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The anticipated impact of Custom Special Moves on gameplay and balance (Statistics!)

NewGuy79

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The only thing I'd be concerned with is that it seems you have to unlock special moves, which may prove to be a hassle for tournaments to organize.

That said, custom moves definitely seem like they could help breath new life into the metagame. I'm also sure there will be a fair amount of people who'll want to play as Mii Fighters, and banning custom moves would mean we'd have to probably ban them.
I think a lot of people here are forgetting about the planned connectivity between the 3DS version and the Wii U version of smash, tho we still don;t know much about it allegedly it supposed to allow the transfer of data and unlocks. and considering the fact that it would be foolish if nintendo caused the 3DS version to wipe itself upon being transferred to the Wii U version (ala the Wii U transfer system), I suspect that we will be able to use our 3DS versions of smash to quickly unlock content (especially considering that the sets of content we want [characters, special moves and possibly equipment] will be identical with both versions).

We know for a fact you need to unlock the moves, but it won't be a problem early on because it'll be 3DS only. And if we can transfer stuff like that to SSBU, we'll be set.
oops.... wut he said! :D\

Well, it's handled linearly in the post to point out that this makes more characters viable than they would be otherwise by lowering variance. It goes without saying that there might be one or two moves that are circumstantially good (although, in most cases, when a player is given choice, one eventually comes out as the overall best after enough time with the meta-game. It's very hard for two different abilities to be exactly equal in usage).

Even then, though. That just makes the general point even better, because that gets into the concept of perfect imbalance. Extra Credits did a good video on this one.
By having options that will work against specific builds, you get an ever evolving meta-game instead of a static one. This drastically increases the viability of lesser used characters and reduces the effectiveness of tiers.
so from the extra credits video (love thos guys), a cyclical imbalanced game system would be what we would want in smash, right?
 
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TheNumber47

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The main issue with this is running a tournament imo. Players will have to be given the opportunity to edit their movesets before the match, probably in between matches too. The opponent has to know about every option his opponent is taking, and what if he wants to change his moveset to counter that?

The other obvious problem is that it means you have to know 250+ moves to play competitively, and studying match ups becomes nearly impossible unless you have another experienced player of the character with you also experimenting with their options. I think this is particularly bad because of how accessible smash is to casual players, they see moves their familiar with and can understand a lot of what's going on, but if people are using completely different moves it makes is a lot more distant in my opinion.

Yes, theoritically I think they're great, but implementing them in competition is WAYYYYY too difficult
 

BRoomer
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I bugs me when people say custom moves needing to be unlocked will make them unreasonable to use in tournements. We have to unlock all of the stages and characters as well and that has never been an issue.
 
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Customizable moves will expand the metagame and allow for more characters to be viable in competitive play...
that is, assuming all of them won't be balanced as it is.
This needs to happen and tournaments need to permit it. At least until we find something that "poisons" the metagame, in which case, we can simply ban that customize option.
It's so simple.
 

KokiriKory

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Thanks for writing this up man. I've been thinking more and more every time a new custom move is shown, that it is THE NUMBER ONE reason to be excited about this game. It's why this game is even happening in the first place.

Sakurai made it pretty clear he didn't just want to add new characters, and customization was his first example on the direction he was thinking. It is the center experience to this sequel, and it's not just "for fun". Custom specials will change the game up big time, and keep whatever bogus "tier lists" that crop up running circles around themselves trying to make sense. That is equilibrium.

I'm stoked.

Also, as a side note, I never even touched Project M. Balanced Brawl was clearly where it's at. I've told Ampharos and I'll tell you too now, thank you so much for that mod, it reinvigorated Brawl for me and my friends.


edit: Regarding "equipment," I believe Smash Run is being promoted as a way to help players wrap their heads around the ideas of customization. Instead of throwing a menu at them and saying "Get to doing your homework," everyone gets a quick 5 or 10 minute lesson on stat altercations. Boom, no more questions, you understand just what these things you're unlocking do in the "regular" game.
 
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RascalTheCharizard

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Apr 10, 2012
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987
As a long time supporter of custom moves, I just wanted to say... DUH!

However recently Sakurai showed us something in a Pic of the Day which made me start to doubt custom movesets in competitive play; the menu. The custom moveset menu isn't on the CSS as many expected and the pictures give the impression that the custom movesets are not mapped to a player's Name or controller port. Thus if this is true, their would be an issue with ditto matchups on the Wii U version when played locally. Could still work for 3DS and online Wii U tournaments though.
 

Zinth

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"Sakurai said that the special move options wouldn't be balanced!"

If I had a nickle for every time Sakurai was mistranslated or misinterpreted, I'd import a Japanese 3DS with half my loot.

Half the time when Sakurai says "balance" in an interview, including in this statement made at the E3 roundtable event, he is talking not about character balance, but balancing the accessibility and complexity of the game. The actual quote was talking about online play:

This makes sense. Customization is a feature for the most hardcore. It is not appropriate for random online players to encounter unexpected moves they might have never seen before. This is a frustrating and annoying experience for players who have not explored the game fully.
Finally, THANK YOU. I want to bop people every time they use that as an argument against customization lol.

Great article. Also I remember you from Brawl; you were at a tournament in like KS that I attended once.
 

DairunCates

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The main issue with this is running a tournament imo. Players will have to be given the opportunity to edit their movesets before the match, probably in between matches too. The opponent has to know about every option his opponent is taking, and what if he wants to change his moveset to counter that?

The other obvious problem is that it means you have to know 250+ moves to play competitively, and studying match ups becomes nearly impossible unless you have another experienced player of the character with you also experimenting with their options. I think this is particularly bad because of how accessible smash is to casual players, they see moves their familiar with and can understand a lot of what's going on, but if people are using completely different moves it makes is a lot more distant in my opinion.

Yes, theoritically I think they're great, but implementing them in competition is WAYYYYY too difficult
We already have a system for this in the current system. They're called counter-picks. In smash, this applies to both stage choices AND which person can change a character. It's not really hard to add another layer to this. Only players that lost a round can change out movesets. Changing a moveset between matches is also not likely to take too much extra time. This can either be compensated by either shortening the match timer or lowering the number of stocks by 1. There are plenty of ways to compensate for the lost time, and what we're gaining is too valuable to discard wholesale.

