Special: How the @!*% do I host more than 2 *^$! People in a #$*!@ game of Ghost Recon!!!
It's got to be the question I hear most often from people playing Ghost Recon, and Ghost Recon : Island Thunder. ?How come I can only host a game with two people?? Just because I work for a gaming site, people naturally assume I know everything about video games. Of course, I do. (But I try to play really dumb so I don't get asked questions all the time.)
But as much as I know about games (dubious as some of that knowledge may be), I didn't have an answer for these people. Not having an answer isn't a good answer for me. I like to be in the know, no matter how useless that knowledge may be.
Often lofty goals start with such humble beginnings, but being humble is for chumps. I would learn everything there is to know. No matter would escape the sweep of my all-seeing eye. Only, I couldn't find anything?
I finally broke down and called The Obsessive Compulsive Psychic Acquaintances Hotline. (It's only $1.99 a minute!) I got ?Janice?, my personal psychic for the next five minutes, and asked if she could help me resolve my troubles.
?Sure honey, whatevah??
After telling me my age, delivering an important message from my first girlfriends' dead grandmother, and guessing the color of my trashcan (it only took her three tries) she finally coughed up this helpful piece of advice,
?Don't eat the chocolate pudding sweetie.?
?What? What does that have to do with my question??
?You're one of those web designer people right??
?Uh, well, yes? how did you kno??
?You got a pair of Nike's?
?Yah, but? Wait a minute; are you talking about the Heavens Gate Cult incident? Good lord, that was in 1997! What does that have to do with this?!?
?History has a way of repeating itself. And you might want to call tech support at this Uboo place.?
?Whatevah, call or don't., makes no difference to me. Bettah yet, email them. It's all the rage.?
?I? hadn't thought of that??
?Don't wear purple; it's not a good color for you.?
It turns out she did have some good advice, after all. I really don't look good in purple. And wouldn't you know it; tech support at Ubi came through with shining colors. After a flurry of emails and a couple more calls to ?Janice? I was finally hot on the trail of a solid answer; except I wasn't.
?WHAT?!? You may cry. ?You mean I've read your blathering tripe this far only for you to tell me you have no answer?! FOOL!!!? But I do have an answer. It's just not the one I expected. And it probably won't be the one you expected either. You do have expectations, right?
Let me say a couple of important things right up front:
1. I'm not a networking expert.
2. Your results will most likely differ.
3. Network conditions vary, widely.
4. There could be inaccuracies in some of my information. So neither I nor anyone at Gamingtarget.com are responsible for your ability to use this information, or the results of using said information. I mean, ?Janice? seems nice, but not exceptionally credible.
First off, download speed doesn't mean jack. This is the big number your ISP sells to you. After all, faster downloads means faster Internet access, right? Sure, as long as the information is coming in. But we aren't dealing with information coming it. Hosting a match is all about the outbound connection speed. Upstream is king, and if you've got a slow upstream speed, you're hosed.
?Okay, OKAY! My upstream speed is slower than Moses' grandma. What can I do about it?? you ask.
As it turns out, different game modes require different amounts of bandwidth. Some are more efficient than others. Keep in mind that these are maximum numbers and if you don't have a primo connection with good upstream bandwidth and a low ping time, you aren't going to hit this.
Solo: up to 16 players
Team: up to 12
Cooperative: up to 6
Want to take a guess at the most popular game mode? If you said co-op, then you must be psychic! So at face value this looks pretty straightforward. Co-op games suck bandwidth like a busload of eat-aholics turned loose on a bathtub of triple fudge ripple. (Janis gave me that line.) So for starters you can change the game mode you use. This would be the easiest method you could ask for.
But that's not always the answer we want to hear. Personal change is painful, and we want what we want! Right? There are other options, but it starts to get a lot murkier from this point on. You've been warned?
?Janice? mentioned something about routers. What was it... Oh yes! Routers are EVIL!!! At least if you've got a bad one, it can really slow things down. Your first choice should be to connect that Xbox right to the source. Plug it right in the back of that modem good and snug. And make sure that Ethernet cable is good too!
