Right off the bat here, I’m often asked about Project M among my peers and I feel I’ve failed to give it enough credit for what it means for Smash Bros and it’s competitive scene. I’m mostly critical of it’s design choices in terms of character balance and stages, but I’ve only played the game for the last two years at a competitive level and there’s always more to learn in that area of discipline. With that being said, I want to give my perspective not only as a competitive smash player, but also as a well seasoned gamer who has a fascinated interest in gaming culture.
So, if you don’t know about Project M, let me fill you in. Its a mod made for Super Smash Brothers Brawl that implements mechanics from Super Smash Brothers Melee while maintaining its diverse roster of characters and attempts to achieve more balance with updates and tweaks every so often. That was until a few days ago, when the Project M Development Team announced that they were “ceasing development” very abruptly. If you go to the projectmgame.com website, you’ll see there are no download links to Project M anymore and all that is left of the site is their final good-bye. Thus making this seem like the end of the road for our unsung heroes. Project M was finding quite a lot of success. The Smash Brothers Documentary brought an influx of new players to the competitive scene not only to Melee but the other communities as well, and it was developing very well even after it’s bumpy road through the other communities and their uprising to e-sports fame. It seemed like the game was on its way to fulfilling a great niche for gamers who wanted to jump into competitive smash, but weren’t interested in the official titles and wanted a more fresh and balanced experience on a competitive level which I always thought was great. Its certainly tragic when you look at all of that success and growth and then see that its all come to this.
In terms of how big this news is, its a total gong show when looking at it in the thick of the community. Players are in uproar on the subreddits and forums and the drama is palpable among developers and collaborators of the project. Needless to say, its a nightmare in there, but its not all in shambles. Players are picking themselves up, backing up the latest version and keeping the game alive while continuing to host tournaments and encouraging people to keep playing, which is good to see. Many top players are making sure that the game stays alive and that it’s scene continues to grow. Here’s where video gaming really lives and breathes as an artform and hobby for me. To have the passion to keep playing and encouraging the community to stick together even when the game can’t go any further on a development level is very important to me.
See, despite my criticisms of Project M, I’ve always held the opinion that the game itself was something of short supply in the gaming community compared to other smash games and has a strong presence in my heart already from my experience with other games; modding and community development. It had character. Real, raw, human character. It wasn’t made in some fancy office that pulled in millions of dollars with all kinds of consumer-friendly design choices, It was a real, whole-hearted game made by passionate gamers. It was a demonstration of pure love and devotion for something that people really cared about. When I look back to when I first started Project M to try and introduce myself to competitive smash, it was the most fun I’ve ever had. There’s a sincere level of love when it comes to games like Project M. You have a thriving community filled with passionate players, going to tournaments in an attempt to be one of the best and even casual players finding it on their own and having a blast with it. Then you have the developers, all of whom are dedicated to bringing the best smash bros experience possible while balancing 46 characters, creating new ones to join the diverse roster, developing new stages, modes, and tweaks to make it exactly what the community wants. That’s an amazing family of creators, competitors, leaders, friends, enemies, and stories all coming together for one goal, and the fact that it translates into something as interesting as a mod of smash bros is truly the coolest thing to happen from gaming in the last few decades, no questions asked.
I may not be the best writer or competitive player, but one thing was certain. When I read the words “we are ceasing development of Project M (effective immediately)”, I am deeply, deeply saddened. I’m sad for the players who feel left in the cold and want to know what happened. I feel sad for the developers who are going through all the drama just to end the project and ensure closure on the matter, and I’m especially sad for the community that did everything they could to keep the game alive only to have it crash down on them so suddenly. No one wanted this to happen and whats worse is that all of these people who played and loved Project M now have no real support from their developers anymore. The times ahead look very hopeful for Project M and you never want to see a game that’s been doing so well to fall down into nothing. For whats ahead in the community, no one knows for certain, but I truly believe there is enough there that they can work to keep the game alive, and at the very least I hope the Project M Development Team has something good to cook up for their next project.
Even if you’ve never been a big fan of Smash Bros I strongly encourage you to try Project M for yourself and see the difference a great mod can do to an already great game. You’ll remember why Smash can be one of the best games out there (Yes, brawl isn’t that bad either. #Metaknightalwayswins).
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to recede back to my “Melee-tist” persona.