Steve from Minecraft was added to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in October 2020. In the years since then, sentiment around the character has always soured, amid accusations that the character is broken and overwhelmed. Now, a recent discovery of a competitive advantage has put those conversations back in the spotlight. Now it sounds like parts of the Smash Bros. competitive scene are banning the nature of tournaments.
Steve was controversial from the start, with players raising issues with his combo potential and wide range of ranged attacks. It makes him a frustrating character to fight, and not many characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s extensive roster are a tough counter to him. Because of this, there have been repeated calls for the character to be banned since its inception. It looks like some of these people are getting their wish after discovering a new bug that takes the character from overpowered to unfair.
What is the problem with Steve in Smash Bros.?
In layman’s terms, Steve has a bug related to his recoil animations that allows him to recover faster than other characters in the game, meaning he can break combos that should otherwise work with other characters and get revenge, before his opponent can even act. This isn’t an intentional part of the character’s toolset, but rather an unfortunate technical workaround that worked in the players’ favor. Despite this, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is no longer receiving balance updates from Nintendo, leaving contest organizers with two choices: ban the strategy or ban the character?
The logistics of banning the strategy are complicated. If you allow players to continue using Steve in competitive tournaments, but don’t allow players to use this technology on purpose, moderating games that use the character becomes a huge time-consuming exercise. It requires players to save a replay of the exchange and for an organizer to view and verify if the Steve player is breaking the rules, and then ultimately announce the legality of the game. While these types of calls are easier to make during in-person tournaments (although an organizer’s move away always interrupts something else at the event), making them in an online environment becomes much more complicated. These replays have to be uploaded or streamed in a much more time-consuming way than having an organizer go to the players involved during a setup. Because of this, some tournament organizers have called for simply banning Steve entirely, rather than investing valuable time and resources into micromanaging a specific character.
Juan Manuel DeBiedma, a prolific Super Smash Bros. player who has won tournaments like EVO throughout his career and organizer of online tournament The Coinbox, better known by his name Hungrybox, has a video on his YouTube channel about the situation published. In the video, DeBiedma walks through several tournament organizers in the US announcing their decision to ban Steve from their events. Ultimately, after some deliberation, he follows suit and says that Steve would not be allowed into The Coinbox “until further notice”.
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How widespread is the Steve ban?
Barnard’s Loop, a data organizer for the Smash community, has compiled data on most states’ current attitude towards Steve. For now, there doesn’t seem to be much consensus on how hard the organizers are falling on the character. However, some at least restrict the use of players, e.g. E.g. admission to local tournaments but not to state tournaments. Despite this, Hungrybox notes in its video that the ban on The Coinbox can be seen as a blueprint for others, and time will tell how far-reaching this will become.
Overall, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is not bound by any consistent rules, especially without Nintendo’s direct involvement in the competitive scene, leaving tournament organizers free to do as they please. But Steve’s current state points to an underlying issue with fighting game balance that occurs when the developer has finally stepped away from support. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s last patch was released in December 2021, and since then the community has had to grapple with the state of the game while making their own competitive rules. So at the moment Steve is suspended from some tournaments and will be at least a controversial choice in others.