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Blizzard Talks Overwatch’s Netcode in Latest Developer Update

Blizzard Talks Overwatch’s Netcode in Latest Developer Update

One concern I had with Overwatch after spending a fair bit of time with it was the netcode. Fortunately, though, Blizzard will be taking some steps to improve it soon enough.

The sixteen minute video is interesting, to say the least, especially if the idea of netcode is a foreign concept. It does a pretty good job of explaining the issues developers face when trying to make a multiplayer shooter.

A few of the interesting tidbits to take away from the talk is the fact that currently, Overwatch clients update rate at 20.8hz tickrate, but once an upcoming patch is out, custom games will support a 60hz tickrate. Meaning, a client currently sends data back to the server almost 21 times a second, whereas in the next patch, custom games will have that almost tripled. 20.8 is still fairly low, which is why Blizzard is being forced to go through so many lengths to make sure the game is as responsive as possible, and that there are less instances of players feeling like they’re being cheated by someone with a high ping. Hopefully as time goes by they can bump up that tickrate little by little. I’d imagine if any company has the resources to handle the increased server strain, it’s probably Blizzard.

The biggest change they’re making to combat high ping players is capping their “delay” to 250ms, compared to whatever it is now – they don’t say, but it’s probably much higher. This means that if a player currently has a ping of about 500-1000ms, they won’t be able to shoot you around that corner as easily because the server will step in and compensate for their lag. Of course, hopefully once the game goes live, players with a ridiculously high ping won’t be as common because there’s a larger pool of players to pull from, so it’s less likely to match you with the guy on the other side of the world.

The game also currently uses a system that prefers the shooter to the shoot-ee, with the exception of certain abilities that overwrite this. Currently that only applies to invulnerability and a few of the movement abilities. Once this next patch goes live, a lot of additional movement abilities will take precedence over this shooter priority. It’ll be weird for the shooter, no doubt. They’ll shoot someone, who will have already used a movement ability, and it will look like the shots on their target will have fizzled, and then a few milliseconds later, Pharah will rocket into the sky. Of course this will probably cause an influx of people who think that because their shots are seemingly bugged that their game is bugged.

It’s funny the amount of server-side extrapolation Overwatch and most other online shooters have to do for the game to be as responsive as possible, all of which to compensate for less than ideal tickrates, on both the client and server side.

For anyone still really confused about all this netcode mumbo jumbo, there’s a Youtuber by the name of Battle(non)sense who has some really good Netcode explanation videos that he did mostly for Battlefield 4. They’re obviously unrelated to Overwatch, but they can help to explain Netcode a little more thoroughly.

Until everyone on the planet Earth all play games from the same room, latency and netcode will be an issue in games. There are only so many things you can do to try and compensate for the fact that information doesn’t get from point A to point B instantly, but that it actually has to travel. I guess what we really need are quantum entangled computers.

There’s a thought.



About Josh Price

Josh Price is a writer who probably spends too many hours of the day playing video games. At some point he decided to put the two together to (hopefully) great effect. He also wrote some fiction. You should check that out if you're into such things, which you should be. Reading is FUNdamental.

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