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Speedrunning: Ridiculous Speed, Ludicrous Speed, Glitch Speed!

strange headache

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With GDQ around the corner (January 6-13th, 2019) I thought I'd make a general topic on speedrunning

NeoGAF GDQ 2019 Thread



Speedrunning is the art of finishing games quickly. Might sound simple enough, but I've discovered it to be an aspect of gaming that takes a lot of skill and perseverance, with some players even running the same game for months, even weeks to shave a few frames off their time. While I don't speedrun myself, I find it highly entertaining to watch, admiring not only the dedication of certain speedrunners but also their ability to become highly skilled at playing a certain game. In order to achieve their times, speedrunners often need to think outside the box, planning their routes carefully while oftentimes breaking the rules set by the game by exploiting glitches and programming mistakes in order to skip entire parts of it.



Contrary to popular belief, speedrunning has a long history, probably dating back as far as gaming itself. One of the first games to recognize completion time rather than high score was Metroid released for the NES in 1986. The first instances of organized speedrunning happened in 1993 with the release of DOOM, when people started sharing they playthroughs on curated sites dedicated to competitive play. Leader-boards and entire databases dedicated to speedrunning started to form, each attracting close knit communities devoted to finishing a certain game as quickly as possible, such as Quake, Zelda and Goldeneye.

In the early days of speedrunning, it was incredibly difficult to record your runs, with many speedrunners sharing their runs on VHS tapes or through crappy webcams. Capture cards were notoriously rare back then and even if you were one of the lucky ones to be in possession of such a card, you'd have a hard time uploading your video in the early days of the internet. Due to this problem, some of the great speedrunning feats went lost in time, but thanks to the speedrunning communities many have been conserved through the decades.

Nowadays, with the wonders of modern technology and the advent of streaming platforms, speedrunning has become a lot more accessible and organized. Modern speedrunning has become a global phenomenon but contrary to competitive e-sports, the speedrunning community is still rather niche. Through the loyal communities and public events such as Games Done Quick (GDQ) it has garnered a core audience.

If you want to know more about the history of speedrunning, this article is a great place to start.



Speedruns are categorized into various levels of completion, or how thoroughly a game is completed. The most notable ones are the following categories:

Any% - This category refers to completing the game as quickly as possible, and often involves sequence breaking or the exploitation of glitches

100% - A category dedicated to the full completion of a game, for example collecting all key items, finding all secrets or exploring all the places

Glitchless - These runs are dedicated to completing a game as fast as possible without exploiting the game rules by playing the game "as intended"

Different games each have their different categories with their own leader-boards, often adding several special categories where people can compete. Ocarina of time for example has 8 different categories and Super Mario 64 has different categories dependent on the number of stars your need to collect, with 120 stars considered to be a 100% run. The Speedrun.com website has many different games listed, so feel free to check them out.



Speedrunning has become a highly sophisticated aspect of gaming as it takes a lot of skill, practice, endurance and technical knowledge to even be able to compete among top players. The sheer knowledge required to complete a game as fast as possible is for me on of the most fascinating aspects of speedrunning as the speedrunner needs to be intimately familiar with the game mechanics. In that regard any% runs are not any less skillful and astounding as glitchless runs. I find it a common misconception that any% runs are mere "cheating" when in fact it takes a lot of knowledge to exploit a game in such a way. As such many speedrunners rely on their tight knit community in order to develop new routes and strategies in order to improve their times.

Technical knowledge

Probably one of the most technical runs is Super Mario on the NES where mere frames are separating the top players. It's a game that gamers have been speedrunning for a long time now and as such it's been highly optimized. Here's an example of the technical expertise required to beat the game as fast as possible, the infamous level 4-2 of Super Mario:



Endurance

Even certain any% runs take a lot of time to complete. One of the most fascinating and well explained runs is this 8 hours long speedrun of Final Fantasy VII. Since encounters in this game happen randomly dependent on your stepcount, the speedrunners need to count each and every step during these 8 hours or highly focused play:



Exploring new strategies

Some games have been around for a long time, but to this day speedrunning communities are still finding new ways to exploit the game in order to complete them even faster. Even after 18+ years some new strategies are found in certain games such as Perfect Dark. The Super Mario 64 any% category is a great example of this, with speedrunners finding new ways to get to the end of the game with less and less stars:



Practice

Be it using two controllers simultaneously or mere repetition, mastering a speedrun takes a lot of practice, and by that I mean a lot. It took the speedrunner abney317 exactly 26,461 attempts in order to land a certain trick known as "Weathertenko" only to get the fastest time on the track Choco Mountain in Mario Kart 64. It's an extremely difficult trick, and the odds of that happening 3 times in a row, even for a skilled player, were 1/64,000.



