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Game Developers Note Net Neutrality Concerns To FCC 74

Posted by Soulskill
from the game-developers-are-people-too dept.
eldavojohn writes "A list of notes from game developers (PDF) was sent in a letter to the FCC which represented a net neutrality discussion between the developers and FCC representatives. Game Politics sums it up nicely, but the surprise is that developers are concerned with latency, not bandwidth, unlike the members of many other net neutrality discussions. One concern is that each and every game developer will need to negotiate with each and every ISP to ensure their traffic achieves acceptable levels of latency for users. 'Mr. Dyl of Turbine stated that ISPs sometimes block traffic from online gaming providers, for reasons that are not clear, but they do not necessarily continue those blocks if they are contacted. He recalled Turbine having to call ISPs that had detected the high UDP traffic from Turbine, and had apparently decided to block the traffic and wait to see who complained.' It seems a lot of the net neutrality discussions have only worried about one part of the problem — Netflix, YouTube and P2P — while an equally important source of concern went unnoticed: latency in online games."
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Game Developers Note Net Neutrality Concerns To FCC

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  • Doh! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday January 22, 2010 @03:41AM (#30857210)

    It seems a lot of the net neutrality discussions have only worried about one part of the problem -- Netflix, YouTube and P2P -- while an equally important source of concern went unnoticed: latency in online games."

    The issue isn't specific to ANY type of usage - net neutrality, or rather the lack of it, impacts all uses of the network.
    As long as connectivity providers are also application providers, any application they don't like is a potential candidate for connectivity problems.

    • I'm not sure that net-neutrality would help this. ISPs are blocking high volumes of UDP packets, and they'll claim it's to protect users from DDoS attacks. They may even be telling the truth.

      The summary is also badly composed by following the latency complaint with a quote about blocking traffic. That is, unless you consider a blocked packet to have infinite latency. The letter is much more vague about what their actual latency complaint is, other than, you know, latency is bad.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        not only isp. I had to disable my stupid routers "protections" to play modern warfare 2
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DJRumpy (1345787)

        I think the summary was fine and that it's obviously a concern about throttling in regards to latency. Games, far more than youtube and other streaming sites, are far more impacted by latency. If the ISP's using throttling, or delaying tactics at the packet level to prioritize traffic, it will have a huge impact on the online gaming experience. What's funny is the effects may be subtle to borderline irritating so that users get a degraded experience that would be easy to blame on the content provider and no

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Scott Kevill (1080991)

          Throttling does not affect packet latency. At the router level, it generally involves selectively discarding packets. Data is not drip-fed at the bit level or byte level.

          In order to intentionally affect latency, it would have to do a lot more work by buffering them for a period of time before forwarding onwards.

          Now throttling can affect latency of logical messages within a TCP stream depending on the size of those messages, due to the retransmissions required, but does not affect the latency of UDP packets

          • Throttling does not affect packet latency.

            The data has to get there in some form, whether in UDP or TCP packets, so any need to resend does affect session latency. One way to work around packet drops in games is to send absolute positions instead of motion deltas, but that takes more data and affects transmission speed. Latency IS affected.

            Another related issue is any ISP can suddenly decide to privilege their own VoIP service packets in congestion cases, over any other latency or drop sensitive data, like voice chat or other non-ISP VoIP services.

    • Re:Doh! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by The_Quinn (748261) on Friday January 22, 2010 @05:41AM (#30857620) Homepage

      As long as connectivity providers are also application providers, any application they don't like is a potential candidate for connectivity problems.

      As long as ISPs face potential competition, any connectivity problem is a potential candidate for "losing-customers" problems.

      Of course, that depends on ISPs not being entrenched in their crony capitalist markets through special licensing, franchises, and subsidies - as bequeathed by your bipartisan fascist overlords.

      • Of course, that depends on ISPs not being entrenched in their crony capitalist markets through special licensing, franchises, and subsidies - as bequeathed by your bipartisan fascist overlords.

        Which will never change because landlines require right-of-way easements across large numbers of private properties in order to achieve reasonable levels of coverage.

        • by The_Quinn (748261)

          landlines require right-of-way easements across large numbers of private properties in order to achieve reasonable levels of coverage.

          Which rational people seeking value will gladly work out privately (except you, apparently.)

          • Which rational people seeking value will gladly work out privately (except you, apparently.)

