SpongeBob SquarePants: Revenge of the Flying Dutchman may not ring a bell for anyone but the most hardcore fans of the Nickelodeon cartoon. But for a dedicated group of speedrunners, optimizing runs through the game has become a new obsession — one that talented players could even make money from.
Cosmeme, a member of the Revenge of the Flying Dutchman speedrun community, took to Reddit this week with a challenge: The first person or people to execute one of two glitches that, in theory, should vastly shorten playthroughs of the game will receive $50 in exchange for their finding.
“I decided to offer a bounty for the two strats for a couple different reasons,” Cosmeme told Polygon. “Mainly, our smaller community was having trouble with them, so a bounty would get a couple of new faces in to help us out with them.”
In his Reddit pitch, Cosmeme explained the pre-requisites for the prize money. To win the prize money, players must prove that they either found a way around what he calls “the most tedious part of the run,” a collect-a-thon that rewards players with a necessary item, or successfully performed a glitch that hypothetically gives players a shortcut to Revenge of the Flying Dutchman’s last level. (It’s expected that players will achieve these within the GameCube version of the multi-platform game.)
Uncovering these solutions wouldn’t just benefit Cosmeme and his fellow SpongeBob fans who are constantly trying to break a game that he admits isn’t all that good, he explained. It would also help to promote Revenge of the Flying Dutchman as a speedrun for even non-players to enjoy, a reputation earned by certain better-known SpongeBob games.
“The reason why [Return of the Flying Dutchman] has had a spark in growth over the last months is its poor design choices and its ability to be broken, which has much potential for an entertaining speedrun,” said Cosmeme, who’s been toying with the game for about two months. “The main reason why more people pay attention now is that they are just really entertaining. The most popular game in the series, Battle for Bikini Bottom, is a run that’s filled with intense segments and difficult tricks, which gets anybody watching pretty interested.”
Battle for Bikini Bottom speedruns have steadily grown in prominence over the past year, in large part due to the efforts of top player Shift. But fans with fondness and nostalgia for SpongeBob’s earlier days — and slightly broken, old-school platformers — have since branched out to other titles in the franchise. Return of the Flying Dutchman may not be as beloved as Battle for Bikini Bottom or The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie game, but Cosmeme is hopeful that $100 will be a tantalizing entry point for new players.
It’s uncommon for speedrun communities to dole out cash for successful, novel strategizing, but it’s not unheard of. Players offered up more than $800 to whoever could figure out The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker’s infamous “barrier skip” trick, which was finally performed earlier this year. There’s also an endeavor in the Super Smash Bros. Melee base to figure out the “super yo-yo” glitch; the bounty for that is currently at $456.
Attractive as the money may be, fans are confident that people who try running Return of the Flying Dutchman for the first time in the hopes of a payout will end up sticking around. Baz, an admin on the game’s speedrunning Discord, shared a growing Google Doc of techniques and other glitches with us that should be useful to newcomers; he said that the community has already worked together to find additions to the list.
“Our Discord has nearly doubled in members since the original post, and the original Reddit post was perceived quite well,” Cosmeme explained. “Money is of course a great motivation to pour hours into something that we don't know a lot about, so I believe that more and more people will try to get involved too.”