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A speedrun is a play-through (or a recording thereof) of a video game performed with the intention of completing it as fast as possible. Speedruns may cover a whole game or a selected part, such as a single level. While all speedruns aim for quick completion, some speedruns are characterized by additional rules that players promise to obey, such as collecting all key items. Players attempt speedruns mainly to challenge themselves and to entertain and compete with others.
Players performing speedruns call themselves speedrunners and often record their attempts. These recordings can be used to entertain others, to verify the completion time, to certify that all rules were followed and that no cheating took place, and to spot ways to improve the completion time further.[Note 1] The use of speedruns as entertainment stems from their conception by game enthusiasts, who would often compare each other’s playing skills via videos exchanged over the Internet. As speedruns have grown more competitive, however, enthusiasts often demanded more proper speedrun recordings, so that anyone could verify that a play-through went by the rules it claimed to follow. This verifiability is needed to count a speedrun as an official attempt to beat any previous records.
In order to reach the highest possible quality of play in a speedrun, the player usually has to reason about the game differently from the way that ordinary players might. Speedruns are usually planned out carefully before they are attempted, because the separate areas in which gameplay takes place are often complex and demand skillful play to complete quickly. Speedrunners often exploit imperfectly designed game mechanics to do unexpected and unusual things that save time. Although game mechanics differ widely between games, they often share common traits in the speedrunning context. Many have opportunities to disarrange the intended sequence of events in a game and skip entire parts of it — often called sequence breaking — and many more have programming mistakes, or glitches, that a skillful player can exploit to their advantage.
Some games are considered to be particularly suited to speedrunning and have online communities dedicated to them, which can provide an active platform for discussing, publishing and improving speedruns. Speedruns can be viewed on a variety of platforms, including live streams where players can carry out and share their attempt in real-time. Although speedrunning was originally not a widespread phenomenon, it has since grown to involve several active websites and an increasingly expansive assortment of speedrun videos that are freely and widely circulated on the Internet
Whilst routing, it becomes apparent that some of the goals in the game do not need to be achieved for completion. While the route itself pertains mostly to the way levels or their segments are passed, additional elements of the game that may be seen as integral to its natural or artistic flow, or the continuity of its gameplay, may sometimes be avoided. Such elements include cutscenes that need to be watched before the player can progress, items that the player needs to possess in order to continue to a next stage, or even entire parts of the gameplay that may convey a part of the game’s plot or a subplot. Skipping a part of the game in such a fashion that it can be described as disjointed with the game’s intended/common sequence of events, is referred to as sequence breaking.
The term sequence break was first used in 2003 in an online discussion forum thread concerning the Nintendo GameCube game Metroid Prime.[Note 2] This thread was called “Gravity Suit and Ice Beam before Thardus”; using the since then common “x before y” notation in the nomenclature of speedrunning. Thardus, a fictional creature in the Metroid series, was designed to be a mandatory boss before the Gravity Suit and Ice Beam could be obtained, hence the novelty of bypassing the boss while still obtaining the items. The author of the thread was Steven Banks, who reported to have successfully performed this sequence break on January 18, 2003, after the possibility of such an act was suggested by “kip”. Banks posted his findings about the act being possible on the Metroid Prime message board on GameFAQs in a thread which attracted a number of interested gamers.[Note 2] It is currently assumed that the term, as used in this context, was coined by a person known online as “SolrFlare” in this thread on February 5, 2003. Since its initial discovery, sequence breaking has become an integral part of speedrunning and has been applied to many other games.
An example of sequence breaking as a result of a glitch can be found in the “16-star” run of Super Mario 64: in this game, the protagonist, Mario, normally needs to collect at least 70 of the 120 power stars before he is allowed to play the final level and challenge the antagonist, Bowser, for a final time, but a glitch makes it possible for a runner to access that level with only 16 stars. More specifically, with the right kind of movement, the runner is able to pass through the boundary of a wall by pushing into it in a certain way while holding onto MIPS, an NPC. Since then, similar tricks have been found to complete the game without collecting any stars.
While some speedrun rules require that the skipping of such events be avoided, it is often desirable—connate with the act of route planning—to make full use of such possibilities. Websites, such as Speeddemosarchive and their associated wiki constitute that a glitch run falls under its own category of glitch run, as opposed to a run without glitches, allowing for multiple categories. Thus is it possible for two separate times for a 100% speedrun of a game, a 100% speedrun utilizing glitches, and one without using them forcing the player to complete the game in a standard fashion. It is agreed upon that glitches, which are the fault of the game’s programmers and not the player, are legitimate and allowed, however cheating or using cheat devices (this includes cheat codes that are implemented by the programmers such as an “Invincibility” cheat) are not accepted, even if the cheat is a glitch from something such as improperly inserting the cartridge.
Removing or altering a game disc/cartridge/files while the game is running is forbidden. Examples of this are the crooked cartridge trick in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and the CD streaming trick in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. If you’re not sure what this rule means, think about it this way: don’t mess with your system while playing the game, and don’t modify the game itself at any time.
There are some glitches in video games which allow the player to become invincible to enemies by delaying death and it can also result in skipping some stages. The Oddworld series has been known for this type of glitch. Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee has the glitch that can skip Paramonia and Scrabania which is not meant to happen for a general player of the game. There is also a similar glitch in Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty but only Scrabania can be skipped. There is no glitch that can delay death in Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus, but there is a glitch that can skip everything in the entire Feeco Depot which would have resulted in going through Slig Barracks, Bonewerkz and the Feeco Office. This is done using an Auto-Turn delay glitch at the start of the stage, which involves delaying Abe’s ledge hoisting animation and using it at a further ledge in the game. Games from the Grand Theft Auto series also have an invincibility glitch too.