The Effect of Latency on User Performance in Real-Time Strategy Games

The Effect of Latency on User Performance in Real-Time Strategy Games


Mark Claypool

Elsevier Computer Networks
Special issue on Networking Issues in Entertainment Computing
Volume 49, Issue 1, Pages 52-70
September 2005


Latency on the Internet is a well-known problem for interactive applications. The growth in interactive network games brings an increased importance in understanding the effects of latency on user performance. Classes of network games such as First Person Shooters (FPS) and Real-Time Strategy (RTS) differ in their user interaction model and hence susceptibility to latency. While previous work has measured the effects of latency on FPS games, there has been no systematic investigation of the effects of latency on RTS games. In this work, we design and conduct user studies that measure the impact of latency on user performance on three of the most popular RTS games. As a foundation for the research, we separated typical RTS user interactions into the basic components of explore, build and combat, and analyzed each individually. We find modest statistical correlations between user performance and latency for exploration, but very weak correlations for building and combat. Overall, the effect of even very high latency, while noticeable to users, has a negligible effect on the outcome of the game. We attribute this somewhat surprising result to the nature of RTS game-play that clearly favors strategy over the real-time aspects.


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