I notice alot of people who post about issues with screen freezing, connection drop out, lobbys emptying, slow laoding on game screen (such as joining DM, Race, MIssion etc).
Alot of these issues relate to your connection, lag, ping and packet loss. Before you jump the gun and blame (whos fault it may or may not be) its best to rule out some stuff from your connection.
The very first check to make, reset your router.... Often a stale session can become laggy, so refreshing gives you a new session with hopefully a new IP address. It also resets your SNR to the target SNR for your line, If your still getting the same problem... we move on.
FIrstly dont use wireless, as convenient as it might be, its a gamers nightmare and is the most common cause of issues with lag/latency in game. Wireless works in the same way as remote control cars, theres only a limited frequency range that all wireless devices can use. Most routers allow you to change the wireless channel to overcome this. However, wireless channels each overlap by 3 channels, meaning to get a truley independent channel only channels 1,6 and 11 are worth testing. The rest will have some form of overlap so if theres interference on channel 1 it will overlap upto channel 4.
This image shows how the wireless frequencies work
Now as theres only a maximum of 13 channels, of which only 3 are truly independent, if there are more than 13 wireless routers within range of yours (which can be upto 100m) then its going to cause congestion, as theres two or more devices per channel.
These devices are sharing a limited bandwidth of frequency, of which all the data need sto pass. Where theres more data it goes slower, the same as you would on the freeway at rush hour, compared to going at 1am when theres no traffic.
In highly populated areas its not unreasonable to expect 100+ wireless routers all broadcasting within range of each other.... thats a lot of data flying about all of which can congest each other, slowing down transmission speed and increasing packet loss and ping, which for you means lag, loading freezes, delays and stuff jumping about all over your screen.
So the first and most important test to begin with is to connect your console wired and see if you get the same issues. If you dont then wireless is the cause and its recommended to only use a wired connection. If you really cant run a long ethernet cable to your router consider something like HomePlug Adaptors, which utilize you house wiring to share the ADSL signal from your router to your device.
Altho most people think that speed is the be all and end all when it comes to gaming (and streaming or any "live" service) its a fallacy, the quality of your connect bears far more importance than merely how fast it goes. Speed is measured base don the transmission rate of data, however its an average of a number of packets sent... Now if they all arrive on the average time, your connection quality is good. but a bad connection quality can still give good speed results, on the basis that some packets are arriving much faster than average, whereas others are taking much longer (or not arriving at all). This gives the impression of a good speed, but the actual quality of the connection is rubbish, causing lag.
So how do we test connection quality?
Now assuming youve already ruled out wireless and your speed looks reasonable, the next step is to check your ping. There's a slot of website that will do this for you but i would not recommend using them. The reason being that an independent site will use a server for your computer to ping. if there's a lot of people pinging it at once you wont get an accurate result and it may send you on a wild goose chase.
So your best option is to pull up a command prompt on your pc/laptop and type "Ping google.com". Using google means you know the services wont be suffering high laods, with the size of google data centres its pretty much impossible that they will be congested.
Your ping results will come back looking something like this.
Now with the above example you can see that the average ping is 249ms (thats pretty high) but the individual packets sent vary in their transmission rate, from as little as 32ms to as high as 455ms.
To make this a bit more real, a ping works like sonar. It sends a small packet to a server, and waits to hear a response. When response is received it records the time. In the above example id expect some pretty sh*tty lag occurring, slidey cars, disappearing textures etc.
The reason you see cars sliding or NPC's randomly spawning out of nowhere is because the packet sent from your console to say "im here on the map" takes a while to be received by the R* servers and returned back to your console to say "well if your there, heres an NPC's theres another player and heres a bullet"... Athough were only talking milliseconds its important in terms of smooth gameplay, where everything renders nicely.
If your getting high pings your gonna have problems, so how do you detemrine what is causing the high ping?? Run a Traceroute...
So using the example above we can see that although ping is high, each and every packet sent was received and returned (12 packets sent, 12 reiceved, 0% loss).
Now packet loss is really important. If a packet doesnt make the round trip then theres some data missing, this can also lead to in game lag and disrupted gameplay in the same/similar pay to ping.
