This month we talked with Emray, a speedrunner, gamedev, and artist with a passion for routing runs and metal music.
Before we get into the article, Emray’s hometown of Houma, Louisiana was recently devastated by Hurricane Ida. Learn how you can support relief efforts here.
As a teen in the mid-aughts (before she knew about the larger speedrunning community), Emray used to run The Lion King on an SNES emulator. In 2015, she started running Banjo-Tooie and, in 2017, she joined the Pokémon community with a run of Pokémon X.
But at the time, she encountered a lot of sexism in both communities and ended up mostly leaving them when she started running Hollow Knight in September 2018. However, she maintained a leadership role in the 3DS and Nintendo Switch Pokémon communities. Hollow Knight would quickly become her most-run game and as she became associated with the game some indie developers even reached out asking her to try early releases of their games.
Eventually, she was introduced to Shredrunners, a group of metalhead speedrunners. She promised the group that if she ever became a Twitch Partner she would make an official Shredrunners Twitch Team.
An adorable pair of Amigurumi Emray made as a prize for SGDQ2020.
In February 2020, she performed three runs at Frame Fatales and by May of that year, she became a Twitch Partner.
True to her word, Emray established Shredrunners as an official Twitch Team and in May 2021 they held their first “Shredathon” which was streamed via her own channel.
Routing a speedrun can get complicated fast. In Metroidvanias and other games with nonlinear designs, the branching paths can create exponential possibilities to sort through in order to find the fastest options. To some, the prospect might be too much but for Emray, it’s the best part.
“You know how everyone has their niche in speedrunning? I'm really good at routing,” she said.
Emray has contributed to a lot of Hollow Knight categories including All Achievements, Egg%, NKG%, and Happy Couple. In fact, she pioneered every category for the Nintendo Switch version of the game.
“I went through the trouble of routing and running every one of the main Switch categories and inspired a bunch of runners to actually pick it up and now it's one of the main tab categories and there's a lot more people that run console now. That was my goal,” she said.
A sample of Emray's extensive handwritten routing notes.
When routing, she relies on pen-and-paper to get started. “I work better with paper so I'll write everything down that I need to get or locations or whatever and I'll put it together like a puzzle.”
From there it’s just a matter of trying out different possibilities, she said, “I shuffle them around until it makes sense. Then I test it out and see what needs to be fixed.”
Metroid and Metroid Dread
Emray is also a huge Metroid fan and like so many others has been enjoying Metroid Dread since its release earlier this month.
“I just love the Metroid series. I've been playing it since I was a little kid,” she said.
Her favorite game of the series is Samus Returns. She said, “I love the way that she feels in that game. And it's just fun to control. And a lot of what they did in Samus returns translated to Dread.”
In particular, she said, “the way that she feels, the control, and a couple of quality of life things. Also the aeon abilities, the counters, the cool animations with the counters. I love that.”
But with Metroid Dread, she is doing some things differently than she normally would. Having recently experienced some severe burnout as a mod for Hollow Knight (take care of your mods, everybody!), she wants to avoid ending up with more responsibility than one person can handle.
She said, “I'm a verifier on the leaderboard so I do get to watch a lot of runs. I like to see what strats people come up with. I basically, for the first time in my life as a speedrunner, followed the community and just trusted everyone else's routing and everyone else's movement and things like that.”
And so far it seems to be going well. “It's kind of been a little bit comfy, just only having that one little responsibility instead of feeling like I'm carrying a lot more,” she said.
Right now she’s running the Any% category, but that is just temporary. “I'm running Any% until I get a sub-40. That's my goal-time for now,” she said.
Outside of Running
In addition to speedrunning, Emray is a talented artist. She crochets stuffed toys called Amigurumi and has illustrated some incredible Pokémon art. She has also created emotes for some other streamers.
Along with fellow-speedrunner Corvimae, Emray is developing a Metroidvania game as well. She said it’s too early to reveal much, but the main character is a bird.
She said, “[Corvimae is] a programmer, and I'm an artist, and we're kind of working together on the story, and some of the ideas and the aesthetics and stuff like that.”
Thanks so much to Emray for talking to us. Check out her stream here.