Quake speedrunning

Video games notable for speedrunning

Traditionally, speedruns have been performed by members of online communities about games in general, usually through discussion forums, using strategies devised by members of such forums. When the activity became popular enough to acede subculture, the first sites dedicated to speedrunning started appearing — usually specializing in just one or a few games. Some of these sites have sustained activity for a long time, sometimes even up to today, due to the large potential its games have for speedrunning.

Quake

Quake is arguably the only game to rival Doom as the most popular game to speedrun ever. People first started recording demos of Quake playthroughs when it was released in June 1996 and sharing them with others on the demos/e directory in Cdrom.com's Quake file hierarchy. There were two distinct kinds of demos: those in which the player killed all monsters and found all secrets on the map (called 100% demos) and those in which the player ignored these goals in order to finish the level as fast as possible (called runs). All levels were, at that time, recorded solely on the “Nightmare” difficulty level, the highest in the game.

In April 1997, Nolan “Radix” Pflug first started the Nightmare Speed Demos web site to keep track of the fastest demos. The first Quake done Quickof the game, carrying over one level's finishing statistics to the next. The run ended up finishing the entire game on Nightmare difficulty in 0:19:49; an astonishment at that time. It received widespread attention from gaming magazines, being distributed with free CDs that usually came with them. This popularized speedrunning for a much larger audience than before and attracted many newcomers. Not all of those newcomers agreed with the old-timers's dogma that runs should be made on the hardest possible skill level. Thus, in August 1997 Muad'Dib's Quake Page came to be, run by Gunnar “Muad'Dib” Andre Mo and specializing in “Easy” difficulty runs. One month after that, the famous Quake done Quick movie was superseded by a new movie called Quake done Quicker, on September 14, 1997, which improved the game's fastest playthrough time to 0:16:35.

In April 1998, Nolan and Gunnar merged their pages, thus creating Speed Demos Archive, which today is still the central repository for Quake speed demos of any kind. Ever since its creation, a large variety of tricks have been discovered in the Quake physics, which kept players interested even up to today, more than a decade after Quake's release. Subsequently, Quake done Quick with a Vengeance was released on September 13, 2000, which featured a complete run through Quake in the hugely improved time of 0:12:23..

As of March 2006, Speed Demos Archive contains a total amount of 8481 demos (on both official and custom maps), accounting for a total time of 253 hours, 44 minutes and 39 seconds. The fastest minimalist single-segment completion times that have been recorded thus far, as of June 10, 2006, are 0:13:46 for the easy difficulty run and 0:19:50 for the nightmare difficulty run, both by long-time Quake runner Connor Fitzgerald. The 100% single-segment completion times are 0:46:02 for the easy difficulty run and 1:09:33 for the nightmare difficulty run, respectively Marlo Galinski and Justin Fleck.

Records

The records listed here are continuous runs through all of Quake that are recorded in one playing session. This kind of run, done on either a full episode or the entire game, is called a Marathon. Such runs are categorized in two types and difficulty levels; 100% runs, in which it is required that the player kills all monsters and finds all secrets on every level, and runs without this requirement.

The most noteworthy Marathons are listed below. Many more have been created, however; for a full list, see Speed Demos Archive: Marathons

Category Time Date Player
Easy difficulty (run) 0:13:46 June 29, 2005 Connor Fitzgerald
Easy difficulty (100% run) 0:46:02 March 07, 2004 Marlo Galinski
Nightmare difficulty (run) 0:19:50 July 19, 2005 Connor Fitzgerald
Nightmare difficulty (100% run) 1:09:33 October 18, 2005 Justin Fleck

Quake done Quick

As mentioned earlier, another very important aspect of the Quake speedrunning community is Quake done Quick, a collection of movies in which the game is finished as fast as possible with special rules and aims. Unlike the normal records listed above, these movies are created one level at a time rather than in one continuous play session; as such, it is possible for multiple people to help create the movie by sending in demos of individual levels, and much higher times can be aimed for as the segmentation allows one to easily try again upon committing an error. It also allows runners to only have to focus on a small portion of the game rather than all of it.

