Choosing a Main in Super Smash Bros.

Thanksgiving is around the corner. That means you’ll be joining together with family and friends, and you know the relatives around your age are gonna want to play some Super Smash Bros.! So get ready to bust out your main and lay down some heat!

A “main” is something that anyone in a competitive fighting game can toss around – it’s the character you use the most; the character that you’re trying to win with; the character you have the most fun with. It doesn’t just encompass competitive play – even casual players have a “main” character that they’ll use amongst friends and challengers.

Picking your main is an important part of Super Smash Bros. This is the character you’ll be putting in most of your time practicing and playing with. It’s the character you’ll do research on, learn match-ups for, and try to win with.

So, how do you pick one? There are a lot of characters and a lot of different styles of play. I’m going to break this down, because finding a main happens even in casual play, and I’d like to address those players in this post as well.

The first thing I want to cover applies to every level, but especially competitive players, and that’s style.

I won’t go over this in too much detail (but I highly recommend you go look some of this stuff up or ask me personally to break it down further), but when I say “style” I’m referring to the style the character brings out. I’m sure you’ve heard the terms, “Aggressive Falco”, or “Defensive Mario”. Aggressive and Defensive are both styles of play. Let me give you a list of the common ones and a small definition of them:

Aggressive/Offensive: Focuses on applying pressure to win. Often will throw out many attacks.

Defensive/Campy: Focuses on defense and punishing. Tends to attack much less and throws out projectiles if able instead of running at the opponent.

Bait and Punish: Utilizes pressure and defense to fool opponent and punish them hard. Also likes to use frame traps to force 50/50 situations (you guess wrong you get punished, you guess right you’re safe).

Now, a player is not strictly one of these styles. I would say a player combines a blend of these styles but leans towards one more than the others.

So what does this have to do with picking a character?

Well, characters have certain styles that fit them better. Take the character I use: Kirby. Kirby doesn’t excel very well in the offensive department – he has slow ground and air speed and so doesn’t have the luxury of moving in and out quickly and just throwing out attacks. Kirby’s best played with a Bait and Punish style. He lures characters in and then punishes hard. If you lean more towards an Offensive style, Kirby might not feel right for you.

When you’re picking a character, you want to find one that fits ‘you’, the player. If you don’t feel comfortable playing a certain way, but that character begs to be played that way, I suggest you look for another character, or learn to play that style better. I actually lean heavily towards Offensive, but due to my experience I’m able to turn Kirby into a character that can be played my way. That takes a very long time – long after you’ve improved.

Okay, let’s dive a little deeper into the levels of play and how they should think about main selection.

Casual

If you’re playing at a more casual level, I highly recommend that your main be who you have the most fun with. Or, if you’ve got character loyalty, go ahead and continue being loyal. At this level of play, characters are pretty balanced. No one really understands the ways to abuse a character’s strong points and exploit their weak points.

Why would someone casual have a main? C’mon, Smash is still a competition, and people like to win. Even if you’re casual, there’s gonna be kids who want to challenge you. You gotta have a character to lay the smack down with. It’s definitely not as important, but identifying yourself with a character definitely helps you bond with other players (“Oh, you play Fox? Cool! I play Ike.”). That conversation happens a lot in any level of play.

Style is important, but really, your style isn’t as refined here, so you can get away with playing basically everyone.

Casual-Competitive

This is for the players who are casual but might be interested in joining the competitive scene or are just naturally competitive and play much more than their casual counterpart, or are players who are part of the competitive scene but don’t have a burning desire to improve (AKA ME).

At this point your style has been refined. You probably can recognize how you play and are able to pinpoint which characters suit your style. If you’re not worried about how you place or if you want to develop a character that’s not top tier, go ahead. If they suit your style, go for it!

The bottom line for this level and the other level is that you shouldn’t sweat who your main is. Pick who you like and who you have fun with! Try and further a character’s meta along. Who knows? That character might become the next top tier fad.

