Smash Ultimate Ruleset Philosophy

falln

Smash Ace
Joined
Nov 2, 2008
Messages
612
Location
san diego, California
#1
The Smash community (speaking from the Wii U scene transitioning to Ultimate. I can't speak for the Melee community) has been in dire need of a forum for centralizing information for a long time now. Somewhere conversations regarding tournament rulesets, stage/character legality, seeding discussions, tournament calendars, and other miscellaneous topics can be tracked easily and transparently.

Just a quick bio since I don't know every major TO across all smash scenes and thus wouldn't expect all to know me. I am falln, a top Smash 4 SoCal player. I meme about my PGR longevity (4 times soon to be 5 btw) and up til now I've been holding conversations re: smash community infrastructure primarily on Twitter.

The topic on Twitter today has been about how to best handle the smash Ultimate stage list, given our current information. The hazards toggle button presumably will blow the door wide open on what stages could qualify as legal. Here are some ideas that have been floated around so far:

-One giant list. follow standard procedure, but takes longer to sift through and increases burden of knowledge for new players
-One small/medium list. Keeps things simple, but requires discussion on what elements we no longer wish to have in competitive Smash.
-Rotating stage list. Keeps overall stage list small, but subjectively enforces a meta based on season.
-Lumping stages into categories and banning clumps of stages (I ban tri-plat layouts, etc). Not something I have fully formed an opinion on yet
-One giant list, but loser picks 2-3 stages as a counterpick and the winner agrees to one stage from that subset. also not something I've currently formed a full opinion on yet.

I'm sure everyone is of course open to other creative ideas, and of course there are a lot of variables we won't know until the game is fully released. That being said, it is important to begin these conversations early so we can hit the ground running by 2019. Smash Ultimate is a huge opportunity for us to grow as an esport, and I would love to see a unified front on putting Smash in the best possible position moving forward.
 
Last edited:

TLTC

Smash Rookie
Joined
Jan 26, 2015
Messages
7
#2
Seeing as we are doing introductions I will hop on that train as well.

I am TLTC, a Smash 4 SoCal player. I am one of the original members of the Smash 4 Ruleset Committee and one of the people that worked on the Smash 4 recommended ruleset. Along with this, I have seeded multiple national events with Zan.

From what ive found so far, many of the top players would like to keep the stagelist small. I ran a poll with a couple of options regarding this.

On stage amount - https://twitter.com/ImTLTC/status/1007330782610747392


I know twitter polls arent exactly the best option for getting information due to how information is viewed on twitter but a decent rule of thumb is you can take a +/- 10% as long as you get enough votes.

As for a stage rotation, I think the idea has merit but I dont see it panning out in the long run. Logistically it comes up with some scary issues and there is nothing stopping a TO from just ignoring it and doing their own thing. Both Canada and Texas are good examples of this.

With the inclusion of a hazard toggle I think the most important thing is keeping it consistent. Its not going to go well if we include a set of stages with hazards on and then some that require a toggle off. Most likely, its going to be set off and any stages that need it on will just not be used. We hopefully get to pick and choose this time for stages and we don't have to be desperate to keep bad ones.

Finally, the last thing I would like to approach is the Omega/Battlefield Omega stages. I am personally super happy if all of these are the exact same layout so we can use them as substitutes to FD and Battlefield. One of the major challenges with this though, is going to be music licensing. For every stage that is used at a major, the TO needs to get the OK to use this music. 2 series that have been notoriously against this are the MOTHER series and the Sonic series. There are going to need to be some of these banned due to this restriction but its not because we want to its because we have to.
 
Joined
Sep 20, 2009
Messages
1,562
Location
NY
#3

Scribe

I wanna say I'm sorry for stuff I haven't done yet
Administrator
Writing Team
Joined
Apr 2, 2015
Messages
281
Location
Pine Bush, New York
3DS FC
5241-1937-7022
NNID
KipShades
#4
I've been thinking about this as well, and even doing a bit of analysis as to which stages could potentially be legal, comparing the list of stages in Ultimate that we already know about with stage lists from previous Smash games. It's definitely something interesting to think about, and while I don't think the stage list will end up being be as huge as some people are worried it might be, it's still a major concern.

