What's The Big Deal About The Street Fighter Netcode?
Netcode has become something of a buzzword in the FGC, but will Capcom do anything about it especially after releasing a patch earlier in the year
If you have spent any amount of time in the FGC, the term 'netcode' will not be new to you. Netcode, in the simplest terms, is a means for two systems running the same game to communicate with each other to create a seamless experience for the users of the game. Therefore, when two individuals are playing Street Fighter, the netcode is what enables them to experience the game in its best form.
Street Fighter V has suffered its fair share of criticisms from the barebones launch, which came without an arcade or story mode to the very small pool of characters available to players. As the years went by, Street Fighter V improved, and fans, for the most part, were pleased with the game. Unfortunately, it still suffered from criticism, and if you are a fan of the game, you'll know one of its biggest criticisms was the poor netcode.
However, following the debacle with Punk at the latest NA CPT tournament, the issue of the netcode came to the forefront once more, and I have heard more and more people complain about it. As a gamer, I understand the need for adequate netcode and how it affects gameplay; what struck me as weird was:
- Why does there seem to be a sudden surge in complaints about netcode in Street Fighter V, and
- Why has Capcom's response been slow?
This article seeks to answer both questions as I have a couple of theories based on people I've talked to and what I have read.
But first, what does good netcode entail? Most fighting game enthusiasts are already familiar with this concept, and what it is all about, but for the sake of those who might not get it, there are two types of netcode: delay-based and rollback. The former was majorly used in several of our favorite fighting games, but ask any fan, and they'll tell you that rollback is the best system for FGs.
Street Fighter V made use of rollback netcode, but as mentioned before, it performed poorly, and it wasn't until earlier this year that Capcom did anything about it. Unfortunately, even with the changes, some users were still dissatisfied with the online experience.
Even more infuriating was that Capcom seemed perfectly content not to do anything until fans started to take things into their own hands and create their own netcode patch (the Altimor mod). Following this, Yoshinori Ono, the producer for Street Fighter (until recently), announced that there would be a netcode patch, and soon after, fans were able to make use of this patch. While the reactions were mixed, it seems, for the most part, there were more positive than negative views on the subject.
But speaking to most fans and reading the online discourse, there seem to be more people dissatisfied with the netcode than those content with it. So, what's the problem?
I think the first reason why there seems to be more discontent is that more pro gamers are speaking out on their experience with the netcode. While Punk's outburst is probably the most memorable, other pro gamers have complained about laggy matches and how it has affected the game's outcome. Interestingly, it is quite possible that the pro gamers affected spot out of spite rather than a genuine problem with the game, but since they have a large audience, and the game already suffered this problem, they are likely to have more people that agree with them.
Okay, it might seem like a generalization, but if you think about it, you'll see that the current pandemic has really caused people to hone in on the failures of Street Fighter V and its online capabilities. This is because people now have more time to spend on the game, and there are fewer offline play options. In the case of the former, most people have been cooped up in their homes for months, and this saw an exponential increase in game sales. This also means that more people are looking to play online, and consequently, there is a higher likelihood of noticing something wrong with the experience.
The fact that there have been no offline tournaments has not helped either as this has meant that most tournaments have been moved to an online platform. Therefore, there are more instances of players complaining about the netcode and wondering why it isn't better.
The two reasons listed above are viable reasons why the netcode is brought up time and time again when discussing Street Fighter. But why did it take Capcom so long to respond? And what are the odds that they will do something about it moving forward?
I remember wondering why Street Fighter V didn't just use the GGPO kit (which is free) for Street Fighter V. But, after asking a few questions, it became clear that
- Most Japanese companies won't want to use components that aren't in-house
- Netcode is incredibly difficult to implement after the game is done.
So, it's possible that Capcom is reluctant to use a system or kit that they did not create and also, creating a patch for something like netcode just takes ages. That said, is it possible that Capcom will revisit the netcode problem now? Well, no, I don't think so. For one, Yoshinori Ono is gone, and with Street Fighter VI on the horizon, would it even make sense?
Street Fighter V is on its last legs, and it is expected that by the time the Capcom cup rolls around early next year, we'll hear some updates on the next installment. This makes me optimistic that Capcom has learned from the failures of Street Fighter V and will do better with VI. Online play is the present and future of fighting games, so for the FGC to take the next step forward, we really need to have better netcode.