The previous title, "I brainbarfed about modding Brawl. Read my Barf" was nixed due to using "barf" twice.
Amongst all this Sony stuff on the frontpage, I decided to finally let out all this nonsense that's been in my head for the past week or so. See, I used to be a pretty active community member for Brawl, back in 08 when it came out, and probably a bit into 09. I dunno anymore.
ANYWHAY. Part of why I stopped caring was because, as a fighting game community, much of the discussion focused on tournament-level play. That itself isn't a problem, but it did really open my eyes to how many things Brawl did wrong. One in particular stands out among all others, partly because it's a huge problem, and partly because it's much easier to identify and explain than others.
What has two thumbs, makes me think of Amish people, and totally makes Brawl less fun?
The Amish joke is a relatively obscure pun. "Mennonite" was the operative word.
Now, I understand that fighting games will have their top tier, not all characters will be equally viable, all that jazz. But this is something else. Metaknight is beyond being good, or even the best. He outclasses everyone else by a pretty large margin. Tier lists all rank him top, and most (if not all) separate him into his own S-rank tier. Followed by Snake, in his own A-tier. Followed by B, the highest rank with more than one member.
Put simply: This is bullshit, and I won't have it. I was also frustrated because I chose Captain Falcon and Link as my mains, both pretty low-tiered. By which I mean both have been ranked at the bottom of the list. That spot is now held by Ganondorf.
And I'm rambling again.
Pretend there's a reasonable segue here; I can't come up with one.
Hey, remember things like GameShark, Game Genie, Action Replay, Codebreaker, etc.? Then you may be surprised to hear this: Variable-modifying codes, which were once-upon-a-time used for infinite lives and noclip and stuff, were used to make Brawl suck less. By editing the statistics of the fighters and their attacks, the community moved towards balance. A lot of people gathered around the idea of what was eventually dubbed “Brawl+.”
Without going into too much more history, let’s just cover the big important bits of knowledge.
--Brawl+ took off from what started as “Remove random tripping” and “Record replays longer than 3 minutes” kinds of codes. Just fixing things that are objectively stupid and shouldn't be there.
--It moved into making combos part of play again, as they were far less important to Brawl than Melee, and we wanted them back.
--Technical advancements (The name Phantom Wings shows up over and over again. The man is like unto a god. Creation where there was nothing, and all that.) led to more advanced and refined modifications.
--Brawl+ was a big, ongoing effort to make the game the community wanted. But the community has no one goal. Brawl+ is done, both for being polished and at a reasonably complete level, and for some changes in leadership and loss of interest that I don’t know a whole lot about.
--Brawl+ is done, but hackers/modders aren’t. Many offshoot projects have been started, most of which have been abandoned. There are now a few big projects to pay attention to.
And this is where it gets fun. Let’s look at the big “codesets” and what they’ve done/plan to do.
Google spat this out when I searched "let's do this"
Brawl+ (Brawl Plus)
This is the first real cohesive effort to improve Brawl. Like I said, it’s done now. No new developments. That said, this is a spectacularly polished modification, with new character select layouts, stage select layouts, title screen, buffer modification (that’s a long explanation, I don’t wanna write that out right now) and, of course, character tweaks.
It’s a faster, fairer Brawl. And that’s about all it is. Brawl+ doesn’t make use of much of the new technical breakthroughs, and so it’s less ambitious than some later entries. That said, its age means there’s nothing really “rough around the edges” to be seen, and its completeness alone is something to be proud of.
Brawl- (Brawl Minus)
Obviously, the name references the previous one. As a rule, Brawl- is more over-the-top and flashy than B+. That’s not to say it’s unfair. It ascribes to a school of thought that basically gets summed up in The Incredibles: “When everyone’s super, no-one will be.” By making all the characters really good, it stays fair while emphasizing fun. Also, it emphasizes craziness.
My personal favorite, B- takes its slogan quite seriously: If it’s broken, break it until it’s fixed. Every character is broken in their own oddly not-gamebreaking way, and this mod represents a lot more advancement to me than refinement.
bBrawl (Balanced Brawl)
This one’s real easy to sum up. This is what Brawl+ would be if they liked Brawl, but just wanted it fairer. It preserves the flow, feel, and physics of Brawl, but makes minimal tweaks to make a more balanced game out of it.
It’s minimal, but it works. This is the easiest to transition to, since it’s such a small change. In fact, many people might not even see the difference. But it’s there, and it’s important.
