Zelda Runners – Pixel Perfect

It’s that time of the week again! Time to catch up on everything that’s been going on in the Zelda speedrunning community! This week, we’re discussing movement options and optimizations in A Link to the Past, and having a chat with an Ocarina of Time 3D moderator. Let’s get started!

Now Playing

The Legend of Zelda community are gearing up for their 2019 tournament, this time with a twist! The tournament will consist of three different categories – Any%, 100% No Up+A, and Swordless. Not only does this give the tournament a unique twist over other tournaments, but it also allows more players to take part, as not everyone has posted times in all three of these categories. Signups for the tournament are open now (there’s still time to learn a brand new category if you’d like!), and the tournament itself begins on April 14th. You can check out the introduction video for more details.

3D Zelda runner Gymnast86 this week released a video highlighting the frustrating aspects of Skyward Sword‘s Sand Ship dungeon, and how the Boss Key skip for this dungeon remains just out of reach. The video covers various aspects of how the game deals with save files and layers, and how everything comes together to leave this skip just out of reach. You can find the video here.

 

Glitch Exhibition

As with any speedrun, movement is one of the most important aspects in A Link to the Past. Optimizations can be found everywhere in runs, some so small you might not even notice them! In today’s Glitch Exhibition, I’ll try to break them down for you, and give you an idea of just what goes in to your typical any% run. These techniques can also all be used in casual runs, helping you speed up some boring Overworld travel!

The most basic method of travel is walking, but even this is complicated slightly by movement mechanics. Upon starting the movement, Link will alternate between moving 2 pixels per frame, and 1 pixel per frame. The speed at which he starts depends on the direction he walks in – North and South walking starts on 2 pixels per frame, while East and West starts on 1 pixel per frame. For the sake of this article, we’ll use notation that looks like this – 2/1/2/1 – to describe the speed patterns. This speed is reduced to 1/1/1/2 or 2/1/1/1 (depending on the direction) when carrying an object, charging a sword slash, or walking through long grass or shallow water. There is a way to counteract the slower speed frames, but we’ll get on to that later.

Dashing is simpler to understand – a dash will move at a uniform 4 frames per second (3 if dashing through long grass or shallow water). It takes 30 frames to charge a dash, so this is only preferred if the distance traveled is greater than 4.5 tiles. Dashes can be cancelled mid-dash by pressing a cardinal direction other than the direction in which Link is travelling. While charging a dash, the direction of movement can be changed – this is known as a Dash Turn. This is useful for changing the direction in which Link is facing without changing his position.

When entering stairs in which the player stays in control of Link, the speed pattern is 1/1/1/0 when moving North, and 0/1/1/1 when moving South. Due to how dashing works on stairs, it is usually faster to walk regularly. Carrying objects or charging a sword slash will not alter the speed, nor will moving diagonally, making this type of movement very efficient.

When approaching automatic stairs (in which the player cannot control Link), players try to approach the entrance head on, rather than diagonally. This is down to a mechanic known as Corner Nudging. If Link walks into a corner, the game registers that he is almost able to continue moving, so adjusts his position, 1 frame at a time. This is obviously much slower than the regular movement speed (and very noticeable when dashing), so runners try to avoid meeting corners where at all possible. The same applies to entering automatic stairs and doors – walking into these diagonally will results in the game correcting Link’s position very slowly, before eventually sending him on wards.

As mentioned earlier, there is a way to avoid the slower movement speeds while walking, although it doesn’t work in all cases. When walking in a cardinal direction, the game cycles through the movements speeds (2/1/2/1/2/1 etc). Inputting another direction, causing Link to move in a diagonal, resets this counter. This means that, in a 2/1/2/1 direction, resetting the counter will start Link moving at 2 pixels per frame again. This technique is known as Pumping, and there are several variations of it.

Wallpumping is perhaps the most useful. Using a wall perpendicular to the direction you wish to travel in, you can input diagonal directions into this wall without ever altering your path, causing Link to reset to the 2 pixel per frame speed on every input. It’s also possible to do without a wall to input against, provided whatever you’re walking towards is less than a 45 degree angle from your starting point, otherwise simply walking diagonally is faster. This is known as Airpumping.

