I was able to play quite a bit in this last and final beta for Street Fighter V this past weekend, and I noticed a few tweaks and things from beta 3, but nothing too major this time around, and to be honest, it’s so close to the actual release that this beta seemed very low-hype for me. I’m just waiting to get my hands on the actual game now. The most exciting new thing this time around for me was being able to view my friend’s profiles and watch replays of their matches, and I even got matched up in the ranked mode once with one of my friends which was really fun when I realised who it was! There wasn’t any direct way to choose to play each other yet, but it really looks like this will be in the game on launch, even allowing to cross-play vs a friend on a different system.
Unfortunately I found a new meter rising during my play on this beta, as my V-Concern gauge reached new levels. Here’s why, in order of impact I feel they may have on the game:
- Even when set to “5 Only” connections – ie: only the very best connections, I still got unplayable lag from time to time. It seemed to be much more common when my PC was matched vs PS4 players, which makes me wonder what it is that’s going wrong. It’s not the netcode particularly that concerns me as most matches were absolutely fine, it’s how they are determining what a “5 bar” connection is that seems to be an issue. To compare, on USFIV when I set my matchmaking to “local region only” I barely ever notice any kind of problem at all – this is doing a much worse job than that at filtering out bad connections for some reason. I have a suspicion that players playing on wifi connections maybe the heart of the issue as their ping could wildly fluctuate and the ‘5 bar connection’ isn’t correctly detecting that or their lossy networks.
- Skill-based matchmaking seemed to be working on this beta, and it seemed to be based mainly on the semi-grindable “League Points” rather than any of the experience levels you also have. I say “semi-grindable” as, although you lose LP when you lose, I am pretty sure you tend to rise over time anyway as even if you are winning & losing 50% vs people at your same score of League Points, you’ll be getting more points for your wins than you lose for your losses. This introduces a small problem for new players in that there will tend to be the widest skill disparities at zero and very low LP, so it’s a shame that SFV hasn’t used some kind of ‘placement matches’ system more like Starcraft II, still, this is a problem that will disappear over time so hopefully won’t be a big deal. What is however a huge problem is that LP is a player based score and so the matchmaking and leaderboards take no account of you having different skill levels with different characters. I had played quite a bit with Dictator and my LP and ranking had rising a fair bit and I was clearly getting matched with much better opponents – but then if I switched to someone like Nash or Birdie where I could barely even remember what their movelist was, I was still getting matched with the same opponents I would get if I’d selected Dic – and so, of course, I was getting destroyed when I tried to play other characters, with very little real opportunity to learn. Once the game’s released and there are 1P modes to practice in etc, this will be less of an issue, but still. It concerns me a lot that the whole design of picking a ‘Favourite Character’, the matchmaking system and also the leaderboards all seem to assume you will only ever play as your single best character only. This is flawed as this isn’t how many players approach the game. It’s so locked into the mindset that you only play one character that it reminds me of VF5. This has been a problem in the matchmaking and leaderboards for every fighting game I’ve ever got into, but for a lesson in exactly how it should be done in an asymmetrical competitive game, take a look at Yomi and Puzzle Strike (also on fantasystrike.com) where you have a separate leaderboard and matchmaking rating for each character in the game once you pass a certain baseline of competitive match experience. This means that when you switch characters, although you won’t reset to a complete ‘zero’ skill for matchmaking, but you will be much lower at first than with your more experienced ‘main’, until you prove how good you are (or aren’t!) with that other character.
- Hopefully this is just a beta thing and there is far more to come for new players, but the “boot up” tutorial is really basic and doesn’t seem to let me configure buttons before doing it on first boot, so it’s actually almost unusable! It’s a nice start but a lot more needs to be done to help out new players. There aren’t a ton of examples of games doing this really well, but the Skullgirls tutorial is so far still the gold standard for fighting games (although I’ve heard very good things about VF4 but I’ve never played it as it was PS-exclusive). If a smaller indie fighting game can do something like this though, SFV should be FAR ahead of that by the time it launches, but I’m worried it won’t be.
- The all-white screens at the start of every fight really hurt my eyes after a while. Sounds like a stupid thing to whine about, but I’ve noticed my eyes get far more tired playing SFV than almost any other video game and I think it’s due to these really bright all-white screens that happen after every VS match loads up (so you’ll see them a lot), and sometimes seem to linger on-screen a long time when there’s some lag or one of the players is still loading up the match (on a slow PC or the slow PS4). Yeah they look quite nice and clean and stylish at first, but there’s really no need to burn the players eyes like this constantly. I wish there were an option to turn them off or just fade to a black screen instead or something.
- The more I played and the better I get, the more I realise I really don’t have a character. Although I was once again maining Dictator due to him being the only charge character in the game, I was really finding his playstyle isn’t that suited to me, nor do I find it as much fun as other characters. I’ll be happy to either persevere with Dic, or try to master a non-charge character (I had a pretty decent HDR Cammy at one point, so I have some evidence I can do it, depending on what motions you need to execute well & when though), and I’m hoping that F.A.N.G might really suit me too. So yeah, this isn’t really something that will put me off the game, and is a completely personal thing of course, but I do wonder if missing staple Street Fighter archetypes could turn off some players, especially returning vets who’re really used to playing with a Guile-style character, or even a Blanka, Honda or Boxer style. Even Dhalsim is so different now though that there’s not really a ‘zoner’ if that’s the style you want to play.
Hopefully all of these will either be solved or prove to be unfounded concerns after the full game releases or at least not long after release. Some we already know will be ‘fixed’ in terms of adding more DLC characters, but still, these are all things that worry me, and have me a bit nervous about SFVs release and reception, and how much fun I’ll have with it.