Axiom Verge: The Secrets of Speedrun Mode

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Axiom Verge: The Secrets of Speedrun Mode

Hey everyone – this is Tom Happ, the sole developer of Axiom Verge. I did all of the art, music, design, animation, and programming as a labor of love. After 5 years of working on Axiom Verge in isolation, I’m finally getting close to launch. I can’t wait for everyone to get their hands on it. I’m pretty proud of what I’ve been able to make as a team of 1, but the ultimate judges will be you, the players.

One of the newest features I added was a Speedrun Mode. For years I’ve loved watching ridiculously skilled players 100%-ing great games like Super Metroid, Shovel Knight, Guacamelee, and more. The recent AGDQ festival also made me think deeply about creating features specifically for the speedrunning community.

Axiom Verge on PS4 and PS Vita

To understand how Speedrun Mode works, it’s important to understand a little about Axiom Verge. In Axiom Verge, you play as Trace, a scientist who wakes up after a lab accident in a strange, alien world. Similar to classic games like Super Metroid, Master Blaster, Bionic Commando, and Contra, the game involves a mix of exploration, new weapons and powerups, new enemies to battle and epic boss fights. As you make your way through the world, you also encounter a number of secret areas that are randomly generated each game – both the location of these secret areas and the actual layout are procedurally generated so no two playthroughs will be entirely the same. In addition, some creatures in the world behave erratically and randomly.

When people play normally, a big part of the fun of the game comes from exploration and discovering all of the secrets. Speedrunners, though, want to know that everything is where it’s supposed to be. It’s important that random elements are minimized so that every playthrough is comparing apples-to-apples. Originally, I considered just making the game the same for everyone on every playthrough, but I decided that that would take away some of the challenge and replayability. So instead I created a separate mode for speedrunners where all of the random elements are based off of the same seed number every time you play. So when you’re playing through in speedrun mode, every enemy is in its place, and there are no secret areas to serve as a distraction from the main game.

Axiom Verge on PS4 & PS VitaAxiom Verge on PS4 & PS Vita

Click here for more screens

Another feature that is important for speedrunners is being able to bypass dialog quickly. For regular players, there is an interesting storyline that falls into place as Trace makes his way through the alien world. Not everything is always as it seems, and I don’t want to spoil anything beyond that. But speedrunners will have seen all of that already. They don’t want to keep tapping the X button repeatedly just to skip past the dialog – they just want to keep going, so I’ve set it up so Speedrun Mode works that way.

The ability for speedrunners to track how they’re doing at certain points in the game is also really important. Fortunately, the boss fights serve well as landmarks along the way. So in addition to having a timer (which is based on elapsed frames rather than real time in case there are subtle differences between the speed at which the game runs) always going in the upper-left hand side of the screen, players will also be able to see how long it took them to reach each of these milestones. For players who don’t necessarily want to compete with the best of the best to squeeze out as much time as possible, this feature also lets people set more modest goals for themselves. Try to beat your time to reach and defeat the first boss, the second boss, and so on.

Last but not least is Playstation Share. I cannot wait to watch players streaming their runs on Twitch and ultimately having them displayed on sites like or

Speedrun Mode is just one of the features I’m adding to Axiom Verge to make it the ideal game for diehard fans of the genre. Axiom Verge has been a passion project of mine for a really long time, so it will be very exciting to experience it with people who share my love for those classic games. If you’d like to stay up-to-date on the latest info on the game, please follow me on Twitter at @AxiomVerge and sign up for my newsletter on the Axiom Verge website!

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7 Author Replies

  • Oh man, this looks great. Day 1

  • Looks awesome, reminds me so much of Contra.

  • I can’t wait to indulge in every aspect of Axiom Verge, this looks amazing. Is there a launch window in mind?

  • I’m usually not one to do speedruns, but it’s cool to see the option there for those who want it. Regardless, this game looks crazy fun!

  • Amazing work you’ve done, Tom! Retrogame at it’s finest.

  • I like the idea of a speedrun mode, but please don’t attach a trophy to it for completing it under a certain amount of time. A trophy for simply completing it is fine, but nn need to unnecessarily anger people who can’t 100% or platinum the game.

  • Not to put any added pressure on you Tom but this is one of my most anticipated games of the year along with Uncharted 4 and Star Wars Battlefront… So… Yeah, no pressure or anything, lol.

  • I’ve played the demo at an in-store kiosk and it’s seriously AWESOME. *Please* port to PS3!!!

  • Shut up and take my money!!

  • I am so incredibly pumped for this game. Will we be waiting much longer?

  • This game looks great!

  • Tom,

    The love and care you have dedicated to this game is amazing! You are Crazy! and for that alone I will support you and your game!.
    I will recommend this game to everyone I talk to because plowing through game by yourself day in and day out must not be an easy task.


  • Tom,

    I simply logged in to give you mad propers (!) for the work you’ve done over the last 5 years. I hope that, one day, you write a book about what life has been like for you ever since you realized that Axiom Verge was your path and that you were going to tread it regardless of where it took you. I mean, look at you now…getting a major push from one of the greatest video game companies in the world in Sony!

    Congratulations, and can’t wait to play your masterpiece on my Vita!

    Follow me on Twitter: @brg_esq
    Friend me on PSN: GStylez1980

  • Yup, this looks like a must buy for me. Love everything I’ve read about it. Best of luck.

  • Its an amazing feat to make a game like this with one guy. Im not a fan of procedurally generated levels or games. But, of the price is ten bucks or under ill give it a try.

  • Oh man this game looks exactly like something I would make if I had the tools and know how. This game is pretty sweet looking and I will get asap.

  • Hey Tom,

    Your game is going to be wonderful! I look forward to checking it out.

