The Top 100 Melee Players of All-Time: Introduction and Methodology

When my former Smash History partner Pikachu942 mentioned the idea of making an all-time Top 100 ranking at the end of the year, I laughed. It was already a pain to make a Top 10. Continuing to balance my career with my hobby (writing) was also personally difficult.

Restarting the list-making process process for 100 players involved me putting in even more hours of effort. But as time went by, the idea was stuck in my head. We had collected so much data over the last year – for what: a year’s worth of writing? As a D-list figure in a C-list niche, I’m not quite a celebrity in the scene, but I eventually felt like this idea was something right up my alley of work.

That said, Pikachu was the one that not only had the initial idea for doing a top ten for every non-ranked year of Melee, he was the one daring enough to suggest a Top 100 of all-time. During our days of making RetroSSBMRank, Pikachu scoured through Smashboards, SSBWiki and Nintendodojo (All Is Brawl). Pikachu had even contacted old school smashers like Pacific Northwest/Japan legend Kei for local results from 2003.

If I was the executor and brains behind Smash History, Pikachu was the passion and heart. As he and I talked about the idea, it became clearer that this was something that only we could do together. But it was also something that needed to be done right.

So let’s talk about our newest project: the Top 100 SSBM players of all-time. In the next segment, I’m going to discuss how we are approaching creating this list. Each segment will be labeled by one part of the criteria that we are using while making this list.

Determining our Talent Pool: Rankings

The first problem we encountered is that we didn’t have a definitive way of figuring out who was Top 100 and who wasn’t. If we were going to make a list that went as far down as 100, we’d need to make sure that we had enough candidates that could qualify for a spot.

We created a list that included every single player that was ranked within the Top 10 of every yearly RetroSSBMRank or SSBMRank. While doing this, we expanded our definition of “ranked” to include honorable mentions of RetroSSBMRank, unlisted “honorable mention honorable mentions” and the Top 25 of the modern SSBMRank era. Pikachu and I even added those that we felt just missed the cut for our RetroSSBMRank years, just to create a stronger pool of potential talent.

To my surprise, Pikachu changed some of the ranks for certain years. This was due to a few reasons, but I’ll give a good example of why we pursued a few changes.

After having Twitter conversations with KishPrime about past years of Melee history, the Midwest legend suggested that despite being a fan of our work, he believed there was a lot to fix about our 2005 rankings. Normally, I would have rolled my eyes at anyone acting more credible about smash history than me or Pikachu but in this case, it was someone who we both agreed was about more credible as a source for evaluating 2005 players than anyone else.

This led us to another point of contention: did fixing “errors” about our past rankings matter more than ensuring a consistent standard of fairness? We weren’t sure, but we also weren’t naive enough to think this could be a perfect process. Ultimately, Pikachu and I tried to keep any changes to our rankings to a minimum.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Keep in mind that since 2017 hasn’t ended yet, the data we have for 2017 isn’t exactly complete. We used this summer’s SSBMRank as basis for 2017.

While compiling these rankings, one particular argument that Pikachu and I kept having was the merits of longevity vs. peak. These sound like simple debates, but they became extremely frustrating to have, with no clear answer.

For instance, Pikachu kept trying to tell me that Cort was a Top 20 player of all-time due to us highly grading his 2008 performances. I thought it was absurd to use that as a reason for valuing Cort’s legacy over a player like S2J, who may not have as high as a ranking “peak,” but had a far more active career in a tougher era, with more notable placings.

Pikachu’s response to this was that I had to treat players only as good as they were to the competition of their era. I then said that we shouldn’t place a false equivalency between each era’s competitive validity. These overnight debates were endless.

Both of us realized yet another problem: how do major placings get valued in comparison to opinionated rankings? What happens when a player like Lovage, who was technically ranked in our Top Ten but never made a major top eight, gets compared to a player who has placed higher at events, but may not have been actually “better” in relativee skill?

Determining our Talent Pool: Weighting Placings

Are placings, with all their flaws and misleading implications, still a practical and useful tool for differentiating all-time players? Given that we wanted to address this problem, we then created another list for major placings across Melee history.

This forced us to decide which tournaments were worthy of being considered majors. We put the following as our criteria:

1. At least three top five players in a given year should be in attendance and competing within the Melee singles bracket for it to be considered a title-level event.

2. The performance of top five players must be at a level in which the results of said tournament cannot suffer from competitive illegitimacy, due to either sandbagging, bracket manipulation, splitting or any other out-of-game anti-competitive tactics through a majority or significant portion of the tournament.

3. The tournament must take place after the start of 2004: considered to be the first year of competitive Melee directly relevant to or sharing enough qualities with the modern scene to be a point of comparison.

It’s not entirely accurate, but we believed this to be a generally true guideline for determining an event’s high-level legitimacy. Simultaneously, we knew that winning different events carries different weight. So this forced us to come up with a new solution: categorizing titles.

Championship: All five of the top five in a year are seriously competing at a given tournament
Supermajor: Four of the top five players in a year are seriously competing at a given tournament
National: Three of the top five players in a year are seriously competing at a given tournament

Initially, this idea felt bulletproof. But over time, its flaws were easily noticeable. For example, Jack Garden Tournament is arguably Ken’s most impressive tournament victory, since Japan was considered to have far better smashers than the United States at the time. By our criteria, it didn’t count for a title. We knew we had to once again make an amendment.

