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Lag - What is it?:

More properly, lag refers to a delay in information exchanged between client and server, resulting in a hang with breaks immersion and can result in loss of control of one's character, with often unpleasant consequences. Players, however, tend to use the term 'lag' much more broadly, to refer to anything that causes a hang or break in play experience. Decoding their meaning is critical to understanding the problem that they're experiencing, and to fixing it, if indeed there's anything you can do - sometimes there isn't. So, for the remainder of this tutorial, we’re going to use the term 'lag' in this broader sense, and label actual lag 'connection lag'. Before we can discuss ways to prevent lag, we need to familiarize ourselves with the various types of issues that can give rise to interference with game play. Below is a rough listing.

Connection Lag:

Also called network lag, this arises from a problem with the connection between player and server. It can have a number of causes, including programs on the player's computer, their router, the server's router or programs, or somewhere in between. Connection lag can be detected by pinging the server, and checking ping times. A tracert will show where, roughly, the problem lies. Oftentimes there will be nothing you can do about this sort of lag, other than to assist the player in troubleshooting their system, or waiting out the network issue. If a ping results in an unusually high number, or the tracert fails at a certain jump, the problem is connection lag.

Graphics Lag:

This is one of the most common types of lag, and the one most mistaken by players as network lag, or as some other sort of problem external to their system. It isn't, for the most part. Graphics 'lag' occurs when the player's computer is overwhelmed with the graphical data it's getting, and fails to render it smoothly, resulting in poor frame rate, lockups, and occasionally more exotic issues. It is LARGELY a client-side issue, and they should take steps to fix it, like changing their graphics settings, or getting a different graphics card. There are, however, some things that a server op can and should do to prevent this sort of thing, which we'll go into below. If the 'lag' a player experiences is intermittent and coincides with times when a lot is happening on their screen, and other players on the server don't experience it when they do, the problem is likely graphics lag. Graphics lag can often also be detected by having the player hit the tilde (~) key, type ‘fps’, and hit enter while playing, which displays the Frames Per Second they are seeing displayed. The higher the number, the better the framerate; the lower, the choppier (‘laggier’) things will appear.

Server Lag:

This is the final type of 'lag', and the one you have the most direct control over. It arises when the server is trying to do too much at once. The game engine begins to run on the hairy edge, and it stops doing certain things, based on priorities in the engine. This often is caused by a lot of players on a server, or poorly written scripts, or poorly built areas, or some combination of the above. Other times, there may be some technical issue at work, like a crippled fileserver, an out-of-control process, or insufficient RAM. Server lag is often the trickiest to detect, and can be diagnosed by ruling out both connection and graphics lag. In more extreme cases, however, it's not at all hard to detect, as low-priority processes cease. These include the updating of the game clock, resulting in the game being stuck permanently at a certain time, arresting the day/night cycle. There are other low-priority processes as well, but some are of such low priority that they will fail with even a couple players on a well-built server and module, so they're not of much help diagnostically. In this latter category fall things like persistent area of effect heartbeat scripts and spawned-in-placeable heartbeat scripts - they often won't fire, if they fire at all, even on a healthy server.

Overrides are the same materials that CAN be put into haks. They are a way to use a hak on a server that does not support that hak. The problem is, on a public server you are causing trouble by doing so.

One such rogue example: The animation override -- it is supposed to speed up and improve animation on the user's computer. The sequences send by the public server are rejected and new ones used -- positions on the client are calculated and sent to the server with anamation sequence number information that does not exist on the server. The server receives trash data from that client using the animation override and cannot deal with that trash data -- Data Stacks start to have unprocessable data in them -- everyone starts to rubberband as the system tries to deal with the spurious data.

A cascade crash can occure from this or the server may just suffer lag untill restarted -- sometimes it can clear when the person leaves but other times the server can be messed up untill reload.

Other overrides do simular damage, some are worse than others. Overrides for heads that are in the haks being used we allow people to use at creation of the character and then remove from the override directory. We have found that even materials in the haks, such as heads, can cause a problem from load confusion.

Yes - certain SW firewalls can cause NWN lag. Multi use of the IP, such as down loading music or movies or SW while playing can cause lag. WHY? because the response is delayed at the client and that delay is going to cause lag. The server waits for responses from everyone before it will move forward. SOOO, the server is a slave to the slow responder draging everyone with them. BTW dialup has NOT been a serious lag problem, but DSL and Cable has -- because those with it think they can multi use it while playing. A basic DSL connection should not run MSN or other communications programs while playing -- bandwidth.

Keeping ones computer clean of virus and spyware -- we had a DM get infected and until he got it fixed we suffered everytime he loged on. It was a quick identify the problem and get it fixed but there you can see, it can happen and is an ongoing process.

Defrag, reorganize the hard drive, often -- weekly is not often enough. The NWN process of reading haks is critical to speed -- since we use the CEP there are haks to read but also the base Bioware stuff is in there own special haks which is perhaps not well known -- all is needed to run the game and that access can be slowed with a fragmented drive -- slowing response -- causing lag.

The PRC has overrides that WILL cause serious trouble to a server if in the folder when loging onto a server not supporting PRC. Again this causes serious lag that the server NEVER recovers from and usually crashes it sometime in its agony of lag.

The best policy is that NO overrideds be used, Optimise ones HD regularly, no SW firewalls while playing, and NO other internet activity on the IP line while playing and finally, clean from virus/spyware. The free Spyware cleaners are not able to take care of the problem -- I recomment Spysweeper.

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