Summer Games Done Quick 2020 is only a few more days away. Many of the top speedrunners in the world are about to gather for this week-long event. The team at Games Done Quick and world's best runners come together twice a year, just as they've done for the past decade, to run through some of the best games as quickly as possible for charity. However, things are going to look slightly different this year. Due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, Summer Games Done Quick 2020 will go fully online.
There are handful of amazing runs lined up for this momentous week of speedruns and Shacknews is among many looking forward to it. We reached out to some of the runners before they take the online stage. We've gotten some insight into some interesting runs all week, but now we're going to look at one of the more intriguing ones. Final Fantasy 7 Remake has been out for several months, but runner Boring_Borin is going to attempt to run this game on Friday night and he'll be pulling an all-nighter. He'll look to run the game in 7 hours and 20 minutes. We'll ask about what goes into such a lengthy run and also about his approach for this year's Summer Games Done Quick.
Shacknews: Starting with the most basic of questions, what got you started on running FF7 Remake?
Boring_Borin, FF7 Remake speedrunner: The demo and New Game+ for this game definitely pushed me in the right direction. I was able to play the demo almost endlessly and never got tired of it. New Game+ got me into the mindset of replaying the entire game while also planning and trying to do it quickly. Even after completing the Demo, my first playthrough of the game and New Game+, I wanted to play more of this game so I took up running it.
Shacknews: This is such a long game. How do you prepare to run a game of this length?
Boring_Borin: This is a long game and also an intense game throughout most of the run. I generally make sure I eat well before the run and keep myself hydrated throughout the run. Thankfully after running the game for some time, I've learned where all the breaks are and use those to recharge as much as I can.
Shacknews: What's the best loadout for a speedrun? What weapons and upgrades do you specifically focus on?
Boring_Borin: Our Loadout changes quite a bit during the run. Generally, we have ATB-building Materia like First Strike and ATB Boost, as well as basic offensive magic that enemies are weak to. We have to shuffle our Materia around to make sure they level up at the right times to give us access to Level 2 and Level 3 magic when we need it.
Early on we like to have Iron Blade equipped to Cloud from Chapter 3 (Sector 7 Slums) until about Chapter 9 (Wall Market). We switch from Iron Blade to Hardedge in Chapter 9 and keep Hardedge on for most the run. We also get the Fury Ring in Don Corneo's Mansion, which gives us the Berserk Status and that increases our damage output greatly. We use Mythril Saber when we need serious magic damage and we use Twin Stinger for a short bit to learn Counterstance.
As for the rest of the cast, we try to have Barret equipped with the Light Machine Gun for more Magic Damage, Aerith is equipped with the Mythril Rod to maximize her Magic Damage, and Tifa generally has Metal Knuckles or Feathered Gloves. As for Upgrades, I generally put them on auto-prioritize attack so I don't have to deal with the long animations of going into the upgrade charts while getting most of the Attack-Ups simply by opening up the menu.
Shacknews: What are some of the early strategies that the community has found for this game so far? What's one of the keys to shaving time off a run?
Boring_Borin: There are a lot of strats and tricks that have been found in the very short time this game has been out. One of the biggest things early on is activating Berserk on Cloud, as that increases our damage immensely and that allows us to take down enemies much faster than without it. For Any%, at least, we've found several chapter skips that save us as low as five minutes to as great as 30 minutes. Because this game is quite long, we have to try and save every second and frame that we can. Those frames and seconds add up to minutes and even hours of time we can save.
One of the key things we do to shave off time is to end battles with a quick attack as Cloud or with another party member. Cloud is the character we use for all of our movement outside of battles and generally he won't be controllable until he finishes his animations. So we try to make sure he's either not in an animation or that his animation is quick when ending a battle.
Shacknews: Are Summons typically used for a run? As valuable as they are, I'd imagine that the animations waste valuable seconds.
Boring_Borin: The problem with Summons is that most of them are behind very lengthy fights, including fighting the Summons themselves, and completing Chadley's Battle Intel Reports. So this means that the only summon we usually get is Ifrit. While Ifrit is really good against bosses like Abzu (weak to Fire and Melee) or Specimen (Last Phase), they take quite a bit of time to summon and their abilities aren't always stronger than Cloud and his crew's. Often times when I do end up summoning Ifrit, the boss usually gets defeated before their ultimate attack even goes off, so we don't even get the full mileage out of them. We do, however, always have Ifrit equipped as simply equipping Ifrit gives us a pretty good Attack Boost.
Shacknews: Are there any specific areas that have proven difficult to run? Where does a run like this go to die?
