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      Networks and Online Gaming: 3 Ways to Improve Performance and Retain Your Audience


      What makes or breaks the technical success of a new multiplayer video game? Or for that matter, the success of any given online gaming session or match? There are a lot of reasons, to be sure, but success typically boils down to factors outside of the end users’ control. At the top of the list, arguably, is network performance.

      In June, 2018 Fornite experienced a network interruption that caused world-famous streamer, Ninja, to swap mid-stream to Hi-Rez’s Realm Royale. Ninja gave the game rave reviews, resulting in a huge userbase jumping over to play Realm Royale. And just this month, the launch of Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem was darkened by infrastructure issues as the servers couldn’t handle the number of users flocking to the game. While both popular games might not have experienced long-term damage, ongoing issues like these can turn users toward a competitor’s game or drive them away for good.

      Low latency is so vital, that in a 2019 survey, seven in 10 gamers said they will play a laggy game for less than 10 minutes before quitting. And nearly three in 10 say what matters most about an online game is having a seamless gaming experience without lag. What can game publishers do to prevent lag, increase network performance and increase the chances that their users won’t “rage quit”?

      Taking Control of the Network to Avoid Log Offs

      There are a few different ways to answer the question and avoid scenario outlined above, but some solutions are stronger than others.

      Increase Network Presence with Edge Deployments

      One option is to spread nodes across multiple geographical presences to reduce the distance a user must traverse to connect. Latency starts as a physics problem, so the shorter the distance between data centers and users, the lower the latency.

      This approach isn’t always the best answer, however, as everyday there can be both physical and logical network issues just miles apart from a user and a host. Some of these problems can be the difference between tens to thousands of milliseconds across a single carrier.

      Games are also increasingly global. You can put a server in Los Angeles to be close to users on the West Coast, but they’re going to want to play with their friends on the East Coast, or somewhere even further away.

      Connect Through the Same Carriers as the End Users

      Another answer is to purchase connectivity to some of the same networks end users will connect from, such as Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner, Telecom, Verizon, etc.

      A drawback of this option, though, stems from the abolishment of Net Neutrality. Carriers don’t necessarily need to honor best-route methodology anymore, meaning they can prioritize cost efficiency over performance on network configurations. I’ve personally observed traffic going from Miami to Tampa being routed all the way to Houston and back, as show in the images below.

      Network routing
      The traffic on the left follows best-route methodology, while the traffic on the right going from Miami to Tampa is being routed through Houston. This is one consequence of the abolishment of Net Neutrality.

      Purchasing connectivity that gets you directly into the homes of end-users may seem like the best method to reduce latency, but bottlenecks or indirect routing inside these large carriers’ networks can cause issues. A major metro market in the United States can also have three to four incumbent consumer carriers providing residential services to gamers, necessitating and IP blend to effectively reach end users. However, startups or gaming companies don’t want to build their own blended IP solution in every market they want to build out in.

      Choose a Host with a Blended Carrier Agreement

      The best possible solution to the initial scenario is to host with a carrier that has a blended carrier agreement, with a network route optimization technology to algorithmically traverse all of those carriers.

      Take for example, INAP’s Performance IP® solution. This technology makes a daily average of nearly 500 million optimizations across INAP’s global network to automatically put a customer’s outbound traffic on the best-performing route. This type of technology reduces latency upwards of 44 percent and prevents packet loss, preventing users from experiencing the lag that can change the fate of a game’s commercial success. You can explore our IP solution by running your own performance test.

      Taking Control When Uncontrollable Factors are at Play

      There will be times that game play is affected by end user hardware. It makes a difference, and it always will, but unfortunately publishers can’t control the type of access their users have to the internet. In some regions of the world, high speed internet is just a dream, while in others it would be unfathomable to go without high-speed internet access.

      Inline end user networking equipment can also play a role in network behavior. Modems, switches, routers and carrier equipment can cause poor performance. Connectivity being switched through an entire neighborhood, throughput issues during peak neighborhood activities, satellite dishes angled in an unoptimized position limiting throughput—there’s a myriad of reasons that user experience can be impacted.

      With these scenarios, end users often understand what they are working with and make mental allowances to cope with any limitations. Or they’ll upgrade their internet service and gaming hardware accordingly.

      The impact of network performance on streaming services and game play can’t be underscored enough. Most end users will make the corrections they can in order to optimize game play and connectivity. The rest is up to the publisher.

      Explore INAP’s Global Network.

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      Dan Lotterman


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      Infrastructure for Online Gaming: Bare Metal and Colocation Reference Architecture


      Bare Metal is powerful, fast and, most importantly, easily scalable—all qualities that make it perfect for resource-intensive, dynamic applications like massive online games. It’s a single-tenant environment, meaning you can harness all the computing power of the hardware for yourself (and without the need for virtualization).

      And beyond that, it offers all that performance and functionality at a competitive price, even when fully customized to your performance needs and unique requirements.

      Given all this, it’s easy to see why Bare Metal has quickly become the infrastructure solution of choice for gaming applications. So what does a comprehensive gaming deployment look like?

