How to op­ti­mise your net­work for gam­ing

STOMP­ING OUT LAG RAGE.

TechLife Australia - - WELCOME - [ NATHAN TAY­LOR ]

FOR AN ON­LINE gamer, there are few things more frus­trat­ing than los­ing be­cause of net­work is­sues. This is a par­tic­u­lar prob­lem for Aus­tralians, since many on­line games don’t have Aus­tralian servers. It’s quite nor­mal when play­ing on a US server, for ex­am­ple, to have ac­tions oc­cur a quar­ter of a sec­ond (250ms) or more after you press the but­ton to ac­ti­vate them.

In pre­cise, high-ac­tion games that can be a killer, es­pe­cially when you’re fac­ing off against an op­po­nent for whom the lag times are less than 50ms. It can feel like you’re start­ing with a ma­jor hand­i­cap, and that ain’t fun.

So this month we have some tips to help you im­prove the la­tency times for your games. Just fol­low these five steps.

TEM­PER YOUR EX­PEC­TA­TIONS

The first thing you need to do is ac­cept that some prob­lems can’t be solved. You can op­ti­mise your lo­cal net­work, but once your data hits the in­ter­net it’s on its own. There is no way to force the var­i­ous in­ter­net back­bones that your data will tra­verse to pri­ori­tise your traf­fic, and you can’t deny the laws of physics.

For a start, even trav­el­ling at the speed of light, data takes time to tra­verse the ca­bles that take it to the other side of the world. Ev­ery router that it has to tra­verse along the way adds a few mil­lisec­onds of de­lay as well. Routers are like the street signs of the in­ter­net, and ev­ery time your data has to look for di­rec­tions for the next leg of its jour­ney, it has to slow down for a lit­tle bit to read.

CHANGE SERVERS IF YOU CAN

Many mul­ti­player games no longer give you much choice about which server you’re go­ing to con­nect to. They use “megaservers” or au­to­mat­i­cally as­sign you a server based on your lo­ca­tion. If you do have a choice, how­ever, you can try a few dif­fer­ent op­tions to see which gives you the best re­sults.

It’s not al­ways ob­vi­ous which server will pro­duce the best re­sults, but as a rule you pri­or­ity list should be:

* Any Aus­tralian server.

* A west coast US server.

* An east coast US server.

* An Asian server.

* A Euro­pean server.

The first one is ob­vi­ous. You may be won­der­ing why you might choose an Amer­i­can server over an Asian one since, ge­o­graph­i­cally speak­ing the Asian one might be closer. Well, aside from the lan­guage ad­van­tage of us­ing a US server, Aus­tralia’s fastest in­ter­na­tional links are to the US. We have far more in­ter­na­tional in­ter­net band­width to the US than we do to, say, Ja­pan, China or Ko­rea.

ELIM­I­NATE WIRE­LESS FROM YOUR LIFE

When it comes to gam­ing, wired is best. Wire­less com­mu­ni­ca­tions – ei­ther in your home through Wi-Fi or to the in­ter­net with 4G – add lag to any com­mu­ni­ca­tions. What’s more, they’re highly vari­able, with lag spikes and slow­downs com­mon on wire­less net­works. When a per­son walks be­tween your com­puter/con­sole and the wire­less router, for ex­am­ple, it may, just for a mo­ment, block or weaken the sig­nal, forc­ing the wire­less net­work to re­train, cre­at­ing a lag spike.

If it’s fea­si­ble, hook your con­sole or PC up to your router with a wired Eth­er­net con­nec­tion in­stead. Lag spikes will dis­ap­pear, and you’ll get the fastest pos­si­ble con­nec­tion.

As an ex­tra note, this wired > wire­less prin­ci­ple

also ex­tends to con­trollers and key­boards. A wired key­board and mouse will have lower in­put lag than wire­less ones.

SET UP QOS

De­pend­ing on your router, this can be one of the more com­pli­cated steps, and the re­sults can vary widely de­pend­ing on your home net­work­ing sit­u­a­tion.

