Tournament Rules: Does Project M need a Stock Reduction?

by MIOM|Tafokints

Not too long ago at CEO 2014, the Project M Top 8 took much longer than expected, causing half of the Melee Top 8 to be played off stream. This angered many fans.  In total, the Project M Top 8 lasted 3 hrs 0 mins 33 sec (Source: Twitch Archives), one hour past the allotted time. Normally FGC tourneys only allow for two hours for each game’s Top 8. Some cited that Project M went too long because of the hand warmers and extended coaching between the matches. I decided to do some research to see what the root cause was.


CEO Statistics
# of Top 8 Matches 30 sets
Average Match Length 3m 57s
Total GamePlay Time 1hr 58m 5s
Total Non-GamePlay Time 1hr 2m 28s

Table 1: PM Tournament Gameplay Statistics for CEO 2014

The gameplay itself (total match time) was almost 2 hours alone, and the non-gameplay portion was 1 hr and 2 mins. Everyone will agree that 1 hour of downtime for a 3 hour block is unacceptable. Much can be attributed to the excessive coaching that occurred. Yet, even if there were minimal hand warmers, transitions, delays, or coaching, Project M would have still finished late. Fortunately, many of the sets at CEO ended up finishing 2-0, reducing the number of required matches for each set. However, other tournaments may not be so fortunate, and the time taken to finish a tournament varies significantly.

PM Top 8 Matches Time Per Match Total Gameplay Time
Max (Worst Case) 41 matches 4 minutes 2 hr 44 mins
Min (Best Case) 21 matches 4 minutes 1 hr 24 mins

Table 2: Best and Worst Case Scenarios for a Top 8 PM Tournament w/ 4 stocks

Each game of PM during CEO 2014 Top 8 took roughly 4 minutes. Assuming this average throughout, a PM tournament’s Top 8 could potentially take 2 hrs and 45 minutes in gameplay alone if every set goes to the last match and there is a bracket reset in grand finals. That’s just in terms of  gameplay time and does not even account for the downtime in between matches. This will not be acceptable at any FGC events.

With that being said, what should the community do?

In the case of a PM or Smash-only event with no time restrictions, a top 8 bracket with best-of-five sets along with 4 stock matches should be perfectly fine. But for a multi-event or cross-FGC tournament, Project M will not have the time luxury to do this. Although we can put restrictions on time spent coaching or doing hand-warmers, there will still be plenty of downtime regardless. Gameplay time is what needs to be cut down, and PM likely needs to reduce the number of stocks to co-exist with other communities.

Tafo’s Rationale

The goal of a tournament is to determine who the best player is. As a rule of thumb, I would say that most people feel comfortable with the idea of 4 stock matches achieving this goal. This, along with best-of-five sets, creates a stable environment in which skill ultimately determines the winner. Will reducing the stock count to 3 instead of 4 add too much “randomness”? Is there enough interaction between the players to determine the better player? Let’s look at another statistic.

The player who took their opponent’s 3rd stock first ended up winning 25/30 (83%) of the matches at CEO 2014

Although the idea of comebacks are fascinating, this only occurred in 5 games out of the entire Top 8 at CEO 2014. Even then, the matches were really close in the final two stocks that to quote Ken, “it could have gone either way.” Only 1 match featured a significant 1 stock comeback, which makes me think that 3 stocks is enough of an indicator to determine who the better player is.

The Benefits of 3 Stock matches

 PM Top 8 Matches Time Per Match Total Gameplay Time
Max (Worst Case) 41 matches 3 minutes 2 hr 3 mins
Min (Best Case) 21 matches 3 minutes 1 hr 3 mins

Table 2: Best and Worst Case Scenarios for a Top 8 PM Tournament w/ 3 stocks

In a worst case scenario for 3 stock matches, a PM Top 8 will require a shade over 2 hours of actual gameplay time. If we assume less than 30 minutes of downtime at a well-run tournament, PM will finish in a respectable amount of time. Realistically, this will allow for PM tournaments to finish within 1.5-2.3 hours for normal tournaments.

