Issue #5 - Online Edition

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Issue 5, May 2021 Editorial Director Zane “Epengu” Bhansali Creative Director Marco “Oats” Salazar de Leon Layout Editor Corey “Kasha” Owen Volunteer Editor Holden “Holden” Predmore | deal_4_real Writers Holden “Holden” Predmore | YamHam Carlos “Havok” Zambrano | spoopy Artists Lesley “La Noche” | JDMH | Milo | pup | spoopy Cover Artists Front Cover - Justin Wharton Back Cover - Marco “Oats” Salazar de Leon

From The Editors It’s easy to view our ties to a video game community as the least of our worries during a worldwide pandemic. But to dismiss those bonds, conversations, and passions as frivolous or unimportant would be to turn our backs on the stories and experiences that brought us anger, tears, and joy. Sure, it’s strange to find humanity alongside a video game and its community, but these are strange times. This online edition is a small collection of creative fun, and I’m happy that we took a brief moment to look at what came before, what is around us now, and what the future may bring. Enjoy. — Marco “Oats” Salazar de Leon

In the past year, it’s impossible to say that nothing in our lives have changed. Melee was no exception. I heard the news one morning that there was a new Melee build that included a ton of new features including rollback netcode. Of course I was hyped but I haven’t kept up with Melee in a while so it sort of ran through my head as “Awesome, I wonder how this will affect tournaments?” I eventually found myself tuning into the Slippi Champions League. As a TO for another scene, the tournament format seemed interesting so I decided to check it out. The first match I saw was… “Spark vs. Zain huh? This must be fairly early in the tournament.” Much to my surprise, the overlay at the top quietly read “Grand Finals”. What? I remember both these players being on the come up but Spark was a top 20-30 player last time I watched. Leaving the stream on, I hastily checked the bracket and players for each division. Captain Faceroll and Spark in division 1? SFAT, Axe, Wizzrobe are in division 2? And who’s Azel? Who’s Aklo? Where’s HBox? Where’s M2K? The months to follow were fascinating as a spectator who stopped watching around late 2018-early 2019. With COVID shutting tournaments down, I watched as the old guard fell. I watched as 3 different Captain Falcon styles became threats in top 8. I watched as HBox shattered to players who I had never heard of. And I watched as the last of the 5 gods continued to push for that #1, now contending with a Zain that transcended any Marth that I had ever seen. It’s been a real treat to watch how Melee evolved in quarantine; the level of play has skyrocketed so quickly. I can only hope that when offline tournaments return, we’ll not only see better Melee, but we’ll see a renewed community of top players, newcomers, TOs, artists, photographers, authors, controller modders, and everyone in between. — Corey “Kasha” Owen

I’m going to be perfectly honest: for me, MAJOR online was enticing mainly in that it represented an opportunity to make something with Marco and Corey again. In these times, I find myself reflecting on the connective sinew that being part of this community lets us build. You expect it to atrophy with distance; but as any Smash player knows, we only grow stronger with time. We are the rare breed who forge most of our bonds with distance implicit in the bargain, and for that reason it’s been fascinating to see how each smasher is uniquely prepared to navigate these circumstances. I hope that this edition, if anything, makes you reach out to a friend. — Zane “Epengu” Bhansali


By Milo @johntheginj




N O W .

ODE TO THE LAGSPIKE by Yameen Hameed (@yamham) We’re Slipping, back-rolling, sometimes teleporting. Although the framerate drops, the ping’s rising won’t stop. Time slows, and I question: Is it my gameplan being beaten? Or are my inputs getting eaten? Wavedashing in molasses, I miss my TV.

Sometimes we gotta suffer through 3 or 4 frame buffer, but these cross country connections were once just a dream. Though I wish I had fiber or the game weren’t cyber, I’m playing my friends; fuck Big N. Bless you, Slippi Team.

Ode to the Lagspike

Unreactable phantasms meteor me into chasms as I reminisce over days spent with my local scene.


