Hey guys. This is a pretty challenging time for the Melee community and I want to address all the issues at hand, but to avoid losing focus in an overly long bl0g post, I’m going to focus on UCF for now. Plus I wanted to respond to the UCF issue in a medium that allows me to type more than 140 characters at a time.
What’s the problem? Dashbacks and Shield Drops
Shield dropping is necessary technique in the current meta, and requires that you slide your control stick from either horizontal to the lower diagonal gate. Each controller will have a slightly different value at which the shield drop is successful – if you go too low, your character will spotdodge instead. The most common solution to this problem is getting your gate “notched” so that the notch is at the exact value required to shield drop.
This fix works pretty well until the notch begins to wear down, at which point you can re-notch it. It requires some level of expertise, and most people will pay experts such as Typo to perform the procedure. This is a case mod, as it only affects the physical shell of your controller.
Dashback is a different issue that cannot be solved by using case mods. When your character is standing in neutral and you attempt to dash backwards, you will either immediately dashback, or deal with a brief turnaround animation prior to the dash. Whether or not your dashback is “successful” is completely random and based on your controller. Some controllers have a very low success rate, and some very high.
Here is an example of a successful versus failed dashback:
(failed dashback – you can see the turnaround animation prior to the dash)
(same input, but successful dashback – goes directly to the dash)
For this reason, good dashback controllers are considered valuable by top players. They are, however, very difficult to track down.
Why have we started talking about dashback in the first place?
I, for one, wasn’t educated on the topic until the last year or so. This is the case for a lot of smashers. I suspect the issue of “box-type” controllers raised the issue, as the box-type controllers all have perfect dashback. Many considered this to be an unfair advantage of box controllers over Gamecube controllers.
One solution was the arduino mods. This was a hardware mod that fixed shield drop values, dashback, and more in a Gamecube controller. Released by Hax (strong proponent of the “B0XX” controller) to “even the playing field,” so to speak. Many were uncomfortable with arduino controllers because the code was open to edit and could potentially be used to cheat.
Memory card fixes were developed in order to replace arduino mods, so that the code would be in the game rather than on the controller. Pre-installed in-game codes can’t be messed with by the players, and the same codeset could be utilized throughout an entire venue. This was a more elegant solution, and ultimately ended the arduino mod movement.
All of this fuss raised awareness on the issue of dashback, and now people are more educated. From there, players have tried dashback fixes and have seen the difference. That’s my take on how we got to this point.
Is dashback worth fixing?
Dashback is a randomly generated error that is purely controller based. One example I show people is dashback empty pivots. If I input the exact same motion repeatedly on a vanilla Melee setup, the distance of my pivot will vary randomly. If I input the exact same motion on a setup with fixed dashback, the distance will be the same every time, as per my inputs. You can see both cases in the following gifs:
(empty pivot w/o dashback code – distance varies, Fox looks like he’s spinning around)
(empty pivot w/ dashback code – same distance for same inputs)
If you want to use pivots as a spacing tool without the dashback fix, you essentially have to react to the random element of whether or not your dashback is successful. The same goes for any character that wants to punish anything out of a dashback in neutral. For example, if Falco wants to wait for Fox to commit to a shorthop Drill approach and punish with a dashback, dash forward (dashdance) shorthop Dair of his own, he may or may not get hit based on the success of the dashback (assuming he waits until the near-last moment in order to react to the commitment).
My point here is that there is a notable gameplay difference, and vanilla Melee is then at the mercy of a random element… for most players. Some players have the means (connections, money, etc.) to get their hands on a good dashback controller. Those players don’t have to worry about this random element.
To answer whether or not dashback is “worth fixing,” we have to consider what the costs are to fixing it. But based on my experience and knowledge, I would highly prioritize fixing dashback.
What is UCF?
UCF, short for “Universal Controller Fix,” is a code injected directly into the game that fixes dashback and shield drops. I won’t claim to know the acute details of the code – you can ask the developers who know much more than I do about the inner mechanics of Melee. Based on their assurance, the code only affects 1) dashing back out of neutral, and 2) when spotdodge is activated when tilting your control stick down. The latter is because the fix to the shield drop issue is changing when spotdodge is actually activated. I believe this does not make the “tilt-down” method of shield dropping easier – it just makes the horizontal-slide-to-diagonal method consistent across controllers. This is essentially what notching does anyways, but you remove the access/money/expertise barrier that most players face.
Logistical Concerns of Running UCF
This seems to be most people’s argument against using UCF in tournament. Many tournaments crowd-source their setups, which is to say that the entrants bring their own Wiis and Gamecubes. Using UCF means that TOs must load the code onto every setup and ensure there is no funny business. The TOs may also have to raise awareness on whatever visual indicator there is that means UCF is turned on (e.g. the “VS” in the top-left-corner of the Character Select Screen may say “S17” for the Shine build of UCF, or “2D” for the 20XX TE build).
Example – Shine
There have been two logistical mishaps so far since the release of UCF. The first occurred at Shine, a major Melee event that ran the fix throughout the event. Leffen and ChuDat faced off in the first match of top 8, after which it was pointed out that UCF was not used. The set was replayed, to the dismay of… well, everyone.
Honestly there were zero good solutions to that catastrophe. Not replaying the set would lead to many questioning the validity of the result – both players had been playing/practicing on UCF, and then were unknowingly subject to vanilla Melee. I must emphasize that “playing a set on vanilla Melee” is not at all equivalent to “playing a set on vanilla Melee where both players thought they were playing on UCF.” It is not as if they agreed to play a set of vanilla Melee ahead of time. The match was played under false pretenses.
