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Rubberbanding: What is Rubberbanding in Online Games?

Rubberbanding, in the context of online gaming, refers to a phenomenon where a player's character or position in the game appears to snap back or lag behind momentarily as if being pulled back by an invisible rubber band. It is an undesirable issue that can negatively impact the gaming experience.

Rubberbanding typically occurs when there is a discrepancy between a player's client-side representation of their character's position and the server-side information that dictates the actual state of the game. This discrepancy can arise due to network latency, server performance issues, or synchronization problems between the client and server.

What Are the Consequences of Rubberbanding?

The result of rubberbanding is that players may experience sudden teleportation or movement inconsistencies, making it appear as if their character is rapidly shifting backward or forward. For example, a player might be running forward but suddenly get snapped back a few steps, despite not encountering any obstacles or encountering unusual gameplay situations.

Rubberbanding can occur in various online games, particularly those with fast-paced and multiplayer elements. It can be particularly frustrating in competitive games where split-second reactions and precise positioning are crucial. 

For example, say you're playing a match of Valorant, and the spike has been planted by the enemy team. You take out every member of the opposing team but you start rubberbanding, and therefore, are not able to diffuse it. This will result in your team losing the round.

Just like this, rubberbanding can disrupt gameplay, affecting the player's ability to make accurate decisions or engage in combat effectively.

Why Does Rubberbanding Happen?

There are three main reasons for rubberbanding. Those reasons are network latency, synchronization issues, and finally server performance.

Network Latency

Network latency refers to the delay or lag experienced when data packets travel between a player's device and the game server. When a player sends input commands, such as movement or actions, to the server, the server may take some time to process and respond to those commands. If the player's client receives updated information about their position from the server after a noticeable delay, it can lead to inconsistencies and rubberbanding.

Additionally, packet loss, where data packets fail to reach their destination, can also contribute to rubberbanding. If packets containing information about a player's position or actions are lost during transmission, the server may not have the necessary data to accurately update the player's position, causing rubberbanding when the information is finally received.

Synchronization Issues

Synchronization between the client and server is essential for maintaining a consistent and smooth gameplay experience. However, synchronization issues can occur, leading to rubberbanding. One common cause is client-side prediction mismatch. Client-side prediction is a technique used to provide responsive gameplay by predicting a player's actions before receiving confirmation from the server. If the server's validation of the player's actions doesn't align with the client's prediction, sudden adjustments can occur, causing rubberbanding.

Server Performance

Finally, the performance of the game server itself plays a crucial role in minimizing rubberbanding. If the server is under heavy load due to a large number of players or resource-intensive operations, it may struggle to process and update player positions in real time. 

This can lead to delays in updating the player's position, resulting in rubberbanding. Ensuring that game servers have sufficient resources and optimal performance is important to reduce rubberbanding issues.

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