Lag spike means you forfeit the round, idea for ranked play in future fighting games

System would be a potential next step in improving online play, like handling rage quitters

Posted by Jonathan 'Catalyst' Grey • June 12, 2019 at 11:08 a.m. PDT

We've all had the experience before, you're playing online, and having a good set — and all of a sudden — the game slows down to a few frames a minute and characters start to teleport all over the screen.

Lag spikes are terrible, and typically compromise the integrity of an online set, as the game stutters and jitters around. I have an idea I'd like to see implemented to help alleviate this issue.

The overall concept is that if the game detects a lag spike from one player, via a ping, that player is penalized and automatically forfeits the current round.

You might be thinking that the technology to pull this off doesn't exist, but we have monitoring systems like this in a current AAA fighting game, Mortal Kombat 11.

In MK11, in the bottom middle of the screen when intense lag happens, you will see the ping indicator jump up, and an icon appear showing that you're experiencing a bumpy road in terms of your connection (see image below).

Ping tools are a staple in online video games, so the idea here would be to build a monitoring tool that properly assesses and penalizes the offending party.

You'd do this by looking at the ping time of both players, and then penalizing the player for having a spike of an additional 400 milliseconds (.4 of a second), or some other values that are properly adjusted by the developers.

"The system won't work, look at rage quit solutions!"

While rage quitter systems in online fighting games are not perfect, most modern day fighting games have got the technology down to a high degree.

I doubt the lag spike penalty system that would be perfect out of the gate — but given time and dedication — I believe this detection system should be able to be operate without hitting unacceptable levels of false positives. Given that people still report false positives with rage quitting, it's unlikely that any system could ever be perfect.

This system should be isolated to ranked matches alone, and only then when you've hit a certain level of experience or points, say gold rank in Street Fighter 5.

The game would need to display clearly that you've hit a new rank tier, and you can be penalized rounds for playing with a sub-par connection.

I wouldn't have this system in casual matches, and I'd have it be a toggle in battle lounges, to help alleviate frustration for new players who just purchased a copy of your product.

It's important to note that this would NOT stop people from playing the game online, even if they have lag spikes, just that they would be forfeiting these rounds whenever the lag spikes happened under specific conditions.

"This will make new players not want to play the game!"

This argument works both ways, as you could say some players are very turned off by having a bad online experience.

The lag penalty system would mean that when the other user is at fault, you're granted a free round win, and this puts the onus on the player at fault to fix the problem on their end.

I would argue that when you've done nothing wrong, being lagged out and losing because of this is a terrible experience for fighting games, and making this issue better would make for a stronger online presence.

Online tournaments would be even more viable, as if one side is clearly lagging, they'd be forfeiting rounds and likely wind up losing in the tournament.

"The penalty is too harsh!"

Forfeiting a round is the best concept I came up with, that also helps prevent people from gaming ranked systems, where points and leaderboards are a big deal.

Play testing and trial and error would be huge here. Maybe you don't want to penalize a player on the first lag spike, but maybe subsequent spikes trigger a penalty. There are a lot of potential kinks to work out.

Also, this doesn't have to be a gigantic change from how things are now. It's quite possible this could impact less than 10% of matches online — and I am basing this figure on my current experiences playing Street Fighter 5.

Yes, it happens, but it's so few and far between and the onus is placed firmly on offending player's connection, no longer being an issue that makes both competitors suffer for one person's issues.

This is a concept post, as I'm hoping to hear feedback from the community on how this could and couldn't work.

The ultimate goal here is improving the online experience for our entire community, as the further we get away from having things that harm the legitimacy of the games we love — the better off we'll be.

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