Smash Bros. for the Wii U and the 3DS is the first Smash Bros. release to benefit from balance patches. However, in a way it’s still well behind other games that have had patch support. Why? Because Nintendo won’t tell us what each patch is fixing. They tell us that the game’s balance has been tweaked, but they won’t tell us in what way. They don’t tell us what values have been changed or what characters have been effected. Instead, they leave it vague and expect us to find out.
Nintendo has discussed this before, as has Masahiro Sakurai, the game’s developer. They believe that there is a certain magic to figuring out things yourself. This is the same magic that allowed games like Street Fighter II to become so popular in the early days of the arcade. Back when we weren’t able to share information with each other at light speed, the only way strategies and glitches were passed around was from person to person and gamer to gamer. Nintendo wants to foster that sort of social atmosphere with their games as well, and thus they want us to figure out how characters are different.
But this actually causes quite a few problems with the professional Smash community. First of all, it means that professional smashers have to spend a lot of time testing every single character and every single move in order to find differences. Some of these differences are easy to find. Just go into training mode and see if they do more damage. Some are harder. Figuring out a changed move speed usually involves looking at a game being played frame by frame. Some are near impossible. Figuring out whether or not a move has increased knockback involved comparing an unpatched version of the game, and a patched version of the game, on the same level, from the same area, using the same characters, and the same move, in order to see if one differs from another, and EVEN THEN you can’t get a hard number on how much it has been increased or decreased.
This results in a lot of falsified information. Players start spreading rumors about what it feels like to play the game. Certain assumptions are made on this false information, which may change certain gamers’ entire game plan.
This is not acceptable for a lot of people. They need to know right now how the game has changed and in the most accurate way possible. So how do they do that? They hack the game! Once you have access to a game’s code you can see the actual values behind character’s moves and stats.
But this causes a lot of problems. The more easily a game is hacked the more easily it is altered. This means that it opens the floodgates for cheating and piracy and console modding, something that Nintendo struggled with last generation with the Wii and DS. By not releasing their patch notes, they are practically forcing the pro community to rely on sketchy and possibly illegal methods to obtain information that they honestly could just make public, and who knows where this will leave Nintendo in a couple years?
What do you think? Should Nintendo share their patch notes? Has not sharing their patch notes caused more people to tinker with Smash ’s source code? Let us know what you think in the comments.