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The Cause of High Latency on PC Games, and Tips to Avoid It

tips to reduce latency

Overwatch is team based but tonight you’re running circles around people as Tracer, grabbing kills left and right. You’re feeling like a one-man army, growing more confident with every kill. Around the next corner, you use Recall to dodge an incoming Pharah rocket, only to see your flailing corpse as it careens through the air. You know you hit Recall first but you were greeted by death anyways.

Your quick reactions surely had that game on lockdown, so why is Tracer laying in a puddle of her own blood? High latency got the best of her, and you. In this article, we’ll be going through some tips, tricks and work arounds to address the issues of playing with high latency in PC games.

high ping

What Is Latency?

In computer networking, latency (sometimes referred to as lag or ping) is the time it takes for information that your computer sends to travel from your computer to a central server and back to your computer.

Information travels across the internet at the speed of light, but even that is not instantaneous. Time is still needed for your Recall command to reach the Overwatch servers, just as it takes time for the server to tell you that you died.

So the good news is, it’s not all in your head. You might have hit Recall before the rocket nailed you, but, because of latency, the server didn’t receive your “recall” command in time. The bad news is, you died anyway.

What You Can Do to Eliminate Latency

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce latency and avoid these unfortunate (and frustrating) situations, but it’s important to remember that there is no way to completely eliminate latency. The root cause is still the distance that information must travel. Keep in mind that distance is only part of the equation though. The way that your ISP decides to route the information will also affect how much latency you will have.

Having said all that, there are ways to optimize latency.

 Read on for 6 tips to help you reduce latency when you’re gaming on your PC:

Tip #1 – Don’t Use WiFi – While convenient, wireless connections are extremely inconsistent and can result in everything from increased latency, to packet loss, to stuttering, to all sorts of other network-related performance issues. Something as simple as a neighbor heating up some popcorn can interfere with your internet connection when you are using WiFi. For your own sanity, and for love of your matchmaking rating, just don’t do it. Even in a larger house where your router or modem is further away, we highly recommend using an Ethernet cable to connect to your router directly.

Tip #2 – Close Other Programs – All programs put strain on your computer to varying degrees. Keeping a video editing program like Adobe Premiere open will cause more strain than just having Calculator open, but everything contributes to your overall network performance and can ultimately impact ping times.
Be particularly wary of streaming applications like Spotify or Twitch, and anything that can be downloading games in the background, like Steam — these can really hog your bandwidth and sometimes increase latency between your computer and the game servers.
Make sure to close these programs, or at the very least stop them from updating or downloading while you are playing.

Tip #3 – Remove Other Devices from Your Network – Your own system isn’t the only thing that can take up your bandwidth. Other computers, consoles, smartphones, and other devices can take up a lot of your networks resources. If you have several roommates this will be more difficult to manage. But for the most part, if you are playing online games, try to limit the number of devices on your network.

Tip #4 – Change your ISP – This is a pretty drastic step, but some internet service providers do not route traffic optimally for gaming — and really, this is true of most ISPs. If you are fortunate to live in a place where there isn’t an ISP monopoly, trying another provider can sometimes solve latency problems because of how they route their internet traffic.

Tip #5 – Optimize Your Network Traffic With Haste – Haste is a service that focuses on optimizing internet traffic for online gaming. It uses a custom route from your PC to the game servers to eliminate latency, packet loss, stuttering and other performance issues. Haste intelligently chooses the route most optimal for your game, be it League of Legends or Overwatch, to eliminate many networking problems users experience while gaming.

And finally, while this doesn’t have a direct impact on lag, you should always optimize your game settings.  Most games have an option to optimize for Performance instead of Quality, and this is one of the first things you should check for. Optimizing for Performance but will also improve your framerate and might even help improve the clarity of the game.
If your game doesn’t have a specific setting for this, just turn down most quality bars to Medium or lower. Most pro players and other great gamers play with lower settings for the reasons above. We promise, the game is still sweet even without all the bloom and complex shadows.

We hope these tips have provided you with some insight into the disadvantages of playing with high latency in PC games like Overwatch. Use these tips to improve your performance and remember that in the world of gaming, one thing is for sure, speed is king. Click here to read more about Haste and how it can help you reduce latency and improve your network stability while giving you the tools you need to play smart. ​ Or, start a free trial today!