I am Barnard’s Loop. You may know me for my data work, most recently a Bayonetta article examining how prominent she was in Singles. It was my intention to publish a similar examination of Cloud in Doubles by late 2018, but the announcement of Smash 5 has made this urgent.
Furthermore, several scenes have taken steps to mitigate Cloud’s presence in their doubles scenes. This includes things ranging from a x2 Cloud ban similar to what was enacted with Meta Knight in Brawl to scenes banning Cloud in doubles entirely.
I will attempt, as with my last article, to approach this subject in a professional manner with interpretations based on the data I’ve uncovered. Sources will be provided at the bottom.
Table of Contents
Section 1 – Tournament Data
- 1.0: Doubles Data Collection System
- 1.1: Breaking Down Doubles Results
- 1.2: Character Viability on a Percent Line
- 1.21: National vs. Overall
- 1.22: Percent Line – Short Form Image
- 1.3: Prominence in Doubles
- 1.31: Overall – 2016-2017
- 1.32: Comparisons to Singles
- 1.33: Double Cloud – The Problem?
- 1.4: Conclusion of Section 1
Section 2 – Further Insight
- 2.0: The Importance of Japan
- 2.1: The Theory Backing Cloud
- 2.2: Bayonetta’s 14.5%
- 2.3: Conclusion of Section 2
Section 3 – Scene Stability
- 3.0: Viewership Numbers
- 3.01: Detailing Singles Viewership – 2016-2017
- 3.02: Detailing Doubles Viewership – 2016-2017
- 3.03: Interpreting Decline
- 3.1: Attendance Numbers
- 3.11: Detailing Singles Attendance – 2016-2017
- 3.12: Detailing Doubles Attendance – 2016-2017
- 3.2: Conclusion of Section 3
Section 4 – Debating on a Ban
- 4.0: The Data
- 4.1: Checking off Boxes
- 4.2: Justification using Competitive Philosophy
- 4.3: Consequences of a Ban
- 4.4: Against a Slippery Slope
Section 5 – Conclusion
- 5.0: Conclusion
- 5.1: Final Statement
Section 6 – Sources and References
- 6.0: Section 1
- 6.1: Section 2
- 6.2: Section 3
- 6.3: Section 4
SECTION 1 – TOURNAMENT DATA
1.0: Doubles Data Collection System
The process of collecting data for Doubles was a bit different than some prior projects. For Singles data, I’ve run a tournament database for 2 years that I take data from. I didn’t have this luxury for Doubles, so I went down the same path as last year for the 5 Game Character Diversity project and consulted the “National Tournaments” page of ssbwiki.
It’s not perfect by any stretch, but I’ve found it pretty reliable, so I decided I would take my Doubles data from here. This meant I didn’t have to put the results down on a file while I scored things.
My system for scoring is pretty much the same as it is in Singles – characters are given points based on placement. I didn’t modify this at all, meaning a team of, say, ZeRo and Tsu getting first place would garner 4-8 points (depending on tournament category) for both Diddy Kong and Lucario.
I split Doubles tournies into three different categories:
- Category 1 – Top 4 used (1st = 4 points, 2nd = 3 points, etc.)
- Category 2 – Top 8 used (1st = 6 points, 2nd = 5 points, etc.)
- Category 3 – Top 16 used (1st = 8 points, 2nd = 7 points, etc.)
The first issue I ran into that leaves one hole in the project is the fact that entrant numbers (the very first thing I looked into) had inconsistent correlation with skill pools. You’d think that an event with over 100 teams would snag a category 2, but there are examples where teams consisting of players I had never heard of were in the top 8 at that event.
The difference isn’t huge since this was really a debate between Category 1 or 2 being applicable to an event, since using a Top 16 was reserved for events with enormous team counts that always correlated with high skill pools.
In order to get a good idea how characters progressed, I also split this collection into 4 phases. Simply put, each is a six month period – January-June 2016, July-December 2016, January-June 2017, and July-December 2017. Pretty simple.
This is all very rough and scattershot but we’re looking to see dramatic metagame shifts, so I figured everything here would serve the purpose it needed to serve. Of course, this only applies to super regional and national events. Lower level regional data would be much too difficult to find and sort.
1.1: Breaking Down Doubles Results
This starts out innocently enough, seemingly, until you consider that Cloud has 19% of all character results within six months of being playable. That’s a very large number for a single character to have, but more on that later.
Now, it startled me that his numbers were so big this early on. People have tweeted a large number of stats about Cloud that more or less showed similar problems, but not having it down on my own system made it difficult for me to really comprehend just the scale that this character operates at.
