How To Start A New Speedrun

As someone who has personal experience speedrunning two games which nobody else has ever ran, I am going to give you my advice for creating your own speedruns from a game without any runs. If the game you want to speedrun does not currently have any speedruns, the majority of the process is going to be up to you — however, I’m going to help guide you along, assuming you’re here because you would like some insight.

If you would like to learn how to start speedrunning, in general, this will be a better place to start: How to Start Speedrunning: A Beginner’s Guide. (Coming soon)

Or if you are looking to create a new speedrun category for a game which already exists, this is going to be your launch zone: How to Create a New Speedrun Category – A Speedrunner’s Guide

First off, I want to provide you with the short of it, because the best way to do something is “Just Do!” If you spend too much time thinking about how to do something, you might feel overburdened and give up. I suggest diving in and starting step-by-step, and only checking for advice when you don’t know what to do next.

Here’s your TL;DR:
1. Finish a Casual Playthrough
2. Note the Unusual
3. Plan your Route & Write it Down
4. Experiment & Revise
5. Set the Rules
6. Speedrun
7. Open a Leaderboard & Generate Interest

Creating a speedrun usually comes up pretty naturally. You’ve played a game a few times and it was lots of fun, and now you’re looking for any excuse to keep playing it — or perhaps it just feels good to go fast. So you check out the leaderboards, but you come up empty-handed. Then, you head over to Twitch and Youtube, but still there are no speedruns to be found. What the heck? How has nobody speedran this masterpiece!? So what do you do?

Being the first person to speedrun a game is both great, and incredibly stressful. Let’s take this step by step, to keep things clean and easy to follow along with.

Before we begin, be certain to check around for other speedruns first. We do not want to reinvent the wheel if we do not have to. Check speedrun.com, check multiple names for the game if it has an alternate title, check Youtube, check for the game on Twitch and select the “videos” tab, check old forums if it is an old game. No joke, the only other speedruns I’ve found for one of my speedgames was on a wiki article…

Just why though?

Step 1: Do a casual playthrough!

Assuming you already have a game in mind, this is where you probably ought to start. I know it may sound counter-intuitive to some, but this is pretty crucial. During a casual playthroughs, you will most likely be taught any hidden mechanics, develop a secure understanding of the level layouts and designs, and this also allows for you to get immersed in the game which will likely keep you interested in the speedrun for a longer period of time. Most of the time, when someone is able to grind speedruns in a game for a long period of time, it’s because they have a history with the game and have already cemented their love for the game. Furthermore, a casual playthrough will make skips, exploits, and strats that much more exciting to discover. During casual gameplay is where many glitches and strategies are found. Allow yourself to fully enjoy the game, before building up that love-hate relationship all of us speedrunners are familiar with.

Hey, this is just my advice, you don’t have to take it if you don’t want to! Go ahead and jump right into speedrunning if you don’t like doing blind playthroughs. It may just be a hindrance to your speedrunning experience.

Step 2: Take note of anything weird!

As you progress through the game, be sure to document anything strange you might have encountered. You died and spawned in an unexpected place — document it! It may lead to death warps when further analyzed. An enemy took extra damage at some point — write that down or make a video clip of it. An enemy acting unusual, or strangely good (or bad) luck with some RNG, it’s all worth taking note of. You never know where your findings may lead. One of the most exciting elements of speedrunning, in my opinion, is chaining exploit after exploit to produce incredible time saves. I will never forget my first time hearing how storage worked in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and how they were able to chain that in ways which lead up to super swimming.

Even the most mundane bugs may lead to incredible time saves

Even if, ultimately, you do not want to have a speedrun with any glitches, keep in mind that others (such as myself) do have a higher interest in that sort of speedrun. The more knowledge which is available for speedrunning, the more potential speedrunners you will have for the game — even if it breaks into multiple categories. Trust me when I say that if anyone picked up any of my speedgames, even if they make their own category, it’d be a joy to watch.

Step 3: plan a route!

Yoo! We’re getting into the good stuff now. So, this is where things get fun. Even in linear games, there is almost always moments in games where there are multiple options on which path to take. Maybe it’s as obvious as taking path A, B, or C, or maybe it’s as minute as whether you should drop or jump off a ledge. Go through each section of the game and test what is the quickest way through.

Sometimes the quickest route is painfully difficult and you need to opt for a slower path, and that is totally okay! However, if you do find yourself in a situation like that, it would be a very good idea to document that somewhere for others to access — or even for your future self after you’ve become a master of your speedrun.

