The complex art of playing Minecraft fast - explained!
How long do you think it takes to complete a game of Minecraft? From first loading into the world until the last hit on the Ender Dragon, about how long do you think that is? Pretty long if you think about all the stuff you have to do to get from point A to to point End:
Punch a tree!
Get some wood!
Make a crafting table!
Make a wooden sword!
Build a shel-
Hissss. Oh no! It’s a Creeper and it’s gonna--
With all the mishaps, setbacks, and plain old bad luck it’ll probably take the average Minecrafter - so me - hours, lots and lots of hours, to beat the game.
But what if I told you that for not-so-average players - so not me - the time it takes for them to beat the game: two minutes and twenty-three seconds.
Meet the Minecraft speedrunners.
Speedrunning is when a gamer - either through optimized gameplay techniques or through the exploitation of glitches - completes a game as fast as possible. Like if Usain Bolt decided to take his track skills to the arcade. Speedrunners practice for hours and hours in service to shaving milliseconds off their time or finding newer, faster ways to beat the game.
So how do speedrunners take a game like Minecraft and beat it in less time than it takes to make a cup of coffee? And why?
I had the pleasure of chatting with some of the Usain Bolts of the Minecraft world, players who hold world records across several speedrunning categories. First, meet Geosquare.
The video above shows a TAS (Tool Assisted Speedrun) from Geosquare late last year. A TAS uses mods to get the best time possible - in this case, one minute thirty-five seconds.
“I’m 17 years old and I’ve been playing Minecraft for about five years now,” Geosquare tells me. “I got into Minecraft when I was about 12 years old and since then it’s been one of my favorite games to play. A little over a year ago I got drawn into the Minecraft speedrunning community and I’ve been a part of that ever since.”
Geosquare currently holds 3rd place in the Any % Set Seed category, and if that sounds like a bunch of made up words to you, here’s a quick rundown to explain!
Any % is a category where you work to complete the game as fast as possible. For most other speedrun games, Any % is the most basic category. But because Minecraft makes a new world every time you start a new game, it’s difficult to complete the game as fast as possible because no two worlds generate the same way.
For example, if Marsh and Tom decided to duke it out in the Minecraft speedrun arena, Marsh might get a world that takes him 7 minutes to complete because he got an easy world, while it might take Tom 25 minutes because he got a less easy world (sorry Tom).
Here’s Geosquare completing Minecraft in under four minutes!
To combat this randomness, speedrunners play the game on what’s called a set seed.
As Geosquare explains: “Seeds are numbers that Minecraft uses to reliably generate a world. For example, if you use the seed 8128 you will get the same world every time. For speedrunning, we use a specific seed, or set seed, so we can play in the most ideal world and achieve consistent results.”
So what makes an ideal world?
“For different categories there are different requirements for a speedrun-able seed. In a Set Seed speedrun you need obsidian and iron pretty early on, so having a village blacksmith with those items is pretty necessary for a good time. For the category Set Seed Glitchless, finding a world with a stronghold whose portal frame has 11 out of the 12 eyes of Ender already filled is a priority.”
If you’re truly brave, or crazy, you can run on a random seed. That means you’ll take whatever the Minecraft gods give you and use your wits to beat the game as fast as possible. The current world record for Random Seed is 9 minutes 52 seconds held by Illumina1337.
Complete a random Minecraft world in less than ten minutes? No problem for Illumina1337!
“If you asked me to choose between Random and Set seed, I wouldn’t because, honestly, I enjoy them both,” explains Illumina1337.
“Random Seed, while it has a lot of unpredictable elements to it, definitely takes more skill because you need to have a knack for how the game generates and operates. Set Seed is fun too because it's closer to the more traditional speedrun. But I think if you were to ask me to choose between Glitched or Glitchless, I would have to definitely say Glitchless. I'm not the biggest fan of the duplication glitch.”
Use of glitches breaks down the speedrun categories further. Any category you see, add glitchless and you have a whole new one.
Speedrunner TheeSizzler is the world record holder (at time of writing!) for Any % Set Seed Glitched (and Glitchless too, so go Sizzy!)
Right now, Sizzler’s world record is 2 minutes and 31 seconds, but the Minecraft community is always looking for ways to bring that time down.
“There are three main glitches we use to complete an any % run," he tells me. Clever exploits for shaving seconds off your best imes, letting you do things like duplicate items and teleport into the Nether! TheeSizzler took me through how he duplicates items:
Admiral_stapler holds second place in Any % Set Seed Glitched. He had this to say about newcomers giving speedrunning a shot.
“Speedrunning Minecraft is actually pretty easy. Find a category that’s interesting to you and give it a go. Random Seed Glitched is a great place to start.”
And you don’t have to just complete the game. There are many different categories outside the ones we highlighted here. There’s All Achievements (my favorite), Obtain a Diamond, Obtain a Golden Apple, Kill the Wither, and many more!
“Find a category you like and just do it,” Admiral continues. “Find new strategies, try new things, and if you get a world record along the way, great!”
If this sounds like your jam, give it a try. One thing everyone agreed on was that the community is awesome. It's the one thing they have in common with all the builders I get to prod with questions too - it's the players that make Minecraft, no matter how you play it, fun.
If you wanna be one of those players, check out the minecraft forum on speedrun.com. It’s where the official leaderboards are kept alongside discussions, how-to guides, videos, and tons of resources designed to get you running right. On your marks, get set…
Many thanks to Illumina1337, Geosquare, Adrmiralstapler, and TheeSizzler for their contributions to this piece.
UPDATE: In the time it took to write this, the world record for Any % Set Seed Glitched was snatched from TheeSizzler by Admiral_stapler! No doubt even more records will be broken by the time this is published...