How To Speedrun Video Games
Updated: May 6, 2022
Learning how to speedrun games has never been faster thanks to this handy beginner's guide from seasoned speedrunner Justin! (aka NightStriider)
Speedrunning is completing a game as fast as possible by starting and ending with specific criteria met depending on the category you're running. To some, speedrunning becomes a competitive hobby, whether competing against yourself or others in leaderboards, while others it's for the fun of it. No matter how you look at it, speedrunning is an art in itself.
Often, runners play games they loved growing up with; in doing so, we not only see it in a new light but can also relive that sense of nostalgia, to an extent. Though the question remains, how do you speedrun?
"Speedrunning is an art and takes time to learn. You won't be pulling off crazy time-saving tricks off the bat."
1. Choose Your Game
The first step is to pick a game you thoroughly enjoy and love. I mean one that you really love and can play it nonstop. If you don't like a game or just semi-enjoy it, you won't like speedrunning it unless you're a masochist. The main reason is being there's a high chance that you will be spending time on this game more than ever before. It's imperative you love what you play.
Next is to research and see what game you would like to speedrun. Enjoying a game isn't the only thing that matters. Look at games you're interested in and watch completed runs in their entirety. The run may have you think otherwise and maybe ruin how you feel about the game; perhaps it's too much information to take on so early on in your speedrunning career, or perhaps you don't like the run itself.
The bottom line is to do your homework because not all runs are for everyone. I would also suggest watching channels like GamesDoneQuick on Twitch when they have significant events or their HotFixes. You can also check out their VODs from previous runs. These usually have commentary from the runner's friends or other runners in general. These are great ways to get information on how and why things are performed in speedruns.
Obviously, another great way to learn speedrunning is to watch NightStriider on Twitch :D
2. Join The Community
You can do a lot of this at Speedrun.com; this is the largest site when it comes to speedrunning. Each game has its community full of information for what you may be interested in running. Here runners can organize information and compare times while discussing rules or categories about runs. Often, these communities will also have a Discord that you can join. It's a great way to get direct help from veteran runners.
About every game you could think of is on Speedrun.com with community Discords. There are a few exceptions to this with games like Halo, GoldenEye, Zelda, Dark Souls, and others that don't have spots on Speedrun.com. These have their respective websites dedicated to speedrunning them.
A small warning, though. At times, communities may be hard to become part of as some don't receive newcomers. I haven't heard about this too often, but it does exist/happen, so be respectful when trying to inquire about speedrunning whichever game you choose and don't simply demand help.
Some specialized categories are especially inventive and fun like the "Blue Yourself" speedrun in Mario Kart, where the objective is to hit yourself with your own blue shell as quickly as possible.
3. Specify Your Category
When choosing a game to run, it's essential to remember games have categories too. Categories structure and define runs with set rules to produce the same end goals. Games can have many categories, each housing its rulesets, and leaderboards. Some of the most popular categories consist of any%, 100%, glitchless, new game (NG), and new game+ (NG+).
A New Game run consists of beating a game as fast as possible without other requirements, but you're not allowed any powerups or unique items from previous completed games/runs; this is similar to an Any% run. In New Game+, you are allowed extra items, features, or powers from previously beaten games.
Within the spectrum of a 100% run, you are to complete the game with everything the game has to offer; this category will have specifics on what deems it to be 100%. Glitchless categories consist of beating games without the use of glitches. This category can allow minor glitches at times if they don't affect the game detrimentally, so be sure to check up on the rules. Some categories are even segmental to games, such as individual levels having runs of their own; there are more, but these are the most popular, which should need mentioning.
Games under different categories have set rules for timing too. You can't simply have a stopwatch for most categories and click "go/stop." However, this is true on rare occasions. When it comes to timing, programs like Livesplit are designed for speedrunning. For how games/runs are timed, you can find them under the rules tab on speedrun.com. This tab breaks down each set rule for the said category when timing your game and any limitations like FPS caps (frames per second), emulation setups when running emulated speedruns, and more.
