September 14, 2009

Speedrunner Profiles

I interviewed eight players for my Tomb Raider speedrunning article and received a huge amount of useful information—much more than I could include in one short article. So here are brief blurbs about everyone who helped me, including advice for beginners. (Text in italics is mine. Responses to "Why do you speedrun?" and "Advice to new speedrunners" are the runners' own words.)

Name: AjAX

Country: Canada

Co-founder (with Ewil) of Tomb Runner. YouTube channel: youtube.com/ajaxrunner

Why do you speedrun? The wow factor it gives you, the precision, finding shortcuts, doing some HARD shortcut, beating your own time, it's a competition. By that I mean, a competition for yourself first to see how far you can go. You can think of it as Training. The more you do the better you get! Same about speedruns.

Other games: Prey, Soldier of Fortune, Cold Fear, Quake, Doom 3.

Advice to new speedrunners: As Larson said: "Practice makes perfect!"

AjAX holds several speed records for TR2 and Chronicles, though lately he's been focusing on a Prey speedrun. He currently holds the record for that game and is redoing his 2008 run to make it even better. This video shows his 4:09 run through Trajan's Markets in Tomb Raider: Chronicles. He has since shaved another 9 seconds off that time. The video of the 4:00 run can be found on Tomb Runner. He says this is his all-time favorite run and notes that it includes a glitch he discovered, which can only be done in this level.



Name: Ewil

Country: Czech Republic

Co-founder (with AjAX) and webmaster of Tomb Runner. YouTube channel: youtube.com/EwilCZ

Why do you speedrun? It's a different way to play the game. It's a really nice feeling when you discover a new shortcut or a trick, but it can be also very annoying attempting one level over and over again just to get a one second better time. It's also a challenge and sometimes even a competition. And it's a really good time killer, believe me.

Other games: Postal 2, Driver, Serious Sam.

Advice to new speedrunners: Be patient.

Ewil holds many speed records, including Unfinished Business and most levels in the Last Revelation and Angel of Darkness. This video shows his 4:59 run of Cleopatra's Palaces, incorporating creative use of the trigger bug, which he developed.



Name: jarekhanzelka

Country: Czech Republic

YouTube channel: youtube.com/jarekhanzelka

Why do you speedrun? The challenge it brings—and those extremely positive reactions if the run is good.

Other games: Not yet.

Advice to new speedrunners: Patience! Don't give up just because it takes plenty of tries before you manage anything. Speedrunning is sort of an art, so it has to be practiced for pretty long time before you become good at it. Keep that in mind.

Jarek holds several records, including his continuous glitched run of TR Underworld in 24:51 (detailed on Speed Demos Archive). His 3:23 Out of Time level run is shown below, and you can track his progress on an airwalk-glitch Legend speedrun on his YouTube channel.



Name: MMAN

Country: U.K.

YouTube channel: youtube.com/MMAN2

Why do you speedrun? It lets me push my skills on the games, along with the game itself, as well as adding a lot of replay value.

Other games: Mirror's Edge.

Advice to new speedrunners: Find out as much about the game as you can, since otherwise you could easily be working from outdated information and techniques.

MMAN is considered by many to be the founding father of Tomb Raider speedrunning. His glitchless TR3 run still holds the record at 2:28:20 (detailed on SDA), and he has been included in the Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition. The video below shows one of his favorite runs, the TR1 Caves level in 2:41 using no glitches.



Name: RadxxRyan

Country: U.S.A.

YouTube channel: youtube.com/radxxryan

Why do you speedrun? I like the challenge of it. I do get frustrated on a hard level, but when I finally get a solid run, it's a good feeling.

Other games: Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country.

Advice to new speedrunners: Watch lots of other speedrunning videos, visit or join the Tomb Runner forums, check out Stella's walkthrough website, then just practice a lot and have lots of patience and have fun with it.

RadxxRyan holds a number of records for glitched runs of the classic Tomb Raiders, all of which were made on the PlayStation. Below is his 4:44 all-secrets run through the Living Quarters level in TR2.



Name: rr_carroll

Country: U.S.A.

