There are so many advertisements for Internet service out there and just as many marketing terms that can confuse customers who aren't part of the technical industry. If you're a gamer who just wants a connection that can handle online games and a few other hobbies, there are some unadvertised features and traits that must be understood to get the best bang for your buck. Here's a look at what matters for gamers when it comes to Internet service plans.
Speed Isn't Always The Most Important Thing
One of the biggest marketing points for Internet Service Provider (ISP) commercials and ads is speed. Fast Internet means fast downloads, fast website loading, and fast video playback...right? Not quite.
In a perfect world, speed would be the ultimate factor. If you need to download a whole game from scratch, a faster download speed means you'll get your download completed sooner. Unfortunately, a connection full of delivery failures will slow down no matter how fast the download speed is.
Your Internet connection is actually a series of handshakes. Your computer sends requests to servers, whether they're websites, file repositories, or game servers. The server will acknowledge your presence and send what you need, and your computer will acknowledge that the information was received.
Failure can happen at any of those steps. When failure happens, the information needs to be sent again—which takes time. Information is sent in many pieces in rapid streams, so unless the connection is extremely bad, you won't have to deal with doubled slowdowns with every failure, but it all adds up.
For online games, fast Internet isn't very important. It's good to download your game initially and to download patches (updates) to the game, but consistency matters more in the modern era of broadband Internet in the United States of America--where average Internet speeds are somewhere around 50mbps (megabits per second).
Speed, Consistency, And Lag
There is such a thing as "too slow," but it isn't really relevant for most part of the US. Although every game is different, having more than a 10mbps connection is more than fast enough to play online games with. If you need more, it's because you or someone in your household using the Internet likes downloading files or watching videos. Thankfully, 10mbps is very slow, and the previously-mentioned average is overkill for most Internet users.
For online gaming, consistency is vital. Your game, whether it's World of Warcraft, Rift, Final Fantasy 11 (or 14), or Counterstrike, is a graphical representation of files in the background. The world is all decoration, and that decoration only changes when the game server says so. Even your mouse, keyboard and gamepad movement are mostly decoration; the game server has to approve your actions, and that approval happens so fast that you think you're doing it seamlessly.
If your character runs in place, your character seems to attack things or perform actions with no progress, or if others in the game zip around faster than you can react while your player does nothing, you're lagging. This means that the Internet can't keep up with sending requests to the server for approval or getting updates of what's happening in the game world.
Speak with an ISP professional if you think your connection is lagging too much or may be too slow for other Internet activities during gaming. For more information, contact local professionals like Solarus.