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Something similar to rollback netcode was attempted for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate but there were too many side effects according to Masahiro Sakurai

Posted by Justin 'AdaptiveTrigger' Gordon • September 2, 2020 at 1:43 p.m. PDT • Comments: 33

Masahiro Sakurai's 611th column for Famitsu Column surfaced on the internet earlier today. In the latest Sakurai Column, the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Director discussed the latest update that included the improvements to the online experience among other things.

"We've also done several adjustments to online play," stated Sakurai. "By far the biggest element we've been prioritizing is to battle against the input delay that happens during 1-on-1 battles online. We've reduced the transmission interval and buffer. But, as a result, when there is delay occurring, you might experience some partial freezing in the match. We've also worked on the matchmaking and optimization, many small and precise adjustments like that."

These improvements likely came as a direct result of the "FixUltimateOnline" hashtag that was trending on Twitter some time ago. Many were becoming frustrated with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's online systems as players and tournaments alike transitioned into playing online during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The version 8.1.0 patch came suddenly and without any prior warning on August 4, 2020. Eventually, the community was able to determine that there were very slight improvements made to the netcode, just as it was suggested by the patch notes.

"The reason we didn't do any concrete announcement about improving the online play is because no matter how much you improve it, the burden that lies with the player is very, very big," continued Sakurai. "The other day, Tekken series producer Katsuhiro Harada mentioned that 60% of players online use Wi-Fi when playing online from their home network. With the Nintendo Switch, 60% doesn't even begin to cover it. Even disregarding the high Wi-Fi usage, there's no guarantee that the rest of the world all have as good of a network environment as we do here in Japan."

"There's also a method called rollback netcode which people often ask me for, and we tried something similar to it during our development process but ended up having to ax it. Using something like that brings a lot of by-effects which were just too big." - Masahiro Sakurai

Unfortunately, the Nintendo Switch docking station isn't equipped with a natural Ethernet port. To enjoy the benefits of a wired connection, players have to shell out an additional $30 for a wired internet LAN adapter.

"There's always risk involved with trying to improve something already in place, but since the online landscape is getting better on average each year it's something I'd like to continue improving upon with a somewhat flexible approach," stated Sakurai. "I've received a lot of requests to show whether opponents are playing on Wi-Fi or not, but since you aren't able to refuse matches anyway that's not something we can do."

Once you run into a particularly laggy opponent, it's recommended to just blacklist them from the Nintendo Switch's home menu. It's quite unfortunate that you still have to play a "Wi-Fi warrior" once before being able to determine that they aren't using a wired connection — which can make a big difference. The visibility of the opponent's connection type and the ability to refuse matches certainly would be nice features in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

"There's also a method called rollback netcode which people often ask me for, and we tried something similar to it during our development process but ended up having to ax it," declared Sakurai. "Using something like that brings a lot of by-effects which were just too big."

Sakurai gave a recommendation to all players to get a LAN adapter for their Nintendo Switches. "Side note: It's not that Wi-Fi is a bad thing, but if you want a fair fight with equal conditions, make sure to play wired," concluded Sakurai.

A special thanks goes out to Nicholas 'MajinTenshinhan' Taylor for his translations that were used in this article.

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