A Timely Test: Portal 8 1/2 Minute Speed Run

By Adam Smith on July 26th, 2012 at 7:00 pm.

I'm not going to lie to you, I have NO idea what is happening here

The Sourceruns team have completed a 8:31.93 run of Portal, which is absolutely ridiculous, brilliantly devious and laudably investigative. The latter descriptor is appropriate because of the level of understanding required to complete the run. These glitch-hunters have an in depth knowledge of each chamber, of the Source engine and of the strange ways in which portals work. You can watch the run below, and read about the techniques used and the analysis of each chamber in an extensive document. Oddly, the closest I think I’ve ever come to exploring a game in this way was when I played deathmatch Doom for an entire year without stopping. I knew every layout and every trick, and I was still rubbish.

Quick preamble:

…to be SDA legal we have done our run without using AutoHotKey scripts for any portion of the run. This run first started after the discovery of a new glitch, which snowballed into a whirlwind of discoveries of new tricks, skips, and glitches. We started running chambers in April, took a brief hiatus, and then resumed work in late June. The bulk of the run was completed in about 2 weeks time.

With a break to make a coffee just after embedding that video, it’s taken me longer to write this post than it took for these guys to complete Portal. Sort of. They’ve put almost 850 hours into the game between them and I’m guessing at least some of that was spent perfecting each chamber rather than just enjoying GLaDOS for the umpteenth time.

This is about as far away from the way I play games as it’s possible to get without digitally downloading them to a box of tissues, but I’m fascinated by the glitches and the things meant to be unseen, as well as the breaking point of an engine, a mechanic or even an entire world. Speed runs, at their most speedy, tend to exploit those things, existing at the limits of what the architecture of a game has achieved, and I salute them for that as much as the actual timed achievement.

In case you missed the link above, here’s the lowdown on how each chamber was completed.

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46 Comments »

  1. povu says:

    The ending is just the best. For people who can’t be bothered to watch the whole thing, just skip to 8:36 and enjoy the magic. :)

    • mangrove says:

      Hah! So it was attainable, who’d have thought? :)

      • Emil.BB says:

        ALL THIS TIME…… I KNEW THE CAKE WASN’T A LIE… EVERYBODY TOLD ME IT WAS A LIE BUT I KNEW IT EXISTED, SOMEWHERE… DEEP INSIDE… OH HAPPY DAY

  2. Inglourious Badger says:

    And there I was wondering when Portal 8 came out, and how someone could finish it in half a minute

  3. Memph says:

    I somehow find ‘speedruns’ that are done a piece at a time, and then stuck back together to look like a single play session, well, it’s bloody cheating no?

    I’m not saying it’s pointless, I get the dedication and want for it. However, if one were to ‘speedrun’ say, Sonic 2, in my eyes, you’d have to play the entire game start to finish as fast as you can, without fucking up. THAT, is a challenge, plus leaves plenty of room for a community of other players to better the results.

    Compared to this, which although impressive, is more down to constant bloody-minded repetition in bite-sized pieces than actual player madskillz. Noone’s gonna step up to beat it until another new glitch has been discovered, because it’s been done to absolute perfection in itty bitty pieces and cobbled together as the ‘perfect run’.

    • Kronic says:

      Yes and no. I can certainly see where you’re coming from, but within soeedrunning enthysiasts and followers, there generally tend to be seperate records for multi segment and single segment runs – same as there are different ones from “pure” speedruns with only human input compared to speedruns which utilise scripts (Tool Assisted Speedruns), Depending on the game, people sometimes break it down to further sections, such as glitched and non glitched, but generally the main divide is Single Segment/Multi-Segment.

      That’s basically where the difference kicks in – I myself much prefer single segment speedruns, and don’t particularly watch multisegmented ones, however, it’s a different strokes for different folks thing: others like multisegmented ones because it’s closer to the fastest theoretical time. I appreciate the multisegmented ones as technical achievements, but enjoy them less as something to watch. Both are good, but both are interesting to different people.

      Man these thoughts are uncoordinated.

    • tetracycloide says:

      I think you’d have a much better point if this video itself wasn’t a response to a slightly slower run done the same way.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Big Murray says:

    Unless they did it all in one run, without stitching them together … then big whoop.