If you want to win and really improve results-wise, however…

Competitive

Pick a current high – top tier character. You want to win and to improve. You want results. If you don’t, you’re Casual-Competitive, and that’s okay. But for those that want glory, pick a character that’s high on the tier list and that fits your style. Don’t try to mold a character – pick one that flows with the style you lean towards naturally – you’ll improve much faster when you’re not battling your main’s preferred style. And don’t try to change your own style yet – wait until you’ve got some experience. You want a character that lets you lean towards your own style, which means you can utilize their tools effectively.

Characters like Mario and Sheik are all great characters to pick because they mesh well with basically all three styles of play and allow you to lean towards any style and not feel like you’re battling the character.

If your character falls out of favor and is deemed less than high tier? Stick with it for at least a year (as I mentioned in my improvement post about character loyalty) and then consider changing. At that point you’ve got enough experience to make a solid decision yourself, provided you’ve been improving often and not hitting a plateau.

———

Your main is a part of you. Don’t take picking one lightly, but also don’t put too much thought into it. It is just a character in a game after all. I suggest, for every skill level, you play around with the characters available to you and feel each one out. Then you can make an informed decision about which one you want to pick.

And if you’re competitive: stick to the main you’ve chosen. That means put in the appropriate time to pick one and not regret it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone – have fun Smashing with family and friends! 🙂

Just Sayin’

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Improvement in Smash 4 VI – Preparing for a Tournament

**If you’re unfamiliar with Smash, this probably isn’t the post for you unless you’re curious. In order to get a full understanding of this, you should be familiar with Smash’s game mechanics and lingo (EX: Forward Air = Fair), specifically the mechanics for Super Smash Bros. Wii U.

In a stroke of a luck, I actually have a tournament I’ll be attending this weekend! All of you who read this series and find it insightful can now meet me in person (if you haven’t already). Don’t worry, I’ll have a pen ready to sign autographs!

But blissful dreams aside, preparing for a tournament is a crucial part to how you’re going to play the day of. You need to be prepared if you want to maximize your chances of succeeding. With that in mind, let’s jump right in!

Research

The first thing you want to do is research. It doesn’t matter if it’s a local*/monthly/regional/national – you need to do your research. Are Miis allowed? Customs on or off? What about stage list?

*Obviously, if this is a local that you’re a regular at, you should know the rules

Next, research the players. Who’s attending? Any top names? Also try and find prominent local members of that area’s community. Are other players from different areas in the stage going? Who’s in the top 15 of the state/region/area?

What characters do all of those players use? What’s the area/state’s most popular character? Chicago, for example, is heavy on Mario and Sheik.

If you’re traveling, make sure you’ve got stuff planned. The more stress you can reduce before the tournament, the more you can focus on training and health.

Where are you going to eat? See the food options available at the venue.

Training

Here’s where you take your research and apply it to your training. When it comes to a monthly/regional/national, you need to change your regiment. Play a little more and narrow down your training. If you’re from State Y and you’re coming to a Chicago monthly, you’re going to want to practice a little more against Sheik and Mario. Obviously, don’t neglect any characters, but your focus should be more on the popular characters and top players in the region and those characters. Is someone Out of State coming that’s a top player? Prepare for them too.

When you’re watching videos, study the top players to get a feel for how they play.

For stages, make sure you practice all the stages legal for that tournament. Give special attention to stages that aren’t legal in your local scene.

Remember when I said play for 30 minutes a day? Bump that up to 45 minutes to an hour. Try and attend as many locals as you can. If you want to win, you need to put in the time and effort, and you wanna ramp up before a tournament to maximize how well you’re playing.

A Few Other Things

SLEEP – You may want to play into the night before a tournament, but believe me you want to be alert, and coffee ain’t gonna do it for you. Get proper rest. If you’re staying up hella late you’re cutting your chances of winning.

SHOWER – And let me be clear, this doesn’t just benefit everyone. Cleaning yourself gives you a better chance of warding off being sick. You play worse when you’re sick.

EAT WELL – Don’t get a goddamn McGriddle before you play. You want sustainable energy that’ll help keep you alert and not exhausted. So, seriously, try and eat better the day of. Get chicken instead of a burger. Get a salad instead of fries. Eat a meal bar or a protein bar.

