Input Delay

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I have been a gamer since around the age of 12. The first gaming device I owned was the ZX Spectrum 16k.
We didn’t have internet gaming back then. Also quite sure Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment wasn’t around either.
My first internet gaming experience came with the Playstation 2. Some of you may remember the adapter that you had to buy separately that was plugged into the back. You would then connect an ethernet cable between the router and the adapter.
SOCOM was the main game back then. Even with low internet bandwidths back then, the game was playable and fun.
My first football game was back on the ZX Spectrum 16k. Football manager followed by Match Day.
The first online football game I played was a PES 5.
Like FIFA nowadays, online play was mixed. PES online was not as good as offline multiplayer.
I moved to the FIFA series as I wanted a better online experience. EA was a much bigger company than Konami, still is, and I thought they would be more likely to provide my fix.
FIFA was way less enjoyable offline but more stable online.
By the time FIFA 12 arrived, I had got reasonably good. Looking back, the gameplay responsiveness was the best this series has produced. it has been steadily downhill since.
13 was also quite good. But I changed my internet package from ADSL2+ Plusnet’s gaming package to their new fiber package. 40MBs Download 10MBs upload. BT had bought Plusnet out around 2012. What happened next was pure frustration.
Despite gameplay not being too bad, I was never able to get close to the level of titles I won in FIFA 12. In fact, I went from over 50 Division 1 titles and many online Cup wins to zero in FIFA 13.
I reached Division 1 but couldn’t break through to win it.
FIFA 14 was a washout for me as I moved country. Here in Spain, the highest package in my town was 10Mbs and low upload. The gameplay on all games was horrendous. A few months later fiber arrived and signed up straight away. The gameplay improved massively.
But slowly over the months, I presume as more and more people populated the fiber network with data, I noticed a degradation in gameplay.
I changed ISP from Movistar to Vodafone and despite a good start and improved gameplay, the gameplay became unplayable. The contract with Vodafone had no ties so I left after 2 months.
The next ISP I signed up for was Orange.
The gameplay was better than Vodafone has sunk to but was still far away from FIFA 12 levels of gameplay and even with initial gameplay with Movistar.
I came to the conclusion that I was plagued by bad gameplay because of my location.
With every Spanish ISP, I would complain about the gameplay. Initially, they would respond but over time they would simply ignore me. Always offering me a better deal to stay.
I always turned them down as it was the gameplay that mattered to me most.
Since FIFA 13 I have researched all sorts of stuff related to gameplay and the internet. How to improve things. I see many forums with people doing similar things now.
If I get my teeth into something I am passionate about I do not stop. I never stop learning about what can affect my gameplay experience. Same for potential things we can do that can help.

In recent years I have moved slightly away from blaming ISPs because regardless of their limitations or unwillingness to help gamers, there is a fallback to the game producer.
Online games can improve greatly with quality netcode and matchmaking.
Some people may quote “the game engine”. That is of course true. This falls under netcode to me. Netcode within the game engine.
The internet has grown rapidly since the introduction of fiber. Before fiber, we were often limited in how much data we could consume. Now it is mostly unlimited. No caps. This is creeping into mobile data as well.
The issue though is this increases the amount of data flowing around the internet. The ISPs, tier networks (packet transporters between ISPs), and game networks become inundated with traffic.
Steps have to be taken to make sure traffic can flow reasonably without bringing the network down to a halt.
A great way of trying to understand this is thinking of the internet as a road network. A local area network being the LAN. The network in your neighborhood being the “Local Loop” and or ISP network. The tier network being the “motorway” or “plane route”.
Between each of these, there will be bandwidth levels based on the cabling and traffic within each zone. Between ISP and tier network, there will be agreements on traffic flow.
Routers handle the packets in all examples. What if levels rise to the point a router could get overloaded? This is where it gets funky.
The options available are to re-route traffic or kick packets.
With non-time-sensitive packets, TCP, what usually happens is a dropped packet will trigger a resend because usually when a packet arrives the receiving end tells the sender “I got it”. So if that non-time-sensitive doesn’t arrive, it will get sent again.
Re-routing is simple enough to understand. Instead of going through its usual path, it will be diverted to another network router and complete its journey.