    Now the VVVVVV no-death speedruns, completing the game in under 15 minutes in one go without dying ONCE … that’s impressive.

    • Cooper says:

      Ok, go beat their time then if it;s that unimpressive…

      • Stochastic says:

        I think what is impressive here is not the execution or manual dexterity involved but rather all the planning that was done to achieve a record time. Is it cheating? Yes, in a way it is. Certainly, it’s not mindblowing like, say, a Super Meat Boy run is; but I personally think it’s laudable in its own right. The neat thing is that they managed to turn Portal into a kind of meta-puzzle, one which has nothing to do with placing portals but is instead about finding crafty ways of breaking the game.

      • tgoat says:

        It took them two weeks to do this speed run. I’m fairly sure most people finished Portal faster than that.

        Claiming this as some kind of a record run is like saying that Usain Bolt holds the marathon record after running the 100m event 422 times over the period of few years (or however long it would take him).

        • Stochastic says:

          Yeah, I agree. I think if this were reported as a neat video rather than a record “speed run” people might appreciate it more for what it is.

          EDIT: Replace “neat video” with “technical achievement.” Makes my post sound less grouchy.

          • diamondmx says:

            My, aren’t you all cynical bastards.
            This is quite a feat, and it’s curious to watch.

            Now go bitch about someone on your lawn or kids today or something.

          • sparks50 says:

            To use the running metaphor: There is the short sprint, and then there is the marathon. The short sprint is more spectacular and entertaining to look at. Finding ways of breaking the game is part of it.

        • Kitsunin says:

          ‘Speedrun’ might be a problematic word, I suppose, but I don’t really see it as being ‘wrong’ per se.

          In any case, to compare this to a race is very silly, it’s more like science. Watch a tool assisted speedrun of Mario 64 (IMO the most fun game to see TASed there is.) It looks really cool, and while there is no moment-to-moment ‘skill’ involved, it takes a ridiculous amount of dedication and effort to have that fastest speed. To say it isn’t impressive because they weren’t following the game’s rules is stupid, it still takes a massive amount of effort to go frame by frame and hit every button at the correct time.

      • Tyshalle says:

        I can think of one or two better ways to spend 850 combined hours of my life.

        • CrookedLittleVein says:

          And yet I’m willing to bet you’ve spent a roughly equal amount of time doing something you consider fun or stimulating which someone else would perceive as equally silly.

          GROUCHFACE? :P

    • SpartanERK says:

      If you want that, check the Portal video on this site: http://speeddemosarchive.com/marathon/schedule/

      This was from a Speed Demos Archive marathon a couple months back – done in about 12 minutes (done by one of the segment runners on this video – so these guys definitely have the skills). Also note that this isn’t the fastest single segment time out there, just a sample of what the speedrunning community can do.

    • Kdansky says:

      I will point you to Speed Demos Archive. Look at the Metroid Prime 1 single-segment runs. That’s a game that takes about 20 hours to finish, and the best single-segment run takes just about one hour, with the best segmented run five minutes faster. Restarting the game over and over again isn’t actually much fun, segments help.

      To prevent quicksave-spam, SDA has a rule that tacks on an extra half second for every save/load you do.

  5. woodsey says:

    But… why is this even impressive? They glitched their way across a game and they didn’t even do it in one go. What people consider to be a ‘speedrun’ of a game is already weird enough to me, not even doing it in one go just seems pointless.

    • User100 says:

      There are speedruns that *don’t* use glitches, and others that *do*.
      This particular one belongs into the *second* category.
      (And to find out what’s impressive about it, you should read the article at the top—which spells it out quite clearly…)

      • onodera says:

        I don’t mind that they did it in segments, but I don’t like speedruns with glitches. I enjoy speedruns because they’re the fastest way you can experience the whole game (that’s why I like TAS), so I don’t like glitches or sequence breaking in speedruns.

        • cjb110 says:

          Agreed, non-glitch speedruns are amazing to watch…this relied on glitching outside the level geometry…which just looked odd.

          Though the early bit where he created a portal under the door and went down and up under it was cool.