Closing Thoughts

In an age where multi-event tournaments are prominent, tournament organizers cannot allow Top 8 Finals to take too long; too much is at risk with stream considerations and sponsorship stakeholders in other games. PM gameplay appears to have enough interactions per stock such that 3-stock matches will determine the better player, while finishing in a reasonable amount of time.

24 thoughts on “Tournament Rules: Does Project M need a Stock Reduction?

  1. I agree with this!

  2. I think the reason PM games take longer is that the most commonly played characters in Melee are combo fodder (Fox, Falco, Falcon, and to a lesser degree Marth- Peach and Jigglypuff are less popular), while in PM the floaty characters (like Samus, Mewtwo, etc) are more popular than the fastfallers (with some exceptions like Diddy). As a Diddy main in PM, I have incredibly fast games when I am matched up against other fastfallers, but when you watch Mewtwo vs Peach, things slow down a lot.

    It’s not PM itself that is slower, but rather the characters that are popular/viable. If Samus and Mewtwo were top tier in Melee, or if all grand finals sets were Hungrybox vs Armada, you can bet we’d see longer matches.

    Serious question: Instead of reducing the number of stocks, how much time would be saved by simply making finals 2/3 instead of 3/5 when the tournament is running behind?

    Finals are the sets that hold up the tournament the most as no other matches are being played during that timeframe. Other matches going overtime don’t always hold up the bracket for as long.

  3. I think P:M top 8 will slowly tend to be as badly appreciated as Brawl top 8. For people who are not interested in P:M, it’s only annoying to wait so long for Melee.

    You’ve seen what happened to Brawl. The community that enjoyed watching and playing it, shrinked down to a very small group of people, while the rest of Smash viewers flamed it in the chat. I assume that (next to a lot of other reasons) the fact, that Brawl took so much time, made Melee-only guys hate it so much.

    If you don’t want that to happen to P:M, make it 3 stocks + Bo3 until Winner’s Finals and disallow coaching and handwarmers (you can do handwarmers off stream before the match, you should know, when you have to play #Top8StreamSchedule)

    If you don’t believe me, look in the chat of a big P:M finals event, when there is Melee afterwards. 50% of the chat consist of people spamming ‘Hand warmers hype ResidentSleeper’, ‘Why the **** do they take so long’, ‘What are they talkin’ about for so long’ ‘ヽ༼ຈل͜ຈ༽ノ Melee or RIOT ヽ༼ຈل͜ຈ༽ノ’

    • I agree that something needs to change in the format. But the majority of stream watchers prefer Project M, with character variety being the #1 reason. The people spamming the chat are a vocal minority, and would probably not bother if their event simply started on time. Twitch chat is also not a reliable tool for measuring the audience’s preference because many do not participate in chat.

      • Echoing this, the majority of our region’s viewers and players are on Project M. We get similar numbers of players (a few extra PM players) but PM gets more viewership by far.

        I think there’s a vocal minority of Melee players that strongly dislike PM that become visible on twitch, whereas most PM players don’t hate Melee enough to heckle.

    • I don’t really agree with this. Melee is NOT the only game in the series with a competitive scene. What about the people who aren’t interested in Melee who get annoyed because they have to wait through melee to get to P:M?

  4. Any other ideas as to why PM matches take so much longer than Melee aside from Praxis’s argument that floaty characters are more prevalent? Or is this the commonly held view?

  5. I don’t personally agree with this 3-stock rule at major tournaments. Although It’s true that /some/ PM matches take longer than usual, one has to take consideration that it depends heavily on the MU being played. MUs familiar to Melee fans, which involve the spacies/Marth/Falcon/Peach still have around the same level of speed as if they were being played on Melee, and MUs that have the attribute of being stally also happen in either game; Jiggs and YLink are good examples of this. New Brawl/PM additions also go either way (Lucas, Roy, Ike, Lucario are examples of offensive characters) If long, “boring” MUs can happen in Melee as well, why not try to consider the same ruleset change for Melee?

    Admittedly, this has gotten out of hand in PM, however, as a notable amount of PM’s characters characterized with amazing recoveries (Mewtwo, Sonic, Ivysaur, Pit) are rewarded heavily by defensive play, and are so hard to edgeguard at times that it’s just better not to try, forcing the opponent to also play more defensively and slow. It would seem that the metagame has oriented away from offensive play because it is not rewarded so much anymore, except in MUs similar to the ones described above. changing to 3-stock would reduce the issue in these matchups somewhat, but it would also pointlessly affect many others that didn’t have any problems.. I just feel like tweaks to the game are in order rather than just making a change that, IMO, is lazy.

