back to article Virgin Media blames Activision for Call of Duty lag problems

Virgin Media has blamed coders of the popular Xbox Live game Call of Duty: Black Ops for slow connection issues that are hampering its service. "We're aware some of our customers are experiencing issues whilst playing Call of Duty: Black Ops on Xbox Live. Xbox Live traffic isn't managed by our systems so we've taken a close …


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  1. D Rome

    Console nubs

    This is why PC gaming will always win!

    1. Miek

      Oh dear

      Get over yourself nub-rubber

    2. Citizen Kaned


      because ATI havent fucked up brink for many people have they?

      drivers so bad than my 5 year old 8800gtx gets better fps than my brand new ati 6970!

      btw - im a pc gamer and console gamer. some games are much better on consoles and some better on pc. elitism just makes you look like a dick

      1. ph0b0s

        -1 for the PC elitest

        As another PC gamer, stop giving us a bad name with your obnoxious attitude.

      2. CD001

        ATI - Brink

        Weirdly I'm still using an older ATI 5850 and I've not had any specific issues with Brink - the one serious issue I have is with the fact that ATI can't write drivers and I get that lovely IRQ_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL BSOD periodically when running games.

        Catalyst 11.6 driver is supposed to resolve the Brink/ATI issues that (other) people experience.

    3. The Fuzzy Wotnot


      I don't play games but your comment seems typical of the the sort of 12 year old mentality I have come to expect from the console vs PC game argument protaganists. The game companies wonder why no one else wants to get involved, women, families, etc, in online multiplayer games when it's full of sad, spiteful people like you, perhaps they should spend a day trawling the forums like this to find retarded comments like yours, then they'll realise why no one else wants to play.

      You obviosuly don't respresent the sensible, mature players who can play with some grace but I tell you this, you certainly make me and a lot of others thankful we don't game online.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: Console nubs

      PC online gaming traffic still goes over the same wires you muppet.

      Bandwidth is not the issue, latency is - online gaming requires little bandwith but quick response times.

      I don't know exactly what Virgin are doing with traffic, but historically they have not been overly honest in that department.

    5. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      I would agree but

      Having to wait normally over a year or an eternity for games that come out on the console really grinds my gears. Also means when we finally get games they're old or if we get them at the same time just converted from console.

    6. M Gale

      PC Gaming sector

      That would be the businesses that find it perfectly acceptable to install layer upon layer of malware onto your computer, slowing your machine down with needless bullshit and all under the guise of "anti-piracy", right?

      PC owner here, by the way. If it has compulsory Steam installation, is made by EA or Ubisoft or anything similar, then it goes straight back on the shelf. Couldn't give a shit about the reviews. It's a toy. I can live without it.

      Amusing to see many of these such games being ripped and torrented within days of release though.

      1. stu 19

        Steam ? you're Reamed

        Hear hear on Steam, I've always hated it and when IU tried to fire up BC2 last weekend for a quick go and got to yet another black screen, I removed it and steam and every other steam game from my pc.

        Maybe if I need and FPS fix I'll need to get an XBox or PS3, I'll probably keep my PC too in the hope the the MMO genre gets a grip too.

        I don't think its really about any particular developer, ISP or drivers, it because the bandwagon went from a fairly small trailer like affair to a hug train very quickly which mean some stuff just gets pushed out before its ready (as in stable or fully tested) in order to be viable in a busy market place.

        The only way to stop it, or get it improved, is for gamers to hold onto their cash before spunking it on the next FPS clone, only to find its just the same as the last 3(0) they bought.

        I've been guilty of it also, I like a good FPS as much as they next person.

        Back to UT 2003 anyone ?

  2. xpert_con

    full of sh*t

    Maybe if the service wasn't throttled at a whim it wouldn't be an issue?

    1. frymaster

      or maybe not

      a) throttling isn't "on a whim", but more importantly

      b) on the lowest service VM offer, while being throttled, there's MORE than enough bandwidth for gaming. whatever is going on, it's not due to lack of bandwidth

      1. Pypes


        I don't know specifically which throttling method you are referring too (as VM have several different, and overlapping throttling policies) but in the case of STM (the one they hit you with for actually using you connection for more than 2 minutes) then afaict it's implemented by reducing your upstream bandwidth down to sub-dialup levels, just enough to cover TCP ACK packets for your reduced 20% downstream.

        In practice this pretty much limits your connection to a single person doing basic web browsing, as soon as you start using your upstream for things like photo uploads, p2p or gaming your ping time will shoot up to several seconds and you start dropping packets left and right. It is essentially no longer fit for purpose and wont be for another 5 hours.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          Which overlapping throttling policies are these then? Which sub dial up speeds are you talking about? Are you sure you are not confused by the pre and post upload increase policies? I'd also like to know where you got your info of the reduced 20% downstream as well. As there is no evidence that VM do any of what you claim on their site. In fact I've not seen anything that would back up your claims at all.

          I see I've been downvoted for having the sheer cheek of posting a researched comment with proof. but then this is the internet and you can't let indisputable facts get in the way of a good argument.

          1. Pypes


            Well the separate subscriber traffic management (STM) and the throttling of p2p and newsgroup traffic would be two, they both have different and overlapping schedules, I can't remember if there is a 3rd (I know their DSL users have additional traffic management)

            As your in the mood for research I suggest you intentional hit the STM (you'll have to wait till tomorrow now) and then head on over to your broadband speedtester of choice, I'll bet a pound to the penny that you'll find your upstream bandwidth limping along at almost exactly 3% of your reduced upstream (which I mistakenly quoted as being 20% when it is infact a far more generous 25%) This 3% is the hypothetical minimum upstream required to support a given downstream over TCP, you'll probably also get a nice healthy 150ms ping time to boot, that is provided your not doing anything else at the time, in which case you'll be lucky if you can even get the page to load.