To introduce myself, I'm Scribe, the current editor-in-chief of Smashboards' news team. My involvement here is probably kinda shaky, since I'm mostly a content creator and am currently unable to compete on a national scale, but an eye for ruleset philosophy is part of why I was brought onto the team in the first place, so hopefully I'll be of some assistance here.

I think one of the big things that gets overlooked is looking at the stage list and stage pick process separately - a lot of people seem to operate on the assumption that we have to stick with stage striking as it has been across all previous installments when, as the latter two proposals show, it might be worth considering using a different system.

I think a lot of people are focusing on trying to tailor the stage list to the existing stage pick process (alternating bans for starters, winner bans then loser picks for counterpicks), when I think we might want to try doing the opposite - determine a list of which stages should be banned outright, which ones are perfectly fine, and which ones are somewhat tenuous, then work on a selection method from there that's both fair and logistically sound.

On top of that, I think we're gonna have a good number of redundant stages - ones with pretty much the same layout as an existing stage, but maybe a different main platform shape or slightly different blast zones, so we might want to keep that in mind. Off the top of my head, I've seen three sets of stages with essentially the same layout.
  • Flat stages: On top of Final Destination and Omegas, Hazardless Wily's Castle is confirmed to not have any of the extra platforms appear, and Hazardless Pictochat will likely be the same. The main difference there seems to be the presence of walls on Wily's and Pictochat and the size of the their blast zones.
  • Tri-plats: So far we've seen both Battlefield and Midgar. Yoshi's Story and Hazardless Dream Land could tenuously be in the same position but I think the smaller size on Yoshi's and the different blast zones on Dream Land might differentiate them enough - Dream Land did count the same as Battlefield for the latter half of Smash 4 (tho the decision certainly was a contentious one)
  • Duo-plats: Not only do we have both Pokemon Stadiums, we also have Unova Pokemon League, which has the same basic layout with a walled platform.
I might be getting ahead of myself by bringing this up so early in the conversation, but I think it's an important thing to take note of while outlining the philosophy behind which stages are legal and how our stage pick process works, and depending on what the community does with redundant stages, it might cut down on the effective number of stages - or it might not even matter depending on the selection method (e.g. the idea of lumping stages into categories).
 

Max Ketchum

Collegiate Starleague Smash Director
Joined
Dec 9, 2007
Messages
6,215
Location
New Jersey
#5
Yo guys, Max Ketchum here.

I'm a commentator, TO, and competitor from NJ. The ruleset affects me in multiple ways at tournaments, and I want to keep it as clean and uniform as possible after the first few months of narrowing down the stages. I'm not a huge fan of forums, as I don't have the bandwidth/attention span to use them properly to keep up with these discussions, but I'm happy to participate in any public voice calls about the rules going forward.

I'll start by saying that our absolute minimum criteria for a stage to be legal is that it can't have any hitboxes and can't kill you without direct input from your opponent. For example, Town and City would be banned under these criteria because the platforms can take you all the way out and remove a stock without your opponent hitting you. This stage was pretty questionable and was probably only legal in Smash 4 because of the utter lack of alternatives.

Also, any stages with glitches/clipping like Lylat should go immediately as well.

Looking forward to the game coming out so we can all contribute more meaningfully!
 
Last edited:

falln

Smash Ace
Joined
Nov 2, 2008
Messages
612
Location
san diego, California
#6
I agree with banning stages that involve clipping and direct hazards, and of course the community recognizes walls/walkoffs/circles/cave-of-life/overly strong camping spots (DH tree) as degenerate features. Assuming that we do truly end up with a surplus of potentially viable stages, these are other gameplay elements that I think warrant a closer look:

-permanently sharkable bottom floor (think delfino, halberd, brinstar).
-stages with low ceilings (to this day i dont think Smash 4 was balanced with any ceiling height TC sized or lower in mind)
-stages with asymmetric spawning points (consider the strength of villager's rocket and other projectiles if he spawns uphill or downhill on castle siege, or how approaching a snake changes if he spawns on the left vs right side of frigate)
-possible foreground or background aesthetics (the right side of omega castle siege has obstructive foreground. s4 FD background has a blinding sequence, etc).

