My introduction to speedrunning: right game, right time

Although I was aware of speedrunning thanks to dedicated sections at gaming expos and the GDQ marathons, it was never something I’d paid much attention to. This changed after a chance encounter in October when I happened to be playing the right game at the right time.

My other-half and I started chatting to Darkshoxx when he raided the Later Levels’ Twitch channel while we were streaming Shivers back then. Few people seem to have ever heard of this 1995 horror point-and-click whenever I mention it because it wasn’t one of Sierra Online’s most famous titles, but he was actually speedrunning it at the time. Darkshoxx told us that there was an entire community dedicated to doing the same thing and kindly sent me an invitation to an associated Discord server.

I was surprised to hear that people were speedrunning this game because there’s an element of randomness to it. Ten evil spirits called Ixupi must be recaptured in a vessel which corresponds to their element, the pots and lids for which are scattered in different locations around a museum each time a new playthrough begins. It was interesting reading the conversations between the server’s members and hearing about the techniques each of them used to achieve their fastest time.

Speedrunning still wasn’t something I’d considered trying myself even after being introduced to the group though. I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy having to spend so long practicing with the same game, and the competitive side of gaming has never really appealed to me. I’ve written before about not usually doing replays because there are always so many new releases I’d like to start; and adult responsibilities mean I don’t have enough time to improve my skills to be able to play at a competitive level.

But things may be starting to change since a recent stream with Darkshoxx. My other-half and I have had the pleasure of getting to know him since that raid six months ago and we can now frequently be found hanging out in Twitch chat. When Pete decided to do a weekly ‘master-class’ where he’s joined by a friend as part of our GameBlast21 streams, the awesome Darkshoxx agreed to take part in a speedrun-themed session and guided him through several titles.

First up was Myst: Masterpiece Edition. Anyone who has completed a version of this classic adventure will know about the ‘twist’ at the end and how quickly you could finish the title if you only had all the pieces to the puzzle at the start, so it feels like the perfect game to speedrun. Pete’s first attempt took over 11-minutes but within an hour he’d managed to reduce this to less than 90-seconds – pretty amazing, but not as impressive as Darkshoxx’s own personal best (PB) of just over 44-seconds.

Next on the list was Zork I, the text-adventure first released in 1980. Pete wanted to do this title for the nostalgia as it’s one of his favourite games from his childhood but so much of the speedrun obviously depends on typing-speed and I think he found it rather stressful as a result. He only made one attempt but managed to enter more than 275 commands in 28-minutes; and was pleased with this, as it was much faster than the three-months it took him to complete the story back on his Commodore 64.

The final speedrun was DuckTales Remastered, perhaps the hardest one of the session as it wasn’t a game that Darkshoxx had ever tried to do himself and so some research was needed beforehand. Pete had played it during our 24-hour GameBlast21 marathon in February and at the time we’d joked about him speedrunning it, so here was his opportunity to turn that into a reality. He managed to beat the Transylvania level in just over nine-minutes and bag himself third-place on the leaderboard.

My other-half’s eyes lit up and I could tell he was genuinely enjoying himself while watching him through this master-class. Don’t get me wrong, we always have fun when we’re streaming and hanging out with friends online – but there was something about those speedruns which really grabbed his attention. It helped immensely that Darkshoxx was a great teacher, patient when he made mistakes and providing advice on what he could improve to reduce his times even further.

And I have to admit that Pete’s excitement and his continuing enthusiasm after the stream was kind of infectious. As he worked his way through Myst for the tenth time, I couldn’t help but think to myself: “I’d like to try this.” And despite sensing his stress as he typed the commands for Zork, it felt like something I could do too. As mentioned earlier in this post, I’d never been interested in speedrunning before that night but now it feels as though it’s something I might actually try for myself.

So why is that, considering I don’t enjoy replays or competition when it comes to gaming? I’m still not interested in competing against others but challenging yourself is always appealing. That’s the reason why I participate in events like StrideQuest: I want to find out just how far I can push myself and whether I’m able to improve on that achievement over time. I’m not bothered about whether my best is better than anyone else’s, only whether I can see improvement in myself.

There’s also the fact that the speedrunning community seems so welcoming. Pete and I watched Darkshoxx and Die4Ever2011 discuss a video of The 7th Guest by another speedrunner during one of his streams recently and there was absolutely no animosity at all; they simply wanted to know how he’d completed certain puzzles and whether his method was different to their own, rather than tear him down. Everyone we’ve met in the community so far has been genuinely lovely and supportive of each other’s efforts.

Darkshoxx is getting up to speed in a new job so once he’d has some time to settle in, we’ll get him back on the Later Levels’ Twitch channel for another speedrun session. And who knows: it might be me on the controls next time rather than Pete. Although the suggestion of The Secret of Monkey Island from Ellen from Ace Asunder is tempting, I’ve been told it’s rather difficult due to the swordfighting-insult section. Maybe I’ll start of with Myst and see how I get on.

After all, I wouldn’t want to Myst out on this opportunity… sorry, I couldn’t resist.

