Speedrun.com, its issues, and about building an alternative
The speedrunning community is big: Speedrun.com notes that, at the time of writing, 3.5 million speedruns have been registered on the site by 1.4 million users.1
Speedrun.com is the website for all your speedrunning needs. It sports a database of runs grouped by games, with groups of categories per game, a forum, news, and a “streams” section which lists speedrunners that are currently live. It is the most used platform by speedrunning communities and the first stop to building a new one.
But I, and many others for that matter, have issues with speedrun.com. Here’s a short list of people in the community complaining about the acquisition of speedrun.com by Elo:
This is by no means a complete list. Feel free to have a look yourself.
I think the last post in the list above is especially interesting: Since the
acquisition of speedrun.com by Elo it supposedly has changed the license of
leaderboards which were previously licensed under CC-BY-NC without first
checking in with users. Despite this obviously being unethical as well as
probably illegal2, the company did this without remorse.
Other than that, a bunch of new changes hit the site when it got acquired, like it now being filled with ads and questionable UI decisions, the latter of which seem to have been addressed by now, at least, after a huge amount of criticism and backlash by the community.
The site is heading into a corporate direction, ignoring the user and putting
the well-being of the company first. Even though speedrun.com previously was
closed source, it still cared about its users more than the current owners. It
was good enough, which is why I think there have been no alternative solutions
in development at all.3
But the time to develop alternatives is now, and these alternatives should be easy to use, robust, and put the interest of the user first, among other things.
I used to speedrun games and frequent the page myself, but I haven’t been active
in the community for a while; this coincidentally started around the time the
website received the overhaul.
The one big issue I had with speedrun.com even before it was acquired by Elo was that it wasn’t open source, and it still isn’t.
“Why should it be open source? Why should I care?”, I hear you ask. The reasons
are rather simple: It not only ensures the interest of its users being put first
but it also promotes extensibility, customizability, and interaction with the
community, making changes to the site be discussed with the community instead of
made behind closed doors.
And one more thing: It prevents the site from going rogue. If there’s a feature you don’t like, spin up another instance yourself, or even fork the code. It’s your (and the communities) choice to be made. Nothing is being forced down your throat, you, the user, as well as the community, are in control of what happens and what doesn’t.
Because of the reasons listed, among others, I propose this: An open source, distributed alternative to speedrun.com that can be hosted by each community and gives users a standardized interaction while also giving communities the freedom they deserve.
The philosophical aspects
To make sure a project like this becomes successful it needs thorough planning. Most importantly, these guidelines should be followed when designing the software:
- The interest of users stands above all else
- The data on these instances should be available to everyone, guaranteeing an open nature of the community
- Submitting data should be easy, and reviewing this data should be possible
- Several instances should be able to interact with each other in one way or another to further interaction between communities
- The software should be as lightweight as possible, not require modern hardware to run an instance, view data, or browse the website
- The data accumulated by an instance should be viewable in several formats, like, but not limited to, human readable and machine readable formats
- The data should be able to be exported by everyone, including the hoster, administrators of an instance, and logged-in as well as logged-out users
- Migration from speedrun.com and other websites should be as straight forward as possible
To enforce these guidelines, the software should be licensed under the GNU Affero General Public License (AGPL)4, which expects a host to make the hosted source code available to the public, and forks of the project to be open sourced under the same license as well.
Additionally, it should answer the following questions:
- How will users interact with the site, both in the short and long term?
- Will users possibly need an account on each instance of the leaderboard, or does one account suffice for interaction with other leaderboards?
- In what way will the software guarantee that the interest of users stands above everything else?
Lastly, every successful piece of software needs to establish non-goals for the project:
- The project should not fulfil more needs than necessary, i.e. a forum can be hosted alternatively in an open fashion
- Hosting of other forms of data, like videos and other resources, should not be hosted by the project but elsewhere
While these guidelines, questions, and non-goals are a recommendation for a new project that solves the issues of speedrun.com, these are not carved in stone. Adjustments to each point can be made, but do keep in mind the open and lightweight nature the software should have. Each decision to not follow one of the points should be explicit and written down for others to comprehend.
The development of this new software should involve the community the software is being developed for and development should happen publicly, preferably on an open platform. Ideally, the software should be developed by people that are part of the community which have a good connection to it’s members.
All the points listed in the philosophical aspects of the project should be kept in mind while developing this project.
Personally, I would like to develop such a project, so if you’re interested in developing or helping develop this, too, then make sure to reach out to me publicly and maybe we (and others) can figure something out.5
I sincerely hope the speedrunning community can be made more accessible and
open, for the good of the individuals and the community as a whole.
Start contributing to this by writing a blog post yourself about these issues, talking to fellow community members or by starting to develop a project like this yourself.
I know that the speedrunning community is very much able to develop a project like this6, so let’s work together and create an alternative to the platform that disregards our wishes.
Other issues worth addressing
Not only is speedrun.com an issue: Other platforms used in the speedrunning community suffer from the same issues as speedrun.com does. Free software is rarely seen here, with the main platforms in use being Discord, Twitch and YouTube, all of which are proprietary, non-free platforms that do not respect the user.
I think, as a community and as individuals, we can do better, and we should. Let’s make the speedrunnig community an open one, void of companies taking our rights and ignoring our voices.
I am not a lawyer, I cannot verify that this is the case. Do your own research on this. ↩︎
At least I’m not aware of any. If you do know of alternative solutions, please let me know and I’ll add them here. ↩︎
I can’t and don’t want to dictate what license a project should use - I just think this is the most sensible option to choose. ↩︎
You can find my contact details at the bottom of this post. Use my public inbox to reach me publicly, or my private email if you prefer a private conversation. ↩︎
I’m especially thinking of OpenGOAL, a compiler for GOAL that makes it possible to compile “Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy” for x86_64 which allows for playing the game on PC. ↩︎