Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Laggers have the most skill?

Professional long-distance runners have been known to travel to Kenya to undertake what is known as 'altitude training'. Although the oxygen content in the air is the same, the barometric pressure at 8000ft above sea level means that it's harder for the human body to breath. Without going into too much of a chemistry lesson, the reason pro runners want to make it harder on themselves is because when they return to sea level, running becomes a lot easier. Their bodies have been conditioned to function in a harsher environment; running an Olympic marathon now seems like a walk in the park.

So what the hell does this have to do with MMORPGs?

In an MMO society, there can be millions of players from different locations around the world all connected to the same gaming server. The closer you are to the server, the better your ping and the faster the game can respond to your commands. In some games (mostly FPS) this can mean the difference between life and death for your character. Players with a poor response time (lag) are therefore at an environmental disadvantage. This is no-one's fault in particular, it's just the way things are in an online world (unless you chose a bad ISP, then it's your own fault).

So what does this mean for the players that suffer from lag and poor response times?

If they want to compete and beat players with better response times, they either need to be extremely lucky, or else they need to be more skilled at playing the game. This means increased reaction times, multiple fallback strategies and the ability to anticipate your opponents every move. These are all qualities of the best MMO gamers and I believe they develop more naturally in players that suffer poor response times. I can't see hardcore online gamers doing altitude training with network response times, but I'm pretty sure my home town of Melbourne Australia would make a great Kenyan candidate ;)


Talyn said...

When I lived in Colorado Springs (roughly 6,000' MSL), runners and athletes came there to train. In addition to the increase of red blood cells, they claimed that after two weeks (which I supposed fits that 10-14 day comment on Wikipedia) your body grows extra capillaries to help spread the oxygen through your system since the barometric pressure is lower. Regardless, I do remember being able to run and be quite active after a couple weeks there. Even going up to Pikes Peak (14K MSL) didn't bother me a bit, while my family from Ohio were light-headed and even ill from the experience.

But yes, if a high-latency player actually notices he's high-latency and cares enough to come up with a strategy to use that to his advantage, he ends up being quite skilled. I still smile remembering being pretty high up there on Quake II, me on dialup and fragging the crap out of the college kids on their T1+ lines! With the railgun, no less, which had delayed firing already!

Thallian said...

Maybe you should tell the gaming Olympic contestants about this, some might care to travel there :)

p.s. I have an old friend in Melbourne I hear its a very nice place.

Crimson Starfire said...

I used to play Quake 2 on dial up. I was more of a rocket launching maniac myself. The lag was so bad that I learnt to fire the rocket in anticipation of where opponents would be at certain times. Once I got used to the level, there was no stopping the rampage.

Melbourne is a beautiful city, although I don't recommend visiting during the winter (right now) as the weather is quite ugly.

Internet lag in Melbourne when playing on US servers is around 350ms average. This is a genuine pain in the ass for PvP. I was over the moon when Mythic announced they would deploy oceanic (Australian/NZ) servers for WAR. It will certainly make the experience a lot better.