A few days ago, I outlined some of the challenges that ARMS will face as a viable esports game. However, having now participated in a local tournament, I have discovered a critical flaw in the game that has completely killed my motivation to play it at that level. Worst of all, I don’t think there’s a viable fix for this problem.
At the Fan Expo tournament, Nintendo used a dual monitor and dual console setup. This way, each fighter would get a full screen to themselves. I’ve done this in the past and it seemed to work great.
That is, until grand finals of this tournament. It was a fight between the heavy favourite and and underdog. To the shock of many, the underdog trounced the favourite in game 1 in a best of 5. While the crowd and the other players were stunned by the early result, I noticed something very odd in the favourite’s behaviour.
Standing in a place where I could face the underdog’s screen, the favourite was uncharacteristically standing still during a number of instances, simply allowing the underdog to pepper him with shots. Having my brother, who was in the crowd investigate, we confirmed that the two consoles would go out of sync, with the end result being the favourite’s game lagging out on the underdog’s end. This gave the underdog an unfair advantage throughout the fight.
What appeared to be happening was an unfortunate case of host advantage. As both consoles were connected wirelessly, any sort of hiccup in the connection would favour the host, who happened to be the underdog. Not wanting to make too much of a scene, but still wanting to voice my concerns, I took one of the Nintendo reps aside and told him what was going on.
Unfortunately, there was nothing they could do. At this current juncture in the game’s life, there’s nothing any tournament organizer can do. If you play the game via LAN, you’re at the mercy of Nintendo’s proprietary wireless LAN connection. As soon as that lags, the game is compromised. Other consoles and PC games can circumvent this through wired connections and fast routers. I know Nintendo does have a wired LAN adapter, but I’m not sure if the game will actually allow you to connect to another console locally through a wired LAN connection.
The only way to circumvent that is to have two players play split-screen, but then you run into the issue of players having smaller viewports, making it very hard to see curving shots that would disappear from view before smacking you on the side of the head.
As much as I adore ARMS, this problem of having to choose lag or a limited viewport in a tournament environment is simply unacceptable. If there is in fact no alternative to playing with two consoles locally with wired connections, then the host will always have the advantage. Until that’s resolved, I will abstain from investing any more time with ARMS as a game I want to compete at in local tournaments.