Not long ago we ran an extensive feature about The Gauntlet, a team-based format that could potentially become a notable part of the Super Smash Bros. competitive scene. That's the aspiration, in any case, being led by S.O.S. Gamers - a charitable organisation in New York - and Empire Arcadia's Isaiah "TriForce" Johnson. With experienced Smash Bros. competitors on board, and a dual goal to promote teamwork between young gamers and adding a fresh dynamic to competitive Smash Bros., it aims to make its mark in 2016.
The Gauntlet, as a quick catch-up, is 4 v 4 Smash Bros. that utilises the 8-Player Smash format in the Wii U entry of the series. Two teams battle it out to accumulate the best kills to deaths ratio, with the goal being that a combination of skill, teamwork and strategy will ensure the best group prevails. With so many of the biggest eSports being driven by team-based gameplay, there's certainly reasonable scope to explore whether that same dynamic can become a big part of the Smash Bros. scene.
You can read all about it in our feature linked at the top, but we now have more details on the Invitational event that'll showcase the format in New York, with a live stream and full commentary on Twitch for others to watch - it's happening on 27th May from 6pm to 11pm local time, which is a start at 3pm Pacific / 11pm UK / midnight CET elsewhere. We also have breakdown of the key rules that S.O.S. Gamers will be using in its Gauntlet 'Cyber League' in the Tri-State area, with the broader aim of bringing the format to other territories.
The Gauntlet's Rules and Stage List
Below is a summary from the rules document that S.O.S. Gamers has shared with us. What we have is a four quarter setup with opportunities for timeouts and substitutions, which certainly blends real world sport approaches with The Gauntlet's objectives.
- Each round is set to 5 minutes
- 4 players versus 4 players (2 teams)
- Each scheduled game will consist of 4 quarters of 5 minutes
- At the end of all 4 quarters the team with the most points wins
- The end of quarter 2 is "Half Time"; players will then take a 5/10 minute break to discuss strategies
- In the event of sudden death in any quarter the quarter's points will be recorded and carried over to the next quarter (s).
- This occurs if after all 4 quarters are finished and each team has the same amount of points
- Overtime will be a 2 minute quarter, the team that gets the most points after overtime wins
- Overtime will keep happening until the team with the most points is decided
- All overtime games are played on Final Destination and players have to stay with their characters
- Player's statistics will be recorded in league books to keep track of player progress and determine a season "MVP"
- 2 referees will be present to accommodate each team
- Each team must have at least 4 players present
- If less than 4 players from a roster is present the team is forced to forfeit their game or have a computer player take the place of the absent teammate
Before the 1st Round:
- Each team must tell referees which characters they will choose and they must stay with those characters.
- Each quarter teams are able to switch characters by blind picking
- The team who gets the 1st stage selection will be determined by a coin flip. Winner of coin flip can choose either they can pick stage or let their opponent pick the stage
- The team that picks the stage in the 1st quarter will also be able to pick stage for the 3rd quarter
- The team that doesn't get to pick 1st or 3rd quarter get to pick stage or character 2nd and 4th quarter
- These can only take place between quarters
- Teams have 20 seconds to make the player substitution
During Stage Pick in Each Quarter:
- Each team is granted a stage of their choice during their quarter
- Teams have 30 seconds to pick the stage they want
- Teams are given (2) 2min timeouts in total, 1 each half of the game
- Timeouts can only be used in between quarters
Overall, the rules lay the groundwork for matches that, allowing for brief gaps and downtime, come in at under 30 minutes. Breaking up into four quarters certainly allows for a narrative in the context, with teams that are behind having opportunities to make a comeback. Throw in substitutions, timeouts and stage swaps for every quarter, and in the right circumstances there could be a lot of interesting strategies at play. It's worth noting that the rounds will be four minutes in the streamed Invitational, in order to fit the matches in.
Another key area that can prompt hot debate is stage eligibility - for the S.O.S. Gamers league and the Invitational the stage list is as follows.
