For almost two decades lag has been the killer of online gaming. You’ll have a strong streak where you are beating or gunning down your opponents and everything is going great. Then you suddenly can’t move your character, your shots are missing, and your team ends up losing a match because of your lag.
You may grumble about how you need to buy a stronger Internet connection, but that may not be true. Here are some key ways to know whether your connection is effective enough to play online and what you can do to improve things whether you are playing on a PC or your phone.
The importance of Ping
Internet providers like Comcast advertise with their upload and download speeds, but those speeds actually are not that important for gaming. Most online games do not need more than one megabyte per second, and three will suffice for anything on the higher end.
Instead, gamers need to check their ping. Ping measures how quickly your computer can respond to data requests through the Internet. If you have a very high ping of 1000 ms (milliseconds), it means you are essentially playing a full second behind what everyone is doing. In games like Counter-strike or Call of Duty, that is catastrophic.
Furthermore, online servers will often boot people whose ping passes a certain threshold. While that threshold varies from server to server, 100 ms is a common number. If you have a high ping, then playing online games will be difficult regardless of what your download or upload speeds are.
Finding out your Ping levels
You won’t find ping numbers located on any Internet subscription plan, meaning you will need to find it yourself.
The easiest method is to just use Speedtest.net. Click the “Test” button, let it run, and see what your ping is. A ping below 20 ms is ideal, while above 100 ms indicates that you need to change things to properly game online.
If you want to test your computer’s connectivity while playing a game, a lot of games, particularly first-person shooters, will show you your ping while you are playing. Even if it does not, the presence of overwhelming lag almost always indicates that your ping is too high to play that game, especially if you can play the game just fine offline. If you cannot play it well offline, your computer may not be advanced enough to play it.
Fixing online connectivity
If you have confirmed that your ping is too high, how do you fix it? There are many things you can do for both your phone and computer.
The first step is to remove other programs or factors which may be burdening either your device or Internet connection in addition to the game. For a computer, close down any unnecessary background processes such as Internet browsers and torrent or streaming software. For a smartphone, close down background apps. And if you live with anyone else, their Internet usage can cut into bandwidth and degrade your ability to run online games. If multiple people are streaming or playing online games at the same time, the result can be that no one is actually having a good time playing them.
If cutting these programs does not work, you may have to look at cutting down on what the game is demanding for your computer. Lowering the visual settings means that your computer is sending less information to a server, which should reduce the amount of time it needs to get data back.
The second step is to take a look at your Wi-Fi router. As the Huffington Post notes, you should avoid surrounding your router with metal objects and should keep it away from concrete or brick walls. Also, try to place your gaming device near the router – or better yet, use an Ethernet cable to connect your computer directly to the router.
However, such programs should be used only as a last resort. The first problem is that such programs can boost your computer past its limits which can have bad long-term results. But the bigger problem is that there are plenty of programs out there which promise to boost your computer but really plant malware. Knowing which boosting programs are legitimate and which are not can be difficult.
Lag is a killer, and it can be incredibly frustrating buying a new online game only to be unable to play it thanks to high ping. But using each of these above steps can help you play better without lag and ensure you actually enjoy yourself.
Image Credit: Motion blur