I'm still enjoying Ghosts, but starting to get very frustrated by the game synchronization or lag issues I experience in most games. It seems to be a lot worse since the Onslaught DLC and latest patch were released.
To be clear, by lag I mean that my game seems to be running half a second or more behind enemy players - instant deaths, losing gun battles when I clearly started shooting first, etc. I gather from forum comments that not everyone suffers from these problems, but it is also clear from the many posts across forums for all platforms that a significant number of people are suffering on all platforms.
For a living, I develop systems that use the internet for real-time network communications and are very sensitive to network latency when correlating events across thousands of remote clients to an accuracy of a few milliseconds. If I released a system that had the unpredictable latency/lag that ghosts suffers from I would get fired faster than you can say "WTF".
I've come to the conclusion that for me and many others, once you reach a reasonable level of skill, success in the game is less to do with skill, and more to do with game synchronization problems causing lag benefit or handicap. For many people the game is not an even playing field, and is actually a lag lottery rather than a game of skill.
Obviously you need some skill to do well in ghosts with or without lag, and you will always get some network related lag issues, but no amount of skill can compensate for the significant lag handicap many people are suffering from most of the time.
What makes this particularly frustrating is that the lag doesn't seem to be related to network performance, as we keep being told by Activision support or helpful forum posters, so no amount of rebooting routers, setting up DMZs, minimizing network load, switching ISPs, etc. will help.
I'm a fairly decent player, 8th prestige, usually top 3 in most games, K/D around 2 on a good day when everything is working well with no apparent lag benefit or handicap. With lag benefit I often get a K/D of 10 or more (I know I'm not that good), with lag handicap I can barely break even, and more often than not go very negative. I have many years’ experience playing COD and recognized when I have a lag benefit, when I have a lag handicap, and when I just get outplayed. Since the Onslaught DLC release and latest patch I seem to have a lag handicap in 90% of games, playing half a second to a second behind most enemy players.
I understand that you will always have some unpredictable lag with internet based multiplayer games, but average internet delay (ping) does not account for the half second delay I seem to suffer from in ghosts, most of the time. The typical internet latency (ping) of most internet connections in Europe and US today is in the region of 15-50ms for connections within a 1000km radius. There will always be exceptions when latency is higher, but on average the internet network latency does not explain the half second (500ms) or so delay that ghosts suffers from most of the time. Most games I've played that have the problem are UK only lobbies where the network latency should be a lot less that 500ms, but even UK/Euro or UK/US lobbies should not suffer from 500ms network latency. This leads to the conclusion that the lag problem is in the game or xbox not the network.
To prove this to myself, I've thoroughly tested my network and connection to the internet and peer xbox systems during games. I'm based in London and have an average network latency (ping) of about 10-30ms to anywhere in UK and 30-50ms for Europe (I've tested to systems at the UK extremities and across continental Europe). I've tested the network latency (ping) using the UDP ports used by xbox live and ghosts, in case my ISP does packet shaping on xbox live, but I get the same results.
I've run numerous tests, continuously measuring my network latency (ping) to peer xbox systems and xbox live servers during a game. In many cases with a UK only lobby, when I'm suffering from lag where I'm half a second or more behind enemy players, my ping to peers and xbox servers is around 20ms, the maximum I've seen was 150ms, so my network connection cannot be the cause of the half second delay I seem to be experiencing in the game. The network latency of all other peers to the game host could also affect my game, but it seems unlikely that so many people would have an internet latency (ping) much higher than the UK average as often as I suffer from lag, and peers having higher latency than me does not explain why I'm behind them by half a second in the game – if anything I should be ahead of anyone with a higher network latency, unless the game lag compensation is significantly over compensating.
From the testing I've done, I can only conclude that the lag problems I'm suffering from are in the game or the xbox, and are not due to my network, the network of the peer xbox systems or the internet. There are some obvious possibilities, lag compensation (over compensating), application slowness, network packet buffering (application/OS slowness), dropped packets (application/OS slowness).
It would help relieve the frustration and possibly help solve the problem, if the developers could make some changes to allow us to better measure our own network and game performance.
1. Monitor and publish in game stats about UDP buffer size/overflows, connection latency (ping), jitter and dropped packets (real figures not just a meaningless bar graph), CPU usage
2. Switch from UDP to TCP. Unlikely to ever happen, but with TCP we would be able to see 'ack' packets on the network which would tell us the network latency and how much this is contributing to the game lag, we would also be able to watch the TCP window size, which would tell us if the xbox or game was keeping up with the network traffic.
However, I'm sure everyone that is suffering from significant lag issues would prefer if they just admit there is a problem, figure out what is causing the problem and fix it, here are some suggestions.
1. remove lag compensation as a possible cause of issues by limiting the effect of lag compensation
2. remove network latency mismatches by changing matchmaking to match players with similar network performance within small bands of performance
3. If sequencing of event processing contributes to lag or lag compensation various over time then use a round robin rotation to give different players the benefit or handicap over time during a match