WATER – Drink it. Love it. Be it. Don’t drink poison *coughsodaenergydrinksanythingnotwatercough* Stay hydrated.

At the Tournament

Play friendlies!!! I can’t stress this enough. Play as many friendlies with as many different people as possible, preferably with either your main or a very comfortable secondary. The goal here is to attain as much knowledge as possible about your prospective opponents. Even if it means throwing down a little cash, get in those games with top players and talk to them. Most top players are actually pretty nice, and should be more than happy to offer you some tips.

Also, friendlies are a very good way to learn without going through the stress of a tournament match, which helps you conserve energy. You’ll want to make sure you don’t burn out over the course of the day, so make sure you do whatever it takes to stay in tip top form all day.

Most Importantly

When you’re at a tournament, have fun. Your mood is crucial to how well you’re going to be playing that day, so make sure you’re not focused solely on winning and stressing yourself out. Enjoy yourself! Plenty of times you’ll read articles from top players where they play insanely well because they were just enjoying themselves and somehow ended up winning the biggest tournament of their life.

——

Seriously, come say hi to me if you’ll be at Mashfest this Saturday, September 5th, if you haven’t already met me in person. I’ll be there, available for questions, chatting, friendlies, etc… you’ll know it’s me because I’m super loud and I’ll be wearing a gray Fedora with a Paper Mario pin on it.

Also, one more blog post before I wrap up the improvement series!

Just Sayin’

The tournament I’m going to is called Mashfest. Check out the FB page for it! Go to it! Y’know…to get my autograph 🙂 https://www.facebook.com/events/724406491038862/

I – Fundamentals
II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups
III – Attitude
IV – Friendlies
V – Stages
VII – Training Regimens
VIII – Character Loyalty

Check out the BONUS series!

IX – The Plateau
X – Practice Methods I
XI – Practice Methods II
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV
XV – Game Flow

Improvement in Smash 4 IV – Friendlies

**If you’re unfamiliar with Smash, this probably isn’t the post for you unless you’re curious. In order to get a full understanding of this, you should be familiar with Smash’s game mechanics and lingo (EX: Forward Air = Fair), specifically the mechanics for Super Smash Bros. Wii U.

Let’s talk friendlies.

Friendlies are one of your best resources for valuable practice, especially since you can play in a low-risk environment where you can talk mid-match, pause, etc…

The absolute best way to utilize friendlies is to disregard their relevance as it pertains to your skill level. Losing sucks, but that shouldn’t compel you to play to win all the time. I want you to make sure you drill this into your head: Winning. Friendlies. Is NOT. Important. There’s no pride lost in losing a friendly.

Let me paint you a quick picture. It’s been 3 months since I picked up Project M competitively, and I go to the local monthly. There, an Out of State (OoS) Lucas players 3-stocks me in friendlies. Now my friends are gettin’ hype because I got bopped, as friends do, and I just laugh it off. Coincidentally, I fight the same Lucas player, and I solidly beat him – it’s a complete turnaround to what happened while we were playing friendlies. The kid wasn’t very happy when he lost – I’m pretty sure he was going in confident after 3-stocking me before. I won where it counted – in tournament.

So then, what should you be doing during friendlies once you’ve acquired this mindset? How did I go from losing those friendlies to winning in tournament? By experimenting!

When I play friendlies, my general game plan is “what can I get away with against this player?” To that end, I ask myself questions as I play – what if I try x move in y situation? Would z be more optimal? How well can my opponent punish me for throwing out moves haphazardly? How well can they deal with pressure on and offstage? Will they fall for a gimmick? What spacing are they struggling with against me? What habits can I ascertain easily? Once I find this out, I can adjust my game plan accordingly if we meet in bracket, where all that information will be put towards me winning.

To this end, I always play friendlies to learn, rather to win. Winning a bunch of friendlies is great, but playing to win means you’re not allowing yourself to explore the “what if” scenarios that are present in every game you play. That spike you don’t go for? Maybe you could’ve learned if it were possible by at least going for it in a friendly. You’re basically stripping yourself of valuable information.

