Updates: added some stuff about easy combos… may update this a bit more —
What happened? The netcode definitely improved. My personal internet connection did not. This is of note because we are still headed to a future where wireless is the norm, whereas a wired connection is of utmost importance for a gamer. Let’s begin the rant, as Netmarble try to make the fans happy while giving themselves breathing space, and SNK head towards the best netcode ever, with caveats, where players may find they will be frustrated for a while yet.
Having an internet connection for gaming is just not easy, unless you have your own place or you live in a country that invested in connectivity rather than profit off old technology / doesn’t have to deal with ancient infrastructure (interestingly Japan as a whole doesn’t even use the Internet as much as other countries). Most players can relate to living with parents and not being able to drill holes or even drape 100 metres of ethernet cable around the home. Wifi is the norm “and you should be happy”. The problem is that serious gamers know that Wifi sucks, this signal has to go through walls, your dogs brains and today compete with Netflix. It’s just not stable. But wait, they said, hold on now, that opinion was from 10 years ago. Have you not seen the latest routers and Wifi standards? Ok, let’s see… ok yes, it’s improved. It’s really improved, the speeds are fantastic, and there’s now Wifi 6? Only one problem with that- it’s called “half duplex”.
Wifi,and even the latest Wifi6, works with half duplex, which is the sequential transmission of data. One device sends data, while the other has to wait. Full duplex, which you get with a wired connection, is simultaneous. Can we see why this is a problem for online gaming?
HOWEVER, the saving grace could be that devices are fast enough for half duplex… I really don’t know yet. But why would the latest wifi tech not bother with it? I’ll try this wifi out with KOF98…
The colour scheme for the menus was confusing, I actually got lost at one point because I couldn’t see where the cursor was, so I didn’t know what I was about to press. This is because the menu uses a two colour scheme and I’m just freaking old. However I noted that other, younger (not much) players actually felt the same, the colour of the menu part being selected needs to be different, not inverse.
What bothers me most about this online menu is that it seems barebones, and even though it has significantly improved since beta 1, it feels like it started development just before TGS. Why is that? Why wasn’t this feature already fully featured and looking as polished as the KOF14 lobbies? SNK has full experience and knows exactly what we want, so acting on player feedback now seems a bit redundant, even though it’s always great to see it. They didn’t take a survey either… baffling. I have to wonder if there was a lobby system that was prepped and then discarded. Looking at the timeline and wondering about fan reaction from just after the developer roundtable, I realllllly have to wonder at SNK’s silence at the time. Then came the fan rally, and then finally SNK posted that they were indeed using rollback. But was that info being kept secret for a surprise announcement, or was this a real reaction and reversal of policy? We’ll never really know what happened.
Playing online is generally really good, and some jittery/long distance connections are well masked with input delay, as it should be. Lag spikes still occur but this is due to our shitty internet capacities, not the netcode. I had some underwater matches but it wasn’t super clear what was at fault. The code seemed to be very sensitive to connection drops, and sometimes I had a black screen instead of a match or the game hung at the loading screen. I had some connection issues so it may have been my fault but I do remember fixing them (now I need to test the wifi). Hard to say.
