Speed ​​run

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Under a speed run , and Speed Run written, is meant playing through a computer game within one (target) quickest possible time. The video and audio material created during play through is often recorded (as a video file or as a demo recording ) and made available to an Internet community.

Motivation and importance of speed runs

The main motivation of a speed run for the player is usually to beat the record time in which the game was played. The demands on skill and control of the speedrunner are far above those of a normal player. The achieved speed run times are accordingly below the normal playing times. Thus, it is not untypical that in Speedruns classical Sidescrolling - Jump 'n' Runs (. Such as Super Mario Bros. on the NES ) most of the time of the forward button on the digital pad is held at maximum speed by from To run "left to right" through the levels. Computer opponents, whose contact in the classic video game culture of the 1980s and 1990s meant a drain of energy for the character or the end of the game, are bypassed with the greatest possible precision in speed runs.

Although a speedrun can also be played on its own, only proof of performance, i.e. a screenshot of the time achieved or a video recording of the entire performance , ensures the recognition of the community and is therefore preferred by most speedrunners.

In principle, Speedruns can be played on any console and also on the PC, but there are recognizable preferences for certain genres. On the one hand, first-person shooters with demo recording on the PC are popular. The comparatively short recordings could easily be distributed in the narrow-band internet of the 90s. Consoles are dependent on real video recordings, but recording them is much easier and more flexible than on the PC. There, a recording of the video output of the television by a video recorder is sufficient. The ability to emulate older console games on the PC has further contributed to the popularity of console game speed runs. Side scrollers (both Shoot'em'Ups and Jump 'n' Runs ) and adventure games are particularly popular here.

Speedruns question the actual game concept of many computer games by presenting alternative solutions. By using such alternative solutions, which are usually overlooked by a normal player, as they often do not follow the story of the game, the viewer of a speed run is usually given a new perspective for the game. So in practically no speed run it is of interest to collect all collectibles such as coins ( Super Mario Bros. ) or power-ups ( The Legend of Zelda , Metroid ) as possible. In many speed runs it can even be seen that the player deliberately avoids collecting collectibles in order to shorten the time-consuming "point settlement" at the end of a level.

An exception are so-called 100% runs (sometimes also referred to as long runs ), where the aim is to complete the game in question in the shortest possible time.

There are many ways to achieve a successful speed run. Aside from more obvious recommendations like holding down the run button and never stopping, there are many other methods as well. These include program errors (called "bugs" or "glitches"), "level warps" or "problem avoidance" (for example bypassing avoidable levels or opponents).

The use of cheats to gain advantages is basically excluded and "forbidden" .


Doom was the first game to develop into a fan base whose goal can be described as speed running. From around 1994 Doom demos were exchanged in newsgroups and via websites and FTP servers. In the 3D shooter Duke Nukem 3D , released in 1996, the developers of 3D Realms alluded to speedruns by fading in a mostly much shorter time ( 3D Realms Time ) in addition to the player's time ( Your Time ) at the end of each level . Speed ​​running became known to a wider public through the Quake Done Quick Project published in 1997, in which the Doom descendant Quake was played. Later followed Quake Done Quicker , Quake Done Quick with a Vengeance and Scourge Done Slick , where in addition to the excellent speed Running a humorous story and camera angles were used in the third person, thereby QDQ projects among other things, to a pioneer of machinima movement were.

At that time, in addition to the usually planned high score, there was also a fight for the best time in some games, albeit less organized than the Quake players. Especially the Metroid series, which shows slightly different credits for better times, tempted you to speed. The Legend of Zelda and the Super Mario games were also popular, although console games could not distribute recordings.

Another important date was November 20, 2003, when a recording for the game Super Mario Brothers 3 was completed, which, unlike most previous runs, was played on an emulator with technical aids. The time of 11:04 am for the Japanese も り も と (Morimoto) was considered beyond the reach of a human gamer for a long time, and the recording gained widespread popularity on the Internet in the following months. On June 2, 2007, this time was legally undercut by one second by Freddy Andersson and he was able to improve this time on October 25, 2009 to 10:48. There have been Quake runners in the past who used technical aids, but these tool-assisted Quakeruns were rated out of competition. Morimoto's video wasn't labeled as special, however, and many felt cheated of its true origin. As a result, Morimoto's video developed into Tool-Assisted Speedruns.

The public dissemination of speedruns is not least a consequence of the Speeddemosarchive page , which, following a long Quake tradition, was opened to other games from November 2003 and is now the central point of contact for classic speedruns in English-speaking countries. The speed run marathon called Games Done Quick , which takes place twice a year and collect donations for a charitable cause, makes speed running more and more popular among the general public. The Summer Games Done Quick 2015 event raised $ 1,233,844.10 in donations for Doctors Without Borders .