            Really? Name one, just one example, of an ISP privately negotiating right-of-way easements of any significant number in the USA.

            • by The_Quinn (748261)

              Name one, just one example, of an ISP privately negotiating right-of-way easements of any significant number in the USA.

              Can you give me a list of ISPs that don't operate under government franchise, license, or subsidy?

              I could walk around personally and get all the right-of-way agreements, but would I then be legally allowed to build the infrastructure? No, because government has a monopoly on infrastructure.

              The fact that you lack the vision of how free people could live doesn't prove that free people would huddle in hovels without utilities and entertainment.

              Not only would free people have cable, but the whole spectrum of

              • Can you give me a list of ISPs that don't operate under government franchise, license, or subsidy?

                I could walk around personally and get all the right-of-way agreements, but would I then be legally allowed to build the infrastructure? No, because government has a monopoly on infrastructure.

                The two are not mutually incompatible. The only reason that local governments are able to require franchise agreements is because the agreements include the right of ways. Nothing there to stop a company from privately negotiating all those right of ways on its own and thus being completely untouchable as a result.

                It would appear that you are the one with the lack of vision.

    • ... to conservatives? The seem to think that "Network Neutrality" is some form of "Fairness Doctrine" for the Internet.

      I'm a conservative who is 100% in favor of ISPs not being able to limit my access to YouTube or Google. I'm having a hard time explaining this to Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh listeners, though. :)

      • ... to conservatives?

        The current predominate "conservative" movement is more interested in big business doing whatever it wants, so Net Neutrality is a threat. AT&T will have to spend more on their ISP and mobile network. Little guys will be able to displace existing large businesses (or at least take a chunk of their pie). I'm not saying that the democrats have a strong interest in protecting consumers either, but it's very clear where the neocons sit.

        (this is more about our "leaders" and their mouth pieces and not a

  • by JorDan Clock (664877) <jordanclock@gmail.com> on Friday January 22, 2010 @04:22AM (#30857350)
    This really is the opposite end of the bandwidth-latency spectrum from the prominent players in net neutrality. Most MMORPGs will use about 5KB/s downstream and about 1KB/s upstream, even during particularly high activity events. That is not the kind of traffic that net neutrality discussions usually bring up. But even with that small amount of traffic, a player's game experience can be extremely hindered by latency. Different games will have different red lines, but I've found 500ms to be around the point most players will notice a negative affect on gameplay.

    And this is definitely not a PC issue alone. I don't imagine Microsoft would be happy with a major ISP putting Xbox Live traffic at the bottom of the their priorities, or worse, charging customers additional fees to keep their Live latency at a reasonable level.
    • 500? Maybe in an MMO, anything over 200 in an FPS is enough to get you kicked from most servers.

      • 500? Maybe in an MMO, anything over 200 in an FPS is enough to get you kicked from most servers.

        I play TF2 quite a bit. It's not the amount of ping - it's how stable your connection is.

        I've played with Aussies that had 300 ping, but they walk around smoothly and play decently.

        Then one day I encounted a lagging scout with 25 ping. Every time I got near him to cut off his head, he'd disappear from under my blade. Apparently he was dancing to the side, but when he lags he stops moving until the packets catch up, then teleports to the new location.

        His shots would catch up all at once, killing me instantl

        • Placebo effect, and the scout was actually cheating which is why he behaved like that.

        • by Nadaka (224565)

          That sounds suspiciously like a lag hack, its a common cheating technique used in the game Tactical Ops.

          On topic: I need a ping under 100 to play tac ops at all, and it only gets good at about 30. Its the only way to compete with the hackers in that game using legitimate skill.

          • I was going to say I prefer under 50ms ping for most games... under 100 is playable and over 130 or so gets to be unplayable when playing with those under 50.
    • by phorm (591458)

      Most MMORPGs will use about 5KB/s downstream and about 1KB/s upstream, even during particularly high activity events.

      I think this depends on the MMO, but whatever the in-game speed require issue, and issue is updates.