      Bare Metal for Gaming: Reference Architecture

      Here’s an example of what a Bare Metal deployment for gaming might look like.

      bare metal gaming reference architecture
      Download this Bare Metal reference architecture [PDF].

      1. Purpose-Built Configurations: Standard configurations are available, but one strength of Bare Metal is its customizability for specific performance needs or unique requirements.

      2. Access the Edge: Solution flexibility and wide reach across a global network puts gaming platforms closer to end users for better performance.

      3. Critical Services: Infrastructure designed for the needs of your application, combined with environment monitoring and support, enables the consistent performance your players expect from any high-quality gaming experience.

      4. Content Delivery Networks: CDNs are perfect for executing software downloads and patch updates or for delivering cut scenes and other static embedded content quickly, while reducing loads on main servers. Read our recent blog about CDN to learn more.

      5. Automated Route Optimization: Your infrastructure is nothing without a solid network to connect it to your players. Ours is powered by our proprietary Performance IP service, which ensures outbound traffic takes the lowest-latency path, reducing lag and packet loss. For more on this technology, read below.

      6. Cloud Connect: On-ramp to hyperscale cloud providers—ideal for test deployments and traffic bursting. If you’re not sure what kind of cloud is right for you, our cloud experts can help you craft a flexible multicloud deployment that meets the needs of your applications and integrates seamlessly into your other infrastructure solutions.

      7. Enterprise SAN Storage: Connect to a high-speed storage area network (SAN) for reliable, secure storage.

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      The Need for Ultra-Low Latency

      In online games, latency plays a huge role in the overall gaming experience. Just a few milliseconds of lag can mean the difference between winning and losing—between an immersive experience and something that people stop playing after a few frustrated minutes.

      Minimizing latency is always an ongoing battle, which is why INAP is proud of our automated route optimization engine Performance IP and its proven ability to put outbound traffic on the lowest-latency route possible.

      • Enhances default Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) by automatically routing outbound traffic along the lowest-latency path
      • Millions of optimizations made per location every hour
      • Carrier-diverse IP blend creates network redundancy (up to 7 carriers per location)
      • Supported by complex network security to protect client data and purchases

      Learn more about how it works by watching the video below or jump into a demo to see for yourself the difference that it makes.

      Colocation

      If a hosted model isn’t right for you—maybe you want or need to bring your own hardware—Colocation might be a good way to bring the power, resiliency and availability of modern data centers to your gaming application.

      colocation gaming reference architecture
      Download this Colocation reference architecture [PDF].

      1. Purpose-Built Configurations: Secure cabinets, cages and private suites can be configured to your needs.

      High-Density Colocation: High power density means more bang for your footprint. INAP environments support 20+ kW per rack for efficiency and ease of scalability.

      Designed for Concurrent Maintainability: Tier 3-design data centers provide component redundancy and superior availability.

      2. Automated Route Optimization: Your infrastructure is nothing without a solid network to connect it to your players. Ours is powered by our proprietary Performance IP service, which ensures outbound traffic takes the lowest-latency path, reducing lag and packet loss.

      3. Cloud Connect: On-ramp to hyperscale cloud providers—ideal for test deployments and traffic bursting. If you’re not sure what kind of cloud is right for you, our cloud experts can help you craft a flexible multicloud deployment that meets the needs of your applications and integrates seamlessly into your other infrastructure solutions.

      4. Integrated With Private Cloud & Bare Metal: Run auxiliary or back-office applications in right-sized Private Cloud and/or Bare Metal environments engineered to meet your needs. Get onboarding and support from experts.

      5. Enterprise SAN Storage: Connect to a high-speed storage area network (SAN) for reliable, secure storage.

      Interested in learning more about INAP Bare Metal?

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      Josh Williams


      Josh Williams is Vice President of Solutions Engineering. His team enables enterprises and service providers in the design, deployment and management of a wide range of data center and cloud IT solutions. READ MORE



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      INAP Customer Story: See How Hi-Rez Studios Provides Seamless Online Gaming Experiences to Millions Worldwide


      To the eSports and online gaming community, Hi-Rez Studios needs no introduction. The company’s massively popular titles—which include the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game SMITE and objective-based team first-person shooter Paladins—have been played by more than 70 million people worldwide, putting the company at the forefront of the free-to-play, games-as-a-service industry.

      Since 2008, Hi-Rez has powered its games via INAP Bare Metal, custom managed hosting and the patented, latency-busting network optimization technology: Performance IP®. Today, 100 percent of Hi-Rez’s ever-increasing gaming traffic is routed through INAP data centers.

      “In online games, lag kills,” said Todd Harris, Chief Operating Officer at Hi-Rez. “To deliver the best experience, we have to make sure that gamers are able to play on the best network while using the most efficient route. INAP delivers all of that.”

      Our latest customer story with Hi-Rez, debuting this week at Game Developers Conference 2019, frames the partnership through the lens of a multiplayer match interface—from the party select and weapon loadout menus through the stage results and achievements.

      Read “Titans of Performance” below and download or share the eBook via Slideshare.













      Interested in learning more about INAP Bare Metal?

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      Ryan Hunt
      • Sr. Communications Manager


      Ryan Hunt is Senior Communications Manager. READ MORE



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