Speedrunning games in a series

When a new game is released in a series, what can speedrunners take away from speedruns of earlier titles?

By Cam "Meta" Enright

Filed Under: opinion

It’s always an exciting time when the new game in a series you enjoy comes out - but what does this mean for speedrunners? Different speedrunning communities that run a game or games within a series may act differently if a new game is coming to the series. There are many different factors that take part in a community or individual's decision to run the next game in the series. Even still, it’s pretty safe to say that most people who’ve dumped potentially dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of hours into the series will at least give the new game a chance — so what happens after that?

Change — for better or worse

A determining factor for whether a new game will attract runners from previous games in the series is how different the new game is. Usually one of the first things a runner will do when they start routing the new game is to try glitches, exploits, and other strats that worked in previous games. The process of learning how a game works and routing it to play as fast as possible is always an exciting one - but when you get to apply previous knowledge to that process the anticipation and then resulting excitement (or potentially disappointment) is way higher.

Some Examples

It’s interesting to see the different decisions runners have made within a series. For instance, the greater Mario community seems to be split into smaller communities primarily by console generation. The top 20 runners of Super Mario Bros almost exclusively run Mario games on the NES or Famicom (FDS). This wasn’t just the case with the NES Mario runners either, the same concept applied when I checked the top 20 runners of Super Mario 64 (N64), Super Mario Sunshine (Gamecube/Wii), and Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch).

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This is interesting because presumably each generation of Mario games changed a fair bit, and runners seem to like sticking to the games they’re familiar with. I can’t imagine there’s much that can be applied from a 2D side scroller to a 3D third-person platformer. It also seems to be this reason that the communities for the mainline Mario games differ from those within the Mario Kart community and other Mario games.

Another interesting case is the Pokémon series community, who seem to enjoy running pretty much every mainline Pokémon games, only diverging when it comes to Pokémon games in other genres like New Pokémon Snap and the Mystery Dungeon games. I assume this is likely for the same reason as the Mario series, the only difference being that the mainline Pokémon games haven’t had quite as much variance comparatively.

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New DOOM Releases

My personal experience with transitioning speedgames in a series was with the 2016 reboot of DOOM and the release of DOOM Eternal. DOOM 2016 Any% speedruns rely very heavily on 3 different tricks; Railboosting (which flies you in a certain direction at lightning speed), Glory Kill Clipping, and Gauss Boosting. Leading up to the launch of DOOM Eternal, the DOOM community was pretty sure that all of these things were going to be removed, considering Eternal was being made on a brand new iteration of the IDTech Engine.

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On the day of launch, everyone was eager to test these tricks out and see what else could be found. As it turns out; Railboosting had been not entirely removed, but limited due to the change in level design/geometry, Glory Kill Clipping was also technically not removed but happened far less often (and with less enemies), and Gauss Boosting was technically gone since the Gauss Cannon was replaced with the Ballista, but it had the same recoil effect that let you boost around the level — so we just called it Ballista Boosting.

While some of the tricks we had used before were either removed or limited, it was not even 5 minutes into the game before Seeker__ discovered that if you spammed jump inputs fast enough on a sloped surface, they would stack and send you flying into the air. Needless to say, this trick essentially replaced railboosting — almost becoming MORE powerful. Especially with the more open level design of Eternal compared to 2016. That wasn’t the only new trick either. New tech dubbed “zipping” was found, which could “zip” you forward allowing you to skip triggers and death barriers, among other uses. Even other general gameplay mechanics like the combat and movement were vastly different, allowing you to traverse through levels incredibly quickly.

Shortly after release, previous DOOM 2016 runners mostly decided that they preferred just running the old game. However, the release of Eternal exploded the DOOM Speedrunning Discord, and there was a massive influx of all kinds of runners who were interested in DOOM Eternal. There were runners who were interested in the super skip heavy Any%, runners who wanted to run the combat-focused 100%, and also runners who were interested in the No Major Glitches category that focused primarily on a wide variety of smaller tricks rather than just a few very strong ones.

Now that Eternal has been out for over a year and two DLCs have been released, the “new” runners who started with DOOM Eternal are still around and enjoying it like they always have - but also interestingly enough, the updates and DLC to the game have managed to attract a few of the DOOM 2016 runners.

What can we take away from this? Well, it seems to be fairly common whether its Mario, Pokemon, or DOOM, that speedrunners tend to stick to the games they’re familiar with. And yet, new games in the series bring in new runners who can benefit from experiences from previous runners and bring renewed energy to the series — maybe even bringing the previous runners around to the new game.

Conclusion

It’s really interesting taking a look into speedruns of games within a series, because it’s interesting to see how the individual runners with different likes and dislikes react to each installment having their own features - some similar across the series and some very different. I enjoy seeing the runs of these games, in particular, take shape on release, just because of the previous history and potential future, it’s a really unique experience to witness.

Anywho, I’ve talked your ear off enough about my thoughts and experiences with series runs, go drink some water, and don’t forget to save those frames.

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