Rethinking Smash 4’s custom specials

The ability to customize a character’s special attacks in a Smash Bros. game is a novel idea, in theory. The idea of customizing any abilities of a character in any fighting/action game is naturally exciting. Custom specials could allow players to pick and choose which particular specials suited their play style. At least, this is what people had hoped would be the case in the months before Smash 4’s release.

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Custom specials ultimately look a bit similar to each other. Image: SmashWiki

The execution of custom specials in Smash 4 left a bitter taste in peoples’ mouths. There was a brief period after the game’s launch where people gave custom specials a chance and considered the viability of custom specials in competitive play. They are now largely disregarded by most of the Smash 4 community. Only default specials are legal in competitive play. In addition, the seven DLC characters added into the game weren’t even given additional specials beyond their default ones. The concept of custom specials in Smash 4 is very fascinating, and yet it now feels largely abandoned.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. The concept of customizing a character’s moves has a ton of great potential. If given another attempt in a future Smash game, customizable move-sets could give more layers of depth to each character. So how exactly can Smash 4’s execution of customizable move-sets be improved upon?

Abandon Gimmicky Custom Specials

One of the larger problems with the existing custom specials in Smash 4 is the nature of the custom specials themselves. A lot of characters feature custom specials that aren’t actually new moves. Rather, their custom specials are modifications of their default specials. Taking Mario as an example, his neutral special, fireballs, has rather lackluster specials. One is a large, slow moving fireball. The other custom special for this move is a smaller, quicker fireball that travels horizontally. These custom specials don’t make Mario’s neutral special feel any different. Instead, these moves feel like gimmicks simply thrown on top of the existing default special.

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Donkey Kong’s “Storm Punch” custom special isn’t a new attack – it just adds a different property to an existing attack. Image: YouTube.

This sadly applies to most characters in the roster. One of the most notorious examples of custom moves in Smash 4 is Donkey Kong’s custom neutral specials. One of Donkey Kong’s custom neutral specials simply reduces the damage done by the punch and adds in a large, powerful windbox. The attack itself looks exactly the same. The only difference with this custom special is that it pushes other players away instead of dealing damage.

Custom specials that slightly change properties of default specials are underwhelming. Many custom specials are simply default specials with a gimmick thrown in to make it different. This execution of custom specials feels cheap, for lack of a better word. These moves don’t feel like different moves. For future entries that incorporate customizable move-sets, this approach to customizing moves needs to be abandoned.

So what are some more optimal ways to incorporate customizable move-sets?

The type of Custom Specials that work in Smash 4

There are some characters that provide examples of how good customizable specials can look. Palutena serves as the greatest example of this. Each of her custom specials are significantly different from her default specials. Not only that, but Palutena’s custom specials also significantly change how the character is played. These alternate moves give Palutena better approaching options than what her default specials provide. In fact, many people would argue that using Palutena with custom specials makes her a better character.

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Many would argue that Palutena is a better character with custom specials. Should she be the model of custom specials done right? Image: YouTube

This example proves that customizable move-sets can work in Smash 4 if approached the right way. Palutena’s custom moves don’t try to add different properties to her existing default specials. Rather, Palutena’s custom specials focus on making her play style feel different depending on which custom moves are selected.

If future Smash games allow players to pick and choose different versions of each special, I think every character’s alternate specials should be modeled after how characters like Palutena were approached in Smash 4.

Picking Specials in Sets

Another approach to custom specials in future Smash games could be to have custom specials only usable in sets. Instead of choosing from three different versions of all four specials, what if players could choose between three different sets of different special attacks? Taking Mario as an example, what if one set had Mario default specials as is in Smash 4, but another set would have, say, the Spin Jump from Super Mario Galaxy and an attack where he throws out Cappy from Super Mario Odyssey?

Imagine Ganondorf having custom specials or even a custom moveset designed around his sword, or his Ganon form. Image: SmashWiki

Perhaps this could even bleed into characters having entire move-sets to choose from. This could give veteran characters a degree of freshness that they may not see otherwise.

Another example would be Ganondorf. We could have the option of a having a heavily modified version of Captain Falcon as he is in Smash 4, but also have the option of him to use the sword that’s seen in his down taunt.

Especially if future Smash games include less new characters than Smash 4, this could maintain a level of freshness to the game without necessarily having to add entirely new characters.

 

Custom Specials and Custom Move-sets in Smash’s Future

Smash 4 took a step in the right direction for custom specials. It under-delivered on many, but there’s plenty of potential for what custom specials can bring to the table in future Smash games. Smash 4 legitimized the idea of custom moves in the series. All that’s needed is for future games to expand and improve upon the idea.

Do you agree or disagree with custom moves? Do you think custom specials and/or custom move-sets should be in future Smash games? As always, feel free to join the conversation and let us know!


 

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Smash 4: Improving Shulk

Smash 4 is an incredibly balanced game, especially in comparison to previous entries in the series. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any room for improvement. Throughout the first eighteen months of the game’s life, Smash 4 saw numerous balance patches that buffed and nerfed various characters. However, these balance patches stagnated shortly after the release of Bayonetta. This has slowed down the conversations about balancing the roster to some extent. The rumors regarding a Nintendo Switch port of Smash 4 have been circulating for quite some time. Most people can agree that it’s fun to imagine and speculate on what an enhanced port can offer. Among the many things that are fun to speculate on include balance readjustments. I’d like to talk about what a balance readjustment would look like for Shulk.

Shulk is a mechanically unique character thanks to his Monado arts. How players use Shulk’s Monado arts is part of what makes him such an entertaining character to watch in competitive play. It’s simply exciting to see how players use certain Monado arts in certain situations. This mechanic gives Shulk’s play style an identity of its own. It is also one of few areas of Shulk’s move set that doesn’t need to be adjusted. The amount of time allowed for each Monado art in addition to their advantages and disadvantages feel perfect as they are now. With that out of the way, let’s talk more about what needs to (or doesn’t need to) be changed for Shulk’s move set.

Shulk Shouldn’t Hold the Monado

One of the most common suggestions that I’ve heard on how to improve Shulk is to make him actually wield the Monado when fighting, instead of having it holstered on his back. While I see and understand that perspective, especially when considering every other sword-user in the game wields their sword, I think it’s integral to Shulk’s design that he keeps the Monado holstered.

The game Shulk derives from, Xenoblade Chronicles, is one primarily focused on wonder and exploration. Combat is a supplement to the game’s emphasis on exploration. Most of the time in Xenoblade, the player is looking at Shulk (or other characters) running across the world with their weapons holstered. With this in mind, I think it only makes sense for Shulk to keep his weapon holstered. It represents both the game he comes from and who he is as a character. Design-wise, it’s only fitting.

