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Networking Games IT

Halo 3 Causing Network Issues 306

Posted by kdawson
from the maybe-just-a-coincidence dept.
Recently at my university where I'm a student and a sys admin, we have been experiencing some odd outages, in particular since the 25th of September. The outages seemed to occur between 8 PM and 12:00 AM — peak gaming hours for our dorms. It just happens that Halo 3 came out on the 25th of September. Upon further investigation we found that our network routers were shaping TCP packets, but not UDP. Once we applied UDP shaping as well, all network outages ceased. Gamers complained, but university students attempting to access network resources such as our UNIX clusters were satisfied.
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Halo 3 Causing Network Issues

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  • Doubts (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nielsslein (676184) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @02:19PM (#20803113) Homepage
    I'd like to see more proof before I go and blame Halo 3 for this.
    • Indeed, just like the iPhone 'broke' some networks. I bet it's something else's fault and Halo 3 just highlighted the issue.
    • Re:Doubts (Score:5, Interesting)

      by KiloByte (825081) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @02:52PM (#20803391)
      Yeah, I can see three explanations:
      • Halo 3's network protocol is so abysmal that it needs a big chunk of bandwidth. I'm not talking that everything must be done The Right Way (ie, sending just what other players pressed and a checksum of the game's state like Doom1/2 did), but even sending the coords for objects you can see won't take more than a few KBs per second.
      • the routers were buggy and crapped out after seeing more than X streams, counting every UDP packet as a separate stream (a moderately popular bug). As shaping fixed the issue, I doubt this could be the culprit.
      • the whole univ having nothing but a slow DSL uplink or so. I don't know where the article's poster is from, but if that's a 3rd world country it's possible.
      Somehow, not knowing anything about Halo, I suspect a combination of the first and third reason.
      • Re:Doubts (Score:5, Informative)

        by arivanov (12034) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @03:41PM (#20803729) Homepage
        Missed one - the routers crapped out on packets per second, not on bandwidth. This is probably the most likely one.

        As far as the network protocols being abissmall you are about right. They have devolved over time.

        Once past the stage of serial connections, the early gaming protocols efforts tried to use multicast+unicast or broadcast+unicast technologies to run peer-to-peers like networks where people truly played against each other.

        These times are gone. It is all client-server now.

        This explains the admin problem - I bet that most of the students were fragging each other silly together and played within the same map and the same game. That all ended up as a lot of client-server connections. This does not consume a lot of bandwidth on average, but it is capable of flatlining the network for short periods of time every time something interesting happened in the game because the data is tromboned back and forth across the same bottleneck many times. 1 student moves and the server sends the data to 16 others, and so on. Essentially this is a form of amplification/positive feedback loop. If the same students were playing games with other people located elsewhere the effect would not have occurred.

        This is a classic example of devolving and microsoftization of the gaming protocols. If the game was running locally using broadcast+ unicast or multicast_unicast to inform all local participants and only one dedicated hypernode checked what is going on outside the small "local world" there would have been no bandwidth/pps problem.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by KiloByte (825081)
          Beh. Ten years ago, when me and a bunch of friends used to write simple games as high school kids, we never got worse than some kind of a minimal spanning tree, doubly-connected w/o bridges if the game in question allowed dropping nodes. This is basic graph theory, something any CS student has to know.

          And highly paid professionals should be a lot better educated than a group of kids, right? Oh well, whom am I kidding. But if you're writing a gaming library for millions of dollars, the library ought to h
          • Re:Doubts (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 30, 2007 @05:14PM (#20804275)
            If either of you thought about this instead of just acting superior, you'd realize that they tried the "p2p" method until cheating became widespread, and then had to shift to a more complicated (but less efficient) server model that could run checks on the data and make sure nobody was cheating.

            Highly paid professionals know more than you, don't worry.
        • Re:Doubts (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Blakey Rat (99501) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @08:03PM (#20805309)
          Ok,

          1) Saying that you know more about game networking than the crew at Bungie, the crew who have been making games with LAN and Internet play since freakin' Minotaur in 1992, that's just plain stupid. Let's see your credentials if Bungie's coders are so stupid.

          Client-server is used because it's the only way to provide fair "hit negotiation" (the server always decides who hits who-- play Mechwarrior III for an example of a game without this) and it prevents cheating, since each client sees only what it absolutely needs to see to function.

          2) Never use the word "Microsoftization" again.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by mcrh (1050542)

            Never use the word "Microsoftization" again.