- Battlefield (OMEGA ONLY)
- Big Battlefield
- Mushroom Kingdom(OMEGA ONLY)
- Mario Galaxy (OMEGA ONLY)
- Delfino Plaza (OMEGA ONLY)
- Mario Circuit (Brawl) (OMEGA ONLY)
- Luigi's Mansion
- Peach's Castle (64)
- Super Mario Maker OMEGA ONLY
- Jungle Hijinxs (OMEGA ONLY)
- Kongo Jungle 64 (OMEGA ONLY)
- 75m (OMEGA ONLY)
- Bridge of Eldin (OMEGA ONLY)
- Hyrule Castle (64)
- Pirate Ship (OMEGA ONLY)
- Norfair 8
- Yoshi's Island (OMEGA ONLY)
- Halberd 4 (OMEGA ONLY)
- Woolly World (OMEGA ONLY)
- Dream Land (64)
- Orbital Gate Assault
- Lylat Cruise
- Pokémon Stadium 2
- Port Town Aero Dive (OMEGA ONLY)
- Onett (OMEGA ONLY)
- Castle Siege (OMEGA ONLY)
- Flat Zone X (OMEGA ONLY)
- Palutena's Temple (OMEGA ONLY)
- Skyworld (OMEGA ONLY)
- Kalos Pokémon League
- Gamer (OMEGA ONLY)
- Garden of Hope (OMEGA ONLY)
- Town and City
- Wii Fit Studio (OMEGA ONLY)
- Gaur Plain (OMEGA ONLY)
- Duck Hunt
- Wrecking Crew (OMEGA ONLY)
- Pilotwings (OMEGA ONLY)
- Windy Hill Zone
- Wily Castle
- Pac-Land (OMEGA ONLY)
- Suzaku Castle (OMEGA ONLY)
- Umbra Clock Tower
The Gauntlet's Invitational
As mentioned above, this format will be shown off in a New York event, with a stream online organised by Jason "Jaxel" Axelrod - the plan is for the standard presentation levels, with commentary to accompany the action. For Smash Bros. fans in New York it'll be a free event, too. Xeno Zero has been secured as a venue in the city, which seems to be a popular spot for competitive gaming in the area.
Details are below for locals that want to go along, or for those that plan to watch online:
- Date: 27th May
- Time: 6pm local time
- Location: Xeno Zero, 24 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002, United States
- Free admission: It'll be free to get in, but spectators should email [email protected] to be addied to the list.
- Online stream: www.twitch.tv/8wayrun
- S.O.S. Gamers website: www.sosgamers.org
- S.O.S. Gamers on Twitter: @SOSgamersinc
In total four teams comprised of competitive players from the New York scene will be battling it out in the Invitational:
All told it'll be interesting to see how it shapes up. As explored in detail in our original feature, there's an ambition to make a success of this Invitational, before using that momentum not only for the Cyber League in the region - which has the dual goal of being an outlet for youth in the area - but also major eSports events. The plan is to get the format into Majors this year.
We've seen the details of the event that, at the time of writing, is just a week away. We'll wrap up with some thoughts from Charity Ambassador, Isaiah "TriForce" Johnson, and S.O.S. Gamers COO and Organizer Antoine "Wes" Lewis-Hall.
Since its announcement, what kind of reaction has The Gauntlet had from the Smash community?
TriForce: First off, thanks to Nintendo Life we were able to reach a wide audience to take a look at what we have in the works. Your platform reached out directly to Nintendo fans and Smashers around the world which gave us the crucial feedback that we were looking for. To answer your question directly, the feedback was exactly what we thought it would be; positive and open minded. The most common comment we get is, "I don't know why this wasn't done sooner." Which is the same thing I myself said to Wes back at the SOS event earlier this year. We even submitted the article to a couple of our sponsors in Noscope Glasses and Xeno Zero. They actually love the whole concept. Noscope sponsored a pair of their digital eye wear products for each teams that are participating along with the commentators, showing their support. Xeno Zero gave SOS Gamers the use of the venue for free to support the charity. If that's not a good start I don't know what is.