These movies are by far more popular than the conventional records, both in the community itself and outside of it. Some of them, most notably the movies that feature a fast playthrough of the game on the Nightmare difficulty level without additional voluntary challenges, have even been distributed with gaming magazines and posted on news sites. Slashdot has published an announcement of the then newly created Quake done Quick with a Vengeance movie on its front page. Out of all the series' movies, this one is also the most popular. In it, the entire game is finished in 0:12:23 on “Nightmare” difficulty, the hardest in the game. This run succeeded Quake done Quicker and the original Quake done Quick movie, in which the game was finished in respectively 0:16:35 and 0:19:49. The main reason for the latest installment being over 4 minutes faster, an improvement that surpassed the initial expectations of the runners, is the discovery of bunny hopping, which allowed runners to attain a much higher speed in most levels and even made it possible to save rockets or grenades for jumps that could now be done without them. This movie is currently being improved by new and old runners for a production called Quake done Quick with a Vengeance Part II. As of May 2006, the improvements that have been made thus far would result in a time of 0:11:32 for the entire game, an improvement of 51 seconds.

Some of the productions have been turned into Machinima movies, using so-called “recams” (showing the run from preset camera perspectives rather than the first-person view) and sometimes even custom skins, models, and a script to turn them into films rather than speedrun videos.

For a full list of the movies that have been created, see the Quake done Quick Web site. Unlike the conventional records, the individual players that worked on these movies are not listed; there are always many different players working on these projects, and as such, they are usually attributed to the “Quake done Quick team”, while details on who made which portion of the run can be found in the description text files that come with them.

Doom

December 1993 saw the release of id Software's Doom. Among some of its major features, like at that time unparalleled graphics, LAN- and Internet-based multiplayer support, and user modification possibilities, it also gave the players the ability to record demo files of their playthrough. This particular feature was first picked up by Christina “Strunoph” Norman in January 1994 when she launched the LMP Hall of Fame website.

This site was, however, quickly obsoleted by the DOOM Honorific Titles, launched in May 1994 by Frank Stajano, which introduced the first serious competition between players. This site would create the basis for all DOOM demosites that would follow. The DHT were designed around a notion of earning titles by successfully recording a particular type of demo on pre-determined maps in the IWADs. These 'exams' became very popular as the player had to earn each title by sending in a demo of the feat to one of the site's judges to justify his application. Doom II was released in October 1994, and the DHT conformed to the new additions as well as the new Doom version releases. At the height of its popularity, the DHT had many different categories and playing styles. For example, playing with only the fists and pistol while killing all monsters on a map became known as Tyson mode, named after the heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson. Pacifist-mode was playing without intentionally harming any monsters. Each category had easy, medium, and hard difficulty maps for players to get randomly chosen for. Many legends in the Doom speedrunning scene started out in the DHT, including George Bell (Tyson), Steffen Udluft (Pacifist), Kai-Uwe “Gazelle” Humpert, Frank “Jesus” Siebers (Nightmare), Thomas “Panter” Pilger (Reality), and Yonatan Donner. Unfortunately, the DHT always had trouble retaining a permanent Internet location. This, combined with the changing rules and the diminished importance of most of the titles, made public interest wane as the years rolled on.

In November 1994, the Doom speedrunning scene, in the form of the COMPET-N website, took off. Its creator, Simon Widlake, intended the site to be a record scoreboard for a variety of Doom-related achievements, but unlike its predecessors, they all centered around one key idea: speed. Players were required to run through Doom's levels as fast as humanly possible in order to attain a spot on the constantly-updated COMPET-N scoreboards which eventually made Doom one of the most popular games for speedrunning.

Like the DOOM Honorific Titles, this site experienced multiple location changes over time; it was even at Cdrom.com for a while before Istvan Pataki took over as maintainer and moved the site to the now defunct FTP server ftp.sch.bme.hu From there on, since early 1998, it was in the hands of Adam Hegyi, who has been the maintainer ever since. It is currently located at Doom2.net

As of March 2006, COMPET-N contains a total amount of 6072 demos (on both official and custom maps), accounting for a total time of 462 hours, 8 minutes and 20 seconds.

Metroid series

Released in August 1986, Metroid was the first game to introduce special rewards for fast completion times. Featuring highly non-linear gameplay, it was possible for a player to extensively search for faster routes towards the end of the game. This has been researched thoroughly since the game was created, and it has since been concluded that only a few items are necessary to complete the game.

