Welcome to a special edition of Zelda Runners, one which celebrates everything Ocarina of Time speedrunning. Ever wondered why the game’s Any% category is only 17 minutes long? Or why this game has such a huge following in the speedrunning community? What about the origins of one of the silliest exploits ever found? If these questions are running through your mind day and night, then read on!
Let’s take a look at the curiosity that is this game’s Any% category. Currently sitting at 17:04 (by runner Torje), it’s the shortest Any% in the series. Unlike some more recent games like Breath of the Wild, this isn’t just down to general optimization. Nor is it so much a collection of glitches or exploits. No, Ocarina of Time owes its minuscule Any% category almost entirely to a glitch known as Ganondoor. No, sadly this does not involve turning the man into a door. Rather, this is a specific type of Wrong Warp.
The following is a very, very basic explanation of how Wrong Warps work in this game. Explaining these properly and in full detail would take a very long time as they’re complex, and have a lot of variables which can affect the outcome.
Every time Link enters a location, the game must decide which location to load, and which state to load it in. It does this by using a table of every single possible combination of time, Link’s age, and cutscenes. These are stored in a serial table within the game, which, as players, we can’t directly view or alter. Well, most of the time.
When entering a location, the game has four possible outcomes. First, it loads the regular child scene (think walking into Kakariko Village for the first time). If the player is Adult Link, it adds 2 to this scene. If you enter during the Night, it adds 1. On top of this, if the criteria for a cutscene in this particular scene is met, 4 is added to this counter to skip over the regular entries.
One example of a cutscene taking priority is the Blue Warps found at the end of dungeons. Normally, once Link has entered these, we lose control until Link has been warped to whatever the destination is, and the cutscene has played. Even if we could somehow keep control of Link during this (spoiler: we can), the warp and cutscene would still occur. Unless we somehow managed to mess with the internal table that deals with locations and cutscenes…
By using a glitch known as Ocarina Items, we can break free of Blue Warps. Specifically, by breaking free of the Blue Warp found in the Gohma boss fight room, we can make our way over to the door leading back to the dungeon, and if we open this door at the same time the game tries to load the medallion cutscene…
In short, the game has a hard time.
It was just about to take Link back to the scene in front of the Deku Tree, and play the cutscene in which the Deku Tree himself kicks the bucket (this cutscene is labelled 0xFFF1 in our table). But, just as this was about to happen, we’ve moved Link into a new scene, 0x0252. This new scene, and the upcoming cutscene combine to give 0x0257. By pure, unadulterated luck, this is the code for the cutscene after defeating Ganondorf, known as Tower Collapse.
From here, we’d normally rush down the tower with Zelda, and escape through the front door. We’ve just skipped over 90% of the game after all, surely there’s nothing else we can do?
Wrong again! From the top of the tower, with a well placed roll and falling boulder, we can clip into the tower itself, and fall all the way down, without having to open a single door. Another 5 minutes saved, thank you very much.
All that’s left to do now is defeat Ganon (with a sword that we never got), and send him back to the Sacred Realm (with the help of the sages we never rescued). Then Zelda (who we’ve never even met) takes back her Ocarina (that she never gave us) and sends us back to our own time (which we never left) to continue living our lives (which we only lost 17 minutes of, it’s not that big of a deal). Happily ever after, right?
Like I mentioned, Wrong Warping in Ocarina of Time is a huge beast, and is something that would require an entire Runners article dedicated to explaining it. The above is a very general idea of what you’re seeing when watching an Any% run, and if you want to find out more about Ganondoor, or Wrong Warps in general, you can read all about them on their pages on Zeldaspeedruns.com.
This week, I had a chat with one of the most influential runners in the game’s community. Holding respectable times in almost every Ocarina of Time category you can think of, 1st place in Glitchless Unrestricted, and 2nd place in Glitchless, I had a chat to dannyb21892 about his experience with the game, and why it was special to him.
EC: Tell us a bit about yourself!
