Edge is transforming the multiplayer experience for urban gamers. Here’s how.

By Aaron Partouche, Innovation Director, Colt Technology Services.

  • 4 weeks ago Posted in

If you like to wind down after a hectic day at work by playing games online, you’re not alone. The market is surging, with an estimated 3 billion gamers around the world joining virtual realms and immersive digital environments. The gaming industry is making more money than both the music and film industries put together, according to one report. Cloud is a huge driver in making gaming accessible, transforming the gaming experience with access-from-anywhere gameplay, fast updates and enhanced security.  

There’s one particularly transformative change that Cloud has brought to the industry: the multiplayer gaming experience. It’s quickly overtaken single player gaming as games like Overwatch, Call of Duty, Sea of Thieves and Fortnite have pioneered sociable, strategic gameplay with rich content, while services like Xbox Cloud Gaming ramps multiplayer gaming up another level, with access from mobile devices, tablets and PCs facilitating a seamless, global competitive experience. 

Before gamers experience the true potential of cloud-based multiplayer gaming, though, there’s one more level to breakthrough: latency is the nemesis of gamers the world over.  Latency, or ping, is the time it takes for the server to respond to a player’s command. The lower the number, the better the experience. The inevitable lag or delay it causes significantly impacts the multiplayer gaming experience, resulting in a frustrating, glitchy deterioration of quality and performance. 20 to 40 milliseconds is the ideal ping or latency; 40 to 60 milliseconds is good while over 100 really impacts play. 

As well as a player’s own network connection quality impacting latency, gamers located in densely populated urban areas also experience higher latency and impacted performance, as they’re sharing digital infrastructure. Overloading servers can impact latency, particularly around major events like new season launches, while players’ distance from servers can also increase latency and create a frustrating lag. Usually, servers are located in global data centres, so unless you live nearby, it takes longer for data to return and for your response on-screen. Ping is taken very seriously: it’s not uncommon for professional gamers to relocate to Texas, in search of the ultimate zero ping. Fortnite and Rocket League have servers located there, so if you’re serious about competing for money in games like these, it’s your best chance to boost your performance. But let’s face it – you’ve got to be very committed to follow the ping. 

Low latency gives players a strong competitive advantage with swift responses, faster reactions and smoother game transitions. It’s not a quick-fix response though: other than checking and upgrading Wi-Fi connections, or upgrading to more powerful and expensive gaming PCs and consoles, there have been few options for gamers that truly transform their experience. As well as being frustrating for gamers, this runs the risk of stifling the creativity and innovation that the gaming industry has trailblazed over the past few years. 

Now, the tech industry is addressing this, reengineering its networks to give gamers the ultimate user experience. Tech companies and collaborations are taking a hybrid, distributed approach to connected digital networks, building game servers on true Edge infrastructure. This ‘decentralised’ approach involves pushing computing resources such as servers to the network edge, so servers are located as close to gamers as possible. If the player’s device doesn’t have to wait for a response from a data centre located many miles away, latency is reduced – and if it doesn’t have to jostle for space with huge volumes of traffic, the network is decongested and gamers finally experience the gameplay of developers’ dreams.  

The power and potential is immense: next-generation gaming orchestration platforms and street-side tech hardware companies are partnering with digital infrastructure companies, pushing the boundaries of what is possible. One collab between Colt, Edgegap and CIN is already redefining the gaming experience for Londoners. The partnership delivered the world’s first game server running on true edge computing, integrating Edgegap’s technology with Colt and CIN’s physical infrastructure network – with London chosen as the first location. Colt’s edge computing platform and network on demand connectivity deployed through CIN’s Street Arc build the underlaying digital infrastructure supporting the gaming application. 

The integration dramatically improves multiplayer gaming experiences for Londoners, eliminating lag and latency issues and leaving them free to focus on honing their skills, strategies and competitive advantage.

As developers explore even more feature-rich immersive worlds with the evolution of AR, VR, AI and the metaverse, gamers’ expectations will keep on rising. There will come a time when latency that impacts their performance will be seen as unacceptable. The days of centralised servers are numbered, and it’s down to the tech industry to seize this opportunity to lead, to innovate and to transform. 

By Rosemary Thomas, Senior Technical Researcher, AI Labs, Version 1.
By Ram Chakravarti, chief technology officer, BMC Software.
Anders Brejner, Investment Director and Enabling Solutions Lead at Circularity Capital, discusses...
By Andy Baillie, VP, UK&I at Semarchy.
By Paul Gampe, Chief Technology Officer, Console Connect.