Internet service plan sales can be confusing and a little pushy. Online gamers just want something that will keep them at the top of their game and free from lag, but what does that mean in internet plan lingo? There's a lot of talk about high speed internet, streaming, great for gaming and other buzzwords, but online gamers need to have at least a beginning engineer's understanding to make sure they're always at peak performance. Here are a few networking and system administration details to help you keep your ping low and your speed high.
Online Gaming Is Streaming
Many gamers without technical backgrounds may be confused about streaming plans being pushed towards gamers. Being able to stream videos while you're idle in Orgrimmar on World of Warcraft or League of Legends's lobby is okay, but not a big priority. The main reason is that gaming is streaming.
Streaming is used to get small bits of usable information fast. With normal downloaded information, you start the download, wait for it to finish, then open the file--a game, a movie, anything.
With streaming, you get the content as its downloading. Many parts of the internet use confirmations to send out information, which basically means having this conversation over the internet:
Computer: Hey! Server! Give me some files, mate!
Computer: Give me some files!
Server: Alright, here you go!
Computer: Okay, thanks!
Server: Wait! Did you get it all? Check first.
Computer: Looks like I got it all. Okay bye.
The conversation is just as awkward as it looks, and can get even deeper with security involved. Every request and confirmation is time spent not doing something else. Instead, streaming does one big confirmation at the beginning to make sure that the connection is ready, then throws everything in a sequence. You get every millisecond of a video as its sent and if you lost some, oh well. It'll appear as green blocks, or just slow down if enough goes missing.
With online gaming, missing data is worse than missing video information. Most actions you do on the game--from using an ability to moving around or sending a message to friends--is data being thrown at the server and the server throwing world information back at you. When that data is lost, it means you either did nothing or you were delayed as the information tries to send again--one of many manifestations of lag.
Why Would Data Be Lost?
Consistency is key here, and many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) sell consistency (usually with the word reliable) as an afterthought to fast. You can show big, increasing numbers for speed, but consistency is as hard to prove as any kind of quality before the customer can actually use the product.
Before dealing with ISP-side problems, many consistency issues can be caused at home. Have you or someone you know ever gamed on wireless internet before? The lag and disconnects is because wireless internet is like spraying a garden hose into a small pot to get the information to its source.
It doesn't all get in the pot, and the worst connections can spray all around the pot while missing the target. The same thing can happen with wired internet if your home wiring is coming apart, your modem or router is going bad, or you have a virus.
If you need new high speed internet, contact an ISP to set up an appointment and perform a few online gaming tests to figure out if their services are free of lag for your game.