  6. 3ergling says:

    Glitches? That’s a lame speed run.

    • Kdansky says:

      Rocket jumping in Quake wasn’t intended. Technically, that’s a glitch.

      Also compare speed runs for Metroid Prime 1 and 2. The first one has a lot of glitches, and the speed-runs are fun to watch. The second one still has glitches, but uses impassable doors to prevent the player from skipping stuff. It makes for boring as hell runs.

  7. Beelzebud says:

    It reminds me of Quake Done Quick, except those guys actually did it in one sitting.

  8. The Magic says:

    People can be so grumpy.

    This was a fascinating video.

  9. Tyshalle says:

    I was bored.

  10. jikavak says:

    You can ‘sing’ the ending song with clever bot.

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    Lambchops says:

    MTGLTA

    Go on, guess what I was saying! That’s pretty much what reading their descriptions entails.

    That said cake and cube is lovely.

    • Randomer says:

      I was annoyed too, then I took an arrow in the knee scrolled to the bottom of the document and found a glossary.

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    Joga5000 says:

    That was freaking awesome. I really don’t care that it uses glitches or isn’t made in a single run. *Most* speed runs are like that – it’s just the nature of the beast. A speed run where they couldn’t glitch and had to do it all in one go (couldn’t perfect each section) would probably be pretty boring to watch. It’s why I’m also fascinated with Tool Assisted Speedruns, which are technically even more “cheating” but are still ridiculously fun to watch and impressive for the skill/dedication required to create them.

  13. Sithis says:

    I have no idea what just happened there.

  14. Totally heterosexual says:

    Yeah? Well I beat Human revolution in 2 hours and 4 minutes!

    huh?

    HUH?

    YOUR 8 MINUTES IN PORTAL DONT SEEM THAT AMAZING NOW DO THEY?

  15. Claidheamh says:

    No computer should ever be subjected to such torture.

  16. CrookedLittleVein says:

    These comments are so grumpy for a second I thought I had been re-directed to CiF by accident.

  17. sbs says:

    It’s not pretty, but it’s a great time.
    in-bounds runs are of course more entertaining to look at.

    I still think it’s stupid to have runs like “Half-Life half hour”, ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hk4kX9WEcZA ), which is an amazing thing to watch, removed from Speed Demos Archive because of a bunnyhopping and gaussgun script, and heavily glitched runs are somehow regarded more proper. It’s not pretty is all I’m saying.

    • Aatch says:

      I think the difference is that these glitches are all pure in-game. Scripting allows you to do thing that the engine will absolutely forbid (like sub-frame input speeds, since input processing is only done once per frame), or just make it too easy by automating very complicated sequences that require precision.

      Basically it’s the difference between sprinting and riding a bike. Sure, they both do the same thing, but the bike is a tool, and therefore disqualified from sprinting events.

      • Premium User Badge

        mechtroid says:

        That analogy is a bit inept, as the scripts used in something like Half-hour half life did only two things: Hit the jump button every frame (Which is identical to a turbo button), and a quick 180degree turn before firing whatever weapon was in hand.

  18. gwathdring says:

    I thought it was really cool. :) I didn’t know you could even do most of that. Also I hadn’t even noticed that running backwards is faster.

  19. Milky1985 says:

    At 6 minutes in there seems to be a bit “missing” from the run, he picks up the camera, walks on it, then warps to room with no portals going anywhere.

    Oh and its a different person playing then…..

    We don’t see all of the run :(

    Not that i understood half of what they were doing anyway, my brain can’t work as fast as they are going through the levels :P

    • Josh W says:

      Your right actually, the name on the gun changes halfway through a room.

      But according to the docs, that’s because the segments they do don’t necessarily line up to levels, and just before he stops recording he jump-clips through the ceiling off of that room thanks to hopping on and off a camera he is holding. So the amount of lost video is on the order of milliseconds.

  20. Josh W says:

    This is amasing! The glitch at 7:00 is pretty magical, and the bits starting 5:17 and 6:12 do nice things to the voiceover, it’s also nice that the clearest use of clipping comes at the end, so you start to understand what they’ve been doing before.