207: Zen and the Art of Speedrunning

Danielle Riendeau

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Jun 19, 2009
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Zen and the Art of Speedrunning

How long do you have to play a game until you feel like you've sufficiently mastered it? If your answer can be measured in hours or days, chances are you're not a speedrunner. Danielle Riendeau investigates the obsessive world of competitive speedrunning.

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Dragonrabbit

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Egads! I'd never have the patience to do that. Hell, I hardly have the patience to finish most games nowadays as it is, let alone to go back and beat it 10,000 more times.
 

BlindTom

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I wonder if it's better to spend your time repeatedly speedrunning Battletoads or sampling WoW's regular gameplay... The two sound rather similar.
 

The Youth Counselor

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These gamers have helped me so much in multiplayer. Watching the speed demos helps give insight on how a game engine works and neat tricks that excel a game.

I've completed Left 4 Dead maps in under a minute due to the videos. Of course naysayers call this an exploit, but speedrunning is a different game altogether from versus and campaign mode.
 

Vanguard_Ex

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See, this is where I think it gets a little bit too much. I play a game to have fun and relax, this just smacks of...well, obsession. Besides, apart being able to show off about it and impress few people in the real world, isn't it all for nought?
 

TheBlackKnight

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Vanguard_Ex said:
See, this is where I think it gets a little bit too much. I play a game to have fun and relax, this just smacks of...well, obsession. Besides, apart being able to show off about it and impress few people in the real world, isn't it all for nought?
I think for some of them it is more like, pushing your personal boundaries and curiosity how the game works and how to bend and break the rules of said game or its engine; The HL2 speedrun springs to my mind here;
For those who haven't seen it:: The guys are abusing the Havok-Physics Engine to fly around and hurl themselves around the maps; Quite interesting from a Gamer and a Developers purpose;

Also such power gamers are vital for balancing multiplayer games. Be it finding exploits or game imbalances.
 

hopeneverdies

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You know, I've always wanted to beat the segmented record for Wind Waker, I just need to find the time.
 

Cosplay Horatio

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I remember watching speed runs at Fanime '08 of Metroid Zero Mission, Super Mario 64 and Super Smash Bros. for the N64. They were amazing! I wished that I could do something like that and I probably could with Mike Tyson's Punch Out but I don't have the time what with spending time with my wife, going to work, hanging out with friends, and going to the occasional convention but not being able to sit at the console long enough because game rooms always have a time limit on what you play.
 

n00bie51

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I remember I was in shock after watching beat the entirety of Half-Life in a little over half an hour. Props to the speed runners, there's ridiculous skill there.
 

Internet Kraken

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n00bie51 said:
I remember I was in shock after watching beat the entirety of Half-Life in a little over half an hour. Props to the speed runners, there's ridiculous skill there.
Doesn't that involve using exploits to jump over barriers in certain areas?
 

geldonyetich

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It's certainly a different way to play games: memorizing patterns and getting your timing exactly right to ace the game in as little time as possible.
 

Kilo24

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I encountered the Speed Demos Archive website a bit before Youtube became so huge. Two of the more mindboggling ones were Fallout 1 and Morrowind each done in ~10 minutes. TSA's work with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was very good as well (~5 hours at the time, and very skillful.)

Now I spend more time vegging out to commentated professional Starcraft.
 

ReverseEngineered

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Some people think speedrunning is just obsession, but as somebody who is part of a group of people trying to break world records, it's just another level to the game. Finishing a game (especially older games, like on the NES) is rarely easy, but just because you've made it to the end of the last level doesn't mean you've experienced the entire game. Speed runs, point runs, and other goals add a new challenge to the game, considerably extending the lifetime of the game.

It doesn't even have to be as mundane as time and points. Try playing Arkanoid with the controller upside-down, or like us, while lying upside-down. Not only is it terribly disorienting, the blood-rush to the head makes it that much harder to concentrate.
 

WinterSoldier

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The only game I've tried to speedrun is Ape Escape. I didn't have a working memory card at the time so every time I played the game I had to start from the beginning. I played it excessively and was eventually able to beat the game in 1.5 hours or so.
 

Ull_the_shaggy_one

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I can understand being drawn to challenge, but speedrunning is the oppisite of how I play games. I like to explore every corner, complete every side quest, talk to everyone, etc.
 

drewqpublic

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Vanguard_Ex said:
See, this is where I think it gets a little bit too much. I play a game to have fun and relax, this just smacks of...well, obsession. Besides, apart being able to show off about it and impress few people in the real world, isn't it all for nought?
yes

also, great but dense book.
 

The Rogue Wolf

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Ull_the_shaggy_one said:
I can understand being drawn to challenge, but speedrunning is the oppisite of how I play games. I like to explore every corner, complete every side quest, talk to everyone, etc.
Me too. Still, it's always interesting to see people plow through a game like that. I've also seen speedruns of Half-Life 1- bunnyhopping, exploiting level-geometry glitches, all sorts of things. It's amazing.
 

insectoid

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I do enjoy watching the odd speedrun from time to time, but for me personally, I couldn't do it. I play games to unwind and relax, and while I do enjoy a challenge, I wouldn't take it to that extent. I have other hobbies for pursuing technical perfection.
 

mendokusai

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For me, the time at which a game is spreedrun would be inversely proportional to how much fun I had.