20-year-old Canadian speedrunner Kai “Illumina” Riddell was one of the participants at Summer Games Done Quick 2019, during which he competed in the Minecraft random seed category. The difficulty of such a speedrun is due to the fact that the map is generated randomly. Plus, the Japanese have historically dominated the category.
The process begins with players entering an unfamiliar Minecraft seed. To complete the game, they have to improvise to farm the pearls and fire rods needed to reach the end. Since the world is generated randomly, the situation may not be in the player’s favor – starting with a bad seed and ending with an unsuccessful search for resources necessary for advancement. In addition, the weather can make its own adjustments.
With so many random factors in the game, it is not surprising that each speedrun is inconsistent and significantly different from the others. But the task of any Minecraft speedrunner is to minimize the above risks. In a conversation with PCGamesN, Riddell explained what attracted him to such an unpredictable category and how it has evolved over time.
My first acquaintance with this category took place in 2013. Then I saw a speedrun performed by YouTuber Setosorcerer and was intrigued. The races looked fun, so I decided to try it myself. I couldn’t do anything at all, so I soon gave up this idea.
It was only in 2014/2015 that I learned about the Japanese speedrunning community.
Around 2014, most Western speedrunners believed that the world record in this category was held by YouTuber HemboHero with a time of about 70 minutes. However, the actual title holder was Japanese speedrunner tarokitchen, who managed to complete the game in an incredible 37 minutes.
Riddell had this to say about it:
After watching numerous tarokitchen speedruns and seeing how random the timing was, I decided to try again in 2015. Since then my skills have improved significantly.
Thanks to the Japanese gaming community, the tradition of hardcore gaming was established, and most of the strategies used today were developed. These include time-saving tricks. For example, restarting the game to end up in a dry biome, ensuring that the Enderman will always appear; creating holes to quickly fight off mobs; darting of Ender’s eyes to triangulate the position of strongholds.
According to Riddell, while most Western speedrunners initially relied on luck, the more active Japanese community explored ways to minimize risks and, as a result, improve the end result.
Western players also tried races, but I think it was the Japanese who defined what a speedrun should be like in a random seed. If you want to become the best in this category, then you will have to copy the Japanese. Which is what I did too.
Riddell explained that the fun thing about this category is the pursuit of consistency rather than the pursuit of records. Even though he is currently ranked third in the world behind current world record holder Lide and next-ranking tarokitchen, he is more focused on improving his average time than attempting to break the record. Riddell views speedruns as an attempt to tame the chaotic elements of the game through skill and improvisation, rather than as a competition between individual players.