Purpose / Motivation

Super Smash Bros. Melee is a constantly evolving game. We discover new techniques, we push the limits of the game, and we define and redefine what is deemed the best evaluation of skill. Sometimes the game evolves to a point where new topics come up that change the landscape of the entire scene, requiring an answer from the organizers of the events in which they take place. The competitive Melee scene has very much reached this kind of crossroads in 2017. Now is the time for a new standardized ruleset, and here’s why:

Reason #1: The scene needs an actual ruleset amendment process

If you’re wondering what the previous ruleset amendment process was, well, there really wasn’t one. Since competitive Melee has existed, rulesets have only changed when one major decided to shake something up and others followed along. We saw this when Pound 4 made the move to ten legal stages, then when Apex 2012 made the move to six legal stages and the current set format. The scene needs an actual ruleset amendment process to accommodate the constantly evolving game.

Reason #2: Our major event lineup needs more unity on formats and rulesets

It’s no secret that most of our majors lack unity right now. We still see instances in which one organizer decides to get cute with a rule nobody actually wants, and it costs both players and spectators the full experience they deserve. Or instances where a major interprets a rule one way, but another major interprets a rule the other way. We need to clarify the nuts and bolts of the Melee ruleset so there’s less confusion at events.

Reason #3: Newly developed technology needs to be officially addressed

20XX training packs. Memory card hacks. SmashBox controllers and its variants. The list goes on. The rise of Smash-related technology has put players in a unique situation to leverage game modifications to aid their training sessions and tournament gameplay. For the sake of players’ and spectators’ well-being, newly developed Smash-related technology deserves to be officially addressed so everyone has clear expectations of what’s legal and illegal moving forward.

In this spirit, a Competition Committee has been founded to create a standardized Melee ruleset and build a process for future ruleset amendments as necessary. The following document is going to discuss what we learned during the initial stages of this process, and then present what we’ve done to accommodate the next step of the Melee scene’s evolution. Although there is no current governing body requiring anyone to use the standardized ruleset, the founding organizers of the Competition Committee and all signatories of this document pledge to abide by and enforce the ruleset at events they host. Our goal is not to force the hand of others, but to inform the community about what stance our current major tournaments have on various ruleset topics.

Structure / Process

The structure of the Competition Committee is based on the principle that the ruleset must reflect a balanced representation of the opinions and interests of the major tournament organizers as well as the general Melee community (including players, casters, and streamers). In the past, this was generally done entirely on the TO side, with the understanding that if TOs made bad rules, people wouldn’t go to their tournaments. But as the Melee community has grown, there has been occasional disconnect between these groups in understanding each other’s desires and circumstances. Organizers have a responsibility to respond to the expressed will of the community, and the attendees/viewers of events should be made cognizant and be considerate of problems that organizers face. The job of the Competition Committee is to facilitate this process.

To this end the Competition Committee consists of two bodies: a group of 5 community leaders (The Leadership Panel, or “The 5”), and another group of 25 community representatives (The At-Large Panel, or “The 25”, members TBD). What we hope to impress upon the community here is that having a committee and amendment process which allows for a just avenue for change is more important that getting the ruleset perfect immediately or crafting a process around some a priori desired result. Ad hoc rule changes open the door for the ruleset to be subject to the whims of the community or whomever is running the next big event which can change from day to day. The process is much more important than any one particular rule change.

Amendments

In keeping with the principle of balanced representation, a rule or procedural change must meet the approval of both bodies to become part of the standard ruleset. Amendment submission is open to the entire community, which means for the first time ever, anyone can make a material contribution to the Melee ruleset. Amendments are first voted on by The 5. If an amendment passes with a majority vote, then it moves to the 25, where it will become part of the standard ruleset if voted on by a majority.

Given this system, a ‘yes’ vote from The 5 can be interpreted as explicit support of the amendment, or the opinion that the amendment should be left up to The 25 to decide. Generally The 5 intend to publish an explanation of their votes.

We expect that some of the rules in the present ruleset will come up for amendment and this is an intended part of the conservative but open-minded strategy we used to create these rules in the first place.Indeed, some of the founding votes were made with the opportunity for change in mind; many of us felt that the full amendment process is more appropriate for the most radical proposals. That way, more voices will be voting, allowing for a more accurate gauge of community sentiment. Having said that, a few material decisions to the ruleset were made in its founding which we felt important to highlight. Keep in mind that not all of these decisions were unanimous, so the following reasoning is only meant to represent the majority opinion:

The Ruleset

Mid-Set Coaching

The growth of the competitive scene has had many benefits, including the emergence of a new type of Smasher: the Coach. While we appreciate their contribution outside the game, we believe the presence of mid-set coaching has numerous negative consequences for the competitive scene:

