We would like to express our special thanks to Indiethon for letting us use footage from their marathons for this edition of Beyond the Board!
Floha258: Alright, hello everyone, and welcome back to Beyond the Board, our series where we chat with bingo runners about how they got to their bingo games and how the bingo is made up, et cetera.
Today we’ve got a very special episode. We’re talking about Fez today and first of all, I would say why don’t we let our two runners introduce themselves, because I couldn’t pronounce their names anyways!
thearst3rd: Yes, I’ll start! Hello, I am thearst3rd, Fez runner, and I’m one of the two people who made the Fez Bingo. The other person is…
Jokertyf: Hi, I’m Jokertyf, currently #3 on the Fez Any% leaderboard. My friend thearst3rd here is #1 and I was the… I guess, could you call me the main programmer of Fez bingo?
thearst3rd: Yeah, I’d say that’s reasonable.
Floha258: Fez is a game that’s not really known to the majority of people, so maybe you could describe the game a little bit to us. Like, what is Fez?
Jokertyf & thearst3rd: Sure!
Jokertyf: I’ll start I guess.
thearst3rd: Yeah, go for it.
Jokertyf: So Fez was created about 10 years ago by Phil Fish, and Renaud Bédard was the programmer, and it’s a 2D slash 3D platformer… So in the game you are playing as if it’s a 2D platformer but you can press the trigger buttons on your controller to sort of rotate the world and change your perspective, and that is the basis for all the mechanics and the puzzles and stuff like that.
thearst3rd: Yep, that’s basically that. The idea is that the world is a 3D world, but at any given point your camera makes it look like a 2D world, and so there’s ideas like, for example, if there’s two platforms that are very far apart in 3D, but then when you rotate the world, they look like they’re right next to each other, you can walk from one platform directly to the other.
Fez’s mix of 2D and 3D makes it a unique game that stands out still after all these years – a perfect candidate for bingo! Screenshot from Indiethon 2022
So that’s the kind of mechanic, the kind of gameplay that Fez provides with the 2D/3D aspect.
Floha258: Oh, very interesting. So, how did you guys discover Fez and how did you guys get into Fez speedrunning?
Jokertyf: I don’t even remember how I discovered Fez in the first place, but I remember playing it on my first PC probably close to when it came out. And it wasn’t until college where I introduced this game to thearst3rd and that got him to play it, and then he was the one who introduced me to the speedrun. I don’t know if you want to explain more about that, thearst3rd?
thearst3rd: Yeah, and I will say I did technically play this game also back when it came out – one of my friends had it and I played it on his computer. I didn’t get very far, I was not the smartest, but I played the game way back then. I thought, “Man, that’s really fun, maybe one day I’ll actually buy the game and own it.” And then in 2019, it went free on the Epic Game store, that’s when I got it. And yeah, Jokertyf had already played it and was able to assist me with some of the puzzles. This game has some really, really hard puzzles, especially towards the end.
Jokertyf: There’s one puzzle that is actually still unsolved as of now.
thearst3rd: Yep, bit of a spoiler I guess! But yeah, there’s a puzzle that to this day we don’t know why the solution is the solution, but we brute-forced it. By “we” I mean the community brute force we did way back when the game came out.
Floha258: Oh, interesting. Well, let’s get into that maybe a little bit later on. So, you’ve kind of hinted at it already, but what is your favourite aspect of Fez and why?
thearst3rd: …That’s hard! [Laughs] Uh, I can’t say personally that I have a favourite aspect. I know I have some aspects that I absolutely love. One of them is the soundtrack, I think even Phil Fish, the guy who designed the game, I think he even said one of the best parts of the game is the soundtrack, maybe even the best part. It’s really good.
Jokertyf: Yeah, Disasterpeace did a great job on that one.
thearst3rd: Yeah, it’s so good.
Jokertyf: For me, I think one of my favourite aspects is just… It’s hard to quantify, but it’s about the amount of life in various areas in the game, and it sounds really abstract, but for example, all over the place you will see little 2D critters walking around in the environment and just little things like that, because otherwise it’s a pretty desolate game, there’s only a handful of people outside of the original village that you can even talk to, and that’s only in one area. And so this whole time you’re just a lone traveller kind of walking along these landscapes that have been abandoned for years, but you can see kind of nature has reclaimed it, it’s like, “Oh, there’s a squirrel over there!” or something like that, and I think that’s a really underrated aspect of the overall aesthetic of the game.
