If you spend any time on a gaming server, you will likely here the word "lag" used more than any other, and it will typically be prefaced by some burst of profanity. Lag is the byproduct of a slow connection to the server, typically evidenced by a slowing of the game for the player.
Ping Times One of the key factors in choosing a server to play on is the "ping" time to the server. The internet version of the ping is analogous to pings used in submarines. A small signal is sent from your computer to the server, and it is then returned from the server to your computer. The "ping time," or "ping," is the amount of time, measured in milliseconds, that it took for this signal to make a round trip. The lower the number, the better the ping and the better the potential for a smooth, fluid game.
Most server finders, like GameSpy, have built-in features that displays the ping time of servers. This number, however, may be different once you are actually connected to the server itself.
There are several things that can effect your ping times. First, the quality of your Internet Service Provider's (ISP) connection to the internet. If your ISP only has a fractional T1 connection or has too many users on a single connection, you will not be able to take full advantage of your connection. Second, the number of servers that lie between you and the server is also a factor. The more "server hops" your data has to make, the slower it will be. Geography is not necessarily a factor in this equation. I have played on several servers that were over 2,000 miles away and I had better ping times then players who lived 20 miles away and had a connection speed that was 4 times faster than mine. My route to the server was apparently more direct, and I did not suffer the same degradation in speed as they did. Third, the internet itself can slow down during peak times. Modem players will typically have a better ping times later in the evening and during the weekend.
The world of gamers is often divided into categories based upon a players ping. Low Ping Bastards (LPBs) typically have a digital connection to the internet or are playing on the same local network as the server. High Ping Bait (HPBs) typically connect to the internet through a modem with speeds of 33.6k or slower. Fortunately for HPBs, many tournaments are no divided into divisions based on connection speed. "Open" divisions do not limit the type of connection, but "POTS" (Plain Old Telephone) divisions are usually restricted to 33.6k modems and slower.
Here is a list of ping times and their likely effect on gameplay:
- 0 - 50 Player is either playing on the server itself (listen server), on the same local area network (LAN) as the server, or has a very fast digital connection to the internet and is close to the server. A good player at this speed is almost godlike.
- 51 - 100 Player on the same network or has a digital connection with few "server hops." Lag is still negligible.
- 101 - 150 Player is using a digital connection, such as a dial-up (ISDN) or direct cable connection (T1, T3, ect). Lag is just beginning to appear, but the game continues to be relatively smooth. 56k modems may break into this range on occasion.
- 151- 250 A very good connection for a modem. The server is typically close in geography and low in number of "server hops." Lag is noticeable, but does not impair the game. This is the type of connection that modem players love. A good modem player will still dominate an average LPB at this speed.
- 251 - 350 Typical range for 33.6k and slower modems, and probably the worst connection speed a LPB will see when playing on the same continent as the server. Lag is clearly noticeable and alters the game. Adjustments need to made in timing for movement and firing. This is the world of the HPB.
- 351 - 450 Lag is so bad at this range that entire sections of data are lost as the server and player try to reconcile information. This "packet loss" can greatly effect a player's ability to perform. You may occasionally see the graphic of a phone jack to alert you that you are momentarily not receiving information from the server.
- > 451 You are merely a target for other players. Packet loss is typically so bad at this speed that you may find that the computer will not respond to your input for several seconds. Here is the typical scenario: another player enters the room and you press fire and try to move out of the way. Your character merely stands there as the other player kills it. You respawn and then your character suddenly starts to fire its weapon wildly and runs into a pool of lava.
Bandwidth In addition to ping times, limited bandwidth of the server can be a component of lag. A server is required to simultaneously process information coming from all players and send out information to all players. A server's ability to instantly send and receive this information is limited not only by the server itself but also by the server's connection to the internet. If the server is part of a busy network, it may only have a fractional share of the network's internet connection. This limitation in bandwidth results in lag as the server tries to send and receive all of the required information through the narrow "internet window" open to it. As a result, a server that seems terrific with four players may become unplayable with twelve or sixteen players. Some administrators recognize the limitations of their server and place a limitation on the number of players that can join the server.
Lag is the principal topic of conversation in Lag City, created by John "Zaphoid" Krutke. This site does offer some irreverent advise on how to reduce lag and how to adjust to its effects. Lag City is also filled with humorous anecdotes and articles about the plight of the ping-challenged.
There are some basic things you can do to minimize the impact of lag:
- Reduce your screen resolution: This does not resolve true internet lag issues, but higher screen resolutions are more taxing on processors and may create an artificial lag. This will do nothing to help reduce true lag, but it can increase your framerate.
- Eliminate the soundtrack: Playing the music from the CD-Rom will cause slower machines to go noticeably slower.
- Reduce chat: Excessive "chatting" will cause a degradation in performance.
- Play later at night or on the weekends: Avoiding "peak" internet times will aid ping times.
- Choose your server carefully: Find a server that is close geographically and does not typically fill to capacity.
- Play games with "client prediction": The best way to get around lag is to have a software company do the work for you. Client prediction is technique where a server compensates for a players lag by predicting the player's movements. QuakeWorld and Quake 2 both include client prediction.
- Get a Good ISP: Get an ISP that is 3 hops or less from a major internet backbone.
|[Basics] [Servers] [Beyond basics] [Other versions of Quake] [Sources of information] [Citizenship] [Quake C] [Level editing] [Mods] [Quake derivatives] [Operating Systems] [Guide News]|
Last update: June 04, 1998
This page is maintained by Darren L. Tabor, aka DaKoTa
Additional text by Eagle