Friendlies are also a great way to practice a specific MU. This is the only time I’ll tell you to take the player out of the equation momentarily – when you practice a MU, look for a few things:

– Move priority
– Kill %’s
– General Spacing

Then zone in more tightly. Look for ways to get around a Sheik throwing needles. What’s the best spot to disrupt a Yoshi’s Eggs? How can you space away from a Luigi’s grab? In other words, look for very character-specific instances and look for ways your character can beat it. Then, take all of this information and apply it to the player. Luigi can Nair through a double Uair combo, so see how a player reacts to it – do they stop it, do they not? Sometimes, even a disadvantageous position can turn advantageous if the player is unaware of it.

Make sure you’re talking with your opponent before, during, and after friendlies. Even if they don’t know much about the game, asking for advice or just conversing about the game can sometimes provide valuable insight into the game itself, the fundamentals, and how that player views and plays the game. That’s critical information when playing against them. You’ve (hopefully) read all of my posts now – how do you think I play the game? What’s my style? I guarantee you can tell from reading these posts.

Finally, friendlies provide one other very useful function – they’re GIANT energy-savers when it comes to endurance during a tournament. But we’ll talk about that later.

Friendlies are your best tool for practice. They allow you to learn and adapt without the pressure of winning. And if you’re experiencing pressure to win, drop that now and start thinking about friendlies differently. They’re a tool for you, not a way to prove yourself.

That’s what results and taking names in bracket are for.

Just Sayin’

I – Fundamentals
II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups
III – Attitude
V -Stages
VI – Preparing for a Tournament
VII – Training Regimens
VIII – Character Loyalty

Check out the BONUS series!

IX – The Plateau
X – Practice Methods I
XI – Practice Methods II
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV
XV – Game Flow

Improvement in Smash 4 I – Fundamentals

**If you’re unfamiliar with Smash, this probably isn’t the post for you unless you’re curious. In order to get a full understanding of this, you should be familiar with Smash’s game mechanics and lingo (EX: Forward Air = Fair), specifically the mechanics for Super Smash Bros. Wii U.

Lately, my local scene (Chicago/Chicagoland) for Super Smash Bros. Wii U (Smash 4) has had a big increase in new players that are hungry for improvement. Some are decent but not quite at that high level, some are completely new, and others are old vets trying to get back into Super Smash Bros. The most common questions I’m hearing from these guys are along the lines of “Where do I start?”, “What do I need to know if I really want to push myself to the next level?”, and “What MU’s do I need to focus on?”.

I’m here to help you, players! I’m going to be writing a couple blog posts aimed at my local scene to attempt to help them improve and become incredible players. Obviously, this small little series is going to be aimed at Super Smash Bros Wii U, so keep that in mind.

For all of you Chicago Smash 4 kids who may not know me and are probably asking “who’s this nerd thinkin’ he can give us advice?”, let me give you a quick introduction of myself. My tag in Smash is Kappy. I’ve been playing competitively since Super Smash Bros. Brawl came out when I first attended a smash fest in my local area and got 3-stocked by a Ganondorf. Since then, I’ve taken a few breaks from Smash due to school and work, but when I was playing I managed to steal a spot in the top 10 of WIL’s (A combined PR of Wisconsin and IL’s Chicago scene) PR for one season after a couple years of competing (and then I took a break because school). I’ve been Honorable Mention multiple times in Brawl, and was a 2-time panelist for the official MU’s of Kirby (my main) during Tier List updates for Brawl.

After my break, I picked up Project M and played exclusively Meta Knight, where I managed to, again, reach the top 10 players in the Chicagoland area’s PR for EXP Gaming.

As for Smash 4, I’ve only entered 2 tournaments. I don’t know all the little intricacies of the game, but my fundamentals have allowed me to do well so far.

I could go on, but that’s the basic gist of my level of skill as a player. I’m no national monster, but I think I’m at a level where I could become one if I really dedicated myself; and you can definitely become a national monster! Here’s how to start that journey:

Where do I start?