Floha258: Now, we’re talking about bingo today. And the big question here would probably be, what has inspired you guys to make a Fez bingo?
thearst3rd: Yeah, so I think I had the original idea to do the bingo and I was watching… I will say I haven’t watched too many of the Bingothons or anything, so I don’t wanna disappoint you, Floha!
thearst3rd: But it was actually at Indiethon that I just happened to be in, it was my first marathon that I joined, and there was a Hollow Knight bingo. And well, I ran Fez at that first Indiethon, and I’m like, “Oh, is there a way I could make Fez work with bingo?”. The idea that I thought was, well so Fez, the main sort of goal of the game is, there’s collectibles, right? There are basically 64 collectibles, 64 cubes that you want to get, and all of them either require you to platform to get them or to solve puzzles to get them. And I thought, OK, well, there’s 64 of them, maybe that could be enough to be a bingo, one for each cube. For some of them, it doesn’t necessarily make sense. But combined with some other things like “Visit this amount of areas,” “Do this amount of actions”…
In my original attempt at making one, I didn’t come up with enough things, so I kind of put it on the backburner, and then Jokertyf was the one who really said, you know, I think this can work, and spearheaded the idea by making a much more thorough set of goals than I did, so I’ll let him talk about how he sort of got started with it.
Jokertyf: Yeah, so I was always aware that bingo existed. In the past, I’ve watched [The Legend of Zelda:] Ocarina of Time bingos that people have done, and I was like, “This is a cool concept for a game,” because one of the things I like about it is that it forces you to make routing decisions on the fly. It tests your visualisation skills as well as just pure execution, right?
So one of the things about Fez is that yes, there are 32 golden cubes and there are 32 anti-cubes. However, a lot of those golden cubes come in the form of cube bits, which are pretty impossible to track. At least having a goal for “Collect these eight specific bits” would just be a nightmare I think, so one of the things that I thought of was, how can we drill down and kind of make more goals from thin air, so to speak? One of the things that I did was I started doing categories of cubes. For example, there are these things in the game called obelisks. There are four of them. And each one gives you an anti-cube. So in addition to saying, you know, get this specific obelisk or get this specific obelisk… Those can be goals, but also a goal can be maybe, “Collect any two or any three, or perhaps even collect all four”. And so adding goals like that, and then also keeping in mind things like artefacts and maps, and heart pieces, there’s like other collectibles that you don’t really think about in a normal speedrun. That made it so we could get enough goals to make bingo replayable and have lots of replay value.
Floha258: OK, something that interests me now is, you’ve talked about cubes and anti-cubes. What’s the difference?
thearst3rd: Yeah, so basically the difference is, cubes, or golden cubes as we’ll sometimes call them, you usually get them by solving platforming challenges. You’ll just find those around the world – if you just sort of explore everywhere, you’ll pretty much find them all. Except there are some that are relatively hidden.
But the anti-cubes are all pretty much hidden behind some sort of puzzle, right? You might not know that they’re there, you might have to enter in a secret code to spawn it, you might have to solve a puzzle to open a door, and then behind the door there will be an anti-cube.
In terms of the game completion, you need to find 32 cubes (it doesn’t matter if they’re golden cubes or anti-cubes) to beat the game. And of course if you want 100%, you want to find them all. But by making a distinction between the golden cubes and the anti-cubes for the bingo, we can make it more interesting.
Collectibles were one of the starting points to make Fez bingo… But of course, there ended up being more to it! Screenshot from Indiethon 2022
Floha258: So the anti-cubes are basically like secrets.
thearst3rd: Yep, basically.
Jokertyf: And that actually brings up in an interesting thing that one of the rules for this bingo is that if we made it so that to complete the bingo you had to enter the 32 cube door and go to the moon and do that whole sequence to end the run, then it would kind of, I don’t know, negate, but it would make a lot of the goals, like you would need to get them anyway to get 32 cubes. And so by removing that requirement and having the run end as soon as you finish the five goals, we make it more interesting for routing.
