Steve Wiebe World Record Attempt This Weekend in Bloomington, MN

July 9th, 2015 - This weekend, as part of his promotional efforts for the upcoming film Pixels (where he will cameo in a small role), Steve Wiebe will appear at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.

On Friday, Wiebe will attend a screening of The King of Kong (directed by his friend and Pixels producer Seth Gordon), followed by a Q&A and autograph session.

On Saturday at 2 PM, attempts on Robbie Lakeman's recently-upgraded world record will commence live from "the Rotunda."

Dana Wessel of KTWN-FM (Go 96.3) interviewed Wiebe about the upcoming event. It's well worth the 13-minute listen, encapsulating where Wiebe stands among the competitive fray nowadays, and Wiebe's assessment of his chances against the score he'll be chasing on Saturday.

My take: it's great to see Wiebe back in the action. But since we have not been privy to his Donkey Kong play since the Kong Off 3 over a year and a half ago, it's impossible to say whether Wiebe actually has a realistic shot at the record (to say nothing of the challenges of executing a high-pace run in front of a crowd). It should be borne in mind that this event is, after all, timed around a movie release date, and not necessarily Wiebe having attained the ability to play at a 1.16 million-point pace.

Nonetheless, most of us DKheads love Steve and wish him the very best of luck. We hope, if nothing else, that he regains a spot among the all time top 10. Over the last 5 years, Wiebe has fallen all the way from 1st to 15th position, and as the "face" of our game, we'd all like to see him right back in the thick of things at the highest level of play. We know that he can, the question is whether he will.

Twin Galaxies will be streaming the attempt live this Saturday at tglive.com.

The Pixels film—in which a group of classic arcade gamers from the "golden age" reunite to fend off an alien invasion—opens July 24th, one week before The Kong Off 4.

Lakeman Breaks His Own Record Live at Funspot, One Month Before Kong Off 4!

June 25th, 2015 - Honoring the tradition set by former champions Steve Wiebe (who did it in front of the King of Kong cameras in 2005), followed by Hank Chien in 2011, Robbie Lakeman sat down yesterday morning at the fabled "possessed" Donkey Kong machine at Funspot in New Hampshire and broke the Donkey Kong world record.

Lakeman (right) during the attempt, with none other than the legendary Brian Kuh

Lakeman's final score of 1,158,400, pushes the record 13,600 points higher than his previous mark, set in December of last year, which, in turn, came after Lakeman first became champion in September.

That makes three in a row, with Lakeman's reign beginning to take on a Chien-like tone: he beats himself... and then he beats himself again.

Here, in a chart that only a Donkey Kong player could love, Jeremy Young, following along diligently during the replay streamed tonight on Twitch TV, breaks down the action board-by-board (click to enlarge, if you dare):

Are There Any Points Left?

In a word, yes. But not many.

While Dean Saglio essentially buried "keyboard DK" using the MAME emulator almost two years ago with his immaculate 1,206,800 performance (a virtually perfect game of total mastery), and while Lakeman's score today is going to be an ornery one to top with an arcade-style control panel, nobody is ready to formally call off the hunt on the original, "official" arcade machine record.

Hank Chien seems to have moved on from Donkey Kong after abdicating the title last year, but Lakeman still has close rivals with an active interest, namely Wes Copeland (pictured right) and Ethan Daniels, who are today's hardest-working Donkey Kong grinders.

Copeland finally cracked the "1.1" barrier in January, but is still working on improving his scoring pace. Even after Lakeman's imposing fortification today, Copeland has pledged to continue undaunted in his quest to beat him.

Daniels, meanwhile, was poised to crack into the top 10 with his own 1.1 million-plus score just a couple of weeks ago, when a passing thunderstorm asserted itself with a kill screen of its own. Just 8 boards away from Donkey Kong's famous game-ending programming bug (and with Daniels on the live stream audibly coaching himself not to think about the flashing and rumbling outside), his worst fears were realized when a power-cycle kicked him in the teeth and the game was suddenly, horribly over. Daniels took it in stride, and will, no doubt, soon push one of his high-pace runs to the end. This particular game would not have beaten the record (it would only have been a personal best) but Daniels has shown himself to be capable of a run that could.

January's Near-Miss

It was only a few months ago that Lakeman was in considerable jeopardy of losing the position that he shored up today.

As reported previously, Dean Saglio travelled to Ethan Daniels' home in January to try for an unprecedented $3,000 world record bounty offered during the 6th and final Donkey Kong Online Open tournament.

