Technical network factors often limit effective game matchmaking, and in some regions, players are completely unable to compete in and enjoy games equally. By deploying a parallel, high-performance network—a gaming Autobahn—game developers and publishers can expand low-ping areas, dramatically improve matchmaking, and earn legions of new, excited fans for their franchises.
Estimated read time: 9 minutes
Access changes lives.
Consider: Vaccinations will never deliver general population immunity unless they are broadly and fairly distributed. Similarly, widespread, equitable access to a high-performance network is necessary for healthy game matchmaking and a rewarding gaming experience.
We Have Matchmaking. What’s the Problem?
Just because a game can match players doesn’t mean the outcome is rewarding. For a fun analog, think about social matchmaking in a tiny town. Most likely, matchmaking will stink because the prospects for a suitable match are few. The more people you can reach, the better the odds for a good match. To improve those odds, you can either increase population density or extend the social network range—preferably both. It’s much easier to control range than density.
How can you extend your range?
Let’s find answers in one more metaphor: the national highway system. Like the internet, highway networks feature many factors that can affect traffic speed and movement.
Exchange points and connections introduce congestion (lag). Freeway intersections are particularly prone to slowing traffic, as are toll booths. The same is true for network switches. Different roads have different qualities. Consider the age and infrastructure of systems. Some roads have smoother pavement and breakdown lanes; some systems are better with functions such as virtualization and failover. And just as highways have speed limits, so does fiber, which slows packets from the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) to 122,000 miles per second. This makes a difference when trying to move data around the planet.
Lane counts matter. Six lanes beat three, whether we’re talking freeways or fiber-optic cabling. Backbone bandwidth can be critical in ensuring acceptable traffic speeds. The quantity of traffic matters. Smooth driving at 5 a.m. can become stop-and-go at 5 p.m. when seemingly everyone wants to use the network at the same time. Routing can make a huge difference. Construction on Highway X can bring Highway Y to a standstill if smart driver rerouting (load balancing) doesn’t help distribute that traffic efficiently. In networking, algorithms for functions such as throttling and traffic shaping can make a massive difference.
Types of traffic (packet sizes) make a big difference. If you’re moving your home 2,000 kilometers, a delay to your 18-wheel semi isn’t terrible. If your belongings are spread over 50 small vehicles, though, delays can become cumulatively crippling. Real-time audio, video, and gaming applications tend to rely on small packets, so delays are much more noticeable.
The Invisible Fence of Multi-Factor Lag
Collectively, such elements often determine one’s “daily driving range.” In the poorest conditions, driving even a mile might take an hour. Conversely, in ideal conditions, an hour might get you past the next major city and all the people in between.
With the above in mind, how far would you drive to meet someone? Three minutes is a no-brainer. Thirty minutes? Probably. Three hours? Probably not. There’s a distance at which the lag from here to there makes the experience too cumbersome and unpleasant. Especially if population density is low, you might need to drive three hours for a good match. This is a dilemma.
Now, What’s the Solution?
Let’s revisit the prospect of creating bigger matchmaking pools by expanding the low-ping radius. Imagine having an Autobahn-like road network that runs parallel to the regular freeway system. Further, let’s say that Autobahn was only for sports cars. A typical road might limit cars to 100 km/h (60 MPH), but sports cars would be free to cruise at 200 km/h on the Autobahn because it avoids obstacles like conventional traffic congestion, city center exchanges, and construction detours.
With our imaginary Autobahn, you could reach destinations that would have previously been 60 minutes away in only 30 minutes. You’ve effectively doubled your matchmaking range and low-ping radius.
A low-ping radius, meaning the distance within which two nodes can maintain acceptably fast packet communications, determines a game’s matchmaking network range. A small low-ping radius will lead to small player pools and thus poor matchmaking. Poor matchmaking, of course, can crush player satisfaction and even drag a game into oblivion.
Conversely, better matchmaking carries a host of benefits. Rather than pitting highly misaligned players against each other, larger pools allow for closer matching of skill levels and better competition. This yields fairer play and a better ability to filter matches by either internal or player-driven algorithms. Not least of all, players will enjoy faster time-to-match durations as a function of having more match options. In short, players have more fun because they will get the kinds of matches they want.
Building a Better Backbone
Fortunately, it is possible to build a parallel, high-speed network for gaming traffic, right alongside and intersecting with the conventional internet …but it’s not easy.
Riot Games was the first to develop such a network. As detailed in the developer’s blog, it was an exhaustive, costly, in-house effort to support League of Legends. Theoretically, anyone could build the same thing, but few have the resources, knowledge, and resolve. This is why Subspace now offers an off-the-shelf gaming network solution—a gaming Autobahn for anyone—deployed in scores of data centers across six continents.
Beyond expanding low-ping matchmaking radii, a gaming Autobahn can enable high-performance gaming in global regions that never had access to such entertainment before. Consider Riot Games and its first-person shooter Valorant, which the company wanted to expand in the MENA region. This came on the heels of Riot’s decision to close its League of Legends Oceanic Pro League due to its low server population (because, again, not having enough players will kill a game). Riot received criticism soon after the June 2020 Valorant launch, with Middle Eastern players reporting “unbearable” ping times because there were no local servers. By the end of 2020, Riot had three servers in the region and a data center in Bahrain, which then opened the door to Valorant esports in the region. Obviously, Riot recognized that better networking builds community and profitability.
Subspace: A Ready-Made Superhighway
A year earlier, Subspace helped launch one of the world’s top game titles in India and the Middle East. Soon after this launch, 10 Indian teams went on to the title’s esports season finals—not even one Indian team had ever made it to the finals before. By 2020, the Middle East had become the most competitive region in the world for that game. Physical distance becomes a primary definer of performance rather than infrastructure and routing algorithm shortcomings that herd most traffic into a slow, sad lump.
It’s not that some people get a better taste of mediocre service; it’s that everybody gets superior service. Fast performance means a bigger playerbase.
We’ve built a network platform that is truly optimized for video games. You make gains almost immediately by plugging your game into a super-highway made for predictable, low-latency performance.
Subspace PacketAccelerator reduces latency and accelerates packets, helping to increase your players’ performance and decrease their stress.
With precision measurements and continuous optimization, we are democratizing access to quality, high-speed networks around the globe. We have successfully launched, and continue to expand, partnerships that deliver near-plug-and-play access to quality connectivity anywhere.
The Big Picture for Expanded Access
Gaming touches and changes lives. Expanded access yields better matchmaking, which makes for better gaming experiences, which makes for happy players who form friendships, clans, and esports teams. For example, countries like Jordan may have never enjoyed a healthy gaming market before. But thanks to improved network infrastructure and expanded reach, Orange Jordan and FATE e-sports recently launched the "Orange Gaming Hub," an esports training facility that will host five esports events and could soon put Jordan on the world’s competitive gaming leaderboard. An important region filled with eager players can now stand on equal footing with other established areas.
Ultimately, superior network performance and expanded low-ping access can create hordes of enthusiastic players able to form the foundation of thriving game franchises. For a deeper, broader dive into the benefits of expanded access, download Subspace’s white paper and see how better networking can play a critical role in determining a game’s fate and transforming the gameplay experience.