As we can see, Cloud strengthens his grip by the end of 2016. He now has a quarter of all doubles character results via the point system, implying he’s either everywhere or winning everything, or a partial mixture of both.
By mid-2017, we see that Bayonetta has begun to climb, and we see that Cloud has at this point taken up so many character results that he speeds past the “other” column, all while his peers vanish from sight and are slowly eaten away. Cloud sits at 29.6%, demonstrating a 4-5% increase per month.
Despite Bayonetta in her own right becoming an increasingly dominant figure in the doubles meta, Cloud has continued to expand his dominion over the Doubles metagame. He has peaked at 34% of all character results.
Now, I’m rattling off a lot of numbers, and anybody looking at this chart can at least see that Cloud is clearly dominant in comparison to other characters.
But why the percentages? Why are they important?
1.2: Character Viability on a Percent Line
A Link to the Spreadsheet (Important)
This is the single most important document that will demonstrate just how significant Cloud’s lead is. I take numbers mostly from the most recent Phase 7 update for Singles, but I include some past numbers from Singles to provide examples of how much a character has taken up space in the past to give you an idea of what defines a tier based on my methodology.
For the methodology on character scoring I refer you to this
A few details:
- This depends on results existing. As with all results-based lists, they can be context dependent. Lucario and Pit are long-time outliers that rarely score well because they lack many people who use them.
- Results can require context which numbers don’t necessarily provide, but there is a strong long-term correlation between good math on a character’s results and their tier positions.
- Outliers in my experience always have a proper explanation, either by dissecting Regional Vs. National, by looking at secondaries that may overscore a character (Lucina), or through the first detail I mentioned where mains may be scarce relative to a character’s accepted tier position (which results in a poorer score.)
- The tiering I use isn’t entirely scientific but does represent the perspective of somebody who has scored character results month-by-month for two years. These are what you’ll come to expect after 3-4 months of documentation in a “Phase”.
Scoring above 10% is what I would consider to be a hard-line “S” Tier. This is something that only Cloud and Bayonetta have ever managed in either the singles or doubles format from 2016-2017.
Cloud backed off. The 9.7% example is before two months of Cloud breaking this barrier in singles. Bayonetta outside of a single extreme outlier month (January 2018) has not fallen beneath 10% in quite some time, and currently sits at 11.5%.
I don’t list doubles %s outside of Bayonetta or Cloud on this chart, but 9.4% represents the peak of a non Bayo/Cloud through both Sheik and Mario in January-June of 2016.
As a result, in the lead-up to Smash 5 and based on prior experience, the range I decided on (10-13%) is now referred to as the “Suspect Test Zone”, where character(s) breaking this may warrant examination as they are (based on historical record) very high on the scale of character representation.
The relevance of the 19% figure is where this all comes into play. Accounting for Brawl’s national results and roster size differences, the mathematical equivalent of representation to be comparable to Meta Knight (Brawl Singles) is 15%. This took 6 years. Cloud broke this handily within 6 months.
I assumed this would be his peak when I first scored that period of time because of how massive the number was. I was very, very wrong, and he continued at a progression rate of roughly 4-5% every six months until hitting 34%.
I keep listing hypothetical tiers in the document, but the point here is that he’s SSS-Tier at minimum and breaks the scale.
1.21: National vs. Overall
It’s important to note that there is a difference between National and All (National + Regional) in the data I collect, as I only used national results for doubles. In my Bayonetta article, these things seemed to exist on a scale, where the most extreme cases came in national-only results while the next grade was overall, followed by regional results which were the least extreme.
However, the scale at which Cloud dominates is so massive that these differences are almost certainly irrelevant and all methods represent abnormal dominance.
1.22: Percent Line – Short Form Image
Provided for convenience’s sake since the document is so large, although it doesn’t illustrate the gap quite as well visually as the huge empty void between 15% and 34%.
1.3: Prominence in Doubles
Let’s start with some stats that lay out the groundwork for how we’re going to handle this. While I’ve listed three separate categories, I decided to split this section into two “Types”, where Category 2 and 3 were merged into “Type 2” as a general major category.
Presence = Appearance in Top 4/8/16 of an event
Victory = Team with at least one Cloud that placed 1st
1.31: Overall – 2016-2017
- Type 1 Presence: 89.4% (42/47)
- Type 2 Presence: 100% (27/27)
- Type 1 Victories: 66% (31/47)
- Type 2 Victories: 96.3% (26/27)
- Total Presence: 93.2% (69/74)
- Total Win Rate: 77% (57/74)
In all major events (Type 2) since Cloud’s release from 2016-2017, Cloud was only not present in the Top 1 spot on one out of twenty seven occasions – namely, Taiheita & Gomamugitya’s victory at Super Smash Con 2016. ZeRo and Nairo (a prominent Cloud user in doubles) placed second.
