Are you new to Online Gaming? Want to know more about who the best ISPs are for playing Online Games in Australia? What about which Broadband Type and Speed is best suited for Online Gaming and Gamers? Even if you’re in the hunt for a new Broadband Internet Provider or seeking to transfer (churn) from an existing ISP, and Online Gaming is a crucial element in your decision making, it may pay to read this guide to Games, ISP Game Servers and Online Gaming.
I suspect the best place to start, prior to researching and comparing ISPs, for suitable online gaming would be to first consider the ‘Type’ of Game you intend to play. If you’re seeking to play ‘Chess’ or ‘Casino’ type games you might as well stop right here! This article is not for you. As for those wishing to play Action, First Person Shooters, Strategy, Simulation or ever increasingly popular MMORPG’s etc.., you might find this article somewhat helpful. Now before going much further, I’d like to point out that I’ll try and keep everything very basic in order to cater for the noobies (new players) out there. Let’s take a look at Gaming Genres to begin with.
Main Gaming Genres
– First Person Shooter, Action & Fighting –
Categorized primarily as ‘combat’ type games, themes for these popular genres can encompass past, present or future type scenarios. Characterized by playable roles, individuals or teams generally engauge in high levels of violent gameplay. Game Examples: Halo, Quake, Unreal Tournament, Counter Strike, Battlefield 2/2142, Call of Duty, Day of Defeat, Enemy Territory, F.E.A.R, Far Cry, Bioshock, Half Life, Hitman, Resident Evil, Sonic series, Star Wars series, Supreme Commander
– RPGs & MMORPGs (Role Playing Games & Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) –
Players assume a character type role to usually acquire skills or powers while progresseing through an adventure type or story line environment. Considered by some as a ‘social interaction’, as many of these games have no winners or losers. RPGs can be perceived as a ‘story telling’ game. MMORPGs are RPGs on a bigger platform. Some games like ‘World of Warcraft’ witness millions of gamers playing online simultaneously. Game Examples: Diablo, Lord of the Rings, World of Warcraft, Neverwinter Nights, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, The Burning Crusade & Wrath of the Lich King (WOW expansion pack)
– Simulation –
As the title suggests, these games aim to create ‘simulation’ type experiences. Elements such as limtations and physics can be very realistic like. Major factors governing Simulation games contain skill, chance and strategy. Game Examples: V8 Super Cars, The Sims, Fifa Manager, Civilization, Monaco Grand Prix Racing, Flight Simulations
– Sport –
Sports Games try to emulate the ‘playing’ actions of traditional Sports. They can produce many different affects as they sometimes uses features from Simulation, Strategy and Action type Genres. Game Examples: FiFa 2006, Madden NFL 2007, NBA Live 2007, Customplay Golf.
– Strategy (Real Time Strategy) –
Joining the popular realms of FPS & RPG comes another genre of gaming which involves deep thought process and highly skilled planning. Formats for Strategy games consist of ‘turn based’ or ‘real time’ elements of gameplay. They are usually very tactical orientated and sometimes difficult to follow from a spectator point of view. Although some strategy games take patience, it’s not uncommon to see lightning fast reflexes (eg. Starcraft) play vital roles in these games also. Construction, Commerce, or Conflict are the fundamentals behind most Strategy Games. Game Examples: Stracraft, Spore, Warcraft, Command & Conquer, Rome: Total War, Age of Empires
Major Game Developers/Publishers:Platforms: (including offline)
Blizzard Entertainment, Epic Games, Bungie, Microsoft Games Studio, Sony, 2k, Sierra, Electronic Arts, Bioware, Crytek, Irrational Games, Midway, Atari, Activision, Nintendo, Sega
PC, Playstation2 (PS2), Playstation 3 (PS3), Xbox, Xbox 360 (X360), Wii, PSP, Nintendo, Ninetendo DS, Gameboy Advance (GBA)
Major factors determining Gaming Experiences:
Ok you’ve had a rundown on the types of games, platforms, devolpers etc… so now you should have a good idea of what you might like to play online (or offline). Next step and probably the most important, is creating a foundation for a great gaming experience. Choosing a Broadband Provider/Product that’s suited for your game is one the most important decisions, however prior to doing that, there’s also a few other factors that you may like to take a look at first. Many direct and indirect aspects come into the equation in order to achieve a great gaming experience, and what may appear to be insignificant to some, may in fact have serious implications. Let’s take a look at a few.
Broadband Networks & Latency
Ping: (Packet Internet Groper) Is a utility that tests/measures the time taken for information to travel from one point to another over a network. Lower usually means better.