The Shape of Melee to Come (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the B0XX)

by Holden “Holden” Predmore (@holden_pnw) The Frame1, a new box-style Melee controller, sold out its first wave of preorders recently. While the preorders had been coming in consistently for a while, this was an unforeseen event. “I was expecting somewhere around a 50/50, 60/40 split for preorders and backorders,” Stephen “Greg Turbo” Kasmir, the founder and designer of the Frame1 said. “We were on track for that until Crane and Leffen made their videos on it, then we just sold out instantly.” Alternative Melee controllers have been on the rise generally for the last few years, but the current growth seen in the last year or so has been outstanding. Not only are new projects like the Frame1 seeing unparalleled early success for such a grassroots product, but also the box-style controllers already out in the wild have been making a name for themselves. It’s anecdotal, but I feel like everytime I watch another EU Slippi tournament I find out about a new player over there that plays on B0XX. Pipsqueak, a Swedish B0XX player, recently won a tournament over Leffen, who was playing on a review copy of the upcoming Frame1. That’s not to mention the continued success of Hax$ (when he decides to enter a netplay tournament) and the many up-and-coming N.A. box-style players that I know I would miss way too many of to try and list without embarrassing myself. However, like with anything that gets popular enough, box-style controllers have attracted their share of controversy and strong opinions in the Melee community. Official Melee Top 100 players and prominent personalities, such as Leffen, iBDW, and Anees “Free Palestine” Assaf have all weighed in on the box-style controller discussion happening on Melee Twitter. “[Melee Twitter uses] the box-style controller to build their arguments for why certain things should be certain ways on the GameCube controller,” Free Palestine told me. “You’re going to see a lot of people throw digital controllers under the bus,” Greg Turbo said. “We go over the same talking points over and over again with no progress.” Ultimately, it cannot be denied that box-style controllers will impact the Melee scene. The question becomes, what is that impact going to look like? I decided to ask someone who is an expert on Melee iconography, AJ “spoopy” Rappaport, the author of Melee is Broken. “The box-style controller presents a lot of opportunities in terms of accessibility for differently

able-bodied people,” spoopy said. “It can be a lot easier to press a flat button than grip a GameCube controller.” Melee is a game that has survived for almost 20 years now with no large changes to the core hardware. The biggest change made to the core game widely accepted by the community is U.C.F., software that has basically no impact outside of making the hardware we still had to use more consistent. So what happens when new hardware challenges one of Melee’s most iconic physical icons? Probably not much. “If we feel attached to a certain hardware, we’re going to stop at nothing to keep it alive,” spoopy said. “The GameCube controller… It’s iconic.” As for top level Melee, no one I spoke to seemed very worried about any potential meta impacts an influx of rectangles could have. “If someone beat me in melee, it doesn’t matter what they beat me with. They’re beating me in the game,” Free Palestine said. “It’s not absurdly busted or anything.” It is fun to speculate about the future impact of new Melee technology, considering how much more is happening in that field than ever before. “We’re going to have to wait and see with the Panda controller,” Greg Turbo said. “It’s hard to say until we have all the players on the field.” After all the interviews, they all seemed to arrive at a consensus: Melee is still a growing game. In the last few months, the developments in controllers designed for Melee have pushed the envelope further than all of the other hardware advances made before 2017, when the biggest controller mods were notches or removing springs from the triggers. During my time researching and doing interviews to write what I felt was an informed opinion on the topic, I kept coming back to the idea of growing pains. Melee just hit a growth spurt for controllers, and we’re still getting used to all the shiny new things.

I’m a little bit of an optimist, I’m like, ‘oh yeah, eventually they’ll calm down,’ but they won’t. - spoopy

The Shape of Melee to Come (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the B0XX)

However, if we’ve learned one thing for Melee’s history it’s that no matter what our controllers look like another 20 years from now, we’ll still be here, playing the same children’s party game.