So anyway, let’s talk about the KOF XV characters:
Isla, a fascinating character, but not for mashers, and that must be frustrating. Her qcf HK has a follow up input of HK which cancels the move. You can imagine most players not finding this fun at all. It’s not mash friendly. Get good, you might want to say, be more patient, but when you’re playing online and you’re not sure the input is going through, players often mash buttons and repeat inputs to ensure the move gets executed. It’s an old habit now. A switch from HK to HP wouldn’t change anything, in my opinion, as players can adapt to anything, but all the books and manuals have been printed now, so I guess we’ll just have to get good. It’s a minor thing, if anything. She has an arsenal of moves which I suspect have already been nerfed, because she could have been the queen of mixups: her qcf HK leads to breaking guard standing but won’t break a crouching guard, and then her crossup HK has been disabled. I don’t agree with this nerf, because CPU reacts to it everytime, and if you’re going to nerf a crossup just from that situation, might as well nerf her crossup completely- the opponent needs the same reaction time for both; it’s a hop. Opponents hate hops lol or maybe that was SNK’s intention, make opponents hate her less, because she sure can hop around a lot. As a new character, she is strong (as long as you don’t mash). She has big hurtboxes and easy combos. She doesn’t have much invincibility on her dp and supers… but the EX dp is solid. In the right hands (not mine) she seems OP but against hard quick pressure she only has that EX dp… It looks like she has a lot of options when she knocks over the opponent, but in fact she might be a one trick pony; if in doubt, block low and dp anything else… The thing that stops her being totally OP is a projectile that goes in front; she has to commit to putting herself in the opponent’s range. Seems like a good design, and refreshing. I’ll be happy to spend time figuring out her specialties.
Meitenkun has a new move (bk+LP), which is cool, but it’s been nerfed already, perhaps with good reason, as it closes up the distance while retaining his charge. For the opponent, it’s good news that he can only super cancel it. His overhead gives you more time to charge (?) so it’s easier for you to do those crazy fwd B, charge back, forward + P combos. The rainbow colours seemed to be a talking point and I just had to point out that it’s unique, pretty, and better than having another white/ blue blast effect. Overall, Meity feels a little lacking. I play him almost exactly the same way, but it can be argued there’s not much else to do with charge characters. His evolution is much the same as others, throw in a command move and uhhhhh yeah. His anti airs aren’t broken, they don’t have much hurtbox and start up feels short. Gotta do it late and deep.
Ryo is now a fire user, his effects look less watery and more molten lava-esque and it looks good. He has an EX full screen fireball which still catches opponents (ie. me) by surprise and he’s hench af. What happened Ryo? You went to the gym with Clark and Ralf and shared some “tips” about muscle gain? Ok… just hope they don’t introduce obligatory urine tests at KOF.
K’ seems like a real crazy loon, legs going everywhere and he’s fast. Most fans seem very happy with him.
Terry is strong, and it’s really because his bare knuckle starts slow and just goes zooooooom.
Antonov seems to be getting the favourite treatment by the devs, I guess it’s normal as he’s a KOF14 team baby. His one mixup between uppercut and throw is extremely hard to avoid (at time of writing- possibly rolling back could beat it) but apparently that’s pretty much all he has in terms of real offense. However, it’s still annoying and way too simple. He needs other things like his floor slam mixup from 14. I didn’t see players utilise this much. Early days and I’m no Aunty expert so we’ll have to see. I saw many ToD combos but who cares about those, that’s just entertainment.
Tetsuo is as annoying as ever and easy af to use. Nothing to say here. Actually, his charge gun blast is satisfying when you get it to hit from a cancel, perhaps the only satisfying move in the beta. Which leads me to a point on the system, which players are still discussing- the ease of combos and the lack of run block.
The auto combo still is in place and is still forced. Players commented that it wasn’t a problem, and perhaps SNK has conditioned them well; they’ve forgotten about trying to apply pressure with a stand LP like Mr Karate – but perhaps that kind of move has been removed. I only found myself in the situation where I didn’t want the auto combo perhaps once during the beta: I was trying to do a link between LP and HP and of course, there’s too much mashing between jump HP and LP before even getting to stand HP. That’s my problem, not the designers, but at the same time, if I was sure the game would remember my input due to input lag and bad timing, I wouldn’t be mashing. (That’s a lie, mash everything).
