Speedrunning My Favorite Video Game Was Surprisingly Difficult

Gif: Syscom / Midas Interactive / Kotaku

I’m no speedrunner. In reality, I’ve by no means cherished a online game sufficient to try to speedrun it till just lately, when I discovered the PlayStation 2 oddity X-treme Express. But after virtually every week of watching my promising makes an attempt slip away on the final second, and feeling my affection in the direction of the sport flip bitter, it’s protected to say that is going to be a one-and-done affair.

In case you missed it, X-treme Express is an eccentric PS2 train-racing game which will simply be considered one of my favourite video video games of all time. I like its old-school presentation, I like its big selection of locomotives, and I like its rumbling, bumbling, stumbling racing motion, a far cry from the modern, aerodynamic motion that dominates the style. Put merely, X-treme Express is a extremely enjoyable time that I haven’t been in a position to put down.

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While writing my earlier love letter, I found that the sport has an entry on Speedrun.com, the official residence of speedrunning leaderboards for just about each online game below the solar. It’s sparse, with only one full run of the Grand Prix mode and sporadic single-level information, but it surely made me take into consideration getting my very own title up in lights for a recreation I’ve put a whole lot of time into these days.

X-treme Express speedrunning is damaged down into two classes: the aforementioned “Long Grand Prix,” which encompasses all 10 programs within the recreation, and a “Short Grand Prix,” which solely requires finishing the primary six. I rapidly acknowledged there was no approach I used to be going to wrest the Long Grand Prix file from Welsh speedrunner derp—who has been the undisputed champion of X-treme Express since 2017—with out some critical coaching. But perhaps I might do one thing within the Short Grand Prix.

That class, you see, at the moment has zero entries.

“If I were to submit a single run of the Short Grand Prix,” I believed to myself, “I would immediately be the world record holder by default. Delightfully devilish, Ian.”

A speedrunner is born

So started my life as a speedrunner. I acquired X-treme Express prepared for recording (the leaderboard requires video proof), realized the fundamentals of a speedrunning program referred to as LiveSplit to precisely monitor my time (thank you, Linkus7), and sat down for what I assumed could be a brief night of informal makes an attempt at a world file. Less than every week later, I nonetheless haven’t accomplished a single profitable run.

X-treme Express is strict about what it takes to “beat” a race. The first six programs of the Short Grand Prix require you to complete within the prime three to be able to qualify for the next stage. Early on, this isn’t an issue; you merely outpace your opponents and keep to date forward of them that you just solely have to rely by yourself abilities to win. Don’t screw up a flip and you have to be advantageous. Easy peasy.

But in later races, rival trains get extra savvy about messing up your stability, knocking you off-rails. One small mistake can imply the distinction between shifting on to the subsequent stage and having to retry, leading to a number of minutes of time loss on a speedrun which might be virtually not possible to make up.

Maybe it’s my obsessive streak, a pinch of perfectionism, or simply the inherent “guilt” of attaining a world file in an uncontested class, however I simply couldn’t carry myself to submit an clearly flawed X-treme Express run by which I misplaced and needed to retry a degree. While I’m positive I nonetheless have so much to be taught concerning the recreation’s distinctive mechanics, it felt bizarre to not attempt for the perfect time attainable, even when my final aim was simply to have one thing to publish on the leaderboard. Every evening earlier than mattress, I might dutifully boot up X-treme Express, try a few runs, and finally find yourself going to sleep with out something I believed worthy to submit.

I seen my perspective towards X-treme Express began taking a flip for the more severe. Where earlier than it was one thing I might use to decompress after an extended day of getting individuals inform me I belong in a focus camp for writing a fairly basic Persona story, my speedrunning makes an attempt made it really feel like a chore. I wasn’t unlocking new trains or testing myself with challenges, however plugging away at one other job. More than simply 30-40 minutes of wasted time, each failed run was a dagger that slowly bled away my regard for the little quirks of the sport that I used to like. By no fault of X-treme Express itself, I simply wasn’t having enjoyable anymore, and it bummed me the heck out.

As foolish as this sounds, it felt like shifting in with a big different approach too quick. Absence makes the guts develop fonder and all that.

The finish of the road

Realizing what was occurring, I instantly put a cease to my little journey in speedrunning. With a lot weighing on me nowadays, I didn’t wish to see X-treme Express grow to be one more object of dissatisfaction in my life.

As of this writing, I haven’t performed X-treme Express in a couple of days, and I’m beginning to regain that acquainted feeling of craving to navigate its railways and determine optimum braking methods, divorced of any intent to beat the sport as rapidly as attainable.

What did I be taught? Speedrunning is difficult. I already knew that, in fact, however my brief expertise gave me a better understanding and appreciation of the work that goes into merely beating a recreation as rapidly as attainable. While dropping half an hour on an aborted X-treme Express run felt like crap, it’s nothing in comparison with established speedrunners’ hours-long makes an attempt in video games which have been so optimized that even a split-second misstep can put an finish to somebody’s probabilities at a private greatest.

Someone else goes to have to attain the Short Grand Prix file in X-treme Express. It’s not one thing with which I’m regarding myself for the second. Maybe someday sooner or later, if I discover a new recreation I really feel compelled to speedrun, I’ll be in a greater headspace. Or, not less than, extra keen to present that hypothetical recreation as much as the beast of obsessive analysis, repetitive observe, and cruel resets. I’m more than pleased to go away speedrunning to the professionals. I respect the hell out of it, but it surely’s simply not for me.

That mentioned, I hear there’s a cat-themed practice hidden someplace in X-treme Express, which is a problem that sounds proper up my alley.


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