Latency: (Lag or Delay) Is the actual time it takes to process data over a network. Depending on Network Interference, high latency can really blow your gaming experience. Basically, gaming information (packets of data) should pass freely from Game server to client (you) to avoid any interruption in gameplay…
Think of the data (information packets) as a fluid, Low bandwidth as a straw, and High bandwidth as a garden Hose. Depending on how much (amount of data), and any obstacles (routing, server loads, network congestion) the fluid faces in its path, can affect the ease (speed) of which it will pass through the straw or the garden hose.
High bandwidth connections usually have low latency although connection speeds and ping times are not related. Still confused? Then read more about latency with Interleaving.
Interleaving: Click here for definitive information
Routing, Hardware & Line Quality, Network congestion (peak/off peak times), Game Server loads & their specs may also hinder the gaming experience. It’s handy to do some research on prospective Networks before joining a Provider. Some ISPs are merely ‘resellers’ who may even route your Internet traffic through different countries and that can really slow you down! The more routing, the more probable interfernce you’ll receive. Too many Players on a Game Server or over a Home Network may overload processing power or affect data tranfser, especially if you’re on a slow connection (eg. 256/64). Also there’s MultiTasking to be aware of! It’s usually wise to concentrate all of your PC’s processing power on your Game while playing, so turning off all other unnecessary applications on your PC can improve a gaming experience.
Hardware: Wireless v Wired – Mouse, Keyboard and Modem/Routers? Video Card/CPU (PC Processor)
Although not directly related to Broadband requirements, I thought it could be helpful to add the following hardware advice anyway, as it too, may help optimize your gaming experience. Obviously a Wireless Modem may have similar latency implications to that of general Wireless Internet due to its transmission technology (even on a home network). Some Modem/Routers or Home Network configurations can also impair gaming. As for a wireless Mouse and KB – have you ever seen a mouse pointer go somewhere it shouldn’t of when you didn’t tell it to? Say no more! Wired components behave themselves more appropriately when it comes to reliability and consistency. Elite players are very pedantic with their gaming setups and will do anything to get an edge.
Back in the day, prior to the current popularity of online gaming now, the CPU was the power behind Online Games. Although still vitally important today, it generally plays second fiddle to the Video Card. New Games usually involve new technology (especially game engines) and require more processing power from both Video Card and CPU. So depending on how recent your game was manufactured, and the type of game it is, a high end CPU and Video Card could be a necessity. *TIP* Either search online for information on such or check out the prospective game’s packaging for details on ‘System Requirements’. Whatever the specs might be, my advice to you would be to try and purchase something a little ‘higher ended’ than what the minimum requirements suggest. In general, different games require different Video Cards and CPU’s. For example, a brand new FPS game may need hardware that’s just been released over the past year or so to run effciently, whereas a Strategy game might be able to handle hardware from a system that’s 5 years old. Do your research into System Requirements and Specifications!
Monitors (LCD or CRT)
Again not really Broadband related but nonetheless important for a great gaming experience. CRTs (the older Style ‘fat rounded’ tellies) are generally OK for all games. LCD’s are the current contemporary sets and for games that involve high frame rates (action packed fast paced FPS etc..). It’s recommended that you use an LCD monitor that has a response time of at least 8ms (milliseconds) or below to avoid frame lag in fast paced graphics.
Broadband Type & Speed
Without doubt an integral cog. Broadband Type and Speed is a decision you’ll need to make at some stage, so what type of broadband is best suited for your Gaming? Obviously there might be some limitations to what’s available in your area or place of residence, so I’ll give you a quick rundown on what games I consider to be appropriate for Broadband Types/Speed. Generally speaking, Fast, Robust Broadband (Cable and ADSL) is suitable for all types of Online Gaming. Kind of like a fast car, if you need to go very fast, well, the speed is there. And if you don’t, you can still coast. Here’s why: Games like First Person Shooters, Action, Fighting, and some Strategy based games heavily rely on fast responses. So the information (data packets) that are sent back and forth to the Server and Client need to travel quickly… The faster (wider) and more stable your connection, the quicker your information can be processed (and simulated).
Here’s a ‘Gameplay type’ example of why High Speed/Robust Broadband is advantageous:
You tap your mouse button to emulate a shot being fired in a Warfare type FPS game, on a fast broadband connection that has very low Latency and Ping, you’re packets of data (the shot your fired) will almost hit the target where you intended it to go (timing – it will look like a ‘real life’ simulation). On a slower connection with high Latency (lag) & Ping, the packets of data (the shot you fired) will be slower to get to the Game Server and be processed for what could be a number of different the reasons, therefore you’re target may not be where you thought it was at the time on your screen. You see, the server received your information, later rather than sooner, during that instance because of Speed/Latency factors.
