When it comes to playing games over a network, whether you're using a game console or a PC, one feature of your network and Internet connection is more important than anything else. Right now, you're probably guessing that it's bandwidth or, more exactly, capacity. You're wrong. The most important factor is the latency of your connection.
Games send a surprisingly small amount of data over a network¡ªsmall that is, compared to what you might expect. The complicated stuff, graphics, sound, and video resides on each individual's console or PC. The game doesn't need to send any of this over the network. What the game sends is information about players, including position, damage, score, inventory, and the like. For everyone to be able to play without the game slowing to a crawl, this small amount of data has to get to its destination quickly.
I discussed capacity versus speed. I also mentioned latency. Latency is the time it takes for data to travel from your computer to its destination and back again. Latency is also known as Round Trip Time (RTT). There are several things that can contribute to high latency:
-A long or circuitous network route to the destination, which requires multiple "hops" along the way. Each computer or router that hands off the data to the next adds time.
- Network congestion.
- Interference on lines (DSL in particular).
- Signal transmission over a long distance; satellite users experience latency problems because of the time it takes their signal to travel through space and back (in both directions).
- Game server congestion.
- Improperly configured games.
Because of the high latency of satellite connections, they're useless for online gaming. If a salesperson tells you otherwise, they're either woefully ill-informed or dishonest. To play most online games, you need a RTT under 350 ms (milliseconds, or thousandths of a second). The RTT on most Bite connections is almost two seconds, sometimes longer.
Cable and DSL connections can suffer from high latency as well. Congested cable networks and signal interference on DSL lines can add RTT, which makes it hard or impossible to play online games. Even though there is little you can do to improve latency on your carrier's network, you can improve performance on your WLAN by not trying to play online games at the same time others are using the network to surf the Internet, print, or transfer large files.
You also should make sure that you configure your game correctly. Many games have settings that you can adjust to optimize them for the network connection you're using. Check the developer's site for configuration tips.