            Why? It's a perfectly cromulent word!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by thealsir (927362)
        My high school had one dual ISDN link connecting about ~300 computers until my senior year...it would literally take 5-15 minutes to load mostly text web pages. The dumbasses in charge didn't get the message till I was almost out of school.

        Shitty school internet is not a third world phenomenon at all.
  • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @02:19PM (#20803115)
    ...but at least now I have the excuse that there is no FA.
  • I must be new here (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OAB_X (818333) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @02:20PM (#20803119)
    What a remarkably useless story.
  • This is a story? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Poorly configured firewall and packet shapers - reconfigured them and now stuff works better?

    This passes for a story at slashdot now?
  • And? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by VeteranNoob (1160115) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @02:22PM (#20803129)

    So, poor network design caused the network to become saturated. QoS rules were applied to UDP, as they should have been, and the problem has gone away.

    Where's the story?

    • Re:And? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Blakey Rat (99501) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @02:31PM (#20803219)
      It's just posted here so we can get reams of replies talking about how over-rated Halo is, how much the Xbox (made by Microsoft!) sucks, how great Nintendo is in comparison, and how games used to have more "fun" back in the olden days. The network problem is entirely secondary.

      So it's pretty much like every other Slashdot Games post.
      • by s4m7 (519684)

        games used to have more "fun" back in the olden days
        It's not that they're putting any less fun in these days, but do you know how expensive it is to manufacture fun in industrialized nations like japan and the U.S.? Now they're using more affordable Chinese-made fun which is doped with melamine and lead to make it cheaper.
      • It seems to me that the in general geek perception, the 360 is pretty well regarded. I think it's gotten a pretty fair analysis in the geek world--a generally* well built, correctly-priced piece of hardware, competently marketed and released well enough ahead of the other players to have the upper hand w/ regards to game libraries.
    • Re:And? (Score:4, Funny)

      by MightyMartian (840721) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @02:31PM (#20803225) Journal
      Indeed, the story should be "More dipshit net admins with fancy-ass certificates but no brains fuck up QoS once more."
      • by JWSmythe (446288) *
        no shit.

        Actually, he doesn't indicate that he DOES have the certificate. :)

        I agree with ... well, almost every posting. Big deal, they had their equipment set up wrong. The heavy usage from the game showed the problem, they fixed it. end of story.

        A few years ago, a friend of mine with very little (like almost none) network experience wanted to take a class for his CCNA. I'd been using Cisco equipment for years, and am very proficient, but I decided to go w
        • by xSauronx (608805)
          About 40% of the people testing passed on the first try. I was surprised, since most of them seemed clueless in class. Another 20% passed on the second try. Those people are going to show their CCNA on their resume (heck, I do).

          I intend to begin a CCNA class in the spring myself. The only network-related experience I have is as a tech for a wireless ISP where I worked for a year. I worked closely with our admins (both of whom *are* experienced and seem quite knowledgeable) and enjoyed learning about

    • by fm6 (162816)
      The story is that evil network administrators have interfered with dormies' fundamental right to use up all the bandwidth they want! We should be grateful to this guy for reporting himself to us!
      • You're saying that it's even vaguely excusable for a dorm network to not have good enough connectivity to handle some students playing video games?

        Seriously, we could have an interesting discussion about how appropriate it is for a dorm resident to be downloading 150 gigs/week off Usenet, but it's perfectly reasonable for them to expect to have a functional network connection that they can use. I mean... they do *live* there and pay good money to do so - usually including a telecommunications fee that more

  • So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustShootMe (122551) <rmiller@duskglow.com> on Sunday September 30, 2007 @02:23PM (#20803137) Homepage Journal
    Guy had a network problem. Network admins found the source of the network problem. People who caused the network problem complained, everyone else was happy. This wasn't even a technology problem, it was an oversight in the configuration of the routers/switches.

    How exactly is this worthy of a front page article on slashdot?

    Hey, guess what. The other day I had a process that stopped working. Thinking quickly, I figured out what was wrong and fixed it. Everyone was happy. Do I get a front page article too?

    Sheesh. Congrats for doing your job, subby.

    (I know this was a journal entry and subby had nothing to do with it getting greenlighted, but seriously, wtf?)
    • Guy had a network problem. Network admins found the source of the network problem. People who caused the network problem complained, everyone else was happy.

