Rango’s Smash Column: Melee Gets Rollback Netcode and a Farewell Until Next Time!

As COVID has kept players in quarantine for over a quarter of the year, now, Smash tournaments have shown no sign of opening back up. As someone who doesn’t follow online tournaments, I’ve since felt my motivation deteriorating from playing Smash. Opting to clear games off my backlog, or even play fighting games with better netcode, I wanted to cover a few quick subjects in the Smash community before signing off.

Therefore, I want to address Super Smash Bros. Melee. Known for hosting a lasting tournament scene, for over 18 years, Melee is one of the greatest games of all time. Years after the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, series creator, Masahiro Sakurai, even admitted that Melee was his sharpest work.

The title took everything from SSB64 and magnified it considerably. The newly added Side B moves, the gorgeous character models, stage design, music, extra modes, and speedy gameplay charmed everyone who played it.

Melee Netplay Gets Rollback

The Smash community is no stranger to modding. Super Smash Bros. Brawl gained a second lease in competitive life thanks to mods such as Project M. However, perhaps the biggest mod to come from the Smash community since PM is Super Smash Bros. Melee’s rollback netcode.

Codenamed “Slippi” (likely named after the Star Fox character), this new mod allows Melee players to play using a vastly enhanced form of online netplay. You can learn more about it here.

In the past, we’ve stressed the importance of rollback netcode in competitive fighting games. We’ve listed some of the more prominent titles to feature rollback, such as Killer Instinct, and the difference it makes online. Plus, with Nintendo outright refusing to fix Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s atrocious online netcode, Smash fans are finally left with a proper alternative. In an era where players cannot compete in offline tournaments, this comes as a blessing to many.

Resource

In addition to the main site, you can also check on Reddit for a FAQ. u/Sugden_ breaks down several facets of Slippi including various modes, possibilities, and so forth. You can check the FAQ here.

If you’re skimming over the Reddit post, they’ve included a video on Slippi and Melee netplay. Make sure you view it here.

Last Words

Thanks again for coming to our Smash Column. I’m sure to be writing again when tournaments open up and I’m off competing in regionals and majors again. Until then, however, be sure to update your Smash copies on June 29th and enjoy Min-Min, the latest Smash DLC character.

I’ll keep the site updated with Smash articles. But they will not be a regular column again until offline tournaments come back. Until my motivation to play competitively returns, expect the occasional update regarding DLC characters.

Keep up with us as we provide you with more reviews, previews, and opinion pieces from your favorite games. Be sure to follow us on social media using the channels below!

Have you played Melee on Slippi? Let us know in the comments below.

Fighting Game Online Renaissance: How COVID-19 Has Affected the Fighting Game Community.

With COVID-19 forcing the closure of fighting game tournaments, many players have turned to online play. As we’ve covered previously, Smash Bros. players have begun participating in online tournaments as an alternative. However, these were met with less-than-stellar results largely stemming from Smash Ultimate’s poor netcode.

For other fighting games, many of them are played on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. The latter two feature monthly subscriptions that cost more than Nintendo’s yearly $20 online service. However, they’re also far more functional choices for online play given the wider array of resources, such as messaging, profiles, matchmaking options, and more. However, much as with the Smash community, fighting game players also feel disillusioned due to many of their games suffering from similar netcode issues.

Fighting games, particularly those developed in Japan, use a delay-based netcode. This causes input delay which may force players to rely on anticipation over reaction when playing against opponents, largely depending on the connection. Even with an ethernet cable, this only tends to mitigate some of the worst connection experience.

In the end, while fighting games online are plenty playable, some have worse netcode than others. As such, it becomes difficult to pick which ones to play online, even among the most popular titles. This goes especially true during a time when we can’t play online with friends or at tournaments. Yet players will persist in their love-hate relationship to play an enjoyable game despite its major drawbacks.

Which games have the worst netcode?

For starters, the most popular known fighting game, Street Fighter V, is unfortunately the most infamous case of poor netcode. Capcom’s flagship fighting game series has seen significant criticism regarding its netcode since the game’s release in 2016. When Capcom released Street Fighter V: Champion Edition earlier this year, a fan took it upon themselves to patch the netcode. Capcom later updated the game removing the patch, once again causing netcode issues and also locking out players who downloaded the patch.

