To Explain Netcode Properly, You Need Props


Sometimes discussions on forums can get a little out of hand. Fans are pretty good at going down the rabbit hole. Sometimes it goes into full-blown conspiracy theories. In this instance yes, you the fans, were right. You’ve worked out how Overwatch’s netcode works, and that’s made the programmers happy to talk about it in more detail. But to do that, they need props.

I can understand the dilemma. Netcode can be tricky. So when you’ve got two blokes stand in front of a camera going through the nitty gritty of predictive clients, hitscan weaponry and what happens when a Tracer dodges at the same moment Widowmaker fires a shot, you’re going to need to visual aids.

So that’s what engineers Tim Ford and Philip Orwig did: they brought paper cups.

It’s actually fantastic to see engineers being rolled out like this to talk about the nitty gritty of how netcode works. It’s usually only the kind of detail you’d hear John Carmack go into at his Quakecon keynotes, or something you’d hear delved into at a GDC panel.


But Ford and Orwig are pretty precise about how Overwatch’s engine works. There’s talk about adaptive interpretative delays, hit registration miss predictions, mitigation exceptions and exactly what happens when it looks like you’ve shot someone but the server didn’t pick it up.

It should actually be required reading for anyone who wants to whinge about ping times or netcode, because many of these techniques aren’t unique to Overwatch: they’ve been staples of first-person shooters for years.

Also, watching two blokes play with paper cups with Overwatch stickers on them is a little funny.

This post originally appeared on Kotaku Australia.

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Seeing this kind of makes me intimidated as an unity developer.

Do you need to develop your own engine if you want to develop a real-time online muliplayer game with solid online playability?

Is there a limit to third party engines’ customizability in tailoring the game to give the best online experience? Does developing your own engine give you any advantage over a 3rd party engine when developing the online component of, say, a moba?