Ok, so you've selected your game and know which category you want to run. Great! Remember, depending on which category you chose will determine what you play it on. Consoles play on their respective console, and emulation is on PC but acting as if you're on a console and PC is well a computer.
https://speedrun.com will show you the currently most active games in the speedrunning community, and the top entries might surprise you!
For those who may be unaware, emulation is a category and is also the best way to get into running, in my opinion. It's especially true for older games, again, in my opinion. Emulation, simply put, is imitating hardware that you don't physically have. Older consoles have been emulated for decades, but some modern consoles now have emulators. Just be sure to own a copy of the game before emulating it for legal purposes.
4. Time Yourself
Timing-wise, there are multiple methods. To name a few, you have Real-Time Attack (RTA), Load Remover Timer (LRT) or RTA without loads, and In-Game Timer (IGT). The RTA essentially acts as a stopwatch, and LRT pauses the timer during loading screens by reading the game's timing information. IGT utilizes the game's in-game engine timer. Times displayed at the end of games like Resident Evil will be your official time.
For many, Livesplit is an essential tool of speedrunning you'll want to famliarize yourself with.
Programs like Livesplit showcase time as you progress through games. You can split segments while playing, allowing you to track how fast you accomplish them. As you compete against previous times you've completed, it showcases whether you're doing better or worse. You're comparing your current pace with past times in lamen terms.
The nice thing about Livesplit is it's customizable too, both visually and effectively. For example, you can show the best sum of all your past splits, compete against your personal best, display possible time saves/best possible time, and more.
There are also other features like autosplit scripts. For some games, you can create a script that will automatically split segments for you while playing the game, so you don't need to worry about doing so yourself. One game that features this, which I run, is the original Resident Evil 2. More specifically, Biohazard 2 Sourcenext on PC.
Now that we have time and some categories under our belts let's talk about terminology. Within the speedrunning world, you'll come across all kinds of jargon/acronyms like RNG (random numbers generator), WR (world record), PB (personal best), and IL (individual level). These are all pretty basic and are relatively self-explanatory.
5. Compete With Others
Now that we have Livesplit and some simple acronyms down let's say you've done the research and selected a game. Next, find your game on speedrun.com and check it out. Look through each category and figure out what might pique your interest. I don't recommend long games as a first like I did unless you are willing to dedicate days or weeks to learning and running.
"Sucking at something is the first step towards sort of being good at something."
My first game was Final Fantasy VII, and though I love the game, it was still an insanely difficult run to get down and not the wisest move on my end. Japanese role-playing games, on average, are challenging games to run due to many reasons, such as length. I can average around seven hours which is still roughly 30+ minutes from the world record. Zheal, the current world record holder, is a god. Shoutout to Zheal and his dedication! He needs to watch out, though; another runner named Luzbel is nipping at his heels.
When you look at the game you chose, average out the length of the leaderboards to gauge how long it may take you to complete a run. Remember, your first time will be longer as you're learning, so don't feel intimidated by the times you see; it's a learning process. Remember what jake from Adventure Time says, "Sucking at something is the first step towards sort of being good at something." those are words I live by and all-around great advice!
Well, now that you've selected your game and category, and have your PC, emulator, or console all set up, you're good to go! Remember not to worry about how you perform. Speedrunning is an art and takes time to learn. You won't be pulling off crazy time-saving tricks right off the bat. Regardless of their craft, artists are never masters on day one; it took them dedication and practice for many years. You'll soon start shaving off time and get PB after PB and maybe even get that world record.
I hope you enjoyed this little snippet into the world of speedrunning. If you'd like to check me out, head over to https://twitch.tv/NightStriider where I primarily run the original Final Fantasy 7 (Any% No Slots category) on emulator and console. You can also check out the current world record holder for this category over at Twitch.tv/Zheal. I highly recommend that you also run over to Twitch.Tv/GamesDoneQuick, where you'll find all your speedrunning needs. Not only is it a phenomenal channel with endless entertainment, but they are strictly a charitable organization.
Now, go and don't forget to go Sanic fast!
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