1.32: Comparisons to Singles
When I gave Bayonetta a look over, one of the last things I did on a whim was look at her win rates. Here, we’ll compare her to Cloud in doubles.
Bayonetta National Win Rate 2017, Singles – 12.5%
Cloud National Win Rate 2017, Doubles – 100%
Something I hadn’t considered when I made my Bayonetta article and something I did consider when making this article is the fact that win rates by themselves may be skewed heavily in favor of whoever the top players main.
As a result, Diddy would likely have a very high win rate at the national level in Singles that in and of itself would probably look overwhelming at first glance. Thankfully, the data in Section 1 can explain why one might be deemed acceptable but the other might not be.
However, in case the galactic gap between Cloud and his peers doesn’t make it clear enough, we have this:
Major Winners using Diddy Kong – Singles
Super Regional Winners using Diddy Kong – Singles
Major Winners using Cloud – Doubles
Super Regional Winners using Cloud – Doubles
- Purple H
- Mr. R
Diddy Kong’s win rate is probably decently high at the major level and likely low at the super regional level, but his wins almost all belong to ZeRo still, with Zinoto and Edge both making blips over the last two years. Cloud comparatively has 17 total players that have won events starting at the super regional level.
This is all exclusively discussing tournament wins. Cloud is virtually omnipresent if we are accounting for the top 3, and that in turn expands the list of relevant players. Diddy Kong would have no way of keeping up.
So the win rate comparison may look a little deceptive at first when you bring other characters and their players into play, but Cloud’s scoring from Section 1 combined with his comparatively large player base at the top level means the numbers are about as extreme as they initially look.
1.33: Double Cloud – The Problem?
It has been suggested that Cloud is only banworthy when doubled up. Get on My Level 2018, in distinct action from Smash N’ Splash 4 (which outright banned Cloud) has taken the step of only banning double Cloud in a move reminiscent to the ban on double Meta Knight in Brawl doubles.
We’ll look and see just how significant Cloud’s numbers are by comparing double Cloud to non double Cloud.
Double Cloud Win % Among Events where Cloud Won – 21.1% (Total)
Double Cloud Win % Among Events where Cloud Won – 19.4% (Type 1 Only)
Double Cloud Win % Among Events where Cloud Won – 23.1% (Type 2 Only)
These both comprise 2016-2017’s results. I believe the numbers look better for double Cloud when you split things up more, as around 37.5% of Type 2 events in 2017 were won by double Cloud.
Either way, double Cloud is not the predominant method in which Cloud is linked to event wins. Even if he were to continue to trend in this fashion, Cloud had a 90.9% win rate at Type 2 events in 2016 where no double Cloud team won, meaning his statistics had been concerning before the advent of double Cloud.
1.4: Conclusion of Section 1
- Cloud is #1 in doubles by a large margin.
- Cloud is a mathematically indicated SSS-Tier (or better) in doubles.
- His status in the Doubles metagame has exceeded Meta Knight’s status in Brawl Singles for two years, increasingly becoming more dominant every six months.
- He has a staggeringly high win rate that is not explained by simply having 1-3 prominent mains that win. Rather, his win rates are spread across 17 different players.
- Double Cloud alone cannot account for Cloud’s off-the-charts numbers.
SECTION 2 – FURTHER INSIGHT
2.0: The Importance of Japan
Doubles data from Japan is pretty scarce, to the point where I’m not entirely certain if Sumabato and Umebura events even host doubles alongside their singles brackets. If not, this is partially theorycrafting, but it’s well justified by the data we do have from Japan.
I would like to back up some of this by actually quantifying Japan’s importance and bringing you a Top 20 region list based on OrionRank data. This comprises the top 100, accounting for retirements and movements across regions:
- 1: Kanto (17209.45)
- 2: Tristate (14504.03)
- 3: Midwest (13247.65)
- 4: SoCal (13124.02)
- 5: Florida (12927.22)
- 6: Southeast (7928.12) – Atlantic + Louisiana
- 7: Mexico (5071.78)
- 8: New England (4548.41)
- 9: Kansai (4050.28)
- 10: Netherlands (3611.29)
- 11: Quebec (2893.25)
- 12: MD/VA (2387.92)
- 13: Ontario (1893.96)
- 14: Pacific Northwest (1693.45) – USA Northwest + British Columbia
- 15: Germany (1655.08)
- 16: Texas (1582.21)
- 17: Kyushu (1487.60)
- 18: NorCal (1402.36)
- 19: Southwest (1071.31)
- 20: France (782.75)
Using the Top 140 doesn’t change a lot. It moves some of the 2-5 spots (Florida especially benefits, ranking 3rd) but Kanto remains 1st. LibraRank, my other less refined project, would also have Kanto at a clean #1 when you account for ZeRo’s retirement and both 9B and Ranai moving to Kanto.
