On A High Speed Rail: Half-Life 1 Finished In 21 Minutes

By Graham Smith on April 14th, 2014 at 8:00 pm.

These guys don't stand a chance.

Like any form of competition, speedrunning generates arguments over authenticity. Does a speedrun count if it relies on a bunny-hopping mod, in-game glitches and different runners tackling different parts of the game in short segments? I’m not sure I care either way. No matter the methods, Half-Life 1 being completed in 20 minutes and 41 seconds is an accomplishment of endurance, skill and effort. More importantly it’s a beautifully entertaining video, full of ingenuity and grace and physical comedy. The new record time is embedded below. You must watch it.

As thrilling as the video is to watch, the details of how it was made are even more fascinating. The description under the YouTube video mentions that “after almost four years of painstaking planning, theorycrafting and execution, we have arrived at our final time, smashing all of our wildest expectations.”

Theorycrafting? It seems this kind of speedrunning is deeply methodical. This Google Spreadsheet breaks down the timestamps and the gains in time made during each segment of the run. If you click the tabs along the bottom you’ll find further information, including stats (only 28 enemies are killed during the entire run), weapon charts (the crossbow can confer as much velocity to the player as the RPG), and a step-by-step breakdown of the plan for each level in the game.

There is undoubtedly a difference between this kind of speedrun, and the solo, continguous efforts you can watch live on a site like . But I don’t think that matters. Segmented speedruns have been around for a long time, are a thing unto themselves, and still take absurd skill and effort. Half-Life 21, as this new run is called, contains 317 segments, “249 of which are shorter than 5 seconds.” That’s impressive. It’s nine seconds quicker than the last previous record made using the same techniques. That’s impressive!

Look at how they manipulate scientists in scripted sequences here, or the things they do with tripmines here.

If anyone has contact details for quadrazid, or any of the makers of the speedrun, email me.

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70 Comments »

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  1. SeriTools says:

    “It’s nine seconds quicker than the last previous record made using the same techniques. That’s impressive!”

    It’s even more impressive when you reality they saved 9 minutes instead of 9 seconds! :P

  2. Elmokki says:

    It’s fairly amazing, but I don’t really get the point of speedruns when you combine them from pieces played by different players at different times with ability to play just that brief segment for thousands of times to get the best possible run.

    • Monkeh says:

      This. Kinda takes away the whole charm of watching a speed-run, for me at least.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Same way tool-assisted speedruns exist: it’s a test of what’s possible under different limiting conditions.

      • The Random One says:

        You’re correct, of course, and I’d never say these aren’t legitimate, but they hold no appeal over me, personally. It’s the difference between listening to the MP3 of a song with a great guitar solo, and watching it performed live. Except that I actually prefer listening to a studio version and would hate to go watch a live performance of anything. I’m so weird I ruin my own metaphors!

  3. Cytrom says:

    While its definitely a tool assisted speedrun, its still impressive how well it all is coordinated and planned to the smallest details to perfection… also, they saved me this year’s replaying of half life.

    • El_Emmental says:

      It is not tool-assisted actually – they’re only using the available glitches and the available save feature of the game. Inputs are manually done (unlike in tool-assisted speedruns), this is why this speedrun is not “perfect” (with tools, they could grab a few more seconds on the whole run but it would lose some of its charm).

      • LionsPhil says:

        I bet there was a lot of swearing at snaring on ladders.

        The bit where they jam themselves in a door that appears to be bugged to give massive negative crushing damage (or maybe that grenade on top is carefully overflowing something) is pushing things a bit, getting over 4000% health in a matter of seconds to burn through for the remainder of the run (Lambda + Xen). (Edit: ah, it’s this.)

        Also, this really is pretty cheaty:

        107 saves/segments was made only to cause and abuse save glitches. 53 of those being at Nihilanth

        It’s one thing to use savegames to pass the baton between players and avoid having to execute all twenty minutes contiguously and flawlessly, but another level upon that to do it purely to make things bug out, even if bug exploitation is kind of at the heart of this kind of speedrunning (see: bunnyhopping).