Floha258: We’ve talked a lot about the bingo already, but what is it in particular that, or, if you had to point out one thing, what makes Fez bingos fun?
thearst3rd: So here’s my answer to that, and this is the thing that I came up with when we were doing our first runs, which is the fact that for the first time I had to think of routing on the fly. So Fez is… It’s like an open world game, right? It’s sort of got branching paths that… I wouldn’t actually say it’s open world, but it’s got branching paths, so you start and then there’s multiple different ways you can go. And there are shortcuts that can take you from one path to another path if you’ve been to both paths before. So it’s like once you’ve been to another area, you can take a shortcut to another area you’ve already been in. And so, needing to come up with routing on the fly and using your game knowledge about where the shortcut doors are, how many cubes are in what areas, it really makes you think at the start of what your route is going to be. Because there’s no “oh, let’s quit to the menu and then let’s go to another level” or something like in some games where you can do that, you can just quit to the menu and then pop up anywhere in the game. But in Fez you can only teleport using central hubs that let you teleport to the other central hubs. But even so, it can take a while just to get to the nearest central hub. The amount of routing that you have to do on the fly, it has just made it so interesting compared to doing another speedrun, where you have all the routes beforehand, you just know the best route.
Jokertyf: For me at least, one of the reasons that made this fun is because if I were to do like a normal Any% race with thearst3rd, I’d get creamed every single time just because, you know, his level of execution is just better than mine. Bingo allows us to play together in a way that it’s not a 100%, you know… It’s not just your execution, like thearst3rd said, it’s also the routing that you need to make decisions about. And so that allows it to be a little bit of a more level-playing field I think. I think even Wilko_314, the former world record holder and probably the person with the best technical execution in Fez speedrunning… I could maybe take a round off of Willo in Fez bingo, just because of the routing decisions. I mean, I’m not challenging him or anything, but I think it would be cool.
Floha258: Oooh, this is where you heard it first – is this the challenge?
thearst3rd: Honestly, yeah, I’d love to do some bingo with Wilko_314. I think we told him about it, he said that maybe we could do something in the summer, but now the summer is kind of on the way out, so hopefully we’ll find some time to do stuff.
Floha258: Alright, so is there anything special or unique about Fez which makes it stand out among other games, especially speedrunning-wise?
thearst3rd: I can’t think of too many things that it has that other games don’t have, but a lot of things that other games have like, “oh cool movement tech,” or “you can use glitches to get past levels in unintended ways.” I think Fez has some really cool instances of that in places where you can abuse the idea that the world is actually 3D, but when you view it from a 2D perspective, it kind of flattens the level. By cleverly abusing rotations, you can skip levels in some pretty flashy ways. There’s some pretty cool skips and tricks that you can do that look really cool for a viewer and also feel really cool to perform when you get them.
Jokertyf: Yeah, one of the things for me that brought me to Fez speedrunning in general, and maybe not just for bingo, is that it’s pretty accessible, you don’t need any advanced movement tech. And by that I mean like Reverse Corner Jumps and stuff like that. You don’t need any of that to get a pretty decent time. I think that makes it so that people who aren’t super good at technical execution still get pretty decent times, and I think that was what made me actually speedrun this game.
This is the first game I ever speedran. A while ago I tried to learn Celeste, but when I realised just how much effort I would need to put in to get even a decent time, I got kind of discouraged. And another thing about Fez is that the Any% run is pretty short, too, it’s less than half an hour if you’re a decent runner. So those two facts just made it more accessible and just maybe want to keep trying. Whereas if each run was like an hour and a half, I would probably have gotten discouraged and maybe stopped, but…
Floha258: Following up on that… You’ve already said that there are some neat little tricks to skip parts of the levels, so are there any tricks or glitches that are not often seen in normal speedruns or that are perhaps even unique to the bingo?
thearst3rd: Glitches unique to bingo…
Jokertyf: I know, at least for Any%… In bingo you usually go to areas that you don’t even see in the Any% route. In the Any% route, you go to the Nature Hub and you go to the Zu Hub and those are the only two you go to. And there are 5 hubs in total, so any speedrunning trick that exists in the other three hubs that aren’t in Any%, and there’s a few of them, one devious one in Sewers especially, those tricks are… you would see them in bingo, but not in Any%. I mean, granted those tricks exist in the Full Completion runs… So in that respect, I don’t think there’s anything that’s truly unique to bingo, but you do get to see tricks that you don’t see in a normal Any% run.
thearst3rd: Yeah, that’s about it. That covers it.
