Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s launch has gone rather smoothly, but some fans are voicing concerns that the online shooter doesn’t use the best server technology.
Activision has confirmed, however, that Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare does use dedicated servers. But it also doesn’t. Following its Nov. 3 launch, some gamers took to the Web to complain that they were getting into matches with very high ping numbers. Ping is the amount of time — usually in milliseconds — that it takes for an Internet signal to reach its destination and return to the source. A high ping means that actions you make in Call of Duty will take longer to register with the host, and that can impact gameplay.
This has led some to speculate that Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare doesn’t have the dedicated servers that developer Sledgehammer promised it would. To alleviate fan concerns, Activision shared the following statement last week:
“Advanced Warfare employs game servers hosted at data centers globally on all platforms and listen servers as part of our proprietary matchmaking system. Our goal is to ensure the best possible connection and greatest gameplay experience regardless of location and time of day.”
Let’s quickly recap the two kinds of servers that online video games typically employ. Most online games on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 used what Activision calls “listen servers.” This is when a game like Call of Duty hosts the online match on one of the player’s systems. Listen servers often experience lag because the connection is going over a residential line. The host also has an advantage since their “ping” is essentially zero.
Dedicated servers are a better, but more expensive, solution. This is when a publisher maintains a bank of computers dedicated to hosting online matches. Everyone taps into the same server, which means no host advantage. These servers also use business-quality Internet connections with incredibly high download and upload bandwidth.
The advantages of dedicated servers are obvious, but they aren’t necessarily always the best solution, and that is why Activision uses its hybrid system for Call of Duty.
We asked Activision and Sledgehammer to comment on this story and help us understand when and why players get a dedicated or listen server, but the companies declined the opportunity to comment.
But the hybrid system is likely one of the reasons that Call of Duty has so few catastrophic connection problems at launch. If the dedicated servers are getting slammed, then the game can shift players over to playing via the listen-server method. Alternatively, if you live in a region that is incredibly far from one of the dedicated-server centers, you are likely better off with the alternative.
All of this isn’t to excuse Activision. Gamers have found that the maximum ping that Advanced Warfare allows for online matches is 800. That is 8/10ths of a second, which is a huge amount of time for a game that is all about twitch reactions. But Sledgehammer also isn’t just sitting back and telling fans to deal with that problem.
Sledgehammer boos Michael Condrey announced that his team is working on the first patch for Advanced Warfare. This will introduce a number of changes and fixes, and one of those is “connectivity optimizations.” That may help some people who are seeing high pings. Also, as we get further from launch, gamers may put less demand on the dedicated servers.