Although Super Smash Bros Melee closed out this weekend's Genesis 4 with a bang, a cloud of controversy hangs over the tournament due to rule complications during the Super Smash Bros. for Wii U finals. The competitors most affected are looking for answers and, perhaps most surprisingly, compensation for the match errors they encountered.
The first signs of trouble arose during a losers bracket battle between Japanese visitor Rei "Komorikiri" Furukawa and "Captain Zack" Lauth. Both players had clawed their way through a gruelling weekend against 1000 of their fellow competitors and were now faced with elimination. On the line: A smaller portion of the over $US10,000 ($13,231) prize pool, should they lose one more match. But as Komorikiri saw his tournament life come to an end at the hands of a 3-1 defeat, concerns were raised that a crucial gameplay setting was altered during their match.
"Damage Ratio" in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U sounds like a pretty straightforward metric, but it actually affects how much knockback is applied to every attack (and knockback affects how easily players are killed.) Tournament standards call for this setting to stay at its default 1.0x, but it was inexplicably changed to 0.9x sometime before Komorikiri and Captain Zack's bout. Sensing something was awry, Komorikiri asked the settings be checked after the fact, leading to a pause in competition and discussion between the players and tournament organisers.
The crowd was sympathetic. Cries of "Run it back!" rang through the San Jose Civic Center as Komorikiri pleaded his case, and the powers that be seemed to agree. Instead of allowing the entire best-of-five to be replayed, however, judgement was handed down that only the final game of the set would be repeated, returning the score to 2-1 in Captain Zack's favour. Despite this consolation, Komorikiri was still eliminated and, visibly shaken by the ordeal, refused to shake his opponent's hand after the fact.
"Once you start the next game, you are accepting the result of the previous and can't contest it. Standard gaming rule," Genesis 4 organiser Sheridan "Dr Z" Zalewski stated on Twitter afterwards as a way to cut through the confusion. Unfortunately, this still remained a point of contention for a community not used to dealing with such a scenario, and despite further clarification by tournament staff, it was still unclear who was to blame for the error.
At first, the organisers stood fully behind their setups. The team members responsible for the Super Smash Bros. for Wii U tournament, they said, had double-checked the settings before the match, placing suspicion on a player-based error by Komorikiri. But despite their assertions, more evidence to the contrary began to pile in as earlier footage was analysed.
Immediately following Genesis' decision in the Komorikiri match, Samuel "Dabuz" Buzby claimed that his fight with Gonzalo "ZeRo" Barrios beforehand had also been affected by the faulty knockback setting. While this initially seemed like simple sour grapes from a player upset they had been eliminated from a major competition, Smash scientists quickly proved that wasn't the case by replicating specific scenarios that supported his claim.
"This wasn't a player error," Dabuz said in a Twitlonger explaining the events that transpired. "Neither ZeRo or myself changed the settings. We played under the assumption that a professional tournament organisation would set the rules correctly, which I think is more than a fair assumption at this type of event."
In regards to the Zero vs. Dabuz set, I took the set and tested BOTH 0.9 and 1.0 launch rate under the same scenario. These are the results. pic.twitter.com/ZYsMtUeAk7
— Velma With Ice (@AceStarThe3rd) January 22, 2017
After continually insisting the contrary as the event progressed, Genesis has since taken full responsibility for the issues that arose during the Super Smash Bros. for Wii U competition. But that's little consolation for the players most affected by the settings error.
"I've lost all of my passion for this game," Komorikiri said shortly after his match ended. ""It's not that I hate Smash, I still want to play. But right now, I don't feel fun or enjoyment but fear when I play. So I've decided to take a break. I don't know for how long. But for me to get rid of this feeling, I think I should still be involved with this game and community, so I will be. I'm very sorry for making everyone worry."
Dabuz, on the other hand, has a much different take on the weekend's events, asking that Genesis compensate them for their troubles. "At the end of the day, I'm upset. I feel like I was robbed, like my time was wasted and I didn't get a chance to continue proving myself. I think all expenses related to the tournament should be reimbursed; it's the only fair way to make it up to us since it is not the fault of the players, but instead of the event runners."
It may sound like a far-fetched request, but there is precedent within the fighting game community (if not specifically Smash competition itself) for such compensation. After a similar oversight caused a handful of Street Fighter IV matches to be replayed at NorCal Regionals 2015, tournament head John Choi offered to pay top player Ryota "Kazunoko" Inoue's way to a future event of his choice after the results of his match were the only to be reversed.
While an official statement from the Genesis tournament staff is still forthcoming, the ball is firmly in their court regarding these unfortunate circumstances. Whether or not they agree to Dabuz's request remains to be seen, but it's clear that official rules need to be put in place for future scenarios. This has been a learning experience for the entire Smash community, and they should only become stronger because of it.
Japanese translations c/o Source Gaming.