  6. You only provided averages for match length… we’re there any outliers?

  7. The stock count should be 3 because everyone in PM lives until 150%

    • Most characters in PM can also combo/juggle to 150%, it’s just that the metagame developed survival skills faster than combo skills. Give it time. I’m starting to zero death with Diddy more and more often.

  8. Honestly this is a melee biased suggestion. If you really wanted to make a point of why PM should be lowered to 3 stocks, why not post something like Evo 2014 compared to PM? The reason is because they are very close to overall time length, the difference is you prefer melee over PM and I checked youtube and cant even find a game of you playing PM only Melee.

    The reason CEO 2014 took so long to complete was the overexcessive coaching and handwarmers etc. These players dont need anyone “helping” them they are supposed to be the best. Example: Somiyeh or whatever the girls name by m2k’s side, was on her phone almost the whole time and just sitting there, m2k went out of the pit a few times for “advice”. These players need to be alone and a time limit for stage selections. Some of these players took 2-3 mins to pick a stage. Handwarmers lasting 1-2 mins a time is an issue also in both MELEE and PM. There should be a designated setup by the TO for the top 8 to get ready before their match so they can go right into it.

    In regards to what Frozen said (doubt its the PM Frozen) most of the streamers prefer PM over Melee. Generally PM gets more concurrent viewers then Melee on average unless a popular player is at the tournament or streaming. Twitch chat has a vocal minority who trash the game, and generally if you pay attention its the same 20-30 people out of thousands spamming.

    The PM players for the most part watch Melee and respect it while melee players generally have great despise towards PM because it has more “variety” which most melee players have gone on record saying is the reason they dont play PM. Which shows their inability to adapt and learn more matchups then the 2-3 you generally see in Melee.

    Melee at Evo2104 got just as much hate as PM did at CEO. The mods in the channels let the same people spam over and over. They did it the whole day until their game of choice was on.

    You want to make PM and stuff take less time, remove coaches/coaching, handwarmers and a limited time for stage selections. IF you want to reduce stocks then it needs to be reduced for melee too because the general time of the matches are the same in the long run. Sorry I like you tafokins from someone who watches streams but this really comes across as another Melee player biased hate/dislike towards PM because Ceo didnt stream all of melee top 8.

    • I think you’re letting this topic get you a little too heated.

      First off Tafonints is NOT making an attack on PM, and if we’re going to improve any of the issues here, people need to be able to communicate civilly without getting overly defensive about these things.
      In my experience in watching and playing PM, the matches do tend to run longer than Melee matches for several reasons.
      1. There are more viable floaty characters than in Melee
      2. Recoveries overall are more powerful, and in many cases much more difficult to intercept.
      3. Metagame is underdeveloped

      In regards to Melee players disliking PM, let me throw in my 2 cents on that subject, and give some of my personal background in the scene. I’ve been interested in competitive smash for just over a year, I started with PM but as of now I prefer playing Melee.

      I can’t think of a single top Melee player who has ever stated that the reason they dislike PM is because of its greater diversity. In fact, most Melee players loved the idea of PM, and early on you saw a greater number of top Melee players entering these events. But as time went on a lot of these players gravitated back toward being Melee only. The reason I personally like playing Melee more is really simple, the game feels a lot more fluid than PM does. That’s honestly the biggest reason. (Though there have other reasons as well.)

      I can assure you 1,000% from a newer perspective that Melee players are not put off by PM simply because they have to learn new match ups. There’s a lot more to it than that.

      It’s really not just a bunch of defensive people who have been playing the same game for 10 years and don’t want change. (When I was new, that’s what I thought it was about too) As someone who started playing PM before Melee, there really is something amazing about Melee’s engine that PM simply hasn’t been able to replicate.

      • Scurry’s post is pretty accurate, though I definitely think some players can’t successfully express the difference between “I don’t care for the mechanics.” and “This game is for scrubs.”