Bingo is a great opportunity to get yourself more familiar with areas of the game you may have forgotten about by focusing on categories that don’t explore the game to its fullest! Screenshot from Indiethon 2022
Floha258: Let’s move on and talk a little bit about the bingo card itself. What do you think is a fun and engaging goal? And what is a goal that you are not so fond of, that might even need some rebalancing or some other sort of, I don’t know, modification?
thearst3rd: So I can tell you, anytime I see the goal, “Collect the rising lava cube,” I’m like, ugh, I don’t want to do that one. [Laughs] We’ve been trying to tweak the difficulty curves of each objective and for us difficulty kind of means distance from the start of the game. So from the very start of the game, if you have to go into one area, collect a bunch of keys, go to another hub area, collect more keys, go to the third area, and then do one that’s like a several minute long ride, that gets a really high difficulty.
Jokertyf: That one, and the Owl Room Anti. Those are both goals that… you will see a row or column that looks just like, “Oh man, all these goals are so easy.” And then the fifth one is, you know, either “Collect the rising lava anti-cube” or “Get the owl room anti-cube” and both of those just take forever. But I mean, that’s the point, right? All the groups are supposed to be around the same difficulty, so if you have one of those, then all the other four are supposed to be super easy.
thearst3rd: Yeah, we’re always looking for things to balance as we play. I can’t say I know any that need balancing right now… I guess if I knew one that needed balancing, I would say we’d go fix it, right? But there are definitely goals that are, by design, harder than a lot of other goals.
And by the way, the thing that makes the Owl goal so tricky [is that] there are 4 owls in the game and they only come out at night: There’s a day-night cycle that’s about like 5 minutes. So you gotta be really careful when you’re playing, you gotta make sure that you get to where the owls are when it’s nighttime, otherwise you might have to wait for 5 minutes. That’s what makes that goal really hard.
Jokertyf: One of the things that we had to balance recently was… We had this category of goal that I thought was really interesting, and it all had to do with stuff you would mark as complete at the end of the run. So for example, one of these is, “At the end of the run have 6 bits” or something like that. And so sometimes it’s very easy, like if you have 5 bits, all you’ve got to do is to collect one more. But if you have 7 bits, that means you’ve got to collect seven more bits, right? So that kind of thing. If you route correctly, then of course, you know, it’s easy. But we had issues where goals like that would be in the same row or column, and so if you planned it out right, you could go through the game and mark maybe like three goals. And then at the end you’d have the remaining 2 already done.
For example, another one of those ending goals is, “At the end of the game, have the same number of golden cubes and anti-cubes in your inventory.” And so if you collected your third goal out of five, and the last two were “Have an even number of cubes and anti-cubes” and “Have a certain number of bits,” and both of those requirements were fulfilled when you collected your third goal, you’d win instantly. And so that was one of the things we had to balance. What we did was we made it so that you couldn’t have more than one of those in a single group, and that fixed it pretty much.
Floha258: Since we’re already talking about fun goals, are there any particular favourite goals that you guys have?
thearst3rd: Is there still one in there that’s, “Make it to the top of the Village without collecting any bits”? I thought that was a fun one, but I think we got rid of it.
Jokertyf: Yeah, I think we did get rid of that one just because it ended up being a goal that you could fail, and I didn’t like the idea of having a goal that you could fail and not ever complete.
thearst3rd: Get permanently locked out of… yeah, no, I agree.
Floha258: Yeah, that’s fair.
thearst3rd: Favourite goal? Let me bring up the list ’cause I feel like if I looked at all of them, I might see one that I like.
Jokertyf: Yeah, we should open this up.
thearst3rd: I can’t say that there’s any individual goal that when I see it, I’m like, “Yes, that’s a good one.” Well, obviously there’s the super easy ones that make me happy to see them because they’re easy, that doesn’t actually mean they’re my favourite, like the “Collect some of the first puzzle cubes in the game.” You just do those immediately.
Jokertyf: Yeah, like the “achievement code” goal.
thearst3rd: That, yeah, the achievement code.
Jokertyf: I get that every run regardless just to save time, get the achievement code and then do the death warp immediately after you exit [and go to] the house.
thearst3rd: Exactly. Unfortunately, I can’t say that there’s any one goal that’s like a favourite goal.