I understand that most people want Shulk to wield the Monado since that would inherently make his attacks come out faster, thus giving him better frame data. However, I trust that Shulk having his weapon holstered was incorporated into his design in order to properly represent Shulk’s original game. Because of that, I feel that we shouldn’t consider Shulk holding the Monado when thinking about improving his move set, particularly with his frame data. Instead, I think a more optimal solution should be to improve the speed at which Shulk pulls the Monado off of his back.

Jab and Tilts

With his stance out of the way, let’s talk in more detail about Shulk’s actual move set. In terms of his options on the ground, Shulk is quite middle of the road. He has a frame-5 jab, which isn’t the best in the game, but far from the worst. The move itself does a decent twelve percent of damage. As far as jabs go, Shulk’s is serviceable as is, and I don’t feel it needs any particular improvement from how it is now.

Shulk’s tilts, on the other hand, need some refinement in regards to their frame data. Shulk’s fastest tilt is his down tilt, which has its hitbox active on frame 10 and 11. The down tilt itself is great for comboing into aerials, so I feel that this tilt is the only one of the three that can be left alone.

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Moves like Shulk’s forward tilt don’t need much revision, but still need a little bit of improvement. Image: YouTube

Shulk’s forward tilt has an active hitbox on frame 12 and 13 and deals a solid 13.5 percent of damage and a rather meager knockback. I would prefer this forward tilt to come out at the same speed as Shulk’s down tilt. The forward tilt could go out as fast as frame 9 or 10, with the damage output being lowered to 11-12 percent of damage. This would help make forward tilt safer and thus more reliable as an option. As is, Shulk’s forward tilt feels a bit stronger than necessary. Aesthetically, it appears to be an attack that should come out quicker than it actually does.

Lastly, Shulk’s up tilt currently has its hitbox active on frame 11 and 12. It deals the least amount of damage of all the tilts at 8.5 percent, but deals the greatest amount of knockback. Aside from possibly making the move come out a frame or two faster, I think this up tilt needs to cover a slightly wider area to be more effective at intimidating opponents.

Dash Attack and Smash Attacks

Shulk’s dash attack suffers from having quite a bit of ending lag, making it far from optimal to use in most situations. To make this attack has an active hitbox on frame 15 and 16. While this dash attack has been buffed before, I think it still needs a bit of improvement. Similar to Shulk’s foward tilt, I would gladly take the active hitbox to come out sooner, by about 4 or 5 frames ideally, and a reduction to ending lag, in exchange for a reduction in a two or even three percent reduction in percent damage. Dash attacks across Smash 4’s roster are best when they’re quick and effective at setting up additional moves, neither of which can be currently be accomplished with Shulk’s dash attack.

In regards to Smash attacks, I don’t feel like there’s too much to change. Shulk’s Up-Smash and Forward-Smash are a bit slow but are very strong to compensate. The only Smash attack with Shulk that I feel needs some revision is his Down-Smash. The damage and knockback are fair from this attack, but it’s far too slow to consistently rely on. Additionally, it has some brutal end lag after the attack has finished that goes on far longer than it needs to. This is one of the few instances in Shulk’s move set that I think the attack should only be tweaked through giving it quicker active frames and a reduction on end lag, with nothing in exchange for it.

Aerials

Shulk is surprisingly very good in the air thanks to his effective aerials. Currently, his neutral air and forward air are his two best aerials. For his forward air, I think the move needs to be sped up a few frames. Ideally, I think this move would be optimal for having an active hitbox on frame 11 or 12. As for damage and knockback, I don’t feel that anything needs to be changed.

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Shulk’s neutral air is great, but what if it could be jump-cancelled to allow for more options? Image: YouTube

I feel that his neutral air comes out fast enough, given that the move’s hitbox stays active until frame 30. However, I feel that it needs one significant revision. Shulk’s neutral air is an effective attack, and great for spacing, however, the animation goes on for 30 frames, with no way to cancel out of it. Shulk’s neutral air would allow for a great variety of options if it allowed the player to jump-cancel the attack. I’ve had many instances, especially when in using the Jump Monado art, where the I have downward momentum, but I’m in the middle of the neutral air animation, and can’t end it. This has caused me to fall to my death numerous times. Moreover, I think it would help improve Shulk’s ability to space opponents and give him more effective approaching and movement options, something that he’s in need of.

To prevent this move from being overpowered if it were to allow a jump-cancel, I would suggest, once again, lowering the overall percent damage dealt from neutral air. In regards to Shulk’s back air, I think it’s another move the only needs to have a quicker active hitbox. Ideally, I would like to see it have its active hitbox on frame 16. This way, it stays strong but is still the slowest aerial option for Shulk.

Up air and down air are both good in terms of frame data and damage output. My only suggestion would be considering if the hitbox can be wider. As is, the hitbox for both up and down air are quite narrow. Outside of making the attack a little bit wider, I don’t feel that these attacks need to be touched very much.

Specials and throws

As far as suggesting changes for Shulk’s special moves, I’m pretty run of the mill. The only specials worth considering changing are Shulk’s up special and side special. Air Slash, his up special, is a good move, but it doesn’t grab onto the ledge like most up specials in the game. This adds an unnecessary layer of riskiness to Shulk’s recovery. Other than making the move grab onto ledges normally, I don’t think Air Slash needs any revision.

 

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Back Slash is one of many of Shulk’s moves that needs slightly better frame data. Image: Nintendo

Shulk’s side-special, Back Slash, is one of the greatest moves in Shulk’s kit in regards to making mix-ups and reads against other players. But its poor frame data holds it back a bit too much. Currently, the active hitbox comes out at frame 22. While Back Slash’s frame data has been improved since launch, I still feel that it needs a bit more improvement. Optimally, I think the move would be great at frame 18, retaining its current knockback and damage power.

 

Lastly, I think Shulk’s throws are fine for the most part. His most effective throws are back throw, for comboing into aerials, and down throw, which can be a kill throw when in the Smash Monado art. I would only suggest revising Shulk’s forward throw’s angle, to be more conducive to following up into an aerial. Other than that, I think Shulk’s grabs are fine as is.

Closing Thoughts

I’m of the mindset that games can be balanced through how you distribute options to characters. Weaker characters in Smash 4 simply have less options at any given moment than, say, top-tier characters do. Improving Shulk’s frame data and possibly giving him a jump-cancel out of his neutral air could give him greater options that could result in more players picking him up. So many people talk about the “potential” of Shulk being one of the best characters in Smash 4, but his frame data has always held him back from many players being able to reach his potential. Hopefully, these revisions could help make that potential more reachable for Shulk players.