Skill and patience

Speedrunning is highly competitive and in certain cases it takes a lot of patience to improve your time even by a single second. Another amazing feat in speedrunning is Karl Jobst breaking this world record in Goldeneye 64 which stood for 15 years! A lot of perseverance and dedication went into this run. Karl's reaction is priceless:



Glitches, Exploits and Bugs

Sometimes it's also just really funny to watch speedrunners break the game in order to progress faster (Morrowind and Skyrim being famous examples, basically any Bethesda game is hilarious really). Usually they do so by going out of bounds or by exploiting certain programming mistakes in order to skip whole sequences. The results are equally fascinating and funny to observe, like in this video:





If you feel like this aspect of gaming piqued your interest, here are a few good references to dive deeper into the fascinating and arcane art that is speedrunning. If you have any other references to add to the list, feel free to let me know.
  • Summoning Salt - A youtuber who makes entertaining documentaries on the history of various speedrun records
  • Bismuth - Another youtuber who might be a little less entertaining but goes into great depth explaining the various technical aspects of a speedrun
  • Apollo Legend - Mostly known for helping uncover cheaters such as Billy Mitchell and Todd Rogers as well as commenting various other scandals within the speedrunning community
  • RWhiteGoose - Foormer GoldenEye & Perfect Dark speedrunner, also covering other speedrunning news
  • Games Done Quick - A yearly week-long event raising millions of dollars for good causes by streaming highly entertaining speedruns of various games
  • Speedrun.com - Speed-rankings and leader-boards for various games
  • the-Elite.net - GoldenEye and Perfect Dark speedruns
  • ZeldaSpeedRuns - A speedrunning community that revolves around Zelda games



To be honest, speedrunning is a little bit crazy and a little bit awkward. It's also very nerdy and niche. And while I'm neither speedrunning myself nor consider myself an expert in any way, I find it nevertheless entertaining to watch from time to time. It's a highly competitive aspect of gaming that has not yet been heavily dominated by corporate interests and sponsoring. Speedrunning is still a little bit amateurish, although certain runners put a lot of work into their skills. It's a diamond in the rough and a competitive form of gaming that's still mostly driven by the love for playing games, rather than big money.

So here are my questions to you dear Gaffers:
  • Do you watch speedruns, and if so which ones did you find most enjoyable?
  • Do you find speedrunning boring and uninteresting and if so, why?
  • Have you watched or do you intend to watch the GDQ event?
  • Are you knowledgeable about speedrunning and would like to add to the OP?
  • Would you like to add anything else?

Thanks for reading.
 
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ipukespiders

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I did Quake 2 speedrunning 20 years ago. I had several map records but Quake 2 speedrunning died pretty quick as most preferred Quake 1. All our individual map runs were hosted on SDA and they got deleted I guess.

I was obsessed with speedrunning at the time, and had to back away as it was causing some family turmoil. I quit out of a group project part way through Quake 2 Done Quick 2, but some of my runs were included in it.
 
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DunDunDunpachi

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Top-notch thread strange headache strange headache !

I got into speedruns and themed runs from watching glitched and out-of-bound videos. One of the earliest ones I remember was a series of no-jump completion videos for Super Mario 64. I don't stick with any particular game or genre. I just watch them as they catch my interest.

Something well worth checking out is any fan-hack speedruns. It's the height of nerdiness when a small speedrunning community forms around a fanhack like Super Mario Frustration.

It's also worth checking out the meta commentary coming out for the speedrun community, like this:

If you're an outsider looking in, these sort of videos do a great job of catching you up on how the current strategies and records were made.

Even though I'm more interested in other kinds of gaming competition (high-score chasing), it's a real testament to our medium that speedrunning exists and people find it enjoyable. Speedrunning consists of many disparate pieces -- reflexes, memorization, studying glitches, practicing the perfect route, etc -- that makes it educational and interesting even though I have no interest in speedrunning any games myself.

