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Monday, January 16, 2023

Splatoon 3's Turf War and Anarchy Modes Aren't Luck-Based in a Tournament Setting

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - There is a lot of RNG to get to the point of combat, but the actual matches are very skill-based.

While I was moderating the Splatoon 3 Splatsville Showdown Event 2—a tournament you can learn more about here—I was watching the top four of the event and also reading the live chat as it came in. (I recently got promoted to Community Moderator in the Nintendo of America-sponsored Discord server run by eSports platform Battlefy) While the live chat replay is no longer available on the overall event replay available on Nintendo of America's YouTube channel, I can tell you that there was one comment that stuck with me. It really shouldn't, because it was made by an idiot troll, but nonetheless, this guy claimed that the tournament and Splatoon 3 are entirely luck-based affairs, so there's no point in watching the action.

Splatoon 3 Splatsville Showdown Event 2 January 2023 Top 4 bracket Crush Soda Sayonara Ascension Last Resort
Splatoon 3, the luck-based game where the same top teams win every time?
(Starburst and Destiny Bond weren't here because they already won Event 1 in December.)
...No, that intuitively doesn't make sense.

This is factually incorrect, but it did get me thinking about how much of Splatoon 3 gameplay in a tournament like the Splatoon 3 Splatsville Showdown was RNG-based. After all, I did recently write that doing very well in December 2022's Big Run event was quite luck-based, and Salmon Run as a whole is substantially more luck-based than Turf War or the Ranked Battle modes. So does that random troll have any validity to his statements?

Grinding for Proper Gear

This doesn't fit within my definition of tournament performance being luck-based, but this is an extremely prominent use of RNG within Splatoon 3: getting competitive-worthy gear. Your hat, shirt, and shoes all have a main ability slot (worth 10 Ability Points) and up to three sub-ability slots (each worth 3 Ability Points), and Splatoon 3 makes it easier than ever before to customise what those abilities are. How you build your fashionable and practical outfit and distribute your 57 Ability Points is a common thing for competitive players to worry about, and what abilities are rolled when levelling up your gear is very RNG-dependent. You can brute force the outcome with Ability Chunks, however, which you'll need to grind for. Competitive players play for long enough that they'll eventually get the chunks they want, so there is a way around this RNG.

The Luck Inherent in Tournament Design

Just the very nature of how a tournament is set up can be very luck-based. Or fate-based, if you don't believe in luck. You might be put in a bracket where the opposing player/team just decides not to show up and advance as a result—which can be quite fortunate if your opponent would crush you if you played them. This happened repeatedly during my experience in the Panda Cup Online Qualifiers, where I was continually given an awful seed and matched up against the top or one of the top threats of the tournament in the first round, but they didn't show up and got disqualified, giving me the free bye. I wouldn't have kept getting in the top 8 if I got wiped to the lower bracket in the first round.

In the Ladder Round specific to how the Splatoon 3 Splatsville Showdown was set up—every team gets put in a ladder and continually queues up for matches until the ladder period is over, which is three hours; the sixteen teams with the highest score of Wins minus Losses moves on to the bracket—you could get a poor matchmaking scenario where you're stuck with an unresponsive opponent. The ruleset states that if your opponent is unresponsive for ten minutes, only after that ten minutes you can report the match to an admin to get them to null it so you can move on. It'll take a few minutes for the admin to show up and confirm things and give you the win. You could complete a best-of-three set of Turf Wars faster than that amount of time, so it's bad luck to be held up in that holding pattern of waiting for the admin to arrive, especially since every minute of the three hours could count in getting a higher ladder score to qualify for the Bracket Round.

This particular tournament has the Turf War maps set to random, which is a different dynamic than being able to choose and stage strike the maps. Random maps are obviously an RNG element, but that's something unique to Nintendo tournaments as opposed to how community-run tournaments function.

RNG in Splatoon 3

Let's say you get into the bracket round. At that point, the RNG-dependence on the maps being picked ceases. You have your gear set up a while ago. Things should be based exclusively on skill... except for whatever luck occurs over the course of actually playing in Splatoon 3. After combing through the Splatoon Wiki, Inkipedia, I've identified three potential sources of luck, and only the first one is possibly relevant. If you've identified another, I invite you to tell me in the comments section so I can add to this discussion in the article.
  • Shot spread variance / accuracy / deviation with certain types of weapons, like Shooters, Blasters, Splatlings, and Dualies
  • An unaimed Killer Wail 5.1 will randomly decide what direction its lasers go in
  • Splatoon 3 picks a random team to win a Turf War if the two teams have the exact same score
A competitive player wouldn't use their Killer Wail 5.1 if they don't have a target for it, and while that Turf War fact might decide a game in the Ladder Round, that's...quite a rare thing to happen. However, the accuracy bit is a real thing to consider. This video explains it (and with moving visuals, of course) better than I could, and the mechanic works the same in Splatoon 3 as Splatoon 2:

How much variance there is depends on what weapon you're using, and the statistic exists as a balancing factor between those weapons, and is partially negated by equipping gear with the Intensify Action ability. The most “meta” (or frequently used in top-level play) Shooter is the Splash-o-matic, which happens to have perfect accuracy, even while jumping. You saw it everywhere in the Splatoon 3 Splatsville Showdown. (The perfect accuracy isn't the main reason it's used—that'd be because its special is the Crab Tank. Which is getting nerfed in Version 2.1.0 releasing on January 17!) But sometimes other players used other weapons, and it could be the case that a shot might not hit its target because it went somewhere in the weapon's outer reticle instead of hitting its target. Another shot could quickly be fired, but your opponent could just as quickly splat you in that split-second opportunity. That said, I challenge you to watch through that whole event replay and identify a moment where this actually made a difference.

Splatoon 3 Splattershot Jr. practice lobby shot variance deviation luck RNG spread jumping
See how wide the corners of that outer reticle are?
The jumping Splattershot Jr.'s ink could land anywhere in that range.

There is far less RNG in actual combat and gameplay in Splatoon 3 than, say, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Splatoon 3 Turf War and Ranked Battle modes are skill-based affairs dependent on math, positioning, communication, reactions, and teamwork. Other modes (Salmon Run) and mechanics outside of combat (such as almost everything related to character customisation and personalisation) are quite reliant on RNG, but the winner and loser of a match are decided by player skill. The guy in the live chat probably just needs to get better at the game.

If you disagree with Ludwig, then state your claims in the comments section. He really would like to hear your disagreements, because that means that he overlooked something in his analysis, and he is very interested in publishing a good analysis of this rather than a faulty one. He consulted with several other Splatoon players before writing the article, and they couldn't think of other factors that he hadn't already thought of.

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