      Say for example a new patch comes out for WOW, and your ISP's filter sniffs the traffic then goes "OH NO, evil torrents, must throttle", causing it to go from 1500mbps down to about dialup speed, and your update takes about a day or more instead of less than an hour at THE SPEEDS YOU PAID FOR

      • by jack2000 (1178961)
        Actually it would be in the isp's interest people to use torrents as that would mean less traffic, also they would do well to host content servers in-house.
        Say a Steam content server and a Blizz one, that way fewer traffic will be outbound from their networks and it would cost them less...
        Then again people that make the policies in isps aren't known for their cutting edge decision making...
  • by Entropy98 (1340659) on Friday January 22, 2010 @04:24AM (#30857352) Homepage

    One concern is that each and every game developer will need to negotiate with each and every ISP to ensure their traffic achieves acceptable levels of latency for users.

    Or in the case of private servers (where they still exist), every private server (or private server hosting company) would have to negotiate separate deals.

    • I'm not sure why this comment has only been scored only 1, it seems a good point to me. Is it incorrect or just obvious?
      • I'm not sure why this comment has only been scored only 1, it seems a good point to me. Is it incorrect or just obvious?

        It depends on if the traffic shaping is based on game-specific characteristic (less likely) or if it's based on point of origin (more likely). So yes, it's another pain.

  • Not any surprise (Score:3, Informative)

    by enriquevagu (1026480) on Friday January 22, 2010 @04:33AM (#30857378)
    the surprise is that developers are concerned with latency, not bandwidth, unlike the members of many other net neutrality discussions

    Actually, this is no surprise at all. Maybe most people only focus on the raw speed - i.e., throughput. However, for many applications, the latency - and the lack of sudden latency variations - is more important. These apps are called "inelastic", because they don't tolerate changes in the latency. For example: In a real-time VoIP application, sudden changes in latency make delayed packets useless and the voice gets cut. Yep, you can use a buffer, but that will add an anoying delay in your conversation, so in general the application is highly sensitive to latency changes.

    The same happens with games. If you are playing against sb else, your latency can determine if you live or die. AND, the main problem is that the only solution comes from QoS mechanisms that tag, segregate and priorize different flows of traffic. What, I believe, is somehow against net neutrality.

  • but my ISP keeps injecting TCP RE[NO CARRIER]

  • by Interoperable (1651953) on Friday January 22, 2010 @04:50AM (#30857448)

    I question whether the net should be truly neutral. Favoring Skype and game traffic for short latency wouldn't have much impact on the bandwidth available to streaming content but would certainly improve the quality of gaming and chatting. It seems to me that integrating a packet priority request into the TCP/IP protocol could work. Games and Skype could be given a high priority, browsing medium and torrents low. People who browse and torrent at the same time (or for some reason game and torrent) would have good reason not to override the default priorities. Anyone downloading GBs of data at high priorities by hacking the default settings could be noticed quickly sanctioned appropriately for being a**holes. It would relieve ISPs of excuses for throttling (or at least make the throttling more transparent and remove the need for privacy-invading deep packet inspection).

    The key would be to integrate it into an open standard. I imagine the idea has already been put forth before, but it strikes me that it will be increasing important to have some priority control as the number of latency critical applications as well as streaming content size increases. It would essentially be an open implementation of the "power boost" that some ISPs offer but rely on user-side requests to sort out priorities. Of course, I have no real knowledge of the TCP/IP protocol so I have no idea if it's feasible or even if it's already implemented.

    • And I'll just flag ALL my traffic as high priority...
      • there are separate flag for bandwidth and latency, one generally hinder the other so you are actually slowing the connection that way. (but it depends on the specific qos implementation)

        also, you are prioritizing your traffic, but all your traffic is on the same priority with the traffic of the other people on the isp. imagine 10 clients and and isp that could only deliver 100 packets/ss, each client will have 10 packets delivered in any case, even if one client has all packed marked "high priority" and the
        • by cynyr (703126)
          what about video conferencing with a better camera than your 1.2Mpixel USB web cam? i'd count that as both high bandwidth(3+Mbps) and needing to be low latency(=100ms, preferably =25ms, it needs to be short enough you don't start talking over each other.) TBH i'd really like to be able to flag my traffic correctly. Bittorrent at high bandwidth, but at just about whatever ping 5000ms, WoW at "medium" bandwidth but 100ms, skype at low bandwidth but 50ms ping. That way i could run all 3 at the same time and no
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Toonol (1057698)
      I doubt it would be feasible, since it relies on somebody honestly telling them that certain packets deserve prioritization over other packets. It won't take long before everybody marks their packets "highest priority".