I second your recommendations for Bismuth and Summoning Salt. They've put out a lot of interesting videos on the topic, which is helpful for someone like me who can't usually tune in to a stream or every WR attempt.
 

badblue

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I always enjoy watching speedruns. And the more absurd the better when it comes to abusing the systems that game has in place.

I really liked this one, where a guy beats Two Worlds in about 2 minutes. I've never played the game, but I suspect it takes at lot longer then that.
 

Kadayi

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I enjoy watching Dark Souls speedruns when i'm working. It's fascinating to see the workarounds they have come up with on a game that goes out of it's way for difficulty.
Yeah, I've enjoyed watching some Dark Souls ones before. It's super fascinating to see how people exploit the routing. Similarly, of late I've been watching a lot of Hitman speedruns. Not that it's necessarily an approach I'd take to playing the game myself, but I just find it just intriguing to watch, as a lot of the time its a case of people building on other peoples strategies to arrive at an optimal route and then looking for ways to refine it even more.
 

Airola

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It's interesting stuff but I'm actually a bit more interested in tool-assisted speedruns because it's really interesting to see what are the times games can theoretically be gone through. There is something super interesting in seeing what can be put to be the fastest possible time a game can be run through. And of course it's always interesting to see who can come the closest to those times without saving and loading and whatnot.
 

strange headache

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I did Quake 2 speedrunning 20 years ago. I had several map records but Quake 2 speedrunning died pretty quick as most preferred Quake 1. All our individual map runs were hosted on SDA and they got deleted I guess.
Pretty cool, what made you get into speedrunning Quake?

I got into speedruns and themed runs from watching glitched and out-of-bound videos. One of the earliest ones I remember was a series of no-jump completion videos for Super Mario 64. I don't stick with any particular game or genre. I just watch them as they catch my interest.
Any% is my favorite category too, the insane stuff people pull off is just incredible to watch. It's like a complex puzzle that you need to take apart in order to understand its underlying principles and then you still need the skill to use these incredibly complicated tricks in a complete run. Pattern recognition, death warps, out of bound tricks, RNG manipulation... one can see that a lot of research is being poured into these runs

I really liked this one, where a guy beats Two Worlds in about 2 minutes. I've never played the game, but I suspect it takes at lot longer then that.
I find it hilarious that the end boss is literally standing in a random field outside a town close to your starting location.

Not that it's necessarily an approach I'd take to playing the game myself, but I just find it just intriguing to watch, as a lot of the time its a case of people building on other peoples strategies to arrive at an optimal route and then looking for ways to refine it even more.
I also like to watch speedruns of retro games that I've struggled with as a kid. They make it all look so easy. It's also nice to relive a few of those games.

It's interesting stuff but I'm actually a bit more interested in tool-assisted speedruns because it's really interesting to see what are the times games can theoretically be gone through.
Yeah, TAS runs are also very cool to watch, too bad that many of them are impossible for humans to do.
 

DunDunDunpachi

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Speedrunners are often breaking new ground in the understanding for a game, i.e. learning how to manipulate Memory in a Game Boy game to achieve unheard-of records:


To me, that's something I find universally interesting. Okay, if you don't think speedrunning games is nifty, there's no accounting for taste. Everyone has their preferences. But as a gamer, you can at least appreciate the crazy secrets and exploits uncovered in pursuit of that perfect run...

Have you ever practiced for a speedrun, strange headache strange headache ? And/or are you considering picking up a game in particular? I have a few buddies who've learned a respectable speedrun for one particular game (like Super Metroid or Mega Man X) with no intention or interest of every speedrunning a different title.
 
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strange headache

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GDQ has launched!


I'm looking forward to the NieR: Automata run (estimated 4h 35min) and FF IX which will be almost 10 hours long. That's crazy! The "awful block" seems promising too, especially with Virtual Hydlide, that is one horrible game.

P.S.: Don't forget to check out Helios' GDQ thread.
 
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Helios

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Never tried to speedrun because I don't have the patience but watching other people breeze through a game is incredibly satisfying.