The release of Super Metroid in 1994 greatly increased the quality of Metroid speedrunning. It featured a physics system that allowed for a wide array of skills for mobility, like wall jumping or the Shinespark, allowing players to skip over large areas of the game, or play through the game in different manners based on how well they could perform these tricks in contextual situations. Additionally, it had the same non-linear gameplay the fans had come to expect from the series. Due to the way the game is laid out, several different run types or tiers that incorporate different completion percentages have been done. The most popular type, which focuses solely on finishing the game as fast as possible with no other prerequisites, is aptly named the any% run. Besides it, speedrunners also attempt runs in which all items are obtained, called the 100% run. The tool-assisted community has also made a run in which as few items as possible are obtained, accounting for a completion percentage of 14%; this is called a low% run, the “low” usually being substituted for the actual completion percentage attained in the run. Even though much fewer items are taken in this run, it's slower than the route in the any% run because of how long it takes to kill Ridley and Mother Brain with only the Ice Beam.

Following Super Metroid there was an 8 year gap during which no new Metroid games were released. During this time, the first games in the series were played intensively by dedicated gamers, and many tricks were discovered that allowed players to achieve incredibly short completion times. As the Internet became more available to the general public, runners began to find each other online. Groups of players started collaborating on message boards and sent tricks back and forth to one another, in what became a community based on playing the games speedily.

The first Metroid community that was created for the purpose of fast completion was Metroid Prime Discoveries, created and led by Jean-Sebastien “Zell” Dubois. Rather than being a site that focused on speedrunning, it was dedicated to documenting the possibilities of sequence breaking in the game Metroid Prime. When the interest arose to begin the documentation of other games in the series, however, the new site Metroid 2002 was created by Nathan Jahnke in August 2003. Initially, the only incentive was to document the two Metroid games released in 2002 — Metroid Prime and Metroid Fusion — but this changed when Nathan was asked to take all content of Metroid Online, another site that had been developed at that time and contained sequence breaking documentation, a message board, and a 1% Metroid Fusion run, and relaunch Metroid 2002 as “the one resource for Metroid Prime sequence breaking info.” This relaunch happened less than two weeks later than the proposition and came to be in November. Ever since, it has been the central repository for everything related to speedrunning the Metroid series.

It was also in November 2003 that Metroid speedrunning reached its peak, after Nolan Pflug released his 100% run of Metroid Prime, in which he finished the entire game in 1:37. Since it was featured in the games section of Slashdot, it gained widespread attention. Publications in numerous different languages ran stories on the run, and topics about the run were made on gaming message boards around the world. The first segment of his run was being downloaded over five thousand times a day at the peak of its popularity. The Metroid 2002 IRC channel was flooded with people who had heard about the run and wanted to know more about it, quickly dwarfing the original population, and its message board saw its member count double in size the month following the run's release. As a result of the popularity of this run, it was decided that in order to best serve the growing bandwidth consumption, Metroid 2002 would have to merge its array of videos with Speed Demos Archive, which was at that time being provided nearly limitless server capacity for their runs on the Internet Archive.

As of April 2007, the best completion time for Metroid Prime stands at 1:03 by Besmir “Zoid” Sheqi, and the best 100% time was reduced to 1:28 by Paul “Bartendorsparky” Evans, obsoleting Nolan's hugely popular run.

Super Mario series

As games, the Super Mario series features some of the most defining games to the platformer genre. Due to their popularity and simple yet challenging physics and gameplay mechanics, every instance of the series is well-suited for speedrunning. As such, there has always been a lot of competition for the top times for these games.

The first platformer game to feature Mario as protagonist was Super Mario Bros., for which Andrew Gardikis recorded the world record. This is only 3 seconds slower than the fastest tool-assisted speedrun, which stands at 0:04:57 (adjusted for timing differences), created by R. “Pom” Yoshizawa in July 2005. Despite the fact that tool-assisted speedruns are usually much faster than their unassisted counterparts, due to the way they are created (for example, many game engines have bugs that allow the player to pass through walls, but these glitches are usually so difficult to exploit that they are only considered to be a viable strategy in tool-assisted speedrunning, where one can get the necessary precision required to do so), the difference between the two runs in time is very small. This is because the gameplay of Super Mario Bros. leaves much less room for impressive speed tactics due to the constant running speed.

A Super Mario 64 zero-star run was done at 5 minutes and 39.3 seconds. One of the "backwards long jumping glitches" required tool-assistance on basement level.

