene of Sam walking into the darkness begins, which is what shows up on the tally screen. You can easily skip cutscenes that appear only PARTWAY through the level, though... in fact, it's encouraged.

3 - Game Mechanics

The following are some little factoids about certain aspects of the runs:

1. Serious difficulty gives you double the ammo of all other skills besides Tourist. This could be considered an homage to Doom, where Nightmare skill gives you the same benefit.

2. Rocket jumps in Serious Sam provide hardly any horizontal push when compared to games like Quake, so they are mostly used for vertical boosts over walls. The distance you receive depends on how much health you lose, not a damage total of health and armor lost. In short, this means that armor-less players will receive more distance than players with armor. This can affect what kind of jumps are possible, so keep that in mind. Rocket jumps without armor will take away exactly 50 health in Serious skill if the entire blast hits you, so keep that in mind as well. :)

3. Monster pushes, such as getting launched by a werebull, are very hard to control and are hardly ever used intentionally in these runs. It seems like the direction you get launched by a werebull is random.

4. Third-person view is allowed in this game, though first-person is recommended. I only used third-person when I felt like goofing off, or had to run for a long time with nothing going on (Metropolis, again).

5. Sometimes, large battles can be avoided for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's by avoiding the triggers that make them appear, such as walking over a certain area or picking up a certain item, but other times, it's by avoiding killing certain enemies that would originally initiate these battles. I'll explain these are they appear.

6. Lone health pills and armor shards in this game are almost always booby-trapped, so pick them up at your own risk. :P

4 - Onto The Levels!

I'll provide some sort of commentary regarding each of these runs, perhaps recounting some horrible frustrations or giving some insight about possible improvements. I think people like to read these things, anyway. :)

==== Level 01 - Hatshepsut - 0:35 ====

This was the only run where I intentionally used a Kleer for a slight speed boost. They really hurt, so I don't get hung up on it, but since the run was so short, it might have helped optimize the time a bit. Also, is it just me, but does a Kleer seem like the skeleton of a Quake Fiend... large scythes for arms, hooved feet, leaping attack... hrm.

==== Level 02 - Sand Canyon - 1:45 ====

The first trick jump, which uses a Kleer as a step over the gate, is rather tough to stage... it's hard to see in that dark tunnel, so getting the jump immediately made me happy. In the Marsh Hopper (exploding toad) room, killing the headless enemies quickly makes the toads appear faster. The armor for the end run was entirely optional, but requires quite a bit of luck to survive without it. Overall I'm pleased with how this one turned out, despite getting hung up a bit at the very end.

Also, as an aside, I normally let the final cutscene play out completely in these demos, but the slowdown there got so horrible that I cut it short early. I was afraid for the rest of the runs where I would be avoiding large numbers of enemies, hoping the slowdown wouldn't get too bad, but it seems this was the worst case scenario. :)

==== Level 03 - Tomb of Ramses - 1:46 ====

I'm very happy with the way this one turned out. I had two monster boost tricks and both were implemented without much loss of time here. In the tunnel after the secret passageway, with virtually nothing going on, I jump once while running through it. This jump was to avoid a trigger that will close the door in front of you and trap you with an Arachnid and some kamikazes. I discovered this trick by accident and was quite glad, as I was using the kamikazes to painfully jump over the door to get out of the trap, putting me in an unhealthy position for the remainder of the run.

==== Level 04 - Valley of the Kings - 4:35 ====

This was the last run done for the pack, replacing a 4:50 run that I wasn't happy with and eventually couldn't ignore. It's one of the more frustrating runs in the game on the fastest route. In the valley, I don't kill the Gnaar (beartrap teeth creature) or the Werebull, as their deaths will cause many more enemies to appear in their place. I just let them trail behind me as I run for the temple. The Reptiloid (green magic missile caster) has to be killed for the rocket launcher to be appear, which in turn causes the boss to appear when it gets picked up. At this time, the Werebull is still running around trying to get me, and sometimes I can actually get him stuck on the left side of the platform so that he'll eventually stop trying to chase me. This is luck-related though, so I sometimes have to kill him. The boss takes exactly 14 rockets to kill, incidentally.

Inside... I hate that rocket jump to the key. It's easy to miss grabbing the key entirely. This is also the room where you can ghost around the map by rocket jumping on top of the ceiling. I don't do this, though, having made it against the rules. You could fly right to the exit if you wanted, though. :)

Rocket jumping over the wall of darkness... self-explanatory. At the cage trap with the heart, it's possible to avoid getting caught inside, but the door to the next area will not open until the trap has played out. The cage provides protection against the Kleers anyway.

==== Level 05 - Moon Mountains - 1:41 ====

The first secret level of the game. There's not much to explain here, since the run is fairly straightforward. There's two shortcuts that I use here, but both of them actually count towards the secret tally, so there's really nothing that I can take credit for, here. At the very end, I rocket jump over a werebull that spawns in front of you, though this was probably hard to see in the demo. I'm also quite happy with this one.