If not following Rule No. 1, a tournament victory in this list must feature at least two of the following to qualify as a title:

At least two top five players, along with alternative players for whom there is LEGITIMATE REASON to believe had comparable skill talent to be argued for top five at the time of the tournament, but otherwise aren’t ranked top five because of lack of tournament data for MIOM’s SSBMRank, lack of tournament data for Smash History’s RetroSSBMRank, a miniscule disparity in perceived skill with a player technically ranked above him or any other set of forgivable circumstances.

A victory over an especially dominant current world No. 1 at the time, due to their presumed extraordinary amount of success and the level of impressiveness in which merely winning any tournament over them, presuming they are seriously competing, would be considered a title-esque victory and, in select cases, enough to warrant a tournament from being a national-level title to being a championship.

Said tournament must have enough “prestige” and history within the scene that winning it carries a level of importance greater than even its competitors – enough to where its status as a tournament may be upgraded from a non-title to a national, national to supermajor and supermajor to championship.

To put it bluntly, we knew these changes were kind of bullshit. But the final clause in particular gave us a way of ensuring that tournaments like The Big House 4, Apex 2014 and EVO 2016 were treated with deserved respect, due to them still hosting five of the best fully active players of the time. Would anyone really consider Apex 2014 anything less than a championship-level event, just because a retired Armada wasn’t in attendance of Melee singles?

Once again, we acknowledged that there were likely going to be inconsistencies with our guidelines. But because we were unable to think of any egregious errors, we felt confident that we had effective guidelines.

The two of us moved on to our next step: seeing which players placed top eight at different title level events in Melee history.

Final Touches To The Talent Pool

When we combined the list of players we had from before with the list of top eight placers, we felt assured that we had our top 100 candidates. Just to ensure that we had an accurate pool of players, Pikachu and I added players that had neither placed top eight at a major, nor had qualified via our rankings list. These included players were believed to be fringe candidates worthy of note – people like Crush, Bladewise and Zelgadis.

It wasn’t exactly the most scientific process, but with our combined knowledge of different regions and smash history, we were sure the “outliers” were worthy additions. The final result: a pool of more than 150 people that we felt were worthy of note for being considered candidates for our Top 100 list. Each person also had additional information, including their five best major placings, mains and highest achieved rankings.

After a bit more arguing about player rankings, the two of us decided there could be only one way to solve our disagreements – by bringing others into the mix.

Determining Our Voting Panel

Similar to SSBMRank, Pikachu and I wanted to gather a massive panel of qualified voters from each region to submit their top 100 ballots, based off the data we collected. Outside of ourselves, we came up with over 30 potential voters, including community members like Tafokints, D1, Cactuar, Chillin, Juggleguy and more. I was skeptical of how many people would actually respond, though Pikachu remained optimistic about their potential interest.

Pikachu proved to be right. For half of the people, the answer was a definitive yes. Many others never responded. If you’ve been following me on Twitter for a while, you probably already know how annoyingly persistent and shameless I can be.

Those who said no to the project often gave insightful feedback to why they wouldn’t participate. For people like KoreanDJ, it was because they had been out of the scene for too long to feel qualified to talk about modern players. Players like Lovage and Plank seemed uninterested or unable to dedicate time to voting, which was certainly understandable. Yet it was particularly Wife’s answer that struck a chord with me.

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 9.17.42 AM

EDITOR’S NOTE: Say what you want about Wife’s ability to discuss the modern metagame, but even in a Twitter direct message, his writing skills are exceptional. Having read his semi-autobiography before, I wasn’t exactly surprised by Wife’s eloquence, but it still caught me off guard.

This is one of the reasons why I did not feel it was inappropriate to publish this screenshot of part of our conversation. None of this information was sensitive, portraying anyone in a bad light or out of context – if anything, it forced me to address legitimate concerns about the list.

When I talked to Scar about the project, he offered a similar response, though he said that depending on his own time, he would perhaps be able to commit. One aspect he wanted addressed was particularly something that I was worried about as well: how can we ensure that this isn’t a bad list?

Keeping Scar and Wife in mind, I came up with the following criteria for measuring players, which Pikachu agreed provided a good basis for evaluating players. I’ve included this on each individual ballot I’ve created for the voters on the panel.

How well did a player perform at the biggest majors of their era?

How consistent was this player during their active years of competing?

How long did their playing career last?

If this player never existed, how much does their absence impact either the metagame, large major results or the greater scene in Melee history?

I’ve attempted to contact different esports platforms about possibly publishing this and providing additional resources (graphics, videos and, quite frankly, compensation) but to date haven’t heard back from any organization. In the mean time, both Pikachu and I decided to keep using my website as the holding place for this content, due to it already being a hub for much of our and my previous work.

Compiling double-digit options on the Melee Top 100 of all time will almost certainly be a logistical nightmare. And the truth is, we really can’t ensure this list goes as smoothly as we’d want.

But it’s still something that could start a conversation. Making a Top 100 players list isn’t just about the recognizable names – it’s about giving respect to the more unknown players who had their own stories worth telling. You might know who Armada is, but what about Eggm? Modern players know n0ne, but do they know Darkrain?

A Top 100 players list is about as close as you can get to making a Melee Hall of Fame (at least without taking into account commentary, frame data researchers, tournament organizers, etc). Pikachu and I think that’s worth pursuing. We know the community will ultimately agree.

I’ll keep all of you updated with the next steps once they’re completed. Until then, thanks for reading.

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