Fundamentals. That’s it. You start with the basics of the game. These fundamentals are present in every iteration of Super Smash Bros.

What are fundamentals, you may ask? A lot of people may have slightly varying definitions of what the fundamentals of Smash 4 are, but here are the skills I think are fundamental to Smash:

– Spacing
– Positional Awareness
– Option Coverage
– Reactions and Punishes
– Identifying habits (Adaptation)
– Neutral

Let’s dig a little deeper into what those things are.

Spacing is the concept of throwing out a move when it is hardest to punish it, when it out ranges another move, or when it creates an advantageous situation for you. If you’re Marth, and you throw out a Forward Air close enough that Mario can use his Neutral Air, that’s a problem, especially since Marth’s sword out ranges Mario’s Neutral Air.

Another good example is spacing an aerial in such a way that you can’t be shield-grabbed even if you hit their shield.

Positional Awareness ties into almost everything. It’s about being aware of where you are, where your opponent is, and what that means for you in terms of advantages/disadvantages. If you’re under a platform and you’re against someone who thrives being under someone, you should be aware of that and position yourself accordingly. Don’t try to force an engagement when you’re in a bad position unless you see your opponent putting themselves in a position that will suddenly benefit you.

Option Coverage is simple. In any given situation, there are choices you and your opponent must make. These are options. You can choose to cover certain options and not others. Learning which moves covers the most options in a given situation is something that every player needs to be proficient in.

Reactions and Punishes is just your reaction speed. If you can’t capitalize in a mistake, you’re going to lose more than win. This also entails knowing the right punish. If Jigglypuff misses Rest, don’t just jab combo her. Charge an attack, set up a KO combo, etc…

Identifying Habits refers to being able to pick up on an option your opponent takes often in a given situation. For instance, in the first 30 seconds I notice that whenever I run at my opponent, he rolls away from me. Next time, instead of throwing out an attack or grab, I follow his roll and punish him for it with a grab combo.

Neutral is the most abstract. Neutral is a state within fighting games that refers to when both players are “safe”. Neither one is being hit, neither one is easily seen to be on the defensive or offensive. It’s basically a culmination of all the fundamental skills because you have to navigate and win neutral to win the game.

This is where everything comes together. Winning neutral refers to winning exchanges made in neutral that transition to another state. If I space a Back Air with Mario and hit, I’ve transitioned to be offensive while my opponent has transition to being defensive. I have won that neutral exchange.

Neutral is difficult to master. Being aware of what options your opponent has at certain ranges of each other and where you two are (Spacing, Positional Awareness, Option Coverage) will allow you to more accurately predict (Identifying Habits) and punish (Reactions and Punishes) a mis-spaced aerial, grab, etc…

Being able to figure out your opponent’s game plan and win exchanges in neutral based on that knowledge is referred to as Adaptation.

So how do you practice your fundamental play? Obviously, attending tournaments and playing with people is the best way, but if you’re alone? Fear not! There are two simple ways to practice everything.

CPU’s and video watching.

What do you use to practice each technique? Here’s a quick’n’dirty list:

CPU’s
– Spacing
– Positional Awareness
– Reactions and Punishes
– Option Coverage

Videos
– Identifying Habits
– Positional Awareness
– Option Coverage

Human Players
– Neutral

Notice how fighting a human is basically practicing everything, while the other two let you hone in on specific skill sets (with a little overlap).

Let’s start from the top:

CPU’s

So, here’s an old adage I’m sure you’ve heard:

“CPU’s suck and help YOU form bad habits”

This is false.

If you’re conscious while practicing, you can make sure not to auto pilot and form those bad habits. CPU’s are great to space around and practice reaction time. If a CPU techs, they’re the exact same as a human. Practice punishing rolls and spot-dodges. CPU’s are great for nailing Air Dodge punishes on reaction or covering those options. Practice combos – CPU’s will either attack you or air dodge as soon as they can, so see how far you can go with a combo before that happens.

Practice reacting to DI. CPU’s are notorious for having either bad or godlike DI, so practice reacting to it. Don’t predict, just react.

