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Increase online gaming performance by tinkering with Ethernet card driver.

shihonage

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For months, I've been driven nuts by certain behavior of Tribes: Ascend. When using fast-firing weapons, like machine guns, it seemed like my bullets, despite having 31ms ping, would clump together, and not quite fire off at the time they were fired.

Doing deeper research, I came to the conclusion that many Ethernet adapters come with features enabled by default which mess with Windows networking stack. This is particularly betrayed by optimizations instructions for various realtime daytrading software, which relies on latency and minimization of errors. Those instructions tell you to turn a whole lot of that stuff off.

Not only are many implementations of these features flawed and differ from driver to driver, and should be turned off for that reason alone... but they are harmful even when implemented correctly.

Moreso, it turns out that a number of these features are controversial and some were even acknowledged by Microsoft to have questionable usability.

I disabled all of this stuff and now I no longer feel like other people in the game have mysterious godlike evasion powers.

In short, if you want the optimal online gaming experience, go to Advanced tab of your Ethernet adapter settings, and disable the following:

* Interrupt Moderation - clumps packets together and sends them as a batch - the main offender
* Flow Control - sounds counterintuitive to disable it, but it messes with existing flow control in Windows networking stack
* Receive Side Scaling - also messes with Windows networking stack
* [anything goes here] Checksum Offload - supposed to speed up performance by offloading TCP/UDP checksumming to hardware; in reality does nothing for an average desktop PC except interfere with Windows networking stack
* Green Ethernet - performance-eating eco garbage

Try it and see! Less rubberbanding zombies in Left4Dead, more headshots in your favorite FPS, etc etc.

Also, if you play a MMORPG and want faster responsiveness, you need to disable TCP/IP Nagle algorithm in Windows. There are multiple guides about it though.
 

funkadelik

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I just changed the settings, I will let you know if I can tell a difference.
 

toroid

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Neat.

I also have an 'ARP Offload', three different 'Large Send Offload', and a 'NS Offload' in addition to the three different '[anything goes here] Checksum Offload' entries. What's up with those?

(My ethernet adapter is a Broadcom Netlink.)
 
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Very good Scienmajickery, Shihonage, needs moar "before" and "after" comparisons, through.

I might be getting me a decent internet next week, so I may test your scienspells.
 

shihonage

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It's hard to do "before and after" except for posting videos in which the difference can only be noticed by how much more I hit people with bullets. That's a lot of work.

Sauce? Just asking out of curiosity and to pass on to some friends who play MMOs.

Unfortunately this information is in bits and pieces everywhere. Yes, there's a bit of "sciencemajickery" involved, but...

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2643970 <- while they recommend enabling RSS on newer OSes, there's a lot of talk of troubleshooting network drivers by disabling their features.
http://ttcshelbyville.wordpress.com...cie-gbe-family-controller-performance-issues/ <- like this common card which has dramatic performance differences between driver versions unless you disable everything

Also,

https://www.tradingtechnologies.com/en/support/knowledge-base/2/2735/
http://virtualthreads.blogspot.com/2006/02/beware-ethernet-flow-control.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagle's_algorithm

Nagle algorithm has been disabled in WoW specifically since 2007. However one may want to disable it in the system in case their favorite MMO relies on default settings instead of using TCP_NODELAY flag when addressing the stack.

Before dropping P2P multiplayer from Dead Colony, I improved its speed by recompiling SDL_net.dll with TCP_NODELAY (which disables Nagle).

Neat.

I also have an 'ARP Offload', three different 'Large Send Offload', and a 'NS Offload' in addition to the three different '[anything goes here] Checksum Offload' entries. What's up with those?

(My ethernet adapter is a Broadcom Netlink.)

ARP offload is related to sleep state. If you use the feature that nobody uses where your computer responds to packets in sleep state, then keep that on.

NS offload is similar in nature. Responds to network discovery when computer is asleep. I don't know if either setting would affect gaming performance.

All "Large Send" offloads should be turned to off as they interfere with autotuning functions in Windows networking stack. I trust what Windows is doing (and it has a much larger tester base) more than a random NIC manufacturer with crazy ideas and questionable QA.

Many of those features would improve performance on a busy network server, but not on a desktop machine at home. They're not there to benefit gaming latency, i.e. a situation where a small packet load is being sent and received with minimum interference.
 
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shihonage

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Chances are, disabling Interrupt Moderation alone would make a difference. What that "feature" does is well-documented. This is also the reason why some "gaming NICs" may actually provide better performance - they insist on the rule "1 packet, 1 interrupt", the rule which is ignored by default by most network cards.
 

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* [anything goes here] Checksum Offload - supposed to speed up performance by offloading TCP/UDP checksumming to hardware; in reality does nothing for an average desktop PC except interfere with Windows networking stack
Fun facts: Modern network chips don't really do any hardware acceleration*. Since CPUs got so fast, they just offload the work to the CPU anyways.

*This is for cheap integrated chips. If you spend money, you can get one that does hardware acceleration. This was the big feature for that company trying to sell NICs to gamers, I can't remember the name now.
 

shihonage

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Morgoth While I'd be glad to take the credit, this is likely an isolated case, i.e. really bad network driver. It's not really about ping, but responsiveness. My ping in Tribes remained the same, but the ability to hit people has improved. Especially with X1 LMG, the fast-firing juggernaut weapon.

Sergiu64: It's not the same as conventional lag. It is not "delay", but grouping or needless duplication/errors in transmission of packets. Your ping will remain same on average, but processing each packet immediately instead of queuing them (and many adapters have different degrees of Interrupt Moderation too), makes a difference in responsiveness.
 

shihonage

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Fun facts: Modern network chips don't really do any hardware acceleration*. Since CPUs got so fast, they just offload the work to the CPU anyways.

Yeah, but the offloading to CPU via "network adapter code" during "network adapter processing stage" is different from letting Windows networking stack handle it. They may have replaced hardware with software, but it is still their own software second-guessing Windows functionality.
 

tuluse

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Yeah, but the offloading to CPU via "network adapter code" during "network adapter processing stage" is different from letting Windows networking stack handle it. They may have replaced hardware with software, but it is still their own software.
I was just trying to point out hardware offloading isn't real hardware offloading. So it's not even really doing what it claims to.
 

shihonage

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I was just trying to point out hardware offloading isn't real hardware offloading. So it's not even really doing what it claims to.

It is offloading these tasks from Windows networking stack to its own routines, which the network manufacturer perceives to be faster/more efficient. Whether those routines are fully, partially or non-hardware-assisted, the end result is the same... needless interception of Windows functionality by questionable code.
 

Raghar

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DPC latency is horrible stuff. A proper HW NIC, and proper sound cards helps immensely.
 

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The title of this thread reminds me of those ads like "Lose 5 pounds a week with this one simple trick" and "Mom discovers youth elixir using common household ingredients".

Maybe they were onto something all along, too...
 

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