All speedruns are impressive to some degree, but none more so than those of games that are extremely difficult casually. Games like Dark souls, Hollow Knight and Cuphead are usually very difficult for the casual player. So much so that one could be forgiven for thinking that learning to speedrun such a game would be impossible for us mere mortals.
This article will talk about some of the ways that you can make running your favorite game more accessible. While we’ll focus somewhat on difficult games, but these tips are by no means exclusive to those games. They can be applied equally to all speedruns.
Having the Right Gamer Mentality
Let’s start off by addressing the issue of speedrun accessibility in general. One of the most common misconceptions in all speedrunning communities is that running is difficult to get into. In reality, this could not be further from the truth. This misconception seems to stem from the misguided idea that all runners of a game are competing for the world record at all times. That is simply not true.
Getting the world record is extremely difficult, and for the most well-established games, it is not a goal that most runners aim for. At least not until they have already been running the game for months. Or even years for some of the most competitive games — like SM64!
Focus on Small Speedrun Goals
The majority of runners for most games are simply in it to have fun and to improve on their previous attempts. With this shift in mentality speedrunning becomes extremely accessible. Your only competition is the past version of yourself. And if you can play better than you played yesterday then the potential for a PB is always there.
There is no better feeling in speedrunning than your first few runs of a game. Each one shaving off multiple minutes or even hours from your previous attempts simply due to increased familiarity with the game and the speedrun. This is the feeling that gets the majority of speedrunners hooked on the hobby.
It’s not the relentless pursuit of the world record, as seems to be the perception from outside. The option of competing for the world record is always there if you want to chase it later down the line. However, going into a game with the goal of getting the world record is always risky. Furthermore, it is often a counterproductive mentality when it comes to both having fun and improvement.
Build Upon Your Skills, Adapt to Your Weaknesses
How can you most easily facilitate this growth mentality when it comes to your own first runs? It is slightly different for everyone. One of the most common pitfalls is practice paralysis.
“I can’t do a run until I know and am able to perform all of the tricks.”
This is a near surefire way to never actually start doing runs of your favorite speedgame. While in the long run practice may be important, in the early days of your time with a game it is best to just try and have fun. Start doing runs as soon as possible! And implement newer tricks when you feel that you are ready for them.
Understanding Speedrun Routes
Speedrun Routing Resources
One way to facilitate your ability to get into runs early on is to make creative use of routing. Be aware of exactly what the purpose is of various parts of the route. Many game communities want to see their community grow. Thus, they will provide more beginner-friendly routes in order to do this. To find help with routing, check out these resources:
- Search SRC (speedrun.com) for the game
- The speedrun Discord for the game (also usually available on SRC)
- SpeedGamingNews.com — a shameless plug!
Beginner routes usually try to include easier tricks while excluding the tricks which are more difficult. They also tend to exclude tricks that have a very minor time save over easier, but slightly slower tricks.
Check Old Routes
If you find that these routes aren’t available for the game of your choice, then there are always older runs and records to look at. The glitches that are used now won’t have been around forever. Some of the older runs may provide a much more manageable level of speedtech for a newer player. That should allow you to get into running the game much more easily.
While these routes may seem irrelevant to the modern speedrun, they often do have significant overlap with the more recent routes. For example, movement is a big part of going fast in most games. The underlying rules of efficient movement are unlikely to have changed too many over the years. And even by practicing with an older route, you are still building up muscle memory and familiarity with these key basic skills of a speedrun. You will also see significant improvement over time in these key skills.
Lowering your time through mastery of the basics is just as rewarding as lowering it through any other means!
Once you feel like you have built up a good basic understanding of speedtech in a game. And you are confident with the route you are currently using, you can start to think about implementing more difficult glitches and strategies into your gameplay.
Glitches and Strategy Selection
Glitches to Avoid as a Beginner
Glitches are often the big flashy moments of a speedrun that impress the uninitiated. However, some of the most impressive glitches save minimal time. So much so that if you fail the glitch even once you are now losing time compared to the much easier option of simply not doing the glitch at all. Most speedgame communities will be happy to help you to identify which glitches are advisable to learn as a beginner and which ones are more likely to cost time rather than save it.
Reaching out to the relevant discord for the game is usually a good way to get this kind of advice. Practice the one or two specific glitches that you want to implement into your runs, and start doing runs with them as soon as you feel you have a reasonable success rate in executing them.
Remember that because you have experience with the previous route, you can always use the old strategy as a backup if you find that you are struggling with a glitch. As a beginner, finishing a run is always better than resetting in the long term. If you implement a difficult glitch half way through the run, and simply reset every time you miss it, you might find that when you finally do land that glitch on the 10th reset, you suffer from a lack of practice on the later parts of the game since you have consistently been neglecting them.
Choosing the Easier Strategies
Another important aspect of strategy to discuss in many games is character upgrades. In games where it is possible to upgrade your items or your stats, many speedruns will progress with the absolute bare minimum available to them. As a beginner don’t be afraid to go out of your way to obtain these upgrades if you find that you are struggling.
