The makers of Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds say they have found one potential reason why some recent players have grumbled about being shot by people so far around corners they hadn’t even seen them. PUBG Corp say the update last Wednesday, July 4th, unintentionally broke the North America servers’ ping-based matchmaking restrictions which are supposed to keep high-ping lagjerks out. I find it extremely validating when my death turns out to be a bug’s fault, so I’ll blame this for all of my recent murderings. The devs say they’re poking at the problem but don’t give an idea of when we should expect a fix.
“We’ve investigated reports of connectivity issues experienced on NA servers since Patch #17 and found ping-based matchmaking is not functioning correctly for NA servers,” the game’s support team tweeted yesterday. “We are investigating the cause of the problem and will provide an update as soon as possible.”
That sounds promising, but reports of unreasonable lag stretch beyond the North American servers and back longer than last week. This particular cause they’ve found might only be part of the problem. When (if?) they fix this, I hope PUBG Corp go into more detail on it all.
Lag has long been a problem with the 100-player multiplayer stag weekend, from rubber-banding rouges to infuriating interruptions. Complaints have increasingly become about ‘desync’–desynchronisation–where two players can see quite different things. One player might be standing in a window and hosing an enemy with bullets, while their opponent… sees no one standing in the window but still eats hot lead. Or you see yourself clearly escape gunfire into cover then half a second later fall down dead. Any real-time online game will have some latency quirks but this has gotten silly.
Worse than being irritants, deaths to desync and lag undermine trust in the game. Every shoot I feel I might have hit becomes one I suspect should have hit. Deaths that felt a little funny can feel wildly unfair, caused by technical problems rather than skill. In a game that already has trust issues due to cheaters, it’s worse. We trust games to be reliable systems, playing them not so much as digital systems ruled by computer rules but as models replicated inside our head through our understanding of how they work. When the digital reality clashes with our meat-based model, it feels wrong. Some canny games use this to thoughtful and unsettling effect but I’m pretty sure Plunkbat isn’t shooting for existential horror.
Head honcho Brendan “Plunk” Greene recently said that PUBG Corp are currently “refactoring a lot of the code to try to peel off some of the bandaids we had to fix”, aiming to replace code patched inelegantly with lean new magic computer words which just plain work. That’s a long-term plan, mind, and the game seems to need a few more sticky plasters for now.
Less “Lag!” and more “Laaads!” please.