Over a grueling four days of play, Saglio came agonizingly close in not one, not two, but three close but ill-fated attempts. Nerves, fatigue, and bad luck stopped him painfully short, over 90% of the way to the target in each case. Not a heart was left unbroken among the fans watching online, many of them believing Saglio to be the true King of Kong since late last decade, based on his emulator scores, and seeing this as his chance to make it undisputable on original arcade hardware. It was not to be.

One might wonder after Saglio's close-call torture and Daniels' power outage, compared to today's relatively smooth victory by Lakeman, if perhaps the demon haunting the Funspot Donkey Kong might have moved to the Daniels residence?

There was, at any rate, no cash prize for Lakeman in the context of today's attempt, nor even a single spectator to be found in that same corridor where Wiebe and Chien preceded him in making history. The prize was simply to raise the bar. But for a classic arcade competitor, that's quite enough. Anything else is a bonus.

Kong Off 4 Next Month

The new world record stands as the perfect prelude to the Kong Off 4, which will take place at the ReplayFX Arcade and Gaming Festival next month in Pittsburgh (note the Steelers-themed color scheme).

More information on the event (which will feature a high score contest, followed by an exciting bracket-style competition on its final day) can be found at kongoff.com.

Congratulations once again to Robbie Lakeman! If the record is never broken again—and I must admit to having my doubts, with the score now so close to the ceiling—we could not have hoped for a more fitting way for it to come to rest: live and in person, on the same machine that two previous records were set, in one of the last great classic arcades in the world.

99 Hours of Donkey Kong: $3,000 World Record Bounty In Play, Tonight Through Sunday in the DK Online Open #6

January 7th 2015 - It's 6:00 PM Pacific time, and the starting gun just fired on the sixth and final event in the Donkey Kong Online Open tournament series, which began in March of last year.

At stake is the seeding for the upcoming Kong Off 4, which will be determined based on the aggregated scoreboard from all six events.

Perhaps of more interest to competitors, though, is the considerable stack of up-for-grabs cash!

This time, pay spots will extend beyond the usual 3, all the way out to 10, with a total of $1,150 shared among the top 10 finishers, and an additional $250 worth of "mystery bounties" to be given out to five randomly-drawn finishing spots.

One Massive World Record Bounty

All eyes will be on the game's best players during the next four days, as they pursue an unprecedented world record bounty of $3,000.

Dean Saglio and Hank Chien

Recent but uncomfirmed chatter has it that, with this much money on the line, MAME record holder Dean Saglio has decided to make his way to an arcade cabinet.

If Saglio does so, I would give odds of at least 4 to 1 in favor of there being a new world champion by Sunday night.

Saglio beat Robbie Lakeman's recent arcade world record in the MAME emulator almost four years ago (and has crushed it in the time since). For Saglio, if not anybody else, the arcade record is a relatively soft target.

Breaking the record in this timespan, however, still depends on a synergy of elements: the Kong Offs and online tournaments have demonstrated again and again that with Donkey Kong there is no certainty in the short term. Mental and physiological factors in the player, along with the randomness in the game, all have to cooperate. There's no guarantee that four days will be enough.

If Saglio doesn't do it, there will be others trying, including Lakeman himself. A Jeff Willms sighting was noted within the last hour. In fact, Saglio was heard to remark that we should be "disappointed as a community" if the record is NOT broken by the end of the tournament.

I would not go that far, but expectation is high indeed!

This Is The End

If the Donkey Kong Online Open #6 seems to be getting more hype than normal, it's not just because its the biggest Donkey Kong online tournament ever (more than 80 entrants and the largest prize pool yet), but because it will be the last one for the foreseeable future.

The Wildcard Rematch #2, March 2013
where Ross Benziger went "back to back"

Organizers Eric Tessler and John Salter have hosted all tournaments thus far, of which there have been a total of 11 events in three series (the Kong Off 2 Wildcard Rematches in 2013, the Kong Off 3 Wildcard Qualifiers also in 2013, and the current Donkey Kong Online Opens).

Tessler and Salter announced when registration for DKOO#6 began that it will be their final event.

And so, the "cult of Kong" will be out in force for these 99 hours, giving their best effort and raising their hammers high for the generous, hard-working team who brought us so much fun, and so many great memories, over the past two years. This one's gonna be huge!

Event Overview and Details
Registration List
(Check the top of the screen on the above links to Donkey Kong Forum for a list of "Active Streamers")

Donkey Kong Online Open Scoreboard
(Includes results of all installments so far; will update periodically throughout the event)

The Top 10 Is Fully-Loaded As The Limelight Shines On DK

January 5th, 2015 - Competitive Donkey Kong is getting "face time" yet again—and on this occasion, it's the ink-and-paper kind!

