Tom Beigbeder, Rory Coughlan, Corey Lusher, John Plunkett, Emmanuel Agu, and Mark Claypool
The growth in the popularity of interactive network games has increased the importance of a better understanding of the effects of packet loss and latency on user performance. While previous work on network games has studied user tolerance for high latencies and has studied the effects of latency on user performance in real-time strategy games, to the best of our knowledge, there has been no systematic study of the effects of loss and latency on user performance. In this paper we study user performance for Unreal Tournament 2003 (UT2003), a popular first person shooter game, under varying amounts of packet loss and latency. First, we deduced typical real world values of packet loss and latency experienced on the Internet by monitoring numerous operational UT2003 game servers. We then used these deduced values of loss and latency in a controlled networked environment that emulated various conditions of loss and latency, allowing us to monitor UT2003 at the network, application and user levels. We designed maps that isolated the fundamental first person shooter interaction components of movement and shooting, and conducted numerous user studies under controlled network conditions. We find that typical ranges of packet loss have no impact on user performance or on the quality of game play. The levels of latency typical for most UT2003 Internet servers, while sometimes unpleasant, do not significantly affect the outcome of the game. Since most first person shooter games typically consist of generic player actions similar to those that we tested, we believe that these results have broader implications.
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