The Perfect Dark Elite
For any given skill, sport, videogame, or general area of expertise that you feel you are pretty good at, there are always people who are infinitely better. For the N64 videogame Perfect Dark, the Perfect Dark Elite are those people.
Founded by gaming enthusiast Jon Barber shortly after* the American release of the game, with only seven founding members**, the PDE today hosts the world solo mission rankings for over 300 members of widely varying skill. Originally the PDE focused only on getting the world's best solo mission times, and though in the intervening years it has branched out to cover every imaginable aspect of the game, they have always remained the focus.
Players are ranked both in time and in points. Faster times = more points. Players with particularly slow times receive no points. There are 63 levels, comprising 21 missions each with 3 difficulty settings - Agent (easy), Special Agent (medium) and Perfect Agent (hard). A typical player can expect to be able to gain at least 500 points overall with minimal effort, though after that the hard work begins. Time and points totals are calculated automatically by the updater script, which creates up-to-date rankings twice a week, and also displays the current world records.
To move up the rankings, players must sharpen down their best times and thus gain more points. In order to do this for any given mission, a new set of movement patterns, objectives and time-saving tactics must be first learnt and then exploited with precision. The levels are varied and taxing and require the use of many different skills. Effort is richly rewarded with movement upwards on the points and time rankings. The pleasure of playing (it is, after all, a brilliant game in its own right), combined with the challenge of competition and the collaborative aim of getting the world's best times makes competing in the PDE a very addictive pastime.
To be ranked, all you need to do is create a web page listing all your solo mission times in a table, upload it somewhere, then submit your name, email and URL. The PDE do not discriminate on grounds of ability. Your times can be as lousy as you like, provided they are genuine. Video proof is sought for particularly impressive claims. There is only really one rule in the PDE - if you are caught lying about your times, even once, then you are banned permanently.
The Elite's library of achievements is one which anyone with a passing knowledge of Perfect Dark will find very impressive.
Although, technically, the records hosted on the site are not yet recognised by the videogame scorekeeping authority Twin Galaxies, they are considered by most members to be accurate and genuine. Almost every world record has documented video footage which is available on the PDE website, and suspicious claims are quickly chased up and then removed if proof is not provided. It is also considered unlikely that faster times are out there somewhere, unsubmitted.
Perfect Dark is nearly three years old now, and the next generation of videogames is upon us. Dated technology, and waning popularity next to its arguably superior precursor GoldenEye 007, have meant that the flow of new members and world records in the PDE has steadily slowed over the last six months. Players have broken away to pursue world records on newer games, and there are those who, having played enough Perfect Dark to last a lifetime, have put down the joypad to concentrate on college and work. However, the rankings will remain online for the forseeable future, and the community that grew up around it will doubtless remain also. Another of the internet's quiet success stories.
*Perfect Dark was released in America on May 22, 2000. The Elite was founded on July 5.
**Jon Barber (founder), Jonas McCammon, Matthew Yakobina, "RaydenEG", Derek Kisman, Chris Rayola and Ben Gorman
***This beat the previous record of 0:27, which had been set 830 days previously and was by far the longest standing world record at the time.