Jokertyf: I’m a fan of the “Have three or four keys in your inventory at the same time.” I think that’s an interesting goal because it kind of locks you out of doing some other things until you have a certain number and then you can just mark it off and do the other things. For example, to get into sewers you need 2 keys, and so unless you want to collect 6 keys total, which is a lot, you have to get the “Have 4 keys in your inventory” before you even start going there, which I think is interesting in terms of making routing decisions.
Floha258: Speaking of routing decisions… You’re basically chaining right into my next question. When it comes to routing, what are the aspects that people don’t usually think of or tend to forget?
thearst3rd: So I think one of them that I mentioned earlier was shortcut doors. Like I said, in the game there are doors that basically act as shortcuts between two areas, and you have to have already been to both areas for it to work, for it to allow you to take the shortcut. Now, in the game, I don’t know how many there are.
Jokertyf: I think it was, like, less than 10.
thearst3rd: Yeah, it’s something like that. But for example, in a speedrun, not all of them get used, right? Even in the 100%, get-everything speedruns, you don’t use all of them ‘cause some of them don’t really go along with the normal speedrun route, but in bingo, sometimes those lesser used shortcuts are exactly what you need. And so being able to think of how to use the shortcuts to avoid needing to either take a long track or even use them to avoid taking the warps, because there are warps that teleport you to other areas, but they have a really long animation.
Sometimes, elements that just don’t seem useful in speedruns turn out to be great for bingo! Screenshot from Indiethon 2022
Jokertyf: I think it’s like 15 seconds.
thearst3rd: Yeah, and then there’s another loading zone after, unless you’re counting that in, which… maybe… But it’s a pretty long animation, so if you can just take a shortcut door and instantly go somewhere else instead, it’s definitely faster. And some more routing things are, like Jokertyf said, with keys you need, you know some places are locked behind keys. You need to have enough keys to know where you’re going.
And there’s a clip of me… It was a really close race. We were really close to the end, except I did not have a key. And I was a little upset. [Laughs] I don’t know if you remember that. That was like from our first ever session of this.
thearst3rd: So yeah, that was pretty fun.
Jokertyf: And the last thing that you need to think about when routing is the owls. So if there’s a “Talk to two owls,” you need to think, OK, which ones am I gonna talk to you and when can I slot them into the run so that it will be nighttime by the time I reach them. And that’s, probably, actually the hardest thing because the time it takes to do goals is not constant and also you don’t know it ahead of time. So you kind of have to just guess and/or make split-second decisions to be like, OK, I was going to go here, but I think I need to go this way to get the owl first because it’ll be nighttime by the time I get there, etc., etc.
Floha258: Are there perhaps any mistakes you can make during routing that can potentially… damage your potential?
thearst3rd: Oh yeah, plenty. Not having enough keys, or accidentally using your keys on things that you don’t really need, or not realising that something needs a key ’cause I’m just so used to it, I just do it in runs, but I forget that I need a key to do that. Like entering the Windmills: You have to use a key to get into the Windmills, so when I planned it ahead of time to… I needed a key to get into the Lighthouse and then a key to get into Sewers, but I forgot about the Windmills. So once I got to the Sewers, I was short a key and that basically killed my run.
Jokertyf: Yeah, and another thing is keeping track of bits if you have one of the “Finish the run with X bits collected” goals. If you collect an extra bit early on, you might not even know that you’ve collected an extra one until the end of the run, where you’re like, oh crap, I gotta get 7 more bits to get back to the number I need, which can be a game loser, for sure. I don’t think that’s ever happened to me. Has that happened to you?
thearst3rd: It did! It was like an edge case where I didn’t think that we were required to… It was a goal, “Fully complete the area including all sub rooms.” I don’t know… Yeah, and there was a bit in one of the sub rooms and I didn’t think it was required so I didn’t get it. And then… If it was required, yeah, if you remember… You remember that one.
Jokertyf: Oh yeah, actually, I remember that one.
thearst3rd: But yeah, that’s that. Yeah, it happened.
Floha258: At the start of a bingo, when looking at the goals on your card, what kind of factors make you think that this is the group that I definitely want to go for or I will definitely not be going for this one?