Perhaps the most notable type of pumping is Stairpumping. As mentioned previously, the speed pattern for climbing stairs is 1/1/1/0. By using pumping, we can negate this 0 pixels per frame speed, causing a large decrease in the time it takes to climb a staircase.

It should be noted, however, that while pumping is useful for resetting the movement speed counter to the original speed, if this original speed is 1 pixel per frame (eg. South or East, where the pattern is 1/1/1/2), this will actually lose time. As such, additional inputs while moving in these directions should be avoided.

Doors and their transitions are another factor to be considered in runs. As mentioned early, moving into a door on the diagonal will cause Link’s position to be adjusted before he can be allowed to continue. Additionally, it is actually possible to wallpump while inside a door, provided the player keeps control of Link.

Some doors within the game have a rather unhelpful quality – holding either East or West while exiting them will slow the player down to 1 pixel per frame. The exact condition for this varies per door, but it can always be avoided, usually by holding the opposite direction. You can find a full list of these doors and their conditions here.

Another type of door found within runs are known as Suction Doors. These are doors which require a certain condition to be met before they open, such as a cracked wall requiring a bomb explosion, or a locked door which unlocks after certain enemies have been defeated. As their name suggests, these doors suck Link through to the other side – the player has no control during this and thus can’t alter the movement speed in any way.

Finally, upon exiting a set of stairs, runners will move either left or right, before carrying on straight down (if required). This is due to a mechanic known as Stair Lag. Upon exiting a spiral staircase, moving straight down will cause Link to stutter for 8 frames, before finally reaching max speed. Moving left or right first negates this lag.

There are just a few more things we need to cover. First – statues. Pushing statues is much faster than pulling (1/1/1/0 vs 0/0/0/1), and holding a diagonal direction while pushing will negate this 0 pixels per frame speed altogether. Charging a sword slash will also increase the speed, however this time taken to charge and release this means it’s usually faster just to push normally.

Last but not least – ledges. When approaching a ledge, Link takes 20 frames before jumping. Adding any additional inputs will reset this timer, so make sure to stick with your position once you’ve chosen it. Once you’ve collected the Pegasus Boots, you can perform what’s known as a Quick Hop. This allows you to skip this 20 frame delay, and can be executed simply by dashing into a ledge.

And that’s it! By thinking about everything (or anything) you’ll save some extra time on your playthrough. Of course, implementing all of these consistently is key to respectable times in speedrunning, and now you’ll understand a little more of what’s going on in the otherwise crazy runs this game has.

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight falls on a moderator of the Ocarina of Time 3D and Majora’s Mask 3D leaderboards. As such, I asked arontoad99 about his experience in these communities.

EC: Tell us a bit about yourself!

aron: I’m Aron, I run Ocarina of Time 3D mainly and that’s about it. In the past I dabbled in Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask 3D, Metroid Prime, and various Pokemon games such as Pokemon Red and Pokemon Black. I’ve held the Any% and MST records in Ocarina of Time 3D before but neither runs were very good at the time.

EC: How did you first get into speedrunning?

aron: I got into speedrunning early 2013 just by randomly stumbling upon speedruns of Ocarina of Time
on Youtube. This was around the time the wrong warp to Ganon’s Castle was getting implemented so things were quickly changing and it was interesting to watch at the time.

EC: You’re involved in the communities for both of the 3D remakes. What draws you to these versions over the originals?

aron: I ran Ocarina of Time until about late 2014 when I started getting bored of it. I wondered one day what runs of the 3DS version are like and I never looked back. The people in that community who helped me out
(Benstephens56, Gamestabled, TheWayfaringFox, Gymnast86) were extremely kind to me and to this day I consider each and every one of them a close personal friend. The games are very different
from the originals and also have more room for optimization in both times and routing due to the lower popularity.

EC: Being a moderator of the leaderboards and of the games’ Discords, you must have a pretty wide experience of the community. What’s it like being part of such a big and varied community?

aron: Well I wouldn’t know about big and varied, but managing both is quite fun. There are a lot of people who try Ocarina of Time 3D and Majora’s Mask 3D but don’t really stick to it, and I don’t blame them. Playing on a 3DS handheld can be finicky, and not everyone has the money to spend on a capture board for reliable recording. That being said, when someone new does stick around I take it upon myself to make them feel welcome and offer help when needed. Jamama92 is a good example of someone like that who quickly became one of my better friends.