Furthermore, having to adjust to more variations isn't exactly a bad thing. It keeps the game fresh and interesting without adding new content. It'll test player skill and adaptability over rote memorization. If a player can't adapt to a slight change in how a match is being played, it's possible that they should be winning a major tournament either. I wouldn't say studying match-ups exactly becomes impossible though. It just means that they'll be a lot more variable and less by the numbers if, and this is a big if, most people don't just stick with a fairly standard competitive set. When one person comes in and masters a set of moves that people thought weren't viable though, they should be rewarded with making match-ups harder.

After all, look at Amsa and his Yoshi. So few people know how to play against Yoshi. The people that have gotten good at beating Amsa have had to adapt to his totally unique style, and the ones that couldn't don't really deserve to win.

I never liked that particular episode. This article is a response to it; it's a good read.
http://www.sirlin.net/blog/2012/7/18/a-discussion-of-balance.html
I kinda feel like this article misses the point of "Perfect Imbalance" and focuses too much on the word "imbalance" in some places, he's actually agreeing with the point made without realizing it. Just because has options that seem immediately more potent doesn't mean it's balanced in the long run. Furthermore, one could argue that, in a fighting game, if you play a character that is a bad match-up against someone else's character, you're already immediately at the state of "outside imbalance" he describes. Since I picked character A, I'm starting at a mechanical disadvantage to character B.

However, I think anyone that's spent time with fighting games long enough knows that a perfectly balanced fighting game isn't gonna happen without drastically homogenizing the entire cast, and between having a more diverse cast or a VERY SIMILAR but mostly balanced cast, most people are gonna prefer the diverse cast. The concept of perfect imbalance allows a competitive game to not always have the same developed metagame once it reaches a certain point. In a game designed like the one Extra Credits mentioned, you wouldn't get several national tournaments in a row with half the top 8 being Metaknight players and players with back-up or counter characters would be more competitive.

Also, it's worth mentioning that using Chess as an example of perfect balance is mildly silly. The first turn advantage is not only well-documented, but is a stronger difference than you'd think (I think last estimate said that first turn has an inherent 5% advantage over second turn). I mention this, because a "perfectly balanced" game is actually somewhat of a myth. The only real perfectly balanced game is one with simultaneous turns and 100% mechanically balanced options... which narrows it down to Rock-Paper-Scissors.

The last thing I'd point out is that the Extra Credits guys didn't exactly just invent this concept to describe their own personal theories. While the exact term, "imperfect balance" isn't used, this is a well-known phenomena with game designers and one that's been studied for years. I actually encountered it years before I saw that episode. It gets used in more than just LoL too. Pokemon is one of most popular games world-wide, and it's multiplayer is almost exclusively based around this concept. After all, how else would this year's world champion have won with a Pachirisu (widely considered a garbage tier pokemon) in his doubles team?
 
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DairunCates

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As a long time supporter of custom moves, I just wanted to say... DUH!

However recently Sakurai showed us something in a Pic of the Day which made me start to doubt custom movesets in competitive play; the menu. The custom moveset menu isn't on the CSS as many expected and the pictures give the impression that the custom movesets are not mapped to a player's Name or controller port. Thus if this is true, their would be an issue with ditto matchups on the Wii U version when played locally. Could still work for 3DS and online Wii U tournaments though.
I have to imagine that there's a decent chance this'll get changed. I honestly can't think that no one on the design team would think that two people at the same Wii U wouldn't want to potentially play custom movesets AND the same characters.

Edit: Also, I don't remember the PotD in question. Could you possibly link it? I'm curious about this now.

Double Edit: Actually, I think I found it. It's the one with the Mii in the Kung Fu Gi, right? I actually think there's a good chance that multiple sets will be stored on characters. It shows the mii's name in the custom menu tab. This seems to at least mean we can have multiple mii fighters, and if that's possible, I don't see why multiple custom sets would happen too.

Also, the customization seems heavily based on Kid Icarus Uprising, and that allowed a decent freedom of switching between options.

Finally, there's always the possibility that it'll be handled differently on the Wii U since it won't be 1 user per game. So, I wouldn't lose hope yet.
 
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BRoomer
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I never liked that particular episode. This article is a response to it; it's a good read.
http://www.sirlin.net/blog/2012/7/18/a-discussion-of-balance.html
I actually didn't really like that article much. I get what it was trying to say and I even agree on some points. I think "perfect imbalance" is not a good name for the concept they were trying to talk about in that episode. I believe that there is power in the concept they mentioned though. This idea of perpetually overcoming challenges is awesome and breathes life into games How awesome is it that in melee the tier list is STILL changing. I think with smash 4 it will be like that... forever.
 

EarthBoundRules

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Another fantastic feature about allowing customizable moves is that if a character gets an incredibly overpowered special move as their default (think Meta Knight's tornado), it can be banned from being selected. This could help characters from being too overpowered, at least in terms of their special moves.
 

DairunCates

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By the way, can I take a small moment away from being serious and academic to point out the MOST IMPORTANT reason to be hype about custom moves and their potential inclusion in tournaments?

Bigger. Stronger. Slower. Falcon Punch.

Just... Just take a moment to picture it in all its glory.
 

Wazygoose

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Wicked post. Strong alternative special moves replacing less good ones is what is so exciting, like replacing Sing. The idea that custom special moves will make more characters competitively viable is awesome. Also, we're talking about statistics and not tournament protocol, but keep in mind a lot of screenshots are for the 3DS and not Wii U. Each 3DS is only used by one player, so it doesn't need to take into account different player preferences on the same system.
 

Ellipsis

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I kinda feel like this article misses the point of "Perfect Imbalance" and focuses too much on the word "imbalance" in some places, he's actually agreeing with the point made without realizing it. Just because has options that seem immediately more potent doesn't mean it's balanced in the long run. Furthermore, one could argue that, in a fighting game, if you play a character that is a bad match-up against someone else's character, you're already immediately at the state of "outside imbalance" he describes. Since I picked character A, I'm starting at a mechanical disadvantage to character B.

