Project+ organizers persist despite pressure from Nintendo - Upcomer
The Doctor celebrates after winning Undertow.

Project+ organizers persist despite pressure from Nintendo

The Smash community’s great unifier goes back underground

Kevin “The Doctor” Ascate burst into tears as a crowd of friends rushed to hug and congratulate him. He had just won Undertow, marking his first major tournament victory in the Super Smash Bros. Brawl mod, Project+.

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Trin “meleesadposts” Schaeffer, Undertow’s head tournament organizer, had been rooting for Zachary “Lunchables” Sain. Lunchables finished in second place, entering grand finals after a five-set win streak in the losers bracket, but failing to overcome The Doctor. Nevertheless, meleesadposts was overcome with their own emotions after seeing their favorite player perform so well.

They also had a headache. Just two weeks earlier, Smash major Riptide had removed Project+ from its lineup at Nintendo’s request, leaving meleesadposts and other TOs with very little time to cobble together an alternative event.

Still, they pulled it off. After grand finals, meleesadposts took a seat for their first break in 14 days. Then, the crowd began to chant “MSP” to honor the work meleesadposts had done to make Undertow a reality.

“I started crying,” meleesadposts said. “I’ve never had my name cheered before.”

It was a touching moment, albeit one that was only possible because of the community’s antagonistic relationship with the company responsible for its existence.

Historically, Project+ and other similar Smash mods have struggled to maintain equal status with official Smash titles due to Nintendo’s general opposition to modifications. Nevertheless, Project+ community leaders have persisted in keeping their favorite game alive, even when they have had to do it behind closed doors.

The project begins

Project M, the predecessor to Project+, had its first demo release in February of 2011 and was updated sporadically until the dissolution of the Project M Development Team in December of 2015.

The mod tweaked several of Brawl’s existing mechanics while bringing in movement options and other techniques from Melee, giving the gameplay a much faster pace than vanilla Brawl. The developers also brought back Mewtwo and Roy, two characters who had been cut in the transition from one game to the other.

Project M attained widespread popularity following the launch of version 3.0 — the first non-demo version of the game — in December of 2013. Top Melee and Brawl players would frequently enter and perform well in Project M brackets at Smash majors. One such major, SKTAR 3, even saw Project M attract more entrants than either Melee or Brawl.

“We were the biggest Smash game,” commentator and TO Ian “Studebacher Hoch” Hendren said. “I think a lot of people tend to forget the history that PM has as this kind of binding force that was just stripped away from us.”

Then, nearly two years later, the PMDT ceased development after version 3.6 despite indications that they had more content planned for the game. Major Smash tournaments also stopped hosting Project M for reasons that, to this day, aren’t entirely clear.

“It’s kind of a murky situation,” Studebacher Hoch said. “There’s some indications that there may have been some Nintendo threats. It may have been fear of legal retribution after the fact by the PMDT. Twitch was also forced to no longer have the Project M category and tournaments were ‘politely’ advised that they couldn’t run PM at their tournaments or have PM on stream.”

Project+ logo and playable characters
The logo and playable roster for Project+. Provided by Project+.
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Author
Dylan Tate
Dylan Tate is an alumnus of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a gaming journalist with a love for Nintendo esports, particularly Super Smash Bros. and Pokémon.