If you are a 90’s kid and is really passionate about gaming, then I am pretty sure you know about Doom, which is cited by many as “one of the greatest video games of all time”. Released in 1993, this first-person shooter won the hearts of everyone not just because of its campaign but mainly because of its online Deathmatch mode. Over the years, modders and speed runners have performed several experiments with this game ranging from editing the game’s levels to breaking it’s speed running records.
When it comes to breaking speed running records, Doom’s first level which is named “Hangar” attracted the attention of speed runners all over the world who dedicated years of their lives just to make it to the top of the list. The most common mode of speed running in Doom is known as Ultra-Violence Speed Running. In this mode, players set their difficulty to Ultra-Violence and try to complete a level as fast as possible.
The first record was broken in 1998
The first record was broken in 1998 by Thomas Pilger, popularly known as Panter, which is his gamer tag. Panter completed the level in 9.91 seconds but since Doom’s in-game timings are rounded down to whole seconds, the scoreboard says 9 seconds. Panter used diagonal running or strafe running technique throughout the entirety of the level. In Doom, taking damage from enemies can slightly increase your speed if you’re hit from the correct angle. Panter used this damage boost, combined it with his strafe running technique, and broke a speed running record which would remain unbeaten for 20 years.
Momentum and friction mechanics in Doom works more or less the same as in real life. Therefore, it is imperative that Doom speed runners turn corners very precisely and make sure they open doors at the earliest possible moment. Panter used the open space in this level wisely without colliding with enemies since it can greatly reduce your overall completion time. He strafed throughout the level and made sure that he took a step back every time he opened a door in order to preserve momentum for his run.
What stopped him from completing the level in 8 seconds is that he took too long to open the doors. He opened the first door 3 frames later and opened the remaining two doors with a delay of 1 frame each. Since the game runs at 35 frames per second, these lost 5 frames accounted for a total delay of 0.14 seconds.
The SR50 technique
Let me provide a brief technical description of Doom’s movement mechanics. The maximum speed for moving forward or the Maximum Forward Thrust value is 50. On the other hand, the maximum speed for moving diagonally or the Maximum Strafing Thrust value is 40. Since Panter was strafing throughout the level, his maximum speed was limited to 40, which is only 80% of the top speed. This strafing style is referred to as SR40.
There is, however, another way to achieve a strafe run without any loss in speed. Due to a developer oversight, instead of pressing the ‘Strafe Left’ or ‘Strafe Right’ key like in SR40 method, the player can instead press the ‘Strafe ON’ key and the ‘Look’ key together. If both of these are applied in the same strafing direction, the player can achieve a speed of 50. This technique is known as SR50.
SR50 is, however, very difficult to implement since it does not allow you to turn. The level design of Hangar requires the player to make sharp turns and pulling off a perfectly smooth strafe run through the level is incredibly hard.
Record attempts by other players
One of the first players to successfully pull off the SR50 method was Ocelot. Ocelot was a gifted Doom deathmatch player who would often show off his speed running techniques during online matches. In 2001, he strafe ran through Hangar using the SR50 method and completed the level in 8.97 seconds, which was rounded down by the in-game timer as 8 seconds. However, Ocelot edited the level to remove all enemies from it, which is why Panter’s record was still considered unbeaten.
Over the years, several players would try to set speed run records, with both enemies enabled or disabled. In December 2017, another speed runner named Looper completed the level in 8 seconds but he too had enemies disabled. In 2018, he completed Hangar in 9 seconds with enemies enabled. This tied his scores with Panter but was not enough to break it.
The record was eventually broken in 2019
After years of practice and numerous attempts, a player named 4shockblast finally broke the 20 year old record set by Panter. On 23rd February, 2019, 4shockblast completed Hangar in 8.97 seconds, rounded down to 8 seconds. Unlike Panter, 4shockblast opened all the three doors with frame perfect timings. He strafed through the level smoothly avoiding enemies and was assisted by three damage boosts. His entire speed run of the level was literally perfect, with no room for errors.
Will another speed runner be able to break 4shockblast’s record ? Well, it is really improbable for any player to complete Hangar in 7 seconds since a literal frame perfect speed run by 4shockblast took 8 seconds. Maybe someday down the lane, someone will tie their score with that of 4shockblast but breaking his record is impossible.
This video by Karl Jobst will give you a detailed description of speed running in Doom, and records set by various players over the last two decades.