        • Geebs says:

          The infinite health door glitch gets a pass for being amusing. Save glitches – yeah that’s a bit dodgy.

          It really goes to show what an amazing piece of work HL2 is though – all those corridors get pretty dull even at Mach 2, whereas HL2 just keeps throwing new ways to play at you like it’s Mario or something.

      • dE says:

        Wouldn’t them using Bunnymod Pro not count as tool assisted? http://wiki.sourceruns.org/wiki/Bunnymod_Pro

        • Hahaha says:

          That’s the one thing but then if I install my original half life cd it would have the same result minus the ui changes so I’m guessing it’s more a convenience thing?

      • Berzee says:

        From the video description: “This run is heavily scripted using the in-game console, the most widely used scripts are jump spam, duck spam, 180º turn for gauss boost and precise use-key actions.” Still nifty!

    • Premium User Badge

      Nogo says:

      Near as I can tell they used the console to input actions, in a very specific version of HL.

      Similar to buy scripts you could write for old CS.

  4. Sorbicol says:

    I lasted 3 minutes 29 seconds of that before the incessant jumping made me feel physically sick :(

    • Premium User Badge

      Tunips says:

      Things that have recently caused me motion sickness:
      A turbulent 14-hour transcontinental flight.
      Mirror’s Edge in an Oculus Rift.
      This.

    • LionsPhil says:

      It calms down a bit after the accident.

    • foop says:

      Playing Half Life and Half Life 2 always gave me terrible motion sickness. I occasionally have trouble playing other FPS games, but the Half Life series were guaranteed to make me nauseous and give me a headache within about 5 minutes. I have no idea why.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Tinus says:

    Yes, interview these people please!

  6. Phasma Felis says:

    “There is undoubtedly a difference between this kind of speedrun, and the solo, continguous efforts you can watch live on a site like .”

    Like what? Like ” “? I don’t think that’s a valid URL.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      It’s just a really fast link. Blink and you miss it!

  7. SeriTools says:

    They are explaining the run right now!

    http://www.twitch.tv/dabigbooi

  8. shark jacobs says:

    is all that jumping around in the test chamber serving some purpose or is it just killing time while the scripted part runs?

    • El_Emmental says:

      It does not serve any purpose in the speedrun itself.

      Speedrunners usually play around during these inevitable waiting time, often displaying how well they master bunny hopping in circles (it’s much harder to bunny hop and turn without losing any speed – doing that in small circles or making small ∞ loops is a pretty cool feat).

      In some situations it could actually be useful: building up speed that way would allow the speedrunner to start the next segment with a higher speed (mostly reaching its maximum speed for that part more rapidly). However that requires much more synchronization, so only the most meticulous speedrunners or tool-assisted speedruns will do that.

  9. Premium User Badge

    DrScuttles says:

    It looks like Half Life and yet I have no idea what’s going on. An eerie feeling, like when you look at your hands sometimes and realise you don’t actually recognise them.

    • sleepisthebrotherofdeath says:

      Last time that happened it was because they were soaked in blood. I almost dropped my knife in shock.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Big Murray says:

    Running the London Marathon in 2 hours 10 minutes would be a lot less impressive if you were watching 350 different guys each sprinting a few metres at a time before handing over to someone else.

    • derbefrier says:

      yup

    • Robostove says:

      Right? And that’s why relay races will never be an Olympic event…

      • Premium User Badge

        darkChozo says:

        Really, speedruns aren’t that comparable to footraces outside of the obvious gottagofast elements. A better comparison would maybe be to car racing, or even anything trick-based like gymnastics or skateboarding – a lot of speedrunning is about performing specific tricks, often with strong elements of risk-reward. Then a single segment run is comparable to doing a routine, while something like this is more like a compilation of particularly impressive tricks.

  11. CookPassBabtridge says:

    I remember some weird jumpy mod (EDIT: Kreedz Climbing) for source engine, where someone had figured out that jumping, combined with a run-up and rapid side-to-side movements of the mouse, convinced the rudimentary physics engine (by way of manipulating rotational momentum) to let you jump further than usual. If I remember rightly it was really hard….

