One of the major elements that separates the casual and competitive Smash communities is the stage selection. Due to the competitive environment present in high skill environments, tournament rulesets dictate how matches play out. These rulesets consist in turning items off, playing 3 stocks with a 7 or 8 minute timer, and giving the players predetermined stages to play on.
The criteria enables players to compete in an optimal environment were they are in full control. Stage hazards and walk-offs prevent players from having an optimized match. To put some perspective, imagine if in a 1 vs 1 match, a player is winning by a stock and has 70%. Suddenly, the stage hits him and he loses the stock all due the stage’s intervention. Hazards leave players at a constant disadvantage. Due to situations like this, hazards are big no-no’s in the competitive community.
We currently reside in the earlier stages were we do not have many tournaments in the books. Time facilitates the refinement of the rules, and achieving a proper balance is needed. Stage selection is divided in starter, and counter pick stages. Starter stages are selected in the first game, and counter pick stages are added to the mix in the second game.
Smash Ultimate gives the community an astronomical amount of stages. Pair it with the brand new hazard switch, and we got a lot of options. Now let’s go over were the community is going, and what influences it.
As mentioned, Smash Ultimate adds the hazard switch. This provides the competitive community with a lot of stages that were previously not viable. Due to the switch, it also takes the magic of stages like Smashville, anchoring the platform to the center of the stage.
However, one of the biggest obstacles tournament organizers are stumbling upon is the creation of multiple rulesets. A stage list now has the possibility of having both stages with or without hazards. To select them, two different rulesets need to exist. This adds an extra step that players can easily forget. When picking a stage like town and city it can fly under the radar, but with a stage like Warioware it is impossible to miss. If hazards are on in the incorrect stage, the match suffers.
The hazard switch is a great tool, but it lacks optimal implementation tools at the moment. A way to individually switch hazards on in a stage by stage basis is needed. If this criteria is met then we might have ourselves a higher series of possibilities.
Right now we find ourselves in the perfect time to try out new things. Slants, and a series of niche elements that different stages provide should enter the mix. As long as it is nothing too crazy, like Castle Siege and Delfino Plaza, it should be considered as a viable stage.
At the moment, most tournaments are only running hazards off rulesets. In order to make the game more entertaining stages, like Mushroom Kingdom U and Brinstar should be tried out.
There will be stumbles during this process, but the payoff will be worth it. With enough experimentation we might arrive to a stage list that no one would have imagined.
Arriving to a point were stage lists are hyped will greatly benefit the game. The current momentum the game has is due to its release, but if we captivate an audience with great gameplay, the game’s lifespan will benefit greatly.
Smash has the potential to become one of the best fighting games in the esports scene. We as a community must keep pushing it forward, and bringing crazier moments. As long as the commitment to pushing the limits of the game, the scene will grow.
Feature image provided by gearnuke
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