Broadband Internet Service Poviders
Broadband Speeds greater than 1500/256 have interleaving turned on (including the 8Mbit, 20Mbit, or 24Mbit plans from most ISPs). At this stage only Internode and BigPond give you the option to switch interleaving off. Researching Networks (the Internet back bone) of your prospective ISP will be your call. Generally speaking, all ISPs shown on Broadband Guide should have great connectivity on their own Game Server Farms (providing you are a customer of theirs). Connectivity on other servers (outside your ISP) may vary though. Most ISPs also give you ‘free’ data usage when playing on their Game Server Farms (but make sure you check that out too). That’s right, the data you use while playing on their servers doesn’t come off your monthly usage limit. The same can be said when downloading Game files such as Patches, Videos and Map Packs from your own Providers. Online games generally require servicing in some way shape or form too (eg. bug fixes). Most ISPs will host all the common game files for you. Some are essential so you’ll have to download them at some stage, while others are optional. Theres also heaps of game video trailers out there which can be downloaded for ‘free’ (once again, check with Provider to make sure). It can certainly pay to join the right Provider for many reasons such as free files and videos, especially if you are on a low monthly usage limit! Aside from these resources, various ISPs have extensive Game Server Farms that you can play on. It’s not uncommon for some Game Farms to have in excess of 200 Game Servers running simultaneously. This limit may include 30 – 40 different game types as well. Along with ISPs giving discount on services and products etc.., some provide Game Servers that can be hired or booked out privately. A Service Provider (or their gaming constituent) may also run Game Competitions such as a Ladders, Leagues, or Round Robin type Tournaments for you to participate in as well. OK enough gas baggin, let’s check out the ISPs who have Game Farms!
ISP Game Server Farms
BigPond (GameArena) – Approx 275+ Game Servers
Internode – Approx 144+ Game Servers
Netspace (Gamespace) – Approx 61 Game Servers
Primus (IPGN) – Approx 29 Game Servers
People Telecom (PTGN) – Approx 20+ Game Servers
# Game Server infomation and amounts shown above are estimates only as from August ’07
AFK: Away from Keyboard
AFAIK: As far as I know
AI: Artifical Intelligence
Avatar: Gamer’s character model or picture
Clan: (Gaming Team or Group)
Client: Your PC. A computer system that accesses a service (Game Server)
GG: Good Game
GL: Good Luck
GS (NS): Good/Nice Shot
Frag/Fragged: A ‘Kill’ or ‘Killed’
HF: Have Fun
HP: Hit Points (damage score)
HUD: Heads-up display (gaming interface)
IP (Address): Internet Protocol Address – Game Server/Hosting location that you connect to to play your game online
LEET (31337): Elite (highly skilled player)
LOL: Laugh Out Loud
Noob or Newbie: New person (inexperienced)
Owned: Thorouly beaten
Map: Game Level (playing environment)
Mod (1): Modification (usually refers to a partially converted game or game add on)
Mod (2): Moderator (Person of authority usually that monitors Forums or Online Game Servers)
Patch: Usually an essential file that is applied to a game that fixes bugs or adds new content
RL: Real Life
ROL: Roll over laughing
RPG (MMORPG): Role Playing Game (Massively Multiplayer Online)
RTS: Real Time Strategy
RU: Ready Up
Server (Game Server): Game Host/Data processing center that simulates game instance .
Skin: Character/Model Uniform, Clothing or Appearance
SP: Single Player
WD: Well Done
ADSL/Cable is generally more superior in every respect when it comes down to the best types of Broadband for Online Gaming, whereas Wireless/Satellite tends to generally lag more due the data transmission technology. The fact of the matter at this point in time is that ADSL & Cable connections are more superior over that of Wireless & Satellite technology for gaming.
Some games can be still quite fun to play on wireless/satellite, but you may not get the best desired affect. In saying this though, all is still not lost for those who cannot obtain ADSL or Cable services. There are many types of games that do not rely upon ultra fast low ping low latency robust instantaneous broadband connectivity *takes breath*. ‘Turn Based’ Strategy and many RPG Games work quite efficiently on Wireless and Satellite connections. The trick is to know your game! Does it rely on low latency and high Bandwidth? Does the Game information need to travel ultra fast to produce real time emulation?
Fundamentally, FPS and Fast paced Action/Fighting Games will execute more appropriately with higher bandwidth and low latency broadband, whereas most MMORPGs, some RPGS and some Strategy type games do not need the higher and lower rates to perform satisfactorily. As for Broadband Speeds… 512 or 1500 down connections (as a rule) should be suitable enough for most online games these days. Up speeds are generally OK as more information is coming to you rather than being sent by you. Overall I’d be recommending cable or an ADSL 1500 connection. This way you will have more than enough bandwidth to handle any Online Game, avoid any interleaving issues and also have the option of using it for a small home network if necessary. Other than that there’s only your usage limits to consider, and unless you’re thinking about playing more than 20 hours per week and downloading heaps of files, a few Gigabytes per month should see you out.
Online Broaband Internet Gaming at Broadband Guide