As a counterpart, Bisqwits page developed into an attractor for tool-assisted speed runs from 2004, and is now a platform for new runs.

Time and again game developers consciously build Speedrun game modes into their game, for example to increase replayability or to create a new level of difficulty. One example of this is the indie platformer Braid .

Tool-Assisted Speedruns

In order to get closer to the theoretically possible lower limit under which a game cannot be played, tool-supported speed runs were introduced. Due to the limited human reactions, it is not possible to make the correct entry with exact precision. With the emergence of emulators for the old 8-bit and 16-bit consoles NES , SNES and Sega Mega Drive, attempts were made to optimize processes with programs. The ability of these emulators to play games in slow motion while recording control inputs led to the tool-assisted speed runs. These no longer see themselves as a competition for the better player, but are dedicated to the goal of achieving the optimal possible time and producing entertaining videos from it.

There have been attempts to submit sub-optimal tool-assisted runs as real speed runs, but this excludes the person concerned from both parts of the community. With a corresponding assessment, it can be partly determined from the resulting video whether auxiliary programs were used.

In order to be able to produce a TAS, an optimized program must first be developed for each game. Then you can completely define for each frame within the game which inputs should come from the game controlling controller , i.e. at which angle and distance to the origin an analog stick is located and which buttons are pressed. This and the ability to jump back to any previous frame of the game at any time (e.g. if the input is not optimal) enable optimal game play. This process is simplified by the possibility of copying sequences of game entries and repeating them later, for example if certain sections of the game have to be played through more often.

For the production of a TAS, it is essential that there is no real coincidence in the game, but that everything runs exactly the same in every round. A major obstacle here can be the random number generators that are more frequently used in computer games , which  generate pseudo-random numbers and use them to influence the course of the game. Since a TAS recalculates a number generated in this way with each repetition, a previously stored sequence of inputs would achieve a different, most likely no longer optimal result when repeating a different calculated number. Nevertheless, RNGs do not have to be bypassed or the computation algorithm decrypted. Since a computer is unable to generate numbers absolutely randomly, the number to be generated is generated based on factors related to input from the player. This can be, for example, the number of frames displayed so far, or the angle of the analog stick at a certain point in the game. Since some algorithms only depend on the inputs of the player, the generated number can also be exactly the same for each game run, since the inputs generated by a TAS are unchanged with each game run. However, decoding the calculation algorithm can be helpful in the production of a TAS, as certain results can enable the game to run faster. It can happen that a TAS takes a less than optimal path at certain points in the game to achieve a certain result and later more than catches up on the time lost through manipulation (known as luck manipulation ).

Different facets of speed runs

Speed ​​runs can be categorized. As a rule, the community agrees on uniform rules in forums on websites such as Speeddemosarchive so that there is fair competition. In games such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time , which are particularly well-known in the community, such a discussion of definitions of categories sometimes extends over hundreds of pages. Below is a list of the most frequently used categories. Since most speedruns are created in an international community, the original names in English are used here:

  • Single segment: is mainly used for classic speed runs. In this category, the possibility of saving apart from save warps (the player deliberately kills his character in order to be restored at another point after reloading the save) is completely ignored and the game is played through in a single session. For games with a minimum playing time of over 6–8 hours, this expenditure of time alone is a major challenge. In contrast to segmented speed runs, this category is the usual one in which speed runs are carried out. Segmented speed runs strive for the greatest possible perfection in route planning and implementation; each segment is repeated until it is as perfect as possible, while single segment speedruns, especially in the later course of the game, sometimes accept safer but more time-consuming tricks or routes in order not to lose a previously good speedrun. In the case of segmented speed runs, this is usually not accepted by the community.
  • No Damage: In a No Damage Speedrun, avoiding damage will take more time than it would take deliberately to suffer damage. In many games it is possible to let the character hit intentionally (and thereby accept the game's sanctions, usually loss of energy) and still save time, be it through the clever use of the following invulnerability phase, or through the use of recoil ( "Damage boost"). A run that pursues this strategy can also be marked with “takes damage to save time”, in German “takes damage to save time”.
  • No Death: Similar to “No Damage”, it can be faster to let the character die. If a run does not make use of this option, it is referred to as "No Death".
  • Manipulates Luck: This indicates that a speed run is manipulating an RNG (example: Setzer's "Joker Death" attack in Final Fantasy VI ).
  • Warpless: A run is called “warpless”, loosely translated “without warps”, when known abbreviations in the game are ignored and the player actually takes the natural path, even if this path is slower than an optimal path. “Warps” are abbreviations intended by the designer, which are mostly difficult to find, and which reduce the game to a fraction of its length.
  • Glitchless: In a Glitchless Speedrun or Clean Speedrun, the Speedrun is carried out without taking advantage of programming errors (programming errors such as walking through walls, warp of the character to another part of the level, sudden invulnerability for everlasting). What is a legal trick in a game and what is already a glitch is often the subject of heated discussions.
  • 100%: This category has its origin in the first part of Doom. When completing the level, the game showed the player what percentage of the secrets (hidden extras) he had found and what percentage of the opponents he had defeated. Achieving 100% in both established itself as a separate category. What should be achieved in a game in a 100% run is not always clear if the game does not have its own definition of it. There are sometimes very long discussions about this in the communities. In the community, however, it has already been established that the goal of this category is never to manipulate the number at the end of the game that shows the number of secrets collected to display 100, but always to actually meet the requirements of the category and to reach the required secrets and collect items. This became necessary because in some games it is possible, by exploiting glitches, to collect items that increase the percentage of game progress, without the item disappearing afterwards. This means that the item can be collected up to an infinite number of times, which means that the number counts up every time.
  • Low%: In contrast to 100%, the player can also try to collect only the absolute minimum. In some games this is significantly less than you would expect when you first played it through. For example, it is possible to play through Metroid Fusion (Game Boy Advance) with 0%. Since the skill level is often designed so that the player uses items or expansions (such as weapons), this can increase the difficulty. Due to the few possibilities that go with this category, it is the most difficult in many games, because even the normal course of the game is much more difficult to defeat by doing without HP extensions and as many other extensions as possible. To do this, you often have to use more tricks and glitches in order to be able to overcome obstacles, for which extensions are usually required, which you deliberately leave out in this category. The duration of a speed run in this category is often longer than that of other categories, sometimes even than that of 100% speed runs, depending on how many extensions can be bypassed.
  • Pacifist: German: Pacifist . In games that do not have the main goal of defeating opponents, you can sometimes completely do without any kind of violence. This increases the difficulty of the game, since the computer opponents usually do not share this peaceful attitude.

Special features of certain games

For games that are sold in digital form , their developers have the option of publishing patches that fix programming errors. This can lengthen or shorten the smallest possible time to complete the game. If older versions of the game are not readily available to new players, it may result in those versions being excluded from the community. Other games compete for the best time separately by version, for example Minecraft .

Console games are characterized by standardized hardware, often standardized games without patch options and the availability of emulators .

One aspect of PC games is that some of them are designed to be much more open and may allow demos to be recorded directly in the game. First-person shooters and multiplayer strategy games in particular often offer this possibility. This simplifies the recording of runs with a much smaller demo size, but it does require that the viewer has installed the game himself.


Route planning

Route planning is especially important in non-linear games. Often there is no obvious fastest route, and sometimes the shortest route is slower than a longer one. An intrinsically shorter route can be so complex that it is virtually impossible for a human player to play, and the runner must find a compromise between speed and feasibility.

However, the cheapest routes are often not provided by the programmers. Experienced players often find ways to play parts of the game in a different order than intended or even to skip entire parts. These abbreviations are generally Sequence Breaking to German roughly break sequence called. They are possible because the designers overlooked or intentionally implemented them. One such deliberate trick in first person shooters is the rocket jump , which relies on deliberately jumping on an explosion and being thrown up by it. The damage that the character suffers is accepted.


Glitches are programming errors that can be exploited for speed runs. In contrast to sequence breaks, glitches are just bugs in the game that were not intended. Well-known examples are a lack of collision detection , which allows the character to walk through solid walls, or status inconsistencies that sometimes result in unpredictable behavior.

Speedrun as culture and criticism

Speedruns represent a maximization of the computer game premise : The goal of the computer game to reach the last level is given top priority. The monotonous, lengthy and superficial dialogues of protagonists in computer games, especially in the old 8-bit and 16-bit days, are simply skipped over by fast “skipping”. The game facets built in by programmers ("collect all coins", "get all powerups", "defeat all opponents") are reduced to a minimum in speed runs. This change of perspective goes hand in hand with a criticism of the computer game culture: the computer game is extreme, its banality is pointed out, and the actual fun of the game is reduced to mere playing through to the end. In addition, the software quality of a game can sometimes be estimated well from the occurrence of the glitches used in a speed run.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g h Spiegel Online
  2. Speed ​​demo archives
  3. Giga ( Memento from May 7, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  4. Speed ​​Demos Archive - Super Mario Bros. 3
  5. ^ Official website of Games Done Quick - accessed October 19, 2015
  6. Forum discussion on the definitions of all categories of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
  7. a b Half-Life "In 45 minutes and 45 seconds ... ( Memento from September 26, 2007 in the Internet Archive )"
  8. Smallant1: How Super Mario Odyssey was Beaten in Under 1 Hour - World Record Progression. December 7, 2019, accessed May 18, 2020 (11:25 am to 1:18 pm).