My history with Speed Running
Speed running and adding a stipulation to a video game was something I was introduced to in an unorthodox way. Growing up several of my friends and myself all loved playing video games like most teenagers, we enjoyed playing them together or watching one another play. Due to this we would try and play them for as long as we could. At school, we would set up weekends where we would try and play loads of games, get junk food, drink and just play for hours and hours.
One of my friends found a series on YouTube by Nouge. Where himself and his long-time friend would play through several of the Resident Evil games as fast as they could, adding in a stipulation, such as only using one type of gun, no healing or knife only on several different difficulties. However, they also made it so they had to complete their challenges within 24 hours. At the time of writing the first challenge they produced was made over 12 years ago. If that doesn’t add to the context of old YouTube, people just turning on their camera and having fun. This was how I was introduced to speed running.
Due to this, our group decided to emulate this idea, playing video games for 24 hours. Trying to Speedrun some games, play some games we knew with stipulations and it mostly ended up being a bonding experience where come hour 20 and we were all getting tired and irritated at one another. We still ended up doing several of them again and again and the memories and stories I’ll hopefully never forget.
Several years later and Twitch was starting to have its rise in speed running in 2012. With Cosmo Wright (Now Narcissa Wright) and Siglemic pulling in huge numbers and at this point were the getting some of the most watched streams at the time. These attempts where mesmerising to watch and with being able to watch with Twitch chat added to the experience.
So outside of playing games with several of my friends and trying to complete a few that I really enjoyed playing, I had never really tried to speedrun a game. I had always thought of it but ended up never getting into it or could not enjoy the process of learning the same thing repeatedly on a game I like. However, for the process of this piece, I decided to change that and learn to speedrun a game.
I found that people suggested doing one of two things which where:
1. Learn to speedrun a game you love playing
2. Pick a game that has a lot of resources (such as guides, videos and an active community)
I decided to do more of the latter and play Super Mario 64 and learn the 16-star run. Let me explain what this means. Super Mario 64 is a Nintendo 64 Classic and I loved playing the game as a kid. When going back to playing it, it didn’t captivate me like it did the first time, but I knew the game relatively well as I had watched a lot of speedrun’s for the game, so I knew what I was getting myself in for. Now the reason for me deciding to learn the 16-star run was I knew it was short. I didn’t want to learn loads of tricks and I wanted to get my feet wet.
The Original Idea
When I started doing this, I wanted to do 100 attempts which doesn’t sound difficult. I knew I would be able to get my time down quickly. Meaning that if I completed every attempte, I would be looking at around 50 hours of play time and another 10 or so with practising. Which while a lot of time, it would allow me to get a good idea into what it takes to be someone that learns to speedrun a game. There is a grind aspect to this like a lot of things in life.
Also, I need to point this out, I did this over a year ago. I was going to make this a reflective piece on the meaning of speed running and the commitment that the people that do this have for a game which this still is, however, it’s not in the way I expected to get here. As you will find out and as the title suggested, while I did several speedrun’s Super Mario 64 I did not complete my goal of 100 attempts.
Notes from the first few days
Looking over my notes, I set up my emulator and a program called live split which allowed me to time my attempts with splits, this would help me know where I’m gaining or losing time on each run. I then went to YouTube and speedrun.com and to my horror learned the time for the world record. While I knew the time was quick and at the time of writing it seems to be even quicker. The 16 Star world record on Emulator is currently 15 minutes and 35 seconds by Shans. Which if you watch it, even knowing how the glitches and tricks work, doesn’t mean you know how to do it.
Thankfully there were several guides that explained more basic tricks and also on the route you would take to complete the game. I spent several hours trying to learn each of these tricks and trying to remember what I was meant to be doing. After feeling slightly more confident I completed my first attempt. Which ended up being slightly over one hour. Which while still rather long I would be completing the game faster than most people playing it and I had a feeling that doing several attempts would help me quickly lower my time and I would just get better at playing the game.
Over the next several days I kept playing and I was enjoying doing so. I was slowly starting to get tricks that would take me several attempts the first time. I was also getting better at controlling Mario and was performing tricks I couldn’t do before I started or even with several hours of practice as I didn’t really understand what to do.
There are two main parts I was losing a lot of time which are very important and I knew I was going to have to learn and practice this a lot. One of these is the fight’s with Bowser, at each fight you are required to throw him by his tail into a bomb. I don’t know how frame perfect you need to be and the room for error, but man was defeating him causing me problems. I would miss a throw which would lose me time and I needed to practice getting behind him and grabbing his tail. The way this gets harder is you must throw him once in the first fight, twice for the second fight and three times for the final fight. I was easily losing several minutes on the later fights.
The other leak that was causing me to lose time was Mips or also known as the Yellow Rabbit. So catching MIPS is hard enough when you’re a newer player but after a few hours, I found a slower but consistent way of catching him. However, that’s only the first part, Mips is the whole reason you are able to complete Super Mario 64 with 16 stars without doing some really impressive tricks which I don’t think I would ever be able to do. The quick short version is using MIPS you can glitch through a door to enter the Bowser fight early which gives you the key so you can go straight to the final fight. There’s are more behind it and there will be a video which explains it in far more detail if you are interested. This glitch was causing more time to lose than all of the Bowser fights and I knew it would be trial and error.
With both of these in mind over those several days I was able to lower my time to just over 30 minutes, which is still very far away from any record but by this point I had done 20 attempts and was very pleased and I knew that if I kept going I would be able to get it significantly lower.
In the following weeks that followed this, I didn’t attempt a run. I would sit on discord with friends talking games and I would sometimes during downtime play a bit of Mario but it ended up becoming something that was pushed to the back.
Since then, I still play Super Mario 64 from time to time, far more than I had before I started learning to speedrun it as its something I can pick up and play for a few hours and then close and forget. However, its allowed me to do is appreciated what it means to speedrun a game.
When I watch speedrun’s I get to appreciate the commitment that this person made to the game, how far they are pushing the game to its limits on what you are able to do. Watching history videos by Summoning Salt or RWhiteGoose about the progression of a world record helps add a layer on just how hard it is to get a world record but to even get to a level to be able to compete at the highest level.
I don’t know if I’ll ever speedrun a game to the level to be able to get a world record, I will still flirt with the idea but knowing the commitment to get started is several hundreds of hours to even start getting half decent does deter me, but who knows?