(500) Games with SUMR

“Searching…” A single word; a simple promise: we will find someone for you. The homegrown algorithm diligently works behind the scenes and calculates the best player for me, based on a variety of criteria. I’m pretty sure every “if...then...else” conditional block has something to do with distance. Today, it’s whoever is closer, whoever lags less. Tomorrow? There are rumors of matchmaking based on ranks or some vague Melee ELO rating system. Another algorithm. Matchmaking. But what if there was a more human way to connect? “Versus… Falco,” says the announcer. “DriveByArwing” is my opponent’s tag. The stage is Battlefield. Predictable. We start on opposite platforms and they make an early push towards the center with an aggressive dair. I drop through my platform and watch them check off all of the mid-level Sheik vs. Falco matchup boxes.

SHFFL’d laser approach? Check. Land right outside my shield grab range? Check. Prepare a cross-up nair? Check check check. Before the laser can hit, I wavedash back and position myself for the incoming nair. Now airborne, Falco’s metallic legs hit my shield just high enough to give me the positive frames I need to shield-grab. I don’t know why, but you strike me as more of a “roll left” type of player. They roll left. I get the re-grab. I throw them off stage and after one cheesy edge-guard I see “Disconnected” in bright red text at the top of the screen. Think they hate me? — They say Slippi has introduced a new generation of players to competitive Melee. Isn’t it obvious? A few months ago, someone made a said post on the SSBM subreddit titled, “Why does Unranked suck?” Another user commented, “Without a keyboard, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to communicate in Slippi Unranked. IMPOSSIBLE.” I almost responded. No one remembers The Warp Pipe project, Sega Channel, or the XB ND. —

“Searching…” A promise: we will find someone else for you. “Versus… Marth,” says the announcer. “DontQuizMe” is my next opponent. Final Destination. Here we go. These matches feel procedural. I dash at my opponent and they spot dodge before I even get within dash attack distance. Huh, glad I’m not the only one that plays defensively. I wait for the ending frames of the dodge and then I grab. 20, 30%? I should really optimize my punishes. I run back, pivot, and then shield their response. Dash attack? Really? I grab again, and stack on another 20% with the down throw follow-up fair. Shield, grab, punish, run back, shield, grab, punish, run back, get hit by Marth, recover, punish. Stock. Stock. Stock. Functional.

Game! Disconnect.

“Searching…” Another promise: maybe next time? —

(500) Games with SUMR

With his last stock the Marth runs to the far side of the stage and faces away from me. They grab nothing and they keep grabbing nothing. They throw in a shield, one last grab, and then they fall off the stage like a graceless puppet, cut from its strings with nothing greater than itself pulling its movement. I know spite when I see it.


(500) Games with SUMR

Before Slippi, before the pandemic, and before Anther’s, the only times you would play complete strangers in Smash would be at an in-person tournament or Smashfest. Sure, there was online play for Brawl and Smash 4 and Ultimate, but because of the latency of Nintendo’s servers and my general preference for introducing myself to people face-to-face, my most impactful way of making connections in Smash was to sit down next to a new player in front of a random TV. The funny thing about playing with strangers at these events was that even though we could talk to each other, most of the time we didn’t have to. All that needed to be said was, “Hey, can I join you?” and “Where are you from and what’s your tag?” —

