Customs Vs Defaults — ARMS, and why it’s meta is defined differently dependent on rule set.
So I want to get two things out of the way before I start.
-I think customs are still viable and still take plenty of skill
The thing I want to get out of the way first is my argument FOR customs. Customs unlock play styles that aren’t doable on different characters. For instance the most notable is Helix. Helix is completely doable with defaults, you just have to play him a specific way. Helix with defaults is forced to play defensively and reactively — and there are not a lot of characters that forced to play this way. When you unlock his ARMS though he can be an offensive powerhouse. Access to faster more aggressive ARMS let him abuse his hurtbox, evasion, and insane recovery frames. The primary argument for customs is that somehow it will ruin the game, and yes there is actual merit to that argument. Cookie cutter builds are more likely, the same characters with the same basket full of arms are possible as well — and the vocal player base for customs often play characters with more difficult to use defaults. That’s not shade — that’s fact. The thing I want to get out of the way is that they have a point.
If a game allows players to alter their play styles to be played the way that they want — why do we limit them? In this instance I think there is room for both rules. Customs allow people to focus more on play style — rather than adapting to character, and ARM weakness. So instead of practicing character match-ups and working on covering a characters weaknesses, the player can tailor their play style to their taste. It’s easy to dismiss this as relying on the ARMS themselves, and sure, yeah… we’ll see that. We see this in ranked where we still see Cobra’s with 2x Bubbs… People use what they hear is broken, or what’s easiest to use. However there’s a testament to the balance in ARMS when it can still be beaten. Back in the early days of fighting game patches people wouldn’t rant, and rave about how a game sucked because combo’s were busted — and then subsequently beaten, rather players would learn to adapt, and beat said broken stuff. That’s the glory of it. The developers are watching, we’ve already seen nerfs to things like Poppers, Crackers, and Hydra’s — Already some players are seeing a difference in play.
In this regard customs are just as skill heavy. Optimizing your loadout to fit how you play — rather than learning the matchup of predefined balance, the game sits in a perpetual state of self balance, with devs injecting some help when they see something abused a little too much. It’s a much messier experience, but it’s still one with a high skill ceiling. After all this is still a reaction based fighting game, you can cheese it all the way, but if your opponents footsies, spacing, mixups, and mind games are better you will still lose, no matter how cheesy your strategy is.
With that in mind, it also begs to reason the defaults argument which I can say without a doubt has a lot of merit as well. With defaults you get a more refined experience. Characters maintain unique identity in full, rather than just being a “skill” choice to go with your ARMS. Matchups matter more when choosing a character. I’ve heard people say that certain characters aren’t viable when played with defaults — this isn’t true at all. Hard to play? Yes. Impossible matchup wise? Lol. No. The truth is that this is age old fighting game scrub talk. Saying something is bad is easier than getting good with it. It’s always been this way. Meltdown_Luffy the French champion of EVO won the USFIV (Ultra Street Fighter 4) championship with a PS1 pad, using Rose… a bottom tier character… It’s always been easiest to say that characters suck, rather than learning to play them. Honestly, I think most people saying Helix, and Mummy aren’t viable just need to get good, plain and simple. There’s some truth to both arguments in that regard.
So since it’s easy to blame a persons success on custom ARMS, rather than admitting they do indeed have skill — it’s easy to think these two things.
Defaults are dumb, and are imbalanced anyways
Customs are dumb and are imbalanced anyways
That’s what the entire argument comes down too. Which one is balanced, versus which one isn’t. The truth is they both have their upsides and downsides. Picking an easy to use character can only get you so far. Picking easy to use ARMS can get you farther but only by a bit.
In ARMS I think the fact is we need respect both sides of the aisle, and understand that both sides have fair points, and preference. Both feel balanced in different ways, and both test player skill in different ways.
Understand both sides will be key in how we determine how the scene grows towards a single agreed upon rule set.