In gaming and esports, making sure you have a good internet connection is essential – but, what do people mean by ping, latency and lag?
We break down what these terms mean, and what you should be aiming for in order to have the best gaming experience.
What is ping?
Essentially, ping is the signal sent out between the player inputting a command, and the server responding to it.
For example, if you pressed ‘W’ to move forward, having good ping would mean that your character would move quickly after you pressed the button, and bad ping would cause a delay.
So, what is considered good ping?
Ping is measured in milliseconds (and abbreviated to ‘ms’), so the lower the number, the better the ping.
However, some games do not require as high ping as others – i.e Hearthstone is a slow-paced card game which does not need impressive ping to function, whereas FPS games like Overwatch and Valorant require good ping to ensure it is playable.
The best levels to sit at are between 15 and 45ms, but anything up till 100ms is still acceptable. Anything above 100ms can start to make the game unplayable, and can be very detrimental in a fast-paced game. Sometimes, if the ping is too high, games can reject your connection and throw you out of the match.
The difference between good and bad ping is very noticeable, and can really affect your gameplay if it is not consistent.
What is latency?
Although ping and latency get used interchangeably, they are ever so slightly different things.
Latency refers to the time it takes for data to travel from your device to the server. Having good latency is dependent on the quality of your internet connection, and goes hand in hand with ping.
Lower latency is ideal, with the best gameplay performance sitting between 5 and 60ms. The levels of latency can change depending on the server, so it is best to establish good levels for you. Having latency any higher than 100ms will cause significant lag in your gameplay, and make it difficult to play properly.
Whilst they are measured the same way, it is important to monitor your latency as well as your ping to make sure that you are sitting at the best levels possible.
Then, what is lag?
Lag is the result of high ping or high latency – which essentially means your internet connection is at a lower speed or quality than it should be.
The main giveaway for lag is that it causes delay in your gameplay, with your commands not being acted on by the game immediately. You could press a key or button, and nothing happens until a few seconds later, and at that point the moment has passed.
On occasion, lag can actually build up and cause problems suddenly in the middle of a match – freezing up before jumping back to the most recent point, or even just disconnecting you from the game.
If your ping and latency are sitting at reasonable levels and you are still experiencing lag, you may just have an unstable connection. This is where your device is disconnecting and reconnecting to your internet and causing something called ‘packet loss’.
Packet Loss is when one or more ‘packets’ of data do not make it to their destination in the server. This can cause lag, and is mainly the result of a crowded server or low security on your network.
How do I make sure I have the best ping and latency possible?
There are many things you can do to make sure you have the best connection possible for gaming, but here’s some of the most important ones:
1. Close any unnecessary programs – having many things open can cause major lag and slow your device down a lot.
2. Use ethernet cables or a Wifi booster where possible – having a wired connection to your router can be really beneficial and allow you to run on the best possible connection. If having an ethernet is not possible, you can buy booster plugs that connect to your router directly to your PC without having cables everywhere.
3. Use an online ping tester before playing – This way, you can have an understanding of what your performance might look like, and lower the ping if it is high. Free online tests like ‘https://www.speedtest.net/’ are good for this.
4. If you are running bad ping and latency, check who else is using the same network and establish if they are gaming too or using a ‘web-heavy’ service like YouTube, Netflix or Twitch. If you have a slow internet connection, avoid playing online at the same time as others on your network.
5. Check with your internet service provider to find out if there are any scheduled maintenances’ taking place in your area, or if there are any problems with the service. This is a last resort if you can’t figure out what is causing your connection problems.
Whilst this is a brief overview of what ping, latency and lag are, these tips can help you have a better gaming experience, and allow you to establish the root of your connection problems.
Are there any other technical guides you would like us to cover? Let us know on the British Esports Twitter.