But what do you think? When it comes to balancing characters, hearing other perspectives is always important. Do you disagree or agree with the revisions I’ve suggested? Join the conversation and let us know!


 

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A hypothetical Switch port of Smash 4: Character balance

When the Nintendo Switch was announced in October of last year, many anticipated the announcement of a port Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. After all, in the Switch’s teaser trailer, we saw what eventually became Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Imagining a port for Smash 4 didn’t feel out of the question. Over a year later, we still have no confirmation on whether or not a Switch port of Smash 4 will come to fruition.

While we’re in the limbo of waiting for a Smash-related announcement, whether it’s a Smash 4 port or an eventual Smash 5, we might as well take this time to talk about how the foundations of Smash 4 could be improved. For now, I want to imagine what Smash 4’s balance could evolve if it were ported to the Switch. I will primarily look at Smash 4’s balance regarding its roster of characters.

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In the Switch’s reveal trailer, many thought this part of the trailer would reveal Smash 4. Image: Nintendo

I think every corner of the Smash community can agree that Smash 4 has the best balance in the series. Smash 64 and Melee only see a select portion of the roster prevalent in competitive play. These games don’t have awful balance, but it’s clear that high-level players can only seriously compete by using certain characters. Brawl’s balance was notoriously bad, with Meta Knight being played in most competitive matches. This poor balance led to Brawl being modded so much. Smash 4 is considered to be the most balanced game in the series. The variety of characters that are played in tournaments, big or small, reflect this. So how exactly can Smash 4’s balance be improved from where it is now?

Resuming Balance Updates

As balanced as I think Smash 4 is, it obviously hasn’t always been that way. When Smash 4 was first released, there were many characters and certain combos that were unfairly good. Diddy Kong’s infamous down-throw into up-air “hoo-hah” combo comes to mind This combo was relatively easy to pull off and killed fairly early, making many people frustrated with Diddy Kong as a character. Nevertheless, Diddy Kong was picked up by many high-level players due to the ease of getting KOs. This made Diddy Kong quite a prevalent character in tournaments in the early months of Smash 4’s life. There were other balance issues that were quickly fixed, such as Fox’s jab-lock and Bowser’s down special that could easily break shields, among many other fixes.

As time went on, things such percent damage, shield damage, throw angles and more were tweaked through balance patches/updates. To me, each patch throughout Smash 4’s life has been an exciting event. Looking at all the changes made to the game, and seeing how the competitive community adapts is interesting. Moreover, the frequent patches made competitive players more engaged with the game. The patches also encouraged certain characters to become played more. Marth is a great example of a character that has benefited from patches. He was arguably mediocre at launch, but thanks to the buffs he has received through patches, he is now considered by many to be either high-tier or top-tier.

In a hypothetical Nintendo Switch port of Smash 4, I would like to see balance patches return. The last significant patch to the game was released shortly after Bayonetta was released, over 18 months ago. This port of Smash 4 could recapture the excitement of seeing characters get buffed or nerfed and seeing the competitive community adapt to all the changes made.

Empowering the weaker characters

Okay, so we will continue having patches, but what will those patches change? Many would like stronger characters such as Bayonetta and Cloud to get nerfed in addition to having weaker characters such as Jigglypuff and Zelda to get significantly buffed. Ideally, I think it’d be best to see both of these happen to some extent. However, I would give more focus on buffing characters that are considered bottom, low and middle-tier.

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Should balance patches focus on making non-top-tier characters better? Duck Hunt and Mega Man are just two characters that can be made better. Image: Nintendo Life

The thing about Smash 4’s roster is that no character is fundamentally flawed. Almost every character’s moveset is unique, entertaining to play as and can be played well given enough practice. The only things about the lower-tier characters that need to be improved are the likes of what we have seen previous patches do. These include improving frame data, the strength of moves and even movement speed. I’m convinced Jigglypuff can be a great character in Smash 4 if her damage and knockback output was increased on all of her moves. In Smash 4, she ultimately plays quite similarly to her high-tier Melee counterpart. Smash 4’s iteration of Jigglypuff just needs a lot more oomph. Making her Rest nearly as powerful as, say, Little Mac’s KO Punch would be a proper start.

There are many mid-tier characters in Smash 4 that I’m convinced are quite good in the right hands. Link, Duck Hunt and Pac-Man are three characters that I really admire watching. Their focus on resource management makes them unique to play and watch. It’s a joy to see these characters played in tournament, and I’d love to see them become more common in high-level play. A way to do this, of course, is improving parts of their movesets here and there.

Other characters like Shulk, Luigi, Ike, Lucario and so many others are all fun to play and watch. I don’t feel that any character needs to be entirely reworked. We just need to keep seeing small improvements to these characters’ frame data, damage output and knockback output.

Moving forward

While I share some of the irritation of seeing certain characters more often in high-level play (Bayonetta, Cloud, Rosalina, etc.), I don’t feel like the solution is to make those characters much worse. What I love so much about Smash 4 is the diversity that we see in competitive play. Buffing non-top tier characters will encourage players to pick up characters that may not have played before. If more characters improve through balance patches, the competitive scene can become significantly more diverse than it is now.

And who benefits from more diversity in competitive play? We all do. For players, they get more experience with different kinds of character matchups. For viewers, the inclusion of more characters being played at tournaments makes every match feel different to watch. Seeing a greater variety of matchups is entertaining to viewers. Improving the weaker characters in the roster will only make the variety of characters that we see in tournaments become greater.

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A more balanced roster leads to more character diversity. More diverse matches make watching and playing the game more interesting and varied. Image: VGBootcamp

This isn’t to say that there will still be some characters that are played more than others. I’m not sure that it’s possible for a game to be perfectly balanced and have every character be equally good. With a character roster as large as Smash 4’s, I don’t think anyone can expect that. What I would like to see in regards to the roster’s balance is for the floor to be raised; I would like to see Smash 4 balanced to the point that no character can be considered “bad” or “not usable if you want to actually win a tournament”. Smash 4 as it is is close to that, but there are still many improvements that still need to be made.

Improvements to the game’s balance are one of the biggest reasons why I would love to see Smash 4 get ported to the Nintendo Switch. Of course, there are many other reasons to want a Smash 4 port, which I plan on delving into in the coming weeks.

For the game’s balance, do you agree or disagree? What characters would you like to see get rebalanced, and how so? Join the conversation and let us know!


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The free DLC model: The future of competitive games

This past weekend, Blizzard unveiled Overwatch’s next hero: Moira. Blizzard confirmed that this new support hero will be releasing soon.

