Spend any time on the internet—whether Reddit, Twitter, or YouTube—and you’ve likely seen some streamer doing some absurd-ass playthrough of a Soulsborne game (probably Elden Ring). Whether it’s beating Margit with a harp or two Malenias simultaneously (one with a dance pad), there are some wild ways of tackling FromSoftware games out there.
Streamer Dr. DeComposing is simply just trying to finish FromSoft’s games without dying in the first place—except he’s using a freakin’ electronic saxophone to do so. This challenge run, known as the Demigod Run, has been renamed by Dr. Decomposing as the“Deathless Doot Run.” It’s wild stuff.
A doctoral composer (which Kotaku verified), Dr. DeComposing is known for playing games with the Roland Aerophone AE-10, a roughly $700 digital wind instrument that can simulate clarinet, flute, sax, synth, violin, and other sounds. Watching his streams is hilarious and stressful; something always goes wrong. Sometimes, his keyboard will lock up due to the interference of the electronic sax, like the alt key getting stuck after playing a note on the instrument. Other times, he’ll accidentally walk off a cliff because of an incorrect input. Hell, he might even play with silly sounds like farts while trying to maintain focus, such as when battling Malenia, Blade of Miquella in Elden Ring. At least he isn’t trying a hitless run of these games. I’d probably die of laughter if every in-game action I made constituted a fart.
Just Doot Through The Pain
In an email exchange with Kotaku, Dr. DeComposing said the electronic sax is connected to his computer via USB and sends MIDI signals whenever he plays notes. These messages are captured by Bome MIDI Translator, a digital interface that converts those signals into mouse and keyboard inputs. There is a “mod wheel,” or controller stick, on the back of the instrument that’s been programmed as a replacement analog stick to operate the in-game camera. Otherwise, every action is performed by single doots.
“As I play through a game, I also have the Aerophone set up to play a variety of virtual instrument sounds and samples—the MIDI messages that I set up to control the game are also routed to a Digital Audio Workstation (‘DAW’) that stores my sound library,” Dr. DeComposing said. “So every time I ‘doot’ on the electronic saxophone, it simultaneously presses a button on the gamepad and plays a little sound (e.g. a recorder, a taiko drum, a chiptune beat, a surprisingly tuneful fart, etc.). During my streams, viewers are also able to interact with the sound of the Aerophone by ‘summoning the Wheel of Doots,’ which randomly selects an Aerophone sound set from my library.”
These doots make up Dr. DeComposing’s gameplay. When his viewers aren’t voting on a sound from the “Wheel of Doots,” (a virtual spin board that includes a repository of swappable sample noises such as the word “crab” or random moans when he plays the Aerophone), you’ll hear traditional instrumental notes like B5 and D5 that restore health and transform weapons (in Bloodborne), respectively. This is to both ease the frustration that comes with repeat deaths and restarts and to give his chatters a way to interact with the run by selecting the noises the instrument makes at regular intervals during his livestreams. It’s pretty fun.
Gravity Is The Real Big Bad Here
In addition to the Demigod Run, he’s already completed sax-controlled deathless runs of Bloodborne and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, both of which are watchable on his YouTube channel. Dr. DeComposing said Bloodborne took about two weeks to beat, while Sekiro was approximately one month in the making. But aside from some bosses, such as Bloodborne’s Shadows of Yharnam, the frequent run-killer for him was gravity.
Since the Aerophone is monophonic and not polyphonic like a piano, Dr. DeComposing tends to make one movement at a time with the doots. Plus, the sole controller stick on the back of the instrument is programmed to function like WASD keys on a keyboard, all of which makes platforming or any sort of precise maneuvering for Dr. DeComposing something of a headache.
“All of these [controller-input] factors combined means that simple actions like running and turning simultaneously can’t be done without more toggles I programmed into the Aerophone’s controls,” Dr. DeComposing said. “And so, platforming is a nightmare. The number of times I’ve died to gravity because the Aerophone controls weren’t responding well is harrowing.”
That’s not to say it’s all been terrible. Dr. DeComposing talked about some of the simpler aspects of the run, including Sekiro’s Folding Screen Monkeys and the Mist Noble (who plays a beautiful flute melody but has become something of a joke mini-boss in the Souls community for how easy it is to beat). While you would assume combat in FromSoft’s games would be insurmountable with an instrument, Dr. DeComposing actually found fighting to be the easiest part because “a lot of the camera control issues” don’t often apply. This is especially true of bosses like Bloodborne’s Cleric Beast and Sekiro’s Guardian Ape, which let him lock on to a single target so he can focus on hitting the right notes at the right time to get the dub.
The Million Dollar Question: Why?
“I thought it would be impossible to effectively play any video games using the electronic saxophone at all,” Dr. DeComposing said. “If it weren’t for stumbling upon Bome MIDI Translator in the summer of 2021, I would have guessed that this kind of gaming wouldn’t have been possible for me to do.”
While the Bome MIDI Translator gave Dr. DeComposing the confidence that such a method of gaming could happen, it took a bit more experimentation and tinkering to get things working effectively. He didn’t jump straight into the Soulsborne games, instead opting to start with “easier” titles like Studio MDHR’s Cuphead and Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time to ensure inputs functioned properly.
“I still thought it would be impossible to use a saxophone to beat Dark Souls 3 (the first Souls game I played on the Aerophone in November 2021),” Dr. DeComposing said. “The programming for the controls was still pretty rudimentary and not exactly reliable, and it was extremely awkward at first to try controlling the camera and the rest of the game simultaneously. But then I managed to beat Vordt of the Boreal Valley on my first try and could only think, ‘Holy shit, this is actually possible!’”
For Dr. DeComposing, that feeling of this absurd thing being possible is a high he’s chased ever since murking the quadrupedal creature Vordt. But there’s another, more philosophical element he enjoys about this specific challenge.
“I discovered along the way another aspect of these challenges that I love: the dichotomy of completing excruciatingly difficult tasks in the least serious way possible,” Dr. DeComposing said. “The full video of me finally beating Malenia at level 1 on the Aerophone is 10 straight minutes of intense concentration and sweating bullets, ending with genuine shock and emotion on my face when I beat her, all while the Aerophone is triggering 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 hadn’t tried to continually push through what I thought was impossible.”
So, what’s the next FromSoftware game Dr. DeComposing will play through now that Bloodborne and Sekiro are done and dusted? He doesn’t have any particular order in mind, but he’s eyeing the Dark Souls trilogy right now. Once he finishes those three games, he’ll move on to Demon’s Souls on PS5 and finally, FromSoft’s magnum opus, Elden Ring. But everything he’s doing is a sort of trial run. After beating all seven games, he plans to do it all over again back-to-back with very few breaks. His ultimate goal is to complete a full “Deathless Doot Run” by the end of 2023.