The landscape of fighting games has shifted greatly with the pandemic, but the community seems to be sticking by in-person play.
Fighting game developers have been making technological and design strides to improve their games and make them more accessible and interesting to play. However, the fighting game as a whole still seems to be falling behind, due to the general failure to adopt certain features.
Many fighting games still make the mistake of dividing its communities based on platform, with only a select few supporting cross-platform play.
Internet integration in fighting games
Being stuck at home shifts what players expect from fighting games, and at the moment, there are some clear statistics which show which fighting games are worth picking up to play from home.
When meeting in person isn’t an option, either due to the pandemic or due to lacking a local community to play with, then what players should look for are community size, netcode, and crossplay.
The size of the community as a whole is important to consider, because it will determine the ease of finding a match with someone of a similar skill level. Games which support a small and highly dedicated community, such as the Guilty Gear series, are more difficult to break into, whereas those which have a large community, such as Tekken 7 or Street Fighter V, offer more accessible entry points.
Netcode is vital when choosing a fighting game. For fighting games, the industry standard is a specific type of netcode called “rollback netcode,” which simply means that when the game is played online it will effectively predict what your opponent is doing and sync their actions with their inputs after the fact.
It’s a complex topic, but in general, it provides a seamless experience that feels like playing in person. Currently, Tekken 7 and Street Fighter V both feature rollback.
Lastly, crossplay is a feature worth looking into because it allows players to play on their console of choice without fear of being locked out of sizable portions of the community.
Crossplay allows players to connect to each other regardless of their consoles, letting PC players play with PS4/5 and Xbox players and so on. Unfortunately, very few fighting games have fully adopted crossplay, with Street Fighter V being one of the only modern fighting games where console and PC players can play together.
Which fighting games are worth picking up in the pandemic?
This pandemic has highlighted how far behind certain fighting games really are. In many ways, the modern landscape for fighting games is wider than it’s ever been, and yet, only a small number of games have up-to-date features to help players play.
Games like Granblue Fantasy Versus, a very fun middleweight 2D fighter, lacks both crossplay and rollback, which limits the PC community to around 450 players all around the world.
So not only are there just a handful of players to play with, players must fight using a delay based netcode that makes the online experience feel slow and unresponsive.
Mortal Kombat 11 has rollback, although its implementation isn’t ideal, and will be supporting “krossplay” for all non-PC consoles in its newest version. This is a step in the right direction, but still splits the community between PC and consoles.
Currently, the only major fighting game which features both full crossplay and use rollback netcode is Street Fighter V. For players who prefer to play on consoles, this is less of an issue as many more fighting games do allow Playstation and Xbox players to connect to each other.
For PC players, however, this limits the available player pool severely, with major games having just a few thousand players, and smaller games having maybe just a few hundred.
For those who want to play Tekken 7 or Mortal Kombat 11 on PC, there may be enough of a player count to find matches and enjoy the game, whereas the other non-crossplay fighting games such as Granblue, Soulcalibur VI, and Guilty Gear, have less than 1,000 players per day.
For players looking to play on console already, the number of players available is big enough to avoid most of these issues.Published 19 Nov 2020, 02:06 IST