Apex Legends has some issues with the network code
Apex Legends is a great take on the battle royale genre, but YouTuber Battle(non)sense’s deep dive into Apex’s network code revealed some major issues. Battle(non)sense takes a deep dive into how hit registrations are handled, and all latency from corruption to movement, even with low ping and no packet loss. The most obvious problem is how the game handles hit authentication. If you’ve ever been shot under cover, that’s probably your culprit.
You can watch the full video above. Below, we’ll cover some of the most important points for Apex players. For getting started, you may want to read our guide on how networking code works and what is “good” networking code written by Battle(non)sense itself.
In his analysis, Battle(non)sense showed that Apex Legends was running at a server tick rate of 20Hz, which is fairly common (but not ideal) in online gaming. By comparison, Battlefield 5 servers run at 60Hz, Halo: The Master Chief Collection just upgraded its servers to 60Hz, and the similar battle royale game Fortnite runs at 30Hz. The higher the tick rate, the faster the server can process what is happening in the game. It actually looks like Apex’s server data sending rate fluctuates wildly, but upon closer inspection, Battle(non)sense found that this was not the case. The culprit for this is the way the data from each simulation step on the server is processed, each step producing so much data per tick that it has to be split into multiple packets.
This massive amount of data is most evident in the amount of downstream bandwidth used (up to 1.1Mbit/s), which on average is six times that of rival Fortnite. Splitting this much data into multiple packets can cause problems with wireless or similar connections, where packet loss becomes more likely and pings will suffer quickly. As Battle(non)sense puts it, “The question now is why does the server have to send so much data per update. Maybe the developers have to further optimize the data that the client needs to receive.”
Battle(non)sense also points out that without in-game network diagnostics or other tools, it’s hard to even tell if you’re having a connection problem, let alone what kind of problem it is. Knowing your ping would be a good start.
The bigger issue with quality shots is what to do with hit authentication. Apex Legends takes a purely shooter-friendly approach (regardless of their ping), which can create frustrating situations. If you’ve ever been hit in cover, or seemed to take too much damage in a short amount of time, you’ve probably experienced the effects of this design decision.
Battle(non)sense gives a concrete example of a client running with a high ping of 325ms. “In Battlefield 1 and Battlefield 5, the shooter now has to direct his shots to compensate for his high ping to mitigate how his poor connection to the server affects the experience of the player he’s shooting. But in Apex it’s Otherwise legendary. No matter how high a shooter’s ping is, the server will always confirm a hit. The game doesn’t care how a bad connection from a shooter can lead to an angry experience for low ping players at the end of the catch.”
So far, Respawn hasn’t rolled out any fixes, but updates to Apex Legends since launch have been methodical. There is certainly precedent for other developers to improve the network performance of their online games over time. Respawn is currently hiring for jobs including a Senior Network Engineer for Apex Legends. Not a bad sign.
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