Improving ping and reducing lag for better MMO gaming

Fighting delayed response times can be the biggest boss battle for online gamers. Here we’ll explain what latency is, why it happens and how you can conquer it.

Quick responses are vital in the competitive world of MMO. Team play can get fast and furious, with no participant wanting to fall by the wayside for being too slow.

However, not all delayed reactions are the fault of the players.

Latency is the technical term for “lag” in networking. Your broadband and the connection to a gaming server will have a certain amount of latency for transferring control data.

What is latency?

It’s all about the time difference between a call for something and the response to receive it. Traditionally we use a “ping” data call to an internet server and measure the return time in milliseconds (ms) to gauge latency.    

High ping times make for slower responses for online gaming, with lower ping times most preferable.

How to check your ping

Ping can be checked in several ways. Windows and Mac users can do it from the operating system by entering an IP address via the command prompt or terminal.

Games also sometimes make this an optional test within settings or network configuration menus, or you might see a ping number listed on the server browser. Alternatively, various websites allow ping tests to be run from within your web browser:

  • <40ms = Very good, optimal.
  • 40-60ms = Acceptable latency for real-time gaming.
  • 60-100ms = Workable latency for standard online gaming.
  • 100-150ms = Noticeable lags experienced while playing games.

Quick tips for solving ping problems

There are some simple techniques worth trying before altering network settings or changing your broadband configuration.

  • If possible, always choose to connect to the closest server to your location. Games don’t always pick this correctly by default so it’s worth checking and changing.
  • Shut down other devices and applications that might be using bandwidth and creating unnecessary traffic.
  • Play at quieter times of the day. Avoid peak usage times for broadband in your location and consider the timezone of your server for when it might be busiest.

Does your broadband need levelling up?

Online gaming is generally not a very demanding activity for broadband. However, it’s useful for gamers to get the fastest connection they can afford for a few reasons.

Bigger, high-speed broadband connections tend to have better upload speeds as well as download rates. Upload has an impact on how quickly your data can reach the gaming server.

Faster download speeds are most useful for downloading games, patches and mods etc. more quickly. Similarly, faster broadband also helps with Twitch streaming.

Is it worth upgrading?

Upgrading your broadband speed will not normally have a massive impact on ping.

Switching from ADSL to fibre should improve ping times, but the difference will not necessarily be noticeable in practical terms. 

While Ofcom’s latency survey found full-fibre services to have the lowest lag times, all connections came in well below 30ms.

Professional gamers playing fast-paced titles may benefit most from an upgrade if they can get fibre to the premises, as full-fibre latency can be below 10ms. You can use a broadband comparison service to see if there are full fibre deals available in your area.

Optimising your local network

Start by running a speed test to check you are getting a speed to match your broadband package. If still experiencing lag, it’s worth eliminating the Wi-Fi network to optimise potential connection issues:

  1. Position the router in a central position within the home, avoiding sources of interference such as cordless phones, microwaves and fridges.
  1. Switch to 5Ghz Wi-Fi signal (802.11ac or ax) instead of the slower 2.4Ghz, if supported.

  1. Log into the router to view all connected devices and boot anything off that shouldn’t be there.
  1. If you need to extend the Wi-Fi signal for better coverage, invest in a mesh kit instead of cheaper boosters.
  1. Run an ethernet cable from your gaming machine directly to the router for the very best performance.

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