The previous beta for Guilty Gear Strive was laden with comments and suggestions that the game be switched to a superior netcode - a change that was finally implemented for the current beta of Guilty Gear Strive.
Guilty Gear Strive releases in April of this year, but the public beta will be available for anyone to try on the PS4 and PS5 in just a few days. Some members of the fighting game community were given early access to the beta in order to build excitement and run a low stress server test, and the early results have been promising.
What is netcode and why does Guilty Gear Strive play so well?
In the simplest terms, a netcode is a game’s code that handles the online connections between players. Every online multiplayer game uses some kind of netcode, whether it’s a fighting game, real-time strategy game, or FPS.
What the netcode is trying to do is synchronize players so that when one person acts, it’s experienced (almost) simultaneously by all other players. The simplest way to handle this is something called “delay-based netcode.” Delay-based netcode simply delays the player’s actions until the server detects them, allowing all connected players to see the action from the server at the same time.
Delay-based netcodes are some of the most problematic, however, as they often create a clunky play environment. While some games can function with a delay-based system, the experience is often negative enough in fighting games that players have been eager for anything else.
Guilty Gear Strive, and most modern fighting games, incorporates what is called “rollback netcode.” Rollback doesn’t delay players, allowing their actions to come out instantly on their own screens. When the server gets the information about what the opponent is doing, it will roll their position back and update the player with the new, updated information. On its own, rollback netcode can create a jumpy and hectic experience.
Modern rollback systems, however, incorporate a hybrid system. This is done by giving the game a small, flat, almost imperceptible delay. When a player takes an action, their machine tells the server and other players what that action was and the game rapidly updates all players with the new information.
This process is usually done in a fraction of a second, often during the flat delay window instituted by the game. As a result, players rarely notice the game make those rapid updates, and online games can often feel as good as couch multiplayer.
Guilty Gear Strive is the first new Guilty Gear game to release with this hybrid system, and so far it seems like it has paid off.
How good does Guilty Gear Strive feel?
Reports from streamers suggest incredible results. Guilty Gear streamers have played games from the US and Japan, or from Europe and the US, and reported a smooth gameplay experience, often with just a few frames of latency.
While these extreme cases are promising, most players won’t ever have a reason to play over such long distances. For shorter distances, such as across the continental US or from London to Moscow, Guilty Gear Strive will likely feel as good online, as it does offline.