Moira will be one of the multiple new heroes that have been added into Overwatch since launch. Even though the game released almost 18 months ago, Blizzard still keeps the game fresh by continually delivering free updates and downloadable content (DLC). The DLC offerings for Overwatch mainly add new characters and stages. However, the more significant DLC releases that add new characters are spaced out between each other. Beyond keeping the game feel fresh, the addition of new DLC characters requires players to reassess how they play the game. Thus, the addition of new characters via free DLC keeps players on their toes. They also encourage players to learn new characters and/or how to play against them.

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Street Fighter V uses the free update and DLC model to much success. Menat is one of many characters that have been added post-launch. Image: Shoryuken.

This approach to DLC isn’t exclusive to Overwatch. The practice of free DLC over time has been done with other games, such as the likes of Splatoon and Splatoon 2, ARMS, and Street Fighter V. All of these games use free DLC character and stage releases over time as a means of keeping players coming back to the game. If a Street Fighter V player dropped the game, they may want to come back when they hear about a new character being added.

All of these games have received ranging extents of praise for using the free update model. While the model concerns some, others find it to be a positive thing. I ultimately think that the free update model is great for competitive games. Could we see more games adopt this approach to releasing additional content? Let’s talk about it.

The Worries caused by weak launches

I think the greatest concern of the free update model is that it may serve as an excuse for weak launches. The launch of Street Fighter V is likely the best example of this. The game featured only 16 characters, with few modes available outside of standard matches. Many believe that Capcom was only able to get away with releasing a $60 game with such a little amount of content because they promised to add free updates and DLC throughout the game’s life. Almost two years after release, Street Fighter V has received various new characters, stages, and modes. Many believe the updates to the game have made Street Fighter V finally be worth its $60 price tag.

I don’t think anyone will disagree that Street Fighter V is one of the worst launches for a competitive fighting game. Moreover, I understand why the game’s approach to free updates and DLC has worried many people. The thing about Street Fighter V is that it sets a dangerous precedent – a precedent that developers can quickly release a game and develop it afterward.

ARMS is another example of this, though to a lesser extent. The game launched in June with ten characters, and has added two additional characters as of writing. However, ARMS and Street Fighter V are quite different cases. The issue people had with ARMS was a lack of additional modes, making the gameplay start to feel stale to some. Street Fighter V, unlike ARMS, has previous iterations to work off of. The exclusion of additional modes and lack of character roster at launch made Street Fighter V feel like a product of laziness. Most people in opposition to the free update and DLC model voice don’t want launches of competitive games to feel lazy.

While the model possibly allowing developers to offer mediocre experiences at launch is an understandable concern, I think the pros of the model certainly outweigh the cons.

Why the free DLC model works

While there are some concerning factors, I feel that the free update and DLC model is beneficial for competitive gaming. With the case of Moira being added into Overwatch, the greater community of the game will be reignited, in a sense. Tons of, if not, all players will be trying out Moira, and learning how to properly use her and how to play against her. It preserves the experience of playing the game for the first time. The first time anyone plays a game, a lot of the fun and competitive nature comes from learning about the nuances of each character. In the case of Overwatch, learning the game comes with learning how to play as each hero, and learning which heroes are best for countering the other team’s heroes. Having a new character added to the roster shakes up how one approaches how they play the game.

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When Ana got added into Overwatch, it certainly reinvigorated and strengthened the game’s community. Image: PlayOverwatch

In addition, the new content gives the community something to talk about. This naturally causes more and more people to hear about the game and can go on to pull in new players and viewers. The new content being added for free is a key part of this. If Overwatch’s new characters were paid DLC, I think the response we would see from the game’s community wouldn’t be as bombastic. I have no doubt that people would still be excited, but part of paid DLC is that it splits the userbase. Making new characters and other content free to download keeps the community – competitive or otherwise – from becoming segmented.

If the player base isn’t segmented, then neither will the viewer base. Free updates and DLC are great in that they keep the game as all-inclusive as possible. No player or viewer gets prohibited from playing or watching a certain character because of a paywall for a certain character or mode. In addition, it keeps things exciting for the casual esports viewer as well. New characters or modes can go on to make an indifferent viewer into an invested one. New content keeps things interesting not only for the players, but for viewers as well.

The future of free dlc and updates

Free DLC and updates are part of what makes esports so fascinating and entertaining. Unlike traditional sports, esports can constantly throw in new components to existing games which can make the community for that game become even larger. These additions can create a greater player base and viewer base.

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For years competitive games, including Smash 4, have used paid DLC. Could this model be on its way out? Image: Gematsu

I don’t think this model will be going anywhere soon. The games that have employed this model of free updates have only benefited from the model. The metagames for Overwatch, Street Fighter V, and even ARMS have only become more complex and entertaining for players and viewers thanks to the addition of new, free content. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this model become incorporated into more and more competitive games throughout the next few years. The games that have used the free DLC and update model have all flourished because of it. Therefore, it isn’t difficult to see future games wanting to do the same.

Agree or disagree about the future of free DLC and updates? Feel free to join in on the conversation. We’d love to hear your thoughts!


 

Featured image courtesy of Polygon.

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esports

Why games shouldn’t intend to become esports

Video games are things of beauty. They are capable of being anything that developers wish. The last few years have shown that developers continue to show interest in creating games that allow for competitive play. New games feature competitive play, such as games like Rocket League and Overwatch. However, they approach competitive play so that it is an option for players, rather than a necessity. From the perspective of a game developer, it makes perfect sense as to why games should be able to be enjoyed either casually or competitively. The mixture of a community of casual players and a community of competitive players ultimately means that more people can enjoy the game they create. However, there is a trend that concerns me. This trend is when games are developed in a way that specifically caters to competitive play. This often correlates with these games being intended to become esports.

I feel that it is important to talk about this issue. As esports become more popular, we see more and more developers trying to capitalize on the culture and communities of competitive gaming. I think this is particularly worrisome. Let’s talk about why.

Why casual players matter

As popular as esports are becoming, I think a lot of people forget that most people that play games do so casually. This includes game developers. The launch of Street Fighter V on PS4 and PC in early 2016 is a great example of this. Upon the game’s release, Street Fighter V’s launch was critically critiqued for lacking features such as a story mode or arcade mode. These were features that were present in previous entries, but were absent in the main series’ fifth installment. The only available modes in the game at launch were intended to be more for competitive players. This only alienated the casual fan-base of Street Fighter V.

