By Quentin H. / June 4th, 2020
When you want to start speedrunning a game you love, and you see someone play a video game as fast as they can on Twitch, faster than you’ve yourself ever played it at home while pulling off insane technically difficult tricks, it can be quite intimidating. JHobz (‘Hobz’) and Keizaron, two accomplished speedrunners and volunteers with Games Done Quick, created a GDQ Hotfix show called The First Step to try to show that anyone can speedrun if they try. Last week, I caught up with both Hobz and Keizaron to talk all about speedrunning, The First Step, and more.
If you missed Part One, you can read it here!
In Part Two, we talk about why The First Step takes a break every hour or so of speedrunning and the weekly compliments, if they feel that they’ve been successful in showing that truly anyone can speedrun a video game, their advice on how to start speedrunning, and more.
The First Step streams live every Thursday at 7 PM ET over on Twitch.
This interview has been edited for clarity and content.
Operation Rainfall: When you watch a Games Done Quick charity speedrun, you often see speedrunners running games for hours and hours non-stop. Two such examples were the speedruns during Awesome Games Done Quick back in January 2020 where we saw FINAL FANTASY VIII being played for [nine]-plus hours and Pokemon Sword during Corona Relief Done Quick that took several hours as well.
Yet, you both take a short break every hour on Steam and walk away from the game. Why take such breaks, instead of grinding through the game like you may see speedrunners do on the Games Done Quick main stage?
Keizaron: I’ll throw the second reason over to Hobz, because this first reason is one that I really like pointing out often. Speedrunning started out as segmented runs. It didn’t used to be done all in one sitting. Actually, a really good example of this is with some of the classic Doom games. They were really focused on individual levels, or ILs for short, segmented and pieced together things.
I know Half Life 2 had a really good segmented run that was split by multiple people, and it is just a cool little throwback to that. That’s just a minor reason for everything else but there’s a main reason why we take those breaks.
Hobz: Yeah, the other thing is that when people say ‘There’s no way I could get into speedrunning’, I think that one of the biggest reasons I hear that is because they think ‘I don’t have the time. I work all day or I work two jobs or whatever, I’m in school, I don’t have the time to get into speedrunning.’ But with us, by showing people ‘Hey, you can do it an hour at a time, you can do whatever amount of time you have’, that really helps drive home for people ‘Oh! Yeah, what’s the big deal?’ We take our breaks in three minutes or three minute chunks or whatever, and conveniently it gives us a place to run ads to help fund the show and everything. It’s also a natural stopping place that gives us a chance to make announcements about Games Done Quick. It also really shows people that ‘We stop for three minutes, but we could have stopped for twenty-four hours. We could have picked this game up the next day to learn the next hour or just do the next hour of my run.’
In fact, one of the first speedruns I ever did was not streamed and I did not know many things about it at the time. I remember I had just been watching some speedruns and I stopped to eat dinner. *laughs* It was KINGDOM HEARTS and I stopped, paused the timer, and went to eat dinner. It’s not something I could ever submit to a leaderboard, but that’s not what the show is about, right? It’s about just getting your feet wet and the breaks really help with that.
K: On that topic of leaderboards, I think that’s one of the biggest barriers for people who aren’t necessarily speedrunners quite yet. That’s how you find your hub of information a lot of times, right? You go to speedrun.com and you see where everything is on the leaderboards. You see what the best time is and I think there’s just a huge attachment to trying to get on that leaderboard that that kind of drives some people away.
So [with] all of the runs we’ve done on The First Step, we wouldn’t be able to submit them, but we still show that you can finish the game in ‘x’ amount of time and you can still have a ton of fun. So it just emphasizes to us that the leaderboards aren’t exactly the most important [goal] if you’re just trying to get into [speedrunning].
“Just in general, speedrunning is a really interesting beast. It’s competitive, but very much in a cooperative setting.“
OR: A staple of The First Step is that whoever wins the prior week gets three compliments from the loser on the next show. Where did that idea come from, and what has been the most memorable compliment you’ve each received as the winner so far?
