Whenever people have issues connecting to the game, there are inevitably posts on this subreddit with… well let’s just say some uninformed opinions on the source of the issue. The most common are “It’s your service provider” and “Anet’s servers are overloaded” when most often times I observe it and the real source is: Neither, it’s someone in between!
Skip down to the last section if you don’t like walls of text (It’s ok, I’m not judging).
How The Internet Works (Sort Of)
Before I go into how to diagnose it, a little information on how the Internet connects everything together is required. There’s a common misconception that when you connect to any web service/online game, the connection goes like this:
- You -> Your Service Provider (Comcast, Time Warner, etc) -> Anet
When really it’s more like this:
- You -> Your Service Provider -> one or more Transit Providers -> Anet
These transit providers are companies I would say most people have never even heard of, such as Level3, Southern Crossroads, Cogent, and the like. All of these networks connect together and automatically figure out the best* way of routing your your information through them so that it gets to its destination (Anet)
* most of the time. It gets complicated.
How This Causes Problems
These networks are used by everyone to connect to many things, and sometimes there really are just too many cats clogging the internet tubes. This tends to happen when more people are using the internet (aka primetime). These networks aren’t static either; the companies that own them have to occasionally do maintenance, upgrade the network and such. Other times, the fancy automagical algorithms that find the best route can get messed up and overload different connections along the way. Link for the curious.
When a link gets overloaded, the information you send gets delayed. If the link is reallyoverloaded, it will start to lose information that gets sent to it. This is known as “packet loss”. Most times this isn’t an issue because smart people have figured out how to make sure all of your information gets to where you need it. Eventually. But for games, both of these things are really bad.
Other Misconceptions and Things That Won’t Help
As someone mentioned below, there is a difference between framerate “lag” and network “lag”, and it’s easy to forget the distinction between the two meanings of the word.
- Framerate Lag is caused by your computer’s hardware not being able to keep up with the demands of the game. Guild Wars 2 is very CPU (the one that’s not your graphics card) intensive. However, turning down your graphics settings will have a negligible effect on network lag
- Network Lag is caused by any of the reasons in the above section and is completely separate from Framerate Lag
Basically, changing your graphics settings will have NO effect on Network Lag
How to Find the Source of Your “Lag”
Now, with all the heavy reading out of the way, on to the interesting stuff. You may or may not have heard of a tool called “traceroute”. This program is on every OS and tells you information about the “route” that you take to get to a web site/game server etc. Running this multiple times can give you valuable information such as which “links” along the way are giving you issues.
The program I use every time I have a lag/packet loss issue is WinMTR. The download page ishere. If you run on other OS’s besides windows, there are similar utilities that are command line only.
Simply type in the game server’s IP addres, hit start, and wait a few minutes (Use the /ip command in chat to find the the game server’s IP address). What this program does is run traceroute multiple times and gives you a table like this:
This was my connection tonight as I was trying to play pvp. The important piece of information here is the % Loss column. An acceptable amount of packet loss is <1%, whereas I was seeing a fair bit more than that coming from Telia.net, before it even got to ArenaNet.
Some information about the other columns: Sent and Received is just the number of requests, not really important. Best, Avrg, Wrst, Last describe the time it took for the trace to get there and back. This can be useful to look at as well if you see a abnormally high times. Another thing to note is that even though there are % loss numbers within Arenanet’s network, these were most likely “lost” by Telia before they even got there.
One caveat of any traceroute tool: This only tells you information about the route from you to ArenaNet, which may not be the route from them to you!
Hopefully this was helpful (and not too dry!) and now more people will be able to figure out exactly what’s causing the source of their in-game connection issues. If you have other ways of diagnosing, be sure to let me know!
TL;DR It’s not always you, it’s not always Anet, many times it’s someone in between!