But if you've got to use a router, try to make sure that your Xbox connects straight out though your routers DMZ. (Demilitarized Zone in case you missed that.) This will help keep your router from slowing packets down as it does its job of rerouting them. Any computer placed in the DMZ is open game for anyone on the Internet, just so you know the risks. Fortunately, no ones been hacking Xboxes (so far).
Different routers perform differently. Surprised? Not all boxes are the same young padawan. No! The Force is strong with some, yes! Check and see you shall! ?Janice? isn't a Star Wars fan, and The Force doesn't mean squat to her. So she channeled the spirit of a dead network technician that previously worked for the RIAA. I guess he's currently cooling his heels in purgatory and didn't have anything better to do, so he browsed a few sites and offered his advice on current home/small office routing equipment. He favors the Toshiba PCX 2200. Seems like Xbox technical support agrees with this summary too. I won't pretend to know the specifics, but I figure if it's good enough for a friend of ?Janis?, it's good enough for me.
?But the bandwidth, the BANDWIDTH!? you howl piteously.
Okay, if you want it that way, fine. I'll tell you exactly what ?Janice? told me.
? Some Cable/ADSL providers purposefully limit upload bandwidth. If your provider does this you can host a maximum of approximately 8 players.
Known problems if you host more than 8 players are Lag and Trigger Delay (slight delays when opening doors, manipulating bombs, and the like). If your Cable/ADSL provider does not limit your upload bandwidth you can host games containing more than 8 players.
The average upload rate for a T1 server is around 500 bytes/sec per player, and for Cable/ADSL it is around 125 bytes/sec per player. Thus, a T1 server hosting 16 players has to send 16 times 500 bytes to each player, which ends up to a maximum of 128 Kb/sec (500 bytes X 16 players X 16 players) if all players are currently visible to each other.
Here are a few examples of the possible maximum upload rates:
Hosting 16 players
T1/T3 (500 bytes per player) = 128K max upload
Cable (125 bytes per player) = 32K max upload
Hosting 8 players
T1/T3 (500 bytes per player) = 32K max upload
Cable (125 bytes per player) = 8K max upload
Hosting 4 players
T1/T3 (500 bytes per player) = 8K max upload
Cable (125 bytes per player) = 2K max upload
Note: In cooperative mode, terrorists, hostages and A.I. back-ups count as players.?
So it really does seem that bigger is better! At least when it comes to hosting games.
What sort of number should you look for? If you use Cable or ADSL you'll probably need an upload speed of at least 128kbps to host matches with a maximum number of players. 140kbps and faster is better. You also need to be sure you've got an acceptable amount of lag. Lag should be 45 or less.
How do you find these numbers? Your Xbox of course. You can use the utilities in the dashboard to check your connection statistics. The information you get from this utility is questionable for a lot of reasons, so don't think it's the be-all end-all diagnostic tool. But it's good for ball parking what your Xbox thinks it's seeing.
The network troubleshooters' location changed with the new dashboard. You'll have to exit the initial dashboard screen to get to the main menu. Once you're there, go to Settings, and then Network. Select Troubleshooter from the Network Settings menu (select Connect and hit the A button). Once you see the Connect Status screen and have passed all 4 of the connectivity tests, press Y on the controller to bring up a window displaying some potentially helpful information.
If you need more advice or information concerning the topic of Xbox connectivity, ?Janice? suggests you check the following addresses. These are official FAQs from Xbox Live and they should provide at least as much information as the spirits ?Janice? channels.
If all else fails, call your ISP and/or Xbox Live support. These people are trained professionals that can help you. They aren't psychics, but they can go a very long way towards helping you diagnose and resolve any possible connectivity issues. The engineers at Xbox have worked wonders on making it as simple as possible for you to enjoy online gaming, but connectivity is still a complex issue. It may take time and experimentation to get the best possible setting for your network configuration. But isn't the satisfaction of blowing up 15 of your closest buddies on Live worth the effort?
Oh, and ?Janice? did have one last piece of advice she asked me to pass along to you. ?Check the left pocket of your father's bathrobe.? If this is meaningful for you, please, don't write me about it. Honestly, Janis sort of creeps me out and I just don't want to know, okay? Hopefully her advice will have you hosting mondo Ghost Recon matches on Live soon.
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