However, I think anyone that's spent time with fighting games long enough knows that a perfectly balanced fighting game isn't gonna happen without drastically homogenizing the entire cast, and between having a more diverse cast or a VERY SIMILAR but mostly balanced cast, most people are gonna prefer the diverse cast. The concept of perfect imbalance allows a competitive game to not always have the same developed metagame once it reaches a certain point. In a game designed like the one Extra Credits mentioned, you wouldn't get several national tournaments in a row with half the top 8 being Metaknight players and players with back-up or counter characters would be more competitive.
As a game design exercise, I recommend you check out Sirlin's card game, called Yomi. (same guy who wrote the article) It has probably the closest balance I've ever seen in a game, where bad matchups are still pretty close compared to other games, all without sacrificing depth or character variety. It can be done.

Also, it's worth mentioning that using Chess as an example of perfect balance is mildly silly. The first turn advantage is not only well-documented, but is a stronger difference than you'd think (I think last estimate said that first turn has an inherent 5% advantage over second turn). I mention this, because a "perfectly balanced" game is actually somewhat of a myth. The only real perfectly balanced game is one with simultaneous turns and 100% mechanically balanced options... which narrows it down to Rock-Paper-Scissors.
Extra Credits actually argued that Chess's balance is to blame for the fact that it has been mostly "solved". Most games are draws and are played from memorization. That is not caused by balance or lack thereof, so their reasoning is flawed.

The last thing I'd point out is that the Extra Credits guys didn't exactly just invent this concept to describe their own personal theories. While the exact term, "imperfect balance" isn't used, this is a well-known phenomena with game designers and one that's been studied for years. I actually encountered it years before I saw that episode. It gets used in more than just LoL too. Pokemon is one of most popular games world-wide, and it's multiplayer is almost exclusively based around this concept. After all, how else would this year's world champion have won with a Pachirisu (widely considered a garbage tier pokemon) in his doubles team?
Imbalance exists. It causes metagames to look for counters, and in rare cases, causes low-tier characters to win. That is not disputed. The fact that those characters rarely win in the first place is the problem. The fact that unbalanced games can still work in competition does not mean imbalance is the goal of design.
 

JamietheAuraUser

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Back in KIU, none of the equipment from the treasure hunt was worth using. Pretty sure it'll be the same here.
Actually, there were multiple instances of usable equipment, such as the +8 overall defence whatever-it-was (which I quickly turned into a Phosphora Bow, while still managing to keep the +8 Overall Defence mod) and the Brawler Claws with +4 Walking Speed and +4 Shot Cancellation.
 

RelaxAlax

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Man this is refreshing!

I touched this topic in a video I did, not trying to advertise, but I totally agree with you and you knocked the point right out of the park. I sincerely hope TOs get this message at the start of Smash 4's life so we can see truly how they work in competitive play. I hope they give em a chance. And really, people see them and turn them away but it is not like Bunny Hoods and Metal Boxes - It subtly changes one move (sometimes a bit more like Palutena and Miis, but those are probably more balanced). It isn't crazy. And besides, aerial game, tilts, grabs, smash attacks and dodging are STILL THE SAME, this just adds more options.

Isn't there a big point around saying "Why don't people like options?" What would you call this?
 

NewGuy79

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The main issue with this is running a tournament imo. Players will have to be given the opportunity to edit their movesets before the match, probably in between matches too. The opponent has to know about every option his opponent is taking, and what if he wants to change his moveset to counter that?

The other obvious problem is that it means you have to know 250+ moves to play competitively, and studying match ups becomes nearly impossible unless you have another experienced player of the character with you also experimenting with their options. I think this is particularly bad because of how accessible smash is to casual players, they see moves their familiar with and can understand a lot of what's going on, but if people are using completely different moves it makes is a lot more distant in my opinion.

Yes, theoritically I think they're great, but implementing them in competition is WAYYYYY too difficult
let me tack a crack at touching on some of you concerns for the sake of discussion.

firstly issue concerning counter picking with multiple options have acutely already been experimented with in a lot of other games within FGC, while I'm not an expert in any of these other communities a quick glance at their rulesets can show use a system that I believe could be easily adapted to smash. for example lets check out the recent rule set for EVO 2014, Specifically I would like to point out one of the rules for Marvel vs Capcom 3;
  • Winner must keep exact same team (including assists), but may switch order of assists via loading screen.
concerning counter picking this rule should be the basis for how we set up our own counter picking rule, hypothetically it could go like this;
  • Winner must keep exact same character, but may switch specials moves via loading screen (or whatever screen is used to select them).
  • Loser can switch both his character and his specials moves via the loading screen
This way if player A loses to player B's Bowser (i'm thinking via melee's tier list), player A can counter pick to Fox to raise his chances of wining, HOWEVER player B won't be completely boned due to the fact that he will be able to modify his specials to potentially counter act the Fox counter pick.

Now for you second point which actually was already answered by OP when he said this

Customization is a feature for the most hardcore
the reason that I think he said this is because he also realizes that most players wont be able to memorize all 250+ potential specials and their application. Sakurai as well has noticed this witch in turn is the reason why they are deactivated in random online matches in smash 4, one can argue that other fighting games with similar options ( USF4, UMVC3) don't do this with their customizable options but I would argue as Sakurai always had that smash inherently has always had a much casual players then those franchises and as such it would be to hard to imagine some of the more casual players becoming frustrated when encountering potentially unfamiliar custom strats randomly online ( after all theirs nothing worse for a player then losing to something and not know why you lost).

This however is not a problem for tournament goer's, after all by simple going to tournament they claim to be part of the most hardcore.

these players could potentially try to memories all 250+ variable encompassed within custom move sets, a feat which actually is not out of the realm of possibility. These M2K's of the Smash 4 scene will rely on their wealth of knowledge to gain an edge over the Competition and get ahead, the remarkable thing about custom move sets however is that players won't be required to become the next M2K (knowing every variable and such) to be good at the game. some players ( the majority I predict) will simple go with what feels right to them, choosing their favorite characters and tailoring their special to fit their play styles perfectly.

