Ping (video games)

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In online multiplayer video games, ping refers to the network latency between a player's client and the game server. Ping is reported quantitatively as an average time in milliseconds (ms). The lower one's ping is, the lower the latency is and the less lag the player will experience. High ping and low ping are commonly used terms in online gaming, where high ping refers to a ping that causes a severe amount of lag; while any level of ping may cause lag, severe lag is usually caused with a ping of over 100 milliseconds. In games where timing is key, such as first-person shooter and real-time strategy games, a low ping is always desirable, as a low ping means smoother gameplay by allowing faster updates of game data between the players' clients and game server.

High latency can cause lag. Game servers may disconnect a client if the latency is too high and may pose a detriment to other players' gameplay. Similarly, client software will often mandate disconnection if the latency is too high. High ping may also cause servers to crash due to instability.

In some first-person shooter games, a high ping may cause the player to unintentionally gain unfair advantages, such as appear and disappearing from one location and instantaneously reappear in another, simulating the effect of teleportation, thus making it hard for other players to judge their character's position and subsequently making the player much more difficult to target. To counter this, many game servers automatically kick players with a ping higher than average. Conversely, a high ping can make it very difficult for the player to play the game due to negative effects occurring, making it difficult for the player to track other players and even move their character.

Rather than using the traditional ICMP echo request and reply network packets to determine ping times, video game programmers often build their own latency detection into existing game packets (usually based on the UDP protocol) instead.

Some factors that might affect ping include: network protocol engineering, Internet throughput (connection speed), the quality of a user's Internet service provider and the configuration of firewalls. Ping is also affected by geographical location. For instance, if someone is in India, playing on a server located in the United States, the distance between the two is greater than it would be for players located within the US, and therefore it takes longer for data to be transmitted. However, the amount of packet-switching and network hardware in between the two computers is often more significant. For instance, wireless network interface cards must modulate digital signals into radio signals, which is often more costly than the time it takes an electrical signal to traverse a typical span of cable. As such, lower ping can result in faster internet download and upload rates.