      Besides, ideally, at some point most packets will be encrypted by default. You wouldn't WANT to be able to distinguish types of packets from each other.
      • It won't take long before everybody marks their packets "highest priority".

        Say you have 6 Mbps from the Internet to the home, and your downstream is 20x oversubscribed. Once congestion kicks in, the router starts limiting high-priority packets to 300 kbps so that other users' high-priority packets can get out. Applications that need the high priority, such as games and voice, can easily fit packets into this 300 kbps.

        • by cynyr (703126)
          lol 300Kbps just wait a year or two, "web" cams will be able to send out 2-3Mbps. Games and voice i agree with you, but what happens when/if video conferencing really takes off. That needs high bandwidth and low latency. Well high bandwidth for the current US connections.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You're looking for Quality of Service (QoS). Been part of IP for a while now.

      It supports a set of flags that can be on or off: Bulk (latency is unimportant but bandwidth is), low-latency (latency is important, bandwidth is not), low-price (packet should be delivered using the cheapest service possible) and I think there were one or two more but I can't remember them currently.

      I'm not sure how many routers actually honor these flags, not many I think. Any way, abuse of the low-latency flag fails because on m

      • by Tacvek (948259)

        IP QOS covers many use cases. But it's implementation and set of classes may not be quite ideal. Here i describe the common modes I think an IP QOS replacement should probably have.

        Most traffic should be at standard. Only specialty traffic should be marked otherwise.

        There are a few types of other traffic though.

        You have applications that require high bandwidth, but don't care about latency or jitter (variation in latency), and dropped packets are not too big a deal. Torrents are a prime example. I would muc

    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday January 22, 2010 @05:52AM (#30857662)

      Favoring Skype and game traffic for short latency wouldn't have much impact on the bandwidth available to streaming content but would certainly improve the quality of gaming and chatting.

      The hard part is implementing the ability to do that kind of prioritization internet-wide. I'm too lazy to go dig it up, but there was an analysis published a few years back that suggested any possible benefit of building 'smarts' into the network could be achieved simply by increasing the available bandwidth by roughly 30%. And that it was far cheaper to keep the network dumb, as it has been since pretty much the beginning of the internet, and just add capacity than it would be to add all the computative and buffering functionality required to make it smart enough to do prioritization reliably. (Its cheap and easy to do it unreliably, but if it ain't going be reliable, what's the point?)

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Hal_Porter (817932)

        I'd like to see that study. Actually QOS seems like a better option if used properly. I could prioritise packets from things that are latency sensitive (Skype, Games and to a lesser extent HTTP) and de-prioritize ones from things that aren't (Torrents). I could imaging it working very well if the backbone supported it.

        E.g. in USB isochronous streams and interrupt endpoints are allocated bandwidth up front they are handled at the start of a frame. Bulk transfers get whatever is left. So your mouse is guarant

    • by sahonen (680948)
      The problem is that this requires simultaneous cooperation from everybody at once, and you're also relying on application developers to not give themselves more priority than they really need.
    • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Friday January 22, 2010 @06:11AM (#30857730)

      Anyone downloading GBs of data at high priorities by hacking the default settings could be noticed quickly sanctioned appropriately for being a**holes.

      Some of us live in countries where video conferencing at high-end blu-ray quality is entirely feasible (54 Mb/s).

      This will gobble down gigabytes of data at high priorities, and if we're using software that isn't widely available or even custom built, you're saying "fuck off, you're being an asshole".

      A teleconference at those bandwidths would take up more than 20 GB/hour, and you said it yourself, Skype (and similar) require low latency

    • That's not really what Net Neutrality is about.

      Net Neutrality prevents them from charging $0.25 for a 200MB video, but $0.00 for a 200MB download. All data has equal value, even if it has different priorities.

      Your ISP is free to QOS shape all those things you listed, but they have to apply it to all their customers, and all the servers on the other end. If they offer a Gamer plan, it has to compete by offering more bandwidth, higher caps, etc.

      Net Neutrality also prevents content blocking. Ex: A company want

      • That's not really what Net Neutrality is about.

        Actually, it is part of net neutrality. Yes, financial endpoint agnosticism is the major issue that's being bandied about under the Net Neutrality banner. Yes, bandwidth endpoint agnosticism is a frequent visitor to the table. But honoring QoS needs is a portion of net neutrality that's rarely mentioned.

