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Rethinking custom stages for future Smash games

custom stages

An unfortunate aspect of Smash 4, for competitive players at least, is the game’s stage selection. While both Melee and Brawl featured many competitively viable stages, the Wii U version of Smash 4 is lacking. In fact, many stages that were once tournament legal are now banned as is the case with stages like Duck Hunt. It’s not as meager as Smash 64’s competitive stage selection, but it’s certainly underwhelming from a game that features over 50 stages.

Whether the next Smash game is a port of Smash 4 or a new game altogether, it’s only natural for most competitive players to want a better selection of competitively viable stages to choose from. While it would be easy to talk about competitively viable stages from previous games that should come back, it would be a bit more interesting to discuss something not talked about as much: custom stages.

Custom stages made their debut in Brawl, and returned in the Wii U version of Smash 4. However, most people found both games’ implementation of a custom stage builder limiting and/or underwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be this way moving forward. What could a completely revamped stage editor accomplish in a future Smash game? Could it help create competitively viable stages that could complement existing official competitively viable stages? Could it even replace the need for Nintendo to make stages like Battlefield or Smashville? Let’s talk about it.

What should a new stage editor look like?

Brawl and Smash 4 both had very different kinds of stage editors. Brawl went for a grid-based interface, while Smash 4 allowed players to draw the stage itself on the Wii U GamePad. However, both games would only allow you to put a certain amount of content in a stage. And even then, the options provided were quite limited and didn’t leave room for too much creativity.

custom stages
Brawl’s grid-based approach to its stage editor could make competitive stages, but lacked variety in choices and options. Image: IGN

In theory, Smash 4’s stage editor seems nifty, but it wasn’t conducive to making high-quality stages. One needed quite a steady hand to draw stages that had completely flat platforms. Brawl’s grid-based stage editor was a bit of double-edged sword. On one hand, it could make more practical stages, but there were far too few types of blocks, platforms and so on to choose from.

Seeing a stage editor that combines Brawl’s grid-based design with Smash 4’s customization of platforms could be optimal for creating custom stages. If the next Smash game could feature a stage editor akin to 2015’s Super Mario Maker in terms of the amount of options available, then we could have custom stages be a larger part of the Smash community. If one could take a basic block or platform in a stage editor, place it on a grid layout, and then fully customize its size and shape, we could see custom stages that feel organic in addition to being able to host competitive matches.

Custom Stages could help compliment existing stages

custom stages
Smash 4’s stage editor was a step forward and a step back. Should Smash 4 and Brawl’s stage editors be fused together, or should something entirely new replace it? Image: My Nintendo News

Custom stages can help make countless amounts of competitively viable stages. That said, an in-depth stage editor shouldn’t be used as an excuse for Nintendo to not make some smaller and less complex stages. While having competitively viable custom stages that are accepted by the community would be awesome, it would be significantly less awesome if they monopolized competitive play. Ideally, I’d like to see a balance of official stages and custom stages be played in competitive play.

Custom stages could complement official stages by “filling gaps” in stage selection. For example, Smash 4’s competitive stages are mostly horizontal stages. Custom stages could “fill a gap” in the stage roster by introducing competitive stages that are more vertical. This could add more diversity into the stages that we see in competitive play.

At the same time, custom stages used on such a large scale would also encourage more community discussion and engagement. Deciding custom stages that can be used in competitive play could enrich the Smash community in a way that hasn’t really been achieved before.

Sharing, Sharing, Sharing

Of course, that can’t happen if stages can’t be easily accessible on a grand scale. Both Brawl and Smash 4 allowed custom stages to be played online with friends. They could also be shared, but through the clunky means of SD cards and Miiverse. This effectively killed competitively viable custom stages from being created in these two games.

custom stages
The Nintendo Switch has a share button, why not use it to easily share custom stages? Image: Polygon

Using competitive custom stages was a logistical impossibility in Smash 4 since users would have to download the stage from Miiverse. If custom stages are to have any kind of future, especially in competitive play, they need to be both easily accessible and easily shareable.

With the Switch’s ability to post on Facebook and Twitter through its share feature, this could be seamless. If stage editors allowed users to share their stages through a code (again, akin to something like Super Mario Maker’s level codes) and post it on Facebook and Twitter, then custom stages may very well have a future in being used on a grand scale. Getting a particular custom stage could be as easy as looking up a stage code, or scanning a QR code posted on Facebook or Twitter.

If this were to happen, then the competitive Smash community could easily share and decide on custom stages that could be used in competitive play.

Of course, this is just one perspective of what custom stages could bring in future Smash games. What is your take on custom stages being used in competitive play in future Smash games? Do you think competitive players should only play on officially created stages, or do you think the Smash community should create, share and feature custom stages in tournament? As always, join the conversation, and let us know!




Featured Image courtesy of Good Guy Giygas via Smashboards.

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