Kanto is pretty clearly the best region in the world based on skill pool, peaking at a score of 18000+, just 2000 under the Midwest with ZeRo.
Why am I mulling over this? Because Japan has a lot of Clouds. You might see where I’m going with this.
SmashRecord – Notable Clouds in Top 100 of Japan
- komorikiri (6th, Japan)
- Rain (30th, Japan)
- Mangalitza (31st, Japan)
- masashi (34th, Japan)
- Mattun (38th, Japan)
- Mao (42nd, Japan)
- Selcia (43rd, Japan)
- Maguro (63rd, Japan)
- YOC (84th, Japan)
Unranked, but accomplished
- uryu (Eliminated MVD at EVO Japan circa January 2018)
- Z~Tan (Consistently high placing Cloud in doubles with Paseriman, a double Cloud team)
- ProtoBanham (Wifi Warrior noted for placing well in Doubles with Lucina player Laki and placing 9th at Umebura 30. Ranked 38th on Sumamate.)
Most Notable Cloud Turnovers
Let’s add all of this up.
- Japan is very important to tournament results per Kanto ranking #1 and Kansai ranking #9.
- Cloud players are common in Japan’s top 100.
- Numerous people ranked highly in Kanto actively switch to Cloud for Doubles.
- Scarce Japanese doubles data indicates he is extremely prominent.
- There are upwards of twenty missing potential doubles events that go in accordance with “Type 1” events based on skill pool, increasing Cloud’s potential ceiling even further.
All of the stats for Cloud laid out so far would likely improve if we were to have a large number of Japanese super-regional events added to the mix. This assessment is based on what data we do have out of Japan as well as the prominence of Cloud in the country, with the country’s importance based on its massive skill pool.
2.1: The Theory Backing Cloud
This isn’t a numbers based argument, but since we’re covering our bases here, I think it’s worth examining the elements that make Cloud distinctly good in doubles.
He is already pretty widely agreed to be a top tier character in singles. Results pretty strongly indicate this, but the elements of his character also provide an explanation as to why this is the case.
- He has large disjointed hitboxes that allow him to create a bubble, as is the case with most sword-based characters.
- He has a very safe and effective kill move that is difficult to punish.
- His recovery, despite being exploitable without Limit Charge, is exceptional once limit has been charged.
- He has the hitboxes to ensure Limit camping is a viable strategy, meaning he can consistently play for Limit to offset his recovery weakness if a player wants to remain especially safe.
- He delivers large amounts of damage due to a very good set of juggling moves, namely Up Air. This additionally charges limit for him.
- While he can be comboed due to his weight and size, this also charges limit, meaning he has a built-in comeback mechanic.
- He has very good mobility that is improved to among the best in the game with Limit charged.
- His Limit Charge means he is rewarded for camping, meaning opponents have to approach a character that is good at stifling approach, is rewarded both from losing and winning, and is stressful to fight against when Limit is inevitably activated.
Many of the elements that make him especially good in singles where he has peaked above 10% representation before will also apply to doubles, but Cloud manages to get additional benefits that a lot of characters lack.
- Finishing Touch, a very situational hard-read or hard-punish move in Singles, is now an exceptionally good kill option out of a throw or team juggle.
- His bubble becomes increasingly threatening in Doubles as the stage size does not increase relative to the participants, meaning you have less space to manage when fighting him, and he has more opportunities to slap you with his large hitboxes.
- Several scenarios may make his recovery more reliable in doubles on average due to teammate saves, greater difficulty edge guarding in certain situations, and greater difficulty isolating individual players in such a chaotic environment.
- His large hitboxes make juggles involving Cloud especially taxing to fight against, as they quickly place you in kill range against Finishing Touch and are otherwise highly damaging if you are ever caught in them.
- By virtue of his bubble becoming more threatening in doubles, you are more likely to be forced to contend with these situations than vice-versa.
- Cloud’s combos by themselves in comparison to many characters are not especially lengthy or elaborate, naturally making them more difficult to interrupt in a chaotic situation.
My knowledge of doubles is not extensive, but I do believe that the basic theory behind the character fully explains why his results are exceptional. This is mostly an aside as I do not believe people are contesting the idea that he is good in doubles, but it’s another box checked off that could reasonably support the statement that Cloud in particular is centralizing in Doubles.
