Region filters must be standard for match making in online games

On behalf of all gamers outside of North America, I believe I speak for everyone when I say it is completely unacceptable to release a game without an option for region selection in match making.

Playing a game with 200MS ping is beyond frustrating and I simply don’t have time for it any more.

Latency

Before I start, it’s important to understand what latency is.

A lot of people don’t understand the difference between bandwidth and latency. It’s very common for people to refer to their bandwidth as speed when this is actually incorrect.

A simple analogy for you: The internet is a highway and cars on the highway is data travelling to a destination.

Bandwidth is the amount of lanes on the highway. Obviously, a highway with 3 lanes in each direction will have better traffic flow than a highway with only 1 lane in each direction.

Latency is the speed limit of the highway as well as the distance required to travel. An empty highway with a speed limit of 120Kmph is going to be faster than a 3 lane highway with a speed limit of 80Kmph.

Most games require little bandwidth. In a host/client game (most multiplayer games) a constant stream of packets is sent out from the player to the host which is then rebroadcast to all the other players. Adding more lanes to a highway isn’t going to reduce the travel time when there are no cars around for miles. In the same way, adding more bandwidth isn’t going to make my connection to a North American host any faster.

Example of ping filters in Dirty Bomb's server browser.

Example of ping filters in Dirty Bomb’s server browser.

I often hear people, especially North American’s talking about how bad Australian internet is. “Oh, the game is just laggy for you because you’re internet is bad”. No you idiot, most Australian’s internet connections are perfectly capable for online gaming. The trouble is most servers are hosted in North America and games that use player hosting (Many current console games) will usually pick a North American player to host the game.

Match making has ruined online gaming for non-Americans

Before match making became the standard for every online game back in the mid 2000’s, gamers would select a game to join from a server list. The server lists had filters which allowed you to pick your preferred match. Looking for Capture the Flag with 16 players? No worries. Want to play Team Deathmatch with instant respawns and rockets only? Yup, you’re covered there too.

Unfortunately there were a few problems with this.

  • Many gamers would pick one map and never play anything else. If you want to see what I mean load up Counter Strike (Any of them) and see how many servers are playing DE_Dust 2.
  • Casual gamers may feel overwhelmed with the amount of options available. They don’t really care what they play, they just want to play the game.
  • Games with a low online population may have trouble filling matches or getting even teams.

Match making fixes most of these issues. Maps are selected randomly, often allowing players to vote on their preferred map to keep most players happy. You can get into a game easily and quickly and games will generally fill up pretty quickly with even teams.

Unfortunately, the most important feature of the server list is lost: The ping filter.

Counter Strike: GO server browser with region filter.

Example of ping filters and region filters in Counter Strike: Global Offensive.

Server browsers allow you to sort matches by ping. Some even have a regional filter, for example, you can search for games only hosted in Europe or North America. If I want to play a game with a good connection I just look for a game with a ping below 50ms.

With match making I have no idea what the connection will be like until I’m in the game and I’ve been sniped through a wall for the 5th time in a row.

While some games do allow you to search for games with a good connection, it’s opt-in rather than opt-out and it generally doesn’t work very well. While I understand the casual gamer doesn’t give a shit about their K:D ratio, I think any half decent player would prefer to wait an extra minute for a game with low latency than to be dumped into an entire server of players with a 200ms ping advantage.

Once you reach a certain skill level, playing on a foreign host in most games becomes unplayable. In competitive multiplayer milliseconds can be the difference between a win or a loss and when you’re constantly losing battles due to split second disadvantages over and over again the game stops being fun and just becomes frustrating.

Region filters

Unfortunately few games allow region filtering. Many games will attempt to put you in a game with a good connection, however it never seems to be a priority and you’ll often find yourself in games hosted on the other side of the world.

When region filters are available they’re usually very vague. “Good Connection” was the option in Halo 3. What does this mean? Will I get placed in games with people within my country? Within the Oceanic region? Is there a max ping? There needs to be more explanation than just “good connection”.

According to Josh Holmes from 343 Industries, Halo 5 will not allow players to exclusively play with players within their region. Instead, they will have to play the match making lottery and hope the game they’re dumped in will be lag free.

josh-holmes-regional-match-making-quote-full-size

Quote from Josh Holmes of 343 Industries – Click to zoom

In a first person shooter where most of the playlists are ranked this is completely unacceptable. Once you reach a certain threshold, winning off host against players of equal skill doesn’t become hard, it becomes impossible.

Region filtering needs to become the standard in online multiplayer games, especially in first person shooters where nearly every kill will come down to fractions of a second.