“Versus…Fox,” says the announcer. “SummerOf69ing” is their tag. I smile. I read “Dreamland” at the bottom. Alright, last one. When I think back to that first game, I remember it like a movie montage. Our earlier interactions surprised us both and I could have sworn I heard the voice of the other player saying “Oh?” whenever I eked out an escape from

one of their combos. They could hear me groan when I guessed wrong on the angle they picked for their firefox back to stage. We clearly struggled to find the steps and our rhythm was muddled. And just like a movie montage, there was a break in the middle. Something gave. He chose to recover high from offstage and as they free fell, I accidentally dash attacked them instead of doing the appropriate punish. Their body flew and they were primed for recovery, but they simply drifted further away until they hit the limits of the map and lost the stock. Upon their return, they crouched three times, taunted, and then proceeded to fight once more. I laughed. The rest of the montage lacked those forced attempts at oh-so-serious play. Gone were the “ohs” and “goddamnits” and groans. They were replaced by unconventional strings, purposefully ridiculous approaches, and punishes that looked stylish to me but would never connect in tourney. In one game, the promise was fulfilled: I was having fun. One game led to another, and another, and another, and after many rounds of figuring them out and learning their style, we ended our marathon by both picking the “Polite Party Pikachu” and taunting our adieus.

— Nothing needed to be “said” for us to have a shared understanding. Somehow, we were able to have a conversation in between the taunts, homie stocks, and teabag crouches. Despite not having a way to send plain English messages to this person that was—presumably—within 500 miles of my home, we were able to communicate. It wasn’t hard for me to view their attempts at styling on me as playful fun. It was easy to thank them for being patient with my old, cowardly Sheik-y ways. It was simply accessible, online Smash, and with it I found a fun, human connection. I enjoyed the maybe, probably, something like 500 games with SummerOf69ing, my forever Fox.


GROWING WITH THE SMASH COMMUNITY I’ve seen the Smash community

As the years passed by I found myself

transform itself and would like to share

surrounded by friends I met in the

with you some of the things I’ve seen

community. Those relationships alone made

and learned. What once felt like just

playing Smash worth it. Those friends

a small group of people supporting a

that I know I can count on no matter

small scene that supported a game now

what, those people in my life that I

feels like a full blown phenomena.

can share milestones with and still

It’s a strange sensation seeing what

remember years past. The people I feel

the Smash world offers now compared to

most comfortable with and know I can be

when I first started playing. When I

myself with. If you give it time I’m

was playing it was during a time when

sure you’ll find a group of people you

playing in garages was the norm, the

can get behind as well.

lights were not as big, sometimes we

If everything we’ve been through as

played in food venues and oftentimes

a community has been an indicator of

playing for the grand prize of $80. I

where we’re heading, I have to say I’m

look around me and my breath is taken

excited about the bright journey ahead

away because it feels like I’m in a

of us. And most of all I’m excited for

candy shop. We have streamers that have

all the incoming Smashers because there

unique personalities, our community has

is so much potential and talent that from

grown to new heights, Mango is still

here on out I have no doubt that Smash

around, Smash Ultimate as whole is a

is going to be a household name and new

massive game and tournaments are only

superstars are waiting to arise!

getting bigger.

As a middle aged man I can only say

If you had told me 10 years ago that

and offer one honest piece of advice

you would be able to play Melee online

for those still reading: when you’re up

on your PC with nearly zero lag I would

there on stage playing against your worst

have told you to go kick rocks and that

enemy or your best friend, treasure those

it couldn’t be done. Play whenever you

moments! When you fly out to new cities,

want, practice whenever you want, play

when you meet new people, when you have

with whoever you want... years ago I

great or poor results remember them.

would have jumped out of my chair for

Live these moments to their fullest and

decent wifi. The feat is astronomical

recall them vividly so that when you’re

for the Smash community and it came

in my position later on in life you can

during a time when everyone needed it the

look back and smile. Know that you were

most, as there aren’t any tournaments.

in that moment intensely, you enjoyed it

I think it’s a privilege that we have

thoroughly and know that you’re part of

a passionate group of people that are

something special. Know that you’re a

willing to put that much effort into a

piece that makes up the bigger picture.

game like Melee, it’s admirable.

You’re part of the Smash community!

by Carlos “Havok” Zambrano @YoHavok

By pup @chewpooch


By Lesley “La Noche” @la_nochee

Thanks for Reading!

Marco “Oats” Salazar de Leon @ marceux

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