It’s a typical Friday night: you’re playing Overwatch with your buddies and absolutely killing it on Hanzo. You’re busy mowing down supports with arrow after arrow, feeling like an unstoppable God of death. You line up your next shot and it goes wide — you felt like nothing was different, but it just didn’t hit. It happens again, then again. Nothing is different in your aim, but suddenly your shots are errant.
Eventually, your missed shots start costing you, the enemies start overwhelming your team, and you end up getting pinned by the enemy Reinhardt.
If any of this sounds familiar you are probably experiencing network jitter. Even more frustrating than high latency or other network issues, jitter can be the absolute worst. Jitter is most tangibly felt in FPS games, especially with long-ranged characters where aim really matters — it’s worsened when you play projectile heroes like Hanzo or Orisa, but can even affect hitscan heroes.
So what exactly is jitter, and what are some of the ways you can fix it and get back to headshotting your enemies again?
What is Jitter?
Before we jump into the definition and root cause of jitter, sometimes referred to as “ping spikes” or “stuttering,” we need to give a short introduction on networking first.
Information is sent from your computer across the internet in “packets” — bundles of information that will be read by the computer or server that receives it. Usually, packets of information are sent at regular intervals and take a set amount of time to reach their destination.
The time that a packet takes to get to its destination is referred to as latency. Jitter is the fluctuation of latency over time — meaning a high standard deviation from your average ping.
Let’s say you usually get around 45ms latency to the Counter-Strike server you’re playing on. You might get spikes to 90ms, or worse, 250ms, before it drops back down.
Although as low a latency as possible is what is greatly preferred, you tend to automatically adjust to the latency you frequently play with, so you line up your shots, or time your ultimates, based on your expected latency. Jitter makes this natural adaptation almost useless as the change in latency throws off your timing.
In summary, jitter is not a pleasant experience. But there are things you can do to eliminate your jitter frustration and get yourself back to pleasurable gaming.
How to Fix Jitter
The underlying cause of jitter is a difference in the average latency time of your packets. This can be solved by many of the same methods that normally cause high latency to begin with, plus a few more.
Tip #1: Buy a Powerful Router
Even though it’s hard to know exactly how a router will handle jitter, it’s important to make sure you do your due diligence when purchasing a router. Check the reviews and see if there are any complaints from other owners about networking issues. Make sure that the bandwidth capacity is high enough to handle the traffic your household produces.
There are plenty of low-quality routers out there, particularly ones packaged with home internet service plans, so make sure to do extra research before committing to a shoddy router.
Tip #2: Use an Ethernet Cable
Wireless network connections are convenient for normal everyday use but woefully inadequate for online gaming. Interference can come from a myriad of sources, many of which are totally out of your control. This can lead to higher latency, packet loss, and jitter. You will consistently have a better overall experience connecting directly to your router. Even if your home PC is in a separate room from your router, it’s always advantageous to connect with an ethernet cable.
Tip #3: Use High-Speed Internet
Lower connection speeds have been shown to increase jitter when sharing bandwidth with other people. While fiber connections are often the most ideal, even just upgrading to more bandwidth or changing network providers can be the difference between jitter and no jitter in your gameplay.
Tip #4: Eliminate Jitter with Haste
Haste uses custom network infrastructure, multiple data paths, and private fiber-optic links to lower latency, provide network stability, and eliminate jitter. Using custom protocols and proprietary route optimization algorithms, Haste routes from your PC to the game server along the fastest, most stable routes available.
Sum it up: Control your Controllables!
If you’re experiencing regular jitter in PC games, don’t simply check your download and upload speeds and your ping then throw in the towel — Take a proactive approach!
Depending on your setup, your jitter problem could be relatively easy to figure out and fix. Check your router’s abilities and consider purchasing an upgraded model, connect to it using an Ethernet cable, and make sure you have a reliable, preferably cable-based high-speed internet.
And finally, click here to read more about Haste and how we can help you by giving you a faster, more stable internet connection.
Through a combination of software (on your PC), custom routing protocols and network infrastructure, Haste can intelligently route gaming data so that you get a far more reliable and responsive connection which can help you reduce jitter and improve your network stability while giving you the tools you need to play better.