I've been hearing some confusion about our ping accelerator option lately. These are some of the questions we've been asked, and their answers.
Does the ping accelerator really work?
Yes, the ping accelerator does work. In fact, it makes a very significant difference. For HL1-based servers (CS 1.6, TFC, etc.), it generally makes the ping in the game the same as it is from the command-line "ping" command, and that often means a 10ms+ reduction. It also allows clients to run higher updaterate and cmdrate settings without lag, which makes it very useful when performance counts and accurate hit registration is critical, such as in league matches.
How does it work?
The ping accelerator works by telling the operating system to reduce the minimum allowable delay for programs when waiting on a resource.
In practice, this means that accelerated game servers can perform more "ticks" and "network frames" per second. For HL1-based servers, the game is limited to about 64 ticks and network frames per second with the accelerator off, and about 250 ticks and network frames per second with the accelerator on. The higher those numbers are, the more times the game checks for and reacts to input from connected clients, and generally the lower their in-game latencies will be.
Unlike HL1-based mods, HL2-based mods typically must be capped at 100 ticks per second due to limitations in the game. However, the network FPS is not capped and can be higher. Running a higher server FPS (such as by purchasing our hyperaccelerated, which runs a server at 500fps instead of an accelerated 250fps) will provide a small benefit due to the extra server input checks, but will not make as big a difference as it does for HL1-based servers, whose tickrate (and therefore, number of entire world recalculations per second) would also increase with the higher FPS.
(Note that our non-accelerated CS:S servers run at the default tickrate of 33, and only accelerated ones can be adjusted to 66 or 100, due to OS limitations and the extra CPU usage involved.)
Do higher FPS numbers always mean a faster server and lower pings?
Not necessarily. As the FPS goes up, CPU usage also skyrockets (at more than a linear rate), and the extra CPU usage could mean less smooth and predictable server behavior, possibly to the point of lag spikes or registration problems. We use top-notch hardware and monitor both our accelerated and hyperaccelerated machines very closely to ensure that side effects of the extra usage do not occur for our customers.
It is important to note that these effects are also less likely to occur on win32 servers than Linux ones. Many other hosts claim that Linux is higher performance, and that they use a "custom-tuned" or "high-performance" kernel, but Linux-based HL1 and HL2 servers do not actually run faster. We have done extensive tests that show Steam-based servers run much better on Windows machines, and in fact, we have noted that our ping accelerated, 250-tickrate servers are more stable and use fewer resources than even their higher-tickrate Linux cousins.
That's not to say Linux has lower performance in all applications. When coupled with Apache, Linux makes for an excellent, low-latency webserver, for instance, which is why we have a number of machines serving webpages, including this one. It just isn't as good as Windows for the types of games we run. Some dedicated servers, such as Halo's, do not even support Linux, which is not inconvenient for us.
(We actually ran Linux when we first started, and we used a highly optimized, customized kernel. Linux was a dream to administrate on our side since everything is text-based and the operating system is easily programmable and customizable, so it was painful for us to have to drop it in favor of Windows. But we did, and our customers have enjoyed better servers because of it. We suspect that many competitors are drawn to the positive properties of Linux, such as its low price and easy customization potential, and assume that it is also faster without actually investigating, as we did.)
Is the ping accelerator like ping boosters from other companies?
It is similar in that both our ping accelerator and ping boosters from other companies raise potential network frames per second and/or the tickrate of a server. However, most providers use Linux, and Linux handles it differently in the operating system than Windows does, so it does not quite match up. Our ping accelerator is also proprietary, and because our competitors who use win32 can't run the same program, they tend to use more crude methods of "boosting" that cause higher CPU usage, often leading to other problems (including more frequent lag and ping spikes).
Last edited by Edge100x on Mon May 01, 2006 2:02 pm, edited 9 times in total.