***Last Updated Nov. 14th 2012***
The Elagaphant started a few years back as a thread on the official Call of duty forums, since then it has grown into a resource that covers all aspects of console networking . This special edition of the Elagaphant was made exclusively for CharlieIntel.com and covers the basics you need to know when it comes to setting up and optimising your connection for Blackops 2. It will cover things you will need to know to get the best out of your connection and to use the new matchmaking correctly
Consoles like any networked device work better when they are correctly set up, as most people are able to just plug and play their consoles it’s an area often overlooked. Spending a little time to correctly set things up will help to make your gaming experience that much better.
There are many phrases and terms used when dealing with playing Call Of Duty online, knowing what each other these means will help you better understand how everything works. So with that in mind before we get under the hood so to speak I just want to cover the three mostly used terms you will come across.
Bandwidth – This is probably the most misunderstood aspect of anyone’s internet connection. When you see Isp’s advertise speed or when you do a “speedtest” what they are actually referring to is not speed but actually bandwidth. Increasing your bandwidth by buying a more expensive internet package does NOT increase your “speed”. The simplest way to understand bandwidth is to imagine your internet connection as a conveyor belt. When you increase your bandwidth , all you are in fact doing is increasing the width of that conveyor belt. The belt still travels along at the same speed as it did before, the only difference is you can now receive or send more data at the same time as you have more space.
When it comes to the differences between Cable or ADSL , yes there is a small increase in the transfer rate of data between yourself and the point your data leaves your isps own network , but the main difference is cable can carry more bandwidth. Contrary to popular belief you do not need a huge amount of bandwidth to play online, even the most basic of ADSL internet packages is more than sufficient to play online with with no problems. The only time bandwidth really comes into play for Black Ops 2 games is for hosting, where the more upload bandwidth you have the better host you will make. The other feature of Black Ops2 where you will need a higher upload bandwidth is if you intend to use the CoDCasting / livestreaming feature as there is a minimum upload Bandwidth requirement to be able to livestream.
To put all this into perspective for you- I recently conducted an hour long test whilst playing Modern Warfare 3 in ground war as it uses the most data being an 18 player game mode. To get an accurate average of both the amount of data I sent and received , and how much actual bandwidth I used during that hour. The results may surprise alot of you.
During the hour my average bandwidth usage was 0.04 mbs Down and 0.03 mbs UP. The only time it really exceeded this was when I first logged into my console and those peaks were 1.34 mbs Down and 0.10 Up (signing in and getting friends online updates ect) . In that entire hour I only downloaded just under 15 mbs of data and uploaded just under 14 mbs . So as you can see you really only ever use a tiny part of your bandwidth when you play online. This is because the packets the game sends are tiny something I will cover later on
Ping – Is the measurement of a round trip between yourself and a server it is measured in Miliseconds (ms). As it is only a measurement, your “ping” will always change depending where and to who you are “pinging to”. Obviously the lower the ping the less time it takes for data (packets) to be sent to and from the host. People get way too hung up with ping when it comes to console play, historically Call of Duty has used bars to represent the quality of your connection again to put this into an easy to understand perspective . Could you just Blink! yep that’s right I said blink — done that? well it may surprise you to know that blink would have taken the majority of you between 300-400ms . To give you an example of how this relates to the game unless you are matched into a lobby on the other side of the world to you, it will be rare for your ping to ever go above 150ms .
Lag comp – Now this is an area that causes more complaints and myths than any other aspect of online Call of Duty gaming . I really don’t want to spend to long on this as its such a wide subject we could be here for days. What I want to address is the most common myths and misconceptions people have about this. It is also worth noting Developers will not discuss aspects in detail as the systems and code they all use is proprietary information.
First off lag comp is a generic term , it isn’t one thing it’s many different things that people have bundled into one all encompassing phrase and scapegoat. Anyone who grew up pc gaming will remember what happens when “lag” affects gaming, One of the things “lag comp” does is to smooth out the visuals you see on screen. So we don’t have players that seem to skip across the screen , or you or other players don’t appear to be attached to bungee cords. ~What “lag Comp” DOES NOT do is penalise a players connections nor does it penalise players with “best money can buy internet connections”.
Matchmaking – This Is the system that places you or your party into a session (lobby) . In Blackops 2 there are three different settings to set your matchmaking preferences too. It is important to choose the right one or you could find that it takes along time to find matches and/or you end up in a less than perfect session. As with lag comp what’s behind the curtain is Treyarch’s own systems and settings and as such I cannot go into too much detail. I also want to add as I mentioned in my bandwidth isn’t speed part. Treyarch for reasons best known to themselves have chosen to use very confusing wording and they haven’t explained what exactly they define as a “high speed” . My main problem with this wording is they ( like many people) are wrongly using speed to mean bandwidth and matchmaking doesn’t rely on bandwidth it relies on ping and location.
