Just speedrunning a game is hard enough. So it’s wild that for his first speedrun, engineer and web developer Steve Wozniak decided to make the already-difficult task of finishing a game as quickly as possible even harder. The task he set for himself: Don’t just complete all the goals in Vicarious Visions’ remastered bundle of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, but to do each level in one combo. You gotta see it to believe it.
Wozniak—not the Apple co-founder, though they both share the same name—uploaded a 20-minute long video to YouTube showing off his feat. In it, he outlined some highly specific guidelines that not only adhere to the speedrunning spirit but also gave him a real challenge. In addition to finishing every level in just a single combo, these guidelines included things like filling the special meter before starting the main combo and not completing any goals—such as earning high scores or collecting the letters that spell S.K.A.T.E.—before starting the main combo.
Not all of THPS 1+2's 19 levels are here, as only 11 of them have completable goals and are part of the game’s built-in speedrun mode. Still, what Wozniak ended up with was a stellar finish time of almost 19 minutes. That’s wild for anyone to do, let alone to do it with the one-combo restriction. Sure, Games Done Quick showcased a 16-minute speedrun last year, but unlike Wozniak’s run, that one didn’t involve getting 100 percent completion on all 11 levels, nor were those levels completed in just one continuous, sustained combo.
In an email exchange with Kotaku, Wozniak broke down his methodology for this killer 100 percent speedrun while sharing the hardest levels to complete, what his favorite level is, the most difficult part of the challenge, and more.
Jumping right in, Wozniak had immediate answers for both the hardest levels to speedrun and the toughest goal he had to accomplish. While San Francisco, one of THPS 1+2's most iconic spots, is pretty rough, there’s a place in the game that’s even more difficult to do in a one-combo speedrun.
“Downtown is just a difficult level,” Wozniak said. “There’s a lot of stuff to run into (which will break your combo), there are cars driving around, and the goals are definitely not laid out in a way to hit them all in one combo.”
As for the hardest goal Wozniak had to finish during his 100 percent speedrun: “Getting the Secret Tape at the very end of the San Francisco level.”
My colleague Zack Zweizen and Wozniak might not make the best of friends since they can’t agree on Downhill Jam. Zwiezen thinks it’s a terrible level even in the remastered bundle, but Wozniak thinks otherwise.
“Downhill Jam was probably my least favorite in the original [Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1] game, but it’s a lot of fun in the new one,” Wozniak said. “It’s also the most chaotic since there are so many places you can bail.”
When asked what he found most challenging about the speedrun, Wozniak had a somewhat unconventional answer that’s actually not too surprising when you think about the very real moment we’re in. He said he found it hard just finding creative motivation during a pandemic that’s still ongoing, but also that doing this THPS 1+2 speedrun gave him a reprieve from real-world chaos.
“It was rare enough to find creative motivation and free time at the same time, pre-pandemic. Now it’s even rarer,” Wozniak said. “Fortunately, I wasn’t under any pressure to finish this, so I could take a break if I wasn’t feeling it. I can’t emphasize this enough—literally no one asked for this. I just did it for fun.”
But it’s the thought process behind the speedrun that I find so interesting. If you watch the video, it looks like Wozniak is just zipping around without a clear aim other than haphazardly following the guidelines he outlined at the video’s start. That couldn’t be further from the truth, however, as Wozniak had a very clear method in mind when attempting the 100 percent run.
“Find the right line to use,” Wozniak said. “Making sure I was hitting every goal and finding interesting or entertaining ways to get from object to object. At some points it felt more like a platformer than a skateboarding game. Also, figuring out how to manage my balance for two-plus minutes. You can extend all of your combos if you are spending most of your time in the air or wallriding, and as little time manualing or grinding (and never manualing three times in a row, or grinding the same rail section two times in a row). I do break the rules a few times in this video, but I wouldn’t have been able to pull this off without a solid overall understanding of the game’s mechanics.”
All in all, Wozniak was surprised he was able to do a 100 percent one-combo speedrun because, according to him, a lot of the goals require you to be moving at top speed, are pretty high up, or pretty far away from each other. None of this stopped him, though, and what we get to witness is an incredible feat of gaming where one person does the impossible. And yes, I’m also talking about the skateboarding trick. There are a few in the video.