This series is a tribute to standard “Monday Morning Quarterback” columns in traditional sports. In it, I discuss my quick takeaways from the last week of the smash community. Consider this a mix of news and mild takes. Featured image from Axe’s Twitter – will take down, if requested.
On Sunday, Axe won Runback 2018, the third edition of the annual Arizona regional series. In yet another edition of “The Traveling Adventures of ChuDat,” the longtime MD/VA Ice Climbers won Lighthouse all the way in Spain. For smaller Saturday events, the traveling bobby big ballz successfully conquered North Carolina, winning NCSU Melee: Eclipse and racking up wins over Sharkz, SmashBob SquarePants, as well as the rest of the attending Atlantic South crowd.
1. Westballz has the most Westballz tournament performance ever
To start off his performance at Runback 2018, Westballz lost in round robin pools to ilovebagelz, the current Arizona No. 5 and Luigi main. It led to Westballz entering winner’s bracket as a lower seed along with DQ’ing himself from the tournament – at least until he changed his mind and played the rest of his matches on Saturday. This is so stupid for so many reasons, but let’s hold on for a moment.
Because of a mix of the horrible format and his own play, Westballz played Shroomed in the second round of winner’s side in Top 48. Promptly sent to loser’s bracket, Westballz went down 2-1 against old-school legend Forward before coming back to win 3-2. It was then, that the SoCal Falco woke up.
— Ryan Ford (@Ryan_Ford522) July 16, 2018
3-1’ing Iceman, a solid Washington Marth who finished 2017 as the No. 93 player in the world, Westballz then annihilated ilovebagelz in a 3-0 runback of their meaningless round-robin set. He followed this up with defeating John Wick and convincingly sweeping Captain Faceroll to make it to top eight.
The signs were here for a mega-Westballz losers run; something he’s certainly no stranger to having. In fact, arguably his hardest opponent left in bracket was Duck, whom he promptly beat 3-1. This wasn’t impossible for him by any means – in fact, Westballz has now won three of their last four sets – but given Duck’s reputation as a spacie-slayer, as well as what the rest of potential bracket looked like, the sky was the limit for Westballz.
However, matched up against SFAT for loser’s quarterfinals for a head-to-head that Westballz has historically had his number in, he did the unexpected, DQ’ing himself from the tournament for good, due to not feeling well. What a strange performance – and the funniest thing is that it never should have happened.
2. A Plea to All TOs: Stop Running Round Robin Pools
The Smash community collectively has moved on from many aspects of the past. It’s not cool to openly call things “gay” as people may have thought in the past. We expect our major events to run on time or at least have venues that don’t compromise smasher safety. Similarly, I think we should add another goal to the list: kill round robin pools. Let’s examine why.
On the surface level, it allows your average 0-2’r to play more matches than they would in a standard double elimination bracket. But the consequences for losing or winning sets completely change. In bracket, you’re either sent to loser’s or eliminated from the tournament, yet in round-robin pools, after a certain point, your matches won’t carry much value. For the most part, you’ll know whether or not you’re advancing before it ends.
You’re running RR pools, top 4 go to winners. Top player A drops sets, gets 4th in the pool. They now play Top player B (who dropped no games) round 1 of bracket.
Top player B’s upset since they did nothing wrong and now have a harder bracket.
What do you do?
— Chrome (@chroma_smash) July 15, 2018
This leads to situations like the above: where Westballz isn’t really punished for losing a set against a local player because he’s seeded in winner’s bracket anyway. You could say that he is punished by virtue of getting a lower seed and facing Shroomed early, but this leads into yet another problem: bracket manipulation.
If you’re a Smash community veteran, you’ll already know that this has been a problem in years past. Without naming specific people, let’s take a look at the following scenario.
You are Player A, a nationally ranked competitor. Player B is a fellow professional player who has been your kryptonite in bracket for the last two years. They lost a set in pools while playing Mewtwo because they realized the second seed of their pool gets projected to play you in bracket early on, rather than Player C, who has similarly demolished them. In the same way that Player B intentionally threw a set in pools to gain a more favorable bracket, do you pursue the same methods, as grimy as they are, to gain a competitive advantage?
Even if you don’t, the point is that players shouldn’t have to worry about that in the first place. There’s too much potential for collusion, bracket destroying and making for an unfair tournament experience for the people that are competing. To put it bluntly, you’re giving worse players too much influence over the tournament experience for other competitors.
There are other alternatives for the bottom-end of Melee players. In New England, the practice of running amateur, intermediate and alternative brackets has already become more commonplace. This is a far more productive and ethical way of keeping lower level players interested without ruining the competitive integrity of tournaments and incentivizing out-of-game shenanigans.
It’s 2018, folks. Take notes.
3. Stop Complaining About L-Cancels
For whatever reason, be it the upcoming release of Smash Ultimate or the rising popularity of addicting platform fighter Slap City, I’ve seen a lot of bad takes surrounding game-mechanics. There’s one in particular I’ve seen people from no-name commentators to friends to top-level competitors dismiss as pointless or arbitrary: L-Canceling.
Can we, collectively as a community, condemn this god-awful take? A lot of the bad arguments against its existence have to do with it being a tech skill barrier for newer players, but the way I’d describe it is that the technique actually adds purpose to your movement. If you’re not sure what I mean, I’ll give an analogy.
Play “Banjo Kazooie.” The controls aren’t intuitive, nor are they beginner friendly by modern standards, but once you learn them, the result is an immensely rewarding experience. They aren’t even that hard – it just takes a little bit of practice before you’re able to traverse well-made worlds like Click Clock Wood and Rusty Bucket Bay with ease. Best of all, it makes the gaming experience that much more immersive and worth learning.
Compare that to playing “Assassin’s Creed.” You could argue that this game shines as a cinematic experience (it doesn’t), but there’s no depth in learning the game. By climbing a building, you’re basically, well, holding up on the control stick. I could segue this segment into a whole discussion on modern game design and what’s rewarding vs. what isn’t, but I think my point is clear, as is Laudandus’ below, on a related note.
People enjoy both Speedrunning and Golf and both of these activities are 90% 'arbitrary input barriers'
People like doing hard inputs it's fun to get good at L-canceling and now you're fast
— Laudandus (@Laudandus) July 15, 2018
“Arbitrary” input barriers matter. Melee is a game that you actually have to put your nose to the grind for in order to be anywhere near noteworthy. It’s okay for you not to like that, but be honest. If you consider yourself a Melee fan, what are you even doing by complaining about a mechanic that’s “too hard” or “arbitrary” in a game defined by its physical demands on players?
Why even stop the debate at L-Canceling? Why not decry how difficult it is to short hop, consistently ledge dash or eat food from your plate without mommy singing a lullaby and picking up your fork for you?
What I like:
- Making progress as a player!
- Fendy vs. Scar – it’s happening!
- Moving into a new apartment soon!
What I dislike:
- Delaying progress on my book – sorry, guys.
- The disappointing news regarding the Harassment Task Force in Smash and the dire circumstances mentioned within it.
- Balancing Smash goals (writing and playing) with moving into a new apartment!