Interview with speedrunning champion Karl Jobst
Higher, faster, better? No problem for the speedrunners from all over the world who compete in the Break the Record: LIVE Speedrunning Gaming Marathon starting July 26! But what exactly fascinates players enough to attempt a game or level's completion in record time, even when the game has not been specifically designed with speedrunning in mind? What kind of skills are really needed to break a record? We sat together with Karl Jobst to understand what drives players to learn game mechanics minutia, and each virtual inch of a map well enough to vie for a world record in this budding esport. It turns out, quite a lot!
Karl is a multiple-time world champion speedrunner for Perfect Dark on the Nintendo 64, and also one of the best Goldeneye 007 speedrunners of all time - in which he was involved for over 20 years, and set some of the most famous records of all time. He is now also one of the leading commentators and speedrunning advocates in this closely-knit and passionate community.
"To be the best speedrunner in one of the most competitive games you would have to treat it like any other career: devoting most of your time to perfecting your craft."
The Evolution Of Speedrunning www.youtube.com
Jack: Who is speedrunning for, and why is it something you would recommend they check out?
Karl: Speedrunning is for people who absolutely love gaming and want to explore it on a deeper level. Not only will it allow them to test their skill against other players, but it also involves a lot of learning about how games work. Speedrunning requires an intimate knowledge of video game mechanics, which is really interesting to many people.
Jack: Where would you tell someone wanting to get into speedrunning or learn more to start out?
Karl: Start with your favorite games. Games that you enjoyed growing up and that bring a lot of nostalgia. Search for the game on speedrun.com which will list all of the resources, including community links. You can also watch videos of all the best runs and see if it is something you want to be a part of.
Jack: For you, what are some of the most interesting and exciting aspects that ESA Summer and Break the Record: Live bring to the table, that you may not experience that much at other gaming events at the moment?
Karl: Break the record highlights something that has been severely lacking in previous years: competitive speedrunning. Usually speedrunners are playing from the comfort of their own home, spending hundreds of hours trying to get that one perfect run. Break the record is great because it forces players to perform with the added pressure of a live competition brings. It requires them to to be on top of their game and play well on the day. It adds excitement and hype to the genre.
Jack: Can you give us a taste of the kind of dedication needed to break a record in a couple of the most competitive speedrunning games?
Karl: The best speedrunners are notorious for practicing up to 12 hours a day. To be the best speedrunner in one of the most competitive games you would have to treat it like any other career: devoting most of your time to perfecting your craft. The best speedrunners have strict and structured practice sessions and their progression is always well thought out and planned in advance.
"Generally, communities will work together to find new strategies, rather than target specific records."
Jack: What was one of the biggest, or your favorite moments in speedrunning in recent times?
Karl: Without question it is Cheese breaking the 120-star world record for Super Mario 64 during the first Break the Record: LIVE. It is one of the most difficult and respected speed runs in all of speedrunning, and to perform the record during a live event in front of thousands of people is one of the most amazing feats we have ever seen in this niche.
UNBELIEVABLE Super Mario 64 120 star Speedrun former world record set at LIVE event by Cheese www.youtube.com
Jack: Where do you personally see speedrunning in the future?
Karl: The classic games will always be popular, and they are classic for a reason. They are timeless games that will always be fun to play, no matter how far technology progresses. However, I do think the future will involve speedrunning competitions featuring new releases. I think it would even be in the interest of developers and publishers to nurture and facilitate such events to bring attention to their games. I'd like to see similar events to the upcoming doom eternal event, but for many other new games. They showcase how quickly speedrunners can understand and break apart a game.
Jack: Bearing in mind the current trends within speedrunning, are there any longstanding records that the community are currently eying or pivoting towards for a concerted attempt?
Karl: I'm unsure about any current world records being chased after. Generally, communities will work together to find new strategies, rather than target specific records. If this question was posed a few years ago I could give you easy answers, as in Goldeneye we had a handful of extremely old records dating back to the early 2000's. However they were all recently beaten.
It is a pretty big deal when an old record is broken:
GOLDENEYE N64 - DAM AGENT 0:52 - UNTIED WORLD RECORD www.youtube.com
- -GoldenEye 007's most untouchable speedrun record falls after 15 years
- -The name's Jobst, Karl Jobst! Gamer smashes legendary 15-YEAR GoldenEye record and sends the internet wild (but it did take him 250 hours!)
- -GoldenEye speedrunner breaks 15-year-old Dam record
"Speedrunning has always been grassroots, built from the ground up by passionate players."
Jack: What needs to be done in your opinion to establish speedrunning as an esport on par in viewership/popularity with current mainstream esports?
Karl: I doubt speedrunning could ever compete with the largest mainstream esports, however it definitely has potential to be quite large, and well worth investing into professionally run events. Many of the bigger esports had backing from large sponsors or the developer itself, it takes money to run a good event. Speedrunning has always been grassroots, built from the ground up by passionate players. This is why is has taken a while for it to grow in popularity. Now that it has become more popular, we are starting to see some money come in from businesses looking to capitalize. This is a great thing and will help take the niche to the next level. We need more effort put into to creating entertaining events that look and feel legitimate, similar to what we see in other esports.