On May 7th, 2018, Smash’N’Splash TO Matt “Swanner” Swanson and Project M Back Room admin Devin “Reslived” Gajewski revealed the PMBR’s new recommended ruleset, which will see its first official usage at Smash‘N’Splash. While many aspects of the 2017 Project M Championship Circuit ruleset have remained intact, the stage list and process of selecting stages have been altered.
Wario Land and Fountain of Dreams will no longer be legal in doubles, and the stage striking process for counterpicks has been changed - in singles, the player who won the previous game will be able to ban two stages in both best of three and best of five sets, while in doubles, the team who won the previous game will have two stage bans in best of three sets but only one in best of five sets. The winner’s variant of Dave’s Stupid Rule is also in effect for both singles and doubles, meaning players cannot counterpick to any stage they have won a previous game on.
The most striking change, however, is the custom build that the ruleset requires. The build adds a new counterpick stage in the form of a modified version of Metal Cavern with a layout inspired by Yoshi’s Island (Brawl). The build also modifies three existing stages. Wario Land’s upper and side blast zone sizes have been increased to 190 units from their original 185 and 170 units, respectively. Dreamland, on the other hand, now has smaller blast zones - the side blast zones have been changed from 255 to 245 units, while the top blast zone has been lowered to 230 units from its original 250.
Delfino’s Secret has the most drastic changes - not only have the side and top blast zones shrunk by 10 units each, going from 235 and 260 units to 225 and 250 units, respectively, the platform cycles have been altered. Rather than periodically shifting between several different platform layouts, the stage now has a single layout, with two stationary platforms on the sides and a middle platform that moves up and down.
The PMBR’s main goal in using a custom build for the new ruleset was to address issues with the Paragon 2015 stage list (which was used by previous attempts at a unified ruleset) and the stages included in it. As Project M’s metagame developed, many players became more concerned with the size of certain stages’ blast zones and the impact they may have on matches, which the new custom build attempts to rectify.
As for the altered version of Metal Cavern, according to Texas TO Justin “Arsenals” Hampton, it was added to the stage list to to fill a wanted niche in the stage list. He explains “It’s a true medium stage that Paragon didn’t initially have, introduces a new but not unbalanced platform layout and doesn’t add a wall.” The lack of a wall is the main reason why this was chosen over Yoshi's Island (Brawl), the stage whose layout it mimicks - many characters' recoveries are already strong in PM, and the ability to wall-jump or ride the wall will only make them stronger.
The decision to use a custom build with altered stages has sparked quite a bit of debate among the PM community, centered around one important question: is it acceptable for tournament rulesets specify the use of custom builds with altered gameplay elements? While several regions have used new or altered stages in their rulesets - such as Texas’s rebalanced Yoshi’s Island Brawl and Australia’s custom Sky Sanctuary Zone - this is the first time such a build has been used in what is intended to be a standardized ruleset, and people have raised concerns about what this may mean for PM going forward.
Members of the community who support the decision to use altered stages point towards those regional builds, as well as to the proliferation of custom builds like Legacy TE, as precedent for the use of custom PM builds in a tournament setting. Arsenals in particular has argued on Twitter that using a build with added cosmetics or quality of life features is no less of a deviation from the official build of PM version 3.6 than using one with new or altered stages. From there, it follows that to allow one type of alteration but not another is logically inconsistent. Others point to the need for standardization and how previous attempts at this - such as the 2017 PMCC ruleset - failed as several regions started to make their own changes.
However, several prominent members of the PM community, including Legacy TE creator David V. Kimball, The Even Bigger Balc TO Jason “Jason Waterfalls” Treul and Rewrite director Alexandra “The Party” Wallace have been vocally critical of the decision. For them, the primary concern with using custom builds is not simply the degree of divergence from the official release of PM 3.6, but whether or not they are interchangeable in a tournament setting.
In a recent blog post, Kimball discussed the types of changes a custom build can make, and his philosophy regarding the ones included in Legacy TE: that no matter what else is added, no alterations to any of PM 3.6’s existing gameplay elements can be made to ensure that tournaments can use both TE and the official 3.6 build without affecting match results. Meanwhile The Party has raised concerns about what this may mean for newer players getting into PM. As it stands, it’s likely that not every major will use the new ruleset. The game can be daunting enough for new players; having to learn more than one version of the game will only add to that.
So far, several tournament organizers have already made statements about their plans regarding the ruleset going forward. While Push More Buttons’ organizers have elected not to use it to avoid a last-minute rules change, Arsenals will be using it at all of his future events. On the other hand, its status at The Even Bigger Balc is more tentative. Jason Waterfalls has simply stated that “We will be discussing the stage list as a team in the coming weeks and take a formal stance so that attendees of the Even Bigger Balc will be prepared for what comes.”
Author’s Note: What are your thoughts on the new ruleset? Let us know in the comments.