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Pokken Tournament outsold Street Fighter V for physical copies. Pokken appealed to both casual and competitive players, while SF V did not. Image: GameSpot

A month later, Pokken Tournament released exclusively on the Wii U, a platform that was far less popular than the PS4 or PC. Yet, the game actually sold more physical copies in the United States than Street Fighter V did. I think a big reason why Pokken Tournament had a more successful launch in the U.S was its accessibility. Unlike Street Fighter V, Pokken Tournament features a story mode, and alternate modes that allow stat-boosting items to appear in battle. The addition of more casual modes and features makes Pokken Tournament feel more welcoming to the casual player.

Street Fighter V was intended to capitalize on the prevalence of competitive players and esports to popularize the game. But this focus on making the game an esport created a lack of features that casual players enjoy. Thus, the intention of making the game an esport backfired by alienating casual players, lowering overall sales (and reviews) of the game. Meanwhile, Pokken Tournament naturally became an esport, if a smaller one than Street Fighter V, thanks to the community the game created.

Developers’ Intentions and the “forcing” of esports

esports

Jethro Tull did an over-the-top esports commentary when The Darwin Project was unveiled at E3 2017. Image: IGN

These two games serve as an example of why I think developers should not create their games for only competitive players in mind. It is best for developers to make games accessible to both casual and competitive players. This makes the community created from that game become both greater and more diverse. Additionally, games that are esports that offer more casual styles of play allow for more people to get into the game.

Something that perhaps sparked this concern of mine was this year’s Microsoft E3 Press Conference. This event featured the announcement of a game called The Darwin Project. After the game’s initial trailer, a speaker came on stage and commentated gameplay. This commentary was clearly replicating that of esports commentary. Was it cringey? Absolutely. But it was also quite concerning.

We’ve reached a point where game announcements are trying to tell audiences that developers want the announced game to become an esport. Is this really fair to games that have become esports through naturally creating communities? Should game developers immediately target fans of other esports to promote their own games?

I think it’s a truly dangerous path to take. The bests esports communities are the ones that were created from many people sharing a passion for competitively playing a game. Marketing competitive games in a way that assumes that it will become an esport is a disservice to the many games that earned their ability to become an esport. I think it is somewhat irresponsible for developers to assume that games will become esports if they’re marketed in a certain way.

continuing the conversation

The importance of having a casual community of any game is enough reason to not want games to be intended to become esports. The growing trend of games being marketed as “esport material” is harmful to the many games that have earned their reputation as esports.

But I realize that there are many sides of this conversation, which is why I think it’s important to get other voices in on the discussion. We’d love to hear what you have to say about this topic.

 

Featured I\image from Scavenger Studios.

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sequels

Sequels to esports: good or bad?

sequels

Despite Ultra Street Fighter II releasing earlier this year, Street Fighter V’s competitive community is what gets the most attention right now. Image: Nintendo Enthusiast

Traditional sports are simple. They may change a bit and get new rules every now and then, but they’re never in fear of being replaced. There will never be a “Baseball 2” that replaces the current baseball community. However, esports exist in a different bubble in this regard. Unlike traditional sports, we constantly see new esports replace older ones through the likes of sequels. Unlike sports themselves, video games often get sequels that improve upon the mechanics established in previous games. The fighting game genre is brimming with examples of sequels essentially replacing the competitive communities of previous games.

You’d have a difficult time finding mainstream coverage or a large competitive following for Street Fighter II (SF II) in 2017, since Street Fighter V (SF V)’s competitive community currently gets more attention Street Fighter II, being the newer game. But does that make SF II irrelevant and unimportant in esports history? To put the question in perspective, if Blizzard released Overwatch 2 in a few years, would the current competitive community of Overwatch stay dedicated to the original game, or abandon it and move over to the sequel? If people did move over to the sequel, would the original Overwatch’s legacy stay intact, or would it just be considered irrelevant?

Can a sequel to a game that’s an esport essentially make the previous game’s legacy as an esport irrelevant? Let’s explore this idea, particularly looking at the overall fighting game community as an example.

Sequelitis

The example of Street Fighter V now having replaced Street Fighter II’s competitive community is perhaps more common than many people realize. The entire fighting game genre is full of great examples of sequels replacing previous entries in respective series. Let’s take the Tekken series as an example. Ever since the original game, Tekken has always been a series that encouraged improvement and rewarded high-level play. Each game attempted to improve and evolve the fighting mechanics of the series. Each installment of Tekken incorporated advancements in gameplay. These improvements provide a greater, more competitive experience for both the casual player and competitive community.

sequels

Tekken 7, the newest game in the series, was featured at EVO this year. Image: USA Today

Now, we see the latest installment in the series, Tekken 7, played at tournaments. The game appeared earlier this year at EVO 2017 and will be at EVO Japan in January 2018. This is great for Tekken 7 as a game on its own, but concerning when looking at the Tekken series as a whole. Although Tekken 7 is played at such large events, none of the previous games in the series are played at the event, despite previous Tekken games garnering competitive communities of their own. Are those communities just…gone? Are they irrelevant just because the series continued to get sequels?

At large fighting game events such as EVO, we rarely see older games being represented. On one hand, we can look at these events from a business perspective. Many of these events are made possible through sponsorships. For many companies like Capcom, Nintendo and Bandai Namco, it makes more business sense to sponsor an event that is featuring a newer game being played. This makes more business sense since it can convince viewers to buy the game being played at the event. This is easier to achieve if the game being played is recently released and/or on a system that is currently available on the market.

On the other hand, older games get the short end of the stick. If older competitive games get replaced by newer competitive games, is the older game still viable for competitive play?

The Exception to the Rule

Only one game immediately comes to mind when thinking about an older competitive game that has lasted throughout the years, despite multiple sequels coming out. To say that Super Smash Bros. Melee has a dedicated following would be a gross understatement. Despite the game having been released in 2001 and followed by sequels, Melee is still played in many competitive events such as EVO to this day. Why is this? What makes Melee different from, say, Tekken 4?

The biggest reason of Melee’s survival throughout the years is, simply put, its community. Melee is so different from any other Smash game, with its specific physics and exploits making it feel completely different from other entries in the series. Brawl (and all the mods that came out of it) and Smash 4 have released and garnered their own competitive communities. Despite this, Melee’s community has still remained loyal. If anything, Melee’s competitive community has only become more prominent throughout the years thanks to the game being consistently played at EVO every year.

sequels

16 years after being released, and Melee still gets featured at events like EVO. Image: YouTube

Melee still managed to attain its loyal community despite sequels having come out. Despite Melee staying alive, the original Smash Bros., Project M (the most prominent mod of Brawl) and Smash 4 still have sizable communities in their own right. All games in the series have competitive communities that coexist with one another.