2.2: Bayonetta’s 14.5%
A stat I haven’t gone much into up to this point that is shown in the Percent Line document is the fact that Bayonetta has long since crossed the “red line”. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that a power vacuum caused by banning Cloud would make Bayonetta even more prominent than she is.
What would the potential consequence of a power vacuum be? We really don’t know. Assuming she simply replaces Cloud’s win rates might not be feasible as Cloud is considered a fairly easy character to learn by comparison to Bayonetta (and is thus more common), but the extent of her hypothetical dominance could fall in-between Cloud’s 34% and her current 14.5%.
One concern is that by banning Cloud, a potential counter character (as indicated by match-up data in Singles, at least) is now out of play which strengthens her position in the metagame. This normally wouldn’t be much of a concern, but she already exists well past a suspect testing zone in Doubles.
2.3: Conclusion of Section 2
- A lack of results from Japan are probably holding Cloud’s numbers back.
- Cloud has the theory to explain why he is a potentially centralizing character in the Doubles format.
- Bayonetta may become a problem long-term in Doubles if Cloud is banned as her current numbers indicate potential dominance.
SECTION 3 – SCENE STABILITY
In this section, we’re going to detail Singles & Doubles interest by looking at a both attendance and viewership interest over the last two years. This was initially only going to involve Doubles data, but I figured that it would be a good idea to give a point of comparison by placing it alongside Singles data.
3.0: Viewership Numbers
Viewership numbers ended up taking a decent bit of time to track down, and the list is incomplete and sometimes estimates are used based on context clues found in researching Twinge estimates. I relied heavily on schedules and interpretation of them if an event ran late (e.g. the KTAR Series or certain 2GG events) and at least some numbers are lost entirely.
More than that, interpreting viewership numbers is something best compared to solving an enigma.
This is discussing both Singles & Doubles viewership, but we’ll start with commentary on Singles viewership in particular since it is well-documented.
- Tournament series do not necessarily grow nor do they necessarily decline.
- Mass exposure from EVO didn’t do anything for DreamHack Atlanta’s numbers, yet GTX-TBH7 saw two consecutive above-average weeks for Smash 4, including gains for Smash 4 at The Big House compared to the prior year.
- Being stacked isn’t necessarily correlated with having good viewership. This did not help FE Saga or MKLeo Saga, yet the Championship was above average.
In addition, viewership numbers might be heavily affected by competing viewership between Smash 4 and Melee, a fight Melee typically wins at. This may explain the hard difference between The Big House 5, 6, and 7, where Smash 4 retained good viewership in the former and latter but being streamed separately left it at much lower numbers during 2016.
This competing viewership has led to a number of what I’d call politically driven narratives to form based around whatever one side wants, but there is nothing simple about viewership numbers. They are easily one of the most complicated aspects of the game to decipher and depends on so many factors that using charts only gives you the short of things.
3.01: Detailing Singles Viewership – 2016-2017
There’s a big drop after 2016’s first half, but you also have to consider that there weren’t as many major-tier events in this period of time. Pound and GOML were what we’d come to expect – ballparking 20000-30000k – while both Genesis 3 and CEO 2016 were large outliers in the long run that kept the average high.
It should be noted that I do not use BEAST or Japan numbers in these charts. They would bring the average down because they have a terrible, terrible timeslot for US watchers since they happen in the middle of the night or dead early in the morning when people are asleep or have just gotten up.
Note that I have “With EVO” in this, as I consider EVO to be a big enough outlier that it warrants an exclusion chart:
The drop in 2016 is pretty big here without EVO to back it up, and gains seen in late 2017 become a 22% drop without EVO (where I only used Twitch numbers, excluding TV numbers). Is it a pattern that viewership, barring an extreme like EVO, declines late-year? I don’t really know. We have a sample size period of 4 to work with based on how I did this.
The numbers are pretty wonky overall, but the valley as documented thus far occurred from July-December of 2016 on either method. The game’s interest clearly grew in the first half of 2017 and seemed to stagnate by late 2017, often cited as being caused by “scene fatigue” due to the absurd number of large events occurring.
What about 2018? As usual, solid 2018 data is a bit early to use, and it doesn’t help that a residual effect of having too much happening in late 2017 resulted in a very quiet first half of 2018 that may break the pattern of first half growth.
Of course, the scene will likely grow as Smash 5 arrives due to the monumental install base and allure of a new title, making a lot of this obsolete.
