The online experience presented in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, for better or worse, is here to stay, and often, Quickplay is going to be the path you’re going to be taking when it comes to online play in the game. That is, of course, unless you’re in the top 3% of the game’s population and eligible for Elite Smash.
And while Quickplay is definitely a serviceable battleground for those looking to improve their skill set, it’s definitely not without its share of ups and downs.
First and foremost, it’s important to note that the entire premise of “rank” in Ultimate is found in a system known as Global Smash Power or “GSP”. Essentially, the basic concept surrounding the system is that your GSP is the number which represents where you are in the rankings of players for any specific character. For example, if your GSP with Roy was 1,000,000 on the dot, the game would perceive you to be better than 999,999 other Roy players.
And while this idea works on a very broad level, it’s important to realize that the driving ideas behind it are immensely flawed. Most notably, it’s been proven that players are more likely to lose GSP at a much faster rate than they acquire it. In essence, if you were to win three consecutive games and gain about 400,000 GSP, one loss directly after that streak would probably drop you right back down to where you started 4 games ago.
The online ranking system punishes you much harder than it rewards you. And although the simple solution would be to “play better”, the fact that a record of 3-1 over a 4 game stretch still has a chance of netting you a negative result is pretty absurd. Additionally, that one loss may tank your GSP so hard that the game would recognize you as worse of a player than you really are. Just because you lose one game as your main character doesn’t mean that half a million players got better at your main than you in the past 4 minutes.
What I find so problematic about the GSP system is the fact that your ranking fluctuates insanely hard, moving between hundreds of thousands of places from game to game. Even after playing hundreds of games, you’re still going to find that your GSP will never be stable over the course of one session of play. With this in mind, it’s also important to note that the game will often register you as better or worse than you really are. For example, if you have a record of 3-2 on a single character, you may find yourself in the 2.5 million GSP range. Realistically speaking, there’s no way you’re going to be better than 2.5 million players at one specific character after just 5 games. On the contrast, if you have a record of 60-40 over 100 games, you may only “be technically better” than 1.5 million players in that character’s playerbase. With 100 games of practice under your belt, one would expect that there might be a higher ranking attached to all that work as compensation.
However, it’s not always your raw skill that has an affect on your GSP. Occasionally, there will be times where your preferred rules are completely ignored and you’re stuffed into a game where nothing even remotely matters- except your GSP is still at stake. Instead of playing the game in the widely-accepted 3-stock format, you may be randomly pigeonholed into a 2-stock or even 1-stock game. Sometimes, you could even find yourself in a game with items enabled or on a ridiculous map. Although Nintendo patched this issue so that you run into wonky parameters less often, you could still be faced with this problem from time to time, greatly diminishing the integrity of online play (and your GSP).
And still, the true beauty of the Smash Ultimate ranking system is found in the fact that Smash doesn’t really need a ranking system at all. Sure, it adds to the competitive nature of the game, but in reality, the true competitiveness of the game is found offline. Tournaments and LAN events are where the true spirit of Smash is alive, and while online Quickplay definitely emulates a competitive experience, nothing can compare to the heat of battle when someone is sitting right next to you. At most, online play is a halfway decent practice arena, and until you get into Elite Smash, there’s really no telling exactly how to determine your skill level.
There’s a serious disconnect when you try to use GSP as a true metric for ranking players. Of course, if you’ve played countless games and you’ve maintained a high GSP, it’s fair to say that you’re a talented player. However, you can’t really pinpoint exactly how good you are until every setting is perfectly emulated and the parameters of a real competition are in place. Once you flip the switch and go offline- that’s when your true skill level can be defined.
So while the online experience of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is definitely enough to provide the average player with a solid level of practice and gameplay, there’s still a lot of obvious flaws in the system that are simply irreversible at this point. While it would be nice to gain a better metric of someone’s general skill level in online play, the GSP system seems to be the best we’re going to get for the time being.
Photo Credit: Nintendo, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate