#FightFriday: How Good Netcode Can Revive Any Game

Street Fighter V has basically wrapped up for all intents and purposes with Street Fighter: Champion Edition. No more weirdly empty character slots, no more speculation of the next character or trailers. At most, we’ll get some costumes or something, but I highly doubt it’ll be anything substantial. However, while the content seems to be drying up, the improvements are not. Capcom has FINALLY spoken up about the netcode and promises an official fix. Not improvements or updates. A FIX. Today, we are going to discuss why that is important for SFV and why it’s important for their games from the past and the present.

The netcode for SFV has been an area of contention since the game’s release. Many reports and breakdowns were spawned just to discuss the shortcomings of the rollback implementation of SFV. To those who don’t know, the most fundamental problem is that if the netcode falls out of sync for one player, it may not do the same for the other. So you may have a game that plays perfectly fine, but the opponent sees you jittering around the screen. As you can imagine, that’s pretty trash. While it didn’t seem to make the online scene completely barren, it did have a noticeable effect. There are plenty of clips of streamers in the higher ranks waiting 5-15 minutes for a match. It got pretty rough.

Then, the PC community came together with netcode fixes; one of which utterly ruins crossplay by making it so that the rollback that both players would suffer gets pushed exclusively to the PS4 player. But the fixes existed and people played the game with relatively smooth games for PC players anyway. Us PS4 players just had to avoid PC players, splitting the pool of people you could play with even further. As these fixes rolled out, we waited for Capcom to say something besides “yeah, we see y’all” and finally: we got confirmation that Yoshi Ono (and his team) are aware of the problem and working to fix it. This is reassuring. Tweet after tweet on their page got bombarded by questions about the netcode and it got a little out of hand.

But despite what you feel about it, it shows that the conversation around netcode has had an impact. The last couple of years saw a severe uptick of netcode discussions around not just SFV but all these other games using delay-based netcode. If you are curious about the difference, check out our write up on the topic. People are tired of good games with bad netcode. Yeah, people could get out and play real people, but that not only undermine the mode’s existence, but not every town has a community around fighting games. Not to mention locals being difficult to attend every week for some people. There are many factors that go into why the netcode is important, but even if you don’t buy any of them, consider this. You paid money for a product and it should work unconditionally.

Thankfully, slowly but surely, developers are getting the hint. Delay based netcode is garbage and should be done with. To really feel what real rollback feels like, play Garou: Mark of the Wolves. This game was granted rollback netcode and I can see why people love this game. It’s so fluid and just fun. But I would have never really known that without the netcode. And before you ask yourself if I played it purely for the netcode, yes. Yes, I did. And I’m not the only one. Go look on Twitter to see how many booted up that game purely for the netcode. It just so happens that Garou is also amazing.

Not just that, but it proves that netcode can be changed and retroactively added. It can be altered and added to games in the past and revitalize them. Imagine Arc Systems Work giving Guilty Gear (take your favorite one) and gave it good netcode. Hell, imagine King of Fighters 13 getting good netcode! You want an example of why delay-based netcode is so bad, I ask you to give that game’s online a look. I played a whopping 4 matches before I was just done. Now, a lot of games can get away with trash netcode, but do we want them to? No! Mostly because we don’t want our games to just die out for everyone but those willing to meet up and play in person.

I’m glad that we have come this far where we are demanding good netcode for our fighting games. Mostly because we see it can be done. Killer Instinct, Street Fighter 3: Online Edition, Darkstalkers Ressurection, every Netherrealm game, and so on have proven that good netcode is very possible. All developers have to do is care about their player base and give them the proper experience they deserve. I only hope that this will continue on and we can leave delay-based netcode behind. I further hope that games can come back and get that second chance because they got the netcode update. That would be awesome. I await the day King of Fighters 13 or 14 gets rollback netcode.

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