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The Story of PMBR Stages in Project M 3.6


Recently the Smash Bros. Legacy Twitter account tweeted out a poll asking which version of stages are used in Project M local tournaments that people go to.

There was a lot of confusion about what this meant and so I wanted to clarify by providing some background and my personal thoughts on the whole situation.

Firstly I want to say, I’m not pretending that this is an objective take on the situation. It simply isn’t and I’m not going to force it to be. I do however want to shed light on how I see this happening. I also wanted to post personally on this and not as Smash Bros. Legacy since I’m sure the opinions expressed in this video aren’t necessarily shared by the entire Legacy TE team.

For those of you who don’t really know what Project M is, it’s a mod of Super Smash Bros. Brawl that increases the speed of gameplay and a bunch of other stuff inspired by the mechanics of Super Smash Bros. Melee. Started in 2011, the mod quickly became the most popular Smash Bros. mod ever and garnered a huge following. Unfortunately the Project M Development Team formally disbanded in December 2015, with Project M 3.6 being the latest version, despite being on the cusp of releasing another update.

With that brief background out of the way, I’m going to assume you’re generally familiar with the situation, since this is mostly to address people already familiar with Project M.

Post-3.6 Attempts#

What you might not know is this conflict of wanting to change Project M 3.6 content has been happening since almost immediately after the Project M Development Team disbanded. A community project known as PMCC quickly began work trying to continue the development of the project without the PMDT, using post-3.6 leaked assets and the work of the Brawl modding community.

This effort failed mostly due to poor team management and an unrealistic expectation that a cohesive effort could be worked on simply by “the community.” There was a lot more to it but that was sort of the first real effort.

Broadly speaking, the modding community has worked on a few spiritual successors to Project M. Things like ALM’s Remix or Legacy XP for example, kind of change up PM 3.6 and add new characters to it. But few have tried replacing Project M completely and use the same Project M name. And the ones that have have ultimately fizzled out due to inability to become adopted across the board.

What makes Legacy TE Different#

Amidst all of the non-Project M-named PM builds out there, one stands out. That’s right, I’m going to shill for my own build here. Legacy TE was special because it was created with the express purpose of carefully maintaining Project M 3.6 gameplay while providing additional quality of life features, additional costumes, and stages, without disrupting gameplay. You could think of it as Project M’s equivalent of Melee’s 20XX TE mod by Dan Salvato.

I began work on Legacy TE in mid 2016 just before Legacy XP released its first beta. LXP and other builds built off of Project M made some questionable decisions like quote unquote fixing Link’s grab, something that would have happened in 3.61 for example. What bothered me about this approach is that it immediately disqualified it from being legit for use in tournaments and the Project M tourney scene is what I really wanted to cater to, and was where my true passion lied.

A Troubled Unveiling#

Around the same time as Legacy TE was being developed by me and my small team, growing unrest about the ill-fated 3.61 update and Project M 4.0 updates continued to fester. The former PMDT were pretty adamant about these leaks and unreleased progress not being included in any builds or iterated upon.

However one former PMDT member you may know named Lunchables decided to take it upon himself and a handful of others to work on a Project M 3.6 patch of sorts with some gameplay changes he and other believed would improve the game. A pseudo 3.61 as it were, albeit with some additional custom changes.

Without going into details, basically he was convinced to not release it even though it was nearly completed as far as I’m aware. With the clout and credibility he had the in community, the fact that it never released was deeply frustrating for tourney goers who wanted to see their game continue to improve and get new updates just as it had for the 5 or so years prior with the PMDT.

So this meant by the time Legacy TE was revealed at Olympus, the largest Project M Circuit tournament bracket, it did not receive a warm welcome. Just before Top 8 a trailer I made that showed off what Legacy TE was and was something my team had worked very hard to make was met with scorn and many “this isn’t Lunchabuild” comments. The line “Familiar 3.6 roster,” which in my head was a selling point and not a drawback, was not appreciated. I distinctly remember seeing the frustration in the Hitbox.tv chat over points like that.

A Revolution#

Despite that however, through our consistent updates, high quality content, Fracture’s working replays, ds22’s memory leak fixes, and our commitment to preserving 3.6 gameplay, Legacy TE became more and more of a staple in the community. By the time we released TE 2.0 with Cosmetic Standardization Project and the code menu, most Project M builds at tournaments were Legacy TE builds.

Something unprecedented happened: a mod of a mod which maintained identical core gameplay effectively replaced the game for which it was created.  This would be like if there were more 20XX TE setups than Melee setups in the world.

Legacy TE 2.0 was well-loved across the board.