Will their be blowouts in tournament, probably, Will their be crise of "this special move is OP!", most definitely. But this is par to the course for any multiplayer action game ( especially fighting games, or maybe more so MOBAS...). undoubtedly the first few months Smash 4's life cycle with be chaotic with people trying new things, however once we've established the "meta" players will be able to experiment and explore far more than any smash game has ever allowed before, and this is a prospect that I want to see evolve in the competitive scene.
 
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DairunCates

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Man this is refreshing!

I touched this topic in a video I did, not trying to advertise, but I totally agree with you and you knocked the point right out of the park. I sincerely hope TOs get this message at the start of Smash 4's life so we can see truly how they work in competitive play. I hope they give em a chance. And really, people see them and turn them away but it is not like Bunny Hoods and Metal Boxes - It subtly changes one move (sometimes a bit more like Palutena and Miis, but those are probably more balanced). It isn't crazy. And besides, aerial game, tilts, grabs, smash attacks and dodging are STILL THE SAME, this just adds more options.

Isn't there a big point around saying "Why don't people like options?" What would you call this?
I saw that video yesterday actually. Good video. I've been enjoying your analyses.

As a game design exercise, I recommend you check out Sirlin's card game, called Yomi. (same guy who wrote the article) It has probably the closest balance I've ever seen in a game, where bad matchups are still pretty close compared to other games, all without sacrificing depth or character variety. It can be done.

Extra Credits actually argued that Chess's balance is to blame for the fact that it has been mostly "solved". Most games are draws and are played from memorization. That is not caused by balance or lack thereof, so their reasoning is flawed.

Imbalance exists. It causes metagames to look for counters, and in rare cases, causes low-tier characters to win. That is not disputed. The fact that those characters rarely win in the first place is the problem. The fact that unbalanced games can still work in competition does not mean imbalance is the goal of design.
Okay. So, in order...
1. I might check it out. I've heard of it, but never gotten to test it. I'm always open for new game design exercises.

2. Actually, that's doesn't undermine their point as much as you'd think. The point I was making is that "perfect balance" is a myth, but that really close balance, as shown in the video, can be a crutch to a game and force it to stagnate. So, reaching for that perfect ideal isn't always feasible or good design. The Extra Credits guys actually covered the chess thing recently in a video too. So, they're aware of it. It's just that covering that amount of specific detail in the video might've been a bit off-track and would've rambled a bit. So, they probably sacrificed a small percentage of accuracy for brevity.

3. As <3 pointed out. It's not actually so much imbalance as the word "imbalance" is an approximation of the concept. There's not actually a generalized term for it in design, but even Sirlin was hitting at it in points. It's one of those nebulous concepts that you become aware of after you've done a lot of research and really only works when explained in terms of a finalized game. The LoL example is one example, but it takes a lot of different forms. Pokemon has it in spades. Most MOBAs and FPS's have it. And it seems to consistently show up in really successful multiplayer games. So, game theorists know it's a concept, and we know it works from the numbers and comparing it to games without it, but there's aspects of it we don't have a perfect grasp of. So, there's a lot of guesswork and using previous experience involved with it.

I actually designed a tabletop RPG with over 400 unique abilities for my grad thesis, and I had to deploy this A LOT when coming up with 10 different variations on abilities that were all supposed to do the same effective damage. I could've just given everyone an ability to did 15 damage for 3 cost, but the variation got the players working with a lot more variety and encouraged emergent gameplay a lot more. Still, there are some of these that, mathematically, are a bit better than others because it's impossible to perfectly balance every ability. So, some were designed to appeal to certain attitudes and situations while remaining viable.

....And that's the big importance here. Designed imbalance is actually a fairly good thing in design. It allows a lot more variation and that evolving metagame to last longer. Hell, there's actually some players, myself included, that enjoy the mental challenge of using an unoptimized build and making it work and be competitive. That's a discussion for another time though. But yeah. None of that matters if the other options still aren't VIABLE. So, despite the championing of a bit of imbalance here, it has to be a VERY small amount to work. If you overdo it, you just break your game. If you do it right, most people barely notice.

To be honest, what a lot of people think of as "fighting game balance" is actually the same concept here too. Making a character that has REALLY good matchups against a certain chunk of the roster but mediocre or bad ones with the rest of the cast is part of this concept when done intentionally. If Pikachu in brawl had had a slightly better matchup with Metaknight, he might've been an example.

That's where we get back to the initial concept though. When characters have this kind of variance, Rosalina's most popular (and widely considered most powerful set may be) A,B,C,B, but it's possible that C,A,B,C will be a LOT more effective against Wii Fit trainer. Most people won't use the second set, but if Wii Fit Trainer becomes excessively popular, it'll grow in popularity as a solid counter for her. Most people would actually consider this a more balanced roster (where some characters counter others while being weak to yet others), but technically, C,A,B,C, may be an objectively weaker set overall designed for countering opponents. That's what Extra Credits meant by their designed imbalance. SLIGHTLY less optimal options that are very strong against slight more optimal ones.
 
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Ellipsis

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Most of what you are arguing for here is imbalance by necessity. That's a real thing, and it should be minimized whenever possible. As you say, "it has to be a VERY small amount to work". What we need to strive for is to limit imbalance as much as possible. Extra Credits argues that we should make games LESS balanced than we are capable of making them, because Chess's issues come from balance. Which is my main issue:
The point I was making is that "perfect balance" is a myth, but that really close balance, as shown in the video, can be a crutch to a game and force it to stagnate. So, reaching for that perfect ideal isn't always feasible or good design.
That's the flaw in their argument, right there. Chess's stagnation does not come from balance or near balance or anything related to balance. It comes from predictability. While there are an exponential amount of moves technically available, most of them exist in the sense that in Smash you have the "strategic choice" to kill yourself or taunt repeatedly. All non-suicidal moves, going very far into the mid game, can be held in the head of a grandmaster at once. And then the game is briefly played off-script, and ends in a draw or concession before endgame. That's not balance or imbalance at work. That is not an argument that games should intentionally not be balanced.