This especially has been a highlight of what people can do when they dedicate so many hours to one game. He fails a bit (as he did in his 2016 run) but the feat is amazing nonetheless.
 

somerset

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This stuff amazes me, tho I do not get the mindset of the peeps who do it well. Was watching the 'Shadows die Twice' one (as a person who can only 'beat' most of the bosses with a 'trainer'), and dear lord the gulf between his skill and mine (lack of skill).

So I think what would these same people do really well in the real world with the same type of mind and skill. I don't know, but it is clear that their inherent talent would translate to something important and profitable- tho I seriously doubt many of the best have the good fortune to experience this.

All Human Skills are pattern processing. Music, painting, coding, etc. It is strange how a person good in music, say, cannot take the same talent and apply it in another pattern processing medium. It is like life and games mirror one another, with the idea of the trees of specialist enhancements one can gain.

When I worked with one artist friend, he could do in image space what I could do in code space, but neither of us could possibly cross over. And we have no conceptual explanation for why this is so.
 

Flying Toaster

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I watched a video of a Mario 64 wall jump into a chainlink platform above thing bounty. I need to find it again but that video really put into perspective how freaking crazy awesome and dedicated the speed run community is. Passion is to weak a word to describe what these people have for what they do and the games they play.
 
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strange headache

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Many thanks Bullet Club Bullet Club for keeping this topic alive. Don't have much time to keep up with all the speedrunning news, so your videos are much appreciated.

When I worked with one artist friend, he could do in image space what I could do in code space, but neither of us could possibly cross over. And we have no conceptual explanation for why this is so.
The simple reason is passion.

Mastering a particular skill requires a huge time investment. Given your limited time, you have to make a choice sooner or later and specialize in something. Speedrunning for example is a niche interest but highly competitive. If you want to even have a chance at a Super Mario, Mario 64 or GoldenEye record, you need to dedicate an incredibly huge amount of time and dedication. Most people are not willing to make these sacrifices. These runs are optimized to the point where mere frames separate the what from the chaff. It's insane really, but that's also what makes it so fascinating.
 
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nkarafo

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It grinds my gears when some of my friends tell me how speedrunners have "too much free time" and how they are wasting it, etc. Because life is only about productivity right?

Well, screw those guys, i have huge respect for speedrunners because of their dedication, patience and skills. You really need nerves of steel to do some of those records, especially the longer playthroughs where you have to be constantly perfect for a large amount of time, in a single playthrough.
 

strange headache

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I added rwhitegoose, a former GoldenEye speedrunner, to the list.


He also covers a lot of speedrunning news on his channel. If you have other sources to add to the list, feel free to let me know.
 
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asker

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I added rwhitegoose, a former GoldenEye speedrunner, to the list.


He also covers a lot of speedrunning news on his channel. If you have other sources to add to the list, feel free to let me know.
I have never cared much for GoldenEye but I can sit glued through 2+ hours of Goose going over the world record progression of a single level of that game. It's amazing.
 
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#Phonepunk#

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All Human Skills are pattern processing. Music, painting, coding, etc. It is strange how a person good in music, say, cannot take the same talent and apply it in another pattern processing medium. It is like life and games mirror one another, with the idea of the trees of specialist enhancements one can gain.

When I worked with one artist friend, he could do in image space what I could do in code space, but neither of us could possibly cross over. And we have no conceptual explanation for why this is so.
It’s because your fundamental assertion is a little robotic and false. Pattern processing has a place in the arts but is not the end all be all of expression. If it was then as you say a programmer could do the best of anything. But they don’t. Besides abstract art and ambient music exist which actually work against pattern recognition. This seems to be confusing how a computer works with how people work. Computers are not people.

Also playing video games is not creating something. You are merely participating in something someone else created. It is entirely different from painting or making music. Maybe similar to doing karaoke tho.

That said a good karaoke singer can be damn fun to watch
 
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jackets with pockets

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Great topic, i dont like speedrunning very much, but i always loved the quake done quick.


There's also a 100% speedrun that comes with the perfect comment:
Circles and Sounds said:
I'm pretty good at Quake. Pretty good. However, this makes me feel like a child who doesn't know what video games are.


I'm thinking of dusting the old Quake CD box and installing the game again just to watch these hypnotizing feats at best quality.
 
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