When you really look at it, we really didn't invent anything that Nintendo didn't already have in mind. They put the 8 player mode in the game for a reason. The fact that you can make teams of it, just goes to show that a eSports team structure was in mind. Why hasn't anyone pushed this to the level that SOS Gamers is pushing? That's beyond me. I'm sure there are others who've tried at local events similar to SOS and or with friends offline etc. I personally think that no one was willing to try something new that goes against the established order of singles and doubles. In fact that exact concern was also mentioned in feedback. Some people are skeptical about how the "Gauntlet" will work out. Well, there's only one way to find out.
Can you tell us a little about the four teams and how they came to be involved in this Invitational.
Wes: The way we came about finding teams is we focused on the notable teams in the Tristate area. We wanted to make it convenient for players to attend this event as well. Especially since this is our 1st one.
Looking over the rules there are four quarters of five minutes; do you think the format will be a notable test of stamina and focus, as well as teamwork?
TriForce: The rules clearly add a new dimension to how Smash will be played. The Gauntlet incorporates a similar structure to Basketball but maintains its individual eSports core. Like traditional team sports all players on the court, field or in our case stage, will be constantly active. Stamina is no longer the issue here. It's all about strategic teamwork on offense and defense. Time is what changes the entire dynamic of the game and how the Gauntlet will be played. We wanted the Gauntlet to be different from singles and doubles but hold some of their traditional components. When you have stock, stamina plays a role on both offense and defense. In the Gauntlet however, stamina can be overpowered by strategy and teamwork. The only way to counter that is with strategy and teamwork from the opposition, just like traditional sports. Which is exactly what Gauntlet was designed for. "Teamwork" for eSports.
There's scope for substitutions and time-outs, do you see these as key rules for the format; how often do you think a team will be able to turn the tide with a sub or timeout?
Wes: Substitutions give teams the ability to throw a wrench in the others team's plans. This sends in a player that not only will force the opposing team to adapt but this person was able to see the match from a spectator's view. This gives them the ability to see things the players in that match wasn't able to.
It also helps the team in "player" match up issues. In basketball, if you have a mismatch, then at the next available substitution you could swap out a player to bring in player that can defend well against the opponent. This supports "teamwork". Timeouts play a part in allowing teams to take a breather to discuss strategies and slowdown and or kill the momentum of the opposing team.
You've issued the full list of supported stages, can you talk us through any key decisions in that area?
Wes: The decisions made for stages are based on what we know to be good for forming different strategies. Some stages are smaller or even bigger than others but each sets a different tone of play for the quarter. We want to test team's abilities to adapt to what's given to them based on what stage they pick. Think of it like football teams have to adapt to different climates all the time. These things do play a factor. We do plan to possibly change up some of the stages we selected for the Invitational, if need be. We are open to suggestions after the event.
With teams confirmed and the rules defined for the Invitational, are you and others in S.O.S. Gamers now starting to feel more excited, or even nervous?
Wes: With all the plans for the event locked in, S.O.S Gamers are more excited than nervous. We are very anxious to see how things pan out for the players and how receptive the overall community are to this style of Smash Bros. The rules that we submitted are for the season but they will be slightly different for the actual Invitational. Things such as times outs will only be 60 seconds long and quarters being 4 mins long due to multiple teams playing that day. This event will create the standard of Gauntlet events and the season. From there we can tweak the rules to improve the overall experience of the Gauntlet in the future.
All told we're intrigued to see how The Gauntlet plays out. There's little doubt that watching skilled players in tight 1 v 1 matches, most commonly in an event like Evo, can be exciting. Yet there's certainly scope for team-based Smash Bros. competition, for variety if nothing else. It's not uncommon for sports (of the 'e' variety or otherwise) to have multiple formats, all in place to spread popularity and engagement further. The Gauntlet could be an outlet for those far more comfortable in a group, as opposed to the intensity of solo play. The nature of the format will also provide a substantially different spectacle from the current conventional Smash Bros. competitive setups.
In any case, we'll be watching the stream on 27th May to see what the format has to offer - we hope you'll join us.