Destiny’s Lag Situation Is A Huge Bummer

Destiny’s Lag Situation Is A Huge Bummer
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In Destiny‘s competitive Crucible multiplayer, the most fearsome foe you’ll face isn’t a flame-slinging warlock or a knife-throwing hunter — it’s lag.

One minute, you’ll be merrily floating around a PVP match, shotgunning fools and flinging space magic with abandon. The next, you’ll see something… impossible. An enemy will be standing in one place, then suddenly, he’ll be somewhere else. You’ll shoot him, and nothing will happen. He’ll teleport somewhere else. You’ll shoot him again, but his health bar will remain untouched. Suddenly, you’ll die. Apparently he killed you, but his PS4 took a bit too long to tell your PS4 about it. You’re still dead, though. If your team loses the match, you’ll still lose.

Welcome to Destiny lag. It’s a problem that has plagued the game since its launch last fall, and if anything, it’s gotten worse as time has gone on. I hadn’t been as aware of it as I am now, because I’ve only gotten into competitive PVP over the last month and a half. Destiny PVP is a really good time, but hoo man, can that lag be a bummer.

Lag regularly ruins Destiny matches, sowing chaos on the battlefield. While there are players who will purposefully exploit lag by using tools like lag-switches to induce lag in the middle of a match, I sense that the majority of laggers are just people with poor connections. It might not even be that simple — I’ve seen matches where every player suddenly gets a “red bar” denoting a poor connection, despite us all being in the green at the outset. Lag can strike at any time, for what seems like a variety of reasons.

Not every Destiny match suffers from lag. In fact, the majority my time in the Crucible has been free of the worst, teleporting-opponents variety of lag. But lag infects matches with enough regularity that its specter looms over even the best-connected contests. If you asked any group of dedicated Destiny PVP players for lag stories, you’d get dozens.

Last night during the popular on-again-off-again Iron Banner event, I came up against one of the laggiest teams I’ve ever played with. This kind of thing would happen regularly:

See how my opponent seems to teleport over to my left, then suddenly reappears in midair? I was so fixated on trying to figure out what the hell was going on that another player was able to easily shoot me.

Then there’s stuff like this:

One of the guys I was playing with called that “a glitch in the Matrix.” First, the guy I’m shooting at runs through the door twice in rapid succession. Which time was the “real” time? Which of my bullets landed? Shortly after that, he and his whole team rush me, but it feels just a touch off, like they all came out a bit too fast. Then a guy just magically teleports the last six feet toward me before killing me.

When you’re in a laggy Destiny match, you start to doubt everything you’re seeing. Are those two guys really capping the B control point? Is that guy really coming around on your left? Sure, you could close on that unaware player and take him out, but would you really? Or would you shoot him a bunch of times only to realise he’s not even standing there — it was just lag making it look like he was?

I’ve seen plenty of theorizing online about how Bungie could fix this problem. Destiny currently lacks dedicated servers, meaning that each match’s connection quality is dictated by its players’ connection qualities. The most obvious solution to the lag issue, then, would be for Bungie to add dedicated servers, which would centralize things and could do a lot to kill lag. As to why Bungie hasn’t gone this route, I can’t say. Dedicated servers aren’t cheap, so it’s likely that cost is a factor.

Destiny‘s new, hardcore Trials of Osiris multiplayer event has brought Destiny‘s lag issue into sharper relief, just as it has highlighted several other longstanding problems with the game’s PVP. Bad enough that you’re taking on yet another team armed with Thorns and final round Efrideet’s Spears, now it turns out one of their players is lagging to hell and back. You’re not even going to have a chance at a straight-up fight. Bungie says that connection quality, not skill level, is the defining criteria for matchmaking in Trials, but I’ve seen enough laggy Trials matches over the last few weeks to know that lag is a problem even there.

When Destiny PVP is good — which, again, is the majority of the time — it’s a ton of fun. Trials of Osiris has become a minor (ok, major) obsession of mine. (I’ll have more about it later this week.) Trials features high-enough level play that it’s easy to see Destiny taking the next step toward pro-gaming legitimacy, with international tournaments attended by the biggest names in pro FPS gaming. But the game just isn’t there yet, and if Bungie can’t solve the lag issue, it likely never will be.

With the House of Wolves expansion, Bungie seems to be pushing players more into PVP, trying to get everyone using all the parts of the Destiny buffalo. It’s worked, at least for me — I’m now deeply invested in Crucible and in improving my game. I’m certainly having enough fun to justify the time I’ve spent practicing and competing, but it sure would be nice to see Bungie do something that actually takes care of lag once and for all. As it stands, Destiny‘s lag situation is a huge bummer.


    • Well there is Australia lag and other lag.
      Aussie lag is simply that you are a few fractions of a second behind the server/host. This sucks but is pretty reliable in its way and you can get used to it.
      Destiny’s lag is the other, random shite connection lag that causes teleporting and other such bs and is truly impossible to play with.

  • A little off-topic: I still play COD4: MW1 online on a daily basis and don’t mind the lag when I’m up against the yanks, etc.

  • I think I must have been in that game.

    We all suffer Australian lag and I think as a whole we all have learnt to deal with it. Destiny’s lag is just plain awful. It is made worst that people with the bad connections are rewarded by the engine to compensate for this disadvantage. I have no idea how the Destiny’s match making works but I know that at times I am getting matched up with people from outside of Australia (China, Hawaii and US) which is ridiculous considering our already poor connections within Australia.

