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 Ping, Lag, Servers and Truth!

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PostSubject: Ping, Lag, Servers and Truth!   Mon Jan 11, 2016 3:22 pm

A PC Perspective

For a long time the hallmark of online pc gaming has been dedicated servers. Beyond the ability to customize the game within a server, it is generally accepted that the only way to play competitively is on a dedicated server, or LAN.

The reason for this is that dedicated servers are, well, dedicated to the basic function of hosting. In p2p online gaming the hosts machine has to run a game client and deal with the extra networking code for hosting the match. This leads to a certain degree of latency that is created within the game client, which affects overall gameplay for the players involved. To complicate things further the host's own connection to the internet add's an unnecessary amount of latency. This latency is not only occuring due to bandwidth but also because the data they're sending and receiving must 'wait in line' on the internet due to Net Neutrality.

Dedicated servers are usually maintained by company's who sole business is to provide high-quality game servers. All of these companies run on gigabit pipelines that go from anywhere between 10-40 gigabits of bandwidth. Furthermore, unlike the open internet we use many of these companies operate on private fiber-optic networks where they can prioritize traffic. Microsoft is among those companies who own and operate their own private fiber-optic network.



What If My Ping To This Server is Terrible!

It's true, sometimes your ping and even connection to a dedicated server can blow. There are quite a few reasons as to why this may be. The most prominent being:

* Your own connection blows
* The servers cannot keep up with demand
* The company hosting the servers isn't very good
* The networking code of the game is itself laggy
* Distance to the server exceeds 2000 miles

However, often times it takes more than one of these factors to be present in order for there to be a detrimental effect on gameplay due to lag. For example. I can easily pwn in Blops on a server I'm 1800mi away from and ping 70ms to. That's b/c there's only one factor harming my experience: distance. Likewise, if I go to a server 1800mi away on COD3 performance is noticeably harmed b/c that games network code is adding a certain amount of lag and there's distance on top of it.



Ping, Connection, And How They Relate!

You'll oftentimes here people speak of their connection in terms of megabits per second and at times others will talk about their ping. Both are important to establishing and maintaining a stable connection.

Most if not every gamer is aware of how bandwidth works. The higher your bandwidth the more information, or packets, you can send and receive reliably. If you have insufficient bandwidth you can experience packet loss which in extreme can be seen as a 'lag spike'. While having a great amount of download is great you typically only really need to worry about upload in data plans. Around 3mbps is an ideal standard and I'd say for dedicated servers the benefits of upload cap at around 7mbps.

Ping on the other hand deals with how quickly you send and receive information. Pings are measured in milliseconds and typically ideal pings in gaming are between 20-70ms. To give a template for how ping and distance interact: A ping to a server that's 400mi away is about 20-40ms. At 1800mi away it's typically 60-80ms. A ping that is overseas in say, the UK, is around 120-160ms and can still be relatively playable.

If you have sufficient bandwidth then your next concern is any potential packet loss due to equipment and wireless. Routers and modems can lead to packet loss if they've suffered surge damage, damage due to repeated brownouts, or simply due to being ancient tech that's just old. There are other factors but that would require more in-depth information that would make this post, unruly. Pingtest.net should tell you if you have packet loss in any substantial form. It's also possible your packet loss may occur due to the line your ISP installed to your home.

Your ping can also be affected by wireless and equipment malfunction. The way you can test this is by opening command prompt and typing the following: ping (your routers ip add, typically 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1) which should come back as 1ms 1ms 1ms 1ms, ping (modems ip add typically 192.168.100.1) you should get back 1ms 1ms 1ms 1ms although it's not particularly important if it's not all 1ms. Modems are not as robust as routers and any variation between 1-14ms is ok so long as the majority of responses are at least around 5ms preferably though 1ms should dominant.

If your equipment and wireless tests out then your next avenue for testing and improvement is your ISP's infrastructure.



It's Your ISP

Yes, it's a common enough statement. It's common because it's often true. ISP's have a history of being, well, just never trust your ISP. But this is besides the point. There are a varity of ISPs and a majority of them provide solid connections for gaming. However not all are equal and some are not particularly good for gaming. ISP's such as AT&T or really any dsl is not very good. It's not because of only the bandwidth limitations. It has just as much to do with the technology they use in their infrastructure.

By now Verison FIOS is well known to gamers. At one point or another we've all come across the all-powerful FIOS Warrior. The reason FIOS is so good is that Verison's network is entirely Fiber Optic down to the line coming into the house. Using fiber for the last-mile connection is quite expensive, but the benefits are real and that's why Verison does this. They know it's the future and they're going to lead the way. But FIOS isn't nearly as available as we would all wish it. Don't worry, 2nd best isn't all that bad.

Second best would be ISP's such as Comcast. Comcast's infrastructure consists of a backbone fiber-optic network with the traditional last-mile connection being Coaxial. This allows Comcast to offer high-bandwidth performance tiers to many of their customers at an affordable price and offers gamers a decent enough ping. It's not ideal, but it's affordable and quite available.

DSL. It's usually what you get when you can't get anything better. That's usually because of some anti-competition laws that are, well, frankly the reason the US is lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of internet infrastructure. AT&T offers dsl to alot of areas as does Verison and many others. The thing with DSL is that it's mostly coaxial and has very little fiber optics. This leads to higher pings and lower bandwidth as maintaining signal strength over long distances is difficult to do efficiently over coax. There are some strides being made in this area which should noticeably increase the bandwidth and perhaps even pings in the future. But DSL is really a dead-end as similar strides are made in both fiber and cable in an arguably faster and more consistent manner.



Other Factors Which Can Contribute To Lag!

Sometimes it can be as simple as the signal strength you are getting with your wireless. Sometimes it can be that there are objects interfering with your wireless such as a CRT tv. You should try to give your wireless device as clear a line of sight to your router as possible. Ideally the only things between you and your router is drywall.

There's also something else you may want to consider, or perhaps even simply shut out of your mind altogether. Your Consoles NIC(network interface controller) may have thermal damage which means you would have to buy a new console in order to fix this weak-link. This usually isn't the reason for very pronounced issues that are game breaking, but it can have a noticeable and negative impact on performance. My old 360 elite(falcon chipset) got so hot during my first use that it shut itself off in order to avoid an rrod. I'm confident that's when my NIC suffered thermal damage.

I'm confident because I immediately went and purchased an Intercooler and my 360 from then on was as cool as can be. Also, 360s using the Jasper chipset should be safe from thermal damage. Jasper began to ship in Aug of 08, but Falcons were still prevalent in Jan of 09 when I was attempting to trade my Falcon in for a Jasper to no avail. I recall the way to tell whether or not your 360 uses Jasper is by the psu. If I recall correctly Jasper has a 150w psu and Falcon has a 175w psu. If you have a 360S thermal damage of any sort should not be a consideration unless you have your 360 in an enclosed space, in which case, you are an idiot.


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