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GGPO Blues

I never put much thought into online play, in fighting games especially. Back when I lived in the east coast, I had plenty of cats to game with locally. The most memorable times that comes to mind was, of course, playing Sean Kelley in Street Fighter III: Third Strike. That and pissing him off in Capcom Vs. SNK 2. I could always make him do the funniest faces on command.

I’m no stranger to the ongoing issue of online lag. It’s something that every fighting game has in common today, a flaw that has become universally accepted – an all too common subscription of lower expectations. Mortal Kombat, even after the slew of recent patch updates, still has awful online play. And though it’s not as extreme, there still exists a degree of lag with SFIV and MvC3. It didn’t really hit close to home until 3SO.

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The amount of time, practice, and knowledge invested is still monumental compared to the other titles I’ve studied. It didn’t get to me until a recent online session with me, Sean, and my good editor/friend from Denkiphile. Sean and I, of course, have been out of practice. The sessions consisted of a lot of hard lessons and reminders of our predicament, but overall it was great that my other editor is a solid 3S player, given his west coast competitive experience. So I know how to take the good with the bad. When I complimented him afterwards, we discussed and agreed that the netcode is poor, though his knowledge of its issue at the time was limited. He then linked me to a 3S tutorial vid about doing meaty attacks on wakeup, advising to share it with Sean. I don’t doubt that he figured he was trying to help us out, but Sean and I know our 3S, we’ve been playing the game for almost ten years. We know this stuff. That’s when I realized that above all else, what really is endangered in online play is credibility.

We always hear developers stressing that getting a lagless netcode is a lot of hard work. But it’s been almost a decade. I don’t believe they’re doing this on purpose, but what I do suspect is whether or not they actually put any genuine effort towards building the online play. To have input lag in 3S – which includes lag in parrying, EX moves, wakeup engagements, movement, blocking, and the issue of offline lag from not having the right TV – brings out the false advertisements of ‘arcade perfection’.

Everyone knows that when you want to create a bright future, you have to consider what has been learned from the past. As of current, the fighter genre has been quite the fertile womb in producing and re-releasing titles. In all this excitement and mayhem, I really do wonder how long ‘online play’ stays on the dry erase board, before it gets scrubbed off for that huge makeshift chart on visuals and hype.

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in August 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @S_Chyou.

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