Another incredibly popular speedrun in the series is Richard Ureta's Super Mario Bros. 3 run. He runs through the entire game and uses warp whistles to skip worlds 2 through 7 entirely, bringing the final time to 0:11:11.. This time was obsoleted in mid-2007 by Freddy Andersson with 0:11:03.

Interestingly, the tool-assisted speedrun of this game, made by “もりもと” (“Morimoto”) in November 2003, was also very popular outside of the speedrun community as it was the first published run of this famous game, ending after 0:11:04 of input. As such, there was little knowledge of how and why tool-assisted speedruns were made, which spawned a lot of controversy over his run; after it was mass-posted on forums all over the Internet, the users of those forums would call it a hoax after finding out that it was created using an emulator, citing that Morimoto himself “admitted” to creating the movie “frame by frame” and that it took him two years to do it. These claims came to be after a page was found on Morimoto's now defunct site in which he explains how he created the run with the Famtasia emulator, using conventional tool-assisted speedrunning methods; however, when it was posted, a machine translation was used instead of the original text, causing it to differ severely from the intention, which spawned the misunderstandings. His run has, however, since been obsoleted a few times by faster versions. The current fastest tool-assisted speedrun for Super Mario Bros. 3 stands at 0:10:29, created by Andrés Delikat, Robin "Deign" Reigstad, Cardboard, and JXQ.

Mega Man series

The Mega Man series, featuring partially non-linear gameplay, is interesting for speedrunners mainly due to extensive route planning possibilities that exist in most of its games. The player chooses the order of the main stages or levels of the game, which all consist of platformer-style gameplay and a boss fight with its Robot Master. After defeating the Robot Master, Mega Man will acquire its power, which he can then use for the rest of the game; it's for this reason that a lot of thought must be put in finding the fastest order in which one can complete the game, as the weapons that can be obtained in certain stages could save time later on in the game.

In one of the tool-assisted speedruns for Mega Man, known as Rockman in Japan, the game is completed after 0:15:38 of input. The speedrun is the result of iterative refinement of techniques and routes over two years of time, and exploits many glitches in the game. Joel Yliluoma, the co-author and submitter of the run says in the submission comments, “It has become increasingly difficult for even an expert player to comprehend what is going on in this movie.” As an example of the ever-growing “toolbox” available to tool-assisted speedrunners, the latest version of this run used a custom emulator extension to display various internal game data including the position and velocity of the main character at sub-pixel accuracy, and a machine player to try thousands of different combinations of actions to get particular items to drop or manipulate the behavior of an enemy.

The Legend of Zelda series

The games in the Legend of Zelda series generally take a large amount of effort to speedrun due to their length and non-linearity, even when played as quickly as possible, and because a lot of different techniques can be used in addition to extensive route planning. Nonetheless, they have been fought over by many speedrunners due to their high popularity, and have thus been improved frequently.

In 2006, a groundbreaking series of glitches were discovered in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time which enabled the game to be completed with only three of the six Sage Medallions. This, along with the completion of MUPEN64, resulted in the production of the first tool-assisted speedrun for Ocarina, finishing at 2 hours and 33 minutes. In early 2007, another major glitch, dubbed "Bottle Adventure," was discovered on TASvideos. This glitch exploits the way the game handles pointers to manipulate inventory items on the C buttons. In August 2007, a player named "P. DOT" completed a Bottle Adventure-enabled TAS with a final time of 1 hour and 56 minutes. In 2008, another glitch was discovered that allowed a player to clip through the Door of Time with only a sword and no Spiritual Stones.

In September 2007, a tool-assisted speedrun of Majora's Mask was completed with a time of 2 hours and 14 minutes , utilizing many of the same glitches as Ocarina of Time, such as bomb hovers and superslides. The Speed Demos Archive time of 3 hours, 37 minutes remains outdated by two years.

The tool-assistance community has been able to reach the end of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past in only 0:03:48 (3 minutes, 48 seconds) due to a glitch that allows Link to travel through walls. Since the levels in the game are connected by the edges of one screen, the player is able to walk through walls, passing entire levels as he goes, and eventually reach the Triforce room. This glitch, which requires that the player presses the “up” and “down” keys at the same time, can theoretically be reproduced on a real console, although it is practically impossible to perform by a human player: pressing “up” and “down” at the same time is impossible with most controllers, which feature a D-pad that can't be depressed in opposite directions at the same time. The run also features a trick that makes Link run faster by alternating “up” and “down” button presses every other frame; this is also not practically possible to perform by a human player due to the high speed at which one would have to give this input. This makes the run a very clear example of the difference between human and physical limitations.