An anaolgy of this is to use the Ferrari/Tractor analysis. So in this example we assume your connection/line is like a road. Ferrrari's are fast, Tractors are slow. If the road is smooth (i.e high quality connect, high quality line) then your ferrari can go at top speed, reaching its destination quickly. If we were to send 10 letters, in the hands of 10 ferrari drivers, we expect each one to arrive nicely and quickly.
However if your road (connection/line) is more like a ploughed field than an autobahn, sending your letters in a ferrari comes with a risk. Although the ferrari goes fast, on a ploughed field it will be unstable and potentially 1 or 2 will crash. If they never reach their destination your missing 20-30% of the information sent, or getting 20-30% packet loss. IN these cases its much better to use a tracktor, which although slower is more likely to get to its destination.
The ferrari and the tractor are the Target SNR (signal to noise ratio) set by your ISP. If your SNR is low (i.e 6db) this is like the ferrari, its fast, but not very accommodating to noise/interference on the line. A higher SNR has a greater degree of tolerance to noise, so is more like the tractor, slower but steadier. You can check your SNR on your router, if its jumping around alot it means you've got noise on your line, which contacting your ISP to change the target SNR can resolve, by improving the connections tolerance to errors and noise. It could also point towards a line/server fault.
To check your SNR you need to access your router admin page. For most routers all you need to do is open a browser and type 192.168.1.1 into the address bar (you may need to consult your router instruction manual to check the IP address, but thats the most common one). It will prompt you for a username and password, by default this is usually "admin" in both cases. Your SNr will usually be shown on the front page and will fluctuate depending on time of day.
So to measure your packet loss (and see if you need a ferrari or a tractor), again go to a command prompt and type "tracert google.com". Again we're using google to ensure high server capacity and to minimise erroneous results.
Now after you hit enter your gonna get a screen that looks like this.
nice clean trace which follows the packets from the router (192.168.1.1) to google (126.96.36.199) No packets lost and all data sent is received. For a connection like that id expect a pretty smooth gaming experience.
If you get something like the below... your in trouble.
This is a trace of a chinese computer, trying to access feed-burner. The packet leaves the users pc nicely, hits their router ok, but as it passes to the external service (the chinese ISP) the packets are blocked... This prevents a return from the destination site and leaves the user with something like a 404 error (or if their ISP built a wallgarden to inform them they are trying to access a restricted site)
Ok so now you know how to look at your connection quality. how do you interpret it.
With a traceroute each hop represents a different node (server) that the data is passing through.
The usual transit path of data looks something like this...
In the above image "router" can be either the users router, the ISP's router (or server) and the host "router" (server) for the site your trying to access. In the case of GTA:O this path would be something like
(Console) - (Your router) - (ISP) - (host) - (Rockstar Cloud server)
To interpret the traceroute you need to be looking for either a) lost packets, which show a "request timed out" error (like hops 7-10 in the image above) or b) packets with a very high ms time, like hop 10 in this image,
The next thing to do is find out who is responsible for the IP address that has the high ms. To do this all you need to do is go to your command prompt and type "whois [IPaddress}) and hit enter. This will bring back the details of who owns the servers for that IP address. You coudl also use a third party website such as WhatsMyIP.com to run this check
Going back to our path of (console) - (router) - (isp) (host) (rockstar cloud) everything before the router is your responsibility, The ISP is your ISP and the Host/R* Cloud is a rockstar issue.
So if your getting really high times between console and router your probably using wireless with congestion. going to the wireless section at the top of this page should help you resolve it. If your using a wired connection you might want to check your SNR in your router and if this is fluctuating contact your ISP.
If your finding the high times on your ISP's IP addresses you need to speak to them. It could be a fault with their servers, overload or indeed an issue with the quality of your line. They can run some capacitance testing on your line to determine if the current settings are appropriate or if there is a line issue that needs to be addressed.
If the really high times show on the last couple of hops, your looking at a possible R* issues, prepare yourself for a looong and arduous time submitting support tickets for that.
I my experience 80% of all gaming issues lie either with your connection to your router, or your ISP... Its rare that the game servers are overloaded, and when they are this is usually temporary.
