Checking out the leaderboards of the game you’re speedrunning, or about to speedrun, you may find that you need to create a new category. There are many variables to speedrunning a new category and getting it accepted on the leaderboards, so there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. However, as someone who has created a new category on the leaderboards for The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX, I can provide you with the best advice I can give.
If you are instead looking for how to start a speedrun of a game which does not have any categories at all, you’re probably more interested in checking out this article: How to Start Speedrunning a Game Which Has No Runs – Creating a New Speedrun.
First off, let me tell you… getting a new category on the leaderboards was not easy. Things may come easier for you, but for me, it was months of hard work. However, nothing is more rewarding than putting in some real effort and seeing it pay off!
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening has always been my favorite game. I discovered speedrunning in late 2013, and have been watching speedruns of the game ever since. Way back then when I first started watching the speedruns, I noticed there was a very quick Any% (the current Any% world record is 2 minutes 12 seconds and 633 milliseconds by SeYsEy — 276 milliseconds faster than 2nd place). Then, I noticed there was a 100% category — but something was missing.
The Any% category had people travelling through walls and doing all sorts of crazy out of bounds tricks in an area known as the “doghouse” — an area which I was familiar with from my semi-terrifying childhood. Meanwhile, 100% was 100% less visual insanity. There were no people from the villages split in half and mutating into 8-bit nightmares. No invisible walls blocking you in from every direction. No dark, scary rooms with music which require post-listen auditory exorcisms… Needless to say, I didn’t like it.
I sometimes think I spent my whole childhood in that doghouse
It turns out the 100% category in speedrunning for this game included some rules. No wrong warping, which meant no doghouse, and no out of bounds… which also means no doghouse. What do these people have against dogs anyway? Man’s best friend. Come on. I decided right then and there I could never speedrun a category with restrictions (other than requirements — which I think count as a restriction?). However, I had a bit of an internal conflict.
Step 1: Stop talking or thinking about creating a new category for your speedrun — start making it happen!
I really wanted to speedrun, and I truly love this game. I’m a completionist, so 100% is very appealing to me, and that Any% looked like a brutal grind I didn’t want to get myself wrapped up in. So I announced that I was going to make a 100% speedrun with no restrictions. Then I announced it again. And about a year later I mentioned it to a few people. In total, 4 years later, I finally stopped talking about it and actually started things up.
Step 2: Route it!
I had thought about this category so much over those 4 years, that I nearly had a route in my head. Unfortunately though, being that you break apart the entire game and it’s basically a glitch expedition while also being a speedrun, there were all sorts of flags being set off which I hadn’t accounted for. These flags blocked me from doing things in my expected route order. I spend something like one full week doing nothing but routing and testing for the category. I mean, nearly every waking hour, which was not healthy and I do not recommend it. I had routed it so much I was having dreams of me repeatedly testing the same parts of the routes over and over again like some sick fever dream. Here is an example of what this madness looks like:
It was a nauseating experience
Step 3: Get help and assistance from the community who speedruns the game!
After that first week of routing, I started doing speedruns. They were slow and horribly limited by my lack of knowledge and experience… but man it was satisfying. I felt like an artist finally seeing the final product of my efforts, or a scientist finally getting a massive break-through. Sometimes when I route a speedrun, it’s a very straight-forward experience, but this was a different beast. With 29 or so different out of bounds layouts, data overflows, and many invisible obstacles, it wasn’t something I could brute-force my way through. In fact, I could’ve never done it entirely on my own.
There was already a category known as “All Instruments”, which collects the 8 instruments typically required to get to the final area of the game — meanwhile, this speedrun ignored any items, upgrades, and extras which wouldn’t save time. I was able to use the route for All Instruments to piece together some of my 100% route. Be sure to reference the speedrun materials which are already available to you.
Don’t reinvent the wheel!
When working through your speedrun, do not hesitate to ask the community any questions you have. Most speedrunners are excited and delighted to help in any way they can. We all share love for the same game, and that’s a wonderful thing. I recall at one point saving 4 or 5 minutes by simply stepping on a switch I didn’t know about while out of bounds. I would have never found this (or many of the other time saves and optimizations) without the Link’s Awakening Discord, and all the talented speedrunners there.
If you need help to get you the best timer for your speedruns, check out my speedrun timer article here: The Best Speedrun Timer — Which Timer to Use For Speedrunning?
Step 4: Generate community interest!
After a few improved speedruns of the game, this category still wasn’t allowed anywhere near the leaderboads. For some of you, this may be all it takes. Do a few test speedruns and GG, you’re in! That will likely not be the case when it comes to highly competitive games or series such as The Legend of Zelda or Super Mario Bros.
While implementing pieces of other categories into my new category, I was able to find optimizations and improve the All Instruments route retrospectively. When you help other speedrunners improve their categories, it will spark new interests. In return, those speedrunners may even further optimize the speedrun route for you. Beyond this, it will stir discussion and potentially perk up some ears about this interesting new category you are working on.
Surely enough, a few people started speedrunning the new category. Even some bigger names, like TGH. By this point, whether the speedrun ended up on a leaderboard or not, things were official enough for me to feel extremely proud. It was all worth the time I invested. If the furthest you get with your speedrun or new category is doing a speedrun yourself, and documenting it somewhere where others can see it, that’s as legitimate as it needs to be. Heck, you never know, maybe even 160 years down the road someone will see that video of your speedrun and compete for a better time. The internet is forever — well, until the sun explodes or something, but then all life ceases to exist, so what’s it matter anyway? *Cue existential crisis*
Step 5: Ask what you can do to make your new category official!
So even though I said that if it’s on the internet, it’s official enough… I am pretty stubborn. I felt like a speedrun which is as pure as just 100%, with no other rules, requirements, or details, is even more deserved of a place on the leaderboards than the previous 100% runs which were being done — even if there are less speedrunners in the category (significantly less). Well, maybe not, but that was my point of view at the time. Any% and 100% are basically ubiquitous among speedrunning leaderboards. I finally just got up enough courage to ask.
I believe it would come off as too aggressive to directly ask “Why isn’t this category on the leaderboards?”, so instead I made it more of an offer. I started off by politely stating that we had a few people already speedrunning the category, and that it’s a fairly standard speedrun category for many games. From there I asked “What is it I can do to make things official? What should I do to get this speedrun on the leaderboards?”
My question was met with a welcoming response. The issue they had, is that it was a very difficult category to learn and thus not many people would be interested in figuring it out themselves. They responded “Well, if it had a tutorial, it’d probably be okay to add this category.” Things weren’t set in stone with this, but I definitely wanted to attract more speedrunners to the category anyway.
Step 6: ???
So, I made a tutorial on how to speedrun the new category. By this point, I honestly think they would’ve just felt bad saying no.
Step 7: Profit!… well, not actually profit — but you’ve made it!
A ton of hard work, dedication, nightmares, and some sympathy from the Link’s Awakening speedrunners finally paid off in full. Again, this is just what worked for me. However, I hope it serves as a decent guideline for you if you are trying to speedrun a new category and make it as “official” as your heart desires. Since the creation of the Link’s Awakening DX 100% [No Restrictions] category, I have seen 7 or 8 people speedrun it, and 6 people are on the leaderboard. The world record, by SeYsEy, is a very impressive 33 minutes and 58 seconds. And finally, if you’re curious, here is a video of my personal best. Enjoy!