Super Smash Bros. isn’t the only series that sees its competitive communities coexisting alongside each other. However, I find it to be a great example of how multiple esports within the same series can be represented. There are still communities for older competitive games. But we don’t see those older communities represented at large events. At least, not very often. This can change if we start seeing events feature older games. Then, we could begin to see competitive communities of older games get more coverage and gain more appreciation.

Are Sequels good for esports?

In general, I think video game sequels are great. They provide opportunities to improve upon mechanics that were established in previous games. Even if games happen to become an esport, I think any game can be potentially be improved upon through a sequel.

In regards to sequels potentially replacing the competitive community of the original game, that’s where things get tricky. I think it’s valid for people to worry that competitive communities for certain games may become barren if a sequel comes out for that game. But I think we need to think of ways to highlight and represent older games at larger events, to appreciate how that game gathered a competitive community of its own.

Sequels to esports have both good and bad aspects to them. However, I think giving attention to both newer and older competitive communities is what’s truly important in this discussion. Ultimately, though, I would say that sequels are good for esports. Sequels to esports ultimately give us more esports to watch and engage with. While I do think that there are negative aspects as to what sequels can do to competitive communities, esports simply wouldn’t grow without them.

A good number of the esports out there are sequels. Clearly, sequels are important for esports. But I just want to make sure that we never forget where those sequels came from. We can’t forget about the legacies of older competitive games. Sequels let us both remember the legacies of older games, in addition to creating a new legacy in and of themselves.


 

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A closer look at Smash 4’s rage mechanic

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is turning three years old in a few weeks, and a lot has happened in that time. Competitively viable stages have been debated and changed over the years. Multiple tier lists have been made by many players. The game has been played at many national and international tournaments. Updates to the game helped further balance the game, making certain characters become significantly more common in competitive play over time. New characters and stages have been released via DLC. All of these are just some of the changes and developments that have been happening to Smash 4 in its less than three years of existence.

However, there are a few aspects of the game that haven’t changed that are unique to Smash 4. One of the most controversial additions to Smash 4 when it first came out was the rage mechanic. This feature makes it so that players at higher percents can output greater knockback and damage to other players. This was done in order to balance the game so that players that had a percent disadvantage could stand a better chance at getting KOs in casual play.

Smash

Every character in Smash 4 has a bit of Lucario in them – Rage makes them stronger the more percent they have. Image: Amino Apps

However, many individuals in the competitive Smash Bros. community continue to voice many criticisms for this mechanic over the course of the game’s life. Many want rage to be an option that players could toggle off. Here, I will take a look at the arguments for and against the rage mechanic, and judge whether or not the criticisms of the game’s mechanic are worth it. Let’s see if the rage mechanic is truly a good gameplay element of Smash 4.

The Unfair Advantages of Rage

The most common critique of the rage mechanic is how it benefits certain characters more than others. Specifically, the characters that benefit the most from rage are the heavier characters in the roster. Characters such as Ganondorf, Donkey Kong, Bowser, King Dedede and Ike are more likely to accumulate more damage over time due to them receiving less knockback from most attacks due to their weight. Since rage caps at 150 percent, these characters often reach or get near the maximum amount of rage at least once in most matches they are in.

Smash

Heavier characters benefit the most from rage. Image: Prima Games.

And since many of the heavy characters in Smash 4 follow the “heavy, but hits hard” trope that we see in just about every fighting game, being at full rage turns a strong character into an incredibly strong character. What’s more, these heavy characters receive the benefits of rage for far longer than other characters do, due to their weight making them not have as much knockback.

This causes what many believe is an unfair advantage for the heavy characters in the roster. Lighter characters in the roster such as Jigglypuff, Kirby, Mr. Game & Watch and Mewtwo don’t benefit from rage nearly as much as heavier characters do. Due to their lighter weight, they receive greater knockback. This makes them often get KO’d at lower percents compared to heavier characters in the roster. Because of this, many people in the Smash Bros. community think that the rage mechanic subtly encourages the use of heavier characters over lighter characters. With the exception of Mewtwo, most light characters in the game are often lower on the third edition of the official Smash 4 tier list, which you can look at here.

In addition to encouraging the use of heavy characters, a common argument against the rage mechanic is that it encourages a certain playstyle from players. Many argue that the rage mechanic encourages players to allow themselves to get to higher percents for the sake of being able to output more knockback and damage towards other players. Many feel that this playstyle makes Smash 4 feel less skill-based than, say, Melee. By making those at higher percents deal greater knockback and damage, many players feel that they have to take damage in order to make certain setups and combos possible. This understandably makes many players frustrated with the mechanic being in the game.

So why is rage in the game at all?

I think it’s easy for many people in the esports and competitive Smash Bros. community to forget that Smash Bros. is, in many ways, a fluke. The only reason as to why Smash 4 became an esport instantly was because of the previous games (and the many mods of Brawl) being played as esports. Even then, Melee – arguably the reason any Smash Bros. became an esport in the first place – developed high-level play thanks to the exploit of the discovered glitch of “wavedashing”.

Many describe Melee as Nintendo’s “perfect accident”, which I feel is appropriate. I think many people forget that what makes Smash Bros. so great as a series is its appeal to multiple demographics. Sure, it’s played at a high, competitive level and played at high-stakes esports events, but it’s also played casually by many people. Masahiro Sakurai, the director of every Smash Bros. game, has made it clear that he doesn’t make these games with competitive play in mind. These games are developed to appeal to coach multiplayer, friends getting together and having 4-8 player battles, with some items turned on. Appealing to the competitive community was never a priority for these games.

In the context of casual, 4-8 player matches, I honestly understand and appreciate the implementation of the rage mechanic. Casually, it’s a magnificent way of having less skilled players, or players that are at a disadvantage, still have a chance to defend themselves, since many players naturally try to KO the player at the highest percent. In the context of a match with multiple players, rage honestly makes sense.

However, the majority of competitive Smash Bros. is 1v1 matches. This makes the rage mechanic feel unnecessary, for lack of a better term. In the context of a match that only has two players, having the player with the higher percentage gives them an advantage over the player with less percent. Simple as that. If the player that has a higher percent KOs the other player, first player still has the high percent. This allows them to continue using their rage on the player’s next stock. Turning the disadvantage of being a higher percent into an advantage in itself.

rage and the future of smash

Despite all of the critiques placed against rage that I’ve mentioned here, I don’t actually dislike rage all that much. Although I totally understand why many players hate the mechanic, I think it helps make certain matches exciting that wouldn’t be otherwise. I think, from the perspective of a viewer of a competitive event, rage makes matches a bit more entertaining to watch. It’s never exactly clear who is in the lead when rage is a factor. If Player 1 is on their last stock and at a high percent and Player 2 is at medium percent on their first stock, there’s still a definite possibility that Player 1 could win the match thanks to rage.

