A Question of Integrity: Thoughts from a Concerned Nobody

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Disclaimer: This piece is purely the opinion of its author, and does not reflect the position of Smashboards or its affiliates.

Project M
3.6 is not perfect. I would venture to say it’s unfinished. This begs the question, however: what Smash Bros. game is perfect? Does one actually exist? This is an important question to ask in light of some PM 3.6 community members' recently-proposed changes regarding tournament stages. Now don’t misunderstand me; I’m not some kind of Project M Development Team mega fan by any means. They’re human after all, and made their fair share of mistakes – mistakes I’ve even been quite vocal about myself.

So why get so upset about minor changes to some stages? “It’s not like they’re rebalancing characters” is a common point made by those for these changes. Except that they are— in changing a stage like Dream Land to be smaller, in widening Wario Land, and in making camping on Delfino's Secret harder, among other changes, the way the game plays has been fundamentally changed. Consider how many close outcomes in Super Smash Bros. Melee would be different if the community decided Dream Land was just too hard to score a KO on, so they made it slightly easier. Would Juan "Hungrybox" DeBiedma even have won EVO 2016? I doubt it.

To be completely fair, altering the base game is not new ground within our community; a timer was been added to the original Super Smash Bros., while Melee recently received the highly discussed Universal Controller Fix (UCF), Super Smash Bros. Brawl saw the use of custom character skins run rampant in its competitive heyday and even Project M recently got something in the memory leak fixes (fixes to certain characters that prevented a memory leak and crashing). The key differences, however, are that a timer in Smash 64 simply ensures that the tournament rule of time is enforced concretely, character skins are a purely aesthetic change, the memory leak fix only serves to make the exact same game not crash on occasion and UCF merely makes it so every controller in working order is the coveted “perfect” controller which saves everyone money and labor to achieve the same exact result as a specialized controller modification.

One of the most well known competitive Brawl sets clearly using aesthetic mods.

On the other side of the coin, changing the actual functionality of existing in-game elements has historically done nothing but cause a rift in its one surviving case: Frozen Pokémon Stadium in Melee, seen at some locals but never at majors. It’s an issue that never needed to exist.

What about all the new fancy builds coming out recently like Legacy TE, which has been seen at multiple tournaments? I reached out to project lead David V. Kimball to find out what his philosophy was concerning modding the game. To make it easily digestible he gave me 6 types of changes, 1-5 are deemed acceptable by the Legacy TE team and by extension the greater community at large currently.
1. Aesthetic changes: visual or audio changes that don't affect gameplay, but can sometimes adjust players' perceptions and at worst be deceptive or distracting. This is a gray area, as some players use particular audio or visual cues when playing that can potentially be disrupted.

2. Existing content variant inclusions: net-new additions to the game that simply give more of the same, in a way that would never change gameplay. i.e. Kirby's 9th and 10th costume options, alt stages

3. Quality of Life feature additions: net-new additions to the game that enhance non-gameplay changing features. ie. working replays, edit controls from the CSS.

4. Crash fixes: file edits that don't necessarily change aesthetics, nor in-game behavior, but simply correct potential game crashes. Examples are memory leak fixes, or ROB Kart clear mode edit.

5. Hardware-viability balance change: Changes to the game that only directly affect hardware-related aspects of the game to make the experience more consistent across every type of hardware i.e. UCF

6. Gameplay-changing modifications: any edit that would result in gameplay changes, including but limited to: character moveset changes, some PSA adjustments, some animation tweaks, stage collision changes, blast zone changes, etc
At this point it seems through all Smash games regardless of ruleset altering the game generally has its dos and don’ts. Making Wario hot pink? Sure. Changing a stage? No. In widespread acceptance of gameplay change the message being sent is: our game isn’t as real. This would not stand in Smash 64, Melee, Brawl or Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U for fear of changing the game from vanilla and this is despite every other game having much greater need for competitive stages. I believe PM 3.6 has earned an equal level of legitimacy that must be respected. To change the gameplay in PM 3.6 is to admit that our game is not on par in terms of legitimacy and that is not something I, or many others will abide by.

Then there’s the issue of “is this continuing Project M?” and the answer is yes. It is. Why does that matter? We as a community were explicitly asked not to by Strong Bad on behalf of the former team’s leadership post PMDT shutdown. And after a few months of deliberation and several teams trying anyway it was decided that PM is simply finished. It’s been suggested that the default PM download be replaced with these proposed unofficial changes for ease of use and that is illustrative of the fundamental issue. In changing that, they have in effect made the default PMDT sanctioned download non-tournament viable, something no custom build, not even crazy ones with Goku and Rayman can claim.

I harbor no ill will to those who disagree and want to change stages, however they can no longer call what they’re pushing Project M. They’re welcome to Project N, Project O, or whatever they decide but Project M is set in stone and we just need to accept that.
 
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Elliot G

Comments

#2
I'm so glad to see this posted! For some of my takeaway from learning through the editing process: It's nice to see how a game series that doesn't officially support modding has continued on so long compared to companies that have said "Well, we don't mind that". It's an interesting catch-22 because on one hand, it's all remained relatively safe. On the opposing hand, this is going to be something we're always going to see updates for, whether cosmetic or not. The real question comes down to what these mods are going to be named when they change too much, and quite frankly, calling it "Project M" still is bad from what the original developers intended.

That said, I would love to see more mods over time, just don't ride too hard off of P:M's success. Good article.
 
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#3
Well said. Thank you for including each of my 6 definitions of gameplay changes, because I think folks are having trouble understanding the distinction between them.

I hope people who would usually be quick to accept any "positive" change to the game will examine carefully the potential outcomes of making these changes, and who it is that is making these propositions, and determine if it's a good idea.

As you mentioned, we don't have the privilege of the PMDT existing as the authority it once was, so as a community, are we really OK with a potential community split and even more barriers to entry? Great thoughts and questions raised here. Good read.
 
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#5
I don't really agree with the comparisons to other Smash games as the main point of an argument. Unlike those games, PM has a long history of updates and fan mods, and this isn't the first time that non-stock stages have been tournament legal. While I can appreciate that some people like the static nature of those games, many gamers have become accustomed to updates in their competitive games, and appreciate how a small change can make the game feel more fresh. I think to accept your "legitimacy" argument, assumes a lot about how one views those other games and competitive games in general and I really don't agree.
 
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#6
I don't really agree with the comparisons to other Smash games as the main point of an argument. Unlike those games, PM has a long history of updates and fan mods, and this isn't the first time that non-stock stages have been tournament legal. While I can appreciate that some people like the static nature of those games, many gamers have become accustomed to updates in their competitive games, and appreciate how a small change can make the game feel more fresh. I think to accept your "legitimacy" argument, assumes a lot about how one views those other games and competitive games in general and I really don't agree.
Appreciate you reading it and responding.

It's been 2+ years since an update so I don't see how we're accustomed to patches at this point in time. Smash Bros. has always had patches in the forms of revisions like 1.02 and PAL Melee as well as numerous Smash 4 patches but at some point they ended and my argument is 3.6 is PM's end point. I hope that clarifies it a little for you.

You're right, it's not the first time and it's been done at minor events for some of the official games as well. I'm pushing against it as a standard for majors.

There's no assumption needed in the legtemacy argument, this is how every major for the other games work. This is how the rules for any fighting game work. No core gameplay may be changed.
 
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