Danny: I’m Danny, and I’ve been obsessed with speedrunning before I even knew there was a word for it. Grinding out perfect runs was something I’ve loved to do forever, from Minesweeper, to Mario Kart Double Dash time trials, to solving Rubik’s Cubes, to of course, Ocarina of Time. This is my main game now and has been for over 4 years. It’s the game that brought me into the speedrunning community properly and it’s what I’m known for on my Twitch channel. I’ve run every main category (and a whole lot of the goofy ones), but I started with Glitchless Any% and I keep coming back to it. It gave me my first world record, and I’ve just started a push to take it back after losing my previous one that lasted almost a year.
EC: Ocarina of Time has by far the largest community when it comes to Zelda speedrunning. What do you think it is that makes the game so popular, and what draws you to run it over other Zelda titles?
Danny: Ocarina of Time is a game that has a rich and important history. It represents the beautiful transition of the Zelda series from 2D to 3D, and is the source of an absurd amount of nostalgia for many of us. That’s what drew me to speedrun it in the first place. It’s the perfect excuse to keep replaying a game that I love without getting bored of it. But why don’t I get bored is the million dollar question. The answer is that not only is Ocarina of Time an incredible casual game, but it is the most perfect speed game I could imagine. The depth of knowledge the community has built up around how this game works, and how to break it is completely ridiculous, and ever growing. There are constantly new things being found which spurs further rerouting, optimizing, and keeps the community on its collective toes. The cliche that you can do anything you set your mind to rings truer in Ocarina of Time than it does in real life: with the right knowledge of glitches the game is a true sandbox with no linearity whatsoever. And that makes routing and running this game a true joy that never gets old.
EC: Having been out for 20 years now, you’d think there can’t be much the game has left to offer to speedrunners. Is this the case? What keep the game fresh?
I touched on this above a little bit, but no it’s absolutely not the case that we’ve found everything there is to find. New strats, setups, and full blown glitches get found on the regular, even now 20 years later. What keeps the game fresh is the community itself. The drive of the Ocarina of Time community to research further, share their knowledge and collectively and actively build upon it is unparalleled. We have some people who have poured months of their life into building practice and testing tools to even optimize the process of optimizing the game. It really is a fantastic community effort to keep our favorite game alive and interesting, and it had never slowed down for a moment in the years I’ve been a part of it.
EC: What’s it like being part of such a huge community? As someone who’s been around for longer, do you enjoy helping newcomers find their way about the game?
Danny: Being a part of a community like the one I’ve just described is something really special. I see new players join our Discord all the time and they are very often blown away when they ask a question and immediately 3 people are racing to get their answer done first. The Ocarina of Time community loves getting new people involved, loves sharing and explaining information to those who ask, and works tirelessly on both fronts. Personally, I got loads of help when I was first learning the game. Now that I have learned so much, I feel compelled to give back to the community that got me this far. It feels good to take on the role of mentor, but it’s also amazing that I can fall right back into being the mentee if I have questions too. Learning everything Ocarina of Time has to offer is a daunting task, but someone is always there to fill in the gaps for you.
EC: If you could only run one category of one game for the rest of time, what would it be, and why?
Danny: If I could run one category forever I think it would be Glitchless Any%. This category catapulted me into the Ocarina of Time world, built up my personal community around my stream, and really solidified my place as a well-known player. Not to mention I absolutely love the constant micro optimization that takes place to push such a category to be faster. It’s a marathon run, but it’s paced like a sprint, and that’s a special kind of challenge that keeps bringing me back to it.
What’s this? Two spotlights in one article? Well, with a community the size of Ocarina of Time‘s, there’s too many fantastic personalities to only feature one in this article. Offering a slightly different viewpoint on the game and its community, I had a chat with runner and bingo player, xwillmarktheplace.
EC: Tell us a bit about yourself!
xwillmarktheplace: I’m xwillmarktheplace and I have been speedrunning Ocarina of Time since October 2017. I started running Glitchless Any% and wasn’t planning on breaking the game, but soon the world of glitches was calling me and I started playing Bingo. Right now I’m focusing on Glitchless again to finally get a sub 4 hour run!
EC: Ocarina of Time has by far the largest community when it comes to Zelda speedrunning. What do you think it is that makes the game so popular (especially the any% category), and what makes it special to you?
xwillmarktheplace: I think an important reason that makes the game so popular is the nostalgia people have for it. When I started running, I noticed many other runners are of the same age as me and grew up with the game as well. The magic we felt when we played it as kids is still there. Another reason is that there is so much to find in this game, speedrunning wise. Almost anything is possible, you can get to any place in basically any order and there’s always something new to learn. For me, this is also what makes Bingo so much fun.
