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Pac-Maze mechanics and competitive discussion

Amazing Ampharos

Balanced Brawl Designer
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One thread to discuss all stages... doesn't work. I plan to do a one of these every couple of days so we can talk about some of the more interesting legality candidates. I'm actually going to start with the stage I'm least sure about one way or another: Pac-Maze. This stage is so good, but on the other hand, I just don't know. Here's how it works so you guys can help out in making an informed decision here:

Ghosts do 7%, very low knockback. At realistic percents you don't really go anywhere, but by 200% you get a kinda decent launch. Hits are survivable around 250% but deadly around 300%. Ghosts mostly hand out on the side of the stage, very rarely pass through the middle areas. They stay out of the way so much that actively trying to get hit proved difficult for me... We can probably just pretend they aren't even a part of the stage for legality discussion.

Grabbing 100 pellets causes a power pellet specific to your character to spawn (sometimes pellets without a character indicator seem to spawn, but I can't easily tell if anyone could grab it since it's not a common event). You can have more than one power pellet on-screen at once. Grabbing that pellet gives you a temporary 1.35x damage multiplier on your attacks and a multiplier of around 0.55x (very approximate, defense is hard to test without a human partner) on the enemy's attacks and allows you to destroy the ghosts if you come in contact (as unlikely as that is!). The powered up state seems to last 11 seconds and doesn't seem to affect anything but damage and the interaction with the stage hazard. Other characters just pass through your own pellets without grabbing them (they can see where they are though), and if you die, your small pellet count is maintained and any super pellets on the field persist (but your powered up state ends immediately if you're in it).

The stage also sometimes spawns fruit that look like Pac-Man's Bonus Fruit items. You touch them and get points. As far as I can tell, this has no gameplay effect at all but might get a little confusing if Pac-Man players are in the match.

The lay-out is one main platform with two grabbable ledges and two small pass-through platforms on the left or right sides above it. Where Battlefield's top platform would be there's instead a thicker non-pass-through platform (non-grabbable ledges on this one) which has a triangle of pass-through platforms above it. The upper thick platform is very narrow; it seems like a lot of characters if not most characters can easily attack through it from below.

Here are potential problems I see with this stage being legal:

-The ceiling is very low if you're on the top platform. Being on upper platforms gives early kills in every smash game, but this stage is so vertical that you're at constant danger of death from up smash at almost any percentage on the top platform. I was able to kill a 21% Kirby (before the hit) with G&W's usmash from here.
-The power-up states are... interesting. I'm not convinced they're broken (I was actually surprised the multipliers were as big as they are, they play well!), but they definitely are significant enough that you really have to think about their effects as you play. You can get 100 pellets really quickly too so this powered up state will be toggled a ton on this stage (you basically just accumulate them for moving around).
-The stage is fairly big and may enable some run-away tactics. I'm actually leaning that it doesn't since you can easily corner people vertically and it's so easy to attack through the middle platform, but this is a risk to be mindful of.

Here are the upsides of this stage as a competitive stage:

-The extremely vertical lay-out is a very different lay-out from the other stages, but vertical gameplay is not less fair or less balanced than horizontal gameplay. It adds interesting skill tests.
-The hazards are extremely non-disruptive; the ghosts not being here wouldn't really change the stage at all.
-The power pellets are pretty much completely matters of player agency. You can control your pellet intake, and if you're exercising stage control, you can keep your opponent away from power-ups. This is an interesting skill test itself.
-It's another stage. All else being equal, more stages being legal is better.

I feel like I have a good sense of which stages should be legal in this game already, but this stage in particular really vexes me. It has a lot of good stuff going for it, but it is definitely more radical than the other good looking for legality stages (13 of them by my count!). What do you guys think of this one (and please don't dismiss it just because it's named "Pac-Maze" and looks goofy, be serious...), and has anyone made any mechanical observations that I haven't?
 

Davis-Lightheart

Smash Journeyman
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Sep 14, 2014
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That was a fascinating read for a complicated stage. I really don't know about this one overall.
 

Piford

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I think Pac Maze definitely looks good. The ceiling being low just means that you strike it if you're a light character so you won't be killed so easily.
 

ParanoidDrone

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Jan 26, 2008
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Baton Rouge, LA
I actually had no idea the power pellets buffed your damage and defense, which I guess says a lot since I've played on the stage a few times now. Speaks well of the balance.

EDIT: Forgot to mention, but I believe you can attack other players' power pellets once they appear to destroy them and prevent their use as a powerup. Another point in favor if you ask me, assuming it's true.
 
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Plain Yogurt

Smash Ace
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Feb 13, 2014
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873
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Presumably your fridge.
Another note about the pellet upgrade: When you first grab it and whenever you kill a ghost with it, the other players slow down, similar to how time would stop in Pac Man when you killed a ghost. The pellet grabber does NOT slow down. The slowdown is short, but it's weird.

