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Five Must-Watch Races at AGDQ 2017
GUIDES // Speedruns // By Dustin Steiner // 2mo ago
Races and time attacks are among the earliest forms of competitive gaming - think upon the old high score lists of yore, but on a much grander scale. The Games Done Quick events are like the FGC's Evo: homegrown events that have spun into something larger than themselves.
The highlight of GDQ events are always the races that pit the best speedrunners in the world against each other in the games they specialize in. Just like watching esports, there's something special about witnessing people who truly take a game to the next level. Only, this time, they're playing games that you grew up with rather than the latest releases (with some exception).
The biggest difference between a speedrunning race and an esports event is that the stakes are much lower, usually only done for bragging rights while raising money for charity. These runners are not making the kind of salary that an esports player might expect.
The Anatomy of a Race
Races can involve anywhere from two to sometimes upwards of six runners. As such, there will be a lot of action on the screen. The best way to tell who's in the lead is when the stream switches to that person's audio, which you can see denoted in the screenshot of this year's Shovel Knight race below:
This music note will show up next to the current leader. Their stream will usually be displayed on the screen, while a commentator describes the action. Other than that, watching a race is very straightforward and can be very tense. Every mistake could cost them.
What to Watch
While the aforementioned Shovel Knight race (which was quite good) is over, as well as the Mega Man and Super Mario Kart races, there's plenty more left this week. Here's when you can watch, and a brief rundown of what to expect.
This is by no means a complete list - just the ones I'm looking forward to the most.
Ninja Gaiden Pacifist%
When? Monday, 10:20 PM CST
Who's Running? dxtr, Gusmancini
Why watch this race? The original Ninja Gaiden is one of the hardest games ever put to code, but it's made even harder when you're asked to go through it killing a minimum of the enemies. That's the plan for runners dxtr and Gusmancini.
Gusmancini currently holds the category's world record at 14:48, beating out dxtr's record set three years ago by three seconds. Most impressively: this only adds about three minutes of playtime to the game. I'm interested to see how this plays out.
This is the first time the game has been raced in this fashion, but here's an example of this run being done in 2014's SDGQ by Sinister1:
Super Castlevania IV, Any%
When? Tuesday 1:05 PM CST
Who's Running? FuriousPaul, JoeDamillio
Why watch this race? The early Castlevania titles are some of the most notoriously hard games ever conceived, and to watch them get ripped to shreds is a cathartic experience. These two have been battling over a record set three months ago: FuriousPaul shattered JoeDamillio's previous record with a time of 31:47. Thus, this race for bragging rights should be intense.
Here's an example when these two last raced: at AGDQ 2015, alongside hanage and JustDefend
Super Mario Bros, Followed by The Lost Levels (Both Any%)
When? Tuesday 6:45 PM CST
Who's Running? Darbian, Kosmicd12, AndrewG
Why watch this race? The Mario block of SGDQ is one of the most famous parts of the entire marathon, and for good reason. The game's been optimized to the point that a single mistake will cost someone the race, and the runners in this game are ridiculously well practiced. Darbian is the current record holder, and he's racing against andrewg and Kosmicd12, two former record holders. While it's unlikely that a new record will be set here, what is on the line is bragging rights for beating each other in a live setting.
Why watch this race? Not only is Megaman X a classic game to speedrun, the runners in question are experts at their craft. CrystalUnclear is currently ranked 9th worldwide with a 31:39 Any% run. Crystal will be up against Calebhart42, who's very well known for being a swag-based player, going for the tricks while maintaining speed.
As an example for what to look for, here's CalebHart42's running Megaman X at AGDQ 2013:
Why watch this race? This relay is a who's who of current record holders and folks in contention for records in the future of Donkey Kong Country speedruns. Eazinn and V0oid, in particular, are notable for their comedic antics during runs (along with being extremely skilled runners). Noted Super Smash Bros Melee player Silent Wolf will also be holding it down this race (he's currently ranked 5th in both DKC1 and DKC3).
If you only watch one race this week, make it this one.
Dustin Steiner has seen esports from nearly every angle, from tournament administration to live event coverage. He has worked in the space for over six years for outlets such as the Capcom Pro Tour, eSportsMax, ESFI World, Evil Geniuses and GameZone.