We Don’t Know How Much About Amiibo that We Don’t Know- But it’s Probably a Lot

If you’ve spent a bit of time hanging around the last corners of the web in which amiibo is still a topic of discussion, you’ll notice an all too common problem for online communities. There’s a select group of people who are absolutely certain their opinions are correct. And to an extent, they have a reason to believe that: after all, amiibo training and competitions have been going on since the release of Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. Surely after three years we would collectively have a pretty solid grasp on the abilities of amiibo, right? So it’s not unreasonable for someone to assume their knowledge about $13 plastic toys is complete.

Except that nobody’s knowledge about amiibo training is complete, or anywhere near complete. After all these years and all these tournaments, the tier list is still shifting around. New loadouts are being tested for previously unviable amiibo, and new training methods are being developed. Tiny nuances have been discovered as well: the head honcho of Cloud Nine, the other amiibo website, just found out that the Improved Launch Ability bonus significantly improves the damage output of the amiibo assigned to it.

In fact, a MASSIVE discovery was made last week for amiibo training. Someone figured out (still working on finding out who), using a defunct version of the Android app Tagmo, how to take the training that an amiibo has received and put it in a different character. If I understand correctly, this means that you will basically have the same amiibo in a different body. By taking a Shulk who uses his Down Special all the time and putting him in a Bowser, you would get a Bowser who uses his Down Special all the time.

While the amiibo community is still tinkering and researching the possible combinations that would be beneficial (well, part of the amiibo community; it seems the rest of them are complaining that this discovery is “overhyped”), one thing is for certain. We don’t know the limits of this new method of amiibo training. It could be the future. It could be useless. We don’t know how much about amiibo that we don’t know- but it’s probably a lot.

Amiibo Science: Bone and Flesh, the innate structures of amiibo

Get out your degrees, because today the Amiibo Doctor is going to explain an important amiibo concept! We’re going to discuss, using the skeletal structure as a metaphor, how amiibo intelligence is structured, and how that structure allows stimuli to change its behavior.

If you paid attention to my post from yesterday, you’ll remember that amiibo of the same character end up using the same moves over and over again, regardless of their utility. Yoshi’s egg throwing was a useful example of this: if you train Yoshi while playing as Yoshi and NEVER use his egg throw, your amiibo will still eventually use the egg throw and only the egg throw.

Most amiibo have a tendency like this, but it’s not as obvious which move or moves they prefer. It may be obvious that Sheik has an obsession with her jab, but it’s not as obvious that a Mario will end up using his neutral air and his down smash, given enough time. Sometimes you have to really look for these inherent favorites: I trained five individual Mario amiibo before I realized that after a hundred matches, they all ended up doing the same thing.

(If you’re a trainer who wants to prevent their amiibo from using moves, we’ll discuss that in a later post.)

However, amiibo never perform an action 100% of the time, and thus will change over time, even if it is only in slight ways. For example, if you pit your amiibo against an opponent for ten matches, you had better believe that it’s going to come out different than it went in. At the very least it’ll learn a bit better what not to do.

 

Now let’s say you really pay attention, and you pit your amiibo against an opponent for ten matches ten times, for a total of one hundred matches. You’ll notice something unusual for artificial intelligences: some things about the amiibo change, but some don’t. Perhaps it still wants to use its down smash just like it always has, but now it has switched out using one move for another. If you spot this, know that it is the same situation as Yoshi, but it just isn’t as innate. Your amiibo is not about to use only one move for the rest of its life. Don’t worry. In fact, take note of the moves that it’s using: they are the bone, if you will. They are the structure that everything else is built from.

But a bone is useless by itself. It can’t do anything without flesh on top of it to move the bone. And just as with a bone, an amiibo needs more than just its inherent move preferences to fight well. So we have to put on some flesh.

