There are, of course, all the usual things you can do to your gaming PC to ensure that you suffer the bare minimum amount of in-game lag problems. Firstly, invest in a decent router (many are now optimised for online gaming) and also consider paying your cable provider for the fastest broadband package they offer (such as the 50Mbps fibre option services currently on offer from Virgin Media or BT Infinity).
Secondly, though it should really go without saying, try to make sure you are playing on a hard-wired connection using an old-fashioned ethernet cable and NOT via your home Wi-Fi network. Even if your router is situated some way from your PC, it is always worth investing in a longer ethernet cable, instead of risking the ups and downs of a wireless connection. And should your partner complain about the messy wires running through the flat, just run it under the carpet or the floorboards!
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As far as World Of Warcraft goes, Blizzard offers its own basic troubleshooting tips for those gamers experiencing latency problems which, if it not immediately made obvious by unresponsive or choppy gameplay, you will soon be made aware of by the latency meter (in the UI) turning red.
If you are experiencing slow responses from your in-game character, yet your latency meter still shows green, then the problem is more likely down to the in-game graphics settings being too high for your PC.
Blizzard notes that lag can be down to numerous issues, from basic internet connection problems with your ISP through to highly customized UI mods that may cause high latency or from playing in highly populated zones where a lot of data is being processed.
If the problem is down to issues with Blizzard's own servers, the company will immediately give players updates on WoW's Realm Status page and by breaking news on the game's login screen.
Bolstering server speed and quality
There is obviously a lot of work that goes on behind-the-scenes at Blizzard to ensure that all of its games' servers are both reliable and consistently able to provide gamers with a flowing, lag-free experience of World of Warcraft. As such, the company carries out regular studies into player behaviour, particularly at those seasonal peak times and in those areas of the game where lag hot spots appear such as raids and capital cities.
Blizzard also recently renewed its agreement with Nordic telephony and hosting specialists TeliaSonera to provide hosting services for them across Europe, essentially providing the bandwidth that connects Blizzard's servers to the millions of connections that lead back to your computer as you play World of Warcraft.
Blizzard COO Paul Sams seems pretty happy with the service to date, noting: "We needed a carrier that could provide high-quality, low-latency Internet connectivity, and TeliaSonera International Carrier has proven its ability to satisfy our European audience."
IP BACKBONE MAP: Teliasonera's map of its European network
For its part, TeliaSonera is proud to note that it has, "enjoyed a longstanding relationship with Blizzard Entertainment since 1999, providing hosting for both World of Warcraft and the Battle.net online-gaming service in Europe." Malin Frenning, Vice President of TeliaSonera, has also stated that her company is "striving to enable the best gaming experience possible" for its customers' games and "to become the provider of choice to the online gaming industry."
TechRadar spoke with Vlad Ihora, Head of Gaming Community at Teliasonera to find out a little more about his company's plans for the future. We wanted to know a little more about the renewal of that Blizzard deal, what that means for the company, why WoW continues to lead the way in terms of high-quality low-latency MMO gaming and what the company was able to offer other MMO gaming publishers and developers.
"There is no real way to dispose of lag overall as there are physical reasons for that but in terms of ways of reducing the delay, companies like ours have the opportunity to use traffic engineering, traffic prioritisation and quality of service policies in order to provide online gaming companies with top quality Internet access.
"Beyond the network of the telco operator, all the other components of the network connection between the gamer, the game server and back to the gamer's PC add latency overall. Hence the lower the latency on the carrier's network the better for the overall gaming experience but the broadband connection is extremely important too and so is the location of the gaming servers too.
TeliaSonera's gaming network is fully owned and operated by TeliaSonera International Carrier (TSIC), and the company claims that "in the unlikely event of significant signal degradation or failure the network will instantaneously switch to an alternative path, without impacting quality of service to the end consumer."
"At TSIC we are in full control of our network," says Ahora. "As the gaming servers are placed in our data centres we can do our utmost to reduce latency but we also take this quest to our broadband operator customers and partners who, in the past couple of years have become very interested in ensuring higher quality for the online gamers that are also their end users."
Blizzard adds subtle graphics updates
WoW gamers often overlook the extra effects that were patched in with the graphics update in the recent Wrath of the Lich King game expansion pack.
"They're mostly fairly subtle, soft shadowing and so on, but they do make a noticeable difference," says WoW fan and freelance writer, Adam Oxford.
"Curiously, though, they do require a fairly decent PC to get running smoothly without dragging down framerates in large raids, I find that despite WoW's reputation for low end graphics, there aren't many machines you can get running at 2560x1600 with anti-aliasing and all effects turned on. Of course, there's more graphical updates to come in Cataclysm. Scalable, I guess, is the key thing."