Mr. Salamon showing off his prowess at the gym. Could a pin-up calendar with Freddy "Frezy_Man" Andersson be in the works?
Justin "UCPro" Salamon
By "X" and Mike Uyama.
Fairly new to the speedrunning scene, Justin "UCpro" Salamon has already brought us some great speedruns. After finishing the mountain of unbreakability that is Star Fox Adventures, Justin has submitted a New Super Mario Bros. Wii run.
Interviewer questions are in bold.
When and how did you first discover SDA? What made you start speedrunning?
I didn't even know about the concept of speedrunning until December of 2008. I think I randomly came across a few speedrun videos on YouTube and thought it'd be fun to try beating a game as fast as possible. I randomly stumbled upon SDA as well, must have been a Google search after I became interested in speedrunning.
How did you get into gaming in the first place?
I got a SNES when I was like 7. The first game I played was Super Mario World. I was never really a hardcore gamer, more or less just casual. And for the most part, it's been like that my whole life. The best gaming experience for me was when Zelda: Ocarina of Time came out. That game was definitely the highlight of my gaming career (and I know a lot of other people would say the same). That game was just so sick when it came out.
What speedruns do you currently have on SDA? Which run are you most proud of?
Here are my current runs: Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones (single segment and segmented), LostWinds (single segment and segmented), Home Alone, Star Fox Adventures, and the goat-herding mini-game from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. My New Super Mario Bros. Wii segmented run was just verified and accepted. I also have a Tiger Woods disc-golf run patiently waiting in the verification thread. I'm probably most proud of the Star Fox Adventures run because I put a ton of time into it, and it's a very polished run. Looking back on it, there is only about 2 minutes' worth of possible improvements from what I can tell, and most of that would be very difficult to achieve. For a run that's almost 5 hours long, I'd say that's pretty good.
Could goat herding be a new profession?
Only if it pays better than my current job, and I'm going to guess that's a no.
A few of your runs are from requests in the bounty thread. Did you want to run these games, or was it more to do with the bounty?
The first speedrun I started working on was my Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones run, and it was partially because of the $200 bounty. I enjoyed the game and had never done a speedrun before, so I thought it made sense to take a stab at running it. The bounty was for a single-segment run, but I started with a segmented run. Once I finished that, I started working on completing a single-segment run, which became a nightmare. That game is so glitchy and caused so much frustration, but I finally finished a run and collected the bounty.
What runs do we expect to see from you in the future? Are there any existing records you would like to beat?
I'm currently working on a single-segment run for New Super Mario Bros Wii. I'm trying to get sub-26 minutes, but it's tough and giving me fits. I'm also currently doing a practice segmented run of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. When I finish that, I'll do a more polished run and also do single-segment attempts. You'll most likely see a sub-2 hour single-segment run from me by the end of the year. Hopefully, I can get well under 2 hours, but we'll see.
It looks like you are quite a fan of the Prince of Persia series. Did you enjoy the original games and the newest games?
I actually have only played The Sands of Time, Warrior Within, and The Two Thrones. I've never played the original games, but I would love to try them out some time. And, yes, I really enjoy the newer games, especially for speedrunning. Very fun!
What's your favorite aspect of speedrunning? Do you enjoy the planning, discovering glitches, etc.?
Thinking about it, I'd have to say I like all aspects of running. I'm not too great at discovering glitches and sequence breaks but managed to find quite a few in LostWinds. It was really exciting each time I found a new sequence break in that game. When I discovered the "lift trick," it really opened up a ton of possible sequence breaks, and I was soon able to find a way to beat this game in 18 minutes. Running this game was equally as fun because of the motion controls. I will say that it is an absolute thrill when I'm finally about to get a successful segment attempt or complete a good single-segment run, especially if I've had hundreds of unsuccessful attempts. It's a really great feeling to finally have a good result.
What has been the most frustrating moment of your speedrunning career?
Completing the Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones single-segment run was beyond frustrating. Glitchy game, that's all I have to say. It'd be hard for anyone to get me to do another single-segment run of that game. There were a few segments of my Star Fox Adventures run that were frustrating because they ended up being a lot harder than they should have been. A few segments took over 200 attempts to get, but just watching the segment, it doesn't look like it would've taken more than 10 attempts to get.
Have you ever had a run rejected?
Have you ever had a run obsoleted?
I have obsoleted my own segmented LostWinds run. My first accepted run was 21 minutes; my new one is 18 minutes.
Who are your favorite runners? What kind of games do you think make the best runs?
One of the first speedruns I ever watched was Zoid's 1:03 Metroid Prime run. Being new to speedrunning, I was completely blown away that this game could be beaten so fast. All of Zoid's Metroid Prime runs are amazing. I don't really have any favorite runners. I'm a big fan of whoever makes an awesome run. As far as what games make the best runs, I think the best runs are those that I could never personally come close to matching. Going back to Metroid Prime, there is no way I could ever single segment that game in 1:06, not in a million years. I wouldn't even be able to get close to this time, and that's what makes good runs even more impressive to me.
What kind of games do you enjoy running? Do you have a favorite type of game, a favorite console?
I don't really have a particular type of game that I like running. I kind of jump around and try out different games to see how running goes. If I like it, then I'll continue with a serious project. I think I enjoy running games on the Wii the most. I really enjoyed running LostWinds because of the controls. The accuracy you have to have is less about timing and more about having solid physical control at all times. This was also the case in my Tiger Woods disc-golf run. You actually get a little tired after playing that for an hour because of all the constant arm swinging. The amount of physical control you have to have while playing that game is ridiculous, especially because you are trying to go as fast as possible.
Where did you get your nick from?
I originally called myself UCpropick when I signed up for a fantasy football league about 5 years ago. UC stands for where I was going to school, University of Cincinnati, and pro pick stood for picking the PROfessional football players for my team. I then really got into Guitar Hero, and I just carried this name over to Scorehero, where most people started calling me UCpro. So now I just go by UCpro.
What games do you enjoy playing when you're not speedrunning?
I'm a big fan of Nintendo; my favorite games are from the Mario, Metroid, and Zelda series. I also enjoy playing Guitar Hero. I was fairly popular in the Guitar Hero community back when I was playing Guitar Hero: On Tour for the DS. I was the first person to ever FC the entire game. I don't play Guitar Hero as much now that I'm into speedrunning, but I still go back to it from time to time. I also really enjoy the God of War series and the Prince of Persia series. Basically, a lot of the big-name franchises.
What game are you looking forward to this year?
I'm really interested to see how Metroid: Other M turns out. I'm also interested to see and hear more about Zelda: Skyward Sword. Definitely looking forward to that. I'm also curious to see how Disney Epic Mickey turns out; that game could be interesting.
What interests do you have outside of speedrunning and gaming?
I am currently working as a product designer in Arizona. It's a very fun career as I get to be creative and come up with new, innovative ideas every day in a relaxed work environment. I was a scholarship athlete while in college. I was on our school's track and field team from '03-'08 as a thrower. I did the shot put, discus, hammer, and javelin. Right now, most of my time is spent at work or at the gym. I go to the gym about 6 days a week for 2 hours a day. I've spent the last 6 months getting in really good shape. I've lost almost 70 pounds over the last 6 months, and I ran a half marathon this past February. I'm currently training for another half marathon I'll be running in October, and I'm hoping to finish in under 1:50.