In the metaphor, the “flesh” are the experiences that the amiibo has obtained since it was first taken out of the box, or more specifically, the changes made to amiibo’s hex data since it was originally formatted for Smash Bros. The bone is always the same: the flesh grows and changes shape to adapt to its environment. Just as lifting weights to make your arm larger will change the muscle patterns in your arm, teaching your amiibo to do a certain thing will change the data of the amiibo.

In summary, it is the experiences, also called the “flesh” that makes each amiibo unique. And the flesh is always built off the same bone.

 

How Amiibo “think”

Whenever someone asks me how to start training amiibo, I always recommend starting with Yoshi. Now, most trainers familiar with Yoshi would chortle upon hearing this: Yoshi is a terrible competitor, one of the worst in both the “customs” and “no customs” metagame. The figure itself isn’t even very rare or valuable to collectors. So why would I choose Yoshi?

There are a few simple reasons:

  1. Yoshi is a common amiibo: there are currently six different amiibo that function as a Yoshi in Super Smash Bros.
  2. Yoshi is cheap. Even to this day, most incarnations of Yoshi sell for ten dollars or less.
  3. Training a Yoshi as opposed to a much more potent amiibo allows you to have “scratch paper” for your training methods so future amiibo will be trained better.
  4. Training Yoshi teaches a very important lesson: certain amiibo will always use the same move, no matter what you do. Yoshi will always throw eggs, and throw eggs often.

Why does Yoshi do that? After all, using any other move would grant him better results in the long-term. Surely he would be able to recognize that other options work better.

In order to answer this question, we first must find out how amiibo process their data. Using the powers that only the Amiibo Doctor can wield, I have summoned the greatest Microsoft Paint artists on Earth. They have drawn this flowchart, which depicts in a rough sense how the data stored on the amiibo figure is put into play.

 

Amiibo process of thinking

As you can see, the game does most of the thinking: in fact, the only purpose for the amiibo figure itself is to store the data that comprises the amiibo’s experience. The game does the rest.

Now, back to our original question: why does Yoshi use eggs specifically? Well, if you look at the right shape of the oval image, you’ll notice that each character has an equation that is used to process the amiibo’s data. Yoshi’s equation is simply a bad one: it is written in such a way that it inherently favors throwing eggs. Then, as soon as an egg succeeds in hitting its target, it “weights” that move even heavier, so that Yoshi is more likely to use egg throws in the future.

In summary, amiibo “think” by taking the set of data that comprises their being, running it through an equation created by the developers of the game, and modifying the set of data again. Yoshi throws eggs because his equation was poorly written.

Amiibo: the Hidden Metagame

 

Since the release of Super Smash Bros. Melee in 2001, the Smash Bros. series has continuously been a source of exciting and interesting video game competitions. Players who originally won their titles in dark and dusty basements are now playing in front of thousands of fans. Discussions about strategy, rulesets and techniques have been ongoing for years, adding layer upon layer to the competitive Smash Bros scene.

But curiously, the most unique and interesting version of Smash Bros is also the hardest one to find: amiibo tournaments. Save for a little under a hundred players worldwide (there are literally dozens of us!), no one has bothered to consider the potential that amiibo hold. Most of the “amiibo crowd” is dispersed across threadbare Discord servers and long-dead Smashboards threads.

It shouldn’t be this way. The amiibo metagame itself is an incredibly detailed and deep, and with every passing day more and more of it is discovered. With 58 characters, dozens of stages and the choice to use equipment, custom moves and bonus effects (colloquially referred to as the “customs” metagame) or not, there is a tremendous amount of possibility in each tournament.

The goal of this page, Amiibo Doctor, is to discover more of the intricacies that amiibo hold, and to help you train your amiibo to be even better than they were before. We’re going to diagnose some common questions, implant some new techniques and at one point we’ll even do a brain transplant. Yes, you ready that correctly. I recently discovered how to perform the amiibo equivalent of a brain transplant.

Stay tuned to this page. Doctor’s orders.