The Guilty Gear -Strive- Beta Is a Mess, But One Aspect of the Experience Deserves Rave Reviews

During the last Guilty Gear -Strive- beta, I flagged a number of major complaints with the game’s online experience.

  1. The beta was wildly unstable. Outages happened for hours at a time, leaving many anxious fans out in the cold.
  2. The Habbo Hotel inspired lobby system was an absolutely horrible way of connecting with other players.
  3. Combat was driven by inferior delay-based netcode. Fights suffered from inputs getting delayed, which compromised the integrity of battle.

This time around, things are…different.

  1. The beta is again, wildly unstable. Arc System Works extended the beta to compensate for lost time.
  2. Despite overwhelming negative feedback from the community regarding the Hobbo Hotel style lobby system, Arc System Works kept it in the game. At least you can matchmake through training mode in the beta.
  3. Delay-based netcode was replaced with rollback netcode. And…

…it was great.

In the war of fighting game netcode technologies, rollback netcode such as GGPO has proven time-and-time again that it works better than delay-based solutions. With rollback netcode, players are able to play each other from farther distances with better stability than delay-based solutions.

Unfortunately, developers of fighting games – particularly Japanese developers – have resisted the shift towards rollback netcode. Many theories exist as to why Japanese developers in particular have been slow to adapt, from delay-based solutions working fine in their native region, to not wanting to use technology developed outside of Japan, to cost efficiencies with using delay-based netcode.

Whatever the case may be, Japanese developers have been much slower than their western counterparts to adopt rollback netcode. In one of the most notorious flubs in recent memory, Capcom created their own rollback netcode solution for Street Fighter V that proved to be…bad. Insisting on creating their own solution, it works much worse than other rollback games on the market, making it at times an incredibly frustrating game to play online.

Throughout the development of Guilty Gear -Strive-, netcode was a hot topic of discussion between the dev team and the community. Despite the fan outcry, the dev team was incredibly reluctant to implement rollback. The reason why rollback wasn’t included for the first beta was because their delay-based solution was ready to go and was planned to be solution at launch.

Thankfully, Arc System Works listened to the fans on this one. Almost a year after announcing the inclusion of rollback netcode, we finally got to try it as part of this last beta. Having played many hours of matches, its rollback netcode solution is stellar! Only one of my matches suffered any sort of issues, which I could clearly see based on the detailed input delay and rollback frame stats at the top. Most of my matches featured a mere 20-40ms of delay and my online matches felt about as good as local play.

Delay-based netcode wore out its welcome years ago. Rollback netcode is the better way, as proven by many major and indie fighting games that have seen the light. Japanese developers in particular have dragged their feet on the matter, but this is a huge step in the right direction. Assuming the final online experience is as good as what we got as part of this beta, Guilty Gear -Strive- is going to be a force to be reckoned with. Scaling beyond Guilty Gear, I really hope this is the watershed moment for all fighting game developers to adopt rollback netcode going forward.

Thank you Arc System Works for doing the right thing when it comes to netcode. Now please get rid of the Habbo Hotel lobbies too.

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2 thoughts on “The Guilty Gear -Strive- Beta Is a Mess, But One Aspect of the Experience Deserves Rave Reviews

  1. Frostilyte February 22, 2021 / 8:19 AM

    It still bothers me to no end that Arc Sys was GOING to continue using delay-based and only switched to rollback because of recent world events. That’s genuinely such a bullheaded thing to do. There is a better solution out there and they were plenty content to barrel forward with the terrible old way of doing things.

    Aside from the rollback, I haven’t heard anything good about Strive. The UI and lobbies are both notably bad, the game has some basic accessibility issues (some UI related, some not), and many of the game’s systems were badly explained in the demo. This is all second hand info, but it hasn’t exactly wet my appetite to pay 80 beaver bucks for the game on its eventual release.

    • Jett February 22, 2021 / 10:29 PM

      While “recent world events” is open to interpretation, Arc System Works was having internal/public debates about whether to include rollback for at least a few months before the announcement/global catastrophe. They ran at least one survey at a major tournament to get player feedback:

      Nevertheless, you are right in that their original plan was to go with delay-based netcode. They were so far into that solution that it was already in the game and had to be removed after the first beta. It’s fair to be upset that they went as far as they did with Strive and years of including garbage netcode in their past fighting games (as recently as 2020 with Granblue Fantasy: Versus), but rollback now (and good rollback at that) is still a win worth celebrating. I really hope this is their solution going forward and maybe something they retrofit in their other current fighters, such as Dragon Ball FighterZ.

      While the UI certainly favours style over substance, I have no major issues with it at the moment. The lobby system is an absolute nightmare and I’m wayyyy more mad about that because they would have been better just deleting the entire thing and they instead doubled down on it. The tutorial is a joke, as it only covers movement and buttons, stopping before you even tell players how to do special moves. I chalk that up to being a beta, as the Xrd tutorial had a lot more to it.

      The combat though…is great! As a fighting game fan who always found Guilty Gear to be overly-complex for me, this brings it down a smidge to a point where I think this is something I could get good at with time. At the very least, I’m interested in playing a lot more and exploring what’s possible in this framework.

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