Elden Ring recently received a giant patch that, among other things, removed certain glitches that speedrunners had been using to yeet themselves across the Lands Between. Among version 1.03's removals is the important 'zip glitch,' so speedrunners continue to use 1.02 to take advantage of it, and they're getting faster.
Distortion2 is a longtime Souls speedrunner (among other games) and streamer, who recently managed to end a 15-hour stream by zip-glitching the hell out of Elden Ring. The zip is an extremely specific glitch that depends on the player's hardware and some of the background maths of the game, but the outcome is simple: You can warp across the map, skipping giant chunks of the game entirely.
The goal was a sub-20 minute run, but such is the good fortune he gets with the warps that the run ends up clocking in at a remarkable 18:57. This follows weeks of Distortion2, and many other speedrunners of course, setting records that seemed implausible only for them to be smashed days later: at one point, we reported on a two-and-a-half hour run, then all of a sudden the glitches were discovered and you're looking at half an hour.
Anyway: under 19 minutes now. The first time I played Elden Ring I was probably still in the character creation screen at that point.
The zip glitch does make this slightly odd to watch, and it's one of those aspects of speedrunning that is an acquired taste. Some speedruns are purely about skill, beating a game on its own terms with superhuman knowledge and reflexes. Some, such as this, are about using a game's own internal logic against it and glitching like crazy to do things that seem like they should be impossible (which, of course, requires skill itself).
The streamer later broke down how much time each warp had saved.
WORLDS FIRST Any% Elden Ring in under 20 minutes!! Changed a flight and did a 15h stream for this, almost gave up hope, but in the end I prevailed. Thank you everyone who was there and supported me during this insane stream <3 pic.twitter.com/I32a4BzA9qMarch 28, 2022
Elden Ring guide: Conquer the Lands Between
Elden Ring bosses: How to beat them
Elden Ring map fragments: Reveal the world
Elden Ring weapons: Arm yourself
Elden Ring armor: The best sets
Elden Ring Smithing Stone: Upgrade your gear
Elden Ring Ashes of War: Where to find them
Elden Ring classes: Which to choose
This is one of the more interesting (and confusing) aspects of modern speedrunning. Nintendo never issued patches for Ocarina of Time, so the glitches in that game and the ways it can be messed with remain a constant. Nowadays almost every game, and particularly one on the scale of Elden Ring, will receive regular maintenance that will address what the developer regards as unintended issues, such as the zip glitch.
So you end up with this bifurcation of the speedrunning community, with some players insistent that the latest version of the game should be the one where the records 'count', while others aim for the version that has the most exploitable aspects to it. Obviously, both types of run will continue to co-exist regardless, though I am curious to see if, a few years down the road, Elden Ring has 20 different categories built around different versions.
I contacted Distortion2 to ask about the version being used, and whether he thought speedrunners were coming up against the limit of what could be achieved in Elden Ring. "Yea the version for the sub-20 run was 1.02," Distortion2 writes. "We're definitely getting closer to the limit but the potential of the 'zip' glitch is limitless. There's theoretically an infinite number of setups and applications for it so in time I think sub-15 could happen."
Of those who continue to run the game on patch 1.03 and beyond, the current world record seems to be held by a dude who's barely been noticed: l337Plummy here breaks the 40-minute mark which, given the crimps introduced by FromSoftware, is equally incredible. The way things are going, someone will have broken both of these records by tomorrow.