Keeping Lag Away From Online Games

There's a massive world of adventure, challenge and social intrigue in the world of gaming now that Internet access is faster and more consistent than ever before. Gamers are in a golden age of their lifestyle and craft, but it's still possible to miss peak performance and the true experience of gaming if your Internet connection isn't up to par. If you can't stand lag and want to know more about the prime causes, examine a few traits of online games and the network perils that ruin the experience.

What Does Lag Mean?

For many gamers, lag means anything that slows down gameplay. Although it may seem like splitting hairs, there are actually different performance issues that have very important distinctions if you want to fix the problem--troubleshooting one won't help the other.

Slow performance from computer overload is not lag. Some people explain it as a 'chunky' level of performance where the screen seems to be changing into a series of still images or the computer itself seems to be slow. This can be caused by many issues ranging from too many programs running at once to overheating or computer viruses, but not related to the true meaning of lag.

True lag is a delay caused by network problems. You can usually tell the difference between computer performance problems and lag by looking at how the game performs. Are the graphics moving smoothly aside from your character not performing? If your character is moving in place or performing idle actions such as heavy breathing, spell casting or lifting a gun, it's a network problem.

What Causes Network Lag?

When you install an online game, you're installing all of the graphics assets such as character models, the game environment and files needed to run the game. The only information that needs to be sent to and from the game server is updates about what your character is doing. These messages are called packets, and are very small in size. All players send a regular set of updates to the game server and the game server returns the game status at a nearly real-time speed.

In any scenario, lag is a result of messages not making it between your computer and the game server on time. There are many problems that can contribute to network issues, but there are only a few issues to consider when troubleshooting lag.

  • Internet speed. Online games are designed to use as few resources as possible in order to make sure the most players are able to get the best experience. Unfortunately, if you're still using dial-up Internet speeds or any speed below 1mbps (megabits per second) download and 512kbps (kilobits per second) upload, you may not be able to send (download) and receive (upload) information between your computer and the server fast enough.  
  • Network type. Wireless is absolutely wrong for online gaming, although some people have to make do. When you send information over wireless Internet, you lose some of the information as wireless signals broadcast to the wireless device. It's a bit like a water hose spraying in the general direction of a flower pot; you're getting enough water in the pot, but a lot of water is lost. Anything that doesn't make it to the router (or other network device in your building) must be reset, which results in a delay. Stick to a wired connection if possible.  
  • Network usage. If you or others on the network are doing a lot of downloading, your game performance may be affected. The biggest impact on gaming comes from uploading, as many residential Internet packages have slower upload than download.

If you'd like to get an Internet connect that supports your gaming and the downloading habits of others, contact a high speed Internet Service Provider (ISP) to pair your gaming usage with an Internet package that fits. To learn more, contact a business like Virginia Broadband, LLC.