  1. No longer strictly 1 vs. 1. Adapting to your opponent is a skill we highly value, and active coaching in the middle of a set prevents that skill from being tested in full effect. We recommend reading Amsah’s post from 2014 to expand on this point; it’s a great read.
  2. Creates an uneven playing field. Having a coach is a clear and inherent advantage if your opponent is coachless. Sponsored players on pro teams have more resources, and are more likely to have a full-time coach, so if legalised “the rich get richer.”
  3. Logistically onerous. Mid-set coaching takes time, frustrating spectators and extending the runtime of the tournament. For mid-set coaching to be legal, we’d have to set strict time limits, enforcing which would take valuable administrative staff away from their duties, especially if we wanted to regulate more than just main stage.

Controllers

Notching has been done for a long time and largely without complaints. It’s also not such a drastic advantage over non-notched controllers that it needs to be regulated; the angles and motions can be learned without significant trouble. As well, notching and other small modifications like removing springs from shoulder buttons generally are available to anyone to do on their own and don’t absolutely require access to experts or special parts to achieve. Thus, we’ve decided that case modifications should be permitted.

However, the output signal of the controller should not in any way be altered by custom external hardware. If in the future the community decides that hardware solutions to controller issues are warranted, these should be standardized by the Committee and provided by tournament organizers only. We recognize that there is a developing problem of controller hunting and that we need to consider possible solutions (which may include hardware and/or software mods) if enough people agree on the severity of the problem.

As for non-Gamecube controllers, the Committee’s vote to ban should be understood as a tentative ban as part of the ongoing conversation about non-GC and box-style controllers. In our opinion, the use of a GC controller is somewhat intrinsic to what we consider “playing Melee” and the skills involved in doing so, and the weight of this principle and the integrity of the game has to be measured against any advantages provided by allowing other controllers.

A general principle we are working with is that non-GC controllers should not have any obvious or significant material advantages over GC controllers except increased accessibility. The general player base should not have to weigh the advantages/disadvantages of using alternative controllers. That is to say, the differences/advantages of the non-GC controller should be such that we expect players in general will very, very rarely choose the non-GC controller over the GC controller unless they have an accessibility concern that is aided by the use of the non-GC controller. The difficulty thus far has been in enumerating all the possible differences between GC controllers and alternative controllers (e.g. box-style), because the mechanics of the GC controller as well as how the GC reads its inputs are so complicated and have some controversial manufacturing variances, and solutions to those may be different discussions entirely.

By accessibility, we mostly mean the ability to be used by players with physical handicaps/disability/injury or who are unavoidably in danger of developing such in the near future by continued use of the GC controller; we think the idea that box-style controllers should be allowed because they will meaningfully increase crossover from traditional FGC players is a fantasy. We are also not convinced that we have explored modification options with the GC controller to improve ergonomics. Box-style controllers additionally may solve some ergonomic issues but create new ones themselves; TOs in general are not presently in a position to endorse box-style controllers as ergonomic solutions and it would be irresponsible to do so. If we do decide there are some features of GC controllers that are widely considered to be flaws that detract from gameplay, our opinion is that we should pursue external hardware and/or software modifications to solve them instead of allowing alternative controllers.

Official Game Version

NTSC Melee has the unique problem of gameplay differences between various versions of the game. This can lead to disputes over what is the appropriate version to play, as some characters are distinctly better or worse with some of the differences. We’ve decided to go with the most common, and most recent, iteration of NTSC Melee, 1.02.

Pauses

Pause should be set to off at all times, but there have been numerous incidents in Smash history where it was kept accidentally on, leading to controversy and debate over what happens next. Often the players mutually agree to some terms, but under the duress of social pressure from their peers: ask for a stock or game loss, and you’re a villain, be more lenient and you’re a “homie.” As a theme, we’d like for situations like this to be prevented, with mutual agreement avoided at all costs. Instead, we’ve set the penalty at a stock loss, with TO discretion up to a game loss in scenarios where a stock is more valuable for one player than another (i.e. the offending player pauses interfering with their opponent’s recovery. If the offending player has 2 stocks and the recovering player only has 1, they could potentially win the game for pausing if their only penalty is giving up 1 of their 2 stocks).

Conclusion

The full ruleset can be found here (PDF) or here (Google Doc)

To recap, we put together this ruleset with a “conservative but open-minded” strategy, generally avoiding controversial changes in the rules (but which is clear and can stand well on its own), acknowledging where there is controversy, where there are problems that need to be addressed, and most importantly, putting together a collaborative process for implementing changes as a community.

The Melee community TOs pride themselves on being among the most open and accessible leaders in all of competitive gaming, and we welcome discussion and feedback. We are ready to accept proposed changes to the rules according to the process as described in Section 2 of the ruleset.