The Effect of Latency on User Performance in Warcraft III

The Effect of Latency on User Performance in Warcraft III


Nathan Sheldon, Eric Girard, Seth Borg, Mark Claypool, Emmanuel Agu

In Proceedings of ACM Network and System Support for Games (NetGames)
at Electronic Arts Headquarters
Redwood City, California, USA
May 22-23, 2003
Winner! Best paper award.


Latency on the Internet is a well-known problem for interactive applications. With the increase in interactive network games comes the increased importance of 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 in Warcraft III, a popular RTS game. As a foundation for the research, we separated typical Warcraft III 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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