In the online gaming industry, an industry worth $134.9 billion according to gamesindustry.biz, user experience is king. Most games, regardless of genre or platform, are now expected to have an online multi-player component and that gaming experience is directly affected by a user’s network connection. But with 2.5 billion players spread across the globe, how are video game companies ensuring their product will work for everyone at the same time? Players are not going to continue playing a game that feels unstable or unfair, so for online gaming companies, it is imperative to understand how network limitations impact video game performance and how to work around them to guarantee a good user experience.
How Network Conditions Impact Game Play
Probably the most critical network issue affecting online video game performance is latency. With players connecting on a global scale, companies must find a way to compensate for each user’s varying degree of latency. For live action games like 1st person shooters or fighting and racing games it becomes especially important. At what point does the latency cause a user to experience lag? 20ms, 40ms, 60ms? Finding and working around that threshold is essential for upholding fair game play conditions. And what about bandwidth limitations? Does a player with higher bandwidth have a better gaming experience?
Ensuring Good User Experience
When players log into online games, they are generally connected to one another via servers. An algorithm is then used to find the best suited opponents and team mates. Gaming companies must rigorously test their games to ensure they continue to perform equally well for players on all network types or write logic to strategically pair players together with similar network conditions to ensure a similar experience.
Testing the affect different network conditions have on game play can be a long, arduous process. Besides the varying network types players may be connected by, the possible combination of impairments on each player’s connection like latency, jitter, and packet loss adds complexity to the situation. Plus, companies often need to test from geographic locations where they don’t currently have servers, forcing them to pay for co-location services.
Testing Best Practices
With network emulation, you can recreate the realistic network conditions that users will encounter for more accurate and controllable performance testing of the game. There is no need to pay for rack space or facility fees just for testing purposes, because you can create geographically dispersed networks right from the lab. Developers, quality assurance and other departments can set up automated testing to asses game performance on any network type. By testing with a network emulator, online gaming companies are able to find network-related issues before their customers see them.
Apposite network emulators can simulate links from hundreds of users each with their own set of impairments, from bandwidth constraints to latency and packet loss. The whole system takes less than 15 minutes to get set up, and building your network is intuitive and easily automated through CLI or API. By automating the testing process, and generating hundreds of networks in one box concurrently, online gaming companies are able to speed time to market and troubleshoot more efficiently. They can also ensure that gamers on any network, connecting through any server, anywhere in the world are getting the best performance out of their games. Better user experience leads to happier users and happy players tell their friends.