The multiplayer mode is the main part of the games. Of course, most multiplayer games are played online, and gone are the days of dial-up internet access where you had to invite friends over to play on split screen. However, in online gaming, one of the issues that bother many people is ping and high latency.
What is ping in games?
In games, ping is used to describe the delay between players' input and the servers' response to those inputs. Latency is the burst of time it takes for your game action to reach the game server and be logged, or for a message from the game server to be logged on your device. This delay is called ping and lower ping is better as it means less latency and smoother gameplay.
Ping is measured in milliseconds, which is shortened to ms. A ping of 15ms or less is generally considered great, 15 to 45ms is great, and 45 to 100ms is somewhat acceptable. Pings over 100-250ms are barely reproducible, while anything above 250ms is often impossible.
Of course, playability on these pings depends on both the level of the game and the type of game you're playing. Some genres such as FPS games are particularly sensitive to ping and most players will notice a problem in the 50-90ms range. MMOs and RTS tend to be less sensitive to higher pings, while turn-based games hardly suffer from high pings.
How important is ping in online games?
Ping tends to be more of a factor in high level gaming than for most people. Professional esports events are usually held on a local network because it minimizes ping. This helps ensure that game results are dependent on individual performance and not network performance.
One common genre that needs low ping is shooters, especially first person shooters. You may have heard the often used term "gaze advantage". This describes how the delay between clients due to ping allows a player coming around a corner to gain an instant advantage in reaction time since their character model has not yet run out for their opponent. A player with a lower ping will see you faster if he looks around the corner, then your computer will register his movement.
If you're noticing unusual effects in your game, especially related to freezing, teleporting characters, or connecting hits when they shouldn't be, this could be an indicator of high ping. Many games that are particularly sensitive to ping include some sort of ping indicator. Often this will be displayed in the game's exit or start menu when the game is running, although some offer this as an optional UI element. In games where you specifically select a server to connect to rather than using a matchmaking service, the server browser will almost always include a ping indicator and will often allow you to sort by best ping.
How to reduce internet ping in games
Ping is primarily affected by two things: the distance between you and the game server, and the amount of network traffic passing through your network. Sometimes there can be hardware issues such as poor infrastructure causing signal loss, but it mostly depends on your ISP.
The distance effect is why many multiplayer games offer separate regional servers. Gamers in Russia will have much better ping when connecting to a European server than, for example, when connecting to a North American one. If you happen to live especially close to where the game servers are located, you might be one of the lucky few with very low ping in this game.
Other network activity in your home can significantly affect your ping. This is because your network connection is a limited resource, and if the download takes up most of your bandwidth, your game traffic may not be transmitted reliably. This especially affects devices connected to the wireless router due to interference, so it's best to connect gaming devices via an Ethernet cable.
If you really need to use a wireless connection, try to make sure you have a strong signal by being close to an access point and minimizing objects, especially thick walls, in the way. Satellite Internet is generally very bad for ping sensitive games due to the long distances the signals have to travel. It is recommended to use fiber optic or wired internet as they are faster and usually have lower pings.
To reduce your ping, it is recommended to minimize other network activity when playing ping-sensitive games. This is especially true if most of your internet speed is being used for high resolution downloads or streaming, for example. This is usually not a problem if you have a high-speed Internet connection and are connected to your router via an Ethernet cable.