Among all gaming communities, there are none quite as dedicated as the speedrunners.
Playing the same segment of a game over and over to find the quickest way to complete a challenging level, seeking out bugs and glitches to skip large portions of play, and even counting motion frames to achieve pixel-perfect maneuvers, speedrunners pride themselves on breaking games apart to finish them in as little time as possible.
While some games, like platformers and action titles, are a perfect fit for speedrunning, there’s no genre the speedrunning community won’t explore. There are official leaderboards with world’s fastest time scores for role-playing games, adventure titles, farming simulators, and more.
There’s no genre of game that speedrunners won’t play.
It’s only a matter of time before the speedrunning community turns its attention to virtual reality. In this medium, though, it’s all the more difficult to get a pixel-perfect run time for a game. Challenges like nausea and spatial awareness create unique problems for finishing a game at top speed.
So what should speedrunners expect from virtual reality? How different will speedrunning be in VR, and what can be done to make saving the frames that little bit easier?
The Challenges of Going Too Fast
The most immediate challenge that anybody trying to race through a VR game will experience is nausea. Navigating VR spaces can be confusing enough to the brain at normal speeds, but rushing around as fast as possible is going to make many gamers feel sick.
Blasting through games quickly is fine when viewed through a screen, but it can be a nauseating experience in VR.
It’s a lot like reading a book (or playing a Gameboy) while driving—the brain has a hard time focusing on a static screen when the body is subjected to constant movement. In the case of VR, though, the situation is reversed. The brain struggles to understand images that whiz past its view which don’t match up with the sense of inertia it’s getting in real life.
While VR developers are working hard to come up with ways to reduce motion sickness while playing virtual reality games, for speedrunners there’s no easy fix to the increased nausea that will come from rushing through a game at high speed.
Ultimately, to be an excellent VR speedrunner, players won’t just need lightning reflexes and excellent muscle memory—they’ll need an iron stomach, and possibly some antacids.
Breaking The Game
A large part of the speedrunning process is finding shortcuts and timesavers.
Sometimes these are programmed into the game. Titles like Sonic the Hedgehog can be completed quicker if you know which route to take. At other times, speedrunners exploit glitches within a game to zip through as quickly as possible.
Sometimes, these glitches can end up breaking through the ordinary walls of the game. Players travel out of bounds to areas where normal physics don’t apply, textures pop in and out unpredictably, and the game world stops making sense.
Speedruns often involve clipping through walls and seeing areas inside out.
For one thing, this adds an extra level of nausea to the experience of speedrunning. It’s hard for your brain to make sense of VR at the best of times. When the rules break down, it becomes all the more disturbing.
As a more practical issue, the unique viewpoint of virtual reality makes navigating out of bounds spaces all the more challenging. VR game design is different to typical games—objects can’t be hidden anywhere within the 360-degree space that the player can see. As such, depending on the game developer, out of bounds areas can become all the more cluttered.
Games get pretty crazy when you play them fast enough.
Speedrunners looking to explore the new frontier of virtual reality will quickly learn that breaking a game in ways that can be replicated consistently will prove even more difficult. That isn’t to say it’s impossible, or that gamers won’t find a way to make sense of out-of-bounds areas within VR games—it’s just going to provide a unique and interesting challenge to the gamers who want to be the fastest at virtual reality titles.
The Likely Candidates
So what VR games are speedrunners likely to want to sink their teeth into?
There’s no genre of games that the speedrunning community won’t turn their hand to. If you can name a game, there’s likely somebody out there who’ll be trying to beat it faster than anybody else.
Generally, the community focuses on action games—titles that can be played quickly and that rely on quick reflexes and split-second timing. For VR speedrunners, titles like Lucky’s Tale and Elite: Dangerous will be natural choices, as playing faster can be achieved simply by gaining experience with the various missions and levels within the game.
Speedrunning, however, also means picking apart less action-oriented games. As such, VR speedrunners might consider Loading Human. In addition to plenty of varied gameplay elements and intense missions to accomplish, Loading Human provides plentiful opportunities for exploration where an experienced player might find unique insight that would help them to complete the game faster.
Loading Human is a fun game, which makes it perfect for speedrunning.
Ultimately, though, the VR games that are going to be most important to the speedrunning community will be the ones that players enjoy the most. If you really love a game and you’re into speedrunning, it’s only a matter of time before you try to play through as quickly as possible.
Save the Frames
Speedrunning in VR is going to provide plenty of challenges for players.
Getting past the nausea of moving quickly through an unpredictable game world is going to be an interesting experience, but gamers will, no doubt, find new and innovative ways to speed through levels without feeling too sick by the end.
As games get more complex, speedrunning techniques are going to become more and more unique.
It’ll be interesting to see what future gaming events, like the Games Done Quick charity marathons, will showcase once speedrunners start making a run for the VR titles.
Loading Human is a first-person adventure game designed specifically for VR. It debuts on October 13 as a launch title for the PlayStation VR, and will be available on other platforms soon after. To play the game for yourself, preorder a copy today!