A little over a week after Robbie Lakeman broke the world record in September, I was contacted by Sam Rowe, a journalist from the UK who was interested in preparing a feature on the high score chase.

It just so happened that Lakeman and other top players Hank Chien, Ethan Daniels, Vincent Lemay, and Wes Copeland were about to meet in New Jersey in October for an informal "mini-Kong Off" at Richie Knucklez Arcade. Sam spent a few days with them, getting to know the players and more about their world.

The next month, Sam's story made it into a few different publications—including two of the UK's more widely-read lifestyle magazines, Forever Sports and ShortList.

Soon to come will be an interview with Robbie Lakeman for AskMen, as part of his continuing rounds as the reigning King of Kong.

Robbie Riding High

Strange as it may seem, it would appear that the people of Earth still want to know who their Donkey Kong champion is.

The story of Robbie Lakeman's new world record spread wider than I thought it would, to blogs, websites, and newswires large and small.

The hype continues up to the present moment. This past week, Robbie was picked to be one of Polygon's 50 Admirable Gaming People of 2014.

Here's Robbie talking about his achievement with his local TV affiliate:

Speaking for myself, being the source to break a "new world champion" announcement was one of the last of the to do's that I needed to cross off of the bucket list for this blog. It was a pleasure to tip off the first domino.

I love this community, my close, personal connection to it, and am happy to be known as "the guy who writes articles" on its behalf. I was thrilled to be there with Robbie and my friends as his game played out on Twitch. The blog post was an all-nighter, but needless to say, well worth it. (The highlight for me: a write-up in The AV Club, a sister publication of The Onion, which had some very kind words for my work.)

What has not been widely-reported is that on December 1st, Robbie actually managed to push his own record a bit further (by 3,000 points), in a run that ended with 1,144,800 points. This new score, having occurred so quickly after the game that beat Chien, and not being much more than a cherry on top, admittedly happened very quietly. In fact, word did not spread outside of the DK community. Congratulations were forthcoming nonetheless, and the record will now be that much tougher to beat.

Kiehl Crashes Into The Chien Force Field

Hank Chien may have finally lost the world record for the arcade platform, but his mythical "force field" seems to still be menacing everyone whose name isn't Robbie Lakeman.

Mark Kiehl, who has been his characteristically-quiet self ever since taking 4th place on the all-time list over two years ago, recently reclaimed that very same spot on the much tougher leaderboard of today.

In so doing, Kiehl dutifully honored what is quickly becoming a bona fide tradition... just barely missing Hank Chien. He managed to slip into the impossibly tight space between "Dr. Kong" and Ross Benziger, coming 1,000 points shy of Chien's former world record.

(Almost) Ten 1.1s

I must confess, I never thought that I would see it come to pass.

The ten highest-scoring Donkey Kong players in the world are now all sporting personal bests within the "max-out" range - that once-elusive 100,000 point corridor between 1.1 and 1.2 million points.

10th place—now held by Wes Copeland at 1,099,500—technically falls just short, but he's clawing to push through (more on that below). Copeland's score, along with the aforementioned recent performance by Mark Kiehl, and Steve Wiltshire several months ago, have loaded the bases going into the 6th (and final) Donkey Kong Online Open which begins this week.

Just a little over two years ago, when the Kong Off 2 was about to get underway, only two players other than then-champ Hank Chien had crossed 1.1: Dean Saglio and Jeff Willms. The rest of the field (headed by Steve Wiebe in 4th with 1,064,500) was quite a distance behind.

The gap has closed in the 26 months since, and now the traffic snarl around the top score has gotten even more chaotic.

Coping With Copeland

Copeland (left)
with world champion Robbie Lakeman and Vincent Lemay

Wes Copeland, a young programmer analyst from Arkansas who came in second place in the Donkey Kong Online Open #2 earlier in 2014, took down first place in DKO #4 this past August.

Copeland's aforementioned 1,099,500 point performance came a little over a month later on September 30th, and now rounds out the all-time top 10.

Having only played Donkey Kong for about a year and a half, "Copie" is blowing minds. Suddenly the field has (yet another) world record-capable player to contend with.

The road to cracking 1.1 has been tough, but Copeland's determination is tougher. As he recently put it on Donkey Kong Forum:

"Truth be told, playing at 1.1 pace on a daily basis has removed all joy and fun from the game for me. The game feels more like a job at the moment because of how hard I'm grinding on a daily basis, but I mentally can't stop until I know my score reflects what I think my potential is."

