Twitch Streamer Plays FromSoftware Games In A Truly Absurd Way
Spend any time online—be it Reddit, Twitter, or YouTube—and you’ve probably seen some streamer doing some absurd gameplay of a Soulsborne game (probably Elden Ring). Whether it’s beating Margit with a harp or two Malenias at once (one with a jumping pillow), there are some wild ways to fight FromSoftware games out there.
Broadcaster Dr. DeComposing is just trying to finish FromSoft’s games without dying in the first place—except he uses a weird electronic saxophone to do it. This challenging run, known as the Demigod run, has been renamed by Dr. Decomposing as “Dotless Death Run”. It’s wild stuff.
A PhD composer (which Kotaku verified), Dr. DeComposing is known for playing with the Roland Aerophone AE-10, a roughly $700 digital wind instrument that can simulate clarinet, flute, sax, synths, violin and other sounds. Watching his broadcasts is hilarious and stressful; something always goes wrong. Sometimes, his keyboard jams due to electronic sax interference, such as the alto key stuttering after playing a note on the instrument. Other times, he will accidentally go off a cliff due to a wrong entry. Hell, he can even play silly fart sounds while trying to maintain focus, like when fighting Malenia, Blade of Miquella in the Elden Ring. At least he’s not attempting a no-hitter these games. I’d probably die laughing if every action I did in-game amounted to a fart.
Just Doot Through the Pain
In an email exchange with Kotaku, Dr. DeComposing said the electronic sax connects to his computer via USB and sends MIDI signals whenever he plays notes. These messages are captured by the Bome MIDI Translator, a digital interface that converts those signals into mouse and keyboard input. There’s a “mod wheel,” or control stick, on the back of the instrument that’s programmed as a replacement analog stick to use the in-game camera. Otherwise, each action is performed with single dots.
“While playing through a game, I’ve also set up the Aerophone to play a variety of virtual instrument sounds and samples—the MIDI messages I’ve set up to control the game are also sent to a digital audio workstation (‘DAW’) that stores my library of the voice,” said Dr. DeComposing. “So every time he ‘doots’ on the electronic saxophone, he simultaneously presses a button on the gamepad and plays a little sound (eg a recorder, a taiko drum, a chiptune beat, a strangely pleasant fart, etc.) ). During my streams, viewers are also able to interact with the Aerophone sounds by ‘calling the Dot Wheel’, which randomly selects a set of Aerophone sounds from my library.
These points make up the game of Dr. DeComposing. When his viewers aren’t voting for a sound from the “Wheel of Doots,” (a virtual turntable that includes a repository of swappable sample noises like the word “crab” or random grunts when he plays the Aerophone), you’ll to hear traditional instrumental notes like B5 and D5 that restore health and transform weapons (in Bloodborne), respectively. This is to alleviate the frustration that comes with repeated deaths and restarts, and to give his chats a way to interact with the run by selecting the sounds the instrument makes at regular intervals during his live streams. It’s a lot of fun.
Gravity is the real big bad here
In addition to “Demigod Run,” he’s already completed the sax-driven, no-death demos of “Bloodborne” and “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice,” which can be viewed on his YouTube channel. Dr. DeComposing said Bloodborne took about two weeks to beat, while Sekiro was roughly a month in the making. But aside from a few bosses, such as Bloodborne’s Shadows of Yharnam, the frequent killer for him was gravity.
Since the Aerophone is monophonic and not polyphonic like a piano, Dr. DeComposing tends to do one move at a time with points. Plus, the single joystick on the back of the instrument is programmed to function like the WASD keys on a keyboard, all of which make the platform or any kind of precise maneuvering for Dr. DeComposing something like a headache.
“All of them [controller-input] The combined factors mean that simple actions like running and turning simultaneously can’t be done without more switching that I programmed into the Aerophone’s commands,” said Dr. DeComposing. “And so, platforming is a nightmare. The number of times I have dead by gravity because the Aerophone controls weren’t responding well is disturbing.”
That’s not to say that everything has been terrible. Dr. DeComposing talked about some of the simpler aspects of the run, including Sekiro’s Folding Screen Monkeys and the Mist Noble (which plays a nice flute tune, but has become a joke mini-boss in the Souls community for how easy the challenge is) . While you would assume that combat in FromSoft’s games would be insurmountable with a single instrument, Dr. DeComposing actually found combat to be the easiest part because “a lot of camera control issues” don’t apply often. This is especially true for bosses like Bloodborne’s Cleric Beast and Sekiro’s Guardian Ape, which allow him to lock onto a single target so he can focus on hitting the right notes at the right time to get the double.
The million dollar question: Why?
“I thought it would be impossible to effectively play any video game using the electronic saxophone at all,” said Dr. DeComposing. “If it hadn’t happened at Bome MIDI Translator in the summer of 2021, I would have guessed that such a game would not be possible for me.”
While Translator Bome MIDI gave Dr. DeComposing the belief that such a method of gaming could happen, it took a little more experimentation and intricacies to make things work effectively. He didn’t jump straight into the Soulsborne games, instead choosing to start with “lighter” titles like Studio MDHR’s Cuphead and Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time to ensure the inputs worked properly.
“I still thought it would be impossible to use a saxophone to beat Dark Souls 3 (the first Souls game I played on Aerophone in November 2021),” said Dr. DeComposing. “The programming for the controls was still quite rudimentary and not exactly reliable, and it was extremely difficult at first to try to control the camera and the rest of the game at the same time. But then I managed to beat Boreal Valley’s Vordt on my first try and I could only think, ‘Holy shit, this is actually possible!’
For Dr. DeComposing, the sense that this absurd thing is possible is a high point he has been following since killing the four-legged creature Vordt. But there’s another, more philosophical element he likes about this particular challenge.
“Along the way I discovered another aspect of these challenges that I love: the dichotomy of doing excruciatingly difficult tasks in the least serious way possible,” said Dr. DeComposing. “The full video of me beating Malenia at level 1 on the Aerophone is 10 straight minutes of intense concentration and sweat bullets, ending with genuine shock and excitement on my face when I beat her, all while the Aerophone is making fart noises every time. I dodge or attack or navigate a menu. That split between super intense and super silly is a space that I think is really fun to live in, and I wouldn’t have found it if I wasn’t constantly trying to push what I thought was impossible.”
So what will be the next FromSoftware game that Dr. Will DeComposing play now that Bloodborne and Sekiro are done and dusted? He doesn’t have any particular rules in mind, but he’s watching the Dark Souls trilogy right now. After finishing those three games, he’ll move on to Demon’s Souls on PS5 and finally, FromSoft’s magnum opus, Elden Ring. But all he is doing is a kind of test. After winning all seven games, he plans to do it all over again with very little rest. His ultimate goal is to complete a full “Doot Deathless Run” by the end of 2023.