Modern Warfare 2 Multiplayer hosting examined

MW2 online hosts can use over 300MB per hour

December 3, 2009

When Activision announced months ago that Modern Warfare 2 would not use the dedicated server model which all previous Call of Duty games have employed in their online component, PC gamers around the world were outraged.

No multiplayer mods or community monitored servers essentially destroyed any chance of Modern Warfare 2 being played in the competitive arena.

Instead, games are hosted by players themselves, and a matchmaking system supposedly allows players to quickly find low latency matches in their area with similarly skilled players.

Once the matchmaking system has put players together it determines which player is best suited to host the game based on the quality of their connection.

This system does not work perfectly in SA, with players sometimes being placed in internationally hosted games. Fortunately, local Steam communities make it easy to find and join games hosted in SA, making local Modern Warfare 2 online multiplayer viable.

While the concern of not being able to play on local latencies was solved by the local Steam community, another potential problem continues to hang in the air: local broadband infrastructure limitations.

Unfortunately Modern Warfare 2 requires a player with at least a 4Mbps ADSL line to host comfortably. This means that for every 18 players in a match, at least one must have a 4Mbps line. This in itself is not a problem, as there seem to be a fair portion of gamers that use these lines. It does however mean that if you have a 4Mbps line, you are likely to host matches quite often, leading to the next concern: bandwidth usage.

The dedicated server model allows players to participate in a game and only use the bandwidth required for their own experience. A third party server hosts the game, footing the bill for the bandwidth used to communicate between all the players. In Modern Warfare 2, a single player is the host, and they therefore have to use their own bandwidth to run the entire game.

While SA’s bandwidth prices are coming down, many gamers have complained that continuously hosting Modern Warfare 2 matches is chewing through their data cap.

One of MyGaming’s resident forum users and Modern Warfare 2 junkies – Maplassie – did some bandwidth consumption tests.
After continual testing in a variety of game types – from busy games to quiet games, with and without voice communication – the finding suggests that the average game uses over 200MB per hour when hosting.

According to Radius bandwidth tracker, one six hour session used 1695MB download and 269MB upload, resulting in an average of 327MB of bandwidth per hour. Another 4 hour 50 minutes session used a total of 1480MB, averaging close to 310MB an hour. All other applications were closed during this time, and the only data consumer was the game.

These sessions were busy, with 9 players per side most of the time and the usual voice chat activity.

Local gaming service provider iGame confirmed that in their testing of Modern Warfare 2 they found the average game uses between 200MB and 300MB per hour when hosting.

Furthermore, it is impossible to play Modern Warfare 2 using local bandwidth, as players have to be logged into Steam at all times. In comparison, playing CoD4 on locally hosted servers uses around 20MB per hour, and it is possible to use local bandwidth which is extremely cheap.

Of course playing Modern Warfare 2 does not use excessive bandwidth unless you are hosting, with regular gameplay using no more than 30MB per hour on average. The problem however is that the entire multiplayer service relies on gamers hosting matches, and such high bandwidth usage is likely to put off many 4Mbps line users from playing regularly.

Update

We reported that it is impossible to use local bandwidth to play Modern Warfare. This is incorrect, it is possible using a traffic splitter such as route sentry.Route sentry will not however work on all ISP accounts.

Discuss Modern Warfare 2 hosting bandwidth usage in the forums

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