This one gets a mention for being almost, if not entirely, a one-man job. It also deserves more attention than it gets. And it fits somewhere between bBrawl and Brawl+ on the spectrum of modifications. It preserves the physics of Brawl, and makes fewer changes than Brawl+, but the character changes are more obvious than in bBrawl, and have more impact. This one also focuses on aggressive play, and makes shielding more punishable than in other codesets.
I haven’t played a whole lot of this one, but it too is pretty small. Worth a look, regardless. If he gets some more attention, Final Smashes might be added in, after he figures out how to make them fair.
This is the big one. This is where the buzz is. This one gets some of the credit for killing interest in B+, I hear. This one’s also not publicly available. Spoilers: The M is for Melee. And that’s what this is: A remade Melee inside Brawl. Why not play Melee, you ask? Because Melee is old; we’ve played it to death. Also, this way Melee can be made to the community’s standard. It also gets to have Brawl characters.
I haven’t played this. It’s new. The team working on it is set to release a beta/demo thing pretty soon. Hyped to hell and back, this is what many people wanted Brawl to be to begin with.
The crazy thing is that this is just the nitty-gritty. Dtoid has frontpaged a couple character re-skins here and there. And they’ve barely touched on everything there is to see.
I get that this sounds like Little Big Planet, where it’s like “There’s SO MANY LEVELS but you’ve only seen a few you’ve gotta play this” but then half of them are awful and the other half are Mario 1-1.
Yes, I'm exaggerating. There is a lot to love in LBP. There's also a lot to hate. So sue me.
But for every Cloud Strife over Ike or "Enhanced Breasts Peach", and there are a lot
of them, there are 5 not-shit custom costumes. Super Meat Boy over Kirby and Mr. Destructoid over Shiek were frontpaged, but Ronald McDonald over Captain Falcon and Rash (Battletoads) over DK are at least as cool and never got that attention. Add in the costumes that aren’t just other characters, and you get some really cool-looking new stuff.
But even that’s been around forever. Substitute textures are cool, and substitute textures with modified model data are also really cool, but there are model replacement options too. Not “move these vertexes around” for a different look. A completely new model.
So what’s the reasonable next step when we have the ability to retool and modify characters movesets without limitations, and we also have the ability to create an entirely new body for that character to inhabit?
Man, what an asshole little kid, jumping into my blog post uninvi-OH OKAY FINE I COULDN'T THINK OF ANYTHING BETTER, OKAY?
Totally new characters.
And it’s been done.
Not real well, mind you, but it’s possible. And that’s really cool. Game mods are nothing new, I know, but they’ve been a PC staple, not a console thing. Brawl mods are big. Not just in their own right. Yeah, they’re really neat in that they’re changing Brawl, but the important part is that they’re doing it ON THE WII. Romhacking for emulators is nothing new, but current-gen console mods… that’s really goddamn cool. Especially if more games start getting modified. There was even a Dtoid newspost about custom levels for New Super Mario Bros. Wii a while back.
For anyone interested in doing any of this themselves, here’s some links. And no, it doesn’t require a hacked Wii.
There’s a vulnerability in Brawl itself that means any Wii, with any system software, can run these.
For the record, here’s a quick, mostly accurate representation of how far removed the mods are from Brawl, relative to each other.
Brawl bBrawl uBrawl Brawl+ Brawl- ProjectM
Oh, right, I said links:
--has B+, B-, bB, and P:M sections, including downloads, instructions, and other information
--Biggest source of cosmetic modifications you'll find. Also has the new characters, for those interested.
--Forum thread for uBrawl. Downloads and instructions there.
--Forum thread with links to texture/vertex hacking sites, and instructions on applying those modifications. Forgot this could be useful.
Also, in addition to tacking on that last link, be careful downloading things called PSA. Those are "Project Smash Attack" mods, and change the mechanics of the characters. Often stupidly powerful, these suffer from "MUGEN syndrome" in which people go "lulz let's make something rigged". PSAs have been best used by B- and P:M.
In short: PSA downloads will modify the characters actions, not just their looks. If you want the costume only, keep looking.
NEW EDIT: PSA is one of the technical advancements we've seen, and is used to modify animations, effects, and statistics. It's the biggest reason we have as much freedom in character modding as we do, but in general, only the main codeset development teams can be trusted to use that freedom responsibly. (read: in a way that makes the game better) PSA is also used every time a character is make into someone completely different, like turning Link into Zero (yes, from Megaman X)