Firstly I want to just spend a few minutes explaining the steps you will see on your screen when you first try to find a match. It is really important that you remember the results you get back will be “in the past” ie they are only accurate to that moment when the game searched. I’ll go through the stages matchmaking so you can see how this “in the past” aspect influences what you see on your screen.
1) When you first go to find a match in your preferred playlist you will see a message on your screen with a number of matches your game has found. This number represents the number of matches within the parameters set out by that step of matchmaking. It is also out of date the moment you see it on your screen as I will now explain…
2) Next the game will announce it is testing matches , during this phase the game is now going through the matches it found to see if there are still places available, as in the time you have started searching other people have joined or left lobbies or the match may have finished.
3) It will either place you into a lobby if there is spaces (this could be a new lobby , one that is already half full or everyone’s favourite outcome a game in progress .
4) If no available matches are then found it will then search again by expanding the search parameters. One thing to remember is the search starts right from the beginning but increases what it searches for for example search doesn’t go 0-100 , new search ,101-200. It goes 0-100 THEN 0-200. At present it looks like there is a bug in the matchmaking I have tested this numerous times when the search restarts the screen displays a message saying no games found and it doesn’t look like it’s doing anything.It is if you wait it will place you into a match. Backing out and restarting search will just recreate the same thing if you don’t change your search settings.
I have noticed this happens more frequently if you are in a party. I would assume Treyarch are aware if this bug and are working on something atm. (assumption)
Matchmaking settings – There are three settings which as stated earlier are slightly confusing , the three settings are Normal , Best and Any. As the descriptions are somewhat confusing I am sure like myself people have been
From tests i have carried out today I have come to the conclusion the best setting to use for both my standard ADSL connection and my leased line was “normal”, it produced the fastest results and the majority of the sessions were local. The nest one would be “any” again fast results and local lobbies but the search time was slightly longer. Ironically the worst experience I had was on “best” took ages to find a lobby frequently got the zero games found message, and lobbies I did get into were a mixture of all different barred players. #Gofigure.
I would say at the moment till Treyarch have tweaked a few things the best advice as I know alot of people are having issues atm is to just be patient every CoD game has launched with a few matchmaking hiccups which are usually sorted out very quickly.There will alwats be some irregularities with matchmaking for the first few days of release, it isn’t a fault with the game its just how these things are with millions of people all connecting at once. As this is really the first real “live” test of their system.
(there will be more details ps3 instructions soon my apologies ps3 users , but the basic premise for both xbox and ps3 are the same ps3 network settings have a dns and an mtu option)
Before we start get a pen and a piece of paper you will need it. Each of these steps will help to improve your connection and optimise your connection so your game packets travel from your console to the host and back as smoothly as possible. Protip if you change any settings WRITE down the original settings before changing anything so you can always revert than back if needed.
Ports and Nat – Forwarding the correct ports will give you an open Nat this is needed so you can connect to the widest amount of players and equally players can connect with you too. It is also important for each consoles party options as by not having an open Nat you may find you suffer with issues when it comes to making parties.
*Please Note I haven’t listed the ports as I am still at time of writing waiting for confirmation if there are any changes to previous Call of duty games.
Most routers nowadays what is called a UpnP system, what this means is once you connect your console it will automatically detect what settings to use and once you get online you should see an open Nat displayed in game. If you don’t it’s really easy to fix for both PS3 and XBox going into your system settings and running a network connection test should sort the issue. If not you will need to manually go into your routers admin page and set the ports up yourself. You can find many guides on doing this on both youtube and on your own platforms help pages as well as the full version of the Elagaphant when it goes live. In my opinion correctly setting up your ports is the way to go, you will hear people suggest just putting your console into the “dmz” of your router, while this will open the NAT it will have a slightly adverse affect on your connection quality when it comes to receiving data from the host.
DNS – In your consoles network settings you will see an option to set your DNS, this is basically a sorting office for internet traffic, if you don’t set one up you will find it will be defaulted to either your routers ip address or your isp’s dns server. What this means to your gaming experience is your packets need to go through a couple of un-needed hops and this increases your ping. There are two ways to set up your DNS correctly This is where the pen and paper come in handy:-
Simple version for xbox
1) Turn on your xbox and via the dashboard open up the system settings tab and scroll down and click onto Network settings
2) Select the connection you use and then press configure network
3) You should now have a screen that is tabbed basic settings with the dns setting at the bottom, scroll down to the dns settings and press A
4) Chose “manual” and the screen will now show two options primary and secondary dns servers
5) Highlight primary , press a and enter this EXACTLY 126.96.36.199 (then press start button to confirm)
6) Highlight secondary, press A and enter this exactly 188.8.131.52 (then press start button to confirm)
7) reboot xbox and away you go.