Copie is currently locked in a full-time battle with the game, his goal being to play every day, often for 8 hours or more, until he crosses the 1.1 mark. None of us doubt that he will do it soon enough.

Saglio's Fingerprint On The Big Bang Theory

As the recent magazine articles were being prepped, competitive Donkey Kong managed to find its way (by the subtlest of measures) onto primetime network television.

A brief scene on a recent episode of CBS's hit sitcom The Big Bang Theory depicted Leonard locked into "the game of his life" on a Donkey Kong arcade cabinet.

A brief shot of the monitor caught the eagle eye of none other than Vincent Lemay, who noted that the score read 464,100 on Level 9. Lemay, knowing that only one player had ever accomplished such a feat, checked to confirm his suspicion, and discovered that the game footage being piped into the cabinet for the scene was indeed none other than Dean Saglio's MAME world record!

How, why, and by whom the footage was inserted in the show remains a mystery, but it was a fun moment for the community, and a great homage (even if unintentional) to Saglio's epic performance.


(Skip to 1:30 to check out the scene.)

The Donkey Kong Online Open #6 Starts Wednesday!

Check back here soon, as the 6th and final installment in the Donkey Kong Online Open tournament series (which began last February) will kick off Wednesday night at 9 PM Pacific. A brief event preview will be posted prior to the start time.

Follow this link to Donkey Kong Forum for more information on how to register and compete.

NEW WORLD RECORD! Robbie Lakeman Finally Topples Hank Chien For The Donkey Kong Title!

Donkey Kong World Champion Robbie Lakeman
(Photo: Dave Danzara)
September 6th, 2014 - Robbie Lakeman called Hank Chien on Friday morning to break the news personally: "Dr. Kong" was no longer the world champion.

Hours before, alone in a late-night session that he opted not to stream to Twitch TV, Lakeman finally cracked the score that he'd barely missed on two prior occasions, becoming the fifth player—following Billy Mitchell, Tim Sczerby, Steve Wiebe, and Dr. Chien—to set the world record on a Donkey Kong arcade machine.

Late on Friday evening, with rumors and speculation swirling, a crowd gathered in Lakeman's Twitch channel as it wordlessly came to life. A nearly silent, awkwardly-angled, "TV cam" rebroadcast of the previous night's three-hour performance began.

A less-than-ideal presentation, but more than enough to electrify the Donkey Kong faithful as they realized what was unfolding. Nobody knew what the final score would be, only that they were about to witness arcade gaming history.

1,141,800, as it turned out. A number that will hold very little meaning to those unschooled in the Donkey Kong dark arts, but Lakeman's 3,200 point-lead over Chien finally brings to an end the reign of the player who spent four years terrorizing the top spot by beating his own top score again and again, and who some suspected might never be defeated.

The Road to the Record

Photo: William McEvoy

It started two and a half years ago as a bar bet between Lakeman and a friend—get into the Donkey Kong top 20, or at the very least to the kill screen.

Already an avid golfer and poker player, Lakeman took up competitive classic gaming and quickly established a formidable resume. After attaining several world records and putting in regular strong showings at the annual Funspot Tournament, Lakeman eventually gravitated to Donkey Kong, the game being, in his words, "where all the competition is."

Lakeman proved to be a quick study. His first kill screen came just before the Kong Off 2 in 2012, and by the time of the Kong Off 3 one year later, he had earned a spot among the top 12... though not without one hell of a fight.

While boasting since August of 2013 that he felt capable of taking on Hank, it wasn't until the middle of this year that Lakeman started making serious attempts.

His near-nightly sessions—all streamed in public—continued for months, with Lakeman throwing himself against a score that refused to yield. As frustration mounted, he exploded into foul-tempered rants at the game and desperate pleas to his viewers to refrain from announcing games-in-progress on the Web, for fear of jinxing.

Finally, almost immediately after making the decision to go off-stream and play in private, Thursday night's session came together, and with it the culmination of Lakeman's ambition.

The Swings That Missed

Lakeman was not the only player in the hunt for the Donkey Kong record in recent times.

Vincent Lemay's attempt in January 2013 was a week long affair, spent holed up at the 1up barcade in Colorado. Lemay missed the record by 2,700 points then quit playing, deciding to wait until someone else pushed it higher.

The attempt made some noise in the gaming press, and Lemay and Chien's rivalry became the subject of a short documentary by Vice Magazine.

Lemay intends to try again for the record this October... though now he'll be targeting a different player.

Ross Benziger's close call came nine months after Lemay's, at the Kencade in Oregon. Benziger's objective wasn't even to beat Chien's score, but simply to attain a "top 12" position in the arcade standings in order to secure a spot at the Kong Off 3.