A New Authority Steps In#

This is where the PMBR enter my story. Now to avoid confusion, it should be noted that the PMDT, the creators of Project M, formally went by PMBR. PMBR stands for Project M Backroom, and over time PMDT re-branded themselves in part to differentiate themselves from the rule officiators / TOs / etc. While they used to be one and the same, eventually the PMBR split off. When the PMDT disbanded, the PMBR became even more of distinct group. They continued to create tier lists, help organize community efforts, and sought to maintain the Project M tourney scene as a whole.

Before Legacy TE 2.0 came out, there was talk over the game’s stage list. PM players in general couldn’t really agree on one set of stages to use for tournaments. In fact some scenes, notably Australia, made up their own stages for tournament use, that were made completely outside of Project M 3.6. There were several standards that were adopted by different regions or scenes, like Paragon’s stagelist, the Nebraska Nine, Evo Eight, and variants in between. So talk of a standard stagelist across the board begun bubbling up.

If you’re familiar with Legacy TE, you’ll know about the START alt stages we have in the build. They’re a true 1-for-1 re-creation of stages intended for tournament use, meaning they have the same blast zones, collision data, and camera as the stages upon which they’re based. The advantage of them is a completely unique aesthetic. For example think about Final Destination in Melee vs. the rainbow-colored Final Destination stage in 20XX. Gameplay-wise they are identical, but have a different aesthetic.

For the most part, with the stages and costumes we included, we made sure to add, not replace core Project M 3.6 content. This was deliberate as the idea was any Project M 3.6 match could be 100% recreated. So if some Project M scene wanted to include 3.6 Castle Siege in their tournament stagelist in Legacy TE, they could do that just like they could in Project M 3.6.

A Conflict of Ideology#

The Legacy TE team decided based on top players’ opinions and what we’d seen adopted, Paragon’s stagelist was the most standard option within 3.6. These stages included Battlefield, Smashville, Pokemon Stadium 2, Green hill Zone, and Delfino’s Secret as starter picks, and Final Destination, Dreamland, Wario Land, and Fountain of Dreams as counter picks. So we optimized our stage Start alt choices to reflect mostly the Paragon stagelist (with the spare slot going to a 1:1 of Bowser’s Castle). However this did not prevent anyone from using any other 3.6 stagelist.

This is where the story gets weird. PMBR members had begun work on their own versions of 3.6 stages. It did things like change the blast zones of Dreamland and Wario Land, completely change the platform movement in Delfino’s Secret, and add in Metal Cavern HD, but completely change the stage’s shape. Now in my head, whether or not these changes could be considered an improvement or not didn’t matter, modifying these stages so drastically would fundamentally change base Project M 3.6 content in such a way that it should have immediately disqualified them from being included in PM 3.6 tournaments. Or this build with new stages should have made this just another derivative project like another Legacy XP. But no, not only were these gameplay changes being promoted within the PM community, they were trying to call it the same game and the same version of the same game.

There are a lot of details I’m leaving out and I won’t go into all of them, but basically they went with a “2E” title for these stages as an attempt to differentiate them from the proper 3.6 versions. I do appreciate that they added some visual indicators in-game like changed the color of the Delfino platforms so the changed stages would be easier to identify, but the effort to include non 3.6 content and full-on replace 3.6 content with something completely different felt very disingenuous. This seemed like a Lunchabuild update shoehorned into 3.6. It definitely felt off.

An Attempt to Reach Out#

Something else I appreciate about them is they did reach out to us and try to get us to include these stages. Lunchables, who was part of the PMBR at the time, specifically reached out to me to talk about my aptitude for including them in TE. I unfortunately misunderstood what he meant and seemingly indicated that I would be interested. So they trudged forward with their updates and assumed the Legacy TE team would include them with open arms.

As you can guess, this was not the case. As soon as I caught wind of what was really happening I cautioned strongly against doing this. Changing stages like this sets a dangerous precedent moving forward for others who want to arbitrarily change things and still call the game Project M 3.6. Amidst the myriad of branding and positioning problems this presents, this also risks splitting the community. The Project M 3.6 meta had roughly 3 years to develop and changing it would risk fragmenting the userbase.

New Stages: An Awkward Release and A Counter Argument#

Without naming specific names, the PMBR stages had a sub-optimal release to put it lightly. One of the stages was completely broken – however in their defense they were releasing candidates for testing, and you can’t always account for every bug and issue with something that’s new. There were almost immediately versioning issues but the community was still eager to try these new tournament standard stages.

Luckily some regions understood this for what it was, and were as concerned as I was. TheParty, JasonWaterfalls and folks from AZPM to name a few. But by and large it just seemed like people didn’t care. In their minds, PMBR stages were just another update to PM like Legacy TE was, and few understood the important distinctions between purely aesthetic changes, gameplay-changing edits, etc. So I made a blog post that the entire Legacy TE team reviewed talking about the 6 different types of changes you can make to a Project M build.