    I find it funny that I can have smooth connection when matched up with people from around the world when doing a raid but the PVP side is just basically unplayable most of the time. What makes matters worst is the game forces you to play PVP to complete certain bounties, rewards or tasks.

    Consider if this was a purely multiplayer game people would have given up on the game long ago. It is time for Bungie and Activision to stop giving us sub-par game modes and give us an experience we can all enjoy and not curse when we have to play it.

  • I never thought i’d be saying this, but I rarely ever notice lag in Destiny. Its one of the very few games that run perfectly for me pretty much everytime.

    • Wow, you are lucky. All I ever get is lag in Destiny PvP, ever since launch. It’s unplayable for me. I’d be getting killed even before I spawn, or getting killed by someone coming around a corner before they are around the corner, or getting killed by someone looking away from me. Basically, getting killed all the time…

      • Sounds like you get killed a lot! 😛
        I am playing on the xbox though, although I wouldn’t imagine that would make much of a difference?
        Am just suprised, as lag is usually always present in any MP game I play, but destiny has just been a dream… although disconnects are a bit more frequent then I’d like

  • Destiny handles latency issues pretty well. They’ve got pretty good servers and they’re willing to trust that they’re going to do their job well most of the time. Instead of focusing on extreme conditions they focus on making it smooth during average conditions. Players rarely notice a slightly laggy player because the game is open to predicting the outcome and going with that instead of insisting on following the rules down to 1ms.
    Two people shoot each other at the same time, which happens a lot, and they’ll both die even though one probably has a latency advantage over the other. It leaves the game vunerable to certain exploits but I’d rather it work that way and just punish cheaters than follow the rules hard like say the original Gears of War where your connection far outweighs your skill.

  • Dedicated servers aren’t cheap, so it’s likely that cost is a factor.

    That’s not true. Microsoft said that dedicated servers are offered to developers for free:

    And obviously Bungie turned them down. I’m sure that if Bungie went to Sony and said ‘hey, Microsoft is giving us free servers, can you match their offer?’, Sony would have matched that offer.

    I just can’t understand why any developer in this decade not going with dedicated servers for PvP. P2P PvP is so last century.

    • Haha, dedicated servers have been around since quake days well over 15 years ago, if anything we devolved back to p2p as a method of cost cutting. Even with the “free” hardware you’d need support staff ie network admins for maint. and monitoring on that sort of scale – it would add up, so i can understand why they went with p2p.

      I in no way support it and agree 100% that it should be dedicated servers for all it’s content.

  • This is a part of gaming that needs to improve I feel. Destiny, bf series even the almighty cod. in fact any major online game of the last decade I can remember has had some sort of problem online with lag/connection over a period. I am not sure how gamers hardware and the hardware of a server relate, whether tickrate/updaterate effect fps in any meaningful way. But some work needs to be done, I still feel like that part is still stuck back in 2005 as games have advanced.

    I know common knowledge type stuff, but believe just like all technology surely headway can be made, to improve player count if needed, improve update rate and lag problems while optimizing, always aiming to reduce performance cost. As I said I have not seen something blow me away connection wise since BF 1942 with 64 man servers and the first few mmo’s even quake 3 had amazing tick rate compared to today’s games that hover around the 20 to 40 mark CS being the leader at something like 100 or 120.

    chart comparing online tick rates…

  • Definitely agree there’s an issue yet I know it’s smooth for the majority, when it does lag it hits pretty hard. I would love to see dedicated servers.

    • See I would find this unacceptable. Playstation charge you to play online… correct me if I am wrong. For that service, suitable servers should be provided, if they cannot readjust the price so they can be or cancel the service altogether. That’s like if netflix cut out every 2 minutes.

      • Fair point but that’s how the psn has worked for so long – really when they made ps+ mandatory for online play SHOULD have been the time when Sony started setting up dedicated servers in more regions for more games. But they didn’t. It’s a missed opportunity that Microsoft is already well ahead with.

        Speaking of which anyone actually play on xbox live encounter lag of this kind or is it just on the psn?

        • I play quite regularly on the box and rarely ever get lag, I might have a spike here and there, but so rare that I really don’t even notice it
          Get DC’d every now and then, but that just seems to be part of playing destiny, and not actually due to lag lol

  • Not a PvP guy, but I started running Crota’s End with another guy last week, trying to learn how to run sword. Last Monday night was a dream – 15 minutes for the first try, three runs done in an hour or so; tried the same thing on Friday night, and Crota’s timing was all over the place – sometimes he’d teleport to the side positions instead of walking, or the damage needed to take him down would fluctuate, or he’d stand back up after only a couple of seconds – the works. Tried again each evening until Monday – Saturday was fine, Sunday was even worse than Friday, Monday was fine. No differences to team composition, so I guess it’s just network congestion.

    Even outside of raiding, it’s been really noticeable in PvE the past couple of months – I guess it’s a sign that Netflix must be doing well.

  • “Bad enough that you’re taking on yet another team armed with Thorns and final round Efrideet’s Spears”

    It looks like you don’t mind using the crutch yourself Kirk.

  • Something’s definitely been up with the Destiny servers; played PvP at launch with 0 issues maybe one laggy match out of 20. Came back this year and 2 out of 3 matches had horrible lag. Which is annoying because my connection doesn’t suffer like this in any other online game even if I’m connected to American/European servers.

    Edit: That said it might get fixed if you grab yourself a redbull dlc code.

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