Finally, just two weeks ago during the Donkey Kong Online Open #4, MAME champion Dean Saglio found his way to a machine at Richie Knucklez' arcade in New Jersey when, approaching the end of a run that was on pace to break the record (and with Chien himself only a few feet away on an adjacent machine) the game reset:

The rumored Hank Chien "force field" never seemed more intimidating than after this horrifying incident, but evidently, this burst of electromagnetic interference was its last, glorious gasp.

What Next?

As long as it took for Chien's score to finally go down, and with how narrowly it was beaten, it's possible that Lakeman's may not stand for very long. With the players that are already parked right behind him, and up-and-comers on the approach, Lakeman could be a short-lived champion.

To that possibility, Lakeman says: "it's a great feeling to say that I was on top at one point. Even if it's gone a couple days from now."

Congratulations Robbie! Your journey over the past two and a half years (the last few months in particular) has been an inspiring lesson in persistence, and the potential of the competitive spirit.

I often find it difficult to express to outsiders what it is that we're actually doing, and why we're doing it, when we play this game.

Thanks for expressing it so well.

Robbie and Hank
 

Robbie's recent Arcade Impossible master class on
Donkey Kong point-pressing techniques

 

Coverage

Kotaku: A New World Record Ends Hank Chien's Reign As Donkey Kong Champion

The Verge: Gamer claims 'Donkey Kong' world record, ending plastic surgeon's four-year reign

Polygon: Newcomer sets all-time high score in Donkey Kong

Game Informer: The World Record For Highest Score In Donkey Kong Has Been Beaten

Joystiq: On like Donkey Kong; new champion crowned with record score

Digital Trends: There's a New World Record-Setting High Scorer in Donkey Kong

Thanks to all of the above (and many more) for crediting Donkey Blog as the source of this story.

"This Is Not Over, Hank!" Lakeman Held Off By Dr. Kong's Force Field As DKO #4 Approaches

August 21st, 2014 - There is an old superstition among Ms. Pac Man players that bananas placed atop the machine can act as an offering to the gods of the random-number generator, who will look favorably upon the pious and bestow good fortune.

Robbie Lakeman echoed that tradition a few weeks ago. Having reached a point of desperation in his quest to finally dethrone Hank Chien for the Donkey Kong world record, he seems willing to try just about anything:

"Took all the money I had that was laying around the apartment and put it on my cab. Hopefully this will be enough to buy the DK record."

Robbie Lakeman Wins DKO#3, Closes In On World Record

Robbie Lakeman (right) with Steve Wiebe at the Kong Off 2

July 1st, 2014 - He wasn't able to make it happen earlier this month during the most recent Donkey Kong Online Open, but he came close... and even closer this past Sunday.

Robbie Lakeman buried the needle for tournament first place with 1,086,700, but victory for the weekend was almost an afterthought. Lakeman's real ambition—as with all of his runs for the past several weeks—was to dethrone Hank Chien as the King of Kong. It was not to be. "Some games are world record games and that just wasn't gonna be one," Lakeman commented afterwards.

Just seven days later, in the dead of night on June 29th, I was on hand (and on the edge of my seat) to witness Lakeman join Ross Benziger and Vincent Lemay in the "near miss" club. Lakeman's score, 1,131,500, came only 7,100 points shy of the ultimate prize. If the final board had played out more cooperatively, the record would have fallen.

"I still have to keep playing this game," Lakeman said. "I can't be like Vincent and Ross and stop playing. I can't do it."

With Robbie in top form and pushing with all of his strength, he could (and likely will) take the record any day now.

Ethan Daniels at the Kong Off 3
Photo: William McEvoy

And he's not the only one with a chance: Ethan Daniels, a bit of a dark horse since he does not yet have a score in the top 20, is nonetheless playing at world record pace and has gone quite deep on several occasions. Steve Wiltshire and Dave McCrary are also currently active and capable.

In other words, if Robbie doesn't do it soon, somebody else just might.

The fourth Donkey Kong Online Open has not yet been scheduled, but organizers are aiming for sometime in August.

Will we have a new champion by then? I would say, with confidence, that it's more likely than not.

If you want to be sure you're on hand to witness history, follow Robbie Lakeman's Twitch TV channel at http://www.twitch.tv/lakeman421/.