But FIFA uses UDP. UDP doesn’t have the same system as TCP. If a packet doesn’t arrive, that’s it. No action. The receiving end just doesn’t receive it.
Usually, online games guess what the instruction was. But the quality of guessing may not be quite so good as the real instruction.
Take for instance, “How much power you put on a shot”.
Guessing can create bad gameplay.
So EA at some point decided to use a system so that as much of the data could be sent even if packets were lost.
If a packet didn’t arrive at one end, the sending end would resend that packet. I presume EA uses a sequencing system where if a numbered packet didn’t arrive they would send information in another packet to get the sender to re-send x numbered packet.
Good, you may think but there is a catch. Each time section of gameplay has a cut-off point. Any resent packet that misses its intended cut off point goes to the next cut off point. So on certain instructions, if it can not be guessed accurately, that action will be at risk of being inaccurate.
Think of all the commands in FIFA. Movement, directing a pass, power on a pass directing a shot, timing fo skill moves..etc.
just thinking about EA’s assisted passing for this example. Say you power up the pass to hit the middle player if 3 in the passers view. You think you need about 50% power. It’s a tight one as the nearest player is close to the middle player. 5% of those packets arrive late and the game engine calculates you aimed at the near player. You weren’t expecting it to arrive at that player and you were gonna do a skill move to beat the last man with the player intended. But the player you do the skill move with instead was the wrong call for that player’s situation and skill ability level. He loses the ball and you concede on the counter. Your controller gets destroyed in a fit of rage.
Then there is the issue that your opponent appears to have better gameplay. You have one-sided delay. The actions of your players feel like your opponent has a boost. He will be able to do things like 1st time pass around for fun whilst as you move your player to intercept passes they can’t move fast enough let alone intercept. Even if you get close to a pass the interception doesn’t happen.
I realize some of the stats come into play that affects the RNG (random number generator) and other influences like DDA (dynamic difficulty adjustment) will affect the game at a certain point also, but when you have similar players, similar tactics, and in the early part of the game you know something isn’t right.
You can feel those passed are not as crisp. Your crosses do not seem to have taken on the aftertouch you applied. Shots seem random.
In some games, it can get so bad that it feels like you are playing on the moon. Your AI teammates are also affected. They don’t move and when they do they don’t react as quickly to the opponent’s player’s movements as quick. They sell themselves when pressuring. They become very easy to beat by simply running at them. Switching becomes erratic so you find it hard to switch to that player and even if you do they move slowly to adapt their position to be able to handle the runner.
When I found out a way to find out packet loss I was gobsmacked to see the levels of loss I had.
I used Wireshark initially to see if there was any timestamped method so I could see how EA’s lag compensation was done.
Bt what I saw was a load of GVSP packets with comments on some of them.
“Packet resend” was popping up quite a bit. Over several captures, I could see a variance. As low as 10% and as high as 35%. I have seen a few of my followers’ Wireshark captures and some of the levels were slightly above 35%!
I tested gameplay on 10% and it wasn’t too bad. But we are talking division 7 in FUT on FIFA 20. When I got 35% I lost to a player in division 10 on FIFA 20. In this version, FIFA 21, I am in division 5. I get around 20% packet resends.
EA has improved things slightly by the looks of it but the higher the ranked player I play the more I notice a difference in gameplay between us. So they have a long way to go. It isn’t just stacked players who move faster and with more fluidity. The lower-rated players with lower stats do also.
IMO the higher rate of resends relates to the amount of delay. EA’s netcode does seem to compensate a bit but they do not appear to have got close to equalizing gameplay fairly.
At present we are relying on avoiding routes that have to kick packets to get a better gameplay experience. This is out of our own hands though.
On this site, I hope to provide some helpful tips so you can make sure you are clear on your end at least.
There are other things that can be done. Speaking to your ISP about the problems. But go armed with data and sound like you know what you are talking about.
If you get ignored, remember there is social media. ISPs and EA do not like bad publicity. The more noise that is made the more people will see on social media. Because ISPs may be limited in what they can do, don’t think you can not let them know your feelings. EA is not limited in what they can do. They can improve the netcode, they can and have been talking to ISPs and they have produced a connection tool (although they are showing wrong packet loss levels. Deliberate or lack of knowledge? A multi-billion-dollar company). Let EA know. We are customers who are being treated unfairly.