Think about your advantages and disadvantages while on the ledge, platforms, center stage, in the air, etc… CPU’s are pretty notorious for having inhumane reaction time, so sometimes you can see weird holes in your play because of their flawless execution and reaction. Try to attack them – can a move of theirs outright beat the one you’re using? If so, think of different ways to get around it.

The most important thing about fighting CPU’s is to NOT AUTOPILOT. Be absolutely conscious while you’re training and really think about what you’re doing and what you’re trying to practice. React to them, do NOT try to predict them.

Videos

Here’s where a good chunk of your mental game comes into play. Watch any match – bad players, good players…whatever! I want you to pick a player and try and find their habits. Do they tech roll to the left? Do they always use get up attack if a player is running towards them and they missed their tech? Pick apart these habits. Try to predict a player’s habits mid-match. Try to predict their adaptation mid-match.

Look at an exchange between players – I think offstage or ledge play is most effective to begin with – and see what options are being covered and what options are present. As an example, Player A is grabbing the ledge. He has the option to:

– Normal get up
– Ledge get up attack
– Roll get up
– Jump get up
– Drop down and regrab ledge
– Drop down and come up with an attack

What is Player B doing to cover these options, and how many is he covering? What could Player B do to cover as many options as possible? Think about these as you watch. Pause the videos if you have to, but ideally you should strive to analyze these as the video plays without pausing.

Look at the positions of the players. Center Stage is a highly coveted spot in Smash. It allows the most safety and is the best place to mount both a defense and an offense. See how the players interact with that. Try to spot when players inadvertently put themselves in a terrible position, especially when they have the lead. Watch how that bad position translates to a big punish for their opponent. Watch how players attempt to set themselves up to always be in an advantageous position.

A really good idea is to get videos of yourself and watch yourself play. Pick yourself apart, see where you could have made better decisions or put yourself in a better position, and see where you played well. This can really help if you’re feeling like you’re approaching a plateau.

Human Players

This is where it all comes together. Obviously, this is one of the most effective ways to get better. When you’re playing friendlies, you get to practice everything. Remember to be conscious while practicing. Don’t just mindlessly play.

Here’s a helpful tidbit – don’t get mad about losing. Anyone who knows me can attest that when I play friendlies, I suicide quite a bit. Why? Because I experiment. This option isn’t working? Let me try something weird. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but at least I now have experience about that particular decision.

Listen, you’re not going to learn what you can do just by watching others and heory-crafting about it. Try stuff out, especially when playing friendlies. Go for those crazy edge-guards. One day you might come upon a situation where that suicidal edge-guard will net you a win, especially if you’re ahead in stocks. You’ll thank yourself for having tried it out not only because you’ll win, but you’ll be lookin’ real fancy doing it.

If you’re playing on For Glory, take into account lag while playing. I don’t recommend For Glory for anything reaction-based because of lag, so if you are on it, try to predict more to practice that.

What about Match-Ups for my character?

I’m a firm believer that learning these fundamentals comes before even thinking about processing character v character match-ups. In fact, I think player v player is much more important, but I will be covering MU’s in my next bit of this series as well as stuff about picking a character and play styles.

So…how often should I be playing?

Every day. At least 30 minutes, no less. You want to get good? Play every day.

Play as long as you want, but realize that everyone has a limit before they start to burn out. At that point, STOP PLAYING. Or, at the very least, stop practicing and do something fun like Smash Tour. If you practice while you’re burnt out, you’ll become worse. Being burnt out is when you’ll start to autopilot and form awful habits. Me? I can play for probably 4-5 hours of serious play before I need a break.

——

I think Chicago’s scene has a lot of fire and potential, but not a lot of direction. I’m here to give you all who need it some direction so that you can all become amazing. Please, don’t hesitate to send me a message on Facebook or Skype (ID is ryan.klaproth) and ask about stuff like this or ask for some friendlies – I’m generally not available for them, but I’ll try to make time. I’m not the best player in Chicago, but I know how to talk about this stuff and break it down, and I can help you break down your own play styles, habits, explain these concepts in more detail, etc… And, you can always reach out to the top players in Chicago – they’ll be more than happy to help you, especially with character-specific stuff and MU knowledge.