I have been grinding a very short speedrun of The Adventures of MicroMan: Crazy Computers which I routed myself. The speedrun is pretty close to maxed out in how fast I can complete it. However, there is a bridge with two platforms which spawn and despawn at random. I could save about 1.5 seconds going for a one cycle bridge, as opposed to the two cycle bridge in my uncontested world record. Being that I created the speedrun, I’ve got the benefit of opting in or out of dealing with horrible randomization or avoiding it, because the competition just isn’t there. Plus, it may leave a little incentive for someone else to pick up the speedrun and go for that very lucky one cycle down the road. I am sure you will meet these same decisions when it comes to your speedrun as well.

Routing does not have to be anything too crazy. You could simply just pick what appears to be the quickest path and go for it. I am a bit of a perfectionist, so if you are like me and really want that time to go as low as possible, you may want to download a free timer online. I highly recommend going with LiveSplit. If you would like a full, detailed outline of which timer to use when speedrunning, I have a guide for that available here: The Best Speedrun Timer — Which Timer to Use For Speedrunning? (Opens in a new tab)

Time, or estimate the time of, each path you take through a section. I don’t recommend practicing the sections at this point. It will only slow your progress. A slopping, quick assessment of how to zip through the game as fast as you can is so much more important at this point than any amount of practice you can do. You may be practicing the wrong route/tricks if you start drilling this early into the speedrunning process.

If you’re speedrunning a game which can be emulated, this is one of the few acceptable uses of save states. *wink*. For an original Nintendo game, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Game Boy, or even many modern consoles, you can emulate accurately enough to test for quickness. Get yourself an emulator, test the different routes, get a feel for which route is fastest or how to get through sections without getting completely destroyed. Save at the start of each new section, and run through it two or three times, then move on to the next. Remember, this is basically the “rough draft” of your speedrun.

For some consoles, you are better off testing on console and using the in game save systems where available. Nintendo 64 games, for example, often emulate horribly. So poorly, in fact, that speedruns on console for some games are not accepted on the leaderboards, or they are extremely limited. If emulation plays vastly different from the original hardware, I highly recommend speedrunning on the original hardware or something as close to accurate as possible. Sometimes games are different enough on console, where practicing in an emulator will only build improper muscle memory.

Write the route down!

Whether it’s in Notepad, on a physical piece of paper, written on MS Paint in Comic Sans font, or Sublime Text — write a reference down for your route! It does not have to be detailed. Just so long as you have something to reference if you forget where or what to do next in your speedrun. Being that, for the routing process, you shouldn’t have really grinded any sections into memory, this will be best way to cement the route into your mind. Enough times of referencing your route notes, and eventually it just clicks.

“What do I do here?.. Oh wait, I always check my notes here. I have to jump up the ledge and duck before running forward”.

Step 4: Experiment and revise!

This is the last thing you might want to do in-game before starting up your official speedruns. If you’ve referenced your notes and keep thinking “Is this really faster?” or “I don’t think this is worth it yet.”, then go ahead. Make revisions! Don’t worry, those strats will always be there, waiting and ready for you if you decide to come back to them. Chances are, your route is going to change at some point since the speedrun is in a state of early development. If you saw something a little goofy happening, go ahead and check it out at this point. See if you can turn it into a time save or a piece of useful information to carry with you through your speedruns.

Optional: Make a TAS!

I am only including this, because I really like to go all-in. When routing, I used an emulator to create a tool-assisted theory speedrun. This helped me frame count through the games and see what is truly the best way to handle every situation. This is absolute overkill, and I don’t really recommend it. However, I do think it is worth noting, because some people aren’t in a rush to speedrun their game and just enjoy this sort of thing. Alternatively, if this strikes your interest but it seems like a bit much when you really just want to start speedrunning, feel free to make a TAS after you’ve already been speedrunning for a while to see if you’ve missed any optimizations.

Step 5: Set the rules!

Okay, so you’re pretty much ready. But when does time start? When does time end? *Oh no! Another existential crisis!*

Well, that’s ultimately going to be up to you. That being said, it is probably a good idea to consider what other games on your console/medium and within your genre are doing. For example, I know for many NES games time starts on your first input. So, as soon as you press “Start” on that home screen, you can start your timer. This makes for an easy way to start timing each run as well since you can feel yourself starting the game and the timer simultaneously. It’s also fine to start your timer like this, even if time technically begins when you gain control of your character — you would just have to retime the run after the fact (which is good practice anyway).

Consider some variables. If your timer starts when you press start on the home menu, is there a visual indication of that press? Does the “Player 1 Start” option blink in a way where it’d be easy to frame count, or at least visually see when time starts? Making sure your times are easy to verify will save you a ton of headache down the road.

