Enlarge /. These aren't exactly ponies, but we'll come back to that.
This is a coronavirus story with a happy ending. We could all use a happy ending now – do you remember this? It all started over seven years ago, long before "pandemic" was a word you had to hear every day with a group of fans of the TV series "My little pony: friendship is magic".
In this more innocent time, you may have gone online not to read the latest virus news but to find an article that seriously explains how bronzes and how young adults really connected with this cartoon about ponies and friendship. You may have rolled your eyes a little. But don't judge!
(Full disclosure, my youngest daughter is a super fan, and I've probably watched almost every episode in parts by now. It's the opposite of Hasbro toy advertising, which disguises itself as childhood shows; well-written, thoughtful, and nuanced with themes who do not offend your intelligence. I can understand how someone wants to connect to such a world. The cartoons that I have seen suck openly in comparison.)
These special fans were interested in things like games, storytelling and animation and thought: "How could you express our fandom better than doing a fighting game about" My little pony "?"
They called themselves Mane6 and used a standard package called Fighter Maker 2k to develop a game. When they released development material, their game was enthusiastically received by the pony fan community and they were encouraged to take it seriously and try to deliver as polished a product as possible with their limited experience and the limitations of the tools used.
Before spoiling the rest of the story, I recommend this documentary about what happened next if you have 40 minutes:
Making Them & # 39; s Fightin & # 39; Herds: The Story of Mane6.
On with the spoilers, but I think we all saw how this conspiracy came about: Hasbro got the word of the game, and the lawyers and cease and desist statements came out. Game over, years of work down the drain. IP was off limits and the old janky game engine the team used was initially not very good. It felt like there was nothing to save and Mane6 was ready to just give up.
Then Mane6 received an offer of help from an unexpected source. On February 8, 2013, Lauren Little, creator of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, reached out to super fans on Twitter. She had tracked the progress of the game with the rest of the community and knew what it was like to work so hard on a passion project. She asked Mane6: "(Would you like) some original characters to make a new game?"
I want to pause the story for a moment to really appreciate what a great thing Lauren did here. She didn't know these guys, she didn't owe them anything, and they played with the intellectual property she had created. We have seen over and over again what normally happens in these situations and it is not "creator offers to draw new art for fan projects", let alone to help with all the work that is not only in the original character design, but incorporating a fighting game into the entire animation requires.
How could people at Mane6 Lauren not respond to their offer? They had to. Lauren speaks exactly how much work went into the project in the above documentation – it is enough to say that it was a great job, but she kept her promise.
So that's half of the puzzle, but Mane6 stuck with this old game developer and all of the limitations involved. The solution to this problem came when Lab Zero Games, developer of the indie fighting game Skullgirls, offered to free Mane6 his engine as part of a stretch target for a Kickstarter project for Skullgirls DLC. The fans rose and Mane6 had a modern game engine to work with.
Violence against llama on sheep.
Rope the deer.
Bear boss battle.
This pixel art adventure mode is called Salt Mines.
Get some loot.
Here Mane6 has to help save the day. With Lauren's help and the Skullgirls engine, Mane6 has developed a new, original fighting game called Them & # 39; s Fightin & # 39; Herds. Characters are still animals, but they now include species like a sheep, llama, cow, deer, and dragon. There's a deep and freeform combo system, an in-depth tutorial to learn how to play, a single-player adventure mode based on frames, and especially for this story, the engine gave the game GGPO.
GGPO (stands for Good Game, Peace Out) is an open source software development kit that provides your game with peer-to-peer networks called rollback. The most comprehensive and nerdy explanation of exactly how rollback works on the Internet can be found in our guest function here: Explain how fighting games use delay-based and rollback netcode.
("Fantastic article," says longtime Ars reader and Ragashingo subscriber. "I don't like fighting games, but the detail here and examples of how to properly design animations can hide network lag was a lot of fun.")
For those who do not want a detailed explanation, the GGPO documentation lists the following:
Conventional techniques take network transmission time into account by adding a delay to a player's inputs, resulting in a sluggish, delayed game experience. The rollback network uses input prediction and speculative execution to send player input to the game immediately, creating the illusion of a network with no latency. With rollback, the same timings, reactions, visual and acoustic queues and the same muscle memory that your players build when playing offline are translated directly online.
So with rollback games, you can play fighting games online and essentially feel the same as when playing offline. The other type of network code in fighting games, delay-based, does not allow this. And unfortunately, lag-based games are more common, especially with the larger, more popular titles.
And here this story becomes the corona virus story that I promised.
Every summer, fans of fighting games from around the world meet in Las Vegas for Evo, the biggest fighting game tournament of the year. Thousands of people enter games for the games featured.
The main games in 2020 should be Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Street Fighter V, Tekken 7, Under Night In-Birth, Samurai Shodown, Soulcalibur VI and Granblue Fantasy Versus.
These games all have one thing in common: their network code is shit. Street Fighter at least uses rollback, but it is not a very good version and prone to problems with unstable network connections. The rest is based on delays and quickly feels awful among all other than the most ideal network conditions.
The pandemic has canceled Evo like any other event. Evo promised an online event to fill the void, but everyone was wondering how it could do that if the netcode for every game that was scheduled was junk. It doesn't have much prestige to win a skill game because your opponent saw your character stutter on stage.
The answer came last night when Evo announced that its online tournament would now include four new titles instead. Mortal Kombat 11 and Killer Instinct – both based on robust internal rollback code – as well as Skullgirls and Them & # 39; s Fightin & # 39; Herds with their GGPO rollback framework.
The original titles (minus Smash Bros., which have been completely deleted) will have some sort of exhibition component, the details of which have not yet been released, but the real online game will take place with the newly added games, all of which are unique to their superior online games Matches were selected. Event information and registration details will be released shortly, but the tournament appears to be spread over five consecutive weekends.
It won't be the same as the offline Evo experience, but thanks to rollback netcode and some My Little Pony fans who haven't given up despite adverse circumstances, there is a solid set of games that are a real, competitive online game where the rest of the big games failed. I know I'm going to get involved, and while the other three games are all solid on their own, I'm already familiar with their game. Having a new game that is relatively unexplored and that is played for the first time by high-ranking players on a world stage is a welcome treat.
A happy ending is the kind of magic we could all use more of now.
(Besides that, Mortal Kombat 11 is the only AAA fighting game currently supported with really good rollback network code, and everything was done internally. If you're interested in the process behind how the developers did this feat, this is it the GDC Talk case is a great watch.)