Jokertyf: So one of the things that in the early versions of this game when we were, you know, beta testing it, we didn’t really have synergies implemented yet. So what we would look for is basically which groups have the most goals that are in a specific hub area. So for example, if one of the groups was like OK, there’s two things you need to get in Nature and three in Zu, that’s only two hub areas. Whereas if it’s like OK, you need to get something in Zi, you need to get something in Industrial, you need to get something in Graveyard, that’s already 4 ’cause you need to go to Nature anyway. And so trying to minimise that was the thing to do. Now that we’ve added synergies, though, it’s more about if you have multiple goals in the same place, are they close enough to each other to make it work, or is one goal kind of on the way to another goal, something like that? That makes a particular group more favourable.
thearst3rd: Yeah, for sure. And sometimes even when it’s still only two different sub areas, and I don’t know if our synergies completely eliminate this, it probably makes them less likely, but for example if I see that I have to go to sewers, which is basically one extreme, and I also have to go to Zu, which is like another extreme, I probably am going to avoid that one because to travel to either one of them is OK, but to go to both, it’s a hike.
Floha258: Alright, so the next question is a really interesting one, especially in the context that you two are currently coaching our captains in the Fez bingo. What would you say is the barrier of entry for people who would like to pick up Fez bingos, and what is the advice that you have for them or for your trainees?
thearst3rd: So here’s something that’s really funny, and I think we’re violating this, but it’s, play Fez casually first. It’s a really good game. It’s got really cool puzzles. Don’t just look up the answers to them. That said…
Jokertyf: I straight up told the person I’m coaching to play Fez casually like last week…
Floha258: Oh damn.
Jokertyf: So hopefully by the time we meet they will have at least done some of it. But yeah, I totally agree with that. In regards to the barrier of entry, once you’ve played through the game, it’s not that hard to start, especially if you have all the resources that you need open. For example, when I’m running Fez bingo, I have a tab open that has all the codes needed for various parts of the game. I have a tab open that is the world map compressed into 2D. I have a piece of paper that lists out where all the keys are, where all the maps are, what rooms go to which rooms, and which require keys. And I have thearst3rd’s Full Completion route document for the pictures of all the solutions to the puzzles that aren’t codes. There’s a lot of resources that I have open on my computer as I’m running the game and so I’m frequently going back and forth between them when going through the game. So if you have those resources, and we can probably link them, then the barrier to entry is pretty low.
thearst3rd: Yeah, for sure.
Floha258: Do you think that normal speedrunners could perhaps in a way benefit from doing bingos, or maybe especially runners who just run categories that don’t explore the game to its fullest?
Jokertyf: I think doing bingo helps 100%. And one of the things that it helps with in particular is just movement. We’ve hinted about this earlier, but there’s a few like moving techs you can do on corners, and in an Any% percent run, for me at least, it’s tempting to kind of avoid doing those tricks unless I can do them 100% because if you mess it up, you lose time, obviously, whereas in bingo I’ll go for them way more often, and because I’m going for them way more often, I’m actually learning how to do them better. So when I go back to doing the Any% runs, I have more confidence in myself, and I can attempt more of them and succeed in more of them. So I think in that respect at least, doing bingo has 100% helped my Any% runs.
Bingo can be a great way to increase your confidence as a runner by letting you test your skills in different ways, as well as learning new ones! Screenshot from Indiethon 2022
thearst3rd: Yeah, absolutely. And one thing that I was going to add is, this is more of a hypothetical… Getting practice with some of the areas that aren’t in Any% is good, and it might indirectly translate to playing better in the few areas that are in Any%. But for bingo, one idea that I had that could help is maybe, if you’re routing on the fly, the potential for a discovery of “oh, I’ve never thought of going from this place to this place” could maybe spark the inspiration for a new route. I don’t think that’s happened yet, but that’s one thing that’s… OK, maybe if we have enough people doing this, someone will be like, wait, that was actually really efficient, let’s try that. So I’m crossing my fingers, maybe that’ll happen.
Jokertyf: I think that definitely has more of a potential for discovering routes and maybe Full Completion or 209.4%, or even like All Golden Cubes.
Jokertyf: I think Any% at this point is pretty optimised.
thearst3rd: Oh yeah, yeah. I don’t think that’ll really help much for Any%, but you know.
Floha258: You know, we usually ask this question to the communities that are a bit bigger, but maybe you have an answer for it as well: Is there a way that the community can further support bingos?
thearst3rd: Like our Fez bingo? That’s a good question. Yeah, as we’re saying, the Fez community is pretty small. It’s not too many active runners, and if you define “active” in the way speedrun.com defines active, I think there’s actually zero. It’s been more than a month since my last run, and Jokertyf’s as well.