        I just wanted to add that removing the 7th place PM matches from stream would save about 20-30 minutes. This is approximately the same amount of time to be saved by removing a full stock from every match. It is also the same amount of time to be saved by making people be more punctual. I don’t see necessity for disrupting a tournament so heavily for a stream concern. Running a stream has successfully added about 2 hours to modern major tournaments.

        I’m personally not a fan of 3 stocks for PM.

    • This is a valid point, I’d like to see the PM matches compared to the Melee grand/winners/losers finals from Evo. I bet Melee is a lot slower when Jigglypuff/Young Link are in play.

      • Chris Brown Top 8 at Melee at Evo 2014 took 2 hours and 37 minutes – average match time was 3:38 seconds. PM is 19 seconds per game “slower” than Melee. The issue at CEO was PM was already starting 40 minutes late because of the tournament before it running long, then coaching and delays between game exasperated the situation. Both PM and Melee can’t actually run in a 2-hour window – the stock change argument applies to Melee to.

        Someone on FB provided the time, so why is 19seconds slower a game such a drastic difference?

        I am not trying to be hostile but i am upfront/honest. The whole thing that Tafokins posted can be said about melee but was only focused towards PM.

      • I’ll have to add that the counterpicking aside from coaching is significantly longer than in Melee. You have many more stages and 2 bans that you also have to consider when banning a stage. At Evo 2014, the CP process was on average ~28 seconds. In PM, even without coaching, it was almost a minute, so you’re having to add 1-3 minutes per full set. Keep this in perspective, 1-3 full minutes is another full set in MvC3 and USF4

  9. For people saying that the same could be applied to melee and then use evo as an example… Well, I don’t want to sound like a dick but you’re being purposefully ignorant, anyone who knows anything about melee understands that melee top 8 lasted so long because hbox did well, meaning more match ups with puff, that as well as the fact that there were not one, but TWO sets with hbox and armada that went to the last game in what is most likely the slowest match up in the game. If you compare project M to melee realistically you’d see that melee over all would be over much faster than PM.

    • PM had chudat camping ledges and a link who’s game is camping. Your point? those are players of melee and PM has theirs which prolong the games hahah rediculous logic is rediculous. “This doesnt count because these 2 players took longer then the norm” seriously?

      • Another thing, we are going by average game times here, Hbox and Aramada are consistently top 8 in most of the big tournaments where this becomes an issue, So if anything they would be the “realistic” example since they constantly clash in top 8 on all the big tournaments. You cant just go well fox vs falco is usually less time so we can only use those games as examples.

  10. Everyone appreciates the data you’ve collected and analysis you’ve done, but I think it is much too early to say the PM ruleset should be changed.

    Do the same time spent playing/spend doing other things analysis on Melee and that way you can truly determine if it was gameplay that made the time difference. If it is, the same analysis for a different major tournament will tell us if CEO was an outlier or rather the norm.

    If time difference between melee and PM is caused by excessive gameplay, AND this happens in more than just one case, THEN talk about changing the ruleset should happen.

  11. A TO’s job is to plan ahead. If PM takes three hours, give it three hours.

    It’s not rare to see E Sports take ten, or even twenty minutes per game. This is not going to drive the viewers, or the sponsors away.

  12. no. that doesn’t make any sense. if PM is going too long, start earlier. I feel like everyone is trying to give Melee priority all the time, but the way PM is moving I feel like it’s a little unnecessary and rude to a degree.

  13. It’s Project: M. The M stands for recovery.
    Some characters in P:M that are very good right now just so happen to have stupidly good recovery (Pit, Mewtwo, Sonic, Kirby, MK, etc…) I think that the balancing team should be getting on that, because it causes an issue with Melee characters (not that these characters are “bad” by any means, but Falcon, Ganon, Bowser, DK, Yoshi, Marth, and Roy) getting left in the dust, in terms of offstage game, and recovery. They are purely just outclassed.

    Some characters in P:M have stupid good recoveries, on stage game, neutral-game, and combo-game for no reason. Some characters in P:M require this recovery to be useful (see DeDeDe and Wario)

    some characters are all around 2good and outclass all the others
    just deliver some recovery nerfs, and that ought to fix the problem.

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