184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11 are googles public dns servers they are usually some of the fastest hence used for the simple method
Complex version that might give better results
1) Goto http://code.google.com/p/namebench/downloads/list and download namebench for your operating system (mac or windows) its a small program only 5mb odd
2) Run the program and you should see it has entered your details ie, location, browser ect (make sure these are correct if not change then in the drop down menus Make sure that Include best available regional dns services is checked, then hit Start, it takes about 3-5 mins to run the entire program so sit back twiddle thumbs till it finishes.
3) Once it has finished it should give you a list of the fastest DNS servers in your area , with the highest showing a percentage increase on speed in the top left hand box, don’t worry about any warning messages you get to do with hijacked domains in the list ect as we aren’t changing your browser DNS only the xbox.
4) Top right hand box will show the primary and secondary DNS sever IPaddresses for the fastest DNS server it found.
5) Turn on your console and via the dashboard open up the system settings tab and scroll down and click onto Network settings
6) Select the connection you use and then press configure network
7) You should now have a screen that is tabbed basic settings with the DNS setting at the bottom, scroll down to the DNS settings and press A
8) Chose “manual” and the screen will now show two options primary and secondary dns servers
9) Highlight primary , press a and enter EXACTLY the ip address for primary shown in namebench in the top right hand box (then press start button to confirm)
10) Highlight secondary, press A and enter EXACTLY the ip address for secondary shown in namebench in the top right hand box (then press start button to confirm)
11) reboot xbox and away you go.
MTU – It is vitally important you set it up correctly as this setting can and will mess up your ability to use the internet , view web pages ect. Again as before if you aren’t sure don’t touch.
Mtu stands for maximum transmission unit, it is the setting that sets the size of packets. changing this could help smooth out your online gaming, or it might not it really depends on each individuals setup and isp connection. This is the one setting that you basically have to find by trail and error and there isnt a short or correct answer as to what setting works best unless you try it out. Its time consuming and like i said if you dont feel theres a need past the protip underneath dont bother with it. what you want to achieve with fiddling with your mtu setting is getting the correct packet size for your set-up when you do this you lower the chances of fragmented packets and can speed up the flow of packets ect which obviously do have an effect on your gaming especially in a twitch shooter like Call of Duty.
But even if you feel that it isn’t worth changing there is one step I would suggest everyone does.
Usually routers come with the mtu set at 1500 this is the highest number you can have, this is the bog standard default setting for routers nowadays but weirdly not all ISP’s work best with this setting, for example in the uk actually recommend that your MTU is set to 1460. I would suggest everyone checks with their isp usually the isps help forums will be the place to look and what MTU works best for your isp.
If your MTU is set to 1500 and you really dont want to go through any major steps I would only do the following the reasons for which are described in more detail further down.
The two most important numbers to remember when dealing with MTU in regards to optimising for the consoles are 1364 (the lowest mtu xbl allows) and 1500 (the highest mtu you can have). So in this par tI will explain how to find out what your optimal MTU is, unfortunately this isn’t a set in stone number as you have to test via your pc but as a general guideline the numbers should be the same for pc or xbox Bear in mind though if you connect wirelessly there could be some differences hence i always recommend wiring any connection if possible.
Checking your MTU .
Get a calculator if math isn’t your strong point you will need one as there is a good chance unless you happen to be a mutant you’ll need more than 10 fingers although you could always use your toes if you happen to be of the sandals wearing fraternity I suppose.
We will use 1472 as you need to add 28 (this is the packet header) to that number at a later point (see told you there was maths involved)
If your isp connection uses PPPoe then instead of 1472 use 1492 as the packet wrapper is only 8 bytes, another point to mention with PPPoe broadband connections is that if you get the mtu number wrong you have more chance of not being able to view webpages or have the ability to upload.
In windows goto the command prompt and type the following ping -f -l 1472 www.google.com it’s important to keep the spacing.
Those media types and trendsetters who use an apple computer type the following ping -D -s 1472 www.google.com
And for those of a more geekier nature like myself in Linux type ping -s 1472 www.google.com
You should now have some text appear which may say “packet need to be fragmented” if it doesn’t DO NOT go any further.
If it does repeat step 1 but drop the 1472 number down by 10 and keep repeating this until you don’t get a “packet need to be fragmented” message.
Every time you drop the number make sure to check that you can still get web pages, if you cant go back until you can.
Once you have a number that works apply it to your router settings, again making sure that you still have web pages and that your games still run on the xbox.
QoS and basic router settings– QoS basically turns your entire home network into a huge game of hot potato. It allows you to set rules and priority to certain applications. This is great for gamers as it allows you to set up your network so game traffic can whiz through your network without interruptions Now the only problem with QoS for this guide is there is so many different types of routers, settings, makes and models ect that it would be next to impossible for me to explain in any great detail exactly what to do on your specific router.. So instead what I will do is give you a brief overview of what you need to pay attention to and suggest you refer to the manual – which will most probably still be in the box your router came in 😛 or you can go to your routers own makers website where you can usually download a manual for your specific router.
I hope you found this guide useful if you have any questions feel free to hit me up on twitter @xmaccabix