I’ve been meeting with many studios/distributors/console manufacturers in the last year, and getting them to admit that latency was a serious problem has always been a challenge. I’ve always wondered whether it was because they really believed lag was not a problem, or if they just refused to see it due to the fact that they have no control over it.
This is quite challenging for someone like me who’s trying to solve an issue for a market which seems to say they don’t need such a solution. But still…
Google the latest #1 game, or browse your favorite forum about gaming and you will find many, many players complaining about that. A single post in a deep dark forum may not be catastrophic for a AAA studio, but now even streamers are quite vocal about the poor player experience. The hype of the moment, Apex legends, was violently slapped by one of the top streamers, Shroud, during a session where over 100k viewers were watching him play. Keep in mind that those sessions are recorded, and this particular one had been watched over 400k times last time I checked.
For non-gamers out there, a lot of multiplayer games today work as follow: everybody starts on the same level, for every match. Everybody has an equal chance of winning as there’s no bonus to have initially (no stronger weapons, faster cars, more health, etc.) Better players are ranked and matched together before each match, but the mechanics within the game always remain the same. Now you see why latency can be so critical in giving you an edge against others. Few weeks ago, I was playing a game from Microsoft, Sea of Thieves, with friends based in the US. This game’s mechanic is as described above; everybody starts on the same level. But probably due to the fact that I was in Canada and my friends in the US, my server was located far from me. I had latency over 200ms. Fighting others was much harder because of this, ruining the fun I had. So long for the public cloud solving this problem.
So, why are gaming studios not seeing lag as their priority number one?
I believe the reason lies below. A hosting company did a survey with over 200 gamers and developers during the last GDC 2019. The answer is shown here in the first 2 bars; Developers believe that gameplay and mechanic is more important than lower latency, and players see low latency as more important than gameplay. For studios, it’s all about the game mechanics.
With the large offering of games on the market, gamers are switching quickly and for studio not to address their customers main concern can only lead to loss of revenues. You will not see any PR about this in the news, but ask any net code developer or network engineer at those studios and they will tell you.
With Cloud gaming starting to get traction (hype-wise…) this problem will be amplified by 3 to 4 times. I made a post on our company’s blog a few weeks about lag in cloud gaming. This lag we see today in video games is the tip of the iceberg, and it is not even the same as the one we saw at Stadia’s booth during the last GDC. Those lags will all add up, and guess what, gamers will not like that. Any fast pace multiplayer games will face serious problems in this kind of environment.
Gamers are buying WIRED mouse and keyboard. Do you know why? They want to avoid latency between their devices and their PC. This market is filled with examples like that, so go ahead and tell them that latency is not a huge deal.
Using edge computing to distribute gaming servers is key in solving this problem. Latency is a distance problem, getting closer is the answer. You may tie this with other things like guaranteed path through vpn (hello haste!), better net code in the game “guessing” what players will do, higher QoS in the network, shorter access time (hell-o 5G…), and such. Those are all good options, but there is no single silver bullet. Using all of those solutions together will give gamers the best possible player experience.
We at Edgegap can help studios by getting gaming instances closer from players. Reach out to get a live demo where we’ll show you how we can lower latency in your game (and how much I’m a bad player!).