      School had a misconfigured network and a capacity shortage. Network admins broke a commonly used application in response rather than either buying more capacity or properly configuring their network.

      This is old news for those of us who use P2P protocals for file downloads. The news here is that the "most usage is probably illegal anyway" excuse for de

  • No sympathy... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by _Shad0w_ (127912) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @02:24PM (#20803151)

    You know, I don't think I have any sympathy for the upset gamers on campus networks.

    Also, are you seriously trying to tell me that /. couldn't find something more interesting to post?

  • You insensitive bastard!
  • Good for you? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mattwolf7 (633112) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @02:24PM (#20803165)
    I fail to see a story here, your network was setup wrong and is now fixed. Case closed.
  • Wait a second. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Entropius (188861) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @02:31PM (#20803217)
    You're degrading time-critical but relatively low-bandwidth traffic intentionally in order to improve responsiveness for some ssh connections?

    Granted, Halo 3 is less important than Prof. Smith's Monte Carlo, but the fact that you have to do this at all means that you need more capacity. Plus it's damn rude to the students: "Oh, they're doing something new that we don't degrade! Ah, well, just degrade student UDP traffic too, that'll fix it!"

    I'm not saying that transfer limits are a bad idea -- someone downloading 100GB/month and saturating a line needs to be told off, certainly -- but if a bunch of low-bandwidth gaming traffic from the dorms kills the network...

    Don't forget that those guys in the dorms playing Halo pay lots of money to the university, which pays for the network.

    If I knew what uni you were at I'd seriously consider adding my (meager) 256kbps upstream to the load by writing a script to refresh your homepage over and over.
    • Re:Wait a second. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bert64 (520050) <bert@s[ ]hdot.fi ... m ['las' in gap]> on Sunday September 30, 2007 @02:36PM (#20803257) Homepage
      But this is a university network... Accessing SSH on university systems so that students can do their work is far more important than playing some games.
      The network is there for research purposes, so thats students can do the research they need to pass their educational courses. Any traffic that facilitates the educational courses of the university should be prioritised, and anything else should get whatever bandwidth remains. And those games should be grateful they can play online games at all, the university is not obligated to provide them a connection nor allow them to play games on it (they could easily filter gaming traffic completely).
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MacTO (1161105)
      Don't forget that those guys in the dorms playing Halo pay lots of money to the university, which pays for the network. Students are paying for an education, and maybe room and board. It is absurd to think that universities should be giving students free reign to academic resources for gaming. Particularly if their use is degrading the availability of those resources for their intended purposes. If you want a low latency connection for gaming, then buy your own and don't force others to subsidise your e
      • Exactly. Welcome to the real world, or as close to it as you can get in an academic setting.

        Try setting up a halo 3 server at your job once you graduate, and see how fast they shut it down. I know, apples and oranges in some ways, but in both cases the network is there for a specific purpose.
    • The part I don't understand is how it's a choice between real-time apps and other traffic. Somehow, on my university's network, we're able to play first-person shooters without causing any performance issues for other users or feeling more limited than if we were on a home connection. Do we have more bandwidth than the submitter's university? We've got a gigabit/s connection between buildings, and 10 megabit/s per switch port (which I despise, as it means I can't get 100 mb/s speed within the campus network
  • Crazy? (Score:5, Funny)

    by spykemail (983593) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @02:48PM (#20803351) Homepage
    Wait a minute, you limited network usage for gamers in favor of academic users? Sounds like a pretty shitty school if you ask me. Everyone knows that school networks are for three things:

    1) Downloading music and movies illegally.
    2) Downloading pr0n.
    3) Playing games, even crappy ones like Halo 3.

    As you can clearly see homework and research are not on the list...
  • "Halo 3" should be arrested immediately, brought to justice and then executed. And his bastard parrents too, for naming their kid "Halo 3" in the first place, I mean come on!

    wait a min..

  • Ah, Doom (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dachannien (617929) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @03:01PM (#20803443)
    Way back in the day, Doom's first implementation of multiplayer used broadcast packets to communicate amongst client machines. The university I attended was, at the time, home to the world's largest unswitched Ethernet. Doom's popularity led to the swift collapse of the entire network on a regular basis, since a broadcast packet would result in a response from every other machine on the network.

    id shortly thereafter patched the game not to use broadcast packets anymore. Once the cause of the network failures became apparent, playing the unpatched version of Doom became grounds for having your Intargopher turned off (we didn't call it the Intarweb back in those days, ya whippersnapper).

