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.