K: That was my idea, and I’m a dummy. *laughs*
H: It was your idea, but Richard is the one who pushes us every week “Don’t forget the compliments!” He’s the most excited about it.
K: He is. After- I can’t remember if it was before or after the first show- I remember that I wanted to add some sort of stake. We didn’t necessarily want to publicly state who was winning or who was losing, because that wasn’t necessarily the emphasis of the show even though we talk about it every time. As we get to the end of a season I’m thinking, ‘Oh, if Keiz wins this, then the season’s tied or if he wins the next two, then he’s a tie breaker for the last episode!’. It’s all just to kind of add a fun little competitive thing into the mix. I wanted it to be some sort of reward for winning that was other than saying that you’ve won. So I [was] like ‘Hey, guess we can just compliment each other- give each other the three compliments if the winner wants a compliment.’
Richard was so into that idea. Like Hobz said, he pushes it all the time. We’ll go through our typical start of the show spiel, and in caps usually, you’ll see Richard go “DON’T FORGET THE COMPLIMENTS”.
H: *laughs* Yeah, the compliments- they’re a great funny little thing, but man, every time I forget to think about them, [you think it] would be like ‘You’re giving compliments to your friend, you shouldn’t have to think too hard about it’ but it’s like ‘Yeah, until you have to give like thirty of them.’ *laughs* At the time that I had lost five games in a row- I had to give fifteen in a row. That’s where it gets hard, ‘How do I come up with new things to say?’ But it’s a fun little addition.
Most memorable compliment was something you asked about too. I’m trying to think of one, if you have one Keiz, go ahead.
K: I definitely have one, and it was a nice compliment because it came at a really good time. I wasn’t a hundred percent focused or really all there. I had had a rough day and Hobz gave me the complement of “You’re very tenacious.” I was like ‘Aww, that was exactly what I needed to hear right now because I wasn’t feeling that great!’ and it felt like a really great compliment.
Coming up with compliments in general is hard. Like, that one for example stuck, but I really don’t really remember too many because we give each other so many compliments and generally the third compliment is just a joke compliment or a statement like ‘Oh, you’re going to lose gracefully today!’
K: A little bit of PG-trash talk, and going back to what Hobz said about [how] you’re coming up with a compliment for your friend: Well, I can only say that I think that Hobz is a great person so many times before it sounds old.
H: I think I finally remembered one. I think one you’ve given me more than once is that I tend to stay cool even when everything is going wrong. I’ll recover from it and try to stay upbeat and cool with it, and that’s something I’ve wanted to work really hard on with this show: to make sure that I was always keeping a positive attitude, even if everything was going south for me personally. So I think you’ve said that one a couple times and I’m always happy to hear it.
K: I’ve brought it up a couple of times too- the show has helped me with it too. There’s an episode or two in the first season when I brought myself down a little bit. It was kind of obvious- I wasn’t mentally all ‘there’. Now, it’s just me laughing and bumbling like an idiot and trying to make the best of the situation. It’s definitely made the show a lot more fun, and I’ve heard a lot of people talk about it too. Like “Oh, yeah, they’re in trouble, but there they are laughing and having a lot of fun.’ And that’s exactly what we wanted to show. And it’s working.
The First Step features semi-blind runs of games that Keizaron and Hobz haven’t played except once or twice the week before or when they were children. This is one such preparation run for the Halo: Reach episode.
OR: Speaking of being in trouble- you played Biped last night, which is a cooperative game instead of a competitive game. Why did you go with a cooperative title, and how is working on building that speedrun for the stream different than doing a competitive race?
H: Cooperative- we did one in season one right, World War Z?
K: We did World War Z in season one.