Webmaster of Tomb Raider Tourist. YouTube channel: youtube.com/rrcarroll252

Why do you speedrun? I don't speedrun myself, I think of myself as part of the pit crew. To get an idea of the problems of actual runners, I do run small sections and make videos. I love the sense of discovery during the research. As a matter of fact, I'm evangelistic about it. I frequently try to inveigle people at tombraiderforums into being competitors/ colleagues (it would be redundant at Tombrunner).

It's like prowling through an old castle, looking for secret passages. Occasionally something amazing happens, and I get to enjoy that OMIGOD! LOOKIT THAT!! feeling. Then I want to share/brag.

Watching a good speedrun is like good poetry. There's flowing smoothness, elegance and downright amazement. It's intellectually and artistically satisfying.

Other games: No. Maybe someday, but TR discoveries just keep on coming!

Advice to new speedrunners: I feel like I'm advising young samurai: go out and wander. Use your skills. Train yourself.

More specifically: there are two aspects to speedrunning, movement skills and path-finding skills. Both require practice. Look at speedruns and check lists of movement commands and tricks. Practice the moves until you become familiar with the details and nuances of using them. But even before you finish that, start going through games and try to find new shortcuts, as well as speedrun. You develop your skills mostly by doing.

Don't get disappointed that you're not close to record times, pay more attention to improving. Reward yourself for a new personal best or rediscovering old shortcuts.

rr_carroll has discovered several useful bugs and helped refine many others. Examples are too numerous to list here, but a visit to his Tomb Raider Tourist site or YouTube channel is like unearthing one priceless artifact after another. This video shows examples of the dive bug, which was discovered by Aurimas and perfected by rr.



Name: Soul

Country: Austria

YouTube channel: youtube.com/nightwish1603

Why do you speedrun? I think it's a very special way of enjoying a level and giving honor to the builder. I would never run a level I didn't like...I love finding a completely new route, glitches, shortcuts and try to finish the level as fast as possible.

Other games: Nope. I think there's no other game I know with so many (easy) glitches. In the old games there is the corner bug and the bananajump, in TRA/TRL there's the airwalk, in TRU there's the weird behaviour of the grapple and so on. TR is a fantastic series. Maybe some TR's haven't been tested properly, but that's what I love about it.

Advice to new speedrunners: Hmmm. It's hard to say. I guess if you really want to start speedrunning try out every trick mentioned in Area 51 (on Tomb Runners) and learn how to use it. Then you can start choosing a level and finding your unique route. After that watch the video of the existing run (if there is one) and compare both routes. If you are lucky you found a new shortcut and your route is faster, if not then see which shortcuts you might have missed.

Soul mostly runs custom levels, so he's set a number of records in a smaller field. His run through Dark Death's Royal Bengal Tigers level (below) shows he's clearly mastered the essentials of speedrunning. He also holds the current records for the Gallows Tree level in TR Chronicles (00:32) and the Beneath the Ashes expansion for Underworld (04:27).



Name: xRikux89

Country: Finland

YouTube channel: youtube.com/xRikux89

Why do you speedrun? Tell me so I can die! I honestly don't know. The predominant emotion always seems to be frustration. I've started to take more interest in just discovering tricks and shortcuts instead.

Other games: You could say it began from playing as a kid. Every weekend would be spent playing Mega Man V over and over until I got bored of it...which I didn't! I could eventually beat the game in about an hour. Of course, I had no idea what I was doing back then. I tried speedrunning Crash Bandicoot once, but my game seems to always freeze in Castle Machinery if I try to complete it in one sitting. That, and I don't have any means of recording from a TV.

Advice to new speedrunners: A long continuous run of a full game isn't the best idea for a first project. Start out small, and just work on basic technique. Also keep in mind, that the current records and routes are by no means absolute. Explore even the craziest of ideas!

Riku is famous even outside of the speedrunning community for his discovery of the airwalk glitch in Legend and Anniversary. He has also found a few major shortcuts in Underworld and other games. When asked to choose a favorite video to include here, he went with sentiment over speed. He admits to "screwing up" near the end of his 5:56 glitchless, all-secrets run of the Jungle level in TR3 (below), but he's proud of the overall run, which was one of his first.

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