Final Scoreboard and Prizes: Donkey Kong Online Open 2014, #3

RankPlayerScoreGap
1Robbie Lakeman1,086,7000
2Eric Tessler922,200164,500
3Ben Falls912,7009,500
4Jeff Willms894,40018,300
5Martin Laing894,100300
6Dave McCrary859,50034,600
7Jeff Wolfe815,40044,100
8Steve Wiltshire809,8005,600
9Andrew Barrow785,60024,200
10Jason Brittain730,20055,400
11Adam Mon714,10016,100
12Mick Winzeler703,50010,600
13Craig Gallant690,80012,700
14Daniel Desjardins633,60057,200
15 Jeff Harrist603,70029,900
16Chris Psaros529,50074,200
17Scott Cunningham518,00011,500
18Graham Hawkins488,00030,000
19Brian Allen447,70040,300
20Johnny Bonde435,70012,000
21Tanner Fokkens417,00018,700
22Jonathon McCourt402,00015,000
23Allen Staal386,10015,900
24John Salter358,70027,400
25Kristian Telschow239,200119,500
26John McNeill224,50014,700
27Steve Grunberger207,10017,400
28Emil Thomsen87,300119,800
29Don Rubin86,2001,100
30Katherine Williams59,10027,100
31Edward Dietman22,90036,200
32Chuck Vess2,20020,700

Total Entrants: 65
Total Entrants With A Score Submission: 32

Prizes:
$200 1st - Ben Falls (912,700)
$150 2nd - Jeff Willms (894,400)
$100 3rd - Martin Laing (894,100)
(Robbie Lakeman was not eligible for first place money since he took 2nd in DKO#1—contestants who win a place-prize can't win another for the next two tournaments, but can still win bounties. Second place Eric Tessler is the tournament organizer and does not compete for the prize pool.)

Bounties:
$50 Longest First Man - Robbie Lakeman (81 boards)
$50 Longest Last Man - Jeff Wolfe (33 boards)
$20 Most Improved Score - Andrew Barrow (301,900)
$50 Mystery Bounty #1 (12th place) - Mick Winzeler
$50 Mystery Bounty #2 (32nd place) - Chuck Vess

DK Open #3 This Weekend: Will Robbie Lakeman Break The World Record?

Robbie Lakeman at Funspot, 2013

June 19th, 2014 - It's beginning to feel inevitable. Robbie Lakeman, who put world champion Dr. Hank Chien on notice at around this time last year, has been slowly but steadily edging his high score upward, most recently eclipsing the "1.1" mark near the end of May.

With his personal best now standing at 1,113,400 points (the fourth-highest arcade machine score of all time), Lakeman is poised just behind Ross Benziger and Vincent Lemay, determined to end Chien's unbroken three-and-a-half year reign as the King of Kong.

Lakeman has been "going deep" for the past several weeks, coming just a few levels short in attempts that are easily maintaining world record pace. Sentiment around the community is that if Lakeman stays hungry and keeps pushing, the record will fall soon.

Lakeman's most recent leaderboard jump actually netted him a cool $50 from none other than Tim Sczerby (the eccentric and irascible former world champion snubbed by The King of Kong producers from inclusion in the film... and who'll be damned if he lets anyone forget it). Lakeman challenged Sczerby to a $50 bet that he'd beat him to "1.1". May's game did the deed, and Sczerby, true to his word, paid up.

The Donkey Kong Online Open #3 kicks off this Friday at 9 PM Pacific and runs all weekend. With a world record cash bounty of $1,100 up for grabs for the duration of the tournament, and with all eyes on Lakeman as the successor to the throne, there's no better moment than this one.

No-Hammer Time!

It's been a busy few months for competitive Kongers, with two tournaments having come and gone, a bit of history made, and another missed by an inch.

The second annual No-Hammer March Madness—a bracket-style elimination tourney—crowned Jon "Fast Eddie" McKinnell of Edinburgh, Scotland the champ for the second year in a row.

The devilishly challenging no-hammer variant, feared and despised by many of Donkey Kong's top competitors, forces the player to make his way through the chaos without using his one and only defensive weapon. Mandatory risk-taking greatly steepens the luck factor relative to standard play, while still demanding that the player recognize and maximize favorable situations.

Or, in the pithier words of Hank Chien, "no-hammer is 90% luck and 90% skill."

As the tournament progressed over several weeks, McKinnell stunned his already-intimidated opponents by crossing one of the final pieces of unfinished business from the Donkey Kong community's collective "to do" list: on April 20th, during a tournament practice game, he finessed his way through all 117 boards to became the first player ever to reach a no-hammer kill screen.

That performance, followed shortly thereafter with his repeat victory in the March Madness tournament, cemented McKinnell as the unrivaled no-hammer master.

Benziger In DKO #2: "You Deprived Me of History!"

