Two days ago, dragonbane0 set a new speedrun world record for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD. It was his first time running the game outside of practice. He’s now revealed that the speedrun was achieved using WiiU modding tools that he’s releasing to the wider community.
Update—11:05 p.m.: We have changed this article’s headline to more accurately reflect community sentiment.
dragonbane0 is known within the speedrun community as a glitch hunter who also created homebrew software for the WiiU that allows runners to rewrite amiibo data. Starting up Twilight Princess HD for his first serious speedrun attempt, dragonbane0 finished with a new world record. His time was 3:39:58, 17 seconds faster than the previous record.
Yesterday, dragonbane0 released a trailer that shows the run was actually accomplished with a program he developed called uTAS, which allowed him to perfectly control his actions. His run is the first tool assisted Zelda speedrun on the Wii U, something the community never thought possible. The ‘world record’ was a stunt—dragonbane0 spent his speedrun acting like he was playing while his tool assisted program performed the speedrun for him.
“I was very nervous indeed because I had to pretend to play,” he told Kotaku via Discord private message. “It worked out way better than expected and many people bought it.”
Tool assisted speedruns, which use special programs to create ‘perfect’ playthroughs, are common for older systems, where emulation has made tool creation easier than on newer consoles like the WiiU. dragonbane0 previously worked on tools used to find the correct inputs for The Wind Waker HD’s Barrier Skip before working in secret for four months on uTAS. It is the first program of its sort for the WiiU, offering features like a turbo button, the ability to advance the game one frame at a time, and the ability to keep track of data in the game’s memory.
Among the biggest issues for dragonbane0 when developing uTAS was learning how to handle load times. While cartridge-based media like Super Nintendo games have reliable load times, optical media is much more random. This can create problems with tool assisted runs “desyncing” and performing their various inputs at the wrong time. The solution was a feature that can trick the WiiU into waiting a certain number of seconds if load times are faster than expected, thus ensuring playbacks remain consistent. The end result is a tool that will create some wild and literally impossible runs.
“There were many hurdles to overcome,” dragonbane0 said. “But I like impossible tasks and wanted to challenge myself in a way.”
By and large the community isn’t that upset about the false record. Instead, they’re excited about the new tools and whatever secrets they might help uncover. dragonbane0’s stunt is one of the more interesting ways to reveal a tool, more amusing than upsetting.
“This is amazing and I can’t wait to see what comes out of this,” one runner said on Reddit. “Honestly, it was a really great way to introduce it.”