Want to know what latency is, and every gamer obsesses over it? You are in the right place. We will take an in-depth look at latency and explore why network latency is crucial to gaming.
In this article, we will also go over how you can optimize the latency for smooth and interrupted online gaming. Keep reading for everything you need to know.
What is Latency?
Latency is the delay in response time when you instigate an action on your end and the time it takes for the action to register on the monitor screen.
For instance, latency is said to be the difference in time when you move your character in-game and the time it takes for the action to register. In more technical terms, it’s how long a packet of data takes to reach its destination.
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Latency is characterized by very short intervals. As a result, it is measured in milliseconds (ms). Often you will complain about lag. Lag is when the latency is very high, so the game takes very long to respond to actions. Low latency results in a better user experience, whereas high latency can cause serious performance issues.
Why Latency Exists in Gaming
Every online game that connects to a network and carries data packets has an element of latency. For gamers to play together seamlessly, all gamers are connected to a server on which the match is hosted, despite playing in different geographical locations.
The central server to which you connect when playing games is located outside your region. For example, suppose you are from New York. The server for online games might be located in California.
Since the server is not in your region, it takes time for the data packets to travel. So, the next time you press the forward button on the keyboard, the data from your computer, which is located in New York, has to reach the server, which is located in California. Once the raw data reaches the destination (the server), it processes it. The data passes at the speed of light.
The processed data is sent back to your computer, which registers the action. The time the network takes to complete this process is measured in latency.
Causes of Network Latency
There are many factors that affect latency when gaming. So, it is totally normal if you experience different latency than the people you’re playing with.
Here are some of the factors that affect latency:
The main factor affecting network latency is the distance between the game server and your geographical location. The closer a game server is to your location, the less latency you will have. This is because there is less distance for the data to travel.
On the contrary, the further away the game server is from your geographical location, the higher your ping will be.
Insufficient internet bandwidth can result in packet loss. Packet loss is when the data sent by your computer doesn’t reach the game server. Packet loss can cause fluctuation in latency, impacting game performance and causing delays.
You should always opt for high bandwidth internet without limits, where possible. Low-bandwidth internet is not recommended for gaming.
The type of network, and network performance, can seriously impact latency. For example, super-fast fiber optic is better than standard broadband. Connecting via an optic cable rather than WiFi is always a better option for a stronger connection.
If you’re using a VPN to hide your IP address or access geo-blocked content, this can also cause latency issues. We recommend turning it off to get the best results.
Old network equipment, such as worn-out cables or outdated routers, can also affect latency. They are, however, the hardest to troubleshoot. So, you might need to consult with your Internet service provider if you have old network equipment.
As well as network equipment, the device you’re using may impact your gaming performance. It won’t cause latency issues, but an out-of-date or low-performance PC could cause lag or freezing. There are many affordable gaming PCs on the market if you’re looking for something new.
What is Good Latency When Playing Online Games?
The ideal latency for gaming is anything under 60ms. For competitive games such as Valorant, Call Of Duty, or similar, your latency should be around 40 ms or under for excellent gameplay. If your latency is above 120ms, you will have difficulty playing online games.
At 120ms or higher, the response time will be prolonged. As a result, you might feel as if the game is lagging. The only time when the latency is not a concern is when playing offline story games. These games don’t require an active internet connection; hence, no latency.
How Does Latency Impact Gaming?
Latency is one of the pillars of gaming. It has many effects on games, which are as follows:
- Delayed response: If the latency is high, gamers might experience a delayed response. It will be especially prevalent when playing fast-paced games requiring split-second actions.
- Disconnection from the game server: A frequent fluctuation in the latency can lead to a disconnection from the game server. If you are in the middle of an online game, disconnecting from the server can result in a ban.
- Time jumps: Time jumps refer to misalignment between the output on the screen and the input you are giving in-game. It results from high latency because the server cannot render the information sent by the client in time.
- Excessive Loading: If you are experiencing excessive loading screens in your game, it is due to high latency. The data sent from your computer is not processed by the server in time. Hence causing a delay in the form of in-game loading screens.
How to Improve Network Latency
Is your latency higher than 60ms? Or are you experiencing any of the aforementioned effects when gaming? If so, don’t worry. Here are some ways in which you can improve latency.
Connect to a Server in Your Region
Latency is dependent on your geographical distance from the game server. To improve latency, connect to a game server located in your region.
For example, if you are from New York, connect to a game server on the East coast. Similarly, if you are from California, connect to a server located on the West Coast.
Get a Fiber Optic Internet Connection
Fiber Internet has the least latency when compared to other Internet types. Fiber internet also offers faster speeds than DSL or cable. As a result, your latency will drastically improve on a Fiber connection. Sometimes, the result can be as high as 20-30ms.
Connect your Computer/Console with an Ethernet Cable
I know leaving the convenience of Wi-Fi is a tough ask. However, due to the nature of Wi-Fi, it is prone to interference. Any slight interference can cause latency to fluctuate when gaming. If you want a stable and reliable connection, you must use an Ethernet cable. Not only will your latency improve, but it will also eliminate any disconnections.
Cut down on Internet load
If you have many users or devices connected to the Internet, the load on your Internet will be very high. As a result, less Internet bandwidth will be allocated to your online game. If you want lower latency, cut down on your internet traffic or upgrade your Internet speed to 200+ Mbps.
Use a Dedicated Gaming Router with QoS
Get a dedicated Wi-Fi router if you want to reduce latency. There are great options from both Netgear and Asus, which you can check out. Irrespective of which brand you go with, make sure the router you are getting has QoS.
The QoS is a router interface that lets you configure the best setting for gaming latency. With QoS, you can allocate the maximum speed any device connected to the Internet gets. So, if you have a lot of users in your home, you can limit their maximum speed to reduce the load on the Internet. Some routers even come with dedicated gaming QoS which does all the optimization for you with the click of a single button.
Latency is a critical part of gaming. Therefore, it is important that you not only understand what latency is but also how it works. I hope this article clarifies all of that.
With that being said, it is time to wrap up the article. However, if you still have any questions regarding latency, feel free to reach out, and I will get back to you. Till then, Happy Gaming!
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Tech enthusiast by the day and spirit gamer by night. Waleed loves combining his two passions into writing and is ready to contribute to making Tech easy and accessible for everyone.