Anyway, this is part 1. Save this post somewhere that’s easy to access and get practicing! Next time, I’ll be covering play style and anything more character-specific!

Just Sayin’

Link to the Chicago Smash 4 Facebook group: Clicky

Check out my other posts on improving in Super Smash Bros. Wii U!

II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups
III – Attitude
IV – Friendlies
V – Stages
VI – Preparing for a Tournament
VII – Training Regimens
VIII – Character Loyalty

Check out the BONUS series!

IX – The Plateau
X – Practice Methods I
XI – Practice Methods II
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV
XV – Game Flow

OPINION: Smash – the Items, the Stages, the Random

Recently, thanks to the good graces of Smashboards on Facebook, I came upon a Super Smash Bros. for WiiU stage discussion thread. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, in competitive Smash certain stages are banned from competitive play, making stage lists an element when it comes to tournaments.

Generally, legal stages are “flat/plat” (flat or flat with platforms only) stages, such as Battlefield or Final Destination, and this causes a rift between more liberal and conservative (in terms of stages and even items) competitive players. The thread I was reading was basically an amalgamation of these two kinds of players arguing with each other about what stages should be legal (and some even saying items should be included).

I thought I’d chime in with my own opinion.

I don’t like stages with hazards (and when I mean hazards, I mean the F-Zero racers in Mute City/Port Town Aero Dive, the lava on Brinstar, the cannon and bombs on Halberd, the bullet bill on Peach’s Castle (in Super Smash Bros. Melee) and random stage changes (Pictochat, Brinstar Depths, WarioWare, to name a few). To me, I think these introduce a certain amount of randomness that not even the best players can avoid at times, and it leads to unfair advantages at no cost to the player given the advantage.

Some people will argue that these new elements introduce a new layer of depth to the competitive game. A player should not only know his character and match-ups, but also the hazards and timers for each stage (while random, many stages have a “timer” that tells the stage when to spawn a hazard or change the stage). The same case can be made for items.

The other argument for a more liberal stage list and items are that “there’s an equal chance that it will happen to everybody”.

I could have agreed with these two statements…but I also play Pokemon competitively.

Pokemon is a game that, no matter what, randomness is an inherent part of the game. In Smash, you have the option of turning off items and stages. You do not have that option in Pokemon. In Pokemon, there is no choice to learn risk management and randomizer mitigation – you have to to be a successful player. The best players in Pokemon are consistent because of this. Yet, yet, there is always that time that something goes horribly wrong. “Hax” is a term thrown around in Pokemon, namely because of the randomness in the game. While consistent, some of the best players will lose games because of an unlucky critical hit, freeze, extra turn of sleep, full paralysis, miss, flinch, or confusion hit. All of these (except for critical hit) result in a wasted turn.

Despite all the training one can do, when it comes down to it that one critical hit or full paralysis can be completely game-changing, yet it stays at 25% chance for paralysis no matter what. There’s always a 10% chance Ice Beam will freeze, but sometimes it freezes two turns in a row, sometimes it never freezes. Sometimes a pokemon will hit itself 4 times in a row in confusion. It’s an equal 50% chance for every pokemon that is confused, but it’s still random. Sometimes, despite all efforts to mitigate risk and “hax”, it still happens, and you end up losing because of it, despite being the better player.

This is something that competitive Pokemon players have come to terms with, but in a game where you have the ability to test who is better with raw skill only by turning off random elements, I don’t see why you wouldn’t. Pokemon, while popular, can be scoffed at because of its inherent randomness. No one wants to lose a game they should have won because their opponent got the critical hit they needed to win the game (in fact, I lost a game of Pokemon I played this morning because of a critical hit). You’re playing the odds sometimes, and that takes no thought – all you’re thinking at that point is, “If I get a critical hit this turn, I’ll win.” Notice the ‘if’, there. You have no control over whether or not you get a critical hit the next turn. There’s no depth there. There’s a ton of depth in trying to mitigate odds and maximizing your risk/reward safely (which Pokemon has and is what makes it satisfying to play for me), but you can’t ‘mitigate’ odds in Smash. There’s no move that prevents the lava from rising or to make Pictochat have the spikes come and not the trampolines. All you can do is hope that that capsule you just grabbed is an explosive. Hopefully that Pokeball you just got isn’t Goldeen.