QoS is short for Qual­ity of Ser­vice, and it refers to a sys­tem set­ting that will pri­ori­tise cer­tain types of traf­fic over oth­ers. It’s most rel­e­vant if your gam­ing ac­tiv­i­ties are com­pet­ing for lim­ited in­ter­net band­width with other de­vices in your home. If you’re try­ing to play a game while some­one else is video chat­ting or down­load­ing some­thing over BitTor­rent, for ex­am­ple, then your gam­ing data is go­ing to be com­pet­ing with that other data for lim­ited in­ter­net band­width.

In par­tic­u­lar, up­load band­width is at a premium on most Aus­tralian con­nec­tions. All the ma­jor forms of con­sumer broad­band in Aus­tralia are asym­met­ric, mean­ing they have much higher down­load band­width than up­load. On FTTN, for ex­am­ple, up­load speeds are typ­i­cally one-fifth of down­load speeds. Gam­ing can re­quire con­sid­er­able up­load band­width, but so can video chat­ting and peer-to-peer file shar­ing.

By de­fault, your router won’t play favourites. It puts the game data in the same send queue as the BitTor­rent up­loads. But you can fix this – you can tell it to pri­ori­tise the gam­ing traf­fic over other traf­fic. As men­tioned, this only ap­plies lo­cally – once your data hits the in­ter­net, your QoS set­tings won’t mat­ter – but if you’re fac­ing strong com­pe­ti­tion for in­ter­net band­width in your own home then it’s worth try­ing out.

Un­for­tu­nately, we can’t pro­vide a uni­ver­sal guide to set­ting up QoS, be­cause im­ple­men­ta­tions vary wildly across dif­fer­ent router models. Some routers have sim­ple pre-set so­lu­tions, where you can sim­ply choose games from a list and let the router han­dle the rest; oth­ers re­quire com­plex man­ual set­ups where you need to know the port num­ber of the game or IP/MAC ad­dress of the de­vice.

Most QoS sys­tems will al­low you to choose whether to pri­ori­tise a port num­ber or spe­cific de­vice. Pri­ori­tis­ing a port num­ber will put a high pri­or­ity on a spe­cific ap­pli­ca­tion that uses that port num­ber. For ex­am­ple, World of War­craft uses ports 3724, 1119 and 6012; if you pri­ori­tise those ports then you’re ef­fec­tively pri­ori­tis­ing WoW on your net­work. Pri­ori­tis­ing a de­vice, ei­ther by MAC num­ber or IP ad­dress means that all traf­fic com­ing from that de­vice gets net­work pri­or­ity. For ex­am­ple, you can say “I want my Xbox traf­fic to go first.”

You’ll have to log into your router’s set­tings to find QoS/traf­fic pri­or­ity set­tings. Let’s take a quick look at do­ing this on a Linksys router, as an ex­am­ple. Linksys uses a very sim­ple de­vice pri­or­ity sys­tem.

Log onto your router’s ad­min con­sole, and find the De­vice Pri­ori­ti­sa­tion set­ting on the left. Click on it.

TRIAL A GAME NET­WORK SER­VICE

If ev­ery­thing else has failed and you’re re­ally des­per­ate, you can trial a “game ac­cel­er­a­tor” ser­vice such as Out­fox (

or wt­fast ( These are avail­able on PC and on some routers, such as Asus gam­ing routers, and claim to use VPN tun­nelling and smart rout­ing over the in­ter­net to skip some of the rout­ing slow­downs ex­pe­ri­enced by nor­mal in­ter­net traf­fic.

We say use the trial, be­cause our ex­pe­ri­ence with these ser­vices – and the re­ported ex­pe­ri­ences of many oth­ers – is best de­scribed as mixed. Us­ing wt­fast, for ex­am­ple, we found it barely had any im­pact on play­ing WoW on US servers – if it had any im­pact at all. We have read some pos­i­tive re­ports in some in­stances, but this seems like very much a case of your mileage may vary – so use the trial be­fore hand­ing over any money.

WoW lets you choose servers, though none are lo­cated in Aus­tralia.

Turn on Pri­or­i­ti­za­tion. Down the bot­tom you’ll see a list of de­vices con­nected to the net­work, along with a pri­or­ity list up the top.

Wired con­trollers, mice and key­boards typ­i­cally have less in­put lag.

Sim­ply drag any de­vices from the bot­tom sec­tion to the top list to make them high pri­or­ity on your net­work.

Mak­ing the Xbox and PS4 go first.

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