Earlier this week we had the chance to talk with Zelda speedrunner Benstephens56, who completed an “All Dungeons” category speedrun of Ocarina of Time 3D at Awesome Games Done Quick 2017 on Sunday, January 8, with a total run time of one hour, 57 minutes, and 23 seconds. This was the first time Ocarina of Time 3D was featured at a Games Done Quick event as previous marathons have only featured the Nintendo 64 and GameCube versions.
Benstephens56 holds the world record for many of speedrun categories in Ocarina of Time 3D including Any %, All Dungeons, and 100% completion. All of his speed runs can be found on his Twitch channel and his YouTube channel, so be sure to check him out!
Heeding the speedrunner’s call
Zelda Universe (ZU): First off, thank you for joining me today. I want to start our conversation with the game you’ve run: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. This is the first time we’re seeing Ocarina of Time 3D at a GDQ. What has the build up for this run been like before AGDQ 2017?
Ben: It’s definitely something that I, as a runner, have been looking forward to for years. I think I’ve submitted this game for four years now. So it was really exciting to finally have my shot at it. I actually didn’t think it was going to make it in. It’s usually been overshadowed by its “big brother,” [the Nintendo 64 version of Ocarina of Time]. I kind of just thought people were just gonna want the original.
ZU: You even hold the world record for a couple categories on the 3DS version, one of which you ran at AGDQ 2017: the All Dungeons category. Why this run in particular?
Ben: I think that, with time constraints, I didn’t want it to be too long. It was the most concise, most dense way to show off the largest portions of the game so that nothing is left out but to keep it relatively abridged. You got to see pretty much everything that the game had to offer. And even then, a little more than that, with the development of certain parts of the route, it was the best way to include everything.
ZU: How did you start getting into speedrunning?
Ben: I was always very interested [in] the game. There was a YouTube Let’s Player that I watched years ago who showed off a few glitches in Ocarina of Time 3D, and I was like “Hey, I could do some of these!”. Then, a few years later I think I saw some really old [Nintendo 64] Ocarina of Time speedruns in my YouTube suggestions. I would click them every now and then and watch them. At this time, I really wasn’t active, in terms of doing runs on my part. I didn’t know much about it.
Then one day I saw an article on I believe your website [Zelda Universe] about the Ocarina of Time Any % category. [The article was about] how the record time became less than half an hour.
I started to get into running when I did runs on Twitch in the [early parts] of 2012. That’s when I got more involved in the community. It started with Wind Waker; I watched a lot of that. Then I saw a lot of people play Ocarina of Time, on the 64. I personally didn’t want to play the original version. I wanted the experience to pioneer in something. So I picked up the 3D version, which really didn’t have a lot of headway. I wanted to contribute to something that wasn’t already there. The 64 version was already saturated. I just wanted something a little different.
The opportunity to run at AGDQ
ZU: What about Ocarina of Time 3D do you believe makes it unique to speedrun compared to its original version on the Nintendo 64?
Ben: I think what makes it unique is that there are so many crazy wrong warps. You end to warping to places you’re definitely not supposed to go to. In my marathon run, you have seen some really weird and mild ones. The options you have with these is pretty limitless. You can even see that in my run as I made a substantial routing error. Me and the other people on the couch were trying to improvise on what warps we can do to fix it. There’s so much you can do with it.
ZU: You mentioned during the run that GREZZO developed the 3D version of Ocarina of Time in their own way. How has that helped you with your run on the 3DS version?
Ben: It’s definitely a kind of strategy, as far as looking for new things. Most importantly, what are the differences between the two, and how can we use them to our advantage? We even look for the tiny changes, because they can make a huge difference. A lot of the routing options and ideas we have come from Ocarina of Time [on Nintendo 64]. Often we can’t do some things the same way. So, as far as what we’re looking for, we’re looking for something similar that happened on N64. We’re just trying to find new ways to do them with the new mechanics. Which are often subtle but still there.
ZU: Speaking of glitches and tricks, can you recap for us how you managed to pull off the debug glitch? The one where Link had to die 14 times? How did that trick come into play to help your run?
Ben: That is one of the wildest things. It was found about two months ago by the guy sitting behind me [during the marathon], TheWayfaringFox. Basically what’s going on there is this: I set Farore’s Wind in Boss Rush mode [a mode that was added in 3DS version]. If I were to use [the] Farore’s Wind [warp] point after that, it would take me back to the title screen, which is really weird. We’ve known this for quite a while. When you enter one of the blue warps at the end of the dungeon, there’s actually a one-frame window where the game essentially kills any incoming cutscenes, and it says, “DO NOT PLAY CUTSCENE HERE”. So basically the title screen is a cutscene; it just doesn’t look like one. So what happens is Farore’s Wind takes you to the title screen, but then the game kills the cutscene. So you’re basically just walking around the title screen. Actually, I could have navigated through the water before I [or rather Link] died. [The Hyrule Field shown on the title screen is] actually a bit different from the original Hyrule Field.
“So basically the title screen is a cutscene; it just doesn’t look like one. What happens is Farore’s wind takes you to the title screen… [and you’re] just walking around the title screen.”
It’s kind of hard to grasp it; you need to get your hands on it to really understand fully what is going on. What the debug glitch essentially does is give you access to the entire item inventory in the game. The technical aspect is the toughest part to accomplish.
ZU: The run went pretty smooth. Even when you needed to improvise, you kept your composure while commentating. How do you tend to handle all of that while doing your run live?