There’s something to be said about how Pokemon can deal with risk, despite the inherent randomness involved in playing it competitively. You can make plays to protect yourself from “hax”. There are moves in the game that stop status effects (Safeguard and Taunt, namely). You can’t do that in Smash, but what you can do in Smash is turn off items and stages that have random effects. Turning off items and hazardous stages is the Safegaurd in competitive Smash. It doesn’t matter that there’s an equal chance you’ll both get an item or hit by the stage hazards. There’s a 20% chance for every pokemon that’s frozen to thaw out but some thaw out the next turn, some never thaw out the rest of the match, and some thaw out the turn they’re frozen.

There’s clearly no skill involved in a pokemon being frozen. There’s no depth there. So, I ask you, where’s the depth in that % chance that your capsule’s an explosive one or that once the timer activates, Pictochat spawns the man’s head that blows wind instead of the piranha plant?

I love items in Smash. I love crazy stages that screw people over. I enjoy playing on them them. I do NOT enjoy playing on them when I want to prove that I’m better than someone else. I want to know that I won because I made the better plays; not because a bomb dropped on you while attacking my shield, and not because the Pictochat spikes appeared right as you were jumping to avoid an attack I made.

Just Sayin’.

OPINION: Casual players have less fun than competitive players.

Do any of the following phrases sound familiar?

“I just want to have fun.

“I play for fun.”

“You’re ruining games by playing competitively.”

Maybe you’re one of those who says this to others when getting beaten to a pulp. That’s okay, I understand; I’m just going to point out that your ego is bigger than my ego, and I play games competitively.

Outrageous? Not at all. When hardcore and casual – especially in games with a competitive scene – collide, there’s an almost instant animosity: casuals do not like competitive. Why? Because we, the collective competitive, take away from the experience (apparently), and make games not fun.

Before I delve further, I’m going to define what a casual is for this post (as to not offend everyone. LOL). Casuals are not retired competitive players, they are not players who only play every once in a while, they are not players that respect competitive play; casuals are players who degrade competitive play and players, and complain when they lose to said competitive players by utilizing those three phrases (among others similar to those).

See, the problem with those three phrases are that they implant this kind of hierarchy onto “how to have fun”. “Having fun” is at the top, and “playing competitively” is at the bottom.

I guess now is as good a time as any – casuals, you’re not having as much fun as I am.

See, no one likes to lose. We like to succeed. When we lose, we stop having fun (this is somewhat true – you can learn to accept defeat and still have fun, but I’m digressing). When casuals say they want to play for fun, they’re not just playing a game to “have fun”. No, they’re playing with friends that they can beat, or with a randomness factor so large that sometimes you can’t tell who is better and winning is almost purely by chance (Mario Party comes to mind as an example).

Casuals say that playing a game at a high level takes away from the experience, but think about this: have you ever played through a game and not gotten better at it? Difficulty curve is part of game design; the game is designed to become more difficult as you progress and improve. That means all the casuals who are beating these games are doing so because they’re improving, getting better; they’re playing at a higher level.

They’re justifying their losses by putting down those who are better, or put in more time and effort than they do, but it’s still not fun to lose. They’d be having more fun if they accepted that they’re not going to put effort into a game and will lose to those who do most of the time, or if they start putting in that effort and seeing some results. They’d have more fun if they learned how to take a loss and still have fun instead of getting salty and trying to make excuses as to why they’re getting their ass beat. They’d have more fun if they respected competitive play.

Oh, you play for “fun”? Yeah, right. Everyone wants to be good at what they play. The difference between casual and competitive is that casual blames the competitive for their loss, while the competitive blames themselves (or the game. LOL) for their loss.

Just Sayin’.