Posted by: Smash Daddy | November 9, 2011

Concepts; Playstyle; Execution

After all this political discussion, why not foray back into some good old-fashioned moveset philosophy? These are rare for myself, but we’re here today to talk about a philosophical stance I discovered for myself some time last contest, when mulling over exactly what are the defining ingredients of a good moveset. It came to me all-of-a-sudden – three vague, but compelling ideas; concept, playstyle and execution. These three venerable ideas are persistent throughout the medium and pop up in specific ways whenever we find a moveset definitive or remarkable. Not only being consistently pointed to, but representing almost equivalent respectabilities amongst most people in the contest – even those relatively far apart, in my opinion.

Of course, first we have some exposition to actually explain what these three things are. Concepts are the easiest thing to understand: they’re just ideas. They come in the form of moves most of the time, and I largely feel this archetype in designing terms came to its biggest developments during Make Your Move 7. At the time, darth meanie was blazing up the scene with movesets like VideoMan.EXE and Harbringer that played with the idea of implementing complex ideas directly into the bloodstream of the moveset. Today we see concepts still at the centre of mass of moveset discussion – invisibility, duplicates, goop, pits – it’s all fundamental in the making of a set, and is a huge part of defining how the set approaches a character.

Playstyle is part of Make Your Move far moreso than even concepts, I feel, but its form can be even more intangible. Playstyle comprises the way a set works cohesively, sometimes in ways that only some readers may pick up on or so that it is interpreted in a way not even the author intended it to. This is your basic flow, of course – how moves and their inputs come together realistically and how this connects with the way the character plays, as well as how the character interacts with others. Focus on this aspect of movesetting arguably started in the very beginning – I found reference to a “style” in a moveset by Rool for “Poo” from Earthbound, dated from eons ago on Smash World Forums. It’s so indentured into what makes a moveset, and yet is so hard to describe.

The third and final element is execution, which is largely misunderstood as it’s the youngest of the three. Once you’ve understood the previous two points, the way execution meshes them together becomes far clearer and you begin to respect how all-encompassing it is, even if it isn’t outright obvious at plain sight. Execution plays a large number of roles in a moveset – it determines how concepts are carried off, how the playstyle is handled and even things like how organisation is portrayed by the writer. Recently, sets have excelled the most when understanding the basic premise of making a set – Pennywise is a good example of a recent popular set that people note for not only pulling off clichéd concepts in a new way, but also creating a well-characterised playstyle.

The reason I feel we’ve improved recently is because we’ve grown to understand these three ideas more and have been able to put our knowledge to use when making movesets. This isn’t a definitive thing, mind you and it may be privy to change in the future, but it’s a great foundation for any moveset to examine how you will approach these three big areas.



  1. Good article. I’ve been thinking a lot about this sort of thing lately, although I limit my ruminations to concept and execution – the former being the moveset as envisaged mentally by the writer, and the latter being the moveset as it objectively exists on paper.

    I think that a huge part of the gap between Warlord and I can be explained by this. I really, really base my evaluation of the moveset on concept. It’s why my comments tend to hinge on things he calls “vague”, it’s why I sometimes go overboard interpreting what the writer meant to put in the set, and it’s why I wave away nitpicks or even balance concerns that go beyond number crunching.

    He, on the other hand, is very much concerned with execution. It’s not so much what the playstyle could be as how it’s pulled off – does it actually WORK? Or is it just fancy airs and optimism? This is why he likes to pick apart specifics in a moveset, why he almost always dislikes “unpolished” newcomer sets, and why I got super pissed when his comments on Fulci or Wolf Man have nothing to do with the actual playstyle as I’ve conceived it and only with how he interprets them as not functioning as I’ve conceived them.

    It’s a really crucial ideological divide that moves all of us in MYM to some degree or another. It’s not quite what you’re talking about here, but you did bring it to mind. Your own way of dividing these different aspects is probably more useful, if less instantly applicable. And I love you automatically for mentioning a set as archaic as Poo.

  2. Not a bad article at all, but I think it really just scratches the surface. I think that these are three big categories of thought processes in making a moveset, but there are many others as well. Plenty of these even overlap.

    It’s good to be talking about these things though; my focus has shifted over from moveset to moveset, and I think it’s pretty clear to everyone that I’m always experimenting with new approaches; this is a guy who made DarkMega and Two-Face in the same contest.

  3. Concept and Execution are physical qualities associated with a moveset as a writing piece. The only part the players want to care about is the way the character feels and plays.

    I would personally rewrite this terminology as Intent, Result, Report. The Result is what matters, the Intent is an idealised plan of the Result, and the Report is the part that others see. You need correct Intent in order to get a good Result, and the only way others can see the Result or the Intent, is with the Report.

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