From personal experience, I dove into an SNK kick after the release of Terry in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate late last year. In doing so, I decided to buy The King of Fighters XIV for PS4 while also playing Samurai Shodown. I may have gotten only one random match in KOF XIV before never finding another one again. Meanwhile, in SamSho, I could not find a single random match. The difference here is that KOF XIV was notably unpopular due to its first impression character models being deemed ugly. As a result, many KOF fans jumped ship back to KOF XIII and earlier titles which are available on Steam.

SamSho, on the other hand, has only been out for roughly a year and has already died online. For players who live far away from prevalent fighting game scenes, this means they are unable to practice and play the game with others unless they’re in a dedicated online community, such as Discord or Reddit. Once again, players cite the netcode issues as why the online scene died early.

Which games are most playable online?

Keep in mind that many fighting games follow suit. Bandai Namco titles, like Tekken and SoulCalibur, also use delay-based netcode. The same goes for any of Arc Systems Works games, such as Guilty Gear Xrd, BlazBlue Cross-Tag, and Dragon Ball FighterZ.

However, one mainstream game in mind gets it right. In particular, Mortal Kombat 11 is known for having solid netcode. Netherrealm Studios has also announced their latest update – Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath – featuring new DLC characters.

Developers have been using rollback netcode dating back to the days of GGPO, an online client to play fighting games online, which was released in 2009. More recently, players have also begun using Fightcade, a platform based on using GGPO.

CodeMystics, a developer that ported several SNK fighting games across platforms, also implemented rollback netcode into their games. The developer explains the process below. Furthermore, you can find a list of games using rollback netcode here.

The Biggest Impact on Fighting Games Right Now

EVO recently announced EVO Online, an online tournament which will replace their annual offline fighting game tournament. As such, they’ve included a new lineup which excludes one of EVO 2020’s initially featured titles, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. In doing so, they chose to host some of the most popular fighting games on the market right now.

Perhaps one of the most notable parts of this announcement is the return of Killer Instinct. Originally released in 2013, the title was exclusive to the Xbox One console until 2016, when it was released for PC. Despite not being released for PlayStation 4, the title’s second lease on life gained major traction online.

While it was hosted as a major title at EVO and CEO for several years, Killer Instinct’s popularity began to wane as other titles came out and received timely updates. Killer Instinct is one of four games being featured in the open online tournament alongside Mortal Kombat, Skullgirls, and Them’s Fightin’ Herds.

Rollback: The Future of Online Fighting Games?

While western fighting titles have largely adopted rollback, however, Japanese developer Arc Systems Works will be using it for their upcoming title Guilty Gear Strive. Arc Systems Works has been one of the foremost fighting game developers, over the past decade, having released Persona 4 Arena, BlazBlue, Dragon Ball FighterZ, and Guilty Gear Xrd. Now their latest game will enter the current decade with the first Japanese-developed fighting game to use rollback.

Perhaps this will set a precedent inviting other fighting game developers to follow suit and develop a more consistent, quality online experience. The COVID era has proven one thing and it’s that players will continue playing fighting games despite poor netcode but suffer while doing so. With rollback netcode setting the standard, hopefully more developers will take note and the current decade will feature some of the best fighting game experiences online.

On that note, keep in mind that you may play any fighting game online you choose. Even despite some of the netcode issues, most of these games remain playable and functional online even without rollback. Many players will endure a few frames of input lag to just enjoy the feel of the game they love the most.

Which fighting game do you play or follow right now? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Rango’s Smash Column: EVO Online Fighting Game Championship Will Not Include Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

EVO, the Evolution Fighting Game Championships, is an annual, worldwide fighting game tournament. The EVO Twitter account recently shared their trailer for the upcoming EVO Online tournament. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, this will be the first time EVO will host an online tournament. However, one suspicious omission became the single most glaring point of contention on social media. Among the games featured, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was not included.

Super Smash Bros. has held a history in EVO for over a decade. This includes Melee, Brawl, Smash 4, and most recently, Smash Ultimate. However, this is the first time that the series will be omitted from the lineup. While Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was initially slated for EVO 2020’s offline tournament, the plans were scrapped following the COVID crisis. Unfortunately, the reason for Smash’s omission comes largely from its poor online netcode.

