Casual vs. Ranked Case Studies

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Ok, online games can be great. You can play with friends who are far away. Additionally, can play with anyone and learn more about the game, and perhaps make new friends too. There can be a lot of fun and new experiences involved with playing online.

As a long time Nintendo fan, it was only somewhat recently that I could enjoy online gaming. As such my range of available online games is quite limited. That being said, I noticed something interesting with three of the games that I had played and will be covering today. These games happen to handle the rules of the game quite differently when comparing “casual” or non-ranked play modes, and ranked or “competitive” modes. The games I will be covering today are:

  • Super Smash Bros. (particularly the 3DS and Wii U versions) on Page 1
  • Pokemon (particularly the most recent games, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon) on Page 2
  • Splatoon 2 on Page 3
  • Summary on Page 4

Just to be clear, I will not be stating that one mode is better than the other. I will not be talking about which chunk of the community is better (or less toxic) either. I am simply observing some important rule differences handled automatically by the game itself, and whether or not these rule differences make any sense. Finally, I should also mention that I will be using a lot of terms used in these games, so those unfamiliar with these games might not know what I’m talking about. Perhaps you should read one of my other articles if that is the case. With all that out of the way, let’s get started!

Super Smash Bros.

It is hard to discuss Smash Bros. without looking at local play first. This is when you are playing with a nearby friend, or just a bunch of computer opponents. In this mode, you can choose all of the rule settings. Here are the rules you can freely change:

  • Number of players (2-8 in the Wii U version)
  • Time match
  • Stock match (Lives)
  • Coin match
  • Any stage
  • Set any items to on, off, or change their frequency of appearances
  • Custom characters on or off
  • And almost too many to mention.
smashrulesTAG
Here’s a quick sample of  changeable game rules

This allows players to set up a game with rules they are most comfortable with. It wouldn’t be surprising if some of the user base prefers a certain combination of rules over others.

Now let’s look at the online For Fun mode’s rules:

  • 2-4 players
  • Time match only
  • Most stages are available
  • All items on
  • custom characters on when playing with friends only

This mode is more restrictive with rules, but not by much. The biggest issue here is that it is always set to time match, and most players, both casual and competitive prefer lives (correct me if I’m wrong in the comments, I’m not actually sure of that). The option to alter items that appear in the match is also removed.

Next, let’s look at For Glory mode’s rules:

  • 2 players
  • 2 lives
  • 5 minute time limit
  • Only final destination like stages (a single flat platform, with backgrounds being the only difference)
  • No items whatsoever
  • No custom characters

So, it is my understanding that this is close to the way “competitive” players like to play. I’m not sure of the time limit (if any) or the number of lives they prefer to play with but this is pretty close.

I find the basic stages and lack of items a little strange for a ranked mode. Sure, you’ll never encounter a stage that favors one character over another (with a few exceptions), and you will never lose to a player lucky enough to acquire an impressive item at the last second.

The real issue is that most of the game uses these features, so almost all players learn the game with items and stage variety on. It is debatable if such restrictions lead to more skilled players, as those who only play this way (at least in theory) will have a harder time adapting to change, which is another skill that could be tested.

smashgameTAG
Super Smash Bros can get chaotic with four players.

Even though items appear randomly, it should be noticed that even then, it isn’t a guaranteed win for the luckier player. Either player could have an item at any time. Plus, this game is action based, there are ways to dodge the effects of all or most items. Stage hazards can also be avoided, at least depending on what is happening at the time.

It appears that the For Glory mode in Smash Bros. was designed to please the competitive Smash Bros. fans, even if it might be questionable design to have a ranked mode restrict core game play elements in this manner.

Let’s look at the next game, Pokemon on page 2:

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