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The Almighty Buck Entertainment Games

Bandwidth Use In MMOs 188

Posted by Soulskill
from the more-always-more dept.
Massively is running a story about bandwidth costs for MMOs and other virtual worlds. It's based on a post at the BBC on the same subject which references a traffic analysis (PDF) done for World of Warcraft. Quoting: "If you're an average user on capped access, the odds are you have roughly 20Gbytes per month to allocate among all of your Internet usage (it varies depending on just where you are). For you, sucking back (for example) a 2GB World of Warcraft patch isn't something you can just do. It's something you have to plan for — and quite often you have to plan for in the following month. Even a 500MB download has to be handled with caution. MMOGs as a rule don't use a whole lot of bandwidth in actual operation. However, the quantity definitely rises in busy areas with lots of players, where there are large numbers of mobs, or on raids, and takes quite a much larger jump if you're using voice as well."
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Bandwidth Use In MMOs

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  • by Tubal-Cain (1289912) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @01:11AM (#25478615) Journal
    Can't you get offline installers that you can download from school/work/friend's basement and bring over by sneakernet?
    • Re:Offline patches? (Score:5, Informative)

      by RogueyWon (735973) * on Thursday October 23, 2008 @05:10AM (#25479585) Journal

      Stand-alone download installers for WoW patches are indeed available, albeit not always easily so. Certainly, Fileplanet makes them available, but with heavy priority for subscribers. That said, there's often a bit of a wait for the stand-alone downloads to appear, particularly for the non-US versions.

      The best piece of advice that I can give about getting WoW patches is to not use the Blizzard torrent client to get it. Let the update start using the default client, then cancel it immediately. You can then grab the .torrent file from a temporary directory within your WoW folder and feed it to a "proper" bittorrent client, which has actual connection configuration options. The default client likes to max out my upstream (and can't be disuaded from doing so easily), with the result that my connection become near-unusable and my downstream speed suffers horribly. By using a proper client and capping the upstream 10k/sec below maximum (which still allows for a decent upload speed and maintains my status as a good citizen), I was able to achieve almost 10 times the download speed I was getting from the official client (going from 60k/sec to 550k/sec), while also keeping my connection vaguely usable for other things.

      On an unrelated note, Blizzard are absolutely horrible at rolling out patches. I used to be a hardcore Final Fantasy XI player and since then I've had short bursts in Lord of the Rings Online. FFXI patch-day bugs would be things like "some obscure fight in the Den of Rancor which nobody's done for weeks now has a bit of a pathing-bug, which we'll fix overnight". LotRO patch day was a bit bumpier, but that's understandable given it was a new game at the time and even then, stuff was fixed quite quickly. Any major patch from Blizzard effectively means at least a week (sometimes more) of seriously disrupted play, through server instability and massively disruptive bugs. The most recent patch has resulted in innumerable server crashes and restarts, severe intermittent latency issues throughout the evenings, disconnects when zoning in and out of instances, and a number of graphical bugs affecting machines with SLI graphics cards (albeit bugs with workarounds). The previous patch (2.4) effectively made Heroic instances unplayable for a week, along with the usual latency and disconnection problems. All of this is despite Blizzard having one of the longest and most public testing cycles in the industry for new patches, via the PTR (test realm).

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Ifandbut (1328775)

        "FFXI patch-day bugs would be things like "some obscure fight in the Den of Rancor which nobody's done for weeks now has a bit of a pathing-bug, which we'll fix overnight"."

        I have to completely agree with you. Final Fantasy 11 patches have been the best deployed patches in any MMO, and they do it for Windows, Xbox360, and PS2/PS3. I still find it amazing that 5 years in they still have a perfect track record for their patches. If they know that something is not going to work perfectly on patch day then they

    • Re:Offline patches? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by theaveng (1243528) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @07:27AM (#25480145)

      >>>If you're an average U.K. user on capped access, the odds are you have roughly 20Gbytes per month...... For you, sucking back a 2GB World of Warcraft patch isn't something you can just do. It's something you have to plan for --
      >>>

      The internet companies could eliminate this problem if they, like other utilities, provided for metered usage. Say $0.50 per gigabyte. Then an average user like myself wouldn't need to "plan" or "worry" about going over the cap. Instead I could just grab the 2 gigabyte update and pay an extra $1 that month.

      And the internet companies would benefit too, because they could take the extra money and invest in upgrades to the network.

      • by Bert64 (520050) <bert&slashdot,firenzee,com> on Thursday October 23, 2008 @08:58AM (#25480701) Homepage

        And so we return to metered access, where people have to watch the download meter instead of the clock to ensure they don't face a ridiculously hefty bill.
        And an angry kid with a ddos botnet can not only kill your connection, but also cost you a lot of money, get you disconnected for non payment and give you a bad credit rating.

        Also in the UK it's not the network that needs upgrading, it's the ridiculous prices BT charge for bandwidth on wholesale ADSL.

        • by theaveng (1243528)

          >>>And so we return to metered access, where people have to watch the download meter instead of the clock to ensure they don't face a ridiculously hefty bill.
          >>>

          Isn't metered access better than hitting a 20 gigabyte cap (U.K. average), and then being cut-off completely? I know I'd rather choose the former than the latter.

          And what's so horrible about metered plans anyway? We use meters virtually everywhere else: gasoline, diesel, home heating oil, natural gas, electricity, phone calls (lo

          • Bandwidth on the other hand can never be recovered once not used. Very much unlike gasoline.

            Think "oversell margins". I am suggesting the ISPs are fairly culpable in the problem, and I would not let them off the hook so easily by letting them punish customers for using the product.
            Besides, it won't work out to well in some respects, this thing you are suggesting. I mean the reason they push the limits on the overselling is to maximize the efficiency of their machine-that-can-only-make-money. By going bit ra

            • by theaveng (1243528)

              >>>Think "oversell margins". I am suggesting the ISPs are fairly culpable in the problem, and I would not let them off the hook so easily by letting them punish customers
              >>>

              I think we need to move past the idea of punishment. Yes the ISPs were wrong to oversubscribe more bandwidth than what they actually have. However capping everybody to 20 gigabytes (or whatever) is not the solution. Instead the ISPs should take a page from California road management:

              - Due to excess cars on the highwa

      • by Fred_A (10934)

        The internet companies could eliminate this problem if they, like other utilities, provided for metered usage. Say $0.50 per gigabyte.

        So why is it that in the rest of Europe (and I won't even talk about Asia which has proper bandwidth) we still get ADSL2+ *unmetered* for a whooping 30 € per month (including TV, free IP phone to most of the world, etc.) ?

        It's not as if the UK was some kind of country where people were few and far between.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by theaveng (1243528)

      P.S.

      TRIVIA - A recent study in the U.K. shows that bandwidth use of *legal* video streaming is going up. Peer-2-Peer traffic has dropped from 30% to 24% of traffic. Legal video streaming has increased from 4% to 11% of total traffic. Users are gradually switching to legal methods to watch their favorite TV shows.

      I don't have any data for MMOs or online gaming, but I imagine it too has seen a boost in traffic. It will be interesting to see how ISPs respond. When they declared war on P2P they tried to

      • by Bloodoflethe (1058166) <jburkhart.nym@hush@com> on Thursday October 23, 2008 @09:07AM (#25480769)

        Let's change "Users are gradually switching to legal methods to watch their favorite TV shows." to "Users are finally being offered legal means to watch their favorite TV shows online without paying or paying too much."

        • Re:Offline patches? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by theaveng (1243528) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @09:33AM (#25481009)

          Yeah that works too.

          What concerns me is how Comcast Cable responded to the growing "legal video streaming" phenomenon. If you're trying to watch Heroes on NBC.com, and they determine you are streaming too much data, they can temporarily-limit your access to 192kbit/s. Although some video sites like CWTV.com will operate as low as 128k, NBC's site requires at least 512k.

          Your Heroes video will be effectively cutoff from viewing. That's anti-competitive; it's Comcast trying to force their users to watch Heroes on cable, rather than internet. It's comcast trying to protect their older business from NBC's new internet-based business.

  • Imagine... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tempest451 (791438) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @01:12AM (#25478627)
    How good MMOs could be if bandwidth wasn't an issue?
    • How good would any game be if patches weren't measured in Gigabytes?

      • by compro01 (777531)

        Patches that fix things are generally pretty tiny, as they're generally not much more than s/badcode/goodcode/. It's content patches that add new stuff that get huge, and are inherently big due to big files required, like textures, sound files, etc.

        • If you look at the WoW executables and DLL's, the program itself has not grown appreciably. The content directories are very large, but the combined size of the executables is only about 20 MB.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drsquare (530038)

      As far as MMOs go, latency is the main barrier to decent gameplay.

    • Re:Imagine... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @02:55AM (#25479097) Journal

      Imagine how good MMOs could be if [storage space/cpu power/graphics cards/ram] wasn't an issue?

      Putting everyone on a 1Gb link isn't going to magically make MMOs better.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by poetmatt (793785)

        Of course not, with a 20GB cap you won't have very long to be online :D

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by NovaHorizon (1300173)

        Imagine how good MMOs could be if [storage space/cpu power/graphics cards/ram] wasn't an issue?

        umm.. D&D on IRC?

    • ... look at what Korea has right now. Summary: you're not missing much, unless you like grindy games with microcredit transactions. (Don't worry, US players: you will have this business model, too, sooner rather than later.)

      • Korea has something that works for them. A lot of people play in spurts in cafes where you aren't necessarily going to find an open seat (though it is likely). If you can't adequately predict your play times and what not, and even if you can, sometimes these "microcredit" transactions are best/cheapest.

    • by vandel405 (609163)

      I don't mean to troll, but "Imagine how good life would be if only money wasn't an issue..." You can replace 'life' and 'money' with whatever you feel provides the best example. The point is that problems and solutions are really only interesting when they have constraints.

    • If you mean server bandwidth (to process large amounts of clients in one area), the answer is .. very good. Mass PVP would be better implemented.

      If you mean bandwidth at home.. not much difference.
      • by mikkelm (1000451)

        Network capacity is easy to come by. The difficult part is the hardware capacity, and the software connecting this capacity.

    • by mollymoo (202721)

      How good MMOs could be if bandwidth wasn't an issue?

      Not much better at all I suspect. You only need to transmit the players' inputs to perfectly recreate their actions, which doesn't take much bandwidth. Unless that is you want thousands of people on-screen and fighting at once, which I can't imagine working very well from a gameplay perspective and would push PC hardware pretty hard too.

    • Exactly what is this MMO doing that needs to transfer hundreds of megabytes a night? What is the typical transfer from a typical two hour WoW session?

      • by Eivind (15695)
        two hours worth of player-input, plus optionally up to two hours worth of voice chit-chat. Let's say a megabyte a minute, all counted. (give or take, but in the ballpark)
    • What possible difference would bandwidth make? All the heavy lifting is done on the server or the client, with very little (1-5kbps) transfer. An MMO could easily require 10-20x the bandwidth it does now without any new tech - so bandwidth just isn't the issue.

    • Or processors, or ram. It would be awesome dude!

  • by Rie Beam (632299)

    1) Make false assumption about bandwidth usage caps
    2) Write article based on false assumptions
    3) Blame MMOs
    4) Profit???

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hinhule (811436)

      Imagine the irony if this had been a main story and the article got slashdotted.

    • In Belgium, most of the ADSL providers caps to 20GB/month for their best offer. Some caps are as low as 100MB/month... Now some of cable operator have offer with Unlimited* download (but I have never get the time to read the fine print)

  • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Thursday October 23, 2008 @01:18AM (#25478657) Journal

    If an ISP has you capped at 20 gigs a month, switch.

    Unfortunately, that may not be an option, depending on where you live...

    It's my hope that things like MMOs, voice communication (and videoconferencing), YouTube, etc, will all drive ordinary users to use more bandwidth. Hopefully a lot more.

    And that these applications will appear too fast and too varied for the ISPs to attempt to make deals with them.

    This would force ISPs to stop focusing on bandwidth leeches (and specifically targeting BitTorrent), and actually start increasing their bandwidth to match the very real demand.

    I could be entirely wrong, though. All of the above rests on the assumption that MMO companies ultimately have more power than ISPs.

    • by OneArmedMan (606657) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:06AM (#25479145)

      For an idea of what its like to live in a country that has to get all of its internet data from USA / Europe, read this article, and watch the embedded flash video.

      http://www.zdnet.com.au/insight/communications/soa/Net-neutrality-is-an-American-problem-/0,139023754,339292161,00.htm [zdnet.com.au]

      FYI I pay $70AUD (~$48USD) per month for a 1.5mbit / 256kbit DSL line with 40Gb of data.

      This is from one of the more expensive / boutique providers in AU. You can get DSL a whole lot cheaper, but the quality of the connection, speed of downloads and support suffers greatly.

      You can use this page to get an idea of what is available in AU.

      http://bc.whirlpool.net.au/bc/?action=search [whirlpool.net.au]

      Like I said, you can get DSL cheaper, but sometimes good things are worth paying for.

      • by poetmatt (793785)

        Article says it all with this one sentence: "The problem with an "unlimited access" plan, explains Hackett, is that it "devalues what a megabyte is worth".

        So clearly, we should charge more for things that we already oversell. Yes, what a wonderful man this guy! (sarcasm)

        If you guys pushed for better connections, they would start to be worked on. As is, you are getting raked over the coals worse than we are in the US.

    • by IBBoard (1128019)

      What if my ISP has me capped on 2GB per month but I've never had them tell me I'm using too much transfer and it's free as part of another package?

      IMO, you've either got to be downloading lots of ISOs (e.g. Linux distros), far too many stupidly huge patches, enough demos that you're better off buying a gaming magazine (which also include some of the large patches), or doing a huge amount of pirating for the normal person to have a problem at 20GB.

      The only exception is people who use the "watch anytime" TV s

    • by blahplusplus (757119) * on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:45AM (#25479287)

      "If an ISP has you capped at 20 gigs a month, switch."

      It's not always that simple, many ISP's change bandwidth caps behind their users backs and without their consent. My ISP did exactly this a couple of months ago changing my regular cap and cutting it by over 30%, needless to say they got an ear full. ISP's unfortunately are a really uncompetitive industry in north america because of the nature of how they get profits, they could choose to "improve" their service, but most customers are too inept and too stupid to care about such things, hence they get away with things like overselling, etc. It's one sector of the economy where the market fails due to ignorance and it's sad. Hopefully as more bandwidth intensive apps appear it will force them to upgrade, but most likely they will push caps and overselling until they get enough complaints to do so.

      Most people don't switch internet that often and for many, there are only a few options available, and even when there are more this does not mean people have any clue they exist. Especially DSL providers, technically you should be able to get DSL from a lot of vendors if you live in a densely populated area, but this often comes at quality of service. I thought of switching to DSL many times but my cables speed is ridiculously fast compared to the DSL when I tried it out for a couple of months. I notice that DSL providers will give you unlimited dl's but slower speed, but as file sizes increase speed matters just as much as bandwidth caps for some people.

    • by trawg (308495)

      If an ISP has you capped at 20 gigs a month, switch.

      Unfortunately, that may not be an option, depending on where you live...

      So - switch, unless you can't?

      This would force ISPs to stop focusing on bandwidth leeches (and specifically targeting BitTorrent), and actually start increasing their bandwidth to match the very real demand.

      A much, much better alternative is for content creators to make sure their software is explicitly licensed as redistributable so ISPs can easily mirror it (my argument is anything distributed by BitTorrent has such a license as you're implicitly granting redistribution rights to everyone anyway, but I don't know if a court would agree with me).

      This is what we do in Australia - where the average monthly download limit for many people is between 12 and 20 gigabytes - with rid

    • by shish (588640)

      Unfortunately, that may not be an option, depending on where you live...

      England :-(

    • by Hyppy (74366)
      It's funny, I've noticed that most people who are complaining about bandwidth caps are subjects of HM Queen Elizabeth II. England, Australia, Canada, etc. Is this just a coincidence?
  • Transfer Caps (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Broken scope (973885) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @01:24AM (#25478693) Homepage
    This doesn't seem to be an issue of bandwidth, but of transfer caps. Unless bandwidth refers to both caps and connection speeds.
    • Here in Australia, usually you get a transfer (quota) cap of whatever-you-pay-for Gb a month, and if you exceed that in a month, you get shaped (connection speed gets reduced significantly). Some of the big ISPs such as Telstra used to charge you per Mb if you went over, not sure if they still do that.
    • I'm beginning to think that the real definition of bandwidth has become as quaint and obsolete as the '70s definition of "hacker" as a computer whiz. :(

  • TFA gives the size of a patch or a game download. But that information is easily found. What would actually be useful is the information on how much bandwidth gameplay actually consumes, perhaps in Kbps, for a few of the more common MMOs like WoW.
  • WTH? (Score:2, Informative)

    by nacturation (646836) *

    It's possible that you live in one of the four or five countries (out of roughly 195) in the world where you have access to uncapped Internet access at acceptable speeds and monthly costs...

    United States, Canada, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, Korea, Singapore. That's 9 countries off the top of my head that I know of which offer uncapped downloads.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by skreeech (221390)

      Both major services in British Columbia Canada are capped. Telus is 40gb/month, Shaw was 30 a few years ago but may have increased. Telus also seems to cap total transfer speed around 250kb/sec, torrents, PS3 updates, itunes, and regular downloads noticeably slow down web page loads.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Warll (1211492)
        Shaw raised their cap to 60GB around '06 I think. Anyway thats for the average highspeed internet, the next step up can be had for an extra 10 bucks and doubles the speed and raises the cap to 100GB.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      No clue how you put Canada on that list. I live in Calgary Alberta. And not a single ISP offers Uncapped Downloads unless you pay for a small Biz Line. Caps start at 20 Gigs for the slow internet 200kbits/s up to 100 Gigs for 10Mbit/s
    • Re:WTH? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by lysergic.acid (845423) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @02:22AM (#25478975) Homepage

      if you have a business connection then you might have access to uncapped internet access in the U.S., but otherwise most residential broadband services are capped--even if the ISP doesn't tell you.

      when it's standard practice to oversell to the point that your total network capacity is only enough for 1% of your customers, then of course bandwidth caps are going to be put in place. there's no way that Verizon, Comcast, or any other major U.S. ISP can handle even a quarter of their subscribers using their service plan's full advertised transfer rate 24/7.

      with bandwidth throttling & packet shaping, i'm only getting about 50~60 GB total downstream throughput per month (if there are no major outages). and we're charged about 1000% the bandwidth costs (per Mbps) of countries like Sweden, Japan, Korea, etc.

    • by Ksempac (934247)
      France has uncapped access.

      We're very lucky regarding Internet access : If you don't live in a remote area, standard price is 30 euros/month for triple play (DSL Internet access up to 20 Mbits/s + free call to fixed phones nationwide and some others countries + TV)
      • that sounds like like a great system. do they apply bandwidth throttling or traffic shaping in any way? (ie. does you connection slow down or halt if you start up a bittorrent download?)

        i usually have to restart my client (uTorrent) every few hours so that it resets to a random port or my torrent downloads will all cut out, though i'll still be able to access web pages just fine.

        i live in California btw, and i pay about $40/month (though i think they may have recently lowered it to $30) for 3Mps DSL access.

    • by lbbros (900904)
      Add also Italy to that list. As far as I know, major ISPs offer uncapped bandwidth.
    • by Nasarius (593729)
      Add Germany to the list. EUR 25/month for Alice DSL, 14Mbit down/1Mbit up, no caps. In Berlin, at least.
    • by borizz (1023175)
      Netherlands. 20 euros for a 20/1 MBit ADSL line. No caps, but all ISPs here say they have a fair use policy, but I've never heard it enforced. My old ISP's tech once explained it to me like this (cable internet): If your neighbourhood does not complain about slow speed we don't care how much you use.
    • by Spatial (1235392)
      Ireland too. 30 euros for 3072/384 kbits down/up, no cap.
    • by mollymoo (202721)

      UK ISPs offer uncapped downloads too. Sky when they have their own kit in the exchange is truly unlimited. Be is truly unlimited. Virgin throttles heavy users at peak times but doesn't cut anybody off. Those three aren't available everywhere, but they cover more than half the population and one or more are available in every major population centre. Others like PlusNet (which you can get everywhere in the UK) only cap peak-time usage. It's only a problem for people who think they should get unlimited high q

  • by Anonymous Coward

    you're so bored in between pulls you study the traffic WoW is generating.

  • by bidule (173941) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @02:20AM (#25478969) Homepage

    I've been a WoW raider for years and always used 2-3 gig a month for 15-20 hours of raid with vent, plus a few more hours of solo play. That's patch and surfing included.

    I know, because I'm using a cheap metered connection and I have to pay extra when I bust the 2 gig/month cap. I don't see why I should pay 50-80$ a month for bandwidth I won't use.

  • It reminds me of the time limits that ISPs added when the internet got popular. It worked out to 3 hours a day.

    And people claimed it was "reasonable" and that "somebody had to set limits".

    Seems like a quaint notion today. Kinda like a 250G bandwidth limit. I don't quite understand why anybody but narrow-minded ISPs defend the practice, either.

    • by mollymoo (202721)

      What should my dad, who never exceeds 1 GB per month, subsidise someone downloading 250 GB of warez every month? Caps and grades of service makes people pay for what they use. The only people who object to that are the minority of people currently being subsidised by the majority of normal users.

      • What should my dad, who never exceeds 1 GB per month, subsidise someone downloading 250 GB of warez every month? Caps and grades of service makes people pay for what they use. The only people who object to that are the minority of people currently being subsidised by the majority of normal users.

        I can't speak for the rest of the world, but as an American, I object because I know how corporations work around here.

        Lets say we are all paying $50 for (functionally) unlimited internet now, and your dad is subsidizing the warez kid. That is $100 going into the company for 251 GB in bandwidth.

        Now, we implement some metering, American Megacorp-style! Now, everyone pays $40 for their first 60GB, and $5 for every additional 10GB.

        Your dad uses 1GB, pays $40.
        The warez kid uses 250 GB, pays $135.
        Now $175 is goi

        • by mollymoo (202721)

          Oooh, can I play the invent-some-numbers game too?

          It was 2 x $50 for 251GB.

          Now my dad pays $20 for 1GB
          Wares guy pays $70 for 250 GB.
          Total = $90 for 251 GB.

          There you go, it seems you were wrong and corporations actually love us all and will take a 10% drop in revenue in the name of fairness.

          • There you go, it seems you were wrong and corporations actually love us all and will take a 10% drop in revenue in the name of fairness.

            Hey, at least I made up plausible numbers. Why would the company give up 10% of its revenue in this situation?

      • by log0n (18224)

        The problem.. your dad's price won't go down in relation to how much bandwidth he does or doesn't use. The 250GB downloader's price will only go up.

  • by svendsen (1029716) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @08:34AM (#25480525)
    Imagine instead of carbon credits you have download credits. Hey I only downloaded 5 gigs this month I want to be able to sell the other 15 gigs to anyone who is over their limit.

    Not really a bad idea :-)
    • Actually, I think it's a brilliant idea. However, it will never see the light of day, as it would require an open market for bandwidth - which doesn't exist.

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