EC: You’ve just recently attended Awesome Games Done Quick. What’s it like being able to meet some of the online community in person?

aron: Games Done Quick is a pretty good experience. It’s almost like a week-long sleepover where you’re just constantly laughing and making jokes with your friends. I don’t think I would recommend it unless you went with a group of people you know you would be with for the week, but there is definitely value in going and being able to do things in person you couldn’t do before.

EC: What are your plans for the future? Do you ever plan on returning to running any Zelda titles?

aron: University is a killer man. It’s hard to find time for speedruns personally but I’ll always be around the community participating in discussions and helping with documentation. I don’t think I’ll ever stop playing Ocarina of Time 3D, and if I had to return to some other game, it would probably be A Link Between Worlds.

EC: If you could only run one category of one game for the rest of time, what would it be, and why?

aron: Ocarina of Time 3D: Medallions Stones Trials, no question. That category starts rather slow (like every other one in the game) but picks up extremely fast and doesn’t really give you a break until you obtain Light Arrows. Fast paced, you get to do most of the content in the game, and there’s still lots of room for improvement. Easily my favourite speedrun to do.

 

You can find arontoad99 on Twitter, and catch their runs on their Twitch Channel.

 

Round Up

Adventure of Link

100%, All Keys, 1CC. Simpoldood – 1:13:46

 

A Link to the Past

Any%, NMG, 2x Speed. Acmlm – 51:53

 

Ocarina of Time

All Dungeons. realtimeattack64 – 1:18:41

 

Ocarina of Time Master Quest

No IM/WW. xxShawn – 1:19:39

 

Majora’s Mask

All Fairy Rewards. Keko – 1:53:47

Kafei’s Mask. v0lt_ – 49.020

Deku Mask. Saria_100 – 20:23.860

Bremen Mask. EnNopp112 – 40.917

Madame Aroma Bottle. ProbablyButter – 4:47.120

Pictograph Contest Heart Piece. ProbablyButter – 5:55.088

Graveyard Iron Knuckle Heart Piece. Saria_100 – 5:31.440

Deku Playground Heart Piece. Saria_100 – 6:38.130

Clocktower Heart Piece. Saria_100 – 9:03.540

Gossip Grottos Hearth Piece. Saria_100 – 10:30.570

Woodfall Chest Heart Piece. Saria_100 – 5:47.270

Swordsman School Heart Piece. EnNopp112 – 1:20.981

North Clocktown Tree Heart Piece. EnNopp112 – 24.091

Dodongo Grotto Heart Piece. EnNopp112 – 1:25.652

Pendant of Memories. Saria_100 -15:01.100

Ocean Title Deed. Saria_100 – 26:53.560

Gorman Bros. Race. Saria_100 – 50.660

Deku Stick. EnNopp112 – 38.536

 

Wind Waker HD

Any%, No Barrier Skip. Linkus7 – 3:18:54

 

Majora’s Mask 3D

100%. Iwabi74 – 5:22:12

 

Breath of the Wild

Great Plateau, Any%. Wolhaiksong – 15:06

 

Final Split

Just a few things to bring to your attention this week (spring kicks off after the next article so expect to see much more here then).

HUTEfest – 23rd ~25th March – This speedrunning marathon is raising money through donations for Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a foundation for children’s cancer. No Zelda features here, but there is plenty to look forward to, including a lengthy Sonic block.

 

2D Zelda Relay Race – May – Tired of all the 3D Zelda relay races going on this year? Here’s your chance to take part in the first major 2D Relay Race! Featuring every 2D entry in the series (including A Link to the Past and A Link Between Worlds), this promises to be quite the blockbuster race. You can find out more about the race and how to take part on the Discord Server.

And finally, here’s your dose of Breath of the What Just Happened? This week’s clip is from Twitter user @Yukito_san_14. Ever wanted to spice up Breath of the Wild‘s opening cinematic? Do we have a clip for you…

That’s all from me for now! Your next Runner’s Article is gonna be a special edition, and will be posted slightly earlier than normal, so keep your eyes peeled! Until then, stay fresh!

Euan is the host of Zelda Dungeon’s Speedrunning series, Zelda Runners. He can be found on Twitter, and he’s only just stopped mourning for the loss of Skyward Sword’s Staff Roll in March Madness.

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