Dam is the first mission in GoldenEye. For fifteen years the fastest anyone was able to complete it as 53 seconds. Bryan Bosshardt set the original record back in 2002 and people have only managed to tie it ever since. Yesterday, Karl Jobst made history by finishing the level in 52 seconds.
“Fuck! Fuck! Oh my god! Oh my god!”
As soon as the final report for the level flickered onscreen Jobst breaks down in shock. He could tell it was one of the best runs he’d ever done for Dam but clearly wasn’t expecting to have broken one of the longest standing records in speedrunning. Over a hundred people have achieved the 0:53 time so far, which led many to speculate about whether it was even possible to beat it. Yesterday, Jobst proved it was.
The crux of the run comes down to getting as many boosts as possible and what Damn aficionados call “fast gate.” If you remember the level back from the N64 days, there are a series of gates Bond has to pass through in order to get to the dam. Getting a quick opening gate is critical to shaving off the individual frames of the game needed to edge past 0:53. Jobst managed to trigger one in addition to picking up three speed boosts.
GoldenEye speedrunners strafe continuously and use specific viewing angles too pick up speed, but they will go even faster when shot in the back by the guards. On Agent difficulty, the easiest one, guards have terrible aim, so getting hit is more or less a crap shoot. As Jobst noted after posting his run, in the 250 hours he’s spent attempting Dam 0:52, he’s only gotten all three speed boosts on three separate occasions, even after resetting when he doesn’t pick up the very first one that’s possible in the level. His record breaking achievement was only possible because he snagged almost every crucial little time saver. “I fucking clutched it!” he wrote.
GoldenEye speedrunning is tracked by the The Elite forum. In a weird coincidence, the previously longest standing record on the site was actually Jobst’s Runway attempt on Secret Agent difficulty. It stood for over a decade until who of all people should break it? Bryan Bosshardt on June 20, 2012. It’s somewhat fitting then that Jobst was the one to finally crack Bosshardt’s Dam record. The community around the game has been so hyped for an eventual 0:52 Dam run that in addition to making history and accolades from other speedrunners, Jobst will also be rewarded with several hundred dollars worth of bounty money for his trouble (people will often set cash prizes for new speedrunning accomplishments to egg people on).
Part of what makes the granular nature of the his record breaking efforts so interesting though is everything that had to go into them. Most modern speedrunning use secondary timers to track their progress down to the thousandth of a second. That’s why when new records are set in something like Super Mario Bros. it can come down to minuscule differences. In addition, those speedrunners can check their progress against discrete benchmarks so they know earlier on if a run is on track to break a record or is sub-optimal.
But GoldenEye speedrunning grew out of the late 90s, VHS recording devices, and inconsistent CRT TV technology. As a result, that game’s community relies on the game’s internal clock. Whatever time shows up on the end of level report is the one speedrunners go by, and because it measures things in whole seconds, speedrunners attempting a level like Dam could be closer or farther away to breaking the all important 0:53 barrier and never know it. Regardless of whether they got an 0:531 or an 0:539, the time would show up the same. That’s why it’s extra dramatic when Jobst finally sees the report after having hopped down into the ravine at the end of Dam. Prior to that moment of truth, he had no idea how successful he’d be outside of a gut feeling that things had gone unusually smoothly.
Speedrunning being speedrunning, however, people are already starting to wonder if this means 0:52 is the fully optimized Dam run or just the next step toward the impossible: 0:51. You can watch the record breaking run, and Jobst’s stunned reaction to it, below.