Interleaving vs Fastpath
In your router settings you can usually see if interleaving is active on your line. Interleaving is a way your router can overcome minor errors in the connection stream,, without you losing connection. However interleaving can also cause issues with "live" services such as online gaming or streaming. The reason for this is each packet has an overhead. The overhead is basically a set of instructions to your router in how to interpret the information. The reason different target SNR's work is to change the information and size of the overhead, to make the line more stable.
The way interleaving works is to send/receive the packets in a non sequential manner. This means they are sent out of order which can help to reduce the total amount of data lost, in the event of packet loss or connection interruption.
So to visualize it interleaving works like this.
As you can see the packets are sent out of sequence. This give a greater stability to your connection. However it takes longer to do this, so from a gaming perspective although interleaving is good to retain a strong connection, it can increase ping times compared to a fastpath profile. As we all know increased ping can cause lag, whicyh makes for a rubbish experience... So how does fastpath work.... well like this..
Now this image works in two ways, its shows us both the benefit, and the danger of fastpath profiles.
Fastpath sends the data sequentially. As such it doesnt require the overhead in each packet like interleaving does... What does that mean? It means each packet of data has slightly more actual data in it... in turn it means more data is transmitted per packet, so it reduces the ping (i.e on fastpath to send 100b data sent in 10 packets = 10b per packet.... for interleaved if they have an overhead of 10% each packet can only carry 9b of data, meaning that a total of 12 packets need to be sent, 11 x 9b packets and 1 x 1b packet)... Reduce ping means better gaming experience as data is moving back and forth much faster.
Sending the same amount of data over more packets takes longer than sending them in less packets and this is why fastpath can benefit gamers.
However the danger is that any lost packets (the red ones in the image above) can cause a fastpath connection to drop, whereas a interleaved profile may retain a connection (although slowed slightly from lost packets) because of the non sequential way in which data is sent. This is like sending the 10 letter in 10 peice, split over the 10 driver. As such if one goes missing its not a full letter your missing, but just one or two lines from each letter, making it easier to interpret the overall information sent becuase theres not a hugh chunk missing in the middle.
Now I know this has been a pretty long and arduous thread... but rather than my type this to everyone who has problems its easier to write once and link many times over. I hope it helps anyone with lag or server troubles determine if Rockstar really are to blame, or if you need to look slightly closer to home.
If you've got any questions (or better still any more advice, things like port forwarding, clearing DHCP tables, using NAT etc... i kinda ran out of time and didnt want to put too much in the OP. ) feel free to post them.
So a quick summary and checklist
1- Test a wired connection
2- run a ping test
3- Run a Tracert
4- Check SNR
5 - Contact ISP.
Before you try any of the below options try uninstalling and reinstalling the latest R* update from your console. This will overcome any corruption with data received when installing the latest updates.
1 - Use Wired connections, a wired connection will always reduce the lag caused between your console and your router and eliminate any wireless congestion. a 10m ehternet cable will set you back about 10£/$ so its not a massive expense.
2 - Ensure your Router is connected to the first socket after the line comes into your house. This is often know as the "master socket". Using the master socket as opposed to an extension/slave socket ensures your reducing interference from internal wiring issues.
3 - Some master sockets (particularly in the UK) have a removable faceplate which your internal extension/slave sockets are connected. If you remove it and there is a test socket behind the faceplate, test there to rule out your internal extensions as a cause. They look like this
4 - Keep your router away from other electrical devices where possible. Your internal telephone wiring is basically a huge aerial that can pickup electromagnetic radiation from other electrical devices. Although a difficult one routers are notorious for picking up interference fro other electrical items such as your tv, microwave, stereo etc. A Particular (although laughable cause) is Xmas tree lights. As they draw a varied voltage from the mains wiring, this can cause spikes in noise detected by your router, leading to lag and ping spikes.
5 - DONT plug your router into a multiway power adapter, these are usually badly fused/earthed and can cause your router to detect interference from the other devices connected.
6 - Contact your ISP and request a fasthpath profile, this can help reduce packet overhead and improve your Ping, but watch out, if your connection has high packet loss a fastpath profile might cause connection drops.
7 - If your getting high ping and packet loss shows this to be on an IP addressed owned by your ISP, call them and request a capacitance test on your line.
8 - in the unlikely event you are getting packet loss from the Rockstar servers (the last couple of hops on a traceroute)....... Good luck.