these are all elements i think aren't preferred, but have at one point or another been "put up with" in previous titles due to a lack of choices otherwise. i believe that the more stages we have available, the harsher we can begin to be in our requirements for a competitive stage
 

Max Ketchum

Collegiate Starleague Smash Director
Joined
Dec 9, 2007
Messages
6,215
Location
New Jersey
#7
I don't think we need to worry too much about certain characters being strong on certain stages. That's going to happen regardless of what we allow--even the most unquestionably legal stages (Battlefield, FD) will have impacts on the metagame, so I'm not worried about how Lloid Rocket starting on a slant will affect things. That said, the RNG associated with it is potentially problematic (if this game is anything like Smash 4, ports don't determine where you spawn), but probably not significant enough to warrant a ruling.

Boundary size is probably a case-by-case basis--if the stage is completely fine but people are dying to strong uthrows at 30 near the top, might have to go.

Permanently sharkable bottom probably falls under this category. Yes, it'll be abusable by some characters, but that's fine. Three static platforms can be abused by Cloud or Fox in Smash 4. I'd say any stage with such a floor should probably be a counterpick, but if it's a really good stage overall, then maybe it could be neutral.

Annoying aesthetics are probably fine, unless they're found to cause seizures or legitimate problems. If it's on FD again, we should just universally agree to an Omega stage.
 
Joined
Nov 25, 2015
Messages
23
#8
Sup. PracticalTAS here, I've been around the block a few times. Melee analyst/content creator/rankings guy, PGR algorithm writer, a few other hats.

1) I've been working on a few assumptions so far, the most important of which is that the hazard toggle will be a system-wide setting (like setting the time limit) instead of a per-game option (like selecting Omega stages), and thus that we will not have to decide between a stage's hazardous and hazardless forms - the hazardous form will always be banned, as the complexity cost of keeping track of the setting will introduce too much friction to the process to be viable. This is important, because it means we won't need to worry about, say, the merits of Town & City's platforms subtly shifting; the version with shifting will not be an option.

In addition, the fact that we're expecting a significant number of potentially legal stages (ie ones that would be unquestionably legal in WiiU if they were the only addition to the stage roster) means that we can be very strict when it comes to stages with matching functionality: the ruleset doesn't need a place for hazardless Dream Land if we have 10 other equally good stages with unique layouts.


2) With these assumptions in mind, we specifically want to look for stages with unique platform layouts. For instance, all of the following stages (hazardless) would need to have some critical flaw in order to not be considered viable, and I expect the starter stages upon the game's release to be a subset of them:
  • Battlefield (or another triplat)
  • Final Destination
  • Smashville
  • WarioWare
  • Lylat Cruise
  • Yoshi's Island (Brawl)
  • Pokemon Stadium (1 or 2)
(In a 5-starter ruleset, I figure the most likely of these two to be moved to counterpick would be FD and YI, but that's obviously very open for debate and dependent on the exact implementation of the hazard toggle, as well as our tolerance for 4-6 more years of Smashville)


3) Furthermore, I think we should reconsider the counterpicking process. Selecting a single ban from any more than 6 stages is tedious and unfriendly to newcomers; I'd like to float the idea of:
  • all stages that the loser has previously won on cannot be chosen (DSR),
  • the previous match's loser selects 3 stages,
  • the winner bans one of those 3,
  • and the loser selects from the other 2,
as a universal counterpicking process regardless of the number of legal stages or the length of the set. This would require about 9 legal stages to be necessary. As mentioned, the benefit is that it removes the onus from the previous game's winner to consider the entire legal stage list before banning; it also keeps agency in the hands of the previous game's loser (unlike the pick-2-ban-1 system that I was initially considering), and removes the pressure that the counterpick process currently applies in favor of continuously making the stage list smaller.

Of course, the players can always gentleman back to any legal stage, but any combination of stage list and counterpick process should seek to minimize that behavior whenever possible, as I believe this does.
 
