Home > Design, Games, Rant > Is Anti-Lag Worse than Lag?

Is Anti-Lag Worse than Lag?

January 13, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Lag has been around since the very earliest days of online gaming, and there’s not much that can be done to remove it. It’s just a fact of life that, with current technology, it takes a bit of time to send data from one place to another, so someone is always going to be a little behind. Before, the lag was just accepted and played through, but recent technology has attempted to mitigate the problem with prediction and other forms of compensation. This lag compensation has some nice effects, allowing players to move smoothly and without the nasty skipping effects. Unfortunately, these techniques are not without their price.

While the immediate effect is that the player’s and other movements appear smooth, the lag still exists. As a result, weird stuff appears to happen and the player doesn’t even know it’s lag. The classic example is the dreaded “kill around the corner” scenario, typically observed in shooters. The player runs around a corner to take cover from enemy fire and dies thereafter, when he was clearly out of harm’s way. Little does he know that he was hit before he made it to safety, but didn’t know about it until a little more seemingly smooth game time passes by. These sorts of inexplicable alterations to the normal game flow can really become frustrating to the player, and their root cause is hidden by prediction or anti-lag.

I suppose what we can learn from this is that, in lower latency situations, anti-lag can be a useful technique for smoothing out the jitters. Unfortunately, when lag becomes more severe, its aggravating effects can be exacerbated. Perhaps an alternative technique could be employed for higher lag situations? Maybe games should just put heavier focus on matching people with nearby players? Or, perhaps this is just another argument for dedicated servers? I’d like to get your take and start some discussion on the problem and its potential solutions. Let us know what you think in the comments!

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Categories: Design, Games, Rant Tags: ,
  1. February 2, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    Anti-lag prediction client-side should not stray from assumptions made by the server. That probably means linear interpolation only. Anything else is a betrayal worse than the lag itself. In the example of turning a corner to hide, the player should not be allowed to change direction client-side in a lag situation. Why? Because there’s no way for the server to predict this action. At best, the server can only assume the player is continuing to move in a straight path based on last known velocity.

    • February 25, 2012 at 8:59 am

      Sounds about right.

  1. March 12, 2012 at 7:37 pm

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