    In this video I see the same kinds of side-to-side movements you had to do in that mod, so are they taking advantage of that same source engine quirk to get greater distance, ON TOP of the bunnyhopping mod?

    EDIT: I believe it was this and the technique called multi-strafing or strafe-jumping

    • SeriTools says:

      Bunnyhopping itself doesn’t gain you speed, it only lets you maintain it.
      Airstrafing (pressing your strafe keys and moving the mouse in the same direction) gives you speed.

      Neither of those are mods.

      • El_Emmental says:

        Your knowledge on the topic seems to be pretty solid. Would you then confirm the first occurrence of airstrafing (aka strafe-jumping ?) was on Quake 1, released in 1996 ?

        The only earlier similar tricks seem to be straferunning and wallrunning in Doom (1993). Later use of these movement tricks is well-documented, but I can’t find anything on similar tricks in earlier 2D games.

        • kyrieee says:

          Yes, it probably showed up in Quake 1 first. There’s nothing magical about it, it’s basically just a discretisation error. The way air control is implemented is by letting you accelerate in a direction orthogonal to your velocity, which is a natural way to do it, but if you don’t use an infinitesimal timestep it doesn’t conserve the magnitude of the velocity.

        • SeriTools says:

          Yep, airstrafing is in the engine since the original Quake 1 release.

          EDIT: Normally strafe-jumping is something completely different – it’s the movement style in games based on Quake games starting with Quake 2, as normal airstrafing was “fixed”.

  12. Strangeblades says:

    Amazing video!

  13. Strangeblades says:

    Physical comedy is right! I love it when the little creature chirps when it’s selected. It has this air of confusion about it.

  14. altum videtur says:

    Gordon Freeman, Theoretically Physical

  15. buzzmong says:

    Technically, they’ve not set a record, as they’ve used an old version of the game to do so, along with that mod that restores bunny hopping and the crow bar damage.

    Tripmines used to be climbable as seen in the video (8:30 is a good example), but they were made unclimbable yonks ago as Valve classed it as an exploit, which had a big impact on how fast you could speed run.

    I’ve got nothing against using glitches for speedruns, but once they’ve been patched out by the dev, you’re not prooving anything by using an old version to keep exploiting them.

    Still impressive tho, but a bit cheaty imo.

    • bready90@ says:

      By that logic a new record is impossible as to get a run as fast as the current record you would have to use an older version of the game which allows glitches such as the trip mine abuse, and of course, bunnyhopping.

  16. Bull0 says:

    What about the falling damage? Noob here.

  17. Premium User Badge

    LTK says:

    That looks like the urgency of a man who’s late for work by 30 minutes.

    I also find it amusing that the soldiers can set up an ambush for a guy they’ve only seen for a few millisecond flashes a few minutes ago.

    Also the G-Man. Does his best standing at a conspicuous far-away spot, looking ominous, and then the only thing he sees of Gordon is an orange blur.

    • Widthwood says:

      Make that – “Does his best standing at a conspicuous far-away spot, but in milliseconds meets Gordon face to face.” Also this Gordon is so above him he doesn’t even bother to hit G-Man with a crowbar.

      • SeriTools says:

        Actually, the GMan is even used as a bump to get pushed in the right direction, maintaining more speed! :)

  18. Frank says:

    In-game cutscenes five times as long as FMVs are not such a great way of doing FPS narrative. Here’s hoping Valve come up with a better solution before returning to single-player shooters/HL3. And also that they enter the modern age and quit inserting map-loading every 30 seconds.

    • DatonKallandor says:

      They would have to drop the Source engine to get rid of the frequent loading. Brilliant map making can mitigate it somewhat (Minerva) but ultimately that’s the big downside of Source engine.

      • Widthwood says:

        On a moderns computer with SSD loading levels in Source takes around 3-5 seconds, so not really a problem…

  19. squareking says:

    Psh. I can beat HL1 in 5 minutes with noclip on.

