Windjammers? More like signal jammers; Thoughts on the closed beta

By on June 14, 2017 at 5:00 pm
windjammers

When I got my hands on a beta code for Windjammers, I was very excited. Living in Europe, I am just around the corner from Windjammer’s most passionate scene, and I was desperate to see what all the hype was about. I had the client downloaded well in advance, so when the beta finally opened I logged in immediately.

Since I’d never played the game before, I decided to whip through the tutorial. It’s not extensive — just a few slides explaining each button and how to execute curves and special throws. Before long, it was time to actually give the game a go.

Uh-oh.

Finding a match was an exercise in futility. There’s something very strange going on with the netcode Dot Emu are using here, because eight or so of every ten matches I got either failed to load (forcing one of the two players to quit out) or downright disconnected without an explanation. And with only match types online modes, there was no other option but to wait out the disconnects and try again. And again. And again.

When you finally get a game, it’s good fun. Impressively lagless and surprisingly good-looking, it wasn’t long before I was learning just how important positioning and mind-games are in earning victories. I’m not entirely sure how it came to be that I was playing footsies in a frisbee game, but it turned into a fascinating and engaging experience.

The character you pick matters too, despite the slender size. With raw statistics so clearly on display, you can pick those aspects of a character that are most exciting to you, and the difference between the max speed character and the biggest and slowest of them are very noticeable. It all works its way into a situation where your character choice really does matter, and can be clearly reflected in the way that you play.

And when things work out, it’s incredible satisfying:

Which only makes it more frustrating that the netcode just couldn’t keep up. Every game that I played was excellent, and there was only a couple of games with any sort of lag, but when I’m only getting into two games in ten, there’s something very wrong. It got to the point where I could recognise the names that wouldn’t load in, and didn’t even bother picking my character of choice. I just mashed, quit out and went back to waiting for a new match.

Our Assistant Editor Sam “Trilby” Foxall also managed to get his hands on a code. His thoughts were much the same as mine:

What can I say? It’s Windjammers with an extra lick of paint. All of the mind-bending saves, Super Curves and bumper shenanigans are intact, with some redone sprite work to make Windjammers a bit prettier. The main issue is with the game’s online: it’s fantastic when it works, awful when it doesn’t. When Windjammers relies on players making split-second dives to stop a speeding frisbee, it needs to have good netcode and luckily, this port of Windjammers delivers. I only experienced one laggy match while playing the beta, with every other match running like a dream. The problem is that you can only get to high-speeding disc throwing if you manage to connect to your opponent. In about six out of ten matches, Windjammers would freeze just as the match was about to begin. The only way to solve this problem was to forfeit and search for another player. This is fine in player matches when there is nothing on the line, but it becomes a huge problem in Ranked play. Since forfeiting a match — even if it the screen freezes — results in you losing points, the real game is waiting to see if you or your opponent quits first. Unless this connection issue is fixed before launch, you’re honestly better off sticking to the MAME version of Windjammers to avoid frustration.

And SRK’s resident newshound d3v? I think these tweets from the man himself say it all:

It seems then that there’s a lot of work to be done. As a closed beta, it’s understandable that there are still a few problems, but the connection issues are above and beyond just shrugging off. I can only hope that Dot Emu can work their issues out, because the game — when you can get in — is a ton of fun. It is legendary for a reason and it deserves better. A lot of the FGC would definitely enjoy it — but only if they can get connected.

Keegan “Interrobang!?” Spindler is Shoryuken's Features Editor, and is far better at thinking about Fighting Games than winning at them. Somehow every character he picks turns out to be low tier, and when he’s not getting beaten you can find him writing nonsense tweets - @DumbGrammarJoke – and trying to work out how to get good.