3.02: Detailing Doubles Viewership – 2016-2017
The drop in interest between the two phases of 2016 (about 49%) is less harsh that the 65%-ish drop in singles during the same period, but this is also considering that those Singles numbers are arguably inflated by a lack of many major events to begin with combined with the brand name events naturally giving it high viewership.
Nonetheless, you see a similar pattern between this and the “without EVO” Singles chart, except the decline in Singles was 22% while the decline in doubles was a staggering 63%. It would be reasonable to say that if people lacked interest in doubles before, they certainly lack any interest right now.
It’s fair to say that this drop is not consistent with Cloud’s rise and more consistent with Singles, but the huge drop late 2017 wasn’t really consistent with the mixed numbers seen between Singles.
3.03: Interpreting Decline
My issue is that the decline is nearly three times as large in Doubles as it is in Singles under the worst numbers for Singles. The subject of the potential decline in Singles is hotly debated, but my suggestion in the Bayonetta article that if the decline was occurring, there could be a number of factors at play beyond the community dislike of the character.
- Scene decline due to game age.
- Difficulty of scene growth due to “Dead Console Syndrome” uniquely affecting Smash.
- Lack of interest with current narratives or players.
- Potential carry-over scene fatigue from 2017’s over saturation of events.
With doubles, the decline is a lot harsher. I’m sure some of these numbers can be attributed to the above things, but the drop is so harsh that I feel as though there really should be a proper explanation.
Is that explanation Cloud? Well, correlation doesn’t necessary equal causation, and there isn’t perfectly correlated phase-by-phase decline matching with Cloud’s rise in prominence. The subject had been raised by some people around a year ago, but by searching r/smashbros, you can see that the trend goes up in August of 2017 after ZeRo (correctly) points out that the Doubles scene is declining and later made a discussion video about Cloud and whether or not he should be banned.
3.1: Attendance Numbers
The next step is to gauge player interest and see if it correlates with viewership interest and (more importantly) if it demonstrates something of a decline. The more times we see decline, the easier it is to interpret that there may be a force within the game driving people away in large numbers.
3.11: Detailing Singles Attendance – 2016-2017
The same figures affecting viewership in 2016’s first half may also be why it has the peak level of attendance. Unlike with the viewership chart, however, I did not create a “without EVO” number for this as two separate events in separate parts of the country managed well over 1000 entrants during the second half of 2017 through both EVO and SSC 2017.
Either way, there are odd divergences at play. Early 2017 was very spectator friendly, but saw the biggest valley in attendance among the events I used for reasons I cannot reasonably explain.
3.12: Detailing Doubles Attendance – 2016-2017
The decline that took place in attendance slapped Doubles twice as hard as it did in singles, and even with SSC being the largest doubles tournament of the Cloud Era at 352 teams, the increase between 2017 (1) and 2017 (2) is only about 7%.
This is where EVO’s lack of a doubles format may come into play, leaving room for interpretation as to how significant the rise in 2017’s second half may have been had it had similar entrants. I punched in a 300 team tournament, which resulted in a similar 20% rise to singles overall, but it’s impossible to know if an EVO doubles side event would have garnered that much interest.
Unsurprisingly, the numbers look pretty bad for doubles when SSC’s outlier is not accounted for. In this case, you have a consistent pattern of decline that gets a lot worse in 2017.
Is it correct to exclude outliers? Well, I’m not really sure. Singles’ numbers probably don’t look a whole lot different if both EVO and SSC are excluded, but they still happened and represent solid peaks for a later half year that was clearly wrought by event exhaustion among many players.
Of course, they aren’t the only outliers, either. There are a good number of events like the GENESIS Series that typically has very high attendance and viewership potentially related to the brand naming it has after the build-up for GENESIS 3 and its following reputation as a must-watch event.
When we don’t cut out the biggest events, though, doubles clearly experienced a sharp decline from 2016 to 2017 even if the decline was helped a bit later in the year by Smash Con’s big peak. No matter what, the numbers don’t really look that good for doubles, and they consistently (among available data) seem to fare a lot worse than singles do even in rate of decline.
Is this due to a lack of opportunity for Doubles events? I’m not really sure, but a perceived lack of interest in Doubles might result in a domino effect that leads stream runners and event organizers to care less, naturally phasing the format out of the public eye it used to have.
3.2: Conclusion of Section 3
- Interest in Doubles has declined both attendee and viewer-side from 2016 to 2017.
- Doubles seems to fare worse than Singles in terms of its decline.
- There is not exact correlation between Cloud’s rate of increase and the declining numbers Doubles has suffered, but the sharpest declines occurred in the same time period as Cloud’s ban becoming a widely discussed issue.
