Goomwave PCBs; pc: @goomysmash

Tournament Legality of Goomwave

Michael Brancato

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TLDR

Goomwave, a custom Gamecube controller, complies with my current ruleset for SSBM controllers, which is used in many tournaments such as the Smash World Tour. However, the Goomwave has features that weren’t considered when the ruleset was written. My personal opinion is that some of these features have the potential to compromise competitive integrity, but I would like to hear more opinions. Lack of discourse on the balance of innovation and fairness is an issue facing the Melee community today.

Background

Goomwave is a highly innovative controller developed by Goomy (@goomysmash) that resembles a 1st party Gamecube Controller (GCC) but uses a custom PCB. The controller’s hardware gives it access to a variety of non-vanilla functionality such as the ability to adjust PODE, re-calibrate notches, add virtual analog trigger stoppers, and change the sensitivity of certain analog stick ranges.

Last month there was a Twitter thread where the tournament legality of Goomwave was called into question and there was a lack of consensus on if the controller is tournament legal or not, based on the current SWT ruleset. This ruleset is used for tournaments I help run such as Smash World Tour, Super Smash Con, and Pound, and has also been adopted by other TOs (for example, Riptide). After investigating the controller’s features I came to the conclusion that nothing the controller does is in violation of the current ruleset.

Goomwave offers functionality that I haven’t seen in any other controller to date. The double-sided nature of this innovation is that some of its features I hadn’t even considered as possibilities until now. Thus, the ruleset was written without them in mind and I didn’t have an opinion on them until very recently. I’ll break down a couple key features that were of particular interest to me for the subject of legality.

PODE Emulation

Goomwave uses “emulated PODE” to basically give the user fine-tuned control over how the analog stick behaves with respect to techniques like vanilla dashback, pivoting, ledgedashing, and dashback out of crouch. Note that this isn’t literally PODE as seen on 1st party controllers, but rather applying pre-set transformations to the analog signal to try and accurately recreate it in an adjustable manner using a custom PCB.

There are several implications of emulated PODE. The first, and most obvious, is that the user doesn’t have to deal with PODE not being measurable nor consistent, an obvious quality of life improvement. This has another consequence though — it is now viable to practice PODE-specific techniques that otherwise wouldn’t be reliable enough to be practical. An example of this would be a specific method of inputting pivot tilts that only works with a specific PODE.

I am torn on emulated PODE, but my personal opinion leans towards emulated PODE being permitted for tournaments. To my knowledge, at least with how it’s implemented in Goomwave, it doesn’t allow controllers to do anything that vanilla controllers cannot. However, I do have one concern — there is a possible abuse case in which a controller deliberately emulates PODE in a disingenuous manner in order to enable techniques not otherwise possible. This is speculative though and right now I don’t know enough to say if there’s actually a way this can be abused.

Analog Remapping

Goomwave uses analog remapping to enable features such as notch calibration, easier up-tilt, easier ledgedash, and easier tilted smashes (using C-stick analog remapping). The way this remapping is done is explained in more detail in the Goomwave manual so I won’t get into it here, but it basically uses scaling to make certain coordinate ranges bigger or smaller. For example, the easier up-tilt setting stretches the analog zone that corresponds to up-tilt, literally making it easier to hit one of those coordinates.

I didn’t even consider analog remapping to be a possibility at the time I wrote the controller ruleset, so by default this functionality is legal by omission. While I haven’t formed a conclusive opinion yet, I am leaning towards this shouldn’t be legal for tournaments. I would define this by requiring that analog values be linearly distributed in both the X and Y axis. I am very curious to hear others’ opinions on this particular feature though, and if we’re setting the wrong precedent for competition by allowing this.

Closing Thoughts

I am very supportive of the controller market and appreciate the innovations that it has fostered, but we must be careful to maintain competitive integrity. Aside from the obvious supply issues (i.e., the general player base does not have easy access to these controllers), there are several big issues right now including:

1) A lack of detailed and understandable documentation on how alternate controllers work
2) A lack of education on the implications of new controller features
3) A lack of discussion on whether or not certain features should be legal in tournaments

Right now, excluding the manufacturers themselves, I can count on one hand the amount of people who have deeply looked into ALL of the controllers and are Melee-saavy enough to have educated discourse on the topic. As one of the only TOs who has proactively investigated the issue and published guidelines, I personally feel like I’m one of the only people publicly trying to come to a consensus on the right balance of innovation and fairness. I think it’d be really healthy for the community to start discussing controller legality now, so that we don’t end up in a situation in the future where we’ve let things go too far and there’s no turning back.

- Nintendude

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Michael Brancato

Super Smash Bros. Melee competitor and lead tournament organizer; Twitch Esports