To fix this, you have to add more possibilities, so one person cannot ever keep up with all of it at once. The problem would not be solved simply by white having a bigger advantage than it does now, or black somehow being better than white. It's not a balance issue.

Trying to reach the perfect ideal is always good design. Actually reaching it is not usually feasible, and that's fine. Get as close as you can, and let the metagame work with what little imbalance is left naturally. Don't go and unbalance the game on purpose. That just causes problems.


Incidentally, "adding more possibilities" is part of the reason why I support custom moves in Smash 4. That and the fact that as explained by the OP they statistically help balance.
 
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NewGuy79

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As a long time supporter of custom moves, I just wanted to say... DUH!

However recently Sakurai showed us something in a Pic of the Day which made me start to doubt custom movesets in competitive play; the menu. The custom moveset menu isn't on the CSS as many expected and the pictures give the impression that the custom movesets are not mapped to a player's Name or controller port. Thus if this is true, their would be an issue with ditto matchups on the Wii U version when played locally. Could still work for 3DS and online Wii U tournaments though.
I have to imagine that there's a decent chance this'll get changed. I honestly can't think that no one on the design team would think that two people at the same Wii U wouldn't want to potentially play custom movesets AND the same characters.

Edit: Also, I don't remember the PotD in question. Could you possibly link it? I'm curious about this now.

Double Edit: Actually, I think I found it. It's the one with the Mii in the Kung Fu Gi, right? I actually think there's a good chance that multiple sets will be stored on characters. It shows the mii's name in the custom menu tab. This seems to at least mean we can have multiple mii fighters, and if that's possible, I don't see why multiple custom sets would happen too.

Also, the customization seems heavily based on Kid Icarus Uprising, and that allowed a decent freedom of switching between options.

Finally, there's always the possibility that it'll be handled differently on the Wii U since it won't be 1 user per game. So, I wouldn't lose hope yet.
you also have to consider the possibility that players might want to face computer characters with a certain set of custom moves, any play tester could point out how clunky and unnaturally it would be to have to leave the character select screen, to then change a characters special moves in another menu, simple to return to the character select screen to start a game. it's for this reason that I'm fairly confident that we will be able to modify our special on the character select screen, that and the "custom [the wrench] button " thats there; after all why would they ONLY give you the option to toggle the custom move sets on and off on the character select screen if the only way to use them was through a completely different menu?
 
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Ellipsis

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you also have to consider the possibility that players might want to face computer characters with a certain set of custom moves, any play tester could point out how clunky and unnaturally it would be to have to leave the character select screen, to then change a characters special moves in another menu, simple to return to the character select screen to start a game. it's for this reason that I'm fairly confident that we will be able to modify our special on the character select screen, ( that and the "custom [the wrench] button " thats there; after all why would they ONLY give you the option to toggle the custom move sets on and off on the character select screen if the only way to use them was through a completely different menu?
I agree, and even if such a feature doesn't exist, it's small enough that I think we could convince Nintendo to patch it in. Worked in Mario Kart 8.
 

DairunCates

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Most of what you are arguing for here is imbalance by necessity. That's a real thing, and it should be minimized whenever possible. As you say, "it has to be a VERY small amount to work". What we need to strive for is to limit imbalance as much as possible. Extra Credits argues that we should make games LESS balanced than we are capable of making them, because Chess's issues come from balance. Which is my main issue:

That's the flaw in their argument, right there. Chess's stagnation does not come from balance or near balance or anything related to balance. It comes from predictability. While there are an exponential amount of moves technically available, most of them exist in the sense that in Smash you have the "strategic choice" to kill yourself or taunt repeatedly. All non-suicidal moves, going very far into the mid game, can be held in the head of a grandmaster at once. And then the game is briefly played off-script, and ends in a draw or concession before endgame. That's not balance or imbalance at work. That is not an argument that games should intentionally not be balanced.

To fix this, you have to add more possibilities, so one person cannot ever keep up with all of it at once. The problem would not be solved simply by white having a bigger advantage than it does now, or black somehow being better than white. It's not a balance issue.

Trying to reach the perfect ideal is always good design. Actually reaching it is not usually feasible, and that's fine. Get as close as you can, and let the metagame work with what little imbalance is left naturally. Don't go and unbalance the game on purpose. That just causes problems.


Incidentally, "adding more possibilities" is part of the reason why I support custom moves in Smash 4. That and the fact that as explained by the OP they statistically help balance.
That was a wording error. I wasn't arguing that the imbalance in chess was what caused its stagnation. On the contrary, it's one of the few things that keeps it alive in some cases. My point was more that focusing too much on the concept of balance is an unhealthy developer habit that can lead to you not exploring more ideas and more variation in your game.

And I'd argue that Extra Credits was arguing imbalance by necessity as well. It just came off as "more imbalance = better gameplay" for some people. The point they were arguing was that some imbalance is necessary by design to keep a game interesting. They never actually argued anywhere in the video that more imbalance is better; just that a modicrum of it is necessary and even healthy. A lot of beginning designers get wrapped up in that concept of perfect balance and obsessively try to wash away any imbalance so much that they sterilize their game. I really believe the video was more for those people with that mind set to explain that some imbalance is not only present in every game, but is often necessary to make it interesting. The big difference is, you can either let the balance occur naturally, or you can, like shown with the Jedi curve, hand design that necessary imbalance and then hard balance the rest of the game around it instead of trying to get as close as possible and potentially remove interesting elements. By having that bit of wiggle room, Wizards and Magic get a bit of creative control with the game without making it so chaotic that it becomes unplayable after two expansions (Although, doing the tournaments by certain numbers of legal expansions helps too).

They're two different schools of design though, and they both have their moments. You wouldn't design a game like chess with that design imbalance for various reasons (Despite the argument that chess stagnated. There's a LOT that's good about it as a game. It just doesn't make a good competitive multiplayer game for video gaming). So, no. The thing mentioned in the Extra Credits video doesn't ALWAYS work. It's just something to keep in mind. However, I'd argue that it's VERY relevant in fighting games as having the push and pull on which characters work better in some scenarios is part of the basic design of modern fighting games. Otherwise, we just get Urban Champs.

