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  • Team Interrobang: Grand Finale : 12/8/18 @ 7:00...

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  • Diagnosing Server Issues

    Diagnosing Team Fortress 2 Gameplay Issues

    Team Fortress 2 is quite simply one of the greatest team multi-player games ever to grace silicon with a genius design aesthetic and Valve’s trademark love and affection. Team Interrobang is a gaming kludge with hardware run out of a basement in Chicago. So reasonably, when there’s a problem with the game, the ignoble Team Interrobang is blamed. Sometimes we’re at fault, sometimes we’re not and this guide intends to help players separate the two.

    Some Terms

    • Hitboxes - Hitboxes are the spaces where the server registers characters as occupying and where weapons fire will register a hit. This usually overlaps nearly perfectly with a character’s avatar but turning off lag compensation or making sharp turns can change this.

    • Lag – Lag is quite simply the delay between an input and that input being registered. It’s quite possibly the least specific term that could be applied to a problem short of “problem”. Saying “lag” really has no diagnostic value and something else should probably be used. The exception: You press the forward key “w” on your keyboard and ½ a second later your character starts moving. That’s lag but saying such is still largely useless.

    • Latency and Ping – Latency describes the amount of time required for a packet to go from your computer to the server while ping is the time it takes to go from your computer to the server and back. Ping can be seen by pressing the “TAB” key in game and viewing the ping as listed next to your name.

    • Warps – This describes disruption in play where a character (including yourself) goes from one point to another on a map without appearing to go through the intervening points.

    • UDP – UDP is a protocol whereby one application shoots packets at another computer across the Internet trading high speed for lower data integrity. Packets may appear duplicated, be out of order, or simply be dropped. These oddities help explain momentary hiccups in a game for a single player where a player may move a short distance randomly, a fired weapon may not register, or some other one-off oddity pops up.

    Common Problems

    Limited system memory causing crashes – Once a map is loaded, Team Fortress 2 runs entirely in RAM. As new textures, players, or events happen, the memory allotted to Team Fortress 2 will continually increase in a given round. So if you have a memory leak in another application, are playing a very large map with many players, or are running another RAM-intensive application on your computer you may encounter problems.

    Game slows down when a whole bunch of stuff happens
    – while this could theoretically be caused by overtaxing the server’s CPU, this is unlikely as testing has shown a 32 person clusterf#ck over the last point on pl_badwater only hits about 70% processor utilization on a single core. More likely, the player’s video card is hitting a wall as in situations such as the intel contested on the bridge in 2fort or active parts of payload maps the graphics card must calculate and render a lot more action. Things like particle effects from explosions, fire, teleporters and the medigun take significantly more resources to render than standard graphics. The best diagnosis is to monitor your frames per second (fps) by running cl_showfps 1 in console (~). Anything above 60 is excellent (and indiscernible to the human eye) anything between 35 and 60 is usually fine and below 35 people start noticing changes. This will be different from player to player as some don’t notice a change until his or her fps drops below 20. You can also check GPU usage by checking your fps in a game you’re hosting locally.

    Really high (>120) ping for just me
    - Verify other players’ ping to make sure it’s only you. This is most often caused by the computer sending and receiving information for things besides TF2. Depending on hardware and bandwidth, there may be a ping jump when using other UDP applications like Skype, Ventrilo, or streaming video services. Delays may also be caused by insufficient bandwidth on your local network. It’s not uncommon for someone on a shared connection (cable connection, apartments or shared connection areas like schools) to experience a ping jump caused by someone else on their circuit using data-heavy applications. Spikes can be caused by software updates like new virus definitions, Windows Update, or the ever present torrent client.

    Really high ping for everyone or a group – Sometimes packets aren’t routed in the most efficient way possible, increasing travel time and by extension, ping. If a service provider leading to or away from the server is routing poorly, several players may have their connection suffer. Other problems like data being routed around connection outages or even failures of ISPs to carry one another’s traffic can cause large spikes. These may also be caused by the server updating or sending data. Our server uploads demos to the website each hour so connections may be slow at some very early or very late times. If this persists, tell a Senior Admin.

    Game works for a few minutes, then the sound loops and the game crashes
    – nVidia 8800 series cards had a bug in memory allocation that was fixed with the most recent drivers. This same error can be caused by other system configurations but is often a driver issue.

