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Here's how Starfield speedrunners uncovered one of the games most absurd skips

We talk to one of the speedrunners responsible for a full timeline on Starfield's first big skip.

Starfield is out, and the stars have been split wide open for players to explore, exploit, and excavate with your trusty mining laser. But while most players are taking in the sights, digging through every corner of the galaxy for ten thousand foam cups of what have you, others have their eyes firmly on the clock. Every second counts, every motion measured. For the Starfield speedrunners, a constantly developing race to slice minutes off the hour is the real reward.

We've covered these personal-best pioneers and servants to the stopwatch before. Many times, in fact. The early days of a major game's release is a hub for excitement, not least among the small horde of speed freaks with sights set on uncovering skips and glitches. While the existence of sub-hour new game plus runs and fresh save files taking down the main story in less than 10 are article-worthy on their lonesome, the method behind creating these absurd time trails is where the gold is buried. At least, in this writers' opinion.

So, I wanted to dig into the process some more on one of the more spectacular bits of tech discovered in the few days since Starfield's release. Believe it or not, by the time I reached out, the community had just discovered an absolute banger. A single skip, able to cut out four main story quests altogether, came as a result of several days' work picking apart the game. It starts, however, with the discovery of zipping.

"After I noticed that the (unarmed) punching animation moves your character if you are in 3rd person view, I started trying to see if I could make it behave in weird ways," writes MicroLogist over Discord, a member of the Starfield Speedrunning Discord server who was first to discover the technique. "When I was just jumping around pressing random inputs (including punch) in 3rd person, I managed to record an instance of my character "teleporting" a few meters backwards. I shared that clip in the Discord but we didn't really have any idea what was happening."

This was the first spark in Starfield's first major skip, and was discussed and tested by the community present in the game's dedicated Speedrunning Discord server. Other users, working alongside MicroLogist, attempted to increase the value of Zipping as a technique from its initial status as a cool oddity. "The obvious thing to try here was to use this to teleport through walls, but after a few hours of trying that didn't seem to happen. Our conclusion at the time was that what looks like a teleport might actually be your character having a very high velocity for a single frame, thus getting moved a long distance BUT respecting collision checks. If you zip at an angle towards a wall, you will be displaced along that wall (as if you had slid along it), rather than going through it."

As it seemingly couldn't go straight through walls, the importance of Zipping was initially low. It wasn't as fast as sprinting and was hard to pull off, so it wasn't exactly shining as a time-saver. However, various other players stuck with it, and managed to make the act of Zipping more consistent. MicroLogist elaborates: "Brongle found that as long as you have a melee weapon out and are in a "combat-ready" stance, you can trigger a zip by changing movement directions right as you land. Espie found you can also trigger it under the same conditions but by pressing the sprint key as you land. (Which contrary to Attack can be bound to the mouse-scrollwheel, which makes the timing much easier to hit)."

"I eventually ended up finding the easiest and most consistent way to trigger a zip: 1) Have a melee weapon out and be in "combat-ready" stance 2) Jump in any direction and hold the "Block" key after having jumped." Now that they could Zip with ease, testing was easier, at which point MicroLogist noticed that you could, for just a moment, clip outside of bounds with a well-aimed zip. This small crack in Starfield's shell would be huge - with MicroLogist finding that quicksaving just a few frames before clipping through would push the player out of bounds. With this, the "QS/QL Zip Clip" was born.

At this point, Zipping has warranted separate categories for Starfield speedruns. Not only had consistent Zipping allow for faster movement with Sprint Zipping, and Zipping out of bounds allowed speedrunners to find a hidden chest with 72,000 credits in new Atlantis that curbed most monetary barriers to speedruns.

A hidden chest filled with credits in Starfield.
Through clipping out of bounds, you can access all manner of useful stuff. | Image credit: shortt82

But here's where it all comes together. Around halfway through the game, players will run into the quest "All That Money Can Buy". Through Zipping and the QS/QL Zip Clip, it was possible to skip this quest and more, teleporting past a locked elevator and confronting a certain story-critical character way sooner than intended.

MicroLogist explains how they discovered what is now dubbed the ATMCB skip: "I noticed (by using the no-clip developer console command) that IF you could reach the top floor, you could trigger the game to give you the quest. While Mr. Slayton will not talk to you (presumably because you didn't hit a required trigger to activate that interaction), killing him will complete the quest. And after that the game will just assume that everything is in order and give you the next quest, effectively skipping the prior 4 quests entirely."

"One thing that might not be obvious about the ATMCB skip is how we end up on the top floor. This relies on an "intended" mechanic in most Creation Engine games: Once your character falls too deep into the "void" below a level, you will hit what speedrunners call the "CoC plane". It's essentially a plane that on contact will teleport your character back to solid ground. It first looks above your character for any ground to stand on, and if it finds any, puts your character there. This is how falling out of bounds on the ground floor can land you all the way at the top. Because as it happens at this precise location the only ground above you is the hallway leading to the top floor."

Screenshot of the ATMCB skip in Starfield
When you see a visual like this, you know it's getting interesting. | Image credit: MicroLogist

This story - much like most stories from the early days of speedrunning communities - is one of collaboration and perseverance. Starfield promises to be one of the more exciting speedrunning games this year, with various categories present for folks to innovate and specialize in. It's a scene moving at breakneck pace - with a new Zip-focused skip having been discovered as of writing that makes the already impressive ATMCB skip redundant.

"Overall it's much too early to tell where this game will go," MicroLogist concluded. "The glitchless run seems to be on the longer side when compared to previous BGS games, with a tolerable amount of unskippable dialogue and some RNG. The true any% route for now swings a little on the frustrating side, mostly due to the fact that QS/QL Zip Clipping seems to be both hard to execute and inconsistent, but the next discovery that fixes this might be right around the corner, it's early days."

"Apart from this there are also NG+ runs which are shaping up to be a lot shorter (sub 40 minutes) and much lighter on dialogue. And inevitably someone will end up doing a 100% run, but I don't even want to imagine how long that will take. I'm excited to see what the future holds as more and more people are finishing up their casual playthroughs and joining us in trying to go fast."

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