Besides a very short completion of this game, another version that does not use the aforementioned glitch was also produced, resulting in a much longer run of 1:20:16 by Darren "flagitious" Smith, who formerly held the fastest world record on a console (1:45). His console time has been obsoleted with a time of 1:39:47. .

Other Zelda game speedruns include The Legend of Zelda in 0:33:34, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link in 1:12:10, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening in 1:30:36, and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess in 4:47:xx, all hosted on the Speed Demos Archive

Halo series

Halo was released alongside the launch of Microsoft's Xbox console in 2001. Nearly a year later, after many fragmented attempts by individual gamers to speedrun through the game, halo.bungie.org began the first major speedrun contest, titled Going Nowhere Fast, requesting speedruns for individual levels on “Legendary” difficulty, the hardest difficulty level in the game.

Since then, Halo has been one of the most popular speedrunning games for the Xbox. A multitude of speedrunning sites have opened, most notably High Speed Halo

The most important glitches in Halo speedrunning are grenade jumping and creative usage of vehicles (including getting them into spaces that would normally be inaccessible). Circumventing loading zones is also a common tactic — due to dynamic loading in the game, skipping a loading zone would load the environment data, but not the enemies.

When Halo 2 was released in 2004, many speedrunners were disappointed at how Bungie, its developer, had attempted to patch up many of the holes that the original game had, which included the addition of instant-kill zones to prevent the player from leaving the level and thus breaking the sequence of the game. Nonetheless, there were still some notable glitches that speedrunners use in Halo 2 — grenade jumping, loading-zone circumvention, and sword-flying. The latter is facilitated by the addition of the Covenant Energy Sword, which has a one-hit kill lunge attack at close range (when the reticule turns red). It was soon discovered that the lunge could be “cancelled” by pressing the X button after the lunge begins; the player would begin moving forward at a rapid speed, but the attack would not connect, and the player would continue to possess the velocity of the lunge, flying until a barrier was hit.

Half-Life series

Speedruns exist for the first-person shooter game Half-Life, the fastest of which completes the game in 0:31:00 by Blake “Spider-Waffle” Piepho. Speed running of the original Half-Life make excessive use of the Gauss Gun to blast the player up over obstacles. Half-Life speed runs also make very heavy usage of the game's famous side jumping exploit to transverse levels quickly as well as using trip mines and snarks as platforms to jump onto.

The sequel Half-Life 2 is a game with lots of scripted scenes, which under normal conditions would cause the player to have to wait for them to end. However, in speedruns, these are bypassed. For example, in one section of the game, the player would normally use a dune buggy to navigate the coastline, but instead, the speedrunners simply walk the same route because it allows them to bypass most of the scripted sequences, saving a large amount of time. Due to a number of large shortcuts such as this one, as well as exploitation of the game's complex physics to skip some sections, the game, which usually takes around 12 hours or so to finish, has been finished in as low as 1:36:57 in a collaborative speedrun by the Half-Life 2 Done Quick team

Even in scripted sequences when there seems to be no way to continue other than to wait, it's possible to save time. For example, when a non-player character (NPC) is moving from one location to another to open up a door for the player to pass through, it's possible to stand in that NPC's path, barring his way. The game detects the collision, finds that it cannot move the NPC as it is supposed to, and then “teleports” the NPC directly to its destination in order to still be able to complete the scripted scene, saving valuable seconds.

NetHack

NetHack, as a turn-based game, is not played in real time, but has a turn counter. Although the game is extremely difficult to finish (or “ascend”), the scoring system means advanced players have no problem accumulating very large scores, and so a secondary challenge has been to finish the game in the fewest possible turns. All conventional real-time speedrunning techniques have analogues in NetHack, from skipping large sections of the game (thus giving up the extra items they offer) to optimising movement tactics.

The fastest known ascension is 6480 turns, played on October 2005 by “Rast”. It is roughly ten times faster than a conventional ascension, and one of only 3 known ascensions under 10,000 turns in the 19-year history of the game.

References

Journal, newspaper and magazine articles

General informative sources

External links

Many websites have been created so that players of video games can compete against each other for fast times and high scores. Some of them are listed below. For a more complete list, please see the appendices of the speedrun article.

General speedrun, time attack and high-score sites

Game-specific sites

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