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When I began writing the High Ping Bastard's Guide to Halo, the intention was solely to discuss issues that plague those of us with high latency connections (like me). Louis Wu at HBO, among others, were kind enough to say that some of the tips were useful even for other players. In this section, some of the issues will apply only to high ping players, but some will be quite intentionally aimed at the general Halo-playing audience. Lag Etiquette If you have a slow connection and you play Halo online a lot, chances are sooner or later you're going to see lag mentioned in the chat. You're going to see players complaining that they are lagging; you're going to see players complaining that someone else is lagging the game; and at the worst, you may see one or more players complaining that you're lagging the game. You're likely going to see suggestions, cajolery, and even threats to get you to leave the game. First of all, don't get offended right away. It's easy to feel like you're being unfairly singled out. After all, nobody has a low speed connection on purpose as a lifestyle choice; for some it's a function of location, for others, budget. You may very well have language directed at you suggesting that you leave the game if you can't afford a "real" Internet connection. But before retaliating-- either with words or weapons-- do yourself a favor and become a bit better informed. Hit F1 and bring up the score overlay; in the latest patch for Halo, this screen now shows ping times. (Alas, but the end-of-game carnage screen, that shows scores, kills, assists and deaths-- does not. I dearly wish it did, as I think most players recognize that a high ping makes the game harder to play, and it'd be nice for people to see when the game is over that despite that, some high ping players still are able to be competetive and even win a game now and then.) So, compare the pings for a second. Is your ping the worst in the game? If so, is it significantly worse than most of the other players'? Ironically, Halo games as a rule seem to suffer more from lag when there are several high ping players in the game; however, you're probably going to feel yourself under pressure to drop if the rest of the players all have fast connections. As the server performs "corrections" to your client, your position in the game world is going to appear to "warp" inexplicably from place to place. This makes it hard for you to aim at other players, but also makes it hard for them to aim at you. For the Low Ping Bastards, it's frustrating to have just one target that's harder than the rest for a reason that's totally unconnected with skill. And if you should manage to get a frag against one of the LPBs, you way well incur their wrath. So, when do you decide to leave a game? I'd suggest doing so if one or more of the following are true:
  • Your ping is more than 50% higher than the next-slowest player
  • One or more players ask you to leave
  • No other players defend your presence in the game
  • If your ping is over 450 and the other players' pings are all lower, regardless of the margin.
If your ping is high and nobody else's is, you're only going to anger the other players, and unless you're a hardcore griefer or teamkiller, there's no point in being in a game when you aren't welcome. Try to bring a friend or two into a game with you, regardless of their connection speed. At the very least, you'll have someone to chime in and defend you if someone asks you to drop. If that doesn't help, you can all go off and look for a friendlier server. Frankly, I don't find games with pings over 550 playable in the least, and even 450 is a bit of a stretch. The range betwen 250 and 350 seems eminently playable. For those who tried early versions of QuakeWorld and experienced the sensation that you're skating along the floor instead of walking or running, Halo PC with a 300 ping is going to feel very familiar to you. I think this is one of the reasons that among the vehicles, the Warthog seems the most manageable with lag; as its momentum makes it slide around on most surfaces anyway, the effect of lag only exaggerates this, as if you were driving on ice all the time, which is something a player can easily compensate for. Fast-moving vehicles that don't behave this way, like the Banshee and to a lesser extent the Ghost, are less manageable. The Scorpion also doesn't have much momentum this way, but it moves so slowly that the "warping" effect doesn't matter much. Etiquette and Game Roles This was touched on in the earlier article on what roles are good for high ping players; this article will mention them as they pertain to the polite negotiation of roles on teams. Some teams communicate more than others; if you're in a game between two clans, or that has players that know each other, you'll probably notice more team chatter. Other games are almost devoid of it. As mentioned earlier, in CTF games, a high ping player probably stands a better chance at succeeding at defense than offense, generally speaking. If you're willing to volunteer for defensive duty, make sure you mention this in the team chat. One, because it lets other players know they are free to go on offense (although many do so without ever bothering with defense) and two, because it sets up a defense for yourself should something go wrong. If you die and lose the flag, you can blame lag. On the other hand, should your teammates want you off their side because of your ping, it might help sweeten the deal to offer to play defense, a role which many players do not desire for themselves. If you do play defense, as a high ping player you have to be very wary of grenades. Throwing grenades, especially frag grenades, under high lag conditions in tight quarters is fine if you're the only player around. If there are other defending allies, though, think twice. Use a nice safe weapon like the AR and pump as many rounds into the attackers as possible. You may not get a kill, and you may be killed yourself, but you are at least assisting in the defense. If you toss a few frags, killing the attackers, yourself, and your defending teammates, you haven't done that much good. Any other nearby attackers will find your flag easy for the taking; on servers that are set up to automatically boot teamkillers you'll be closer to getting booted (and possibly increased your respawn time, either for teamkilling or for suiciding) and you'll have pissed off your teammate. If you decide to play offense, consider a supporting role, rather than the guy who's going to go after the flag. Again, if you should die and the opposing team recover their flag, you may find your teammates suggesting that you shouldn't be a flag carrier with bad lag. In practice, I see this a lot less than you'd expect, but that doesn't mean it can't happen. If a player or players on the team suggest you take a different role than you feel comfortable with, give it a try. If you don't like it, look for another game. Halo doesn't have team captains the way previous Bungie games like Myth did, and there's no way of knowing who is a server admin and who isn't from looking at the player list. (Another possible feature request, perhaps.) The only way you'll find out if you've pissed off an admin is when you get booted or banned. Don't let it get to that point. Treat every player as if they might be an admin, and everybody will get along better. Lag and Teamkilling Etiquette There are a few situations in which having lag can contribute to unintentional team kills. You have to balance carefully whether you want to draw attention to your ping or not. In any case, you should apologize for any and all teamkills if at all possible. Some players may retort back, doubting that the kill was an accident and accusing you of being a TKer. For the most part, don't respond. You'll only escalate the incident if you do, and you can't play effectively while chatting anyhow. If you really are a teamkiller, the server will boot you soon enough. If you're not, and no more kills ensue, then the other players will forget about it as the game progresses. In no situation retaliate intentionally against a teamkiller. You only end up feeding the cycle. I've seen games that ended up in nothing but massive teamkilling contests until the entire team was booted. If you're on a server with just your friends and you're having a bit of a joke, fine. But if you're on a public server with people you don't know, all you're doing is ruining the game for everybody. Just wait and the servers will take care of the teamkillers. If it doesn't, go and look for another game. Yes, people get tired of hearing apologies. Yes, people get tired of making apologies. Do it anyway. If you teamkill repeatedly without saying a word, you're definitely going to get categorized as a griefer. A lot of times, high ping teamkills are vehicle related. It's always dangerous to have players on foot in close proximity to vehicles like ghosts and warthogs. If everybody is OK with you playing with a high ping, you may consider warning your teammates to give you extra leeway when you're driving, or offer to take gunning or passenger roles instead. As mentioned in the earlier article on Vehicles, being a high-ping passenger with a low-ping warthog driver seems to be much worse; several times now I've noticed players that cannot drive effectively even with a high speed connection if a teammate in the vehicle has lag. If this happens, offer to drive, and make it clear you're not suggesting you're a better driver (although you might be). Much as I'd like to attribute it to my driving skills, I've noticed several games in which I was able to drive more cleanly with low ping passengers and gunners than the reverse, and I have a feeling the game engine itself is responsible for this. Be a little bit less worried about this when you're a flag-carrying driver. The way I see it, if you're carrying the opponent's flag, you get right of way, period. Avoid teammates when possible, but don't put the flag at risk in order to do it. Several times I've seen flag runs ruined by teammates in vehicles not looking where they were going, or assuming you should get out of the way for them; and some of them have even complained after the collision that your driving caused their deaths. Even as a high ping player, don't back down in that situation; just because a lot of players treat CTF like it's slayer doesn't mean you have to.