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Understanding Lag In Online Gaming

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Online gaming has boomed from a few niche games and dedicated communities to a medium in its own right for multiple genres of games. From competitive first person shooters and Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs) to streamlined co-op and Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games, there are many ways to connect with players across the world for different types of gameplay. One uniting frustration is lag, and a few of these details can help you pin down the problem while finding a better way to stay connected.

What Is Lag?

The gaming term lag describes delays in delivering information. It is derived from the networking term, which means roughly the same thing. As online games are one of the more popular and noticeable ways to truly feel how the internet works, lag can ruin the evening for gamers with much heavier severity than people who simply browse websites may experience.

Internet traffic is a series of steps that move in a logical order, and when one packet of information is delayed, it causes huge chains of delays along the entire line. As an online gamer, this means every command that you send and every environmental action that you need to experience will be slower.

When you fire your gun, the bullet may shoot at one time on your screen, but not register in the game until hundreds of milliseconds or multiple seconds later. People who know the fantasy worlds of Everquest, World of Warcraft, Rift, or Final Fantasy know the frustration of a 2 second spell taking 5 seconds to cast, or an instant sword swing taking multiple seconds to actually happen.

On the other side, you may not see that enemy scout running in front of you. They'll be able to see you, shoot, and move on before you know what happens--or, if they're unlucky, you'll be zipping around the map as your character loses sync with the game. In the fantasy world, you may not be able to ready your defenses against a feral druid leaping from the bushes, or you may not be able to heal your team during an intense battle where entire health bars are decimated in a second.

Causes And Solutions For Lag

The delay could be internal to your network, internal to the game company's network, a problem at your Internet Service Provider (ISP), or a problem with the internet at large. First, understand the things you can change.

Is your network being slowed down by heavy internet use? This means using up your full network capacity or bandwidth by downloading huge files at the maximum capacity possible. If your internet connect is at a low, basic level, even basic tasks such as watching Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime could slow things down.

If you're below the average internet speed in the US, it's time for an upgrade. There's no sense in rationing out internet speeds from a decade ago. If other people are downloading carelessly at high speeds, ask an ISP technician to set some limits to your router.

Sometimes, an ISP may be having network performance issues. After you've confirmed that your network isn't the problem, you just need to wait for their repair and consider checking with other customers for similar performance problems.

If the problem is at the game servers, there's nothing you can do aside from waiting and checking for performance issues. Contact an ISP professional, such as at Solarus, to discuss other possible problems, and to get a speed package that matches your household needs.