John “Kodorin” Ko is one of the premiere Marth players on the Super Smash Bros. Melee competitive scene right now. While the 21-year-old has been around for years, even making top 100 rankings at one time, he’s really made a name for himself in the online era of Melee brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and arrival of better netplay for the title thanks to the rollback netcode client Slippi.
Kodorin won his way into the national Melee invitational tournament and the first in-person major tourney since the start of the pandemic, Smash Summit 11. Summit 11 is the latest in the Summit series, invitational tournaments where the best of the best are invited based on high placements. Other players can join the roster by being voted in or qualifying through a preliminary tournament, as Kodorin did.
At the Summit, Kodorin competed against all-star pros like Plup, Zain, Mango, Hungrybox, and more. Kodorin placed ninth in the event, which is a significant showing considering how many seasoned veterans he competed against. After his return home, I caught up with him to talk about his Melee journey, learning process, and Summit experience.
When did you start playing Melee competitively?
Like anyone, I’ve been playing Melee since it was released. In terms of competitive Melee, I’ve been familiar since the documentary came out in 2013. I went to my first tournament three years later, in November of 2016. Then I stopped until the next year because I didn’t have a car to get to local events, so I didn’t really see the point.
Come 2017, when I turned 17, I got my driver’s license and was able to actually travel, so I decided that was the time. Now, I’ve been seriously playing for about four and a half years.
You jumped in so late compared to other high-level competitors. How did you get so good so fast?
At first, I was just like any other Smasher. I’m not talented, and anybody that’s played me during my first years knows there are no special traits about me. What got me ahead was asking a lot of questions. I always asked how to keep improving, essentially. I ended up finding good sources like PPMD’s Smashboards thread, where he’d take questions for free. I asked hundreds of things there throughout the years. I’d implement whatever he responded, and, over time, it started to pay off, thanks to it giving me direction on where to improve.
Most players will stop improving even though they’ve played longer or [had] more talent than me because they never have good direction. They stay where they’re at, whereas I kept changing my plans and trying new things. I find that’s the defining trait of my improvement.
Would you say it’s important to have a teacher when it comes to learning?
Of course! Melee‘s a really hard game to begin with, especially when trying to improve by yourself. I don’t think I’d be where I am if I tried to improve alone.
Speaking of your game plans, many note how differently your Marth plays from others. How would you describe your playstyle?
I take a more zoning approach, but sometimes it can be a little erratic as well. I like to set up my zoning, make my opponent respect my space, and then manipulate them off of that. Then there are times [when] I’ll get a soul read off of my opponent from that zoning wall. Other times that read won’t even come from the walling. At some points, I’ll just go off randomly, but it’s not very consistent.
never forget these tippers pic.twitter.com/ImYvDmxG3h
— John Ko (@KoDoRiNSSB) July 12, 2021
For instance, many know me for my victory over Plup, where I got a random out-of-shield read. That’s not really normal or rational to do, but I had a feeling from him not playing his best and being a little antsy out of shield, so I just went for that hard read. Occasionally, I’ll get a little crazy after getting the feeling of my opponent’s soul, but only if I really need to take that risk.
Did your Summit matches open your eyes to any flaws of your style?
Definitely! I could improve in so many areas, and talking to tons of top players for feedback helped me find direction. Particularly having faster decision making, faster execution, making my attack and defensive rhythm more subtle, things like that.
Who do you feel was your toughest opponent during the event?
In terms of personal matchups, the one that destroyed me the most was Plup. He’s very fast, but at the same time, I only played him once in casuals when I had very little sleep because I had to go to Summit really early. That may be a small factor, but all in all, Plup is an amazing player. He also destroyed me in [the] tournament bracket with his secondary, so he stands out.
Mango and Zain were definitely the next hardest opponents for me.
Netplay results are very controversial for the Smash and fighting game communities overall. Do you feel your online grinding helped out in this offline environment?
Netplay results should be taken with a grain of salt, but to say that they don’t matter is usually an ego defense. If you have the proper setup, good internet, monitors, and all of that, I don’t see much of a reason netplay is bad. Yeah, there is instability and some drawbacks, but that’s there with LAN as well. People complained how the main stream TV at Summit had a little bit of lag compared to other CRTS.
Not to mention CRT is naturally uglier, so that makes tech-chasing somewhat harder. Don’t get it wrong, though; I do enjoy CRT overall. I’m not a Slippi kid. Some people forgot I was ranked top 100 in 2019, so I know what it’s like to compete both online and LAN for extended periods of time. I think they’re both legit as long as the online is stable. Rollback is usually always legit because it doesn’t mess with the fundamental premise of Melee, which is execution.
Kinda an insane stock ngl pic.twitter.com/l7UZb2qeCH
— John Ko (@KoDoRiNSSB) April 7, 2021
I’d say any drop-offs from rollback and LAN results probably come from being in the comfort of one’s home. Some people are more nerfed online, like HBox, because he takes LAN more seriously. Then there are some who play better online because they can’t handle in-person nerves. I find the discrepancies between the two usually [have] to do more with the environment than the game itself.
So which do you prefer, monitor or CRT?
Well, there was a little secret at Summit where everyone was asking that, and you’d be surprised, but most top players actually said monitor. It’s not optimized for offline Melee just yet, but it’s great [he laughs]. With CRT, I didn’t feel a difference. It wasn’t better, but it wasn’t worse either.
Did you feel that everyone had to readjust to offline at Summit after so many online events?
To be honest, everyone was playing a little worse compared to online. Not just because of the first tourney back but because of the stakes. It was literally the biggest prize pool of all time, so who isn’t going to be a little nervous? I think everyone’s gameplay was affected to some degree. Maybe HBox and his Jigglypuff were buffed, but that’s about it.
I know you’ve spoken about learning the importance of not focusing on your results. Can you elaborate on that?
Focusing on your results isn’t productive. I always say that the process is what gets the result. People can focus on getting an A+ on a test all they want, but if they don’t study, then how will they get that A+? It’s much more productive to focus on your inputs to actually get the win in the end.
Where do you see yourself going after Summit?
I’m not quite sure myself, but I am certain about a few things. I do want to do Melee full-time. I’m taking steps to get there with streaming and doing YouTube more often and making sure I can pull decent numbers to make this sustainable.
Even more importantly, I’m trying to improve every day. I want to be the best. One day, I will be the best. In order to do so, I need to attend tournaments, practice every day, and keep acting questions. You’ll probably see me at SoCal majors and locals. I signed up for Riptide, Genesis, and maybe I’ll even be at the next Summit. Who knows?
Smash fans will want to keep an eye on Kodorin to see just where he goes next in the scene with offline tournaments returning. You can follow him on Twitter, Twitch, where he streams regularly, and YouTube, where he consistently uploads unique content about Melee, including gameplay tips.