Stop Excusing Devs for Not Using Rollback
(Or other basic features)
This is going to be a shorter and highly informal article because I can’t believe I have to write another whole fucking thing about why rollback is important, especially since you all really should know better by now.
I’m not going to dwell on the whole situation because the tweets themselves aren’t important. (Yohosie, a decorated anime player, made a very gently worded tweet about waiting to buy Persona 4 Arena Ultimax’s rerelease until we know when it’ll get rollback. A bunch of people dogpiled on it, and then it got traction when Jiyuna, a likewise decorated anime player, quote tweeted it and called it a bad take.) The tweets aren’t important, and I’m not even gonna link them because in all honesty, what Jiyuna probably wanted was to farm engagement off someone else’s tweet in the first place. What I really want to focus on are all the other people who are seriously still saying in 2022 that it’s okay to support a game or a developer you like even if it’s missing a crucial feature.
Rollback is probably one of the most important features for a game to have, second only to gameplay, maybe, because even if a game feels bad for 90% of people to play there’s probably 10% of the FGC that’ll find something sick about it. Rollback guarantees that your fighting game is playable online, and if you can’t play with anybody because you live alone or far away from your friends, or you can’t go to your locals, maybe because there’s a global pandemic that we’re well into our second year of living through and most Western governments still don’t have their shit together as we approach a million people dying, then your only option is to play the game online. If the fighting game has delay-based netcode, and you’re living through the aforementioned pandemic, which I imagine most of you are, then you basically can’t play it at all.
We know this, right? We already know this. This is why games like Mortal Kombat 11, Guilty Gear Strive, and Melty Blood Type Lumina have been so successful, why people are excited for King of Fighters XV and DNF Duel and Project L, why retrofit projects like GGPO+R and BlazBlue Central Fiction and all of the SNK Code Mystics stuff has been so well-received, why games like Skullgirls and Killer Instinct have resurged in popularity, why emulation projects like MBAACC Community Edition and Fightcade and Project Slippi have been supported by fans, and even why people have resorted to playing games like Samurai Shodown through jank solutions like Parsec.
We know all this! Why do we have to have this conversation every other month, after all that’s happened? Is it just because offline events are slowly inching back, and you guys are jumping the gun again? Is it because you want to find out how much more broken Narukami is in P4AU2.50? I genuinely want to know.
No matter what your reasoning is, Atlus is a subsidiary of Sega, one of Japan’s largest video game developers. They’re not a kajillionaire company, but they’re also not going to be hurting a lot if you pass on their game until it gets important quality of life features. Likewise, they’re not some indie dev that you have to drop however much money into their pocket out of pity. If what we know about Arc System Works and what they’re allowed to do with other IPs is true, then the rollback retrofit probably isn’t up to them, but we also know that they have the technology raring to go. It’s a perfectly reasonable statement to make that you shouldn’t buy the game until ASW and Atlus announce a development cycle or concrete plans for rollback.
Of course, we’ve all bought games with bad online in the past. You can look at the global sales of Smash Bros. and Street Fighter to see that games can still be successful without basic but necessary features. I’m obviously guilty of this too- I played a ton of Pokkén, and I bought Granblue Fantasy Versus before the pandemic hit. That being said, we were all playing these games thinking that even if the online was bad, we would have a bunch of people to play offline with, and we could at least practice at home for events. Furthermore, we were also still pushing these developers to put the features we wanted in the game anyway- unfortunately, it took COVID-19 to make devs recognize that rollback was an imperative feature, rather than a buzzword. (Unless you’re Harada.)
Fortunately, it’s also much easier now to take a stance on games with or without rollback since we’re spoiled for choice. You can play any of the games that I listed above and then some, and you’re bound to discover something that you like, even if most of the options are out of your comfort zone. In fact, if P4AU’s rerelease drops without rollback, there will be other games launching around the same time that will have it, or will be getting it patched in, like DNFD, KOFXV, and BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle, that you can show support for instead. In the meantime, showing Atlus and ASW that rollback is important with social media campaigns and feedback via official channels will press them into acknowledging some sort of roadmap for implementing rollback into the game, even if it’s post-launch.
What’s also important is to not let developers hold future development on franchises hostage because of poor sales. The idea right now is that Atlus will potentially say “If the game sells well, we don’t need rollback, but if it sells poorly, then it’s not worth putting rollback into it.” There’s also the suggestion that if P4AU doesn’t do well, future spinoffs (which we have no confirmation of) will never come. The reality, however, is that it doesn’t matter if they’re gating a potential Persona 5 Arena behind the success of this port, if the port itself is lacking features that aren’t guaranteed to exist in the hypothetical, imaginary sequel. We need to show developers that rollback matters now, and the two most effective ways we have at doing so are our purchasing power (choosing whether to buy) and being vocal about what we want.
This goes for all features, not just rollback. Everyone who is a fan of the fighting game genre should be ecstatic whenever a developer makes an innovation, and we should all want those innovations to make it into other games. I’ve made articles about other features, such as crossplay, robust online lobbies, and improved training mode and tutorial options, all of which would improve individual titles and the whole genre. Different features are also implemented at various scales of difficulty and cost, but all of them are equally vital. If the success of our campaigns for rollback are any indication, then it should be clear that the fighting game community has enough passion and investment to be a representative voice for what we want out of the games we love so much. Just don’t settle for less than what you want- or deserve.
And don’t give clickbait content the time of day, especially if the person making it is going against what they’ve consistently stood for before.