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ISP Virgin Media UK Getting Close to Fixing World of Warcraft Multiplayer Lag

Posted: 15th Nov, 2010 By: MarkJ
virgin media uk world of warcraft latency lagCustomers of Virgin Media UK's least supported Virgin National ( Virgin.net ADSL ) broadband service, which operates over BT's traditional telephone network and not Virgin's super-fast cable platform, have been told that the current lag (latency) problems being experienced by fans of World of Warcraft (a hugely popular online multiplayer game) should be resolved by the end of this month.

Online gamers are usually the first to notice when something goes wrong with their internet service because multiplayer gaming is highly sensitive to any change in latency, which is effectively the response time (in milliseconds / ms) for sending a packet of data between servers. A rise in latency can easily make many online games unplayable.

Sadly that is exactly what happened when Blizzard introduced its latest major patch (4.0.1) for the hugely popular World of Warcraft (WoW) Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) during mid-October. Unfortunately this patch also made WoW's P2P based traffic look indistinguishable from vanilla P2P to Virgin's Traffic Management system, which has made the game almost unplayable for a whole month.

World of Warcraft Latency Issues (28-10-2010 12:09)

Since the latest World of Warcraft update we have seen that the type of packets used by Blizzard to deliver the on-line gaming has changed significantly. This means that Virgin Media's National (ADSL) traffic management system is unable to recognise the packets as gaming traffic and assumes that they are peer to peer traffic. Due to this the traffic management system does not place the packets within the gaming queue which has the highest priority and lowest latency within the VM network, instead they fall into the peer to peer class which gets a low level of priority within our network and by default a higher level of latency.

We are working to try and rectify this as soon as we can with our traffic management supplier however it will take us a few weeks to upgrade the traffic manage solution so that is can recognise the new traffic class and correctly classify it as gaming. Unfortunately due to the nature of most traffic management solutions we can not manually move these packets into the gaming queue as the solution can not work out which ones to move.

We appreciate that some customers will have noticed a similar issue with the previous World of Warcraft update. The reason behind this is because gaming companies are not prepared to share the updates with Virgin Media or traffic management suppliers prior to its release and so the first time we see the new packets is when people start to use the new updates. We are trying to change this view point of the gaming companies however at present they are un-willing to work with us.

We apologise for the affect that this has on your gaming experience and we will update you when we have a confirmed fix date for this.

It originally took Virgin almost two weeks to issue a public response to the problem, which has generated a rather sizeable topic on their support forum. However the good news is that Virgin Media confirmed last week that the issue would soon be fixed, the bad news is that you'll have to wait until "the full fix for this problem at the end of November".

Virgin also claimed to have, "made some changes to the configuration of our traffic management system to try and improve [the] service," although customers have continued to report problems with WoW's performance. Virgin.net's difficulties have already caused some customers to leave and switch on to the rival Sky Broadband service.

Millions of people around the world, many of which are in the UK, play WoW and early next month will see the release of its biggest game expansion to date - WoW: Cataclysm. ISPs that make aggressive use of Traffic Management will all need to be prepared; otherwise they could end up stoking the fires beneath a traditionally highly vocal group of customers.
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