Tekken 6’s new online features were highly anticipated, but so far it’s turned out to be the game’s biggest weakness. And guess what. Katsuhiro Harada isn’t surprised.
The lag in Tekken 6’s online play is unacceptably bad and Namco Bandai knows it. They’ve vaguely said that a downloadable patch will be available “as soon as it has passed rigorous testing procedures”. Clearly, they did not do enough rigorous testing on one of the game’s key components before releasing it.
Incidentally, when we asked you what you wanted to ask Harada-san, the question over online play was raised. So when I asked him if he thinks there’s a market for online play in fighting games... he had to stop and think about it.
He turned to look at the plasma TV on the wall and didn’t say anything for, like, 15 seconds. I was fully aware that he was pondering his answer, but it was awkward because I only had three minutes left to ask a lot of questions, and here was Mr Tekken, intensely watching a demo of… Tekken. When he finally spoke, he brought attention to the ramifications of online play on something relatively unique to fighting games: atmosphere.
It’s a good question. Traditionally in arcades, you would often fight side-by-side against someone you didn't know. You also get to fight side-by-side with the home console version, but you are fighting against family and friends. You always know your opponent, so the atmosphere isn't the same. Now you’re online against a friend or maybe someone you don’t know, but you’re far away — you can’t see their reaction or anything.
He likens the offline experience to martial arts tournaments — just being there as a spectator is exciting, and that’s what makes them popular, he said. “The whole atmosphere, the people fighting, the people watching, the interaction between the two fighters … that is something that isn’t present in online and it’s sad because it would really add to the experience.”
Harada is candid, perhaps unintentionally, about Tekken 6’s substandard netcode. “Fighting games aren’t really tailored to online play at the moment because of the lag,” he said. “But as technology evolves and the infrastructure gets better, and you have much less latency, perhaps that kind of participation — whether that be avatars watching or whatever — can be recreated.”
Here's a video demonstrating the lagginess:
So is technology (or the lack thereof) at least partly to blame for the crap online experience in Tekken 6? How the game recreates that “participation” remains to be seen, but Harada is embracing the challenge of delivering a seamless online multiplayer experience, and this is apparent in his answer to my final question:
“So what’s next for Mr Tekken?”
He laughs, but I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s a nervous laugh. Maybe he’s happy that he can finally get rid of me. Maybe it’s because I called him “Mr Tekken” to his face. Unfortunately, his answer is more obliging than revealing:
There are two products we're working on at the moment that haven’t been announced yet, so we can't say much. But one thing I will say is [we’re focusing on]the versus aspect, and it’s not necessarily one player versus one.
How would you interpret that? And what’s your Tekken 6 experience been like so far?
Tekken 6 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 was released in Australia on November 5. Namco Bandai did not give me a copy of the game. I have not played Tekken since I was a kid, and even then I sucked at it.