Another component of rage that I personally like is that it makes players have to strategize in the middle of matches. As stated above, rage causes certain combos and setups to only work at certain percents. This, I feel makes matches more dynamic for both players and viewers. It’s simply exciting to see certain combos that are only possible at specific percents. On the other side of that same coin, though, there are still instances of combos possible by rage that many consider to be cheap. Donkey Kong’s “ding-dong” combo is the prominent example of this.

Is rage infuriating for some players? Absolutely. But it’s also entertaining for viewers.

This begs some questions, though: Should rage be in future installments of the series? Is rage good for the core gameplay of the series? These are questions that are clearly difficult to answer. With so much split opinions on rage in the Smash Bros. community, there will definitely be a variety of answers to these questions.

Smash

Does the future of competitive Smash have Rage in it? Image: YouTube

My two possible solutions would be to either reduce the overall effect of rage, but still keeping it as a core mechanic, or making it a setting for players to toggle on or off. I think rage is too versatile of a game mechanic to omit entirely in future installments. Conceptually, it’s a good idea for a fighting game. I just feel that it needs additional tweaks and customization to make it something that both competitive players and viewers can enjoy.

 

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Does ARMS deserve its spot at EVO Japan?

New intellectual properties (IPs) are the backbone of the video games industry. Without new IPs, we would only ever see the same franchises over and over again. This would only make gaming, competitive or otherwise, become stale and boring. Thankfully, over the last few years, new IPs are becoming very common in all corners of gaming. In 2015, Nintendo gave us Splatoon, a competitive shooter with a unique, territory-claiming mechanic. Last year’s Overwatch is probably one of the best new IPs in the last decade. I say this for the community Overwatch has gathered in the year and a half that it has been out. In addition, the game is widely played both casually and competitively. This has helped make Overwatch an esport over time. 2017 has continued the trend of delivering new IPs that can be played both competitively and casually in the shape of ARMS.

ARMS

The first-ever EVO Japan will be held on January 26-28, 2018. ARMS is one of the games that will be played at the event. Image: Shoryuken

ARMS is a Nintendo Switch exclusive that launched in June. Prior to the game’s release, many believed that the game would become an esport. This was because of the game’s premise – a 1v1 or 2v2 fighting game that could be played without intrusive items or stage hazards. The game had a diverse cast of characters, with the promise of more characters and stages being added for free, similar to how Street Fighter V and Overwatch approach adding new content to their respective games. It looked like the pieces were aligning. It looked like ARMS was capable of becoming Nintendo’s next esport.

When ARMS released in June of this year, it certainly made a splash. Though, perhaps not as large of a splash as many people were hoping. Nintendo’s recent financial report claimed that ARMS sold a total of 1.35 million units as of September 30, 2017. Given the circumstances of being a new IP, the game has sold modestly well. However, a lot of the game’s coverage by streamers and YouTubers dropped off shortly after the game launched.

Despite all of this, the game still has a competitive community. One that’s small, but constantly growing. So much so that it was confirmed this summer that the game will be featured at the first-ever EVO Japan this coming January. I would like to discuss the game’s inclusion at the event. Specifically, I want to discuss if the game truly deserves to be there.

What makes ARMS different?

ARMS is Nintendo’s first take at a traditional fighting game. Nintendo’s unique style and approach to game design definitely shows in the game. For those unfamiliar with the game, ARMS features fighters that use extendable arms in somewhat small arenas, some of which have unique gimmicks. The strategy of the game comes down to which ARMS the player wants to equip, in addition to which character to play. As is a staple of the fighting game genre, different characters have different abilities and advantages, making each feel unique from one another.

As is standard for the company, Nintendo made ARMS completely different from any other fighting game on the market. While most fighting games encourage players to get close to one another to deal damage, ARMS encourages the exact opposite. The player needs to position their character in a specific way to inflict damage. In addition, the player has to strategize how they use their ARMS. Players have to constantly think about their spacing from their opponent. They also need to think about the best ways to use each of their ARMS, and how to take advantage of the arena’s shape, size and mechanics.

Due to the game’s gimmick of extendable arms being the main mechanic, ARMS looks and plays unlike any other fighting game. However, this brings some advantages and disadvantages.

The consequences of being different

A critique on ARMS that I have heard from many streamers and content creators online concerns the game’s viewer appeal. People feel that the game is simply too boring to watch. It’s impossible to comment on a game’s watchability from an objective stance. How watchable something is to you depends on what kind of gameplay you think is interesting to watch. Many people who enjoy watching fighting games may not enjoy watching MOBAs, and so on.

ARMS

Aesthetically, ARMS looks quite different from your typical fighting game. Image: GameXplain

However, this critique tends to come from fans of other fighting games. Since ARMS is so different from other fighting games, it isn’t able to immediately draw in members of other fighting game communities very easily. Moreover, the game simply looks different compared to most competitive fighting games. Traditional fighting games like Street Fighter and Guilty Gear all have their characters face each other on 2D planes. Tekken offers 3D movement, but still has the camera set up in a way that we see two characters facing each other, making it look like a traditional fighting game. ARMS offers a behind-the-back camera angle, something that is very rare to see in multiplayer fighting games.

Lastly, the game is a new IP, which is always a roll of the dice in regards to creating a community. When Street Fighter V launched, the game instantly garnered a competitive community thanks to the previous entries’ already established competitive communities. ARMS doesn’t have that luxury. Since it’s so different and it’s the first game in its series, ARMS has to earn a competitive community. This is easier said than done. So how exactly can ARMS accomplish creating a community as large and diverse as, say, the Street Fighter V community?

The game is a perfect fit for evo japan

In order to give ARMS a chance at having a large competitive community, there needs to be a big step forward. Having the game be featured at a huge event like Evo Japan is that step forward. Evo Japan will highlight ARMS and the community it has gathered thus far. If the game’s presence at the event impresses viewers, the community could become exponentially larger. We could even have a new well-recognized esport on our hands. ARMS is in a unique make-or-break position with EVO Japan. How the game’s tournament goes and resonates with viewers will determine a lot of the game’s competitive future. This puts a lot of pressure onto the ARMS players that will be at the event, but perhaps that may give them more drive to make the game as entertaining to watch as possible.

