Bonded DSL guide, part 4: Is bonded DSL essential for rural online gamers?
When it comes to online gaming, it doesn't matter whether you're playing a twitch response first person shooter (FPS) or a massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) - you're going to need a consistent and relatively speedy internet connection to truly enjoy the experience.
If you live in a rural area this may seem like an impossibility, but bonded DSL may be able to give you the gaming experience you crave.
In many ways the two genres are of course very different beasts. For the uninitiated, in the most simple terms, FPSs tend to require players to target each other and you can take out another player in relatively few 'hits', perhaps one; in an MMO it tends to be more about combinations of abilities and tactics, with the right strategy taking down a particular opponent over time - either that, or you'll be in a large free-for-all melee where attacking and retreating at the right moments will make all the difference.
However, though tactically very different, for a great experience you'll need both a good upload and download speed. For many, this might be the only time they really worry about upload speed - which is why it tends to be very much an afterthought for the majority of ISPs. And, if you're already on a slow connection, this is even worse.
Crucial for playing an FPS competitively, your ‘ping’ speed comes down to how fast a packet of information can travel between your computer and an online game’s servers. You need to remember that you could be playing against people all over the world and of their computer is managing to send the game information back and forth a second or so faster than yours it’s simply giving them an advantage you can do nothing about. You may be the better, quicker player but if your computer and broadband connection can’t keep up, the resulting lag puts you at a definite disadvantage.
Ping will also be an issue in an MMO, especially in player versus player (PVP) combat but also in player versus environment (PVE); when you’re fighting computer generated opponents. While in MMOs you tend to have more time to recover from a slow connection, in large scale battles where there’s an ebb and flow, you’ll soon be in trouble; just think of an animal falling off the pack while being chased by predators.
In PVE, there’s nothing more frustrating than attacking an enemy you know you can beat, having the screen seem to freeze for a few moments, and then finding yourself on a floor at its feet.
However, it may not be a ping problem; if it is happening when a lot of people are on screen at once, it could instead be a bandwidth issue – another common bugbear with slow broadband connections. Instead of being about the speed a packet can travel between your machine and the game’s servers, bandwidth is about how much data your internet service provider lets you send down its pipes at once.
So, for example, if you’re playing a game and there isn’t much happening on screen, not too much bandwidth should be required to send the data back and forth. But, if you then move into an area with hundreds of players all acting at once, your available bandwidth is going to become a serious issue.
This is why bandwidth isn’t as much of an issue in an FPS game; these tend to limit the amount of people in one battle to quite a small number, so that the bandwidth required to play will not usually vary that much.
You need to remember that bandwidth is shared between everyone using your connection, so if someone is downloading large files from the internet or streaming video, this could have a big impact on your gaming experience if it’s happening at the same time and you’re struggling on a poor connection.
If you can get an ADSL+ connection (12-16Mb or more), one option is to opt for a smaller provider that specifically targets gamers; BE Broadband is a good example. However, because ADSL connections (or the old ‘up to 8Mb’ classification) really struggle for online gaming, the likes of BE won’t offer services to those exchanges.
There are still options though, including Plusnet, who will give gaming traffic (or other types, it’s your call) priority on their higher priced products. However, if you’re stuck with a really poor exchange, even this may not do the trick – especially if you really want to be competitive.
Bonded DSL can give you the online gaming edge
All of these things have been big issues for me while gaming from a poor exchange. Now, with bonded DSL, these issues are completely a thing of the past without the need to prioritise traffic, play at certain times of day, pray to the gaming gods etc.
It’s been an absolute revelation. Where bandwidth was a serious issue in MMOs it’s no longer an issue at all, while my ping rates have dropped through the floor. A ping of below 100 is probably acceptable; something I’d have only dreamt of previously. Now I can get be less than 50.
Sure, it’s expensive, but I guess it comes down to the premium you’re happy to put on your gaming experience. If online gaming is your number one hobby and if you simply can’t enjoy yourself on a rural exchange and have no cable option, £90 per month may be an acceptable price to pay.