It IS a matter of some opinion though, as game design isn't an exact science. I do think we're MOSTLY arguing the same thing though, and we obviously both think that including custom moves in tourneys is good for various reasons.
 

•Col•

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Wow, I really hope this thread gets more visibility. I've been trying to explain some of these positives to allowing custom specials in competitive, but the points made here are much more articulated and coherent. +1 like from me.

I realize that I'm biased, because I always like to have options available, but.. Seriously, just consider some of the possibilities for a moment. Think about some of the options for a move like Falcon Punch, which is practically useless in a 1v1 match(aside from stylin' points), and giving it some options such as.. Making it weaker, but shooting the fire falcon animation out as a projectile.. Or turning it into a 3 hit jab-esque combo.. Or even into a chargeable attack that causes you to leap forward similiar to this:



Who doesn't want to see that in a tournament match?
 
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MasterOfKnees

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Hey hey hey there, easy now, Sing sucks, but if you're lucky and your opponent is stupid you can ledge-cancel it for a free Rest, which admittedly isn't worth **** in Brawl. Regardless, I'd say Rest is a 5/100 points!

Joking besides, this is a fantastic post, I hope it's going to convince a lot of people to at least give custom moves a chance.
 
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Conda

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The main issue with this is running a tournament imo. Players will have to be given the opportunity to edit their movesets before the match, probably in between matches too. The opponent has to know about every option his opponent is taking, and what if he wants to change his moveset to counter that?

The other obvious problem is that it means you have to know 250+ moves to play competitively, and studying match ups becomes nearly impossible unless you have another experienced player of the character with you also experimenting with their options. I think this is particularly bad because of how accessible smash is to casual players, they see moves their familiar with and can understand a lot of what's going on, but if people are using completely different moves it makes is a lot more distant in my opinion.

Yes, theoritically I think they're great, but implementing them in competition is WAYYYYY too difficult
Very good points, I rarely see people talking about this side of things - counter-picking based on special move selection. Time may go down the drain, and we'll need some rules to make things actually operate. A time limit won't do, because within the time limit will be counterpick-poker that stems from these choices and how they will affect matchups.
 

RascalTheCharizard

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that and the "custom [the wrench] button " thats there; after all why would they ONLY give you the option to toggle the custom move sets on and off on the character select screen if the only way to use them was through a completely different menu?
I asked myself this actually, but the answer I came up with was "one does not simply comprehend Sakurai."
 
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Jerm

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As long as every single character is OP in some way, shape, or form, no one will be OP- similar to Project M and why that game, imo, is the most balanced Smash to date. So if a custom move can convert an underwhelming special into an OP one and ends up making the character significantly better and prevents the metagame as a whole from becoming stagnant than I am alllll for it!
 

Thinkaman

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The problem with the analysis (albeit really good) is it works on the assumption that there will be an option that is superior.

That's not how it works. Consider Awesomenauts. In that game, each character has 6 upgrades to their special moves. Some are worse than others yes, but others are chosen based on style or perference. For instance, on Yuri's timewarp, I got Heal, Fast Forward, and CC Immunity on it. Others will get a Lifesteal for it. I'll only grab lifesteal if I'm fighting Ayla, Vinney or another Yuir. You can do this with any character. With Lonestar's Dynamite, I get extra Stick, lifesteal and DOT, but you can replace the DOT for Explosion size, bounce and blind. All of them work. Yes, there are bad upgrades (Penny's and Swiggins seem to complain the most), but a lot of them are style or based on other upgrades you selected.

For Smash, it will be the same thing. Take Mario's fireballs. You may go normal or maybe orb. But maybe fast isn't good. You may chose them based on match-up (perhaps Orb is good against certain characters). So you can't look at this in a linear fashion because it's not. It's going to be living and breathing.
Absolutely; reducing moves to a totally linear value in the initial analysis is limited as a gross simplification. That's why I immediately move to discussing polarization and the role specials play in it. This part was just showcasing the base statistical effect of multiple options, before matchups are taken into account.

As Dariun mentioned, these factors should be a further net positive.

As far as "Imperfect Balance" goes, I'm actually friends with James (Portnow) and David (Sirlin). I thought that episode was horrible, easily the worst episode of Extra Credits James has done, and told him to his face. :) I enjoyed David's rebuttal, and there were also some low-key rebuttals from LoL designers. (I think Morello did a short one that was good?)

My main beef with the video is:
  • It conflates local imbalance with global imbalance
  • It uses that confusion to glorify polarization and imply that this creates gameplay
I could give some LoL examples and counter-examples to discuss the video directly, but I'd prefer to keep talking about Smash here.

The main issue with this is running a tournament imo. Players will have to be given the opportunity to edit their movesets before the match, probably in between matches too. The opponent has to know about every option his opponent is taking, and what if he wants to change his moveset to counter that?
This sort of thing cannot be ignored. If something is impractical to implement, it doesn't matter how beneficial it might be! We are already seeing that this may be the case with equipment.

That said, I don't think this will prove to be a big deal. Time constraints only matter if they actually apply.

  • Technically, players have the option of demanding double blind picks for the first match. This would take a lot of time, but no one actually does it.
  • Technically, players can have extremely long and drawn out stage-striking. This could take a few minutes per set, but most people just agree on Battlefield or Smashville.
  • Technically, players have the right to reassign and test controls after every game. But no one actually does this.
  • Technically, doing best-of-3 8-minute sets could last close to 30 minutes per set. But in reality, it is very rare for most matchups to come close to this.
So yeah, we have to give players the right to assign new specials at the start of each set and even game. But how many players will actually do this? Probably some, but less than we'd suspect. When we add it up, the actual time burden of setting up custom moves in a tourney setting looks negligible. We know this from using custom controls as a frame of reference.

In all my experience as both a TO and participant, the overwhelming bulk of inefficiency comes from:
  • Running brackets backwards
  • Failure to train pool captains
  • Ill-defined meal break timings
  • AWOL participants
Compared to these things, time spent setting up custom controls in Brawl was super negligible. It could have taken 5 times as long, and it wouldn't have made a dent.