ARMS’ inclusion at EVO Japan could make the game huge. Image: Nintendo

Does ARMS deserve to be at EVO Japan this year? If I were to answer that based on the game’s competitive community and status right now – no, I don’t think it does. However, the event provides a potential for the game to turn from a small-ish competitive community into a huge one. And being a fan of the game myself, I think this game deserves to take advantage of the potential that EVO Japan is providing. It’s an incredible opportunity for the community of ARMS to grow. Therefore, I think ARMS more than deserves to be at EVO Japan in Janurary.

However, this is just my opinion. What are your thoughts on ARMS’ inclusion at EVO Japan? Join the conversation and let us know!

 


 

Featured Image courtesy of Nintendo.

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EnvyUs and Misfits heavy Favorites to win Overwatch Contenders Season One

As the Overwatch League creeps closer, and before the preseason starts, the leagues worldwide, including the Contenders series, Korea’s Apex, and OPC in Taiwan will conclude. Five major event champions will be crowned in October, and a world champion will take the Apex crown.

Notably, another team will be crowned before the start of the preseaon giving teams and fans a taste of what’s to come in the Overwatch league. The events I will be focusing on in this piece will be the regional contender series: North America and Europe specifically. On October 8th, these regionals leagues will conclude their season and crown two champions.

Let’s take a look at the Contender playoffs

Overwatch Contenders Season One: North America

It’s clear who the favorites are in North America. EnvyUs had a perfect 7-0 record, going +21 in individual games, and only four game losses on the season. FaZe Clan is the only other team to even compete with EnvyUs, going 6-1 in the group with the only loss coming from EnvyUs.

Team EnvyUs. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/ogn

In the bottom two of the playoffs, Envision eSports and FNRGE will look to pull the upsets. Against EnvyUs, NRG was one of the few teams to take a game and give them any sort of trouble (EnvyUs finished 25-4 on the season). NRG played them tight on escort maps, but ultimately fell 3-1. In the other matchup, Faze has the season advantage over Envision with a 4-1 regular season win. The only game Envision won was a draw on Hanamura. Both EnvyUs and FaZe are heavily favored to reach the finals.

It’s likely that the two uber-talented North American rosters will play in the title game. EnvyUs is a well established team with a world title under their belt. Taimou, Harryhook, and most of the roster have the experience. FaZe doesn’t have quite the same level of experience, but in terms of talent they matchup well.

Unfortunately, FaZe doesn’t have the continuity on the roster that EnvyUs has. The additions of Spree, Joemeister, and especially the addition of South Korean DPS-main: Carpe show that it’s clear they’re much improved and should give EnvyUs all they can handle.

Overwatch Contenders Season One: Europe

Similarly to North America, Europe was dominated by one of the more established and experienced teams in Overwatch. Mistfits only dropped two games in the regular season and finished at a staggering 27-2 (+25, best of any contender team). The only other teams to compete were the talented up-and-coming Team Gigantti, out of Finland, and 123. The two teams will matchup in the semifinals and have a chance to face (presumably) Misfits in the title match.

TviQ and the Misfits squad. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/ogn

In terms of dominance, Misfits didn’t drop a single game to any of the playoff teams. And similarly to EnvyUs and Rogue, Misfits is one of the few foreign teams to get a chance to gain Apex experience. They still have one of the most talented DPS players, TviQ, and a strong roster to follow. It will take a great effort for any team to take out the top seeded Misfits in these playoffs.

Lastly, the second overall seed Gigantti will have the mismatches in the semifinals. After a 3-1 regular season victory over 123, they looked primed at another face-off with Misfits. The regular season matchup wasn’t close, though. A 4-0 with a number of convincing victories.

Whatever the case, it should be a good glimpse into which teams are primed to take the next step as we move closer to the start of the Overwatch League.


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Hungrybox wins GTX 2017 with clutch victory over Armada

The recipe for Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma’s success against Adam “Armada” Lindgren is to stay within striking distance. Aggressive on game one, gain counter-pick advantage and win game five on Yoshi’s. The win at GTX 2017 marks Hungrybox’s third Grand Finals victory over Armada this year.

GTX- 2017 main stage. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/vgbootcamp

Once again, Hungrybox adds another improbable championship run to his list of career achievements. In reality, it’s Hbox’s droid-like ability to stay calm in the frenzy that wins him tournaments. Over the years, he’s developed those late-game situations with rest setups and it’s what makes his Jigglypuff style so strong.

Correspondingly, Hungrybox has earned his title of most clutch player once again. Armada is a machine in today’s game, but even Armada is susceptible to nerves under pressure. Armada’s route to a championship is built on winning game one of a set. It allows him to get counter-pick advantage for a potential game five. At the same time, Hungrybox managed to get ahead in two separate sets with an aggressive game plan.

However, it wasn’t a blemish-free day for Hbox. Even with five set wins over Fox, Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman got the best of him in the winners bracket, but Hbox didn’t drop a set the rest of the day. It’s no surprise considering two of his opponents have pocket Foxs specifically for Hungrybox’s Jugglypuff.

Shroomed earns a spot on The Summit

Another key point, DaJuan “Shroomed” McDaniel earning the Summit spot, giving it to the highest placing non-invite player. Shroomed had to out-place Johnny “S2J” Kim and Sami “DruggedFox” Muhanna, who both started in losers bracket.

Luckily, Shroomed didn’t have to win a set in top eight to qualify. He fell quickly to Armada and Zac “SFAT” Cordoni, losing 3-0 in both sets. S2J almost pulled off the upset over SFAT, 3-2, but that’s the closest any non-invite got to Shroomed. Early in pools, William “Leffen” Hjelte fell to Lovage in a best of three. That loss reverberated through the bracket and Shroomed turned that into a Summit invite.

Mew2King Improving against Armada

M2K in top eight. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/vgbootcamp

M2K had arguably the second best day outside of Hungrybox. As M2K stated in a tweet, he was actually the only one to beat Hbox at GTX. A near win against Armada would’ve been his first in 2017, and only his third in the last three years.

Despite the numbers, M2K’s Marth had a better showing against Armada’s turnip strategy. He had both a game one advantage and a 2-1 lead, but couldn’t win on his counter-pick. Hungrybox has the mental advantage over Armada in those situations, M2K still struggles to win when the game is on the line.

Nonetheless, his pocket Fox pick against Hungrybox is starting to win at more than a .500 rate. In fact, M2K’s Fox seems to be having the most consistent success against the Puff lately. The problem for M2K has always been winning the second set, and Hungrybox has a more fluid game plan.

M2K is improving, but it’s still unlikely that he gets over the Armada mountain anytime soon. Joseph “Mango” Marquez and Hungrybox are still the only two players capable of beating Armada.

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