        You say:

        Net Neutrality also prevents content blocking. Ex: A company wants to push its $15/mo IPTV on its customers, so it blocks Youtube unless it's paid $3/m

    • Those would fall under QoS manipulations. Streaming video, audio, and game packets require low latency. File transfer in the form of torrents, FTP, or HTTP are not latency sensitive. By acknowledging this and working within the bounds, most traffic congestion could be cleared up without negatively affecting anyone's service.

      The problem, as shown by several posts, is that some people will try to force all of their packets to low latency QoS because 'fuck the system, me first' even if it hampers rather than

    • by MobyDisk (75490)

      Lets clarify the meaning of the word neutral:

      Prioritizing Skype traffic would not be neutral. Prioritizing all real-time voice/video services would be neutral. This is called QOS (Quality of Service) [wikipedia.org] which is where applications that require low-latency get low-latency. And things like email or downloads get higher latency. That is totally fine, fair, and neutral.

      The problem with QOS is administering it. Who can be trusted to do this? The ISP doesn't actually know what a packet is for. Deep packet ins

  • No (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ShakaUVM (157947) on Friday January 22, 2010 @04:53AM (#30857458) Homepage Journal

    It's no surprise at all that latency matters more for games. I'd rather have a 10ms/1mbps connection to a server than a 100ms/10mbps connection, rather than a 600ms/60mbps connection.

    • You may have a decent solution to the Tragedy of the Commons problem - i.e. "mark all your packets as super-high-priority" issue. Instead of relying on folks to behave and properly tag their packets, give them a structured end-user QoS profile. Your plan includes 1Mbps of less-than 10mS latency traffic, and 100Mbps of greater-than 10mS latency traffic. You have a limited resource (kinda like your paycheck.) Spend it how you see fit. Enforcement occurs at the ISP's ingress point.

      This would require s
      • by ShakaUVM (157947)

        Yeah. I've always felt that internet connections should work that way. I mean, if I'm bit torrenting, I certainly don't expect to have very good latency inside of Quake or whatever, and it would even be fair for it to contribute to latency for perhaps an hour after my 50GB download finishes.

  • not only games... (Score:3, Informative)

    by StripedCow (776465) on Friday January 22, 2010 @04:55AM (#30857466)

    latency is also important for voice-over-IP...

    • by KlomDark (6370)

      Fuck VOIP if it interferes with ANYTHING else. I used to work for a shitty company where the head of telecom was on this big VOIP push - every time he talked on the phone, normal network activity slowed to a crawl, including file transfers from the server two stories below me. Ever since then it's been "VOIP sucks, if you want a free ride, that's fine, but dont expect the rest of us to give you special priority just because you're being a cheap ass."

  • by rastoboy29 (807168) on Friday January 22, 2010 @05:52AM (#30857666) Homepage
    I hope I'm not naive to think that even if Net Neutrality goes by the wayside, that it probably wouldn't matter, anyway.  Users will flock to ISP's that don't play the game, and thus render any shenannigans pointless.

    Of course, this would not be helped by the essentially monopoly or duopoly status of most ISP's these days.  So I'll take net neutrality if I can get it!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What precise ISPs are you talking about? Most people in the US have only one or two options for broadband... if both of their options only provide nonneutral service... where exactly do you want them to go? Most people do not have the option of moving just to get access to a different broadband service.

      I'm a big fan of competition myself, but there is *no* competition for US broadband service. Leaving it up to the "competitive" market in this case will allow large telecommunications companies to do what

  • Maybe these guys are out of touch, they worry about latency. Okay fine, I can see that. What about those of you in the US that are now getting tasty with download caps? Like other parts of the world get. The more bandwidth that's become available to the average consumer, the more games have been using it to their advantage. These are also the same companies/people pushing for digital downloads. Sad thing to say if I decide I want to download something, I need to plan ahead usually about 8-10 days befo

    • by JustNiz (692889)

      >> Maybe these guys are out of touch, they worry about latency.

      There's nothing 'out of touch' about concerns over latency.

      My cox cable internet service can download big files really fast but it has terrible latency.
      As an avid Unreal Tournament player I would happily trade half of my massive bandwitdth for a few milliseconds less latency to get an overall increase in gaming performance. UT doesn't generate much traffic at all but it is very time sensitive.

      IT seems ISPs have a blind spot about gaming, t

  • Most latency is caused by GPU inadequacy.

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