Last edited:

Xiivi

Tip & Posh
Administrator
Premium
Joined
Aug 31, 2006
Messages
20,052
Location
Indiana
#9
Yo. I'm Xiivi, Midwest (Indiana) TO and longtime Smashboards GM.

PracticalTAS PracticalTAS brings up a good point and something I've been dwelling on since the knowledge that we might have an abundance of stage options. That being: With an overabundance of stages, what actually would be an ideal stage count, striking/banning method, starter/counterpick classification, etc...

If we somehow had 30 unique stage/platform layouts with no issues; having all 30 as legal stages wouldn't best the best for competition. There comes a point where too many options becomes a burden to players being able to effectively practice and prepare for match-ups. So if we aren't limited by the number of unique competitive stages available to us, what would be an ideal stage format for competition? 5 Starters? 7 Starters? 9 Starters? 1-1-1-1 Striking? 1-2-2-1 Striking? Should we even have Counterpick-only stages? If so how many? Etc... We might have a real opportunity to determine what is actually best for competition.

Right now we don't know the full stage list and don't have full details on how the hazard toggle is going to function and how it will affect certain stages. Trying to determine what stages are legal now is a stretch; but determining what type of stage system is ideal for competition ahead of time could be and could also help for unification purposes. If we head into game's releasing telling TOs "Hey a system where X stages are starter and Y stages are counterpick and you strike in Z manner is best for competition", gravitating towards a universal stage list and system could be easier. If it turns out that there aren't enough viable stages to fit that format, we can then take it from there and cut down as necessary (like how the Duck Hunt stage eventually got cut because it just wasn't a good competitive stage and we had to change the format to account for the fact we didn't have as many stage options available to us as we'd have liked).
 

Smash G 0 D

Leave Luck to Heaven
Joined
Oct 5, 2005
Messages
3,599
Location
Charlottesville, VA
#10
Hi all, I'm Rishi (otherwise known as SmashG0D). I wear a lot of hats in multiple games but most people know me as a top Melee player.

I want to throw my support behind a few points, and provide brief elaborations:
1) Let's start from scratch with what we consider to be "viable" stages.
Max touched on this - no stages that can kill you without your opponent inputting a button (e.g. T&C platforms, Yoshi's Island (Brawl) platforms). In the past, we have had to stretch our definition of viable in order to scrounge up a sufficient number of legal stages. In the ideal case, we are working with a multitude of options in SSBU. We should start from the bottom up in any case.

2) Starters --> Unique Platform Layouts, "normal" blastzones | Counterpicks --> Blastzone variation
As PTAS mentioned, we are possibly looking at multiple unique platform layouts. Given an idea selection of stages, our list of "neutral" stages would include unique platform layouts, and our counterpicks would be minor variations to layout and blastzone size. Our traditional idea of a counterpick is a stage that has an element or two that precludes it from being a neutral. This doesn't need to be the case with a broad selection.
An example might look like this - Starters: Battlefield, FD, Smashville, Stadium (Frozen), Lylat (Frozen). Counterpicks: Yoshi's Story, Dreamland 64, WarioWare.
WarioWare is a unique platform layout, but historically has been very small - the extreme blastzone would lead it to the counterpick. Again, this is just an example of how we would apply this philosophy based on historical stage data. For all we know, the WarioWare blast zone could be normalized, in which case it may replace FD as a starter.

I want to clarify - I'm not assuming an infinite selection of viable stages. Rather, I want to use that hypothetical as a means through which we develop our idealized stagelist philosophy. Once we learn about the stages upon release, we can measure what is available to us against the philosophy we develop, and trim or tweak as necessary. I said this in the Twitter thread, but if you missed it: "arguing hypotheticals" about SSBU stages is distinctly different from "debating a ruleset philosophy." I'm trying to engage in the latter as much as possible.

3) We may have to explore other counterpick methods, but it depends on presentation.
This falls more into logistics than philosophy for me. A cumbersome stagelist with small icons or a lot of scrolling will make counterpicking a tiresome process. It's nice if we have few enough stages that you can easily visualize them in your head, but there's a decent chance we end up with more than 7 legal stages. This is important to consider not just for the huge influx of newcomers, but for veterans trying to keep track of a stagelist that might change multiple times early in its life. If there is no in-game way to easily keep track, I might look into coding/outsourcing an app that does stage striking automatically. This is a long way off, but it's something I've been thinking about for a while(and that would probably be easy to program - could also include a 50/50 on who gets first strike).