==== Level 06 - Oasis - 3:25 ====

This is a luck-oriented pain in the ass on the fastest route, since the Bio-Mech that spawns inside the building can keep you from advancing too quickly. I had to cancel out his rocket attack at close range with the tommy gun to make it by. In the boss room, you can rocket jump on top of the outer walls in this room, but that's rather boring. :)

Also, it's worth mentioning that the two health potions that can be found in the boss room are both booby-trapped and cause more toads to appear, which aren't part of the boss meter. The one that appears in the middle of the room partway through the battle is particularly unforgiving...

==== Level 07 - Dunes - 0:48 ====

Special thanks to LarvaExotech, who contacted me sometime after the original demos were posted and revealed to me a trick for finishing this level quite a bit faster than before, making the final battles unnecessary. I assume that he/she is close to the Serious Sam community, as this trick's existence would have been difficult to predict, otherwise. Basically, this run exploits a "thin door" bug whereby the player can initiate the final cutscene of the level through the exit door and end the level early. This is done by taking damage and forcing Sam in the direction of the door, apparently reaching through it briefly to activate the end-level trigger. LE described this trick using a Bio-Mech for the required damage boost, but some rocket splash damage from your own launcher is sufficient. Although some other levels in TFE come close, this is the only level that I know of where it actually works. As a word of caution, for this trick to work, you MUST end the cutscene before it finishes, because you won't end the level if you do. Instead, you'll be returned to Sam's point of view, stuck inside the door, unable to turn, and with a red screen. It's weird, but true, so pressing fire sometime in the final cutscene is necessary to move on to the next level.

That said, the level became much shorter, and so I also felt obligated to implement some time-saving Werebull jumps to cross the desert faster than before. These jumps are rather uncooperative, as you can either take a lot of damage from the hit or no damage at all, and the direction is tough to control. However, for such a short run, I felt it necessary to do so... if just for the practice, since I've found at least one place in The Second Encounter where such a jump is needed because the rocket launcher isn't available yet.

This was a lengthy session, working down the time second by second, and I don't feel like doing it again. It's not that fun, so I hope the result was an enjoyable 48 seconds. :)

==== Level 08 - Suburbs - 1:53 ====

This was the first level where I thought I'd have to slow down and deal with the battles that are scripted by the game, but by choosing which enemies to kill and which ones to ignore, I can make my way through without having to get too hung up by the hordes. In the first half, I briefly retreat to the secret corner until the situation calmed down a bit. I'm normally getting chased by several Reptiloid projectiles, as well as the Werebull, so reaching the door quickly required some sacrifices on my part. In the second half, the screen changes briefly when I hit the two switches that open the way to the sewers. This is the game trying to initiate some small cutscenes showing what the switches do, but it assumes that the player would have cleared the area before hitting the switches. I make those cutscenes as short as possible. :)

==== Level 09 - Sewers - 1:38 ====

I had a hard time seeing the electric fish, so I sometimes couldn't predict exactly where they would appear in the final underwater segment. I only had the general idea of their locations. I don't think I lost any time, though, since I kept moving on the right path as they appeared.

==== Level 10 - Metropolis - 9:18 ====

I'd say this is the run I'm the least satisfied with, as it was rather boring on the shortcut route. As such, I played a run where I got to the end and dealt with the final battles in a manner that wasn't too embarrassing, but didn't spend a lot of time shaving away the seconds. For future improvements, it's possible to be right by the door as it opens, though that greatly depends on some blessing from the Kleer horde.

==== Level 11 - Alley of the Sphinxes - 6:16 ====

Perhaps the first run to use the new Number of the Beast, not that it matters. This run is similar to Dunes, in which I avoid a large portion of the battles by rocket jumping past the segments before the final arena. For each item that is placed in one of the four corners of the last arena, a different set of enemies will appear. I tried to move from each corner of the arena to the next so that some collections of enemies would overlap with each other, but not becoming too overwhelming. A shame that minigun and laser ammo was more limited here.

As I found out, only the largest of the lava golems need to be killed for the final door to open, not any of his offspring. I move towards the door without getting too close to the boss as his melee attack is, not surprisingly, rather painful.

==== Level 12 - Karnak - 7:07 ====

Another run like Metropolis. I demonstrate the trick jump at the start, run off to the end, giggling the entire way (maybe) and then basically do a walkthrough of the final battles of the level. I'm not sure why the rocket jump off of the beheaded soldier's head seemed to get more height, but that was the case here. I got knocked away from the exit door right at the end, so that's one possible improvement.

