Adam “Armada” Lindgren, considered one of the “five gods” of competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee, dropped out of last weekend’s DreamHack Austin due to a controller that isn’t malfunctioning properly. Yes, you read that correctly.
— Alliance (@theAllianceGG) April 29, 2017
The obvious question here is why is a professional player — with the resources of an organisation behind him — isn’t prepared with multiple back-ups in case of a failure like this? The answer isn’t completely satisfactory, but it is fascinating.
In keeping with Melee‘s legacy of pushing an old game at every corner, some Melee players opt to use controllers that are technically malfunctioning, in order to execute otherwise impossible moves on a standard controller. Since Melee is a 16-year-old game for the Nintendo GameCube, there’s no possibility for patching out certain bugs or exploits, so controllers have been one method for pros to consistently execute certain moves.
Here is how tech data enthusiast who goes by the pseudonym Kadano explained it on Twitter:
There’s a bug in Melee that only technically malfunctioning controllers can avoid. The malfunctioning is rare, volatile & causes other issues
Due to this malfunctioning being a necessary criterion as long as we don’t employ Magus’ smash turn fix code, only about 1-3% of GCCs are viable for players like @ArmadaUGS and @MVG_Mew2King, since that’s how few have said malfunctioning (PODE) to a sufficient degree.
The amount and type of PODE can change any time, so at the moment, the competitively best GCCs are inherently unreliable.
The only way around this is either employing Magus’ smash turn fix code or using controllers with digital buttons to dash / analyser chips.
In layman’s terms, certain inputs that players like Lindgren use are only possible through the use of a controller that is technically malfunctioning in a specific way.
For example, a dashback — or back dash depending on your jargon — occurs when a player inputs a dash backwards from a standing animation. It’s a very useful move in competitive Smash, but executing that input consistently can be difficult if your controller has excessive snapback — when the analogue stick vibrates slightly after moving from an outer position to a neutral position in the centre. Players will run controllers through tests, ranking them on their ability to consistently execute dashbacks, in order to find a controller that will suit their needs.
As Kadano goes on to say, it’s difficult to find a controller malfunctioning in the specifically necessary way — Lindgren would have had to purchase roughly 50 controllers to find one that would fit this criteria.
Despite this, there were several competitors on-site who would have had the equipment as well. There was no shortage of talent in Austin last weekend, and one would be bound to have a controller that fits Lindgren’s parameters, right? Apparently, this was an issue Lindgren had been aware of for at least a week:
Will be honest, if I can't find a controller in Austin that's good for me I might have to skip singles at DH
— Adam Lindgren (@ArmadaUGS) April 21, 2017
Though the mechanics of the reason why pros use these controllers is fascinating (if you dig the technical aspects, I highly recommend Melee It On Me’s guide to controller quality), it seems strange that there isn’t a more readily available option for Lindgren to get a controller (or several) that’s up to snuff. Though there are several sites that sell professional player-centric controller mods, they seemingly didn’t work for Lindgren, and he was forced to drop out.