EC: Do you ever get bored of running the same categories over and over again? How do you prevent yourself from burning out?
xwillmarktheplace: Getting bored is not something I really have experienced yet. Personally I really enjoy running against splits and keeping track of my best times. Even if I don’t get a new personal best, beating best segments in the run also gets me excited. I feel the hardest thing to deal with is not living up to your potential or skill level, which every runner will experience. There are always days where you don’t perform as well as you could or used to do. Speedrunning requires a strong mindset, but I think it’s also important to sometimes don’t take yourself too seriously and see the fun in the process. Switching around categories or playing competitive non-rta modes can keep it fun as well. But mostly, being interactive with my viewers and the amazing community always keeps me inspired.
EC: You’ve mentioned you also take part in bingo races. Tell us a bit about Ocarina of Time Bingo and why it helps keep the game fresh for you?
xwillmarktheplace: Playing Bingo has certainly been a great way for me to keep the game fun and fresh. In Bingo, you get a 5×5 grid with goals within the game, like ‘Beat Fire Temple’ or ‘Get 7 Compasses’. The board is different every time. Then you pick one row (horizontally, vertically or diagonally) with 5 goals to complete as fast as possible. Basically any glitch is allowed, so there is a huge variety of techniques used. When you start a race, you never know in advance what part of the game you’ll play that day. Every Saturday night there are Bingo races (both at European and American friendly times) and they are very fun to compete in. After learning the most basic tricks like Door of Time Skip, Forest Escape and Shadow Early you you can already finish quite a few rows decently. In my opinion Bingo is the most fun way to get to know mechanics all over the game, and I always say that the best all-round Ocarina of Time speedrunners are the top Bingo players.
EC: Being 20 years old now, do you ever worry the game will “run out” of new discoveries? Surely there’ll come a point where the game has been pushed to its absolute limit?
xwillmarktheplace: The game has already been run and exploited for over ten years now, but when I joined the community about a year ago two major things had just been found. Equip swap, a trick which enables you to equip young Links items as adult and vice versa had just been discovered, and also Hookshot Jump which made it very easy to enter Shadow Temple at any time using just the hookshot. Even now, every few weeks minor tricks are being found and major stuff is discovered regularly. I don’t feel we are even close to having discovered all there is in this game!
EC: If you could only run one category of one game for the rest of time, what would it be, and why?
xwillmarktheplace: If I could only run one category forever, I think I would go with Bingo. It’s the most versatile way of playing I have seen yet. Since you never know what to expect each time you play, I think it would stay fun for very long. If it’d have to be one RTA category it’d be a harder decision. Right now I enjoyed Glitchless (Any% or 100%) the most, but eventually I would miss all the fun glitches and mechanics in the game. So I might go for something like All Dungeons, which doesn’t have too many cutscenes and uses a lot of cutscene skips and wrong warps, among other glitches.
The Final Split
You want silly? We can do that too. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Ass Chest. Yes, this is an actual glitch in the game. Yes, that is what runners have called it.
We have an upgrade oddity to thank for this. By completing the Gerudo Archery mini-game without any size of quiver, an invisible chest spawns behind this Gerudo. The contents of the chest vary depending on version, you can find a Spooky Mask, Fire Arrows, or 30 bombs. You can even use further manipulation (through RBA), to get the Biggoron Sword, Gold Scale, a Recovery Heart, or the 30 Stick Upgrade.
Finally, I’ll leave you with this: an Ocarina of Time-themed bingo card. Your task is to complete a row, either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, in the shortest time possible. You can use any tricks or glitches you have at your disposal. What row would you go for? What’s the fastest time you can manage? Let me know in the comments below!
That’s all from me for this week! I’ll be back in a fortnight with a regular Runners article but, until then, get cracking on that bingo card!
Euan Crombie is the author of Zelda Dungeon’s bi-weekly speedrunning series, Zelda Runners. You can find him on Twitter and Discord (Euan Crombie#9657), and he firmly believes the water temple is the best part about Ocarina of Time.