EVO 2020 would have featured Smash Bros. Ultimate at its offline tournament.

Recently, players began trending tags such as #FixUltimateOnline on Twitter. As a result of the global quarantine, the lack of offline tournaments pushed many top players to participate in Wi-Fi tournaments. Unfortunately, Smash Bros. Ultimate quickly became known for having some of the worst online in fighting game history. Even among other fighting games, Smash Bros. online mode is frowned upon. Hence, EVO chose not to host it this year.

While Mortal Kombat 11 was initially omitted from EVO 2020’s lineup, EVO Online will feature the title.

Positive Reception

Despite the game’s omission, however, many fans rejoiced at the decision. Some realized the game would lag considerably and not be fun to enter or even watch on stream. Others suggested they did not want a Sonic main to win the tournament.

Despite the confusion caused in the scene, and in the thread, many agreed that EVO made a good move. While other fighting games, including those featured, have notorious issues with netcode, none of them carry the reputation of Smash’s online. Unfortunately, the roster does not have a more games use rollback netcode. However, this step in the right direction may hopefully influence developers to implement it in their future titles.

How do you feel about Smash Bros. being dropped from EVO? Let us know in the comments below. Be sure to follow our social media pages for more updates regarding EVO 2020.

What can SNK do to ensure that The King of Fighters XV succeeds?

SNK’s Future Lies with The King of Fighters XV.

2009 began the renaissance of fighting games. With the release of Street Fighter IV, the gaming industry would see a drastic change in the approach to fighting games over the course of the next decade. That generation would see the first balance patches for fighting games, DLC, large numbers of players entering major tournaments, and even developers supporting their respective communities. Netherrealm Studios would sponsor $10,000 pot bonuses for tournaments while major figureheads and developers, like Tekken creator, Katsuhiro Harada, would attend EVO and Final Round. SNK never had the following of Street Fighter, Marvel vs. Capcom, or Tekken, at least not in a America. Certain regions of Asia and Mexico value the King of Fighters as one of the most prominent fighting games. Meanwhile, many players in the west got their taste of SNK through the heavily successful crossover title, Capcom vs. SNK 2. Featuring Terry Bogard, Rock Howard, Kyo Kusanagi, and many others, CvS2 would introduce these players to SNK franchises for the very first time. Despite this, SNK would still maintain only a niche following in America. The King of Fighters XIV released in 2016. Despite SNK trying to capitalize on the modern successes of fighting games, The King of Fighters XIV’s momentum never quite picked up in the U.S. Most prominently, the visual models were not considered appealing. From King of Fighters ’94 to King of Fighters XIII, all used animated sprites. XIV was the first to use 3D modeling. Even after SNK released a patch, the game had already made its impression on the players and would fade into obscurity. Also of note, EVO 2017 featured the game, but notably, only one American player made it into the Top 8. Compared to other games, the Top 8 of KOF XIV featured global talent with only one American player. Most recently, however, SNK released Samurai Shodown for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The first Samurai Shodown title released in many years, it offers a unique gameplay style. Featuring slower combat, with hits that deal massive amounts of damage, it quickly gained a following. As a result, the title was featured as an event at EVO 2019. Despite the game’s poor online netcode driving many players away from online matches, it maintains a following for local tournament scenes. Furthermore, SNK will release the title on Nintendo Switch later this year. But perhaps the single most prominent element of this topic is the inclusion of Terry Bogard in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Revealed as the 4th DLC character for Nintendo’s popular fighting game franchise, Terry Bogard brought with him not only his fighting style, but Terry’s King of Fighters Stadium stage with his DLC pack, many character models from the KOF series, and music from Fatal Fury, King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown, Athena, Psycho Soldier, Ikari Warriors, Alpha Mission, and even Metal Slug. Furthermore, Smash creator, Masahiro Sakurai, elaborated heavily on the importance of SNK in fighting games and even how much their games influenced Smash with its mechanics.

