Harada: 'Fighting Games Aren’t Really Tailored To Online Play'

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.

Part 1: Harada Explains: Why Tekken Is Different From Other Fighting Games Part 2: How Katsuhiro Harada Achieved Game Balance In Tekken 6

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.


Comments

    Um, there is no video for the laginess? o.0

      It looks like YouTube is down for maintenance...

        Aaaarghhhh!
        We're all doing to die!!!

          Of course, this joke would have worked better if I actually proof read my comments before clicking submit.

          *facepalm*

    lol, they fixed the input lag issue for online games back in the 1990s.. Quake was fine even on friggen 36k

    At best in Australia I cant get into a net game with a ping lower than 50ms. 50ms seems like a long time in something like Tekken, which requires split second thinking and reaction. any spike would severely F up a match.

    I love playing Tekken side by side with friends. You cant virtually pelvic thrust at someone as far as I know, at least in the response I want :P

    Has there ever been a fighting game without online lag?

      ever played blazblue? i have NEVER ever had a laggy match with that game. I get ten second lag for the intro of the characters as they dash into screen and the countdown to fight.

      After that... damn i just dont lag at all and it slike im playing them personally.

    Is this really a big surprise?

    Fighting games NEED 1:1 timing.

    The only way you can play 2 player properly is side by side or system link depending on the title.

    I wouldnt even bother trying online.

    Also, because of the fact games are getting deeper and longer in gameplay and story, I dont see the appeal in a fighter anymore. Sorry?

    If anything I love to pop Tekken 3 in for a game with the fighter pad with a mate. Its the most balanced and enjoyable Tekken and can be picked up DIRT cheap.

    Tekken DR & Street Fighter 4 are both horrendous to play online as well.

    I ended up trading SF4 for the PC version, and its much, much better. There's no discernible delay when registering a button press (none that I can tell, anyway).

    Is Tekken 6 coming to PC? I Hope so.

    I don't know much about networking, but I'd like to know why I can get a full green bar fairly often when playing SF4 online on the PC, but never better than one red bar on the PS3. They're both running off the same router.

    I thought geographic location made a difference, but people I've challenged on PC seem to be from all over the world.

    Can anyone enlighten me?

    That video isn't really representative of what online T6 is like, that's a very bad case scenario. I've put in hundreds of games so far and it's been much better than what you can see there, even if it's still not especially good compared to other games.

    That said, Harada's answer is a copout - technology for online fighting games already exists that betters the experience T6 offers. Even SF4, widely considered mediocre at best online wise plays better than T6 does, and Blazblue puts both of them to shame.

    The technology exists, Namco Bandai are just behind the curve. Hopefully when they patch the game they'll catch up a bit.

    Street Fighter 4 is great online for me on PC. Plus GGPO has incredible netcode, Harada's excuses were moot 3yrs ago.

    Tekken 6 Lag is complete BS,SF4 while laggy is much better if you get a good connection. in Tekken 6 i could be playing someone online in the next apartment to me and it still lags so much that it becomes a mash fest. Personally i dont think they are working on a patch, i think it is just crap they are feeding us till we get over it and go play something else.

    Sorry but this Harada guy is full of sh*t. A substandard netcode is unacceptable today. I imported Blazblue from Japan and have been playing it in Australia against Japanese mostly but occasionally Americans and once the words "Rebel 1" sound off the lag disappears almost completely. It's replaced by a very slight but noticeable button delay but the game plays very, very smoothly. If the Blazblue devs can do such an outstanding job with their netcode then why isn't anyone else learning from them?

    His point about atmosphere is correct though, nothing quite like a crowd of people with their dollars on the machine watching and waiting to fight. Its one of the things I miss most about arcades

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