H: So cooperative was one that came up when we were first coming up with the show. Keiz said, we wanted it to be cooperative, not competitive, so we put the compliments in as just a fun little competitive edge. We wanted it to be more about helping each other with the experience of trying to beat this game fast then battling it out. So at times, say when I’m really behind Keiz and Keiz takes a death in the game or something, I’ll playfully rib him “Yes! Just do that twenty more times and I’ll be ahead!”
If I’m the one who’s ahead- or if Keiz is the one who’s ahead as well- if I’m ahead and Keiz is really far behind, I’ll be like ‘Ok, hey, did you figure out this trick?’ or ‘Oh, I found where to go in this section, so when you get here, turn right’, or something. Because we want a ‘close’ show, we want each other to have fun.
So when we’re coming up with the games- we just talked about it, and in that case I think I had just stumbled upon World War Z. I think I saw something such as people playing it online and I was like ‘That game just looks fun to play.’ I was like ‘I wonder if we should try doing a co-op game where we just go at it?’ I thought that because co-ops are not something a ton of people get to try, and it turns out it is some of the most fun I’ve ever had speedrunning. It’s just- you have a partner there with you the whole time through thick and thin, and it’s just a blast.
That also led to the idea of bringing some of our friends on as guests sometimes for the co-op runs. We had ‘RioPeace’ on for that one, which was super, super fun because he’s a great dude. Then later we did Halo Reach, where we brought ‘RioPeace’ back with our friend ‘RebelWatt’. And also Biped– I think there was another one or two.
K: I think there might have been another one, but it is slipping my mind right now.
H: We’ll think about it eventually. It’s been a lot of fun.
K: Just in general, speedrunning is a really interesting beast. It’s competitive, but very much in a cooperative setting. It’s not like playing football or anything like that. It’s ‘hey, I just set a brand new time. Here’s how I did it.’ We don’t really hide anything from anyone, because the whole goal is to just share our love for the game via the billions and billions of hours we put into it.
That’s kind of the really cool thing about cooperative speedrunning- it really encapsulates that process. We get to display more of the cooperative side of things, you know? The sharing of ideas and whatnot. In general it also makes blowing things up a lot more fun. Then it because a fun game of ‘That was your fault!’, ‘Hey, that was totally me!’, ‘We could have totally done that better!’. A really good example is Biped– which was all me.
H: I made a couple mistakes, all me. *laughs*
OR: It was a lot of fun to watch, though.
K: A lot of fun to play.
The First Step features both older and incredibly recent (such as Katana Zero, released in 2019) games to speedrun that come from a variety of genres.
Operation Rainfall: So you started your [third] season in the past few weeks. How do you determine when a season begins and ends?
Hobz: So the season thing just kind of came. We did not come into the show with a plan for having seasons. What ended up happening was we were eleven episodes, ten episodes in, and we realized that Awesome Games Done Quick 2020 was coming up in the first season. And we were like ‘Okay, well, we’re doing so many other things to prepare for GDQ that we’re going to have to take a week off during GDQ anyway. Should we just bill this as a season break, basically? A season finale or something like that?’
Because I think what really clicked in my head was that it was almost thirteen episodes- I had to cancel one because I got sick. And I was like ‘man, TV shows are all about that thirteen episode series order.’ And so that just jumped in my head ‘Oh, let’s make it a season! It’ll be season one.’
I don’t know, maybe you came up with that Keiz, and I just made that connection after- I don’t remember.
Keizaron: I think I pushed trying to call it a season. And you were like ‘Oh, that makes sense because of the amount of episodes we’ve done.’ So it was very much collaborative like everything else.
H: And once we did that first season break, we were like ‘Okay, we will use that when we have other events come up in the future like [for] RPG Limit Break [that] was planned for May.’ And, just, events down the line. And we kind of realized that we really liked having that cadence of after a certain number of episodes, somewhere between twelve and fourteen [that] ended up being right, we’ll just take a week off so that way we’ll never feel like we’re burning out. It gives us a fun excuse to plan a season around having a strong start and a strong end [and] try to pick interesting games for that.
It just adds a minor little twist to it that’s fun.
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