How to speedrun Minecraft

A chat with IlluminaHD, Minecraft speedrunner extraordinaire

Summer traditions include camping, fireworks, swimming, and a much-needed break from school. But if you’re a nerd like me (and let’s face it, if you’re reading an article on you are a nerd like me and that’s okay!) summer traditions also include Summer Games Done Quick – a weeklong 24/7 marathon of the best speedruns on the planet.

Summer Games Done Quick (or SGDQ) is an annual speedrunning marathon where gamers work to complete their favourite game as quickly as possible all while raising money for charity. The money raised, often more than a million dollars – and this year’s SGDQ raised a record-breaking 3 million (with an M) dollars – goes to benefit Doctors without Borders. Yes, you heard correctly, gamers get together and raise multiple millions of dollars every year just through playing their favourite games as fast as possible. Make sure you mention that next time grandma asks why you’re wasting your life on video games. Tell her it’s for charity.  

During this year’s SGDQ, Minecraft took center stage due to the speedy skills of Illumina1337. He completed the Any% category where the objective is to beat the game quickly without the use of any glitches. I got the chance to speak with Illumina in hopes of learning more about Minecraft speedrunning and the experience of playing the game on such a grand scale for a worthy cause! Watch his speedrun below:

But first, here’s a crash course in Minecraft speedrunning. Minecraft speedruns, like any other speedrun, are separated into categories.  

There’s the any% run where you simply beat the game as fast as possible using any tool available to you which usually means exploiting bugs and glitches.  

There’s any% glitchless which is just like the aforementioned any% except you can’t use glitches.  

Then there are seeds. Seeds are special codes you can input into Minecraft to get the world to generate a specific way. Think of set seed runs as playing the game with a map and all the treasure chests filled with needed materials are marked with a big red ‘X’. Now for random seed, you take away that map. You begin the game in a randomly generated world (just like when you start a new game of Minecraft).

Now you’re a speedrunning expert, let’s speak to Illumina!

Ash: How did you get into speedrunning Minecraft?

Illumina: YouTube. After watching some speedruns of other games on YouTube I thought that a Minecraft speedrun could be just as fun. I watched a couple runs, then tried a couple myself and thought it was super fun, so I continued doing it.

When I first started doing speedrun stuff, almost nobody was speedrunning the game at all. It was like the wild west. I had experience with PvP, so I tried to apply those skills to speedrunning and that helped. I think the most popular myth about speedrunning is that it's really hard, but anyone can get into it and it’s fun no matter your skill level. Oh, and watching the community grow, that was special.

Ash: How has it grown? Has Minecraft’s other appearances at Games Done Quick events helped?

Illumina: Bismuth’s set seed run from AGDQ (Awesome Games Done Quick) definitely kickstarted the growth. We went from a couple of people to a full blown community. From there, it gained momentum worldwide with other runners at different GDQs. BastiGHG introduced the Set Seed Glitchless run to the German community, and tarokitchen introduced the Random Seed Glitchless run to the Japanese community. So we went from a handful to a global community.

Ash: During your run, you had some amazing luck. What happened?

Illumina: Yeah! It was a rollercoaster of luck. Near the beginning of the run, I found 10 obsidian in a chest, which is really lucky because that's just enough obsidian to make a Nether portal. The chest also contained an iron pickaxe and iron sword which are also both very helpful.

Normally, I build a nether portal with a lava and a water bucket, which takes slightly longer. It wasn't a run changing time save, but the Nether part definitely was. When I entered the Nether, the blaze spawner was very close to the Nether portal when I entered. This was one of the better Nethers that I have gotten in my runs, so getting that in my SGDQ run was super lucky. It's hard to calculate just how lucky it was, a 1/500 chance was thrown in by one of the commentators, but it's hard to know how accurate that number is.

Ash: I don’t math but that sounds about right to me. During your run, you also got to show off a bit of Minecraft swag. What was that about?

Illumina: Ah yes. You can customize your avatar in the game so I wore the Minecon 2015 cape I got when I was invited for a speedrun competition for Diversity 2, and Set Seed Glitchless.

Ash: Do you have a favourite speedrun category?

Illumina: I enjoy running the Diversity 2 mod, and in general I love custom map speedruns. Probably because it's a nice change of pace from the randomness of unmodded Minecraft categories. But the unmodded categories are special in their own way. My favourite of those is random seed glitchless for sure. It’s super fun to come up with on-the-fly routes, even if the luck can be super harsh at times.

Ash: And you have a world record in some of those unmodded runs right?

Illumina: Yeah I have the world record in the any% random seed glitched. Glitched categories are less popular, which is understandable as the game can get pretty broken. I enjoy glitchless more because it just feels like the traditional Minecraft I love.

Ash: Do you have a favorite glitch you like to perform?

Illumina: Probably dragon skip because it's super easy to do. You place an end crystal as soon as you enter the end, then the dragon just doesn't spawn and the end portal is activated. Its super easy and it skips the newer dragon fights (1.9+) which are slower than previous versions.

Ash: So what was the journey like from just starting out to earning world records?

Illumina: When I started there was almost no competition or community, I've been around since the community was very small, and there weren't many runners at all. My skill from the PvP aspect of the game helped a lot, and I was able to get top times pretty much immediately. Now it doesn't really work like that, so I wouldn't know how someone's journey would be now compared to 6 years ago.

Back then, it was mostly me vs a few people: bluecrystal, fearfulferret and funderful were some people that I competed against.

Ash: But then they became your friends right? Bluecrystal was one of your commentators during your run.

Illumina: Yup, we became such good friends over time.

Ash: D’aww. That’s awesome. I love the camaraderie between all the speedrunners.

Illumina: The speedrunning community is on another level of wholesomeness that I love, and I hope it continues to be that way. Even though we’re all competitors, at the end of the day, the only thing we want to see go down is the time.

Written By
Ash Parrish