Overwatch quick play runs at a tick rate of 20.8 steps per second. People cite the issue as Overwatch’s most pressing problem. Is it though?
Blizzard has already acknowledged the issue. 62.5 tick servers are available to use in custom games. While complaints persist, there are a few things to note regarding Blizzard’s net-code decisions.
What is tick rate?
Tick rate is the pace at which the server processes information. Imagine the game as a stop-motion picture. The amount of images per second determine how smooth the video is. Multiple interpretations of the stop-motion picture run simultaneously.
What’s so bad about 20 tick?
For one client to affect another, the information has to reach the server first. The consolidated information is sent back to each player. Blizzard explains the concept in their Netcode video.
Interactions create conflicting information. If McCree throws a flash-bang, the target can move while that information travels. So where should the stunned player be? Should the server re-position him to the attacker’s view? Should the server choose an average and adjust both clients?
Lower tick rates mean bigger pie slices. You might be familiar with pre-aiming and dying behind walls. That time-zone in which you can move increases as the frequency of communication decreases. Higher tick rates feel smoother because correction gaps are smaller.
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Blizzard intends to rely on prediction methods to promote low-latency behavior. Overwatch’s code predicts the missing frames for 20 tick games. The server simulates “pretty much” the same results that the clients create. Most of the time the difference between the prediction and reality is negligible. When it isn’t, the server will “interpolate you back into position”.
Is this good enough?
Blizzard’s 60 Hz servers require fewer corrections. Competitive CS:GO servers run at 128 tick. Comparatively, 60 tick seem meager for professional play. Blizzard approaches the issue by patching abilities individually.
One might argue that this method causes problems. After all, most people prefer solid software fundamentals over patchwork.
From a practical perspective, it might not matter. Ping differences cause the largest correction gaps. Lag completely dwarfs the tick rate issue. The worry might stem from misconceptions. As suggested, humans arguably operate on much cruder time scales.