Anakin on Tekken 7’s huge overhaul in Season 7
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The newest season of Tekken 7 has dramatically improved the online experience. Pro gamer Hoa 'Anakin' Luu tells us what’s changed and why online is so important right now.
Online arenas have always been important to the ecosystem of fighting games. Tournaments can be held without the necessity of meeting in person, allowing regions to meet and throw hands quickly. The ranked modes can provide tracking progression of one’s skill and while not perfect, they can give a baseline. Lobbies give extended practice and preparation for those struggling in certain match-ups or play styles. It wasn’t discussed much in the past, but online feeds well into keeping a game’s health alive and in keeping warriors practiced and ready for battles done in person.
But now, online play cannot be ignored, as the entire fighting games community has pivoted to remote tournaments in 2020. Games lacking online infrastructures are leaking players and frustrating those who stick around. Luckily some developers have seen the importance of improving the netcode in place and adjusting to the current climate. Namco Bandai have recently made some major corrections to Tekken 7 in the Season 4 patch, much to the approval of a scene that's been begging for an update. Top American Tekken player Hoa 'Anakin' Luu says the reception by the community has been positive, despite the tall order and high expectations.
“There was a lot of skepticism within the community when it was announced by [FGC figurehead and Tekken brand and community advisor Mark Julio] MarkMan that the Season 4 netcode would be hugely improved,” says Anakin.
“The whole FGC was already debating over fighting game netcode and how developers need to step it up,” he adds, noting that it exceeded expectations when it dropped. “People were surprised and shocked to see that they could play matches with their friends around the world. Online matches have suddenly become much more competitive and every time I look, the amount of people playing Tekken on my friends list has more than doubled.”
Anakin himself hasn’t travelled far from his home in Atlanta this year, but the times the professional player has encountered someone from overseas in a match-up, it was smooth sailing.
“I've stumbled upon a few players from the UK on ranked and it felt like I was fighting somebody from New York in previous seasons. Very playable to say the least,” mentions Anakin, happy to have better matches than usual on a local level.
“But since connections within the states are near perfect almost every time, I'm having more fun getting to play with friends from all over America first. Then I may embark on a journey to play against players from other countries.”
Even when players are in close proximity, the netcode might be spotty depending on numerous factors. Tekken 7’s patch has seen fit to make not only region-to-region connections clean, but also ones within the same neighbourhood more consistent. This has crafted even more online tournaments with bigger player bases and continued growth of the game that might not have otherwise existed.
“Brand new players getting yet another reason to pick up and enjoy the game. Returning players coming back to a refreshed online experience while being stuck at home all day. It works out,” says Anakin. “Developers clearly prioritised the right aspect of Tekken 7, and now everyone's on it.”
The netcode changes didn’t stop there. A Wi-Fi indicator was added as well. Because wired connections are empirically better for fighting games that are reliant on fast twitch reaction times, this allows players to choose an optimal experience instead of suffering a laggy match. “I think it's nice to have a Wi-Fi indicator as an option for players who want to experience more stable connections,” says Anakin. “Wi-Fi players are probably finding less matches, but at least they can play against each other!”
New characters, new connections
But bolstering the online matches doesn’t matter if the game is boring. Season 4 introduced a slew of fresh changes and reworked the extensive cast of characters to make the competition more even and also deeper.
“Changes in-between seasons always make for some fun shifts in how the best players are playing. But in the end, it's still the same game, same Tekken 7. The impact of changes was enough to get people excited about the game again, but it's not like anyone had to do major relearning of the basics or mechanics,” Anakin relates.
“I think people are happy. With major balance reworks like this, time will tell where all the characters end up on the totem pole. But without competitive tournaments happening, it may take a while longer for the dust to settle and for there to be a clear character hierarchy.”
To sweeten the pop even further, Namco Bandai added Kunimitsu to the fray. Anakin likes that the kunoichi isn’t just copied from her previous iterations. “She has a lot of unique sound and visual effects that make just practising with her fun and she received a lot of upgrades after being an underwhelming character in Tekken Tag Tournament 2,” he says. “At the same time, you don't get that feeling that she's overpowered above the rest of the cast and that’s been the problem for the last few DLCs. I had a lot of fun using Kunimitsu, and the new stage is really nice to look at too!”
The content plus better connectivity means that in spite of the competitive shift to online, Tekken is enjoying a renaissance, one that other games should look to as a model. Even when FGC events return to in-person, it’s hard to argue that improving the online stability wouldn’t be a benefit for all who want to play fighting games. But, for now, Anakin just hopes to see more opponents in the virtual battlefields.
“Since I play a lot of Tekken 7 ranked, I'd like to see everyone getting back into ranked mode online, so I could play against many more opponents. It's always nice to play against players I've never played, so I'm always on the hunt. Hope to see everyone online!”