The Grievances of a Smash 4 Machinimator

I've been making Super Smash Bros for Wii U machinima for more than 3 years, and with Super Smash Bros Ultimate around the corner, I feel it is time for me to reflect on those 3 years.

In the 5 years since Super Smash Bros Brawl was released, I saw the evolution of both the machinima community and the modding scene on Kitty Corp through the works of Virtual Smash and The Smash Team. We went from texture hacks and recolors to imported stages, new character models, and even custom animations. Yet, it was the popularity of Brawl machinima at the time that led to users like dRage to develop new mods specifically for machinima use.

Sadly, I have not seen the same thing happen in the 4 years since Smash 4 was released.

It wasn't until September of 2017 that I got around to modding my Wii U console to allow the use of Smash 4 mods. By then, two years after the game was released, I was expecting the game's modding scene to have caught up with that of Brawl's. On GameBanana, I found a green screen, a "cinematic" mod that removes most of the HUD, a mod for the camera, and even imported models and a custom moveset for the Ice Climbers (All of which led to the development of Icecapades).

Unfortunately, all of the other mods I found were not as creative. GameBanana is fixated on bland "balanced" stages, with an absolute fetish for Final Destination clones, and omega stages that are cool to look at, but offer nothing new to the machinima community. I was hoping for at least two stages on the scope of Palutena's Temple or The Great Cave Offensive - stages that take advantage of 8-player Smash to allow for more characters to appear in a single scene. Omega stages do not offer the same creative freedom that a full-sized stage does.

Recently, I ran into an issue with the "Unrestricted Camera for all stages" by jam1garner. I was oblivious to it at first, but I soon discovered that the camera mod doesn't work for certain modded stages. If the camera mod's "param" files are installed after those of a modded omega stage, the stage's platform is reverted to that of a regular omega stage. It's an unpleasant surprise to enjoy the creative freedom the camera mod provides then realize you just fell through the ground. Thing is, even though the mod is a work-in-progress according to the page description, it hasn't been updated in two years, and I wasn't able to find a similar mod to use instead.

I ran into a similar issue with "Cinematic Mode" by thatsmash4modder when it came to using the Ice Climber mod. After installing Cinematic Mode, the Ice Climber model - which goes over Dr. Mario - became a disjointed and broken mess. Only by removing certain files and making some sacrifices was I able to allow the two mods to co-exist. I'm certain I was able to do the same thing with the Unrestricted Camera and the modded stages, but I never figured out how.

With all the handicaps and barriers that comes with using Smash 4 mods, and the lack of outstanding stages to use, it's no wonder why most people sticked to using Brawl for machinima. In comparison to dumping a game, relying on an internet connection, and paying for a DS Virtual Console game, it's relatively easy to softmod a Wii console, create a list of Gecko OS codes to use (or simply use Riivolution), and drag and drop textures and mods directly onto a SD Card.

Despite all of this, some directors have been able to create such wonderful works as Roy's Our Boy and Smash and Stuff, two of the most notable ongoing Smash 4 machinima series in my opinion. Yet, because Sturgeon's law, I found just as many low-effort videos.

I am of the opinion that making machinima with Garry's Mod or Source Filmmaker takes a lot more effort than using Super Smash Bros, but that doesn't take away from the fact it does take effort to make a good Smash machinima. The problem is, no one is pointing that out. In almost every comment section I read on other videos, it's always the same "great video" drivel and emoticons; almost no one is offering any kind of constructive criticism. That's to be expected of the average YouTuber, but I thought the machinima community would at least have something to contribute that helps the director to improve.

Heck, when I tried offering such advice to one machinima director, I was rudely dismissed. They eventually apologized, but it goes to show you how much things have changed in the Smash machinima community when those that should do better, those that should improve, think they don't have to. I was of the same mindset when I first started making videos. Consequently, I was making the same crappy videos for years without improvement; I never learned from the termination of my original YouTube channel.

I feel as if a bar needs to be set. When you look at the works surrounding GMOD, Source Filmmaker, and Super Mario 64 Bloopers, you see some notable evolution from their early years.

Take SMG4 for example. Some say the channel and series reached its peak in 2013, and I myself have grown tired of gay jokes and anime bashing. But I found that this year, and especially in recent months, the series really came into its own by treading new ground with its writing. That the series now makes use of assets from both GMOD and Super Mario 64 has also helped it stand out from other machinima series from a visual perspective. It's too bad that SMG4's bloopers are better known as a gold mine for scumbag reactionists, rather than emphatic proof that machinima isn't dead.

When Super Smash Bros Ultimate launches this Winter, directors will only have experiences from previous games to build on. Going forward, I hope the Smash Bros machinima community will genuinely strive to improve their work and not use the absence of mods as an excuse to be lazy. If a modding scene does develop around Ultimate, I do hope we will see a lot more variety then what we have seen in Smash 4.


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