Why I’m waiting to launch into Spirits
In Smash 4, I was a rabid advocate for vanilla play. I still maintain that once we established the Little Mac and Cloud bans, the metagame should’ve turned away from equipment and back towards vanilla play, thanks to the somewhat more balanced nature of the vanilla metagame.
I’m split as far as Ultimate goes, though. I still like the idea of vanilla play: amiibo being smarter means that this very well could be the most balanced amiibo metagame we’ve ever had, save for Link. Having vanilla amiibo means that new trainers don’t have to train their amiibo and then expend the effort dumping Spirits into an amiibo that might not do well at all. Spirits are hard to get, and once the Olimar glitch gets patched they’ll be even harder.
I’m not opposed to a Spirits metagame, though. Effects have been nerfed significantly almost to the point of being useless, and one playthrough of World of Light gets players enough Spirits to start training a few amiibo. While the Grab-Attack-Defense triangle seems pointless with amiibo, making use of the improved stat system seems like a fun way to bring people in. There’s really only one issue, though.
What happens if you use a Spirit on an amiibo and it ends up being a waste? You don’t get that Spirit back. In Smash 4 we got around this by editing the amiibo data itself-Lifesteal was an incredibly rare piece of equipment, but thanks to editors who had decrypted the formatting, we could put Lifesteal on every amiibo (and we did). We can’t do that in Ultimate yet, meaning that all those attempts on the Spirit Board to get Ace and Legend Spirits could be for naught. Amiibo training in Ultimate would mean trainers would either opt for the best amiibo so as not to waste their Spirits, or spend hours grinding for Spirits to take a chance on an unproven amiibo. In the long run, that slows down metagame development and makes it difficult to shake things up with a new, unproven competitor.
I’m waiting to jump on the Spirits wagon because we just don’t have the technology for it yet. There’s been some progress made, but it’s not close to a working form yet.
Alternatives for my recommended stagelist
The most important decision that a tournament organizer can make is that of the stagelist. The mainstream Ultimate competitive scene is facing a difficult issue right now – most of the allowed stages are very wide, which puts projectile users at an advantage over physical fighters, and puts offstage fighters at an advantage over one-hit killers. Some top players prefer having mostly wide stages, while others want to add smaller stages to balance out the gameplay. Mew2King has been especially vocal on this subject, having tweeted about it and also published a lengthy video on it as well.
Typically in Amiibo History, we’ve run with some very boring and also unfair stages. For most of its history tournaments had one of three possible stagelists: All Battlefield, All Ω, or some combination of both with Smashville occasionally thrown in there. None of these stages are a problem on their own, but when they become the only stage or stages in a tournament then imbalances can arise due to blastzones favoring certain directions.
I chose the stages from my list here (and am still reviewing Ultimate’s hazardless stages) based on a few important qualities.
- The stage should be considered usable in a tournament on its own by the competitive Smash community. It doesn’t matter if it’s a starter or counterpick or a regional choice.
- Then, given that list of stages, the stage cannot kill a player. In Town and City for example, the platforms sometimes move through the blastzones and kill whatever is standing on them. That disqualifies a stage, because that requires an amiibo to be aware enough to move off the platform.
- The stages then should not interfere with normal gameplay too much. Yoshi’s Island (Brawl) is a borderline choice for my hazards ON stagelist because of the Fly Guys and Blarggwich potentially blocking projectiles and rescuing fighters. However, they don’t appear very often and typically don’t favor one fighter or the other, so I allow it.
Even with all of these qualifications, there are still six stages (unless the Yoshi’s Story glitch is never patched) that are viable for hazards ON gameplay, and at this point it simply becomes an issue of variety in stages so as to balance gameplay. That’s why I start with a randomly chosen stage from the four, then move to Final Destination and finally Battlefield. Each of these stages are imbalanced, but between Final Destination’s imbalances, Battlefield’s imbalances and then one of the four’s imbalances, it should be a largely balanced match overall.
