Any thoughts on move-staling in Smash?
I don’t think it serves a real design purpose. It weakens repeated attacks, which can make the effect of attacks subtly inconsistent, changing the amount of damage, knockback, and shieldstun. The thing is, there’s really no need to make repeated attacks weaker. Making repeated attacks weaker doesn’t prevent any type of degenerate play, it doesn’t encourage any specific tactical plays that are beneficial for the game overall, or add a significant situational factor that can be taken advantage of in the moment like stun.
It mildly discourages using the same move a lot, a tactic that many people would call spamming, but the thing is, there’s nothing wrong with spamming. If using the same move works versus your opponent, then you should keep doing it, not be forced by the system to use other moves to keep your useful moves powerful.
And stale moves can interfere with a lot of things, like it changes the knockback threshold on moves that will cause knockdown versus not, it can change shield stun, making safe on shield moves unsafe.
Thankfully the effect of stale moves in Melee is so small that it can largely be ignored, and PM had the good sense to remove the knockback component of stale moves completely. In Brawl however stale moves had a more extreme effect on knockback, enough that if you played a character like fox, it was recommended you only hit with the second hit of up air to kill, because the first hit would invoke scaling, reducing kill potential. Smash 4 has reduced the effect of stale moves, sitting it somewhere between Melee and Brawl, so it’s probably more tolerable in that game, but in general I don’t think it’s something that has a place in Smash Bros.
In a good fighting game, there doesn’t need to be a regulatory system preventing you from using duplicate moves, because in a good fighting game, using the same move repeatedly is a bad idea because it opens you up to be countered by your opponent.
Notably, Skullgirls has a mildly similar system in its game, the IPS, preventing you from using the same move to start a combo more than once, but of course this doesn’t mean that any of the moves in that game are situationally weaker in the neutral game, it just prevents you from doing infinites and practically nothing else. Using systems like this makes a lot more sense for limiting the length/strength of combos in traditional fighters than anything in Smash Bros, which doesn’t have issues with combo length.
Stale moves just feels like a design loose end trying to fix a problem that didn’t need fixing.