Ross Benziger, no stranger to first place in online Donkey Kong tournaments (having won two in a row last year), took down the Online Open #2, held May 2nd through the 4th... but in the process managed to snatch a nasty defeat from the jaws of victory.

Benziger at the Kong Off 3 (Photo: William McEvoy)

Benziger was ripping through the game that would win him the tournament, cruising at over 980,000 points and still on his first man, when, just minutes from becoming the first Donkey Kong player to ever achieve a million points on a single life, calamity struck.

Several weeks of concentrated no-hammer practice for the March Madness tournament, combined with the shower of nerves erupting from what he was about to accomplish in this tournament, threw him into a moment of confusion. He began the rivet board on level 20-6 on autopilot, going into a pattern known as the "reverse weave"—a no-hammer only strategy rarely used in standard play due to its higher risk. "Oh my God, what am I doing?" he said. "No hammer, I hate you so bad!"

One agonizing thing led to another, Benziger lost a life, then launched into a tirade as profane as it was understandable:

"I just spaced out, forgot that I was playing regular... no hammer's taught me so many bad habits... Oh God, that's painful... I will never play no-hammer again! No-hammer, you deprived me of history! Never again, that is a promise!"

Minutes later, Benziger reached the kill screen and turned in the weekend's top score. The "first-man million" would have to wait for another day, but the $200 first-place prize was a nice salve on the wound.

The other big surprise of the weekend was the emergence of relative newcomer Wes Copeland, who has only been playing Donkey Kong for 9 months but managed to take second place in the tournament (and jump from 31st place in the all-time standings all the way up to 17th) with a huge 1,028,200. Jeff Willms is the only other Donkey Kong player to have ever made such lightning-quick progress from zero to a million, a journey that for most players is measured in years.

Wes is a 23-year-old software engineer from Arkansas, currently in the midst of a project attempting to "completely rewrite the Donkey Kong arcade engine in a modern multi-platform language: in this case JavaScript." You can follow Wes's work on "DKCore" through his progress thread at Donkey Kong Forum.

Other top finishers in May's tournament included Eric Tessler, Tim Sczerby, and Jeff Harrist.

I personally ended up on the prize money bubble, but was happy that this tourney allowed me to (just barely) keep "the streak" alive—I'd kill screened in each of the prior three online tournaments and wanted to make it four in a row. 5 minutes before the last quarter deadline, I abandoned a weak game in progress, threw in another quarter, went for the hail-mary, and managed to go all the way through to a simple, low-pace kill screen. Not quite good enough for the winner's circle, but I'm pleased with my consistency at landing just outside it!

Sign Up for #3!

Join us for the third DK Open this weekend! As always, entry is free, there are cash prizes for top scores, plus random "mystery bounties" that players of all skill levels can win. And with Robbie Lakeman in the hunt for the world record, it should be an exciting two days.

Finally, a quick "welcome back" to Twin Galaxies. After months of limbo, the new site went live as promised near the end of April. Based on what I've seen so far, the future looks bright, and Jace Hall truly seems to be a custodian we can all get behind.

Final Scoreboard and Prizes: Donkey Kong Online Open 2014, #2

RankPlayerScoreGap
1Ross Benziger1,067,7000
2Wes Copeland1,028,20039,500
3Eric Tessler968,70059,500
4Timothy Sczerby941,50027,200
5Jeff Harrist868,90072,600
6Chris Psaros863,5005,400
7Aaron Rounsaville817,00046,500
8Mike Groesbeck793,00024,000
9Steve Wiltshire733,60059,400
10Ben Falls732,2001,400
11Martin Laing729,8002,400
12Graham Hawkins655,10074,700
13Mick Winzeler631,20023,900
14Estel Goffinet625,5005,700
15Daniel Dock618,1007,400
16Robbie Lakeman607,70010,400
17Jason Brittain601,8005,900
18Ethan Daniels575,20026,600
19Craig Gallant532,50042,700
20Scott Cunningham531,0001,500
21Shawn Robinson492,20038,800
22Jon Shear 484,5007,700
23Andrew Barrow483,700800
24Johhny Bonde417,50066,200
25Brian Allen385,50032,000
26Daniel Desjardins370,50015,000
27Rick Fothergill368,6001,900
28Fred DeHart347,50021,100
29Nick Sheils286,10061,400
30Victor Sandberg284,1002,000
31Anthony Trujillo274,8009,300
32Thomas Høgsberg238,10036,700
33Mitchell Meerman235,6002,500
34Steve Grunberger185,80049,800
35Don Rubin146,20039,600
36Katherine Williams41,500104,700
37Douglas Tessler26,60014,900
38Edward Dietman18,9007,700
39Chuck Vess2,10016,800
40Jessica Tessler1,0001,100

