A new world record was set for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time today. That would normally be an anomaly, but over the past two weeks, it's been happening like clockwork as runners keep managing faster times using a brand-new trick.
The simple explanation is that the new route for speedrunners uses ACE, or "arbitrary code execution," to warp from the Kokiri Forest to the end credits of the game. This skips a massive amount of Ocarina of Time's story, obviously; current runners don't even fight Ganon, or really any boss. The boss they face is a wall of code and execution.
Using "stale reference manipulation," players can move doors, edit contents of chests, and more using the game's method of writing code while Link is holding or affecting various objects. It's fairly complicated to explain, but a YouTube video from Glitches0and0stuff breaks it down using an easy analogy: imagine a treasure map with an X. If a treasure hunter wants to find treasure, they'll look at the map and go to the X. But what if you could move the X to another place?
What if, instead of treasure, you put another map there, to send the hunter to another location when they find it? It's the same trick that glitch-masters were using to spawn an Arwing in the game, only used for speed rather than Star Fox shenanigans.
Using various IDs, manipulations, and the save file name, speedrunners are warping through to the end credits at rapid speeds. In the last 10 days, speedrunners Lozoots cemented first place with a time of 11:51:233. (That's 11 minutes, 51 seconds.) Since these players run the Any% category, anything goes to beat the game, so long as you beat it—there was some debate over whether to include it as a method, but it seems like runners have settled on ACE being a viable strategy.
The top spot is in flux even now, with popular Zelda speedrunner Narcissa Wright right behind Lozoots and others putting in competitive times as recently as today, too. Last July, Torje's world record of 16 minutes, 58 seconds was an incredible achievement. It was the first sub-17 minute run of Ocarina of Time. Less than a year later, the world record has already been cut down by five whole minutes.
This method isn't exactly stylish, but it certainly is a marvel of breaking a game down even further than ever thought possible. It's a testament to how far speedrunners will continually push the limits of a game. Here, they're practically writing code into the game itself, using its own devices and idiosyncrasies. I might say it seems impossible to ever find a faster method than this, but it'd just give these runners more reason to prove me wrong.