Latency in games despite endless resources

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Latency in games despite endless resources

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Yesterday, I wanted to play some Overwatch on a PS4 I got a while ago to play in my spare time, which is not often. When I do play, I sometimes have to plan my sessions, though the spontaneous games are the best – when you and your several friends just happen to be online at the same time and can conveniently team up. Yesterday was one of those days where I called ahead to see who else would be available to play. A friend reminded me that a patch had just been released for Overwatch.

I then had to make a special trip to the location of the playstation so that I could download the patch in anticipation of playing hours later. If yesterday was a spontaneous day, I would have tried to play only to learn that a substantial sized patch was necessary. Thus, I would go through a few loading screens, spend the time to invite my friends to a party, get my hopes up, only to be let down in the form of a download.

I remember not long ago, people bought consoles because there were no loading times or patches. With the advent of CD drives in consoles, the games got bigger. Once those consoles were connected to the internet, the bigger games could download patches or updates that could fix problems in the games or nerf some of the in game characters. Then, I imagine that video game creators decided that if all players had the exact same version with the same patches, the games would run as smoothly as possible. I think if this was the decision, it was right in theory only. In practice, I think the necessity to download all patches has negatively affected players and done little to enhance those players’ security online.

One would think that console makers would be able to keep their servers working when updates were mandated on a semi-daily basis. I mean, we paid 60 dollars for a very simple game (without a campaign mode), but that game suffers from numerous problems leading to an undesirable multiplayer experience. Sometimes you are simply removed from a ranked multiplayer game or leave a party without doing anything. A patch from earlier this month was released to fix issues only incidental to the network connectivity issues. The patch removed an in game rule that would penalize players for leaving multiplayer games before their conclusion, even if the player left unintentionally as a result of playstation connectivity issues.

The worst part is that I still want to play this game. I understand that I am at a point as a casual gamer where I have to plan ahead before playing those games. In the event that I want to be spontaneous and play, I cross my fingers because if there is a substantial update or patch to download, I will abort my non-plan.

My status as a casual gamer sets me apart from some of my friends who play more avidly, because most people who are on their consoles every day (sometimes several times a day) are automatically updating their games in the background while the console is on or in sleep mode. I turn on my console maybe a couple times a week, and when I do, I want to play games immediately.

With so much money changing hands (Activision Blizzard is worth somewhere around $7.5 billion according to Wiki) and so many patches and other downloads, one would hope that the networks being played by millions of people across the globe would be safer or faster, or both. Remember the Playstation Network disaster of 2011? The network was just unusable for what seemed to be ever while users worried about identity theft. I can’t pull an article quite on point, but if you have ever played Overwatch for a few games, you have likely run into network issues such as lag, long times for finding games, unintentional removal from pending games, etc.

These companies make billions of dollars selling games. Those games are at best beta-test versions that need regular updates. The updates often take hours to download sometimes frustrating me to the point of not playing at all. When I play, I’m happy, even though my identity is at risk on overwhelmed serves that could easily be improved by a slight drop in profits. The worst part of this rant is that Overwatch is typical – many current games can be explained using the above and regardless of the game, you are always playing on the same weak, slow networks.


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