14 thoughts on “My introduction to speedrunning: right game, right time

  1. I love speedrunning, although it’s not something I get involved in doing. I just enjoy the efforts gamers go to set records. There’s a brilliant YouTube channel called Summoning Salt I recommend! It really shows the lengths gamers take over years to shred a record down to the minimum. And it’s ruddy fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I honestly didn’t think speedrunning was something I’d ever get into, because I don’t like replaying games immediately after completing them. But I’ve had a few goes since writing this post and there’s something about it which is kind of addictive!

      I remember you mentioning that YouTube channel during the stream, I’ll definitely check it out. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • About replayability. Especially with your favourite games, at some point you’ve just seen everything there is to see. Speedrunning gives you a good excuse to play the games again, and for an extended amount of time. You’ll develop a skill for something you didn’t know required skill in the first place. The first time you see someone input a fireplace code in Myst you think “how can something possibly go wrong when clicking”, but once you’re running, that cursed thing will be where most runs go down the drain.

        Remember to record yourself 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • I feel like theres a kind of “mental barrier” to be overcome to speedrunning. It’s a bit like the barrier of pressing the “go live” button on OBS for the first time, publishing your first blog post, or similar experiences, so I totally get the “not something I get involved in” part. I started with 2 speedruns of the 11th hour, but just to clarify strategies on one puzzle, knowing for sure it’ll get overtaken quickly by “the actual speedrunner” . I only started thinking of myself as a speedrunner when starting the Myst runs.

      As for Summoning Salt, yes, it’s an amazing channel, mosly of World-Record progressions of popular speedrun games, with a well written story, good narration and visuals. Can 100% recommend.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. That master class speed running stream was so cool to watch! It’s awesome when streamers actually do things they legit enjoy 😁

    You could totally overcome the random sword fighting insults in The Secret of Monkey Island if ya wanted to. I know for fact you do not fight like a cow 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you enjoyed it, I had a blast.

      I’m sure a monkey island speedrun is totally doable. I would’t have recommended it as the “first” speedrun, but then again, my first one was almost an hour, and it’s a lot about willingness to commit, which I think I simply didn’t have for monkey island after being stuck in the swordfights during my baseline attempt.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. To be perfectly honest, my list of games to run mostly comes into existence by me remembering a game I used to love and play years ago. That’s definitely the case for 11th hour, Myst, Jill, Shivers, and to a certain extent VVVVVV, and planning into Riddle of Master Lu and Loom. While only one of those is a “traditional” speedgame, in the sense of having an in-game timer and trophy modes and all that, all of the above can be, and have been speedrun.

    I often see people in chat jokingly saying “I wonder if you can speedrun X” with X being a game they think cannot be speedrun. But the answer has so far always been yes. You can speedrun WOW ( https://www.speedrun.com/wow ), Tetris ( https://www.speedrun.com/tetrisnes ) and pencil sharpening simluator (https://www.speedrun.com/pss ). And if no one’s running it yet, start it and make it a thing. Go for it!

    Also a quick word about the communities. They’re all sharing the love for the game they’re running and are always very welcoming to new runners. There’s usually some resources and guides that people made, and they didn’t make them for themselves, but for the community. KeyofW’s Tutorial for Myst any% is half an hour long. Thats how much info can be gatherd and shared on several levels for a run that’s shorter than a minute 🙂 I totally recommend starting with this one, its a fiver on steam (be sure to get the Myst Masterpiece Edition, the word “real” MUST NOT appear in the title. I’m emphasizing that because there’s now 5 different editions of the Myst base game on steam, it’s easy to pick the wrong one).

    direct comments on the article:
    “Darkshoxx is getting up to speed in a new job” LUL !pun
    I guess the Myst 3 Speedrun on Xbox i the most recent speedrun on my channel, but possibly not as entertaining, it was more for the lulz because I have it 🙂
    And of course the mandatory Myst pun :). They even do it themselves at the end of Myst 5: https://youtu.be/oxMEJ6oXxgo?t=3879

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    • Thanks so much for giving us your time and convincing us the speedruns are something we (and everyone) can actually do! I know that once Pete sees his name on the board, no matter how far down he is, the addiction will bite him and he’ll want another go. He’s already talking about tackling other levels in DuckTales. 😉

      While The Secret of Monkey Island is definitely a game I’d feel comfortable trying to speedrun, I totally get what you mean about the insult-swordfighting section. I most of the lines and responses off my heart but it all depends on how quickly Guybrush learns them in-game. And as you said above, committing an hour is a little daunting right now – but I have no doubt that I’ll end up trying it at some point in the future.

      Maybe I’ll stick with Myst and Zork right now, and maybe try The Hitchhiker’s Guide as we talked about the other day too. Look what you’ve done to us! 😆

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Month in Review – April – Frostilyte Writes

  5. I got into speedrunning last year, not so much the playing but the watching of it. I love watching a game I know very well and just watching people breeze through it. It inspired me to not do a full speedrunning attempt but see just how quick I can finish portal. Managed to do it in 45 mins. I knew if I researched it I could probably go fasted but just that alone blew me away a little.

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    • I’m not one for competition, but I can see how that element of competing with yourself to see if you can beat your own personal time gets really addictive. Having now learnt a little more about speedrunning, I’ve got nothing but admiration for those people who put all their effort into it.

      Like

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