Practical concerns can only be addressed practically. The time spent setting up control profiles will probably be a drop in the ocean.

The other obvious problem is that it means you have to know 250+ moves to play competitively, and studying match ups becomes nearly impossible unless you have another experienced player of the character with you also experimenting with their options. I think this is particularly bad because of how accessible smash is to casual players, they see moves their familiar with and can understand a lot of what's going on, but if people are using completely different moves it makes is a lot more distant in my opinion.
Thanks for mentioning this; I think this sort of thing is easy to overlook, especially here on Smashboards where we all care way too much about this game. ;)

This is clearly a big concern for Sakurai, as he said when explaining why custom moves are not allowed in simple Vs Anyone online matches.

I emphasize with this concern, but am not worried about it interfering with competitive play. Why not? The experience required to compete at a high level significantly outstrips the mechanical barrier-to-entry of encountering all those unique moves. It's sort of like worrying about encountering a character at a tourney that you haven't unlocked or played against before; that person has so little experience that not being familiar with a character will be the least of their concerns.

Most the moves seem similar and behave in similar ways. New players should be able to understand how they work and adapt pretty quickly, the same way they learn new characters in the first place.



Also, for better or for worse, I expect most characters to eventually have a set of agreed upon "best" specials at top-level 1v1 play. Sure, you will have the oddball weirdos like @UTDZac (who will actually continue to run Judgement on G&W and 9 all of us), and me who will keep winning tourneys against @MetalMusicMan with Rollout, but most specials will be standardized.

Only certain projectiles, reflectors, and recovery moves are likely to actually be changed matchup-to-matchup. (Though with Miis and Palutena, who knows...)
 
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PhantimGanon

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The main issue with this is running a tournament imo. Players will have to be given the opportunity to edit their movesets before the match, probably in between matches too. The opponent has to know about every option his opponent is taking, and what if he wants to change his moveset to counter that?

The other obvious problem is that it means you have to know 250+ moves to play competitively, and studying match ups becomes nearly impossible unless you have another experienced player of the character with you also experimenting with their options. I think this is particularly bad because of how accessible smash is to casual players, they see moves their familiar with and can understand a lot of what's going on, but if people are using completely different moves it makes is a lot more distant in my opinion.

Yes, theoritically I think they're great, but implementing them in competition is WAYYYYY too difficult
Who said it was an absolute necessity for every competitive player to know every tiny detail about every possibility? Or for anyone to be able to know every tiny detail? I'm not certain how we allowed this kind of thinking to become the standard. Competitive smashers have become so insecure and entitled that they insist that the only "fair" option is the one that preserves the status quo regardless of how it was created or how things are evolving. Why shouldn't the best of us be forced to contend with near-infinite variables? Is there a BETTER way to find a champion? Why not let the game be a little unpredictable and true to life and require the top players to know how to think on their feet in addition to the usual: my char has x set combos against his, he has y viable approaches, i have z superior responses and a 75% victory chance if our reaction times are effectively equal and he knows everything i know. The game has become 100% character driven and had squeezed or the human factor. The guys playing the high tiers want to know that they come prepackaged with the few reliable options that have been keeping the "top" players on top without opposition and the low tiers want to know that they only have to work to develop rote strategies against a certain limited field of obstacles. We only needed to memorize the stuff that worked which has always been manageable because strategies stagnate. With customization we can still memorize the big things that come up in the meta while reacting to any new challenges. It's an even playing field. Everyone has 250+ specials by which to be overwhelmed there's really no way for that to schew results against the better player. Even if greater variability leads to a wider variation of outcomes: it's not chance. When everyone has the same options the best players still win. You don't have to plan perfectly, you just have to plan the best (or at least well enough to overcome any competing shortcomings)

That being said: i still think certain sets will become standard either through statistical viability, habit, or chance.
 

the8thark

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By having options that will work against specific builds, you get an ever evolving meta-game instead of a static one. This drastically increases the viability of lesser used characters and reduces the effectiveness of tiers.
That won't do much as you'll know what is good vs what pretty early on. And since SSB won't have meta changing patches like say Hearthstone does you won't get an evolving meta.

[edit] Another point I just thought of is this is not a vacuum. As in how effective a single move is on its own is nice to know but that's so not the whole story. You have to choose the move with regards tot he other moves you've chosen. And also as potential counters to the character/moveset you think you'll be versing. This will have the players choose: "do I choose moves that are solid in very matchup" or "do I take a risk and choose a moveset that is amazing in one type of matchup but bad vs another type of matchup? In this frame of mind a move could be good for one character/moveset and terrible for another.

I don't see the custom move sets (for the most part) being used as trying out wild wacky move sets. I see the custom move sets being used to improve what the character already has. Replacing the junk moves and improving on the already good moves.

What the OP says is very true. it will lessen the difference between the best and worst characterwise technically and make it more about player skill, which I think is always a good thing.

Lesser experienced players will see a move used very well and cry Overpowered. But they won't realise it's the build that move is in which is what makes it Overpowered as well as the character it's attached to. And also in part what stage you're playing on. The pros will work out rough movesets for their mains depending who and what moveset they think they will be vsing and on what stage they are playing on too.

As a side note custom moves (if allowed on the pro scene) will make the matches much more interesting. You won't know the exact makeup of the character you're vsing. And neither will be stream watching audience. So every match will be something different and interesting. And The pro SSB scene, like any sport dies if there is no fans. Gotta keep the fans happy.
 
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DarthLuigi36

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This is a great read. I very much support everything said here - if everyone has more options, the gaps will be lessened. Within my professional experience with the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game, I see the same thing. When the best themes of a particular format all have a lot of options, some may have advantages over others, and you may have a "best" strategy, but the overall differences in performance will be minimal.

I'm particularly excited to see custom move counterpicking. This can be implemented in many ways, and any of them could be cool. I like the one that was mentioned earlier: loser gets to counterpick their character as well as their moves, while the winner may change their moves but not the character (otherwise the loser's counterpicks would be rather wasted).