On the other hand, replaying the set…. well, the result is the same. We are left with a result, the validity of which people still question. As they should. Both players prepared ahead of time and showed all the tricks up their sleeves throughout the set. Adaptations were made, interactions repeated. The first set served as data for both players that should never have been available in the first place.
Replaying the final game of the set leaves a mix of both these problems. Like I said, there is no good solution.
So what is to blame for the mishap? The TOs. It’s pretty straightforward. It was not a code error, and the TOs and staff were explicitly instructed in how and when to load the Shine build onto every setup. You can argue that “if the mod weren’t there in the first place, we wouldn’t have run into this issue.” I’ll address that in the next example.
How do we stop this from happening again? We increase the visibility of visual indicators that UCF is on, and we continue to educate the Melee community on UCF. This is what I referred to earlier as “the cost of fixing dashback.” Players have learned to turn stocks to 4, and time to 8. If UCF is on anyways, the only action required is a single saccade – “is the indicator there? Cool.” If UCF is off, you let the TO know.
This is a small ask, and here’s why. At locals, people will become used to the indicators. How can I be so sure, you ask? Because Nebulous Gaming has been doing it for over a year in NYC (maybe longer?). Not UCF, per se, but their own build. It has a few visual indicators (e.g. character portrait backgrounds are grey/white for rumble off/on) and allows players to strike in the Stage Selection Screen and has neutral start automated on every stage (which I also think should be standardized). Nebs is now running UCF, and has had no issues thus far. I should note that, in this case, Nebs provides all setups, so the codes are pre-loaded. But the fact remains that the players are used to checking for the visual indicators, which can become the norm across all locals.
Many large events are providing the setups themselves through Gaming Generations, so UCF can be loaded without issue. We saw this at Shine. Every setup in every pool had UCF on and functioning properly. The only setup that had an issue was the stream setup, which was being re-loaded the day of because it was on top 8 and needed to replace the Wii U setup. This mishap has already brought significant attention to the issue, and I guarantee you that all competent TOs moving forward will work their asses off to ensure this kind of mistake is not repeated.
Example – TMT
TMT is a SoCal weekly that ran vanilla Melee. You can see Chroma’s summary of the event here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1dwMSKAaLCQtcU0EnGvM50l73vXxEbXuI96loqMNX3z0/edit
The summary is that Westballz’s controller seemed to “malfunction” on the stream setup. He claimed that his shield drops, which he had been testing on other setups, stopped working properly. As it turns out, some entrants had loaded UCF onto some friendly setups. Westballz, unaware of this fact, tried out his shield drops on those setups, and they functioned because of UCF. When he played on vanilla Melee, they stopped working, and he felt cheated out of his win.
Now I will come back to this argument: “If the mod weren’t there in the first place, we wouldn’t have run into this issue.” UCF was banned at this tournament because it was a vanilla Melee tournament. So what happened?
This is, again, the TO’s fault. “But they were just doing what they always do! This is clearly UCF’s fault!!” you say? TOs must now adapt to the fact that mods exist. 20XX Hack Pack exists, TE exists, UCF exists. It is the TOs responsibility to inform the entrants what version of Melee is being used at the event, and to enforce the ruling. The existence, NOT the legality, of mods is what requires TOs to step up their game. In fact, it requires all Melee player to step up their awareness. Be mindful and aware of what setups you’re playing on. This is an issue that goes beyond UCF – even vanilla Melee can be loaded on Nintendont with native controls off, which screws over players who have taken the springs out of their triggers. This is an issue of awareness and mindfulness.
I shouldn’t have to point this out, but UCF is not a sentient machine that is out to sabotage Melee tournaments… as far as we know (care to comment, Dan Salvato?!?!).
What happens if we ban UCF?
TOs and players still have to be aware of mods, and they still have to check that the version of Melee they’re playing on is correct. I have always refused to play on 20XX Hack Pack setups for this very reason: at a vanilla Melee tournament, I have no assurance that this mod won’t affect my gameplay.
So if we ban UCF, we just return to vanilla Melee, like we’ve done for the last 10 or more years. We deal with bad dashback controllers, unless we have the means to acquire a good one. We leave the issue to deal with later for when box controllers are finally addressed (which all have perfect dashback – which even “good” dashback controllers can’t achieve).
The prevalence of inadvertent mods would be bound to decrease if we made a finalized ban on UCF-style mods. We can’t really know by how much, though. Regardless, we still have to educate ourselves on mods, and we still have to be mindful regarding the setups we use.
So what do we do?
We go back to my earlier question – is dashback worth fixing? What is the cost of fixing it? I’ve outlined what I think the costs are. It’s up to you to decide whether you agree with my assessment. If you do, then you decide whether you agree with me that the cost is certainly worth fixing dashback. Removing a random element, that players with better access can already overcome, improves the quality of the game. Also, it makes the game more fun. If you haven’t tried UCF for yourself, I suggest you try it. The easiest way for me to access it was to download 20XX TE v.2d (check it out at 20xx.me).
This is an important discourse. I hope everyone who cares about Melee takes the time to educate themselves and speak out on what they think is best for the game and the community. If anything, it’s good practice, because this is the first of many challenges that the Melee community will have to overcome in the near future.
Thanks for reading –