Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Call Of Duty: Going For Max Performance

Oh boy.  About Black Ops, I've taken a break from that recently.  Got back into Rock Band 3 Pro Keys which I'm ever so slightly improving on.  I figure you can play a game where you make war or one where you make music...  Also got in some shots of Sega racers for good measure.

But I can't go cold turkey on Black Ops.  It's tough to say it, but you never back down from competition.  Remember when were kids and we had to play little league baseball, basketball, football, soccer, etc.?  Well, nowadays, you have to play Call of Duty (or some sort of "competitive" equivalent).  That's just the way it is.  It builds, for some people anyway.

I did realize something that I never got around to mentioning before.  I moved my Xbox 360 to another TV and hooked up Rock Band.  Now if you are a rhythm-gaming regular, you realize that every TV has a different amount of audio and visual lag which you must calibrate or the notes will not be in sync and you'll mess up.  So the Rock Band Stratocaster Guitar has a little device that auto-calibrates your RB3 game just by facing the thing towards the TV and responding to the chimes & flashing screen.

This TV I was playing on had 60 milliseconds (ms) audio lag and 80 ms visual lag.  On the other hand, my other TV had zero audio lag and 40 ms visual lag.  Let me describe what I'm getting at here.  There's a certain amount of time between which the game acts and when you get to respond.  This is normally referred to as "lag" but it goes much further than just internet connections.  Here's what happens during a regular online game:

1. The host server transmits a signal over the Internet to your console.
2. Your console displays the picture on the TV screen.
3. Your eyes detect the image on the screen and your brain & fingers react accordingly.
4. The controller sends the input back to the console which sends it back to the host.

You might say "durhur Eric, we know that," but think about this for a second.  The time it takes for this whole sequence to go through is usually around 300 to 600 milliseconds.  You want to be able to process that information as quickly as possible.  Having a better "setup" than the other guy can give you a 100-200 ms advantage over the other player.  In "twitch" games like Call of Duty (hell, every game has some sort of reaction time, DEAL WITH IT), you can win or lose by the blink of an eye.  Getting shot even once can throw off your aim and make it nearly impossible to respond to the draw.

Now what you can do to decrease this reaction time and become a "better player"...

1. Get a better Internet connection.  Find hosts that are super-close.  If you have to play with a laggy  host, then just bite your tongue and live with it.  Keep in mind that in CoD, 4 bars means 0-99 ms latency, 3 bars means 100-199 ms, 2 bars means 200-299 ms, and 1 bar means 300+ ms.  Even with 4 bars, you may be getting screwed since your latency may be in the 80-90 ms-ish range.  If your ping keeps altering between 3 and 4 bars or worse, odds are you're not looking too good.  Find a different game if you must.  Also, try using a wired connection rather than a wireless one, maybe that'll help a bit.  And if someone's in the other room plugged into the internet and sapping your resources, go kick him out.

2. Get a faster TV.  I know jack about TVs other than, from my experience, the bigger TVs usually lag more (up to 100 ms?).  Now I don't have any direct way to test a TV's visual lag outside of Rock Band but here's something you can do.  Plug the console in a TV, then push the joystick to look left and right.  Try to detect the delay in which the TV "shows" that you are moving.  Try out low-res (yellow-white-red) cables instead of hi-res (red-blue-green-red-white) if you're really that picky (although the lower graphics may have an adverse effect on your visual detection).  I know the TV can be a big f'n deal since I've played Team Fortress 2 on XBL (Orange Box) on this big-ass TV and the video lag really hindered my performance...

3. According to this site, the average human reaction time is 215 ms and that's just on that "click the mouse when the box turns green" game.  You can train yourself to be a faster player, but since I'm not into this yoga crap or whatever, I say the following quickie tips will help.  Play when you're awake and thus most prepared to react.  Alter the brightness/contrast of the TV so that you can most quickly pick up on any threats--a dark TV with lots of glare gives you no favors.  Wear contacts, glasses, or anything to help improve your vision.  Play with a higher sensitivity and try to develop an opposable thumb that can nudge the stick with the slightest precision (this is easier said than done though and may actually hurt in the long run...find the best sensitivity for you).  By learning the ins and outs of the game, you should get "smarter" and hone in on when enemies may actually appear rather than float around the map reacting to stimuli without any awareness skills.

4. I say use a wired controller over a wireless one.  While in theory, both controllers may be equally the same, the wireless controller will start to lag once the batteries run out.  I like the way the wired controller handles--it's lighter and has less stiff joysticks.

While even the slightest boost in performance may seem petty, it's worth it if you're going to be a "try-hard" on Call of Duty (or any competitive game, really).  Although the following can't (totally) make up for good old-fashioned strategy and finger dexterity.  Either that or sit in the corner with your Ghost/Silenced Famas class and you automatically win.


Now I already referenced Jim Mora in the previous CoD post.  Jim Mora was an old NFL coach for the New Orleans Saints (my team) and the Indianapolis Colts, famous for his "Playoffs?" rant.  He dealt with much adversity and wore it as a chip on his shoulder.  Dude was nuts (I love it).  A lot of what he said is applicable to Black Ops.

You jerk off against ANYBODY no matter how good they are, you deserve to lose.  Don't be afraid to kick your own ass after you lose.

Coulda woulda shoulda...  EDIT: Yeah sure, you can say, "all that BS was unfair," but that just doesn't happen to good players.  We ain't better than them, we're gonna work our ass off to get better, deal with it, go home and be a family man...

S-WORD LOOK OUT.  I may look happy but I was really pissed.  You weren't here in my house to hear the obscenities so you don't know.

Greatest time of my life.  Sugar coat anything that sucked.

You Will Never'll never know the anguish I can go through.  You think you know, but you don't know, and you never will.  So why do I even bother talking about this on my blog?

What happens on bad CoD days...cry and say you want to come back.

Or I got a better idea--how about I stop playing this effing game and never look back.  That's a great idea, I'll get back to you on that...

Just for the lulz, read my "how to get better at FPSes" guide from November 2010.

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