April 8th, 2014
This interview was conducted in Houston at Texas Showdown 2014.
Christopher: Hey Robert, thanks for taking the time to do this interview with me. Go ahead and tell me a little bit about yourself.
Robert: I’m Rob “Wobbles” Wright. I played Melee for 9 years competitively before retiring and for most of my career I mained the Ice Climbers. I got into Melee because one day I was cleaning my room out and found my copy, and remembered having so much fun with it that I deleted my save-file so I could re-unlock everything. When my brother saw, he started playing with me again, and then I started googling strategies on GameFAQ’s to try and beat his Sheik (since I played Link at the time). This eventually led me to Smashboards, which led me to my local scene, and things snowballed from there.
Christopher: How did you decide to play Ice Climbers? Would you consider playing any other higher tier characters?
Robert: I began playing Ice Climbers almost entirely because my friend wanted to play them, but he didn’t have a Gamecube or a Smashboards account. So I went there and practiced them solo so that I would have things to teach him, and eventually we were both roughly the same level with them. Over time I would play them occasionally, and realized that not only did I have lots of fun playing them, I seemed to win with them more than everybody else (including characters that I had been playing seriously for years). So I stuck with them and found that they suited my mindset and personal abilities more than any other character.
Christopher: A lot of players have been changing characters recently. What are your thoughts on character tier lists and character loyalty?
Robert: I think everybody shows up to a tournament with their own personal goal, and if your primary goal is to win then you should pick whatever character gives you the highest odds of winning. I think when people switch to a higher tier character just because the character is allegedly stronger, it doesn’t always translate to improved results. You have to take your personal abilities, knowledge, and skillsets into account. Tier lists in general tend to be vague at best, because just giving a character a tier and a placement tells you almost nothing about the playstyle and the skillsets they demand. They also shift based on the community’s impressions, and sometimes insanely strong players make weak characters look better than they are. So taking a tier list too seriously is kind of a waste of time.
This goes as much for the nonconformists as anybody else. Some people refuse to play high-tier characters just because, and that’s pretty silly too. Some bounce from unpopular main to unpopular main so they can feel special, without actually considering how they feel about the game.
As for character loyalty, you should really play who you want for the reasons you want and ignore what other people say about it. If you get tired of playing a character, switch! If you want to keep playing them but things feel a bit hopeless (a hard counter matchup, for instance) then I think it’s worth it to persevere and make every effort to improve before you throw your hands and say “it can’t be done.” You reap tremendous benefits from sticking things out and learning the matchups that everybody else refuses to learn. So there are some good and bad reasons for character switching, and there’s a distinction between giving up and making a switch.
Christopher: Melee has been picked up again at EVO and is returning to MLG. What are your thoughts on the resurgence of Melee?
Robert: I think it’s pretty great. I really like Melee, I think its high-level play is fascinating and unique, and I know that a lot of people like watching and talking about the game. Getting the exposure will (hopefully) share those positive experiences with lots of people, and that’s cool.
Christopher: Ken and KDJ just got picked up by Team Liquid. What are your thoughts on e-sports/fgc and how does Melee fit into all of this?
Robert: Something to remember about sports businesses is that they are about the spectators, not the players. Grassroots communities are about the players’ experience, but the larger scale events are not. Spectators pay for seats and passes and subscriptions. They buy concessions and merchandise and they are the reason that companies will sponsor players and advertise on streams and TV. Most players will not make money and they won’t reach the goal of becoming the best or becoming professional, so they’d better make sure they really love the game and will continue to enjoy it regardless of circumstance before games hit the big-time.
Top MOBA players, for instance, have to participate in long photo-shoots and stamp their names and faces on products and endorsements. When we move from grassroots to bigger and bigger experiences, that sort of thing will be more and more common. I say this as somebody who does love watching competitive gaming streams and events. It’s worth keeping in mind, because without the money flowing in from spectators (who demand, fittingly enough, a spectacle) the sponsors and investors leave and e-sports will promptly vanish.
Christopher: You are currently 8th in the Melee It on Me Player Rankings. Do you agree with this list? How would you order the top 8 players?
Robert: The list was essentially a community ranking/popularity contest, and in that regard I think getting 8th place was a miracle for me since most people tended to forget I existed. If you looked at people’s rankings and, they would generally forget to include my name at all unless you reminded them. Brute-forcing my way into the community’s consciousness like that was a pretty big achievement.
If we’re talking about an actual hypothetical ranking list, I probably should have been 6th rather than 8th. The top 5 at the time were a very fixed phenomenon and the order of them could fluctuate on any given day for any given reason; one shows up with 5 hours of sleep instead of 7, the randomization of the bracket, the humidity level, you name it. But the two players ranked above me had fewer wins over those players than I did, and they also demonstrated less consistency over the years than I did; I managed to net top 10 in large-scale tournaments with very high consistency and the majority of my losses were to those top 5 players that almost nobody else could touch, so I think I deserved 6th.
But then again, I have so many holes in my game and so many ways to improve that arguing over something as trivial as a spot on the rankings is basically a waste of time, since I could be using that time to practice instead. Now that I’m retired I guess I can waste my time all I want.
Christopher: You have announced that you are retiring from the scene, what are your plans now? Can we still expect to see you at large tournaments such as EVO and Apex?
Robert: I will probably show up to the tournaments because I still love the game and still love watching high-level matches. I also enjoy commentating, but since I don’t get to do it very often, I’m not as good as I’d like to be. In that regard, I feel like I’d rather just leave it to our community’s better speakers and stay a spectator for the most part.
Christopher: On your blog Compete Complete you write articles about competition and improving your game play. What would you recommend to new players that are getting into the scene.
Robert: For new players there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First, no matter how unfair a matchup or situation feels, somebody at a higher level can probably beat the player next to you, so until you’re perfect there’s no point blaming the game. That time could be spent getting better. Second, fundamentals are everything, and 80% or more of the game depends on nothing but your basics. The difference between great players and mediocre players is not that they use magic strategies, but how they string the basics together in a way that seems incredible.
Last of all, keep appreciating the game even when you lose. Keep loving it and keep learning about it. Don’t tunnel vision on wins and losses too hard, it makes you into a jerk.
Christopher: For seasoned players, what are five things they can do to improve?
–Take breaks occasionally. Even our top five players have bad habits. Take some time off to cool the bad habits and refresh your assumptions about the game.
–Try and identify what your absolute greatest strengths are, and then ask yourself if it’s possible to funnel matches into focusing only on things you’re good at. Conversely, ask what you are super bad at and either shore up those weaknesses or keep the game-flow away from them at all costs.
–Try stupid things sometimes and surprise yourself.
–Try playing like a beginner again. Sometimes old and obvious options are the best and we forget that when we’re trying too hard to play “good.”
–Same advice as for new players. When you’ve been playing for awhile it’s easy to take the game for granted and get mad at the little things that don’t go your way; appreciate the game with all its flaws. You’ve played it long enough to get good, so don’t forget how much you actually like it.
Christopher: Is there anything you want to say to the readers?
Robert: 1v1 me any game scrubs!
Christopher: Thank you again for your time.