Categories: Games News

What is ping and why is it important for gaming?

(Pocket-lint) – When playing multiplayer games, it’s important to know what your ping is and how it can affect your game performance.

Aside from having a sharp aim and good reflexes, there are a few things that can positively or negatively affect your games and influence whether you win or not. Ping is one of those things. But what is it and what can you do to improve it? Stay with us to find out.

What is ping?

When you are gaming, the word “ping” is used to refer to the time it takes to receive the signal sent from your gaming PC by the game server you are playing on.

Ping is often used interchangeably with “latency” as a way to describe a delay in your character’s in-game movement or actions compared to your keyboard, mouse, or controller inputs.

However, latency is different, as latency can take several different forms:

  • Peripheral Latency: This is tThe time it takes for your mouse or keyboard to register a press and send that action to your gaming computer
  • Game Latency:This is the time it takes for the CPU to process the input and then send that data to the graphics card for rendering
  • Render Latency: This is tThe time it takes for data sent from the CPU to be rendered by the GPU
  • PC Latency:This is the time it takes for one frame to travel through the computer. This includes both gameplay and rendering latency
  • Display Latency: This is tThe time it takes your monitor to a new image after the GPU has finished rendering
  • System Latency:This whole end-to-end process

There are several things that can affect latency. We have already written about the common causes of computer lag and how to fix them. But you can also reduce latency by changing parts of your gaming PC. If you upgrade your CPU, add more RAM, buy a new GPU, or buy a high-end gaming mouse or keyboard. All of these things can help reduce latency issues, but they won’t help with ping.

That’s because ping is what happens after any of these types of latency. Once the signal is sent to your computer, it has to go to the server and back. There is nothing you can do with your hardware to make this happen faster. Although you can make your connection more reliable with a wired Ethernet connection from your router instead of relying on Wi-Fi.

How is ping measured?

So now you know that ping is essentially how long it takes your PC to communicate with the game server. But how is it measured? Well, ping is generally measured in milliseconds. Ideally, the lower the ping, the better.

If you’re playing a game where you host the server and then others join you, you’ll likely find that the ping is basically nothing. Whereas your friend’s pings will be higher depending on how far away they live.

Ping will vary depending on the location of the server you play on. If you choose a server hosted in a nearby city, your ping will be reasonable. Preferably about 15 or 20 ms or less. Other nearby servers may be higher, for example 40-60ms. You’ll still be able to play it reasonably well and have a pretty decent experience.

The further away the server, the higher the ping.

Fluff pocket

How high is too high?

If you’re looking at a multiplayer game server browser, you probably have the ability to filter by ping so you can see the lowest and highest. Naturally, you want to pick the ones with the lowest ping. However, you may find that this is not always possible.

Low ping servers may not fill depending on the time of day. If you’re playing in the middle of the night or the middle of the day when other people aren’t playing as much, you may need to resort to more distant servers.

The ping will increase the farther you go. We find it perfectly possible to play on European servers while playing in the UK with minimal fuss. We can also play on US east coast servers, but the ping will be higher, sometimes in the 100-200ms range. Try to play in Asia and you might find 200 or 300+ ms which is almost unplayable.

A high ping causes a disconnect between button presses and actions happening in the game. The higher the ping, the worse it is. This can cause your character to stutter around the map at worst, or simply miss shots that should have connected in an FPS or battle royale game, resulting in frustrating losses.

Low ping for competitive play

If you’re playing competitive games or fast-paced games that require quick reactions and low-latency accuracy, a low ping is a big part of that.

This is why eSports and competitive gaming events are held in LAN setups where everyone’s computers are connected locally. No internet connection means a level playing field when it comes to ping.

This prevents things like “viewpoint advantage” from coming into play. This is where an attacking player has the advantage over a stationary one who camps in a corner waiting for enemies to arrive. The difference in ping can cause each player to see different things:

Fluff pocket

How to measure your ping

It’s possible to measure your ping relatively easily without even being in a game. To do this, you can run a speed test using this tool.

This gives you your upload and download speeds, but also the ping to the server you’re testing from. You can change the server location from this tool, which means you can even test your ping to see how it will perform in different regions.

How to reduce your ping

Obviously, the best way to reduce your ping is to choose a server geographically close to you. However, there are other things you can do to improve your experience.

  1. Quit other apps: When playing games, be sure to quit and disable any other apps or programs that might affect your network. This includes software like Steam, Origin, Epic Games and more that might be downloading games in the background. Close Chrome and exit other applications that send network data.
  2. Use Ethernet: Avoid using Wi-Fi and connect your gaming machine directly to your router using a fast Ethernet cable. This will give a solid connection and better bandwidth.
  3. Enable Quality of Service settings: Some routers, especially gaming routers, have QoS settings in their router options. They can be configured to prioritize network traffic in a number of ways. You can set your router to prioritize your gaming machine over everything else on your home network. Some also have the option to prioritize game traffic over everything else.
  4. Turn off network devices: Turn off other things in your home that may be using bandwidth when not needed. Simple things like smart home devices, other computers and more can be interesting with your gaming fun.
  5. Upgrade your router: If all else fails, you might consider upgrading your router to something more capable. You’ll be surprised at the difference this makes.

Written by Adrian Willings.


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