In the early 2000s a spin-off of the legendary Mega Man series was born for the Gameboy Advance. Abandoning the typical platformer for a real time tactical RPG on a 6×3 grid, Mega Man Battle Network was a large but well received departure from the typical Mega Man game. This series was so unique in the fact that it came with a PvP mode, not common for Mega Man games at the time.
Fast forward to 2015, years after the final game in the series was released. A player by the name of MegaMasterX founded a community where people could pit against each other in Battle Network. This community was dubbed the N1GP, and it cemented a path to keep the Battle Network games alive, and well. Now, with the release of the Battle Network Legacy Collection, Netbattlers have the ability to easily access the N1GP and start battling with people all over the world.
The N1GP runs its matches on a piece of software called Tango, a rollback enabled client made for the Battle Network games. It’s important to note that the games needed to play can all be extracted from the PC version of the Battle Network Legacy Collection. Making it easier than ever to join in on the fun with legally acquired roms. “It’s now a very convenient way to legally secure all the roms (except 4.5) for the purpose of playing on Tango, the rollback client we’re all using.” said Nonstopmop, a commentator for the N1GP.
I conducted a written interview with several members of the N1GP community to learn more about them. I received responses from SoulXCross, a lead commentator for the community, HonorNite a moderator, MegaMasterX the creator of the N1GP, and Nonstopmop, another commentator. MegaMasterX describes the N1GP as, “…quite literally the largest MMBN community on the internet. A place where people who love MMBN can come together, learn about competitive netbattling, make friends, get good, and just share in the love of the game series.” Several of the community members I spoke to mentioned the N1GP being a second home of sorts, cementing the idea of how welcoming the community is.
The Birth of the N1GP
In 2015, the N1GP was born when MegaMasterX was bored out of his mind, browsing /r/BattleNetwork and doing research into emulated link play. Only to discover that the Pokemon community already had a way to battle using the emulator VBA Link and a free VPN known as Hamachi. It turned out that Mega Man Battle Network 6 worked with it too. MegaMaster immediately went to work writing up a post on reddit, and taking the steps necessary to create the competitive community today. WIthin a short time, there were around 50 people in one Skype group, all playing the game remotely together.
MegaMaster elaborated more on the topic. “I created a reddit post, spun up a Challonge, found some 100% saves (Thanks again, Salad!), put up some of my personal collection as prizes, and a 50-ish person Skype Group was born.” They continued to praise Salad as the current lead community member, who has played a pivotal role in the growth of the community. “We worked with TeamBN who do MMBN Speedrunning to host the event on their channel, exposing PVP to their established audience. After the first event, Salad sounded the beacon for those who played BN way back in the day, and the community’s just exponentially grown since.”
With so many games in the series, it’d be a good question to ask which one is used for competitive battling. “Right now I think BN6 is the most competitive BN game due to its balance and great mechanics! Mechanics like Dimming, aka Time Freeze, chips weren’t a concept in earlier games (BN 1 – 3). There’s also things like all Wind Chips deleting Barriers/Aura after use that didn’t become a thing until the final game!” said SoulXCross. There’s some activity in 4.5, with the help of an additional PvP mod by GreigaMaster. But 6 has long reigned supreme as the top version to play.
It Takes Two to Tango
I asked MegaMasterX to further explain how players have played together over the internet. He gave me some interesting history behind the tools used to play. “We used to use an emulator that was the dev’s college project, VBA Link and VPN Tunneling software Hamachi. VBA Link has been long-since abandoned and closed source so we couldn’t really do too much to improve it. We moved to RADMIN from Hamachi for more stable net connections but issues continued to plague the online experience.” However, the emulation only improved thanks to a software engineer humorously known as Weenie. “Suddenly, a stalwart engineer – Weenie – joined up and blessed us with Tango. Rollback netcode created, quite literally, a whole new era of competitive netbattling. Tango supporting BNLC as well is just incredible. Weenie, you are a hero.”
For a community so deeply ingrained in the Mega Man community, and for so long. You’d think that Capcom would take notice right? I asked MegaMasterX if the community has had any contact with Capcom. “We do! Capcom encourages communities and has several community initiatives, like the Capcom Creators Program, to keep a dialogue going with creators and communities alike. The N1GP isn’t officially endorsed or supported by Capcom but they know about us and like to be kept up to date with how the community’s doing!” SoulXCross, continued by saying that some of the N1GP’s tweets were retweeted by the official Mega Man Twitter account.