Here’s the list:

  1. Aesthetic changes
  2. Net-new inclusions
  3. Quality of Life feature additions
  4. Crash fixes
  5. Hardware-viability balance changes
  6. Gameplay-changing modifications

My argument was out of the six possible kinds of changes you can make to the game, only 1-5 should be considered for Project M 3.6. Since Brawl and by proxy PM is so easily modded, I think it’s vitally important to make distinctions between the kinds of changes that can/should be made. Something I always enjoyed about the Project M scene is how regions could put their own personality in their builds. It might be as simple as changing a menu color and logo, or even feature a PR costume. It made me think: why am I OK with these changes? And it basically came down to: the gameplay is fundamentally the same. But as soon as you start replacing or modifying base content in the build, it means you can’t re-create matches from other 3.6 tournaments, and therefore it isn’t the same game.

This spurred its own series of debates. I even discussed this on the Project M Nexus podcast with reslived, the then-leader of the PMBR. Interestingly he was against them at first, but via popular vote he changed his mind and went with the other PMBR members and pushed for these stages. I truly believe these stage modifications weren’t born out of ill-will, or trying to split the community. Quite the opposite, however I don’t think they were thinking carefully about the repercussions of their actions.

Project+: The Endorsed Project M Successor#

This now brings us to Project Plus. Something very odd that came up in the PMBR debates, and an argument that I made is that, as soon as the community accepts and adopts stage changes, character changes are next. I have a tweet that basically predicted what would become Project Plus.

Hilariously we were assured that the PMBR had “taken a vote” and were certain they wouldn’t change characters, as that was crossing the line. I didn’t believe them for a second. What’s funny is I’m sure they would argue they stayed true to that stance… but if you take a look carefully at who was involved in the PMBR, who ended up leaving the PMBR, and joining Project Plus, I think you’ll find it’s directly in line with my predictions. Many current Project Plus members were former PMBR members.

Also, when I say Project+ is the endorsed Project M successor, I’m sort of being cheeky. In the past former PMDT members would actively advise against making PM-derivatives that expressly sought to replace Project M, and even take action to obfuscate them. But this time around, former PMDT leadership didn’t seem to mind. I won’t even go into the details of the Project Plus shenanigans, but it’s important to at least bring it up.

PMBR stages in 3.6 vs. Project Plus#

Many people assume that since PMBR stages are in Project Plus, I’d naturally have a problem with Project Plus. And the truth is, I don’t. The difference between PMBR shoehorning their own arbitrarily edited stages into 3.6 and those stage stages existing in Project Plus is quite simple. One is calling itself Project M 3.6, and one isn’t. The one calling itself Project M 3.6 is disingenuous, because it replaces core 3.6 content. The one calling itself Project Plus is actually accurate in the sense that it’s a derivative of PM, but also not Project M expressly.

Do I think Project Plus will split the Project M community? Absolutely. Do I have a problem with that? Other than being sad, not really. If part of the community chooses to move onto something else, that’s what just happens. But when all of this is over and Brawl mods are ever revisited or remembered, I’m fairly confident that Project M will be the game people remember, and I want to make sure its preserved as much as I can. So while Project Plus is built off of Legacy TE (and by the way, I’m happy about that too, I think it’s great), Legacy TE proper as maintained by the Legacy TE team will remain truthful to 3.6. If anyone wants to use Legacy TE as a base for something else, that’s fine. All’s fair in the modding world. Just please be thoughtful about how you position, name, and implement your mods.

Lots of people saw the blog post I wrote, debate I had with reslived on the Nexus Podcast, and heard my rants on Twitter and felt my response was reactionary. But that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Legacy TE has always been true to 3.6, whether or not it was popular at the time to be so. At any time our team could have added Knuckles, or changed stage blast zones to be something we felt was “better,” but the point is I never felt my team was the appropriate authority to make that call. And that’s because the former PMDT are the only people who should make that call – Project M is their game.

To Sum It Up#

In conclusion, PMBR stages in 3.6 shouldn’t happen. In a long list of attempts to change Project M and still call it Project M, it’s just the latest edition, albeit with more backing and community support compared to previous attempts. With Project Plus about to release, I’d like to formally ask every TO and community organizer that has the power to control what’s put in Legacy TE / Project M builds that you keep the PMBR stages in P+ and don’t include them in 3.6 builds. Please. You don’t need the edited stages in 3.6, just play Project Plus and host tournaments for that instead.

Thank you for listening to this and I hope to hear from you in the comments.

The Story of PMBR Stages in Project M 3.6
David V. Kimball
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