That's all for now, looking forward to some productive discussion. At the very least, there's no way we can degenerate as much as the MK ban discussions did in the BBR ;)
 
Joined
May 19, 2008
Messages
6,893
Location
Hampstead, MD
#11
Sup, Tantalus here. I've been running smash tournaments for almost 10 years and as far as I know from a sheer number perspective i've run more events than anyone in the smash scene currently. I've made rulesets for Brawl, Project M and Smash 4, and i'm one of the main reasons 2 stock became a standard for Smash 4.

I'm looking forward to discussing and proposing an ideal competitive ruleset that the competitive scene at large can get behind. I'm looking to start liberal from a ruleset perspective and then tighten down the reigns as we find what is or isn't working. I don't really have any concrete thoughts behind the current stage possibilities as there are too many unknowns that factor in currently. I have tons of ideas and have been reading the suggestions put forth by many folks.
 

Scribe

I wanna say I'm sorry for stuff I haven't done yet
Administrator
Writing Team
Joined
Apr 2, 2015
Messages
281
Location
Pine Bush, New York
3DS FC
5241-1937-7022
NNID
KipShades
#12
From what I've heard the stage hazard switch is an option on the stage selection screen, not in the match rules section, so allowing some stages with hazards and others without may be an option.

In terms of breaking down stages to understand which ones should be legal and which ones shouldn't, I've been working alongside Hangman, Yankee and Kokopuffs from Long Island on compiling a list of each legal stage from past Smash games, breaking down what makes each stage unique, and looking at . It's incomplete, since the original plan was as a proposed plan for stage rotations that we since abandoned when we realized that such a format wouldn't be suitable for Smash. You can find it here. idk how useful it'll be and the readability of it is... not great, but it could work as a jumping off point.

After breaking stages down by trait, I'd consider flagging certain traits in terms of how they may affect legality - e.g. Large stages or ones that can harm players? Definitely banned. Platforms that move past the blast zone? Questionable. Asymmetrical layouts? Either Questionable or Counterpick-Only.
 
Last edited:
Joined
May 19, 2008
Messages
6,893
Location
Hampstead, MD
#13
So, Project M had plenty of legal stages but not all of them are used. When I was doing rulesets we based the rules on balancing the sizes of the stages compared to the layouts. You consider Small, Medium and Large stages as well as tri plats, twin plats, and FD. For matchup purposes, if we felt stages were accomplishing the same thing, even if the layouts or ledges were slightly different, they got axed.

For example, their 2017 ruleset was 9 stages:

Starters:
  • Battlefield (tri plat, medium size)
  • Pokemon Stadium 2 (dual plat, large size, short ceiling)
  • Smashville (1 plat, small size)
  • Green Hill Zone (1 plat, medium size)
  • Delfino's Secret (tri plat, large size)
Counterpicks:
  • Final Destination (no plat)
  • Fountain of Dreams (tri plat, small size)
  • Wario Land (quad plat, small size)
  • Dreamland (tri plat, large size)

That was whittled down from originally 14 back in the day. I'm sure we can come up with something similar with what is available via the hazards off. When there were 14 stages I believe there were 2 or 3 stage bans. Stages are one of the things that makes smash unique compared to other fighters, so if we restrict them down to just a few, I think we'd be doing ourselves a disservice. I'm looking to end up at a 9 stage sweet spot at some point but I'm willing to start as large as 14 or 15 to make sure we factor in all possible elements.
 
Joined
Nov 2, 2008
Messages
612
Location
san diego, California
#14
My main concern (and also the main reason I've been wanting this conversation to be fleshed out this far in advance) is the time it's historically taken to make these decisions and refinements.

I don't have the experience in the PM scene so feel free to correct any holes in this thought process, but it sounds like the stages themselves were designed in a conservative manner. Was there an issue of actually talking through given game elements (permanently sharkable floors, etc) when axing stages? It appears likely to me that in addition to dealing with stage redundancy, we will really need to sift through where we draw the new line on acceptable and unacceptable stage elements.

