This month’s spotlight is Ryan Ford, a former pro-Melee competitor who now speedruns a variety of games.
As a teenager in the mid-00s, Ford met RaynEX, a fellow would-be Melee competitor, through a mutual friend.
“RaynEX was telling my other buddy, 'I'm really good at Smash Bros. Melee’ and my other buddy was like, ‘I have this friend Ryan who's really good at Smash, you guys should face each other,’” Ford said, “and then we finally met and we played. He actually whooped me that time.”
Ford and RaynEX ended up going to the same high school and after plenty of matches competing with each other, they both entered a local tournament in Toronto.
Strangers to the other competitors, Ford and RaynEX arrived in style.
“RaynEX’s dad is a limo driver,” Ford said, “so he dropped us off in his limo and then came to pick us up so other people thought we were some rich kids.”
They thought they were going to take home first place, according to Ford. “We thought we were going to win because we learned advanced techniques eight months //before the tournament//,” he said.
Even though Ford and RaynEX didn’t take first, their confidence wasn’t totally unfounded. The two tied for 7th place out of more than 80 competitors. Not bad for their first real tournament.
Ford went on to become a professional Melee competitor, traveling full time with a sponsor. Since the Summer of 2018, however, his focus has shifted and he no longer travels with the same regularity.
One of Ford’s first attempts at speedrunning was in 2013 after he saw Cyghfer run Gimmick! at AGDQ.
Without a tutorial, he tried to learn and follow along with world record runs of Gimmick!, but he struggled to get the hang of it.
“I also didn't have an actual console to play it on,” he said, “so I really hated using an emulator because of the slight input delay.”
Jumping back ahead to the Summer of 2018, Ford had been playing Super Mario RPG casually when his friend Pidge offered to teach him the speedrun.
He took her up on the offer and until 2020, it was his only speedgame.
When the pandemic hit, like so many others, Ford got more invested in speedrunning.
He even picked up a physical copy of Gimmick!, and this time his efforts would not be in vain.
Along with Ford’s increased familiarity with speedrunning, the Gimmick! community had created some handy tutorials since he last tried to learn the run.
Ford chooses his speedgames carefully.
He avoids games with long, unskippable intros and he’s not interested in running games that require too much out-of-bounds gameplay.
“Of course, I'll still make exceptions for some like, Link's Awakening DX,” he said, “...Metroid Prime, I don't think I would ever learn that game even though I like it a lot because of how often you're out of bounds.”
So far, Ford has stuck to speedrunning games with 2D gameplay, but he’s got some 3D games he might try in the future including Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
In the case of Ocarina of Time, Ford previously learned some of the skips and strategies although some of what he practiced is already outdated.
He said, “it's now the ‘defeat Ganon’ category, but back when that was just called ‘any percent’ I learned how to do the warp to get to Ganon and stuff like that but I never timed a run.”
According to Ford, Melee prepared him for the grinding that speedrunning often requires. “I think that's the reason that I usually get mediocre-to-above-average in a speedgame pretty quickly,” he said.
At SGDQ 2021, Ford performed a run of Gimmick! - Any% (Glitchless).
At first, he intended to practice the run a lot in advance, but two days before the event he realized he hadn’t touched the game in weeks.
For those two days, he put in the grind, particularly working on a newly discovered death warp. In the end, he was able to deliver a solid run.
He found the experience unexpectedly relaxing. Used to the pressure of in-person melee competitions, SGDQ was comparatively nothing to worry about.
“I'm more used to not getting tilted by being nervous or anything,” he said. Additionally, the GDQ staff and volunteers were helpful and easy to work with. “It was pretty cozy the whole time,” he said.
Ford has also participated in several GDQ HotFix shows. In some cases, the showrunners have invited him on because of rejected runs he submitted to AGDQ or SGDQ.
“Even if you get rejected there might be some benefit…” he said, “Definitely a ‘shoot your shot’ type of thing.”
This past February, Ford speedran Donkey Kong Country - 102% as well as Metroid Fusion - Any% for the first GDQ HotFix: Unapologetically Black and Fast.
And on March 22, he stepped a little outside of his comfort zone and ran Super Mario RPG randomizer for Random Number Generation.
“It's definitely something that was more out of my element, but again, it was pretty cozy,” he said, “...Also, we got a cursed seed which is kind of what I wanted...if I got something that I just breeze through really easily because I got a bunch of good rolls…then it would make it less entertaining.”
You can find Ford on Twitch here and keep an eye out for him April 3rd at 1 p.m. EDT on GDQ HotFix where he’ll be making a live PB attempt.