Networking

All about latency to play online: how to improve it and what is the ideal latency

Every day millions of users play games of various kinds online. Currently the multiplayer or multiplayer section offers us the possibility of fighting against rivals that can be anywhere in the world. The connection speed that we have contracted, or if it is fiber or ADSL, also has an important influence on the gaming experience. However, Internet speed is not the only factor to take into account, since, depending on how you connect, the experience can be very different. In this tutorial, we are going to talk about latency for online gaming, how we can improve it, what is ideal, and how ping plays an important factor.

Online gaming has changed a lot in recent years, and right now it is undergoing a major transformation. Next, we are going to make a brief summary of how the world of online videogames has evolved to become the mass phenomenon that it is now.

Brief history of online gambling and its future

When it began to play online in Spain it was in the 1990s. At that time 56 KB modems and even lower were used. The latency to play online was high and having a ping over 100 was not an easy task. The gaming experience was not entirely satisfactory, and furthermore, if you were playing games or viewing web pages, you could not receive phone calls.

In 2001 ADSL arrived, it was an important change when it came to playing. Finally having a ping below 100 milliseconds was a reality, and, in addition, you could receive phone calls at the same time. With speeds that started at 256 Kb, they have reached 20 Mb in ideal situations. With these connections, having a ping of 60 or 80 milliseconds was a fairly common reality.

Then in 2012 we found the next milestone, which was the beginning of the commercialization of fiber for the general public. It started with a speed of 50 Mb and currently there are connections of up to 1 Gb. With this type of connection, the latency to play online was around 50 milliseconds, but if the server is close, it is easy to reach 5 milliseconds.

Also a phenomenon that is increasing are the so-called electronic sports also known as cyber sports or e-sports. This has led to video game competitions that have become massive events. Thus, in recent years there have been major competitions for Counter Strike Global Offensive, Overwatch, League of Legends (LOL) and more. In fact, thanks to this, professional teams have been created that compete in these types of tournaments. That has made the rest of non-professional players to compete, they also like to get closer to them as much as possible.

Latency to play online and ping

Latency to play online and ping are two elements that have a close relationship between the two. In that sense, network latency can be defined as time delays within a network. This delay is produced by the delay in the propagation and transmission of packets within a network. Regarding the factors that intervene to achieve greater or lesser latency, it should also be noted that both the size of the packets sent and the equipment buffers influence both.

Regarding the way to measure latency, we use ping, which is measured in milliseconds whose initials are more. When we ping we send an ICMP Echo Request message  to the destination host, and when the destination server receives it, it responds to it. That response is made with an ICMP Echo Reply message . Here is an example of PING a Google DNS:

In that sense, the lower the ping is, the better for us. For example, if it were the server of a game, our movements and actions will be faster than those of our opponents. Thus, for example, if in a shooter or shooting game two users were to shoot at the same time, the bullets of the one with the lowest ping would arrive first.

What is lag and jitter when playing online?

A good latency to play online is essential, and for that we will need that, constantly, we have a ping that is as low as possible. When this does not happen, we find these two typical problems that we are going to talk about next. One would be the LAG, which occurs when we have a significant delay due to high network latency. Then, at that moment, the application or game slows down in such a way that it makes it difficult to use.

On the other hand, also another problem related to latency to play online is jitter. This could be defined as a temporary fluctuation of latency. For this reason, at times we can have packet losses or the dreaded “lapses”. Playing online can translate into jerks or teleportation in the game while playing online.

Types of Internet connection and distance to game servers

Right now, to play online we are using two types of connections. The first is fiber optic with which we can get the best latency to play online. Thanks to it, we obtain a higher speed and can even reach 1 Gb symmetrical. Speed ​​will also translate into improved ping. The other would be the ADSL, with it you would get much lower speeds and a higher ping. Reaching more than 15 Mb is not usual, to which you have to add that it is not a symmetric connection.

Another factor to take into account, in addition to the connection, is the distance to the game server. Therefore, in a server located in our country we will obtain a better ping. That is because the network jumps that we are going to have to make to reach it are much smaller. One thing that is usually observed in online games is that they are organized in regions such as Asia, Europe, America etc. For example, if from Europe we tried to play with fiber on an American server it would be normal to have a ping of 150 which would make the game very difficult.

Connection mode to the router: cable, WiFi or PLC

Depending on the way we use to connect to the Internet, our gaming experience may be different. Currently we could play connected in one of these three ways:

  1. Ethernet network cable
  2. WiFi in the 2.4GHz band
  3. WiFi in the 5GHz band
  4. PLC

Without a doubt, the Ethernet network cable would be our best option to obtain the best possible latency. Today, with a Gigabit Ethernet network card and a category 6 cable, we would have enough for a 1 Gb connection.

On the other hand, we have the WiFi, which will generally offer us a higher latency to play online, and, therefore, we will have a higher ping than by network cable. To this we must add the interference with the Wi-Fi networks of your neighbors and that we will have a greater chance of suffering jitter due to packet loss. In addition, it must be added that, depending on the distance that we are from the router, our connection speed will be worse or higher. One recommendation to get the best ping is to be as close to that router or access point as possible. If you have no choice but to play online via WiFi, our recommendation is that you do so on the 5GHz band because it is freer from interference, and you will have less latency and “lags”. By cons, the band of 2.

As for the other form of connection that we can use, it would be the PLC. Thanks to it, our data would travel through our electrical wiring, sometimes it could work better than WiFi, but this depends on the state of the electrical wiring, if we have electrical appliances that consume a lot of energy, or if we have a UPS putting noise into the local network. Taking all these factors into account, it would be ideal if you could test how the PLCs will work for you in your electrical network, because if it works badly, you will have to use WiFi or cable to be able to play without many problems.

Characteristics that a router must have to play online

The mode of connection to the router is not only very important, but also the firmware of the router and its power. Currently, any neutral router that we buy has the QoS feature , which will allow us to prioritize the packages of online games over other packages, therefore, we will notice an improvement in the games as they have lower latency, and, above all, less jitter. Another very important feature is the anti-bufferbloat systemthat incorporate the routers, especially those that are oriented to gaming. The Bufferbloat is one of the most serious problems that we can find, and that is that some manufacturers incorporate a buffer where the packages are stored and do not go out to the Internet, therefore, the experience when playing online is disastrous. The main gaming routers have a system that allows packets to be resent as they are sent, therefore, the delay is minimal.

Finally, it is also very important to open ports or the DMZ to the gaming equipment, so as not to have any problems with the NAT that we usually have in our routers.

What ping do we need to play online

To enjoy a good gaming experience, as we have already mentioned above, we need a fast connection, both in our Internet connection and also in the way of connecting to the router (it is ideal to use an Ethernet network cable to connect to the router), and finally, that the game server is as close as possible and that our operator can route all the packets fast to the server.

In that sense, it is advisable to have a ping of less than 50 milliseconds. Having a ping of between 20 and 50 is already a good starting point to play with guarantees. However, if we can go below 20 ms it would be the ideal situation.

On the other hand, from 70 or 80 ping we are already on the edge of what is admissible. This is common to see on quite a few ADSL lines. As soon as 100 ms are exceeded, you start to notice enough problems and when you reach 150ms of latency, it becomes very difficult to play.

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