    • Lukasz says:

      This. If you are using console and mods, any mod and console command is fair game.
      I can understand a reason by not using official patches and speedrunning the game that way but modding the game…
      surely the game can be beaten in 2 seconds by modding in a teleporter from the end of last boss fight inside the tram at the very beginning of the game.

      while the work they put into the speedrun and their skills are impressive I find it to be cheating, hence not a proper speedrun.
      just like diablo 1 speedrun where level’s entrances and exists are close to each other.

      • Berzee says:

        I thought the mod thing was silly at first, but it sounds like it’s just a mod that returns the jumping in the game to the way it was upon release, which ain’t so bad. (Unless they’re using other ones too?)

        • Hahaha says:

          Indeed but apart from the UI anyone with the original CD could do the same, also are macros really (which is what scipts are) the same as noclip and the like?

      • Lukasz says:

        yeah… after reading more about what they actually did, i take back what I said earlier. very very impressive.
        the non-clip playthrough tough is just evil….

    • SeriTools says:

      No, you probably can’t. You can find the no-clip record here:
      Quadrazid’s Noclip run

  20. Widthwood says:

    Pretty much every speed run can be destroyed by devs with a patch. Bethesda can easily adjust Morrowind so it will take 20 hours minimum to speed run, id can easily remove strafe/grenade/rocket jumping from all quakes from 1 to 4 etc.

    I think playing vanilla version as speedrun is completely fair, unless it allows for instawin or something like that.

  21. clorex says:

    8:20 How the heck did they teleport from the end of the Blast Pit level to the start of On A Rail, completely skipping Power Up in the process??

  22. Cpt.Average says:

    Awesome work guys that was amazing! I watched a 42 minute speedrun a few years back and it’s interesting to see some things stay the same even though this is halves that time. I’m assuming it’s the version you’re using that allowed you to gain HP like that – and I love that even entering Xen with 1450 health you end up fighting the Nihilinth on 1hp =P Wouldn’t be a true speedrun without it lol.

  23. Cpt.Average says:

    Watch his health as he goes through the security door at 16:03

  24. JFS says:

    Would have been infinitely cooler if they’d done it in 20:14.

  25. Moraven says:

    http://gamesdonequick.com/

    Was great since everything was live and not something handcrafted. While a lot of the speed runs are not “clean” at least the exploit is usually something easy to do while playing.

    4 player Super Metroid speed run was the best thing to watch.

  26. Brinx says:

    I like how this is really fast and suddenly there is this really slow moving elevator. Kinda reminds me of myself being late for work.

  27. geldonyetich says:

    I didn’t get those parts where they teleported to the middle of a completely different room after jamming a crate somewhere and destroying it. I’m guessing that’s where the save/reload bugs happened.

    I was floored at the part where they are performing unreal jumps through the outdoors level and actually using the decorative tubes sticking out of the top of the mesa as shortcuts.

    • Burgmond says:

      I can explain the bit at “On A Rail”, and the bit near the end of Before they head into the Lambda Complex. Its called a trigger-delay. Specifically before the chapter “On a Rail”, the runner ran over to the trigger which changes the level. As soon as he reaches it, he starts spamming the “wait” command into the console, so the level change trigger doesn’t actually trigger when its supposed to. He then grabs a box, performs an object boost ( http://wiki.sourceruns.org/wiki/Object_Boosting), stops spamming the “wait” command which starts the level transition. Important thing to note, these two maps overlap in the editor if you load them both at the same time, so he uses this overlap to skip the entire chapter, “Power Up”, to go straight to “On A Rail”. There ya go.

    • Burgmond says:

      Forgot to mention, the save load bugs are used to re-fire weapons quickly, thats how Nihilinth (however you spell it) is beaten in ~1 second. No Joke. Called Fast-Fire Glitch – http://wiki.sourceruns.org/wiki/Fastfire

  28. buzzmong says:

    Post thieving spammer!

  29. starclaws says:

    No mention of him jumping off a headcrab to boost over door at 12:30 ish?