Thoughts on Street Fighter 3: Online

I never started this blog with the intention of writing game reviews, and I’m about not to start since there are plenty of existing, informative resources available if that’s what you’re looking for. But sometimes I like writing about what makes a game particularly special and/or worth study from the perspective of game design. Today I want to talk about Street Fighter 3: Online (SF3:O).

Before I Get Into That ‘Online’ Thing

Fighting game tutorials have been awful since around the time man invented fire. Often they drop you into a fight with an unresponsive CPU opponent, a move list, and infinite time to practice whatever. Street Fighter 3: Online takes a different, more engaging, and ultimately more educational approach. The tutorials are divided into different sections, e.g. parrying. Within each section is a task you must complete. Instead of merely telling you what to do, SF3:O shows you why and how to use what you’re learning.

On top of that, there are individual tutorials for every character. These cover topics from basic combos to hard-as-Hell super art canceling and other techniques. It’s not only refreshing but a nice way to measure one’s progress with a character.

Ok—So About Fighting Online

SF3:O could have been a bare-bones port with half-assed multiplayer bolted onto it. Instead the developers clearly put effort into crafting a great online experience.

First there is the ranking system. You begin with a rank of one, and I believe the max is one-hundred fifty (I could be wrong). The more you play and win, the more your rank goes up. The game uses this to match you against people near your own skill level, which means you still get challenging opponents but not impossible ones. Unless you enable the option that lets the game pit you against anyone regardless of rank, in which case you’d better be an E.V.O. champion.

Second, SF3:O features more than mere head-to-head competitions. Players can setup tournaments with various rules for brackets and other settings, such as banning the boss character Gill—if you’ve never played Street Fighter 3, look up ‘bullshit’ in a dictionary to see Gill’s portrait. These tournaments can be like a normal arcade situation, or a best two-out-of-three standard matches like you see at professional tournaments.

Third, you can mute everyone in a tournament with the press of a single button. Brilliant.

Fourth, SF3:O shows you the percentage of matches in which your opponent disconnected, and this is information you get to see before agreeing to a match. Everyone has connectivity problems sometimes so you do see some players with 1–4% disconnection values. But if you see a high one then you can comfortably assume that person is going to abruptly quit the moment he or she starts losing.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, lag has been non-existent in my experience. Playing SF3:O online feels just as smooth and responsive as when I used to play the game on the Dreamcast. I believe this is because the game tries to match you up with players who have similar connection speeds, but I’m not certain about that.


Street Fighter 3: Online is a case-study in how to give a game online multiplayer without making it feel cheaply tacked on. There is an obvious amount of thought that went into the interface, the match-making, the customization of rules and tournaments, and so on.

In short, it’s awesome.

(P.S. Look for me under the name EricJMRitz if you want to play against someone who stubbornly uses Ibuki to a fault.)


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