On the topic of (im)balance... I generally agree with Sirlin. I love that dude. As it pertains to Smash, I want to see the imbalance that allows players to express themselves (both stylistically by choosing moves they like, as well as intellectually by choosing moves to gain an advantage). While there is no way to achieve perfect balance in any asymmetrical game, if the custom moves are done right, they can help lower the gap.

Like, Melee, despite its great qualities, is a horribly imbalanced game. I'll link to another Sirlin article about balance, where he is talking about his card game Yomi. Now, you don't have to read all of that unless you're super interested, but if you scroll down, you'll see that he draws comparisons to Street Fighter (since he was a professional SF player and balancer). He shows how terribly lopsided some of the matchups were.

http://www.sirlin.net/blog/2014/4/18/game-balance-and-yomi.html

Yomi (considered by Sirlin himself and by its players to be very well balanced) has 20 characters, and nobody has a point total higher than +6.5 or lower than -6 (That's + or - deviation from a theoretical perfect balance. The deviation should generally be less than the number of characters. Anything greater probably means you have someone over/underpowered.). Additionally, there are no matchups that are 7-3 or worse. In other words, some characters may have an advantage, but never a guaranteed win. This is good. We want this. Advantages are fine, unwinnable matchups are not.

Compare that to Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike's chart. In that game of 19 possible characters, there were some characters hitting total scores of over 30! Some matchups were as far as 8-2, basically unwinnable without a miracle or having your opponent lose consciousness mid game (some may call that a miracle lol).

Getting back to Melee, we can apply the same matchup chart...

http://imgur.com/NxdSqMW

(I just made this using matchup data from SSBWiki. That data may be out of date, but in general it should be accurate enough for this purpose.)

Wow. In a game of 26 characters (Only a few more than Yomi or SF3: 3rd Strike) we have Fox at a whopping +42, and several other characters sitting in the 30s. Meanwhile, we have poor Pichu at -57, and plenty of other characters at -40 or worse. That is absolutely atrocious. Not only do we have HUGE discrepencies in power, but we have tons of horrible 7-3 and 8-2 matchups that are practically unwinnable for the unfortunate character. In essence, for tournament play, SSBM only has about 8 characters. The rest is just for funsies.

(Off topic: I'll probably be doing a similar chart for 64 and Brawl if anyone is interested)

What is my point, other than that Melee is terribly imbalanced? Custom moves. Fox can't get TOO much better than he already is. Luigi, Yoshi, Pikachu, Link, and Donkey Kong have plenty of space for improvement. While some custom move won't make Zelda suddenly beat Marth, it can help lessen the gap, and it can give her an overall boost in every other matchup.
 

Metal B

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The main issue with this is running a tournament imo. Players will have to be given the opportunity to edit their movesets before the match, probably in between matches too. The opponent has to know about every option his opponent is taking, and what if he wants to change his moveset to counter that?
EDIT: Ok i'm not sure. I couldn't find a source, that you can use the Amiibo character as playable characters ...

One option people completely forgetting here, are the Amiibos. Players could load there customization through those figures and change them between matches. Or you have to register your characters in advance and can only use those figures for the complete tournament. Then you can complete surprise your opponents with your choose and he has no direct way to counter it. People have to guess your setup and analyse your matches.
This could create a really interesting meta-game outside of matches, where players try to read the tactics of other players and plan in advance. Kind of like Pokémon.

Customizable equipment could also work, if there are not to broken, thanks to Amiibos. There was the argument, that different parts have different attributes, which could make it hard to balance or rule the equipment. But the only important part of customizable equipment are the numbers and special abilities. The equipment them self aren't important. If people wanna limit the attributes, than set up rules like "Speed isn't allowed to get higher then 50" or "'More Launch-Power' isn't allowed", then the equiment isn't important. I would say, the amiibos become even more important, if you try to include those possibilities.

But there also some important points to also cusider with customizable equipment:
  1. The only way customizable equipment can work in tournament is, if there is an easy way to see the setup. Otherwise there is hug potential for cheating and the moderators always have to check the attributes, which just is too time consuming.
  2. The games could become more about choosing the right tactic, then actually playing the game. If someone predict the tactic of one player and builds a smart counter, he can dominant a fight outside of actual having the better skill. On one hand this sounds really cool and outsmart an opponent is also a skill and shows knowledge of the game. On the other side some people playing a fighting game for the fighting aspects and not wanting to plot battle plans beforehand.
  3. Customizable equipment could ruin the uniqueness of the characters. For example if people figure out, that speed is the best attribute , we have only fast characters running around. But it could also be used to balance characters outside of patches. Let's say, Meta Knight is overpowered again and the community rules, that he needs to be slower to balance him out. So he now has to always wear customizable equipment, which lowers his speed to -10 and powers up defense to +10.
  4. The biggest problem would be of course the unpredictable and the size of possibilities. There could be so many options, that the game could be less about skill and more about abilities and move choices. Again like Pokémon
Anyway i would find it cool, if the whole scene develop them self into this direction. Seeing people running around with there "Team" of Amiibos and sending them into battle, sounds awesome. It also reminds of intro of SSBM or SSBB Story-Mode, where the Mario trophy gets thrown into the arena. Funny that this could be kind of become reality.
 
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RCyclone

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(Off topic: I'll probably be doing a similar chart for 64 and Brawl if anyone is interested)
I'd be interested to see those charts.

@ Thinkaman Thinkaman and @Amazing Ampharos I just wanted to say thanks for making Balanced Brawl, It was one of the best brawl mods I've played, I really enjoyed it!

A excellent statistical analysis on custom moves! I am really excited for this feature and this also makes me interested in equipment, although I know it probably won't be in most tournaments except maybe as a side event, but it would be neat to see how this would work with match ups and custom moves in the mix.
 
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well as far as where players go to customize move sets there's a separate menu dedicated to this in the solo section
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9a8Kz0wcJwk
at 3:35 You can see exactly how to setup custom moves. Seems very straight forward to me, it simple gives you the option to just change a specific special for whatever direction you want and test it out in a similar fashion to how changing your controls worked in brawl.
 
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