The New Moon and The Blood Moon
The N1GP has rounds of seasonal tournaments, for the first three to four weeks in a month there’s a round robin tournament held weekly called NEW MOON. “NEW MOON is for
beginners to come in and explore the game/meta; just having casual matches throughout the week.” SoulXCross further elaborated on the various tournaments. “…after the NEW MOON events, we have a BLOOD MOON event. This is a serious business tournament for players competing for the moon master role on the discord server! Only one player has this role at a time, so it’s pretty special!”
The way net-battles are shown on stream is pretty unique. “People submit the matches they’ve played throughout the week during one of our NEW MOON or BLOOD MOON events.” said SoulXCross. “We gather the submissions and some of our backend staff review the notes/videos to find really spicy ones to put on the stream! For Blood Moon Top Cut though, usually every match has to be submitted by players to be streamed. The commentators however do live reactions to whatever videos were chosen, so we still get that fresh experience and shock value, just like the viewers!”
HonorNite is one of the staff who goes over the recordings to be shown on stream. “For our non-top cut streams, I’m usually the one reviewing and picking the recordings that get shown on stream. I watch each submitted match (at x2 speed) pick matches to get a balance of the most exciting matches while having good player representation…As far as the player builds are concerned, our tournaments are open setup, so they all have to submit their builds in a form before the tournament starts, so we’re able to put them on stream for the pre-match build breakdown.”
The Battle Network Legacy Reborn
I asked each community member what they thought about the re-released MMBN games on the Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection that recently came out. “The collection is a perfect one-stop-shop to getting into BN or even just reliving the journeys that brought the N1GP together. The games themselves aged fairly well mechanically and the stories within the installments are (for their time of release) quite well fleshed out. If I were to change anything, I’d have to say that the netcode is the biggest bummer of them all…” HonorNite elaborated further on the network issues. “The method for finding online matches is so asinine that you practically need an outside community to facilitate finding matches. And then there is the custom screen timer. Twenty (20) seconds! That is barely enough time to think through your turn. And don’t even get me started on the spotty connections.”
“The online isn’t too hot.” said Nonstopmop. “…The gazillion of settings you have to go through in order to actually play someone is just so much…The best thing is that it’s bringing Battle Network back to the eyes of the public, and tons of people are getting interested in the game again, which is really exciting to see.”
No Matter What, We’re Always Connected!
I asked some closing questions such as what was desired from a future Mega Man Battle Network game if there was one to come. “Honestly, after playing MegaMan BN6 for so long, i gotta say that I would want the same mechanics in the next game. Every detail in BN6 has been immaculate, and the PvP always feels fresh and based on user skill.” said SoulXCross. HonorNite had more difficulty thinking of what they desired from a new game. “How could they iterate on perfection? But if I had to pick, I’d like a theoretical new game to keep the same mechanics of BN6, but just have new content. I’d also appreciate it if every chip code was fully fleshed out.”
MegaMasterX had this to say. “If that were to happen, I’d definitely want them to keep the 6×3 grid. An expanded chip library would be pretty neat too. I think BN as a whole has a decent amount of customization in Patch Cards, folders, NaviCust, and various forms! I’d even take a mobile version of Battlechip Challenge”
Lastly, some of my interviewees had some people they wanted to shoutout! MegaMasterX had much praise. “I want to give a super special “thank you” to Salad, who’s been an amazing Community Manager and event organizer for many years. I also want to thank the administration, supporters, commentators, and Moderators of the N1GP for keeping the wheels turning for so long. Putting on these events and keeping the community safe is a herculean task and we couldn’t ask for better people to have in our corner. And, of course, a super special thanks to everyone who participates and shares in the love of MMBN!”
Shoutouts to the Real Ones
Finally, SoulXCross had a few words for the community. “Shoutouts to all the new and old community members who join(ed) our server! It’s fans like us who keep games alive and prosperous! The MMBN community is the best community for sure. And remember: No Matter What, We’re Always Connected!”
We’re always connected rings true. We’re all constantly connected to the internet through various devices at our disposal. From smartphones, smartwatches, and even smartfridges, it seems like our world has evolved into something similar to the connections made in the Battle Network lore. With every electronic device having constant internet connection, bringing “the internet of things” to reality.
You can watch the N1GP every Sunday on Twitch at 1pm ET https://www.twitch.tv/n1gp
Special thanks to everyone in the N1GP who made this report possible.