    I wanted to ask if you would consider on making “Dynamic Themes” and “Avatar Pictures” for the PS4. Your game would look cool displayed on everyone’s PS4.


    Rob aka Graf

    P.S. Please keep posting info on the PS Blog as your game gets closer to launch, thanks.

  • Wow this game reminds me so much of Super Metroid, which is a really, really good thing as there’s never really been a game like it since! It also has a bit of a Contra III The Alien Wars vibe as well which is also awesome!!

  • Been waiting on this game for a minute!
    This will be day 1 for me as well.
    Congrats man on all the good work :D

  • This is an idea I can really get behind! Really like how even subtle things like how long the dialogue takes was accounted for… really refreshing concept that hopefully other devs put into their games.

  • Looks awesome! Very much a fan of metroid type games.

    A little put off by the random generation of the story mode, and the speedrun mode missing the story. Any way to experience the whole story and secret areas without the RNG? Don’t expect it, just thought I’d ask.

    Either way, this looks like something I’ll buy at the right price and time. Thanks for all of your hard work!

    • I’m actually making the RNG the same for speedrun and story, just that speedrun mode won’t contain the procedurally generated areas.

  • My Vita is ready!!! I can’t wait to play Axiom! I’m glad your game is finally nearing completion, I’m wanting to do the same thing as you Tom Happ, I know how difficult it can be doing it all on your own. It looks brilliant!

  • i’m not a speedrunner but very cool of you to think about your audience like that. +1

  • I’m still waiting on this game to come out and yet you have no release date.

  • Tom, this game looks sic. Thanks for investing the time in this… and a crew of 1?? Man.. great job and I can’t wait to play.

  • Please don’t have a trophy for speedruns. Speedruns usually make me *hate* a game I just finished and enjoyed, and games where I can’t get to 100% because of a speedrun really disappoint me. (The speedrun trophy was the only flaw in Hohokum and Braid, for me.) I ‘get’ that some people are really into punishing gameplay in a John-Henry-versus-Steam-Engine kind of way, but hopefully they can get their validation via the leaderboards and video sites.

    The game looks great, and I’m looking forward to trying it.

  • I seriously can’t wait for this! It looks amazing.

    Gonna be great playing this on my Vita.

  • Looking forward to this game. I’m not a speed runner, but I am impressed by the amount of forethought and consideration of players’ desires. I can’t image what it is like to work on something like this for five years. I admire your tenacity as well.

  • I got a chance to play this at the PSX event in Vegas. Loved what I played of it Tom! You’re doing a killer job! I sport my Axiom Verge shirt often (totally badass design by the way, reminds me of a Thrash Metal shirt).

    You and your wife were really nice to me. I wish nothing but the best you and the success of this game!

  • Thanks for the update Tom. It soothes my soul to hear you are close to release, I play the demo every time I’m in Target, lol. I can’t wait to call the game my own, and really dig in!

    P.S. Put me down for a theme too, if you choose to do one :D

  • Is there a small demo coming before the full version? I wonder cause I can’t wait to play it. Lol.

  • While I’m not much of a speedrunner myself, I do enjoy watching others do it. Thank you for taking the time to do things like this with your game, it really shows that you’re in touch with gaming as something more than simply a way to make money. Very much appreciated seeing devs do stuff like this.

  • Can’t wait for this game to release; definitely a day 1 purchase, which is rare for me nowadays. I remember a friend showing me some footage for this a year or more ago and I’ve been anxiously anticipating it since. Most interesting metroidvania style game I’ve seen in awhile.

  • If everything else here is even *half* as good as the art is, this game will be deserving of some very high praise. I’m excited that more and more developers are living out that ‘Shovel Knight’ legacy if you will; going back and designing some ‘retro’ style games which really held down the fort in the 90s. Especially when they still hold up by today’s standards. This looks like it will be a promising, tightly-woven experience and I cannot wait to get my hands on it. I know it’s sinful to mention here, but I’d also be interested in a PC version regardless of any additional perks that the platform may provide!

  • Game looks amazing reminds me of super metroid and old castivania games. Can’t wait to play, it looks really good. Keep it up!!!!

  • For some reason I think this will be on PS+ the first day it releases.

  • As a lone wolf game dev myself, I just wanted to say that you are a great example. The game looks amazing and I am so stoked for you to release it. Great job and thanks for all the hard work. I wish it and you the best. I plan to pick it up when it releases.

  • Can’t wait! Definite pick up for my Vita day 1.

  • Looks good, reminds me to Super Metroid.

    I am down if its cross-buy

  • As someone who got into watching Kingdom Hearts speedruns thanks to the timed-playthrough trophy of KHFM (and prior still, enjoyed browsing the SDA and TAS Videos), this is great! Not just a standardization, but a measurement by -frames-. That’s some precision. Still, I’d wager streamers would still use manual splits/timers, unless the in-game can be overlaid onto the screen or beside the play area, for live comparison.

  • (Double “still”…) Also, A quick Googling didn’t sedate my impatience, so will AV be PSTV compatible?

  • Cannot wait for this game!

  • Holycrap this looks like Metriod, def getting this day one. Please make this PSTV compat! We need more retro games like this. I hope someone makes a NES Ninja Gaiden clone some day.

  • One question, will it have a sound test or BGM option to listen to the OST, those tunes are sweet.

    • I’m thinking there might be a secret function for that. It’ll definitely be available online, though (cdbaby, bandcamp – not sure yet).

  • This is literally my most anticipated game for 2015! Has so much nostalgia to it! Day 1 buy for me. Wish it was out already. Can’t wait to play this!

  • axiom verge looks absolutely amazing, I am definately going to buy it when it releases.

    by the way, will there be any of those glitches where you have to do very specific things in axiom verge?

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