I think just in general, having the community play the bingo and be like, wait, I didn’t understand this objective, can you explain it? Or, you know, I thought these two objectives going together were too hard or something? Being able to collect opinions from people that we can use to adjust the bingo, that would obviously be a valuable asset for us.
Jokertyf: And perhaps the other way around. I’m seeing this opportunity as a way of… maybe we can pull some people who aren’t already in the Fez speedrunning community. Maybe they do a couple rounds of bingo, maybe they’ve played the game casually in the past and are curious about it. And then once we get them hooked on bingo, we can say, hey, you know, there’s a whole speedrunning community here. And it’s a pretty low barrier of entry, so why not give Any% percent run a shot? You know we can convert people that way.
Floha258: OK, so do you already have eyes on your new trainees?
Jokertyf: I am planning on having the person I’m coaching do an Any% run and submit it to speedrun.com just because I think doing that is helpful for bingo, for one, and two, we gotta, we gotta pump those numbers up, baby.
thearst3rd: [Laughs] True!
Floha258: Very interesting. Let’s move on to the final section here. You’ve already talked about this unsolved puzzle before. That made me really curious. How come that this puzzle is still unsolved after 10 years that this game has been released? Was there nobody who was really able to solve the puzzle?
Jokertyf: So I can give a little bit of a background, I think.
thearst3rd: Yeah, yeah.
Jokertyf: The experience of playing Fez… You can get through all the golden cubes probably by yourself, no problem. I think some of the easier anti-cube puzzles you can probably also get done by yourself. But some things, unless you’re really astute… I don’t want to put words in the mouth of the developer, but I want to say that they’re almost designed to be solved by a community, like for example the numbering and writing systems and solving the heart pieces, I think those were almost designed to be solved by not just one person. And that’s how It was solved, right? For all the anti-cubes and the two heart pieces that have good solutions that we know about, they were solved by, you know, a community of people and not just one person. But for the third one, that’s where things get a little bit tricky, and I think the third one was designed to be the hardest puzzle to solve in the entire game. Yeah… thearst3rd, wanna continue from here?
thearst3rd: Yeah, I’ve never actually thought about it that way, about being designed to be solved by the community. I think that all of the anti-cubes were designed to be solvable by one person, like figuring out the writing and numbering system, especially the writing system. There’s like a really nice clue that they give you to figure that out.
Jokertyf: Oh yeah.
thearst3rd: But the heart pieces… These are sort of end-game collectibles, right? These are the hardest puzzles in the game. And all three of them are really hard. And yeah, the third one, it’s just… we don’t know how you’re supposed to get the right answer. You have to enter in a secret code, and the idea is you’re given a map, and part of that map is burned off, and that part of the map is what you could tell contains the code. So it basically gives you everything you need except for what code to enter. Back when the game came out, the community got together and brute-forced the code. They had multiple people trying every combination possible until they eventually found it. And what’s really interesting is people are still talking about theories to this day. You can go online and people are bringing up new ideas of, “I just noticed these candle formations look interesting,” or “I went to this other room and it had a poster and I was able to dissect the poster” and… come up with potential leads, right?
So the game developer claims that there is stuff in-game that the community has missed. There is at least something in the game that we’ve missed and that could be what we need to solve the puzzle. Even ten years later, we don’t know for sure what it is.
Floha258: So basically… solving this puzzle is the Holy Grail of Fez?
thearst3rd: Yes. You could walk away… and I think a lot of people want to do this, a lot of people want to be able to walk away and say, I was the one who solved the Fez Black Monolith puzzle. That’s that’s the name of the puzzle, or at least that’s what the community calls it. I don’t know if that’s the official name.