    Why hits don’t register correctly
    - The way Team Fortress 2 does hit detection is based on the firing player’s game state. The server receives the information regarding weapons fire and interpolates backwards (as by the time the server receives the information the game’s already moved on) to see if a hit should be registered. This is most obvious when the target is moving perpendicular to the sight-line of the fired weapon and explains those annoying cases where a sniper picks you off from the battlements as you run across despite the fact that the dot never appeared on your body. Realize this works both ways, there may be times where the dot’s on your forehead, the sniper fires and a miss is registered because from his point of view there wasn’t a hit.

    Causes of facestabs and sniping through walls
    - These phenomena are largely caused by lag compensation. This is a method whereby the server “rewinds” the game to see things from a laggy player’s (everyone, from the view of the server) point of view and as stated above, see if when the shot was made, the target was in the line of fire. Once again, hit determinations are done from the perspective of the player firing, not the targeted player. As a side note: The backstab hitbox is much larger than many players suspect and includes a full 180° face of the character model.

    Game seems off while spectating
    - Lag compensation is not turned on while spectating so you’ll be seeing the server’s view of the game state no the player’s whose eyes you’re looking through. This is why you may suspect an aimbot when you spec the 300 ping sniper who seems to be getting hits but
    doesn’t look like he or she is hitting their target. There are also some recognized spectating bugs like sniper charge-meters not registering correctly.

    Large maps being unstable
    - The server is constantly registering interactions between players to keep track of achievements and weapons fire. These interactions increase much faster (exponentially faster) than the number of players. On a 10 player server, there are 9 interactions each player is maintaining (one with each other player) for a total of 90. On a 20 person server, there are 19 per player for a total of 380. This doesn’t mean a 10 person server uses a quarter of the RAM of a 20 person as there’s still a basic overhead and basic player states to record.

    No Steam Login Error
    - This error exists across all Steam games and in not discussed in any of Valve's existing resources. It appears that Steam continually consults a file on the player's disk to check that user's status and to prevent one person from being logged into a game from two different places. This error can indicate disk problems, a corrupted file or may be caused by some other unknown cause. (Pants: I asume this is usually a communication problem with Steam's servers, often by a problem on their end. I'll sometimes see large groups of people all suffer from this problem at once)

    Disconnected from Server Error
    - Just as the player is continually communicating with Steam the player is also communicating with the server. This is done separate from the game connection which sometimes may also be cut causing an auto-disconnect error (a 30 second countdown timer in red appears in the upper right of the screen). This error can be caused by either the player or the server but has been attributed to software/hardware firewalls blocking some packets or dropped packets.

    Unable to Join Server Due to Being Listed as In Game
    - Sometimes a player will leave or be kicked from a server and not be properly registered as such. Steam will list the player as in-game and will prevent that player from rejoining the server. This is easily fixed by entering the console (~) and entering the 'retry' command.

    Unable to Join Server with a Reserved Slot That Is Not Full
    - Sometimes the reserved slot is not recognized by a player's game explorer and the player may not join. This can be overcome by manually connecting using the console (~) and typing the 'connect ort>). IP and port can be cut and paste directly from the server information listed when one views a server's status.

    Some High Ping Players Jump Around and Others Do Not
    - Players with high-bandwidth but with high pings due to physical separation (international players) will often interact smoothly with the server. Some weapons fire may be off but the player will appear fine with the caveat as noted above in the discussion of lag compensation. If a player does not have high-bandwidth he or she may experience excessive warps as the packet communication is not of sufficient quality to maintain a quality gamestate. This can be caused by a low bandwidth connection preventing enough packets from being received for smooth gameplay or packets being received out of order because other applications are attempting to use the same bandwidth. Alternatively, if the server is sending more than the player can receive packets the player's ISP will either drop packets or delay packet delivery.


    Details on how multiplayer networking works including information on Net graph:
    Stupid amounts of detail on Latency Compensation:
    Video illustrating the interaction of hitboxes and lag compensation:

    Obsolete Considerations

    Server periodically dumps everyone on map change - Valve has recognized this problem and is working to fix it. I know that’s super detailed but that’s all we have and pops up on many servers without warning. The server map rotation is determined by a text file indicating the order of maps. Once this list is exhausted the list is reloaded. Many server operators believe there’s some persistent problem in reloading this list that sometimes causes everyone to get booted. We work around this by making the map file very long on affected game servers so it’s loaded rarely. This error was formally fixed in a Source Update.