Earlier this year, one of the oldest and most challenging speedrun records finally fell. It was a speedrun of the first level of DOOM, and it stood for two decades partially because of the ancient way in which the game measures time. When your levels can be beaten in literally seconds, but your game doesn’t count fractions of a second, breaking the world record becomes exponentially harder.
Quake has the same issue. The game’s official clock only records finished time in full seconds, rather than fractions of a second, so it’s no surprise that it’s taken almost two decades for the world record to be properly smashed.
The record is for a speedrun of Quake‘s E1M1, the first level of the game’s first episode where you’re first introduced to the famous axe, single-barrel shotgun, and if you were paying attention, the Nine Inch Nails logo on all the ammo boxes.
The time of 21 seconds was set by runner Peter Horvath, and cut down on several seconds of previous runs by refining various jump techniques discovered by the Quake community at the time. The official Quake Done Quick YouTube channel uploaded footage of Hovarth’s run years later, setting a bar that was supremely high.
The Quake world record wasn’t as tough as DOOM, primarily because the level was a little larger. It’s a lot easier to find a second in a level that takes most people 20 seconds to finish, as opposed to a DOOM level that people are finishing in half the time. But while people were able to take fractions off Hovarth’s efforts, the Quake timer meant players had to shave off whole seconds.
And so for many years, the record stood. As speedrun YouTuber Karl Jobst outlines, it took many years for the Quake community to uncover new ways of bunny hopping, and secret ways of finding extra speed through the level.
The techniques that ultimately made the most ground came from power bunny hopping — where you tap the forward button the second you hit the ground, instead of holding the forward button the whole time. In 2018, speedrunner Jukebox was able to bring the 21 second record down to 20 seconds, showcasing what could be achieved. And earlier this year on June 23, jukebox accomplished a time that will undoubtedly be next to impossible to beat.
There’s so much refinement and speed in the run that it’s hard to see where another full second could be found. Runners might find ways to shave off milliseconds from the new E1M1 world. But bringing it down to 18 seconds?
That’s probably not going to happen, unless someone does years of work to find an even more efficient way of bunnyhopping through Quake corridors. But given how old the game is and the bit where Quake isn’t getting more popular, there’s a good chance that Jukebox’s record will stand the test of time. Unless they feel like breaking it themselves, but given that it took about 70,000 runs to get from 20 seconds to 19, I wouldn’t blame them for resting on their laurels.