An anticipated mod for Super Smash Bros. Melee is about to streamline the 15-year-old game's tournaments. 20XXTE, in beta now and released in full early March, sews the Melee community's specific play preferences into the fibre of the game.
20XX "Tournament Edition" is a Melee mod for GameCube and Wii that players can download for free onto a memory card. Instead of loading up Melee normally, 20XXTE would replace the game. It was named for a Melee inside joke: That in the year 20XX, Fox is the only viable character left, so nobody plays anyone else. Commentator Kris Alexander ("Toph") explained at the Big House 3 tournament, "Humanity has reached its pinnacle... The peasants are living in poverty... And there's these monasteries where these Fox monks just levitate and TAS [tool-assisted super-play] Fox with one hand, and win a tournament with the other."
Melee is, even now, a comparatively old fighting game. 20XXTE is the futuristic mod that could help carry its tournament lifespan through the next 15 years.
"Tournament Mode" in 20XXTE's settings makes several of the competitive Melee community's preferences default, like turning off items, limiting the time to eight minutes and playing in versus mode with four stocks. All stages and trophies are unlocked. It removes a few of the pesky environmental factors that add unwanted randomness to the game, like transitions on the Pokemon Stadium stage and distracting background changes on Final Destination. Also, on 20XXTE's Dreamland stage, the trees no longer blow wind, something that, for me, is distracting when I'm watching two pros face off. (To choose those options, players can navigate to the "Stage Selection" screen and hit Y, much like Smash 4's "Omega" option for stages, which flattens them and removes chaotic features.)
20XXTE will also help bring Melee players to tournament level. Its "training" mode adds an overlay to moving characters so their frame holes are apparent. That way, they can figure out how to maximise their movements.
In a Reddit AMA yesterday, developer Dan Salvato explained how 20XXTE will revolutionise Melee tournaments, adding, "I believe that eventually, modding will become a cornerstone of competitive Melee, allowing tournaments to collect match statistics and bring us ever closer to the level of professionalism we see in top esports." To design the mod, Salvato quit his job at a New York IT firm and moved to Idaho. It's a labour of love, he says. He'll release 20XXTE in full on March 6 and sell memory cards with 20XXTE pre-loaded.
Salvato explained that the hardest thing to program was 20XXTE's replay feature, which lets players save replays by pressing Z on the character select screen. To do this, he explained, entails "recording controller inputs during the match (and compressing them live), the replay menu, saving/loading to memory card, preventing desyncs, and the controls during replays that let you toggle hitboxes, input display, frame advance, etc."
The way fans play Melee has changed a lot in its 15-year lifespan. Now that its tournaments have become more popular, its more competitive fans' favourite ways to play have congealed into something somewhat distinct from the original game.