Jokertyf: And I think honestly, the fact that we brute-forced it kind of put us in a tough situation because now that we know the answer, it’s very easy to manipulate things in a way that they will get the answer to you. It’s kind of like, you know, Jesus’ face on a piece of grilled cheese phenomenon. Once you’re set to see something, you will see it in places that maybe it’s not there. And there’s a lot of theories out there that are like, if you do this convoluted thing, and then this other convoluted thing, and then you combine them together in another convoluted way, then you get the answer, and I mean sure, that is valid, like the steps are correct, they don’t make any errors, but it’s unlikely that that was the intended solution by the developers.
thearst3rd: Yeah, and there was a popular theory that involved the game’s release date – taking the order of the numbers, rearranging them according to something, rotating them, turning them into symbols, and eventually the developers had to come along and say… They have a no-talk about it, you know, they have a no-talk policy, they’re not allowed to talk about the solution… But eventually one of them came along and said that doesn’t work because they had no control of the release date, that was sort of at the mercy of the publishers. And the puzzle wasn’t added at the end, it was added closer to the beginning. So there’s one popular theory that involves the release date. That was not the answer, it was a big coincidence.
After all these years, Fez remains fascinating – a curious mind is perfect for a game like it! Screenshot from Indiethon 2022
Jokertyf: And that’s also important because the release date is not something that’s in the game, and I think the solution to the puzzle, like the designer said, is contained within the game itself. I don’t think there’s any elements outside of this… You don’t need anything other than things that are inside the game to solve it. And I think the release date is something outside of the game and would not qualify as that.
thearst3rd: Yeah. That’s not really related to Fez speedrunning or Fez bingo at all, but that is something that keeps people talking about Fez even ten years later, and it keeps things interesting. So I think that’s pretty cool.
Floha258: Yeah, no, I agree that that’s really interesting. Even now the gears in my head are turning without ever having played the game!
Now we’re coming to one of my favourite questions here. What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you in a bingo that you think is maybe unlikely to happen in a normal run? Or just in general, any anecdotes that you’d like to share?
Jokertyf: Oh, we have lots of anecdotes.
thearst3rd: So… I may or may not have just not noticed that I completed a goal in the [Industrial] zone on the inaugural Fez bingo debut and lost the round and then subsequently the entire set because I just didn’t notice that I actually had 11 cubes. I thought I only had 10. That’s a funny one.
Floha258: Counting is hard.
Jokertyf: It is hard, and especially if there’s a UI element in the top left corner that flashes each time you collect the cubes.
thearst3rd: No, there would never be one of those that I could just look at, no.
Jokertyf: [Laughs] One of the funny things that happened is… When we were doing the testing for the Blackout mode, which is what we’re going to be using for the Blind Bingo Series, I was running the game and I got to a goal that said, “Collect all three heart pieces”, and I was like, how hard could this be? I go in, I enter 2 codes in two different places. That’s not hard, right? So I go in, enter the first code, I enter the second code, nothing. And I’m like, that’s strange. So I tried a bunch more times, and I’m getting nowhere. I have no idea what I’m doing wrong. So finally during the run I opened up thearst3rd’s Full Completion World Record and I scrolled to the part in the YouTube video and then I copied the strat. And then was finally able to get the third heart piece and leave. Very funny.
thearst3rd: Yep, that, which by the way, thank you for doing that. I was very behind and you let me catch up a lot.
Jokertyf: Yeah, I think I spent like 10 minutes there. It was not good. But yeah, and then the next run I was doing the glitch room and I just didn’t know which way to go. So I had spent like 5 minutes just randomly falling off cliffs until I stumbled upon the correct way to do it.
thearst3rd: I think I even helped you out. I looked it up. I’m like, oh yeah, just yeah, it’s hard to see. You just keep going that way. You’ll eventually get it.
Yeah, so far we’ve only had a few rounds of this. We haven’t played like tons and tons and tons of this, and it’s basically just us two doing this. But still, we’ve got some funny things that have happened during the bingo, which is pretty cool.
Floha258: Unfortunately we’re already at the end here. Before we go, any final words from you two you want to say while you’re still here? To the community or to anyone else watching?
thearst3rd: Thank you so much for inviting us onto the series. This is super exciting. It was fun working on the Fez bingo. I hope to see people playing it and give us feedback and I’d be happy to see that.
Jokertyf: Yeah, I mostly want to say the same things. Thanks for having us on. And to anyone watching on YouTube, be sure to check out the Fez speedrunning community. You can go on speedrun.com/fez and I think there is a link to the Discord and you can start doing runs. It’s very easy to learn and I hope to see lots of people coming into the community soon.
Floha258: Thank you very much for joining us! That was it for today’s Beyond the Board. If you want to be featured in Beyond the Board for your game, then do feel free to contact us, and with that, we will see you next time. Bye!