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If you use a dial-up connection to play interactive games on the Internet (like Quake), a 56k modem might be more of a handicap than a help. I'm no gaming expert (in fact, haven't even played any 'net-based game), but can offer some tips. [And, if you have anything to add - send me feedback, or add it in the Guestbook!]
56k modems can be slower than v.34 for gaming:
Most games rely on data transfer that is far different from downloading a file or even loading a web page. Games require frequent short bursts of data to be sent and received, and how fast they are received - lag- is extremely important. Any data error will result in more lag. It is far more important to establish an error-free connection than a fast connection for interactive games.
The type of access equipment at your ISP is a big factor in your lag. 3Com x2/V.90 Netserver Total Control Equipment is known to have lag problems for gaming. (See ISP Top 10 Gripe List.) 3Com's solution: have the ISP buy new HiPer equipment. ($$$$) Lucent/Livingston Portmaster 3's are also reported to have similar problems. You may find as I do that 3Com-based ISPs give me better performance surfing and downloading, but the Ascend-based ISPs usually deliver superior performance with short bursty data. You may want to try different ISPs to see which give you the best performance.
What should you do? Use the tools your gaming software gives you to check your lag. Then, try disabling 56k (V.90/x2 and/or KFlex), and compare the performance. You can also try Limiting Your Connect Speed to various lower levels to see where you get the best performance. (The extra settings to disable 56k for most modems are on this Troubleshooting page.) You should use a Trace Tool like Ping Plotter to see what your latency between you, your ISP and the game server over time.
Why is a slower connect faster for games? Your modem establishes a connection to your ISP's modem with an error-correcting protocol. A block of data sent or received is checked, and if any part of it doesn't match the original data sent, the modem requests the data be re-sent. This takes time - and for gaming means increased lag. For file downloads and web surfing, these errors and the re-transmit time are usually not significant - a higher throughput is obtained than would be the case with a lower connect speed and zero errors. Games require very little data - throughput is not important, but any error and associated re-transmission can take you out of the game.
Network Packet Size - This is a way of setting MTU. For gaming, a small packet size might produce the fastest performance. The effect of this setting may not be the same for all types of multiplayer games: So, if you change it, measure before & after with the game(s) and game servers you use. This page has instructions on how to change the Network Packet Size.
Other Tweaks: There are other things you may be able to do to eek out the best connection - although the results will vary among different users, connections, and applications.
Disable Modem Compression : There is some latency associated with compression - in some cases, you'll get better results without compression. The AT command to disable compression varies among modem chipsets.
Disable Modem Error Control : In most cases, I wouldn't recommend doing this; but for some it seems to help. The AT command to disable compression varies among modem chipsets.
Adjust buffers : Win95/98 have variable buffer settings for the modem. Check performance with various settings. [Screen shot of ControlPanel-> Modems-> Properties-> Connection-> Port settings on the Throughput page.]
QUAKE TIP from EVL_GUNNER:
In game simply type -in the "console..="~"<--button
what this does is allow the player<the client> to see a "graph" at the bottom of his/her screen.. the graph show you what kind of connection your getting from the server/host. by seeing the graph you can Fine tune your gamming by: in the console again;)..typing.. "rate" <no quote's> by doing so your rate will be given at the prompt<console> Now.if your seeing any red bars in the graph as i stated:) this meens you should adjust your "rate" to a higher setting like so: rate 5000 by the way a modem players setting should be between 2000 and 6000. and a cable peep<argh> lpb'rs..ty should be at 10000 so by adjusting this you will want to abtain a graph color of all green and with no line spikes of red or yellow. hope this helps. so what are my settings?...pfft..ok ..mostly 2000.. but thats my connection;).each players different of course. .........EVL_GUNNER............
ALSO SEE: Set Network Packet Size