Ben: There’s definitely a lot going on in my head. I thought, “What was I going to do?” That morning I told myself, “Alright, Ben, you have one thing to do and don’t make this mistake.” And I made the mistake. There was nothing I could do. And then after that, I snapped out of it and came up with a couple of options. There were two main concerns going on in my head. One, how do I improvise this so I get my stuff done as fast as possible? Two, how can I improvise this run off in the coolest way I possibly can? I figured, if I’m gonna change the route, I may as well make it look cool.
I was thinking of the different objectives to pull off the back in time glitch [the official name for the debug glitch]. That was really my biggest concern…. It was basically me pulling out what knowledge I had left to pull off that glitch and get it done as fast as possible with [as] little backtracking as possible. It was a little less elegant than the intended route I was going for, but it at least showed off a part of the game that wouldn’t have been shown off initially had I not made the mistake. If I went back, I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I think it all worked out.
ZU: Are there still parts of the run or any other category that you’re still working on? Possibly reach a new world record?
Ben: Definitely. I’ve been working on [a 100% completion run] for many years now; that’s one of my biggest projects. There’s still much more work to do. There’s a fairly significant change recently in the past four months. My objective to make my 100% run time much shorter, but it’s definitely no small feat.
Another run I want to work on, more for completion than a record time, is Max % Child, where you have to collect as many items as possible without becoming an adult. Due to the limitations of what items you can use as a child, it becomes complicated and very long run-timewise.
ZU: Looking back, to the best of your ability, were there any parts of the run you felt proud of? Any moments you felt you could improve on?
Ben: For what I was proud of, pulling off the debug glitch the first try. It’s essentially… two [simultaneous] one-frame window[s]. Two tricks going on at the same time with not so great visual cues. Every time you miss it, it wastes a minute. If done wrong, I wouldn’t want the audience to be bored with my run.
What I would improve on are the two wrong warps I messed up: one in Fire Temple and [the other at the] Deku Tree. They’re very difficult glitches so there wasn’t much I could do about it. Just getting nitpicky: If I could go back I would fix those two things so I don’t miss them.
Into the future and beyond
ZU: Do you have any advice to share with fellow speedrunners or anyone who wants to get into speedrunning?
Ben: Yeah! Don’t really worry about what people think or said before you. Really try to forge your own path in terms of speedrunning goes. I didn’t start speedrunning by talking to current runners [for Ocarina of Time 3D] because there were no runners. I was pioneering. I was the guy finding things, making routes, etc.
The biggest way to get into speedrunning, the most fulfilling and fun, is to play around with it and have fun with the game. If you’re going in to get a time, it’s not as fun. There’s not that sense of adventure, that sense of exploration of finding new things. So yeah, have fun with, play around, forge your own path, and discover new things!
ZU: What do you enjoy most about the Zelda speedrunning community?
Ben: There’s really so much to enjoy. I really love the collaboration of people who are so dedicated to what they do. They put so much time and creativity into it. I like how speedrunners of one game are very supportive of other runners who help them out and give advice. And its not just one game in particular; altogether, I would say the 3D Zelda community [not just 3DS version] comes together and helps each other out for the most part. I don’t think that’s something you’re going to find in any communities for different franchises. I think the Zelda community is something very special.
ZU: What is your favorite Zelda game overall? And favorite Zelda game to speedrun?
Ben: My favorite Zelda game is a hard one. I’m a little biased towards Ocarina of Time. I don’t know if I just enjoy that because I speedrun it so much, but I enjoy Ocarina of Time 3D [as] my favorite speedrunning Zelda [game].
For my favorite overall, it would have to be A Link Between Worlds. It’s both a great Zelda game and a great speedrunning game.
“I would say the 3D Zelda community comes together and helps each other out for the most part. I don’t think that’s something you’re going to find in any communities for different franchises. I think the Zelda community is something very special.”
ZU: Lastly, do you have any plans to run more games at a future GDQ?
Ben: As far as Ocarina of Time 3D goes, that’s always been my biggest project. I don’t think I feel comfortable submitting that again at a GDQ just yet. I might give it another year or two. And that’s not something to be sad about. It’s something I’m very happy about. I think I did what I needed to do with it. I think it’s had it shot, and I had accomplished what I needed to.
For future AGDQs, I’d like to see Majora’s Mask 3D in again. I don’t know if I would be the one running it, but it’s a game that deserves to get another shot. The last time it was at a GDQ, I believe it was at SGDQ 2015. Since then there’s been a lot of development, and me and a lot of runners have been working on it.
Another run I would like to do is A Link Between Worlds 100% or Phantom Hourglass.
ZU: Great! Do you have anything else you would like to add or say anything to us or the people at home?
Ben: For you and everyone at Zelda Universe, thank you for giving me this shot. I really like talking to people about what I do; I’m very passionate about it. Thank you for giving me this opportunity, and thank you [to] those who read the interview and care enough to listen to what I have to say. So thank you to all who watched and enjoyed my run at AGDQ! It really means a lot that people care about what I’ve been doing. This is something I really care about. Not so much as they care about me but that they cared about what I’ve been working on for so long.
ZU: Absolutely! Thank you again for joining us for an interview. On behalf of Zelda Universe and the entire Zelda community, we look forward to seeing you succeed at future events! Once more, great job on your Ocarina of Time 3D run! That was so much fun to watch, I’ll have to go watch it again!
Ben: Thank you! And trust me, I am, too!