2020 and COVID-19 brought about an unthinkable time in the fighting game community. For a group of players so reliant on in-person interaction for the highest possible quality for both viewers and those involved, having something completely throw that to the wayside like a global pandemic puts an understandable damper on things. And sadly, unlike other competitive video games, going online usually isn’t the best option for serious fighting game events meaning all major tournaments and local events on hold.
You see, not all fighting games are created equal. This goes double for netcode, the online infrastructure that determines the quality of multiplayer games over the internet. Fighting games are largely disproportionately held back by bad netcode, which can many times completely kill games lacking an offline scene. For Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, a game with a devout offline following cursed with terrible netcode, this problem seemed to spell the worst in the eyes of its community during the now dubbed, “Pandemic Era.” Near the forefront of this fear was Tong Lee, host and founder for the now main tournament home for Marvel 3, Tampa Never Sleeps.
“My big fear was that it would be forgotten as people moved on to newer games or games with better netcode,” Lee said. That fear was shared by the rest of the Marvel 3 community members and players as well. However, for Lee and the Tampa Never Sleeps team, a hero appeared in the form of Jason Lu, a.k.a. Jason_GameDev, with a brand new idea that could very well save Marvel.
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That idea involved Parsec: a free desktop application that allows players to compete together through video streaming of the host’s desktop, while allowing them to input commands using their controller of choice. But it wouldn’t work alone. The plan also required a powerful virtual machine hosted in a digital cloud, dubbed a “cloud server.” This server is a tool available to rent from Amazon, Google, or Paperspace that gives players the ability to somewhat simulate offline matches of fighting games online.
With this new fusion of tech, and Lu’s, continuous guidance, Lee and his team over at Tampa Never Sleeps began pushing out what many consider to be the “weekly major tournament,” due to the fact that so many amazing players regularly sign up. However, things weren’t always as smooth as they are now.
“In the beginning, we were definitely struggling with the cloud servers providing consistent performance as well as the speed at which we were able to launch multiple setups for a tournament,” Lee added. “Luckily, with Jason on the team, we were able to overcome any technical issue that came our way.”
With this new development, continued support from the community, and through their constant push to raise the quality of Marvel 3 content, creators and tournament organizers like Tampa Never Sleeps have brought about a Marvel revival that no one expected amid the fighting game community’s Pandemic Era. Suddenly, players could have serious matches with no frame drops, allowing for the return of actual Marvel 3 competition.
Of course with consistent growth comes larger tournaments. That means a lot more work. The whole process needs to “use around 16 cloud setups for the event, for multiple hours.” Aside from tournament play, Lee and the team also go out of their way to provide other side-events for the Marvel community from amateur tournaments to simple practice setups, allowing players to emulate the Tampa Never Sleeps tourney play if they don’t have their own cloud server.
“Between cloud fees and prize money, we definitely spend quite a few hundred dollars each month,” Lee continued. “And all of our tourneys are free to enter, but we have such an amazing and passionate community who have been so supportive that make it all possible.”
All the hype and hard work behind this excellent revival climaxed once a new Twitch Rivals tournament was announced — centered around none other than Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. This Twitch Rivals, pushed by fighting game content creator Maximilian Dood and event director Rick “the Hadou” Thiher, was unlike any other. It featured a game long past its prime time of relevance. The event, dubbed “Marvel Lives,” was a great success and hosted over 30,000 live viewers, proving yet again that despite the odds Marvel 3 and its community are ready to push toward a greater light.
This new hurdle was simply one more thing for the Marvel vs. Capcom community to overcome when the situation seemed at its worst. But the community — as well as its obstacles — won’t end there. Lee states, “It’s hard to envision what the future holds, but our goal is to put Marvel at the forefront of the FGC so that whenever it’s safe to host offline events again our community will not be overlooked and we will be featured as a main game at every major event.”
It’s odd to see Marvel 3 return to form just as the rest of the fighting game community suffers. Perhaps the so-called Pandemic Era will lead to better netcode becoming the norm for future titles. In the meantime, though, this is a reminder that passionate communities won’t let anything stop them from doing what they love for long.