And as one last thought, I do like PracticalTAS's proposal for a new ban/counterpick system. We ran into an issue early in Smash 4's lifetime with multiple stage bans running alongside wackier legal stages. There were frequently situations where someone could lose game 1 on a neutral, use their counterpick to go somewhere crazy, then combine their multiple bans and DSR immunity to effectively strike out all neutral stages for the opponent's counterpick. I do like that the system proposed earlier would help players not get boxed in on what should be their own counterpick.
 
Joined
Jul 15, 2012
Messages
15,865
Location
Australia
NNID
Aerodrome
#15
Hi everyone! I'm Kurogane Hammer. I'm from the Australian competitive scene and I'm a frame data and stage mechanic expert.

Organizing how stages will be picked is something that probably won't be easy to decide now since we don't have all the info like how many stages will be legal. We can probably safely assume 20 at least with the hazard toggle (which is another topic I'd like to discuss later in this post).

If we're assuming 20 stages are potentially legal, then I personally like the stage rotation idea. Having say 13 legal stages and then swapping certain stages in every few months especially if the stage layout is similar, however this may come with the problem of getting TOs to cooperate with an "official" list. I don't think there's a right or wrong answer currently with how we choose the stage striking system, but I would like to not get ourselves locked into a decision that ends up bad in the long run and is hard to overturn later in the games meta (see: 2 stock; picking stages before characters in Smash 4 for example are decisions that made sense when the game came out, but nowadays a fair amount of people don't agree with them).

The hazard toggle is hard to discuss without knowing all the details on it. I'm going to assume that we can toggle them off at stage select since that would be logical. I feel like it's beneficial to have the toggle legal in this case, but I hope there's some form of visual indicator (like customs vs no customs in Smash 4's CSS) because I can see a lot of restarts happening when BayonettaMain02 and XZeldaMaster14 play on Hazardless Midgar only for Odin to chop the stage in half or something lol. If we have to pick one then I think ultimately the hazardless toggle will need to go.

Since we're talking about ruleset philosophy, I want to take a bit of time to save us a year of screwing around with a bad stagelist. We can do this by following certain principles:

• Does the stage have anything that can kill you or deal heavy damage to you? (Halberd etc)
• Is the stage a side scroller? (Rainbow Cruise, Pokefloats etc)
• Is there a chance you may fall through the stage? (Lylat, Delfino, Wuhu Island, Skyloft etc)
• Does the stage have any other negative stage mechanics or areas that can be abused, including, but not limited to: Caves of life, camping certain areas of the stage for long periods of time (includes walkoffs, the tree on Duck Hunt, the rock on Kongo Jungle), absurd ceiling heights, or circle camping?

I personally feel that if the answer to any of the above bullet points is "yes" then the stage should be considered as a "hazards off" stage (if that fixes the problem) OR banned entirely.

That's all I have for now. I'm looking forward to working with all of you <3
 

Scribe

I wanna say I'm sorry for stuff I haven't done yet
Administrator
Writing Team
Joined
Apr 2, 2015
Messages
281
Location
Pine Bush, New York
3DS FC
5241-1937-7022
NNID
KipShades
#16
To my knowledge we're already treating "hazards off" as the default - i.e. we're basing each stage on what it's like with hazards turned off, and treating any "hazards-on" stages as the exception

and in regards to the rotating stage list proposal, I have to ask: From a competitive perspective, what are the actual benefits of using a rotating stage list over other solutions? Because the problem it aims to solve (keeping the size of the stage list from getting too big for our current stage striking system to be viable) - might not actually be a problem, and if it is, there are other proposed solutions that solve it with fewer downsides (using a different stage striking system, like PracticalTAS suggested).

Because, so far, a rotating stage list doesn't really have anything to offer that other proposals don't, and comes with a host of issues in terms of stuff like the validity of results or getting different regions to switch to the same new stage list every season.

On a tangentially related note, to throw an extra bit of reading on the pile, Equin0x put together a blog post about how the hazard switch affects different stages.
 
Top