Ending time can also come with its own variables. What if you have to mash through some text blocks throughout the entire game, will you still consider mashing through the text blocks after your final strike on the final boss a part of the speedrun? Personally, I do, because mashing is a valuable skill in speedrunning. However, many speedrunners disagree, and that’s the joy of creating your own speedrun — you get to choose! Heck, there are even speedruns which end the timer before the entire last segments of the game, because all you do is run up a flight of stairs or otherwise some simple inputs. There’s no way I would implement something like that into any of my speedruns, but you are the master of your speedrun, so go for it if that’s what you want! Just try to have some logical consistency or reasoning for your timings so future runners may be able to see eye-to-eye with your decisions and there won’t be too many disagreements if you are lucky enough to have other speedrunners join in on your new speedrun.

What about glitches, exploits, collection? Again, that’s up to you. You can run an Any% glitchless category if that’s what is most ideal for you, or a 100% category. Heck, why not both? Just make sure you clearly define what is and is not a “glitch” if you do introduce a glitchless category or restrictions and requirements otherwise.

There are some rules which seem to be fairly standard across all games, and it’d be best to abide by these rules.

For example, generally speedruns don’t allow for turbo buttons to be used. There are a few turn-based RPG speedruns which allow for turbo to be used, but those are extremely rare, and you will likely turn people away from your speedrun by allowing something like that. Unless of course turbo buttons are an integral and intentional part of the game which you are about to start speedrunning. But hey, don’t let me stop you! Do as your heart desires, but don’t say I didn’t warn you if there are some disagreements down the road. Turbo buttons and the like often fall under the category of tool-assistance.

Keybinding may come up as well. Do you want to allow keybinding? Most games allow for keybinding, as keybinding is required in emulation. It is fairly standard practice in speedrunning to only allow one-to-one keybinding. This means you may assign each button to only one single button. Meaning you can’t assign the shoot button to both the left and right triggers on your controller to allow for quicker mashing. Likewise, assigning two buttons to a single button to jump and shoot with a single button press would be frowned upon in most speedrunning communities.

There are console specific regulations which you may want to consider as well. Such as Game Boy games being speedran on the Gamecube Game Boy Player or Super Game Boy Player 2 (although the Super Game Boy 1 may be used, time has to be converted to match the intended speed).

Joining Discord channels for similar games, or games on the same console and asking questions is a great idea as well. The friendly speedrunners there will likely point you in the directions of the most accurate emulators or generally good standards to set for your speedrun if you need some further nudges in the right direction.

Whew! Okay, let’s do this!

Step 6: Gotta go fast!

It’s time to make speedrunning history! Don’t worry about perfection because one of the most satisfying aspects of speedrunning is hitting that final split on your timer and seeing your finishing time gradually improve. Smaller and smaller time saves slowly become more significant as you optimize and hone your speedrunning skills.

+10pts speedrunning
+4pts not being a filthy casual (just kidding)

When you start speedrunning, you will likely be pausing often, checking out your notes, making mistakes, and generally not getting super fast runs. That’s totally fine. Every run, even if you don’t get faster times, will improve your muscle memory, route memory, and refine some tricks as you go through. Do not get too reset-heavy. Resets this early into speedrunning will block you from late-game familiarity.

Start your timer and go, go, go!

Practice, practice, practice!

After some beginner runs, you may have noticed a few areas which you’re still really struggling with. At this point, you should probably practice those sections in what we call “drills”. Do some drills and really familiarize yourself with the correct inputs and reactions. Once you’ve turned those speed bumps into something you can better deal with, and burned them into your muscle memory, you’ll be better able to deal with them in your actual speedruns. If you’re still struggling with those sections, again, do not be afraid to take a step back and re-route that section for an easier approach.

At some point, just finishing many, many speedruns becomes some of the best practice you can get. So keep on plugging away at your runs and improving your time!

Step 7: Open a leaderboard!

Put this bad boy up on your favorite video hosting website and lock it in on speedrun.com or another leaderboard website if you prefer. It is fairly easy to set up a new speedgame on speedrun.com. It really helps make things feel official.

Generate interest!

Okay, if you find out how to do this, let me know! I’ve only successfully achieved this for one game. However, I do recommend that you post your personal bests and world records or any really interesting skips to Reddit’s r/speedrun, or tell your followers about the speedrun in Discord, Twitter, or your other social platforms. Having other people join in on your new speedrun will make things so much more fun, in my opinion. Plus, you have the benefit of them potentially finding new ways to save time, and that’s what it’s all about!

Last but not least, don’t forget why you started this. You don’t want to turn your hobby into a nightmare. Have fun with it, and if you’re getting too stressed out with your runs, or annoyed by missing that one jump every single run, take a step back. Sometimes taking a step back can actually provide you with a bit of time to let your brain establish those new synapse connections so you can come back better than before.

Or you’ll just be rusty and have to relearn everything…

Thanks for reading, and I wish you the best of luck with your new speedrun. Have fun and Godspeed!

Come to the Twitch channel!

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