EVO, the year’s biggest fighting games event, went down over the weekend, and in terms of news perhaps the biggest announcement was that not one but two games will be getting Rollback Netcode improvements over the next 12 months. Don’t know what that means, or why it’s important? I got you!
So in online multiplayer games, a big part of allowing everyone to play together is the way the game registers everyone’s actions at the same time. When a person in Canada is playing someone in Germany, they’ll both be pressing buttons in their own homes, and the game needs to pick up those inputs, apply them to the game and have them play out in a way that makes the whole thing look as seamless as though they were playing with (or against) each other in the same room.
Different games (and different genres) handle this differently, depending on how important speed and accuracy is to the player’s experience, but one type of input recognition that’s especially important to anyone playing a fighting game—where every frame and millisecond can mean the difference between victory and defeat—is called Rollback Netcode.
Rollback Netcode doesn’t rely on waiting for everyone’s input before registering actions; instead it lets both players press their buttons and see the action play out instantly without lag or delay, as though they were playing offline. In the downtime between that and the opponent’s action arriving, the game basically guesses what was going to happen next. If it guessed right the game continues with nobody noticing, and if it was wrong, it checks down to play out the action that the other player actually made, which sometimes involves a little “teleporting”.
The very helpful video below, by Code Mystics, explains how Rollback Netcode works, and how in fighting games its speed and accuracy make it so superior to the more traditional Input Delay:
OK! So now that we’re all up to speed on Rollback Netcode, you can understand why such a seemingly minor announcement is actually a huge deal for fighting game fans, and why these two announcements made at EVO went down so well with fans.
First up, producer Tomoko Hiroki took to the stage to announce that the upcoming versions of Dragon Ball FighterZ on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S will be getting Rollback Netcode, as will the PC version. On the latter, players will get the option whether to use Rollback Netcode (which will carry a slightly steeper system requirement) or stick with Input Delay.
It doesn’t look like the upgrade will be coming to the PS4, Xbox One or Switch versions of the game, though the last-gen PlayStation and Xbox versions will have upgrade paths made available for anyone who upgrades to newer systems.
As for when this is actually coming, it doesn’t sound like it will be soon, with the announcement saying, “It will take some time until the system is implemented, but we sincerely hope you will enjoy it as soon as possible. More information will be released at a later date. Please wait for further details.”
The 2019 reboot of Samurai Shodown got the same announcement, with SNK teaming up with Code Mystics—creators of the video above—to implement the upgrade. It’ll be coming to the PC, PS4, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S versions of the game (again leaving the Switch behind), and is “planned” for Spring 2023.