It’s also interesting that the more hardcore players complain that the game is being made easier for newer players, and while the quick max seems much much slower and therefore easier (and possibly better for netcode) things like dp motions and cancel combos still remain. If new players can’t cancel qcf into qcb hcf, that’s a real ceiling. The fact is that none of this is true. New players, especially the younger ones, absolutely can do these things and even harder combos. They have the fresh skills and reaction times. What they actually lack is time and focus, the actual motivation to learn. That’s something SNK has to think about, but frankly if you look at any player, if the other players start practicing, the rest will follow. The players who will never spend more than five minutes on a game will go play something else. That’s why there should be “party mode” options for KOF. Options that you can turn off for tournament players.
You can’t run and block in KOF15. Dashing is inherent in KOF. Sorry did I say dashing? I meant running. Running all the way, at every moment, and then hopping. It’s part of the rushdown that KOF is well known for. Oda apparently said that rollback was a danger to the KOFness of the game system but this has been interpreted in so many ways now I’ll just leave it as a name drop because the point is that netcode does affect the way we play. Many players just go autopilot and ignore what is happening on screen. Rollback is a predictive netcode. This is great when you have a game with 50 characters with 3 or 4 moves each. Not so great when you have a super mobile game with maxmode combos and multiple inputs and shortcuts. However, rollback is only used when the delay more than what the user asked for… At any rate, players now need to slow down. Stop using microdashes to close the distance. Just walk. I’m okay with this, but my instincts will take a beating as they try to calm down. It’s not fun but I appreciate it. I think the battle planners are trying to do two things with KOF15, make the game more neutral, with less rushdown, and make the game more netcode friendly. This will not please every KOF fan. Some fans love the rushdown, in fact, so do I. At the same time I hate not being able to block the rushdown because I’m either too slow or the netcode’s input delay was too slow. Fans can’t have the same KOF every KOF but 15 might upset more of the hardcore when they dig into it. Then again, every KOF upsets the hardcore fans of the episode before. It’s normal, it’s natural.
The meter management is interesting and I saw an interesting complaint about it, where the climax cost seemed too cheap. It’s interesting because nobody seems to be complaining about the cost of 2 bars to activate quick max or max mode. This is expensive and again slows the pace of the match because players can’t rely on a quick max combo (yet) to take 70% life. The current game seems to lead to players using more EX moves and anchor going ham with 5 bars. This is fine. This is a change that players actually asked for at the start of KOF14. Now we’ll see how this plays out. It’s too early to say if it’s wrong or not, but it seems enjoyable and that should be the most important thing. There is a half bar for cancelling moves too, so it doesn’t feel constrictive.
The jumps feel strange but I believe there’s a video that shows they are exactly the same as traditional 2D KOF. They just look like they will crossup but they don’t…
As said, the final round is quite tense, usually with one player having lots of bars to spend, but if the opponent has two characters left then it’s pretty even… it’s good fun.
Anyhoo, KOF15 is shaping up to be fantastic, whether fans are happy with the system or not. The lack of a KOF14 or even SNKH lobby is disappointing, but the netcode features that actually work make it ultimately superior. Perhaps this will convince SNK that the netcode should be left with Code Mystics (as it seems very much to be their work), but CM will still have to match KOF14 in terms of graphical interface to have the best netcode ever. And perhaps there’s something going on there that explains why it looks so barebones, perhaps they don’t have access to assets… Well, we’ll see.
As KOF98UMFE is finally released, we’ll have lots of KOF to play until February but my brain is itching to learn the new characters Isla and Delores.
Onto KOFAS, they are bringing back the Battle Syndrome bosses, even as they celebrate 20m downloads. Seems to me like a good old recycle to buy time. Why not? Does it mean the game is going to close soon? It’s always the question. How many recycles will they make before they actually make new models and bloat the game even further? Whatever dude. My third phone is slowing down again.
SNK Online now delivers to more countries across the world, so fans can order those CDs, as opposed to listening to them on youtube rip sites. Hmmm. Well, sooner or later, they’ll have their own channel. It’s still baffling why they don’t just copyright strike everyone (including me) and note that there is an “exempt channel” feature for youtube rights owners.
Anyhoo, see you online for KOF98FE… But why isn’t this on PS4?