Boring_Borin: One of the biggest hurdles for runners is the Air Buster. We skip downgrading Air Buster at all and if you don't have a good strat or are simply unprepared, it will mow you down. Also, due to the amount of skips we have found, we are severely under-leveled during most of the endgame. This means Chapter 14 onward (after fighting Rude and Reno at the Pillar) are much harder than they are supposed to be. Chapter 14 (Sewers revisit) is full of incredibly strong enemies and probably one of the most infamous enemies of the game, the Shoats. The Shoats are an enemy that are quite small, but they hit extremely hard. It generally takes two-to-three hits for one of your party members to die and they don't flinch unless they're hit by very specific moves. It's not uncommon to have a death or two there your first time through.
In Chapter 15 (climb from Wall Market to Shinra HQ), we use a skip to go almost directly to the Boss, Valkyrie. Because of this skip, we are not sent back to the start of the Valkyrie fight if we die to it. Instead we are sent a couple of encounters before that, to the Blast Rays and Elite Helitroopers. This usually ends up losing us about 10 minutes in total if we die in the last phase of Valkyrie.
Shacknews: Once you get to the five or six-hour mark, how do you keep yourself energized?
Boring_Borin: By the time we are at the five or six-hour mark, we are usually on or near Chapter 17 (The Drum in Shinra HQ). While Hojo and this place generally sucks a lot of energy out of you, there is also a ton to look forward to. At the end of Chapter 17, we get into what I like to call the Boss rush of FF7R. I'm generally able to renew my energy because I'm getting to what I believe is the absolute best part of the game.
Also Chapter 16 (Shinra HQ) is a very good rest point. There we get about a minute or two break and that generally allows me to hydrate and breathe a bit so I can prepare for the upcoming chapters.
Shacknews: How do you feel you've grown as a runner since you first started?
Boring_Borin: I feel like I've grown quite a bit. There's so much to playing this game and there's a completely different work ethic to speedrunning. This game has a lot of depth and trying to figure out everything on your own is just impossible with this game. Thanks to the FF7R Speedrun Community, I have been able to improve far more than if I was just running this game alone. Also, I'm still learning! After six months of this game being out, we're still learning new tricks and strats. In this month of July alone, we have discovered two brand new skips and new optimizations for almost all of the skips we had found before. With each change to the route, I have to adapt and improve. I always feel good after I get a Personal Best so that keeps me going.
Shacknews: What's more intimidating to you: A GDQ run in front of a live audience or an online GDQ run?
Boring_Borin: I feel both are equally intimidating as both have their pros and cons. It may be a bit more nerve-racking to perform in-person, but you also end up getting a lot of support from the commenters, host, audience and donors. While online doesn't have a physical audience, people are still there and now I have new things to worry about that I have very little control over such as my internet connection. Even with all the worries, I feel like it's going to be a good time. As long as I do my best, I'll feel good about the run despite any hiccups.
Shacknews: What's the tougher task to you: Setting a world record for running this game or getting this game's Platinum Trophy?
Boring_Borin: Definitely getting a world record. Though I do think it's a little funny because as of today (7/29/20) I have the world record for the Platinum% Category at around 20 hours and 15 minutes. Casually, I ended up getting the Platinum Trophy with about 70 hours of in-game time. Getting a world record has always been a huge challenge. You're constantly competing against others and even yourself when you're going for a world record. You have to be willing to learn from others' success and your own mistakes to put forth your very best effort and that requires a lot of willpower, time and energy.
Shacknews: What advice would you give somebody looking to get into Final Fantasy 7 Remake speedrunning?
Boring_Borin: Prepare for a long run! Obviously there is a lot to this game and you gotta make sure you both have the time to run it and the stamina. My first run of this game took me about 10 hours and 30 minutes. There are several other runners that spent 12-14 hours to complete their first run. But don't let the high initial numbers intimidate you though! I was able to shave almost two hours off my first run. By my third run, I had shaved a whole another hour off my second run. So I ended up getting my time down to a much more manageable eight hours and I've been shaving time off the run ever since. There are several other runners that have improved their runs as well. We also have a Discord you can find at Speedrun.com/FF7R. There are a good amount of runners there and they are willing to help you get up to speed on the current route and strats for whatever category you want to run.
Summer Games Done Quick 2020 will begin on Sunday, August 16 and continue until Saturday, August 22. Boring_Borin's Final Fantasy 7 Remake run is set to close out Day 6 and go into the wee hours of Saturday. You can catch it on Friday, August 21 at 9:51PM PT. Join the runners at Games Done Quick and raise money all week for Doctors Without Borders. And join us tomorrow at Shacknews, as we chat with one more runner.