When playing online games, delays can ruin your experience and come from a few different places. The problem could be your Internet connection, different parts of your computer performance, or just the game server or the game itself. It can be difficult to pinpoint the problem without experience, and it doesn't help that lag is used to describe a lot of other situations that have nothing to do with what lag really means. To figure out the problem, here's an overview of what lag means and some other problems that could be ruining your gaming experience.
What Is Lag?
The term lag in online gaming comes from the network definition of lag, which describes a delay in network transmission speed. It's a description of how long it takes for data to get to one direction to another, but for online gaming, this is only a problem at a noticeable but unofficial lack of speed.
A more professional term in networking is latency, which is also used in games such as World of Warcraft to show how much delay is happening. There is always some amount of latency. Just as it takes time for you to walk from point A to point B, it takes time for data to go from your computer to the game server. The goal is for lag to be negligible to a point that it doesn't matter in a game.
Although many gamers strive to reduce the amount of lag to as few milliseconds (ms) as possible, at a certain point it doesn't matter. The game's server can only calculate at a certain speed, and many games have animation and delays for certain actions (cooldowns) that exceed the amount of acceptable lag for most players. You don't want your latency to be too high, such as over 200 or 300 ms, or else you'll be delayed on top of the built-in cooldown.
Network lag represents itself in a very specific way. For you, your spells may take longer to cast, or your character may run in place. If you're playing a game that looks instant, such as a shooting game, you may see your character shoot an enemy directly without anything happening because your network doesn't have an up-to-date position of everyone in the game. It's the game's perception of where everyone is and what they're doing that matters.
Outside of networking, a few computer-hardware performance issues are called lag by gamers. This is not the original term for the problem, and since lag in general means delay, things can get confusing.
With non-network lag, the problems can be anything that slows down the computer in general. Your computer could have started an update that both slows down the network as it downloads and slows down the computer as it applies the update. You could have an anti-virus scan running that takes up resources or a virus that takes up resources.
If you're new to the game and don't know why everything seems choppy, low quality, or not like gameplay videos, you may not have enough computer resources in general. You have to follow the system requirements of the game, and to get the best experience, you need to follow the recommended specifications for your video card, processor speed, and Random Access Memory (RAM) capacity.
Viruses can be cleaned up and computer upgrades made, but it's best to describe exactly what you want to do with your computer to get a specific tune-up. Contact a computer-repair professional for targeted repairs and upgrades to make your gaming experience better.