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Glitching at High Speed: The Art of Speedrunning

by on April 24, 2014
 

Watching a speedrun of a game is an odd experience, seeing someone beat a game as fast as possible by exploiting glitches, ignoring massive portions of what the designers intended for you to play and basically ripping the game to shreds in order to get the best time. With two world records being broken this week in the world of speedrunning, one being the Super Mario 64 100% completion record by Siglemic, I’d thought I’d take a closer look at this hardcore corner of the gaming world.

For the majority of speedruns, there are three major categories. There are 100% runs where a runner will try to complete everything in the short time, TASes or tool-assisted speedruns where the run is done in conjunction with a computer which can perform certain actions that a human never could and finally any% runs where it is simply a matter of beating the game as quickly as possible.

The dedication put in by speed runners is phenomenal, with them experimenting for years and doing countless runs in order to simply shave 2 seconds off a time or discovering a new trick to make their run quicker. For example, the Ocarina of Time world record was broken this week by Cosmo (a very popular Zelda speedrunner), with the game being beaten in 18:40 by utilising a new trick which allowed you to skip getting the Kokiri Sword completely. Not only is the time crazy (it took me over 40 hours to beat Ocarina of Time) but the fact that 16 years after the game’s launch, people are still finding glitches and bugs to speed up their times.

This is Cosmo’s WR run using the Sword Skip. He said he could go quicker.

He said he could do it even faster.As well as finding glitches and pulling off tricks correctly, even the version of the game which you are playing matters, with the Chinese iQue port of Ocarina of Time being the favoured version as the text scrolls faster, cutting further seconds off runs just by being able to skip text quicker. The sheer intricacy and dedication that goes into speedrunning is mind-blowing and it makes watching runs that much more exciting, knowing that a runner could be using a new trick or that a whole run could easily be botched by a single button press.

The speedrunning community is also famous for its extensive charity work, with yearly marathon streams like Awesome Games Done Quick where for 7 days, speedrunners will constantly run a huge variety of games in order to raise money for charity. Not only can you see world record runs being done here, but also unique stuff like run races, where 4 people all run a game simultaneously to see who can beat it the fastest or ridiculous challenges like someone trying to beat Mike Tyson’s Punch Out blindfolded or someone being able to reprogram Super Mario World during a tool assisted run. Some runs are amazing to watch, my favourites being the F-Zero runs, partly due to the skill of the runners but also the excitement from the crowd watching and the stream as well, making the speedrunning experience that much more engaging.

Blindfolded PunchOut

This is the fabled blindfolded Punch-Out! run. It is as mad as it sounds.

Speedruns are constantly being done on sites like Twitch, there are leaderboards and rankings online to see how fast someone can complete your favourite game and the best place to look for information and getting into speedrunning is the Speed Demos Archives which offers extensive guides, runs and general info about this unique gaming community.

Give a speedrun a watch and wait for your mind to melt at the sheer skill of some of these players. Also, keep a lookout for Summer Games Done Quick which starts on the 22nd of June to see loads of runners raising money for charity.


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