Online gaming has come a long way over the past few years. However, with better speed, graphics, and interactivity comes a new set of problems.
One of the biggest is how to combat latency issues and get the best ROI for your investment in time and money.
What is Latency?
In a nutshell, network latency is the amount of time that it takes for data packets to travel from point A to point B. High latency degrades user experience, especially in circumstances where every second counts.
When you’re gaming online, delays of even a few milliseconds are critical to your response time and ability to stay in the game. Teammates suffer from your lack of agility, and your opponents count on it.
Not all latency issues have the same cause or solutions. You’ll gain a better understanding of how network speed works by understanding a few simple terms and how these elements affect the gaming community and individual users.
Ping is a series of tests that computer networks perform to determine the response rates of a system at any given time. More specifically, a computer sends a signal and measures how long it takes to receive a response. The lower the ping rate, the faster your connection.
On the other hand, latency is a measurement that determines the quality of a network connection. It’s measured in milliseconds, and the rate for solid gaming is 100 ms or lower. However, for optimal gaming, you want latency in the 20 – 40 ms range.
There are several types of network latency, each of which will inform the gaming environment.
- Fibre optic latency: How long it takes light to travel along a fibre optic cable. There is a default latency over fibre optic networks of 33.3ms. but the actual latency may be as high as 4.9 ms because light travels slower within a cable, and it can be further degraded by bends or kinks during installation.
- Interrupt latency: When the signal tells the requesting OS to stop so it can makes a decision on how to respond to a request or event.
- WAN latency: Is the rate of lag caused by networks. It usually occurs when the network is tied-up by handling too many responses regardless of where the request originates.
- Internet latency: Is the response time of packets traveling over a long distance. It’s a common issue with cloud-based gaming networks and devices with a VPN installed.
- Audio latency: Is the rate of delay between when an audio signal occurs and when it is heard by the listener.
Lag is the rate of network delay. It’s caused by a range of issues, including high latency, inadequate resources, and packet loss.
If you want the ultimate gaming experience, you need to reduce lag and optimize your network in ways that support your skill and the capabilities of your gaming system.
5 Issues That Contribute to Network Latency and How to Fix Them
With gaming, skill isn’t necessarily everything. All of the elements taken together, from your online gaming platform to the hardware and accessories you use, will either support or degrade your performance.
Internet Speed and Bandwidth
You can overcome this problem by choosing a service provider that guarantees a certain network speed and offers unlimited bandwidth. The same goes for virtual networks. With the competition for network services at an all-time high, it shouldn’t be difficult to find a service provider that meets your requirements.
WiFi definitely improves your flexibility and improves the portable nature of computing, but it’s not ideal for gaming. When you need to reduce lag, you’ll find a measurable difference in latency when you choose wireless connections over wired setups.
This problem is easily solved by using your Ethernet connection, at least during gaming sessions. You can always unplug later.
Too Much Computer Clutter
When you have too many programs running in the background, your OS or apps are constantly updating, or you’re playing on a busy network, it takes resources away from the task at hand.
Visit your task manager and disable unnecessary programs running in the background, temporarily disable network or software updates, and defrag your hard drive to maximize space.
Using a Proxy or VPN
Utilizing a traffic routing service to change your IP can be tricky. Since proxies or routing addresses are usually shared bandwidth is constricted giving many users a lower more laggy experience. This is often worsened by outright outages. If you’re utilizing a popular VPN service make sure to check how many data centers they are utilizing and the allotted bandwidth for each. A 2020 vpn report by Privacy Canada showed popular providers Nord and Express VPN offer high capacity servers with specified limits on number of connections therefore increasing connection latency.
Distance and Physical Proximity
As we mentioned before, distance has an effect on latency and lag times. That includes both your physical distance from the server as well as the distance between your router and your device.
One of the simplest solutions is to set your computer as close to the router as possible. When that isn’t an option, either because you’re gaming at an internet cafe or the router in your home is in a common area and you’re sequestered in your room, you have to focus on your relationship with the server.
Philosophies like edge computing bring the action closer to the source. If you’re using a VPN or proxy server, choose the location that’s closer to where you are geographically.
Inadequate or Outdated Equipment
Cutting edge games need cutting edge technology. If your hardware and OS are out of date, no amount of tweaking is going to overcome the problem.
Before you jump into the action, take a look at game specifications and make sure that your setup is compatible. If purchasing or updating your device, router, and OS are out of the question, consider public gaming forums like internet cafes that tend to have more current tech and hardware.
Optimal gaming depends on several things, each of which builds upon the other. Even one issue can degrade the experience. If you want to get the most out of your gaming equipment, you may need to troubleshoot and tweak a few issues with your network and connection speeds.
Have no fear. Our goal is to provide you with actionable tips that will help you maximize your investment and take your game to the next level.
Unsure how your network stacks up? You can perform a simple ping test that measures the capabilities of various games and gaming equipment.