The Super Smash Bros. Ultimate North American Open online tournament is in full swing, but not entirely smoothly. Lag is just an unfortunate reality in an online tournament, especially in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate given its straightforward approach to multiplayer. The gameplay simply slows or pauses until all players’ connections catch up. You wouldn’t know it, however, if you went by the official commentary of the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate North American Open tournament.
In a surprisingly surreal and awkward moment from a recent match between Seth and Isnacks, the tournament’s commentary team cut away from the action while the players were working through a lag hitch. Here’s what the commentators had to say:
“During this viewing, you might see a little bit of a slowdown or buffering but do not worry the players aren’t seeing that, that’s not affecting them and that will not affect the VODs afterwards, of course. A lot of levers and pullers being switched right now.”
The team was implying that it was the use of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate‘s spectator mode that was layering on the lag rather than any lag inherent to the match. There are just a couple of issues with that. First and foremost, there’s really no way to guarantee that it’s the spectator mode lagging as opposed to the players. If the players lag, the spectators will see that. It’s not like Nintendo can guarantee the quality of either players’ internet given that the tournament is all online. Nintendo would have to be recorded directly from a player’s home to know what lag they were experiencing.
And second, with the understanding that Nintendo likely isn’t recording directly from every player’s home, there’s no way it can guarantee a lag-free VOD. What the audience is seeing is what Nintendo’s seeing. Coincidentally, the VOD was posted later and featured exactly what was shown on the livestream.
Anyone familiar with playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate online knows that lag is just a reality that all players have to deal with, whether they’re playing in a tournament or not. The game utilizes a peer-to-peer networking system, a staple of fighting games, that creates an even playing field for players but also means either player’s individual lag is felt by both as well. Spectators will also experience this lag, as well as their own lag, though their lag won’t be seen by the players.
In this way, the Nintendo commentators could be partially correct. What’s being streamed could just be spectator lag. Though that implies that it’s either Nintendo’s internet connection that’s struggling, which is unlikely given the livestream itself is running without a hitch, or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate‘s spectator mode struggles on its own regardless of internet connection at times. Alternatively, Nintendo could be struggling with recording issues from their spectator mode. Hardware can struggle recording or restreaming high quality video, which could produce a lag-like effect. Still, that doesn’t appear to be what the commentators are saying.
The most likely scenario is that either Seth or Isnacks had an unstable internet connection and that it resulted in some lag during the match. Nintendo or tournament representatives, unhappy that a large audience was seeing a large amount of lag in a big match, decided it deserved to be addressed. But how that resulted in cutting away from an incredible match and an awkward and misleading description of the issue is anyone’s guess. There’s simply no way that Nintendo could guarantee that every single match will never feature player lag. And that’s not just in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, that’s the case in any online game. Luckily for viewers and Nintendo alike, the tournament has still been an incredible showcase of talent – even with the lag.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is available now exclusively on Nintendo Switch.