Total Entrants: 64
Total Submitting Players: 40

Prizes:
$200 1st - Ross Benziger (1,067,700)
$150 2nd - Wes Copeland (1,028,200)
$100 3rd - Jeff Harrist (868,900)
(3rd place Eric Tessler is the tournament organizer and 4th place Tim Sczerby won a prize in the previous tourney, thus both were ineligible for prize money. Therefore, 3rd prize went to Jeff Harrist in 5th place)

Bounties:
$50 Longest First Man - Graham Hawkins (67 boards)
$50 Longest Last Man - Tim Sczerby (49 boards)
$50 Mystery Bounty #1 (23rd place) - Andrew Barrow
$50 Mystery Bounty #2 (11th place) - Martin Laing
$20 Mystery Bounty #3 (36th place) - Katherine Williams
$30 Top 1-1 High Score - Robbie Lakeman (12,100)
$20 Runner-Up 1-1 High Score - Mitchell Meerman (8,400)

Twin Galaxies Returns With New Owner Jace Hall

March 29th, 2014 - The rumor had been rattling around for several weeks, evolving more recently into an "open secret", and now it has been confirmed in a four thousand word flourish of glorious definitude: Jace Hall, film and television producer best known for his online reality series The Jace Hall Show, has personally come forward with an official statement as the new "Head Custodian and Caretaker" of Twin Galaxies.

In his lengthy introductory address to the competitive gaming community, Hall lays out his vision for the future of the organization under his ownership, highlights of which include:

  • The reinstatement of FREE score submissions. To quote his statement: "As long as Jace Hall is the Head Custodian and Caretaker of Twin Galaxies, Twin Galaxies will never be charging for score submissions or adjudication ever again. Period." (The new policy may even entail refunds to those who paid to submit scores during the previous ownership.)
  • The anticipated return of the website within the next 30 days.
  • Increased transparency and consistency in the organization's behavior and processes.
  • A new adjudication system, entailing an overhaul of the refereeing procedure and the elimination of secrecy in gameplay.
  • The return of material that has been dearly missed—including classic news articles, and the treasure trove of history and community that was the original Twin Galaxies forum.

Hall also made it clear that ownership is now his alone, meaning that there will be no internal conflicts, competing imperatives, or nagging financial entanglements.

A recent article on KitGuru.net that had spread through the community in the weeks prior to yesterday's announcement shed something of a lurid light on these matters. Jon Martindale's very intriguing piece reported infighting, bad-faith intercessions, looming litigation, and even Walter Day "fleeing to India" with tens of thousands of misappropriated dollars. A downright scandalous chain of events seemed to be unfolding.

Many accused the KitGuru piece of intentional sensationalism at best, shameless lying at worst, but it was clearly relating at least a piece of the truth, and with it came a palpable dip in the gaming community's already low morale.

Hall's letter, however, has sounded the all-clear: according to him, any previous "loose ends" and points-of-contention regarding Twin Galaxies ownership and renumeration have been resolved. So much for a scandal (we can hope).

Any doubts about a disgruntled or on-the-lam Walter Day have been dispelled as well, with Day himself personally composing a letter in which he endorses Hall with great enthusiasm, confidently handing off the reins of his creation and (re)announcing his retirement from competitive gaming to pursue his musical ambitions (a retirement which, some might skeptically note, has been promised for nearly a decade).

The consensus reaction to the statement has been almost unanimously positive. Gamers are celebrating Twin Galaxies' return, and seem to have taken an instant liking to Hall.

While still a new acquaintance to much of the community, even gaming's lifetime cynics must concede that Hall's mission statement demonstrates an unmistakably personal and intimate understanding of the community's history and its ongoing problems, as well as the promising hope of intelligent, creative solutions. Hall's resumé in the entertainment industry, and with video games in particular, speaks for itself. He brings with him a wealth of talent and resources.

In other words, he gets it, and has what it takes to make great things happen. All of us have grown at least a little weary of "new era" promises—first after Bouvier in 2009, then Adler/Knucklez in 2012, and the turbulence throughout which persistently refused to settle.

But now, five years into this rough ride, as we once again begin anew, we can hope that the third time will be the charm.

McCrary and Lakeman Dominate 2014's First Donkey Kong Open, KO4 Is On, and Twin Galaxies Is Alive!

March 6th, 2014 - Here's a quick overview of the first Donkey Kong Online Open for 2014, along with some updates on recent developments regarding the future of the Kong Off and Twin Galaxies.