I think my biggest gripes about the stage are the size and the fact that the pellets spawn in random spots and in fact the two work in tandem for extra frustration. Its kinda lame if you're both duking it out on the bottom and you both hit 100, but your opponent's pellet spawns right next to him while you might have to jump your way to the top to reach yours. And as stated runaway may be a problem. Dunno bout this one, personally.
 

popo12

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I think my biggest concern might actually be the solid platform in the center. It doesn't cover the whole bottom stage, but it's large enough that I'm afraid it could lead to a "cave of life" effect if a player decides to camp it. I think the power pellet minigame is a concern, but the bonus is pretty tame and there are ways to react to it. That said, I'm afraid that the combination of the pellets, the size of the stage, and that center platform could lead to some weird camping/stalling stuff.

As for the ghosts, I'm actually more concerned about them prolonging lives than ending them. Since they hang out so far on the edge of the stage, you could hit them intentionally to get a second recovery when you can't quite make it. Probably not a huge concern on its own since Yoshi's Island Brawl and Yoshi's Story in Melee both have similar issues and are neutrals, but I think it could become a problem given the stage's layout.

That said, I think this is a really neat stage. I'm leaning towards a no for legality, but it's still a pretty fun stage to play on. Pretty much all I could have asked for from a Pac-Man stage.
 

Illuvial

Exploring Tallon IV
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I don't really like the concept of this stage being legal in any sense. The damage multiplier on power pellets is kinda crazy, and it seems like the pellets respawn randomly, so it might give unfair pellet advantages at random, and that's not good. Plus, if you KO someone you run and grab all the pellets you can and you can easily get a Power Pellet before your opponent can, and that gives you a huge advantage coming into your opponent's next stock. Not to mention how I've had the ghosts save lives before, and that's hella annoying to have people survive into 200% just due to ghost RNG

I love the stage layout, but since Sora wasn't smart enough to include a "hazards off" option, and that's a shame

Nice write-up though, love the dedication!
 
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WritersBlah

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You know, I'm definitely not the type of guy to hate on theory discussion, but in corner cases like this, I'd personally like to keep the mantra of "keep it legal until proven ban-worthy." So I say have Pac-Maze be a legal counterpick for now, and if we start noticing degenerative play in tournament matches, then we can agree to ban it. It's kinda like how Kongo Jungle 64 in Melee is such a confusing ordeal legality wise.
 

Amazing Ampharos

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I was at a tournament today that did not have this legal, but after the fact I played a few friendlies here with a good friend as we studied various dubious cases. We learned a few things.

The ghosts move toward the middle specifically when someone gets a power pellet. This actually makes them a lot more relevant than they would otherwise be as players with power pellets can ignore them so they're basically allies at that point.

Power pellets give a running speed boost, and it's fairly substantial.

The run-away that was a concern I was thinking was low priority... is pretty bad actually. A lot of characters can't jump up to the middle platform without using their triple jump or the side platforms. This is significantly slower, and it makes running away easier. I also was just using the wrong set of characters initially; tons of characters can't hit through the middle non-passthrough platform. I noticed it in the match-up R.O.B. vs Rosalina; I had a lead with R.O.B., and she couldn't catch me at all. My friend eventually had the good idea to drop Luma and use it as a wall in a pincer attack to break the loop, but obviously that option is only open to Rosalina. I had him take Wario while I tried to catch him as Ganon; I'm a lot better at playing evasively and/or dealing with it in smash than him, but it was... really painful. In 5 minutes I took about a stock and a half while he wasn't ever trying to even hit me but just running away (and making visible mistakes running at times). I came out of it convinced that in the long run it won't be realistic to stop in a lot of match-ups.

Right now I'm leaning toward banned status for this stage. Has anyone else had any good matches here that give them a good picture one way or another?
 
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Illuvial

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You know, I'm definitely not the type of guy to hate on theory discussion, but in corner cases like this, I'd personally like to keep the mantra of "keep it legal until proven ban-worthy." So I say have Pac-Maze be a legal counterpick for now, and if we start noticing degenerative play in tournament matches, then we can agree to ban it. It's kinda like how Kongo Jungle 64 in Melee is such a confusing ordeal legality wise.
I'm a fan of that mindset too, especially when you consider that the 3DS won't really have a sizable competitive community in a couple months anyways, so why waste time finding a competitive ruleset when we could just enjoy tournaments now? The only thing that will happen is that the ruleset will be developed overtime and the occasional 3DS tournament that does occur will benefit from the experimentation that occurs within the next couple months

Keep it legal for now, totally agreed
 
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