==== Level 13 - Luxor - 5:34 ====

For this run, I'd like to give credit to someone named Prestige, assuming that was the first person to discover the trick seen here:

http://files.seriouszone.com/download.php?fileid=265

This trick makes the level rather quick like Karnak and Metropolis, but also makes it just a walkthrough of the final battles of the level. I know some people were disappointed by the lack of action in these instances, but it did allow me to speed up the final battle when it was reasonable to do so. In the final arena, you must collect the four Ankhs and place them on the center pedestal to make the final door open. They appear one at a time, and you must place that Ankh before the next one will appear, but at least they'll always appear in the same places.

Also, near the start, I use a seemingly useless RJ over one of the walls to get to a nearby courtyard. This is used to avoid a trigger that would bring in some tough monsters (large lava golems, reptiloids, etc) that would cost even more health and time to dodge, since they will lead their attacks.

==== Level 14 - Sacred Yards - 1:30 ====

The second secret level, and oh dear, another boring run because of the rocket jump possibilities. I didn't spend much time here, but I'm actually happy with the way the final run looks. I guess things go rather smoothly when there isn't much going on, I just got the gold sphinxes and got the hell out. :)

Also, at the start, I pick up that health pill since a rocket jump will cost exactly 50 health without armor... so I'm afforded a second rocket jump without killing myself here.

==== Level 15 - The Great Pyramid - 5:59 ====

I skip the first arena with a double rocket jump right off the bat. Hurray! :)

Reaching the ramp of the great pyramid will initiate the countdown on the door, so doing that as quickly as possible is the idea here. Afterwards, I'm free to defend myself in any way I choose, all while shooting cannonballs clear across the landscape at the boss in the distance. The final battle could be a potential luckfest, since even if you go through the four hoops as fast as possible to zap the boss, he won't always be in the right position at the end. Sometimes he'll stay in place and use his weapons multiple times so the blast misses him entirely... grr, annoying I tells ya.

5 - Conclusion

Thanks to everyone on the forum who encouraged me to keep going with these runs and giving me good feedback on my progress. It was my pleasure to entertain you with my antics, assuming it was entertaining, and hope you enjoyed my runs as much as I enjoyed making them. The future, for now, is set to the Second Encounter, where I hope to finish another complete set of speedruns on Serious skill. See you then!

Bart de Waal's comments:

Tomb Of Ramses
In the narrow corridor there is a trigger that TheVoiid jumps over which prevents the door from moving down. After that he walks into a secret teleporter to pick up the Rocket Launcher and perform a pretty difficult rocket jump. This is where the 10 seconds are saved compared to to the previous run, which instead used a Floating Gnaar to get to the upper floor. The Rocket Launcher also comes in handy in the last room, as he easily skips it with a rocket jump instead of having to jump on Kleers. The final walk up the ramp with Kleers chasing you has probably ended a many runs, but he managed to dodge their attacks nicely.

Luxor (Large-skips)
This is basically an OoB version of stx-Vile's run. After getting on top of the perimeter of the level by doing a few nice rocket jumps, TheVoiid eventually runs into an OoB spot which takes him all the way to the exit instead of falling back into the level. This lets you skip the lengthy final arena battle and saves 3 minutes and 24 seconds in total.

Freezard's comments:

Sand Canyons (Large-skips)
Who knew that this level would eventually only take 2 seconds longer to finish than Hatshepsut? Only a single enemy is seen during the level which is a record. Damage boosts are severely increased on Serious difficulty, something I take advantage of to get through a pretty specific spot in the teleporter perimeter, which, unsurprisingly, teleports you back to the level upon touching it. From there on it's all just about running out of bounds to the exit trigger. Since you skip the whole level, this run is 1 minute and 10 seconds faster than stx-Vile's run.

Valley Of The Kings (Large-skips)
This is basically the same trick used in Sand Canyons. Killing the Gnaar spawns the Kamikaze, so you have to time it right, but the actual boost is easy. This level is really long and painful when played normally. Even with the large skips used in stx-Vile's run, going OoB saves 2 minutes and 21 seconds.

Moon Mountains (Large-skips)
There is a secret armor around the fourth platform that is catapulted up when the minigun ammo is grabbed. I found out that there's actually an invisible jump pad that catapults it, so by holding jump when landing on it you get thrown really high into the air while still able to control the direction. How fitting that you can then simply jump out of bounds, no teleporter fields and all, since the developers obviously thought no one could ever get up there. This shortcut saves 36 seconds.

Oasis (Large-skips)
Inside the secret cave (the classic and oh so secret behind-the-waterfall-secret) there's a teleporter field that saves me a lot of running by taking me closer to the entrance. Thankfully I don't have to worry much about the Adult Arachnid this way either. When looking in the map editor, I found a very small spot that is not covered by the teleporter perimeter, and as you can see I'm rocket jumping right into it. This took many, many attempts since you have to slide in a certain way to get through the field, but saves a massive 2 minutes and 36 seconds due to the timed Marsh Hopper fight normally encountered.

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