Having said that, stagelists are also flexible and there are many combinations that can lead to a broadly balanced match, or at least one that is so properly balanced small imbalances don’t affect the outcome in any perceivable way. Mine is certainly not the only right one. Other tournament organizers may want to simplify it by having the game randomly choose every stage, or to simply alternate between two counter-balanced stages like hazardless Smashville and hazardless Dream Land. Hazardless Smashville has small blast zones and favors physical fighters, while hazardless Dream Land has massive blast zones and favors projectile and combo fighters.
So long as the stagelist isn’t too simple and has at least a few possible stages, the likelihood of unfair stage options is smaller and smaller. We should reduce that likelihood as much as possible, and continue to review it as new stages are released.
We have 64 amiibo right now – what about the other ones, and what happens then?
Starting with the 58 amiibo from Smash 4, adding the 4 available amiibo from my Shopping List page on the sidebar, and including Wolf and Ridley, we currently have 64 available amiibo in the metagame. We’re still missing lots of veteran characters like Snake and Ice Climbers, though. That begs the question-how long do we have to wait until we get all 74 characters represented as amiibo? And what will happen to the metagame when they come out?
So far, these are the amiibo that we have a release date for:
Ken, Pichu and Young Link are also set for release in 2019, but we don’t have any solid dates on them yet. Isabelle and Daisy will also be released, but we already have non-Smash amiibo for them so we can ignore those releases.
Going off of the history of Smash 4’s amiibo metagame, new amiibo usually revives a small amount of interest in the scene. That’s good, but the interest goes away pretty soon. However, sometimes new amiibo end up being really, really good and have a large permanent effect on the game itself. Cloud’s release came in July 2017, a full three years after the start of the amiibo metagame, and a year and a half after the release of his character. Yet he absolutely dominated the scene, almost as much as Little Mac had, until he was finally banned.
The metagame is still in its infantile stages as we train, train and train again the amiibo that we think might be useful in tournaments. There’s dozens of amiibo starting off, and I can already tell you that I need to go back to most of the ones I’ve already trained because I’ve screwed them up or somebody figured out a better thing to teach them. On top of simple information discovery and organic development (remember my post, Making a Meta) we still have all of the patches, the new amiibo and DLC character amiibo, and even ruleset changes to shift around the metagame. We’re far from knowing anything for certain in the amiibo metagame.
The Ultimate hype is gone. Promoting the metagame through media.
As I outlined in Blitzkrieg, when Ultimate releases there was going to be a large outpouring of attention to the game. It’s been over three weeks now, and I believe that hype is no longer exploitable. Rather than discuss verbally how we should promote the metagame, I’ve created this (rather shoddy) chart to provide information on the media platforms that are immediately available.
Commentation and amiibo tournaments: a musing
There is a line in Smash-related media that separates the good footage from the great footage. Experienced Smashers can tell you if the commentation will be interesting or not from the first few seconds of the video. Then, if you let them, they’ll remind you that good commentation in Smash-related media is the line that separates the good footage from the great footage.
Yet amiibo tournaments never have commentation – the only exception that I’ve seen are McOwner’s videos, such as this one. It makes sense why they wouldn’t, at first glance. Amiibo sometimes go an entire minute without touching each other, while at other times they can take an entire stock in fifteen seconds. Having such an unpredictable and uneven pace makes solid, consistent commentary difficult.
Despite that, I think commentation in amiibo tournaments may prove to be a useful asset in the long run. Commentation in Smash tournaments serve two purposes: explaining the game to new players, and keeping the video content fresh second-by-second for experienced players. Incidentally, the amiibo scene also has these problems. New players don’t understand the game, and the video is sometimes boring between matches or when the amiibo don’t fight much.
I’m considering commentating a few matches from tournaments myself, to get a feel for it. Frankly I don’t know how well I could do considering my position as a somewhat outsider of the scene, as good commentation requires knowing the players involved to a degree. It’s still worth a shot! You never know how it might turn out.