  • it is the Covenants fault. They are trying to crash the internet ready for the next invasion.
  • My school (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Beowulf_Boy (239340) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @03:10PM (#20803523)
    My school has a game design major, that I'm a part of.

    The internet in the dorms was shittacular. Horrible horrible service, and we had to pay 30$ a month for it.
    And, the IT department, when called out on this bullshit, couldn't even give us a break down on how our money was being spent.

    So, 3 years ago me and several friends sent an email out to everyone of importance around campus calling them out, basically saying it was bullcrap they advertise themselves as being all advanced at this university and having this gaming major, but the gaming major students can't even get online half the time in their dorms to play....games.

    Within several hours, most faculty was writing back and agreeing with us. We showed up at a meeting, and the head of IT didn't have anything together at all.

    Basically what happened was for a few months we could opt to be on a seperate network through the engineering department that wasn't managed by the IT department, but rather a professor in his spare time. And gasp, this network was far far superior and less buggy. It had 50% of the computers on campus on it, and 0% of the budget, yet still managed to be far more reliable.

    Then, after the next quarter passed, we were allowed to get outside ISP service in the dorms. Alot of my friends get adelphia internet access. I just chose to move off campus, I was tired of dealing with it. You still had to pay the IT department for their crummy connection, on top of paying another ISP.
    • If you're getting truly abyssmal service like that, then I laud your ability to go around it and get service that meets basic standards of reliability. No one says that just because it's the university's network, it's well run. Sometimes you have to raise a fuss.

      I just don't think that gaming is one of those things that universities need to bend over backwards to support.
      • It is if they have a major based around it.
        Not to say they should give it precedence over internet in the library, but on nights and weekends...
  • by mobilesteve (899951) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @03:27PM (#20803617)
    Journal written by fender177 (1125877) and posted by kdawson on Sunday September 30, @03:17PM

    I don't think this article was submitted as a story by the author. It looks like fender117 just posted a little story in his slashdot story, and kdawson stumbled upon it and decided to post it to the front page for some stupid reason.
    • Yup. I don't think anyone truly holds the journal entry against the poster. It's a fairly routine example of someone doing their job.

      This is the kind of thing kdawson routinely posts? Ahh, the Jon Katz of the 21st century.

      (I actually liked Jon, but he was one of the most hated editors of all time)
      • I quite liked him too, I could never really understand all the hate. Is there a JonKatz fanclub I can join? :P
  • by suv4x4 (956391) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @04:13PM (#20803905)
    Recently I purchased one of the limited Halo 3 packages. It looked great. But the game wouldn't start! Upon further investigation I remember I microwaved the disk for 3 minutes for no particular reason whatsoever.

    I'm still pissed off though. Nowhere on the package it didn't say specifically about microwaving Halo 3.
  • by giminy (94188)
    Sounds like the old iPhone excuse: "OMG, teh networks is down, it must be new product xyz's fault, and not my network misconfigurations!!11!!"
  • When I launch an online game of Halo 3 it complains that I don't have "Open NAT" enabled. I've been in the IT industry for ten years, albeit as a Windows admin, and I've never heard of Open NAT. A google search for the term brings up - surprise, surprise - this xbox support page [xbox.com]. According to the page,

    * Open NAT means that either the port-assignment policy is minimal or the device has a fully compliant version of UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) enabled by default.
    * Moderate NAT

  • UDP Packets (Score:5, Informative)

    by LordMyren (15499) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @09:45PM (#20805951) Homepage
    Just for the record, dropped (shaped) udp packets are not recovered. TCP/IP notices dropped packets, has them resent, and automatically lowers the connection's transmission rate, whereas with UDP you're just tossing EMP's into people's datastreams. UDP/IP is much more primitive, and relies on application level consistency checks, which, for the record, almost never ever ever monitor packet drops & throttle themselves down when packets start dropping. Thats why most packet filtering systems simply de-prioritize UDP and will not drop UDP.
  • by Mex (191941) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @10:17PM (#20806145)
    There's no in-depth info, there's no link to an article, it's not a review, there's no real information.

    Seriously, editors, what the hell.
  • by supabeast! (84658) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @10:53PM (#20806283)
    Isn't the whole point of the firehose to keep garbage like this from getting posted?

    Or is this just the editors really reaching for a crazy anti-Microsoft rant? Maybe Vista is just so bad that people aren't even using it enough to write complaints and security screeds for /. to link to.

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