There is no shame in slightly modifying your route to give yourself a higher success rate. Think of it this way, say you can defeat a boss on the 10th try on average because you simply don’t have the skill to beat the boss reliably with your current weapons, this may lose you 20 minutes or more depending on how long it takes you.
With the upgrades you might improve your odds to 3 or 4 tries on average. Yes, going out of your way to get the upgrades may cost you time from the “ideal speedrun”. However, spending 5 minutes to get some upgrades, then beating the boss in 5 minutes instead of 20 is not only a net positive for you in terms of time spent, but also a much less frustrating experience overall.
In addition to this net time save, routing out how to get those upgrades in the most efficient way can be a really fun mini-routing exercise and give you a new appreciation of an aspect of the game that you did not have before. If you find yourself struggling with this you are most definitely not alone, reach out to the community discord and they will most likely be happy to help.
They have probably been where you are at some point and might enjoy talking about a niche routing idea that they haven’t thought about in a while. Remember, you can always change back to the “ideal” route once you feel much more comfortable with the boss in question and are beating it 100% of the time with your upgraded weapons.
Many runners find the most success when they implement a small number of strategic changes at a time, and then add more once they are comfortable with their new normal. This mimics the way that the most established runners would most likely have learnt the game, as not all (if any!) of the glitches that are now used in the speedrun would have been discovered when the game was new.
If you just add everything at once you are quite likely to become quickly overwhelmed and find yourself losing many runs to various different mistakes, the world record runs are often the result of years worth of accumulated knowledge after all!
Choose Your Speedrun Category
The final thing to think about is category choice. Many communities will give the advice to start with a shorter category. This is solid advice, but there are pros and cons to all categories, and different types of players will find different categories more appealing. If you just want to complete the game as fast as possible go for any%. If you really dislike glitches, go for Glitchless.
If you are more of a completionist go for categories like 100%. The choice is really yours and you will perform at your best when you are running the category that interests you the most.
That said, if you really don’t know which category you want to do, there are some pros and cons to each type of category. Any%, Glitchless and 100% are some of the most popular categories across all games, so they will be the focus. Each game’s categories are unique however, so if you find one outside of these options that catch your eye then go for it. Bear in mind that this list is not exhaustive, but more of a general idea of what you can expect from each type of category.
- The shortest category by definition, so it has the least content to learn.
- Often the most popular category, so it can be the easiest to get advice from other runners.
- Often the most technically demanding category in terms of glitches. As it is the shortest, top level runners are usually willing to do absolutely anything for even the smallest timesave, even if that strategy has only a 50% success rate or lower. You can avoid these problems using the routing suggestions mentioned above, but it’s something that is worth being aware of if you plan to run the category in the long term.
- The shortest category. Some people prefer longer categories as they get to play and experience more of the game.
- No glitches. Some people feel very strongly that they are “cheating” but that argument would need a whole article of its own to discuss in any depth. That said, if you don’t like glitches then this is the category for you.
- Closest to casual play. This can make it much more instantly familiar to beginners in terms of where you should be going, as there will be very few sequence breaks if any at all.
- No glitches. This does tend to cap the fastest time that is achievable much earlier on in the game’s life than would be the case for other categories.
- What exactly is considered a glitch varies from community to community and is not always clear. If you are unsure if what you are doing is a glitch or not then checking with the relevant community is a safe bet.
- As a result of the lack of glitches, the world records for these categories can become very refined. Route changes are likely to be just small improvements as opposed to game changing re-routes. If you like the idea of new discoveries potentially happening in the future that massively change the route, this probably isn’t the category for you.
- Properly mastered use of glitches usually makes the game easier rather than harder. As a result Glitchless categories can often be some of the most difficult. Cheesing a boss with a glitch is often far easier once you know how to do it than beating it using something closer to the intended strats.
- You get to experience all of the game’s content. If you are running a game because you really enjoy it, this can be an attractive part of this category.
- More open to creative routing than other categories. As a result of the sheer number of things to do in order to achieve 100% in most games, this category has the most room for creative routing. The number of different orders that you could collect the items in is incredibly large for most games.
- This can also make 100% more beginner friendly for some games, as from the upgrades perspective you have to collect them all anyway, so why not change the route slightly to get them a bit earlier and make it easier on yourself.
- Not always clear exactly what 100% is. Many games do not have an ingame percentage completion tracker, so what is and isn’t required for 100% is decided by the community. The choice usually makes sense, but it can be frustrating if you think something should be included in 100% but isn’t and vice versa.
- Usually the longest category. These categories are often significantly longer than the any% run. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for example has an any% run that is just under 4 minutes, and a 100% run that is just under 4 hours. This is not unusual when it comes to the length of 100% categories compared to any%, but in general the more open the game is, the larger the difference will be between any% and 100%.
- Low% also exists which has the potential to be longer than 100% but again that can of worms deserves an article of its own. Do look up Low% though if you are interested, they are often some of the most interesting albeit weird speedruns that you will see.
I hope this somewhat brief guide on how you can adjust your routes and mentality to make speedrunning more accessible has been helpful. If I had to give just one piece of advice when it comes to making speedrunning more accessible it would be this: focus on yourself and enjoy the journey, you only get to start out in a new game once.