Its a lag lottery rather than a game of skill

Call of Duty Ghosts XBOX 360

Its a lag lottery rather than a game of skill

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

Level 5
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Registered: ‎02-10-2013
237 REPLIES

Re: Its a lag lottery rather than a game of skill

in reply to britainjohhny

I do not have the technical knowledge to speak to your suggestions, but as I have stated in other threads -probably too many times- the last update has caused me really bad lag, such as you describe, where priorly I had decent connections. I have no clue what they did, but I wish they would undo it.

Level 12
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Re: Its a lag lottery rather than a game of skill

in reply to Slopat

Me too

Level 1
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Re: Its a lag lottery rather than a game of skill

in reply to britainjohhny

I have had lag issues since launch date. my connection is usually 60mbps download speed with over 10 upload on a 20 ping. i pay for decent internet. In my opinion it has gotten better overall. Usually around updates it is very bad. I like the ideas suggested above but allowing players to see their connection in game also would make it easier for people to manipulate the system and make it far easier for cheaters/hackers.  as much as i hate the  current system now i would hate it far worse if you add hundreds of people trying to lag down the system to get an advantage. My biggest problem with the game isn't the game itself anymore. The problem is the community!

Level 22
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Re: Its a lag lottery rather than a game of skill

in reply to ZotiRain

To combat people trying to lag down for an advantage they need to avoid giving people with a high latency (ping) an advantage through lag compensation, so there is no benefit of artificially increasing lag. Although, I can adjust my network latency, and increasing my latency seems to have very little benefit, if any, and doesn't fix my lag problems which seem unconnected to my network latency. People with high latency (lag) should be at a disadvantage as opposed to having an advantage, most people these days should have decent internet latency. Rather than using lag compensation to bring everyone down to the lowest common denominator, lobbies could be segregated by network performance.

Level 5
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Re: Its a lag lottery rather than a game of skill

in reply to britainjohhny

They do not artificially create any lag in the game. They do not slow down anyone's connection ever, that is not what lag compensation does or how it works.

No one should be at a disadvantage, no one at an advantage either.

No most people do not have decent internet these days, many still play on older slower lines and should not be forced to upgrade just because others have done so thinking they deserve a better game for doing so when that is not true, nor ever should be.

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Re: Its a lag lottery rather than a game of skill

in reply to trialstardragon

By artificially increasing lag, I was referring to gamers adding lag to their own network to get try and get a benefit from lag compensation - I can do this and have tested it to solve my lag issues, but it does not solve the lag problems, if anything, it makes lag worse. I was not suggesting that the game deliberately increases lag or slows down connections.

Level 5
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Re: Its a lag lottery rather than a game of skill

in reply to britainjohhny

My mistake and misread of what you had said then. I apologize for the mistake.

Level 70
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Re: Its a lag lottery rather than a game of skill

in reply to ZotiRain
Paying for better internet does not ever equate to better game on console, for the console games never use your full bandwidth ever and never will when playing a game. Would not matter if you had a 100GB down and 100GB up with 5ms ping. Your game would still be no better than anyone else ever.
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Re: Its a lag lottery rather than a game of skill

in reply to ZotiRain

Let me field something you said. You pay for 60, which would constitute a 20ms ping.. however, you're paying for UP TO, not a flat 60 at all times

In all honesty, your Xbox is only able to yank up to about 10 (not that it would need more than that), and likely you are averaging (on good fiber optics lines) around 6 while playing.

I pay for 20, average around 16 (5 while playing CoD), and have jumped as high as 56 (because they gave me an un-throttled modem.. their mistake my gain).. It isn't so much your download that's important, as if you're pulling 3-5 you're able to see what's happening as it happens.. it's your upload stream that's important with synchronization... there are times my downstream is holding around 30, but my upstream is barely peaking 4.. that's a real problem when it comes to me staying in sync with a competitive online game, and in fact I'm probably going to cause everyone to rubberband if I'm the chosen host of that match due to such a harsh upload inconsistency to the downstream..

So always keep in mind you aren't going to be getting anywhere near what you pay for while in an online match, their network will throttle you (that lag comp thingy) so you aren't ahead of the host chosen.. the only hope you have at compensating for in match lag and sync faltering is if you're actually holing a strong upload speed that day (and there's zero way to predict or stabilize it, unless you are your own ISP).. so paying out the ass for super internet speeds amounts to basically nothing on Call of Duty more than most of the time.. I'm paying for less than you and there are days when I get zero lag compared to my friends with better internet packages.. like the OP said, it's a damn crapshoot..

My friend Charles is regretting his upgraded net package, he's paying for twice what he got, on business class lines, and nothing has changed in any way while playing CoD... yet when he plays an MMO his ping is ridiculously low at all times.. it's the CoD servers or the architecture itself.. and I don't think they are actually trying to hammer out the issues.. they feel designed.. to be completely honest...

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