Over eight years ago, speedrunner BarryMode, a completely unknown figure in the scene at the time, shattered the Spelunky speedrunning record by beating Spelunky Classic in 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Veteran speedrunners have spent years trying to best that time to no avail—and for good reason.
As it turns out, BarryMode was cheating. It just took a little shy of a decade to figure out how.
"This run has not been credible for a long time," Spelunky YouTuber XanaGear explained in a video covering the run. "Unfortunately, he submitted the run to speedrun.com before anyone else."
In the video, XanaGear explains that suspicions didn't truly escalate until this February, when members of the community clocked that a tile was missing from the transition room in BarryMode's run. Further digging showed the anomaly to be a side effect of a mod BarryMode used to save his run.
Figuring out the optimal path in a randomised world is a huge part of Spelunky speedrunning, but with saves, BarryMode could repeat the same layout again and again until he had it perfected. Because the mod starts you back at level 2, BarryMode did a normal run of level 1, and then spliced in footage of a saved run. This also explained the first transition screen's lack of a missing block.
"All of this was so simple that it likely would have been caught immediately if the [Spelunky] scene was even slightly bigger back when this run was originally posted," said XanaGear.
Speaking to Waypoint ahead of the video's release, Spelunky designer Derek Yu explained that this exploit was "definitely the most major cheating situation" he'd heard of in the game's speedrunning scene.
"Actually, it's the only one I'm really aware of, off the top of my head," said Yu. "As a creator, it definitely means a lot to me that people spend the time learning how to speedrun Spelunky. They deserve proper credit for being the first to do something in the game. Those accomplishments are part of the game's history!"
In the wake of the investigation, BarryMode has taken his run off YouTube and had his mod powers on speedrun.com revoked. He has apologised publicly, and regrets the run as "something stupid" he did a long time ago. That said, on some level, he still views his run as somewhat legitimate. In his words, he was just bypassing luck.
"The numbers are all accurate as if it was a real run and there's no cheating during gameplay otherwise," BarryMode told Waypoint. "Any time I went the wrong way, was too slow, or died, I would just reset the hearts, bombs, ropes, money, and time to maintain the continuity between levels and try again. I bypassed luck so that I didn't waste valuable time away from my family and my life."
BarryMode's antics had prevented the real record-holder from their rightful spot for years, superseding a 2 minute 53 second run posted by ExplodingCabbage all the way back in 2010. That run would now be the fastest if not for a 2:40 run posted by another runner, Groomp, this September.
"I'm glad it got resolved, especially since ExplodingCabbage's run is what made me realize that Spelunky had any speedrunning potential," Yu told Waypoint.
Hopefully, whoever ends up smashing Groomp's record next does so legitimately.