SECTION 4 – DEBATING ON A BAN
4.0: The Data
This article thus far provides some pretty scathing numbers that drag Cloud through the mud. He’s dominant as a character in both prominence and victories, his share of results are unheard of in the franchise up to this point, and the theory surrounding his character all provide a good explanation for why he’s been able to do this well.
In terms of the scene itself, the numbers aren’t providing much in the way of a silver lining.
The scene data consists of declines in both attendance and viewership that are pretty sharp from 2016 to 2017. While a number of factors may be able to explain declining interest, you would expect such numbers to hit Singles first, as that is the most watched format. However, the drop in doubles appears to be greater.
While I don’t want to argue that the decline in doubles being caused by Cloud is 100% fact, I think most of the available evidence points towards that being the case.
4.1: Checking off Boxes
This is more of a recap, but I thought I might as well list why collectively Cloud might be banworthy.
- Cloud is #1 by a record-breaking margin.
- He could continue to improve his current numbers if his progression rate continues to be as good as it is.
- If not, he’s still so prominent that has absolute dominion over the Double scene.
- His current numbers are likely an underestimation due to missing Japanese data, where Cloud is very prominent.
- Evidence points to the Doubles scene declining in both attendance and viewership.
- Theorycrafting has long indicated Cloud was an amazing character in the format: Results have simply demonstrated this.
- No adaptations appear to have sufficed over a two year span to combat the character. This particular aspect appears to be a losing battle, outside of Bayonetta, who may become too centralizing in her own right.
4.2: Justification using Competitive Philosophy
There are a lot of common anti-ban ideas related to competition that hold merit. David Sirlin’s book Playing to Win is a long-sourced place that people source their arguments from, and I tend to agree with the conclusions made in this particular segment. I would suggest reading it.
This was published quite a while ago, and the Smash community itself has since seen a number of developments and debates surrounding what constitutes as an acceptably powerful character in the time since.
Banning Cloud is something that fits the first two criteria referenced in the article as he is discrete and a ban would be enforceable, but the debate would inevitably surround the third (and most important) criteria – is it warranted? Cloud’s numbers are extreme, but barring him literally being unbeatable, is it really warranted to ban him from the format altogether?
The most interesting part of this question comes around in the article towards the end where Sirlin brings up the peculiar case of Old Sagat, a character that (in a familiar comparison to Smash) is an exceptionally good top tier in Super Turbo that, while not unbeatable, is apparently (or was at the time of publishing) a character worth soft-banning by players choosing to not select him among Japan’s top level. This was seemingly for the sake of variety.
The margins of what is and isn’t acceptable is going to be a lot different in Smash. Despite some clear tweaks targeted at 1v1 during the patching period, the game was overall not designed in the same context as a traditional fighter. Traditional fighters attempt to be balanced to where the entire cast can compete.
For example, the proper distribution in Smash 4 for a 58 character roster is roughly 1.7%, which a good chunk of the cast exceed and some characters who are deemed acceptable top tier (i.e. Diddy Kong) totally shatter it.
But because multiple characters do it and the lower rungs aren’t necessarily totally unviable at the high level, people accept these imbalances as an aspect of the game they’re willing to put up with. This is at least partially conditioned based on other titles, as Smash as a series has never been particularly balanced outside of fan projects like Project M.
So when we have multiple years of data to work with that demonstrate Cloud is in particular pretty absurd, I guess the question becomes, “Is he our Old Sagat?” He’s certainly not Akuma – Akuma would be like if Wario Man or Giga Bowser were playable, but he’s clearly head and shoulders above the rest in a way that invalidates most of the cast and centralizes the meta around his character.
Now, an alternative point is subtlety noted. Quality of play. There are quite a few examples listed in that chapter of Playing to Win that reference a game can still be interesting even if it’s reduced the sum total of its viable tactics.
Has quality of play been retained in a Cloud-dominated Doubles format? That’s subjective, but attendance and viewership pretty clearly point to “No”, if we’re judging it by people’s opinions. I’m sure some top players participating at the top may disagree that gameplay has gotten worse as a result of Cloud becoming dominant, but I’m basing this idea based on the scene’s decline over the last year.
4.3: Consequences of a Ban
There are a couple of consequences that could come as a result of a ban:
- Bayonetta may take advantage of the power vacuum.
- This move disenfranchises solo-Cloud mains.
Mew2King has been a bit outspoken over the latter, and I don’t blame him – he did indeed pioneer Cloud as a successful Doubles character, as his successes with teammates like Ally were among the first examples of Cloud becoming prominent in Doubles.