Point #1: Make a Visually Appealing Title

Samurai Shodown uses an art style similar to Street Fighter IV and V. They’re going with what has proven to work in the market. Bandai Namco has stuck with beautiful character models for SoulCalibur and Tekken, while Arc Systems Works sticks to its animated sprites featured in Dragon Ball FighterZ and BlazBlue Cross Tag. Notably, Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite received heavy criticism over its character models. Among Dante, Chun-Li, and others, the game’s lack of visual appeal helped keep it away from EVO, among other reasons. Despite Marvel vs. Capcom being a longtime mainstay at the EVO championships, EVO 2018 was perhaps the first time the series missed out. Even though these character models would later be fixed, perhaps this was a case of, “too little, too late.” SNK would benefit greatly from revamping their direction on visual models and animation. While one can argue “graphics don’t make a game,” these arguments help solidify that games that garner low reception for their visuals will not reap the benefits of its competition.

Point #2: Make the Netcode the Most Efficient Possible

As mentioned earlier, Samurai Shodown features less-than-stellar netcode. It’s bad enough that you’re likely to never find a random match online despite the game being out for only a year. Whatever keeps online fighting games active for years hasn’t worked for SNK thus far. Netcode is important for the online players who want to consider getting into competitive tournaments. Without reliable online play, players will give up on the game. If they have no local, offline scene, they will simply move onto the next game to play. Keep in mind, however, that SNK has already begun using rollback netcode with thanks to Code Mystics for porting their games to modern systems.  For a long story short, it’s better than the standard netcode used in online fighting games. With that being said, Code Mystics began updating their ports of classic SNK games for Steam and PS4. Garou, KOF 97, SamSho V Special, and The Last Blade 2 all feature rollback netcode.

Point #3: Capitalize on a Nintendo Switch Release.

Consider that Samurai Shodown is coming to Nintendo Switch. Now also consider that Terry Bogard is in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. For those unaware, Super Smash Bros. serves as a fantastic marketing tool for game franchises. Perhaps the most notable example would be the inclusion of Marth and Roy in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Despite the Fire Emblem series being exclusive to Japan at the time, fans demanded Fire Emblem come to America out of curiosity for these characters. Two years later, Fire Emblem: Blazing Blade would come to America. This would begin the series’ journey to the west with nearly every installment being released overseas. Moreover, it would continue the tradition of new Fire Emblem lords getting into Smash, most notably with the release of Byleth in Smash from Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Even Sakurai himself admitted that Byleth’s inclusion for Smash was part of marketing on Nintendo’s part to promote the game. Another example of Smash marketing would be the release of Hero in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Immediately after showcasing the Hero trailer at E3 2019, Nintendo showcased a trailer for his home game, Dragon Quest XI S. This was timed purposely to garner interest among fans to try the next big game on Nintendo’s console. By marketing Hero, they market Dragon Quest. The best possible thing that SNK can do is to capitalize on Terry’s inclusion in Smash. It goes without saying that this would include a brand new fanbase of Nintendo fans, many who are new to The King of Fighters, to try the latest release in the series. As Joker’s release in Smash even garnered prominent members of the Smash community to stream Persona 5, releasing King of Fighters on Smash’s console would not even necessitate players to get another console just to try the game. Now you have Terry players and curious Smash fans trying The King of Fighters and ensuring the game becomes successful.

Final Thoughts

I played Capcom vs. SNK 2 back in the day. I was never a competitive fighter, though. I just enjoyed the characters and stories. Eventually I tried The King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match on Xbox 360 and really enjoyed it. I loved the music and character animations. But the release of Terry completely caught my attention in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I ended up using this character competitively in brackets and fell in love with his moveset. But I also became enamored by all the music and SNK lore that came with his inclusion. It prompted me to download several King of Fighters titles and even some of the titles included from Code Mystics’ ports on PS4. I would definitely consider myself a newer KOF fan in that regard. But I would love to watch it succeed. I want SNK to capitalize on the foundation Nintendo has already given them through Smash. And I want the loud criticism from unsatisfied fans to help guide SNK into crafting the best fighting game possible. It’s a beautiful thing to know that they support local tournaments that host their games. But I would love to see their investment capitalize into a fresh start and introduce a new generation of fans to their stylistic character designs, battle mechanics, and fantastic music. If you would love to see The King of Fighters XV come to Nintendo Switch, let us know in the comments below. What is your favorite SNK game memory?