He has every right to want to support his character being legal and I don’t think his personalized arguments are poor form at all. He is arguing within the bounds of competition, and just as Meta Knight’s ban was and still is a totally debatable topic, the potential for a universal Cloud ban in Doubles is also debatable on the grounds that the gameplay matter above the variety in the gameplay.
My only counterpoint would be that shrinking interest in the scene (where a lot of fingers point to Cloud as the cause) is potentially detrimental to prize pools, as you won’t get large prize pools for a format that few attend and watch.
If we can’t agree that his numbers warrant a ban if you disagree with the idea of over centralization as a negative, I at least feel like pro & anti ban could look at the waning nature of the Doubles scene and accept that a dedication to competition may come at a cost if people lose interest in that competition.
I know and have seen people who do not think that viewers really matter to the element of competition and that it just boils down to the two people fighting, but in a modern context where things become widely popular, I’m not sure this is the case.
It’s certainly not the case for traditional sports where rule changes have happened for spectators, and balance changes that increase variety for attendees and viewers happen all the time in a metric ton of E-Sports.
4.4: Against a Slippery Slope
I want to take a brief period of time in this article to point out that banning Cloud by himself based on the numbers does not necessitate a number of other flooded-in bans to justify banning Cloud in particular. While Bayonetta may become an issue, there is no evidence to indicate any other Doubles character is capable of even approaching what Cloud in particular has accomplished.
I say this as somebody who believe in retaining competitive integrity and as somebody who agrees such a slope may be set off if we ever panic ban a character: Banning Cloud in this format is neither a panic option nor something done to soon. There’s a wealth of data over a long and busy period demonstrating Cloud and Cloud alone is this good.
SECTION 5 – CONCLUSION
I went into this subject believing that Cloud’s numbers might be banworthy on lengthy debate. His numbers were more extreme than I had prepared for, and due to that, and after a lot of thinking, I fully support a blanket ban on the character for reasons I have explained thoroughly in this article.
I don’t suggest this lightly and I do so with years experience of data collection and analysis. I know full well that this will have an effect on Cloud mains who rely on him in doubles or people who otherwise stick to Cloud in Doubles regardless of who they use in Singles. I do so on the basis that Cloud has choked variety away to unseen extents and the Doubles scene has declined during the same period of time in both viewership and attendance.
I had planned to structure Section 4 more similarly to how I structured Section 5 in the Bayonetta article. However, I could not come up with a convincing and full argument that would keep Cloud legal because all data points towards that being the appropriate course of action.
As this will be posted to social media sites like Twitter and Reddit, I’m sure there will be debate surrounding the data and my recommendation of a universal ban.
I encourage debate and discussion surrounding this, and I would like statements from Tournament Organizers on the subject if possible to know their plan of action and whether or not they intend to ban the character based on the evidence presented (largely in Sections 1 & 3.)
Thank you for reading. I will announce new projects in the future.
5.1: Final Statement
Based on the evidence presented in this article, I recommend an immediate universal ban of Cloud in the Doubles format. He is more dominant than any other character in Smash history by a very large margin based on the formats I have researched. This includes Meta Knight in Brawl Singles.
Whether or not TOs follow this recommendation is entirely up to them, and I encourage debate if people wish to have it over the subject of this character.
SECTION 6 – SOURCES & REFERENCES
6.0: Section 1
Percent Line: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1D1aGtpuzMx1x5B20l64LzGPoVrZpdhKcZJMV5p7XoJc/edit
Tournament Database Methodology: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Jks0EtmeNemKsm2rXzYf8RB3D43-Ru23ypx_DOnQPDY/edit#
Tournament Database: https://smashboards.com/threads/tournament-placing-database-scoring-project.437773/
Doubles Character Results: https://docs.google.com/document/d/14TXxcGUNIDz2VPfFGAIOgmPfamD6IICgDG-dvQWyUQU/edit?usp=sharing
6.1: Section 2
Japan’s Rankings: http://smashrecord.harukisb.net/rankings/smash4
Japan’s online Rankings: http://sumamate.com/
6.2: Section 3
Smash 4 Singles Viewership: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1W3iMEMPuOsyVMsp_J3qrZCO1jqPNNOnECjrBly3WKNs/edit#gid=0
Doubles viewership sheet and attendance sheet will be added later.
6.3: Section 4
“What Should Be Banned?” from “Playing to Win”, by David Sirlin: http://www.sirlin.net/ptw-book/what-should-be-banned
Mew2King’s Viewpoint on Cloud in Smash 4 Doubles: https://www.reddit.com/r/smashbros/comments/85texd/smashnsplash_4_has_banned_cloud_in_wiiu_doubles/dw073kc/