            STM times / limits etc are detailed in this handy little chart....


            Don't say I never did anything for you.

      2. stu 19

        no it isn't

        Current "throttling" tehcniques involve rejecting a certain number of packets at whatever bandwidth your connection is at. This is for 2 reasons that I can see. 1. it works 2. gives an element of plausible deniability - "we're not throttling or slowing down your service" <we are just rejecting a % of your traffic, with some invisible algorithm that we can remove quickly so it looks like it was never there and it look to you like bad network service>

        So throttling like that impacts everything regardless of the bandwidth you actually have.


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Err...Go to VM and check out the policy

      It is not on a whim...Their throttling is actually pretty fair..

      On a 30Mb connection if you download 10Gb between 10Am and 3PM with no limit on upload or 5Gb between 4PM and 9PM (upload in the evening on a 30Mb connection is limited to 4.2Gb) you get reduced to 75% of max speed...Which still gives you a connection speed of 7.5Meg down to play with. On the next teir up (50Mb +) there is no fair usage or throttling apart from upstream in the evening which is limited to 65% of the speed when you reach 6Gb. Pretty high limits compared to alot of ISPs considering these are daily limits not monthly.

      Maybe this "gamer" is still living at home with parents and can't convince them to get more than the 10Mb connection, but even then, does the XBox really use 750Mb of data in an evenings gaming?

      My PC version of Black Ops has no problem with lag, on a VM 30Mb connection.

  3. Miek
    Thumb Down

    Absolute Crap

    I had problems with connectivity on Black Ops (PS3) which was corrected by upgrading my Virgin throttled 10M connection to 50M, problem solved.

    I found that if I watched a couple of iPlayer shows and had an hour on Black Ops I got throttled (punished) for using the bandwidth I was paying for.

    Virgin's service has been growing progressively worse over the past two years, they seem incapable of delivering the bandwidth that they sell to their customers and then punish customers for using that which they are paying for.

    1. frymaster

      fool and his money

      while being throttled there's more than enough bandwidth for gaming. what's far more likely is that there was some sort of issue with your connection; going to 50 meg involves changing from DOCSIS 2 to DOCSIS 3, and an engineer visit. Chances are whatever they did resolved your issue.

      and let's not have any crap about "using what you're paying for"... you're on a consumer broadband connection. You're paying for a contended service -> you are getting what you paid for, unless you're paying at least 3 figures a month

      1. Thomas 4

        +1 more unhappy VM customer

        The router they supplied for my connection is a clapped out D-Link that drops connections like a whore drops her knickers. On the rare occasions where I'm not getting disconnected, I enjoy regular lag spikes and a lot of rage from my teammates as my connection costs us yet another victory.

        1. deviAnt Ostrich

          i feel your pain

          My old ok vm router (netgear) bust a few weeks back (everything it downloaded was corrupt), so I got them to send a replacement. A really cheap looking DLink arrived (admittedly very quickly). Since I've had this - I've experienced very similar problems to you. I don't do much gaming anymore - but I can't count how many times it's needed rebooting due to the delay between clicking on a website and it showing up on screen getting often upwards of 20secs. Switch off router - switch back on - everythings hunky dory again for maybe an hour or so...

          Think I'll be investing in a better router - any suggestions as to which?

      2. Stu_The_Jock

        "contended service"

        I'd forgotten about all this shared-capacity stuff since I left the UK. Move to Norway, get Altibox fibre to the home, and get a true broadband feeling. We signed up for 10Mbit (up and down), but because we took TV and phone service got free upgrade to 15, and later to 40Mbit. Last test i ran was disappointing though, 38Mbit down, 43Mbit up speeds. For equiv of about 80 quid a month for the internet (no limits), Cable TV package and 2 phone lines.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    In the vid he said he downloaded black ops via a torrent.

    I don't want to get all holier than thou, but unless Activision are distributing their games via p2p now, if you're going to pirate a game don't expect it to work. Fair enough, if you paid for it, complain till they fix the thing. But downloading illegally, you don't have a leg to stand on..

    1. Shades

      Cloth Ears

      He didn't say that at all. He said he played Modern Warfare 2 >while< downloading a torrent, and that didn't suffer from the same lag problems as CoD:BO does (presumably even without downloading a torrent in the background).

    2. SakuraNoSeirei


      Think you got a bit confused there mate. The video doesn't mention anything about downloading it from P2P, rather the comment underneath states that "all console gaming traffic is now P2P", in other words the info being passed from gamer to server and back again is run as P2P, not that the game itself is being downloaded illegally.

      I'm also surprised that Virgin Media or Activision don't know what this problem is. Something similar plagued Champions Online when it was first released. On some ISPs it worked fine, on others it was lag-a-palooza. Turns out it was nothing to do with traffic management per se, rather it was some ISPs buffering the traffic going and coming from the game. Cryptic managed to set up proxy servers that solved this problem, and although the architecture won't be exactly the same, it's entirely possible that Activision could as well.

      I'm not saying that is the problem, but it sure does sound familiar.

      1. VinceH Silver badge

        Letters, digits.

        "rather the comment underneath states that "all console gaming traffic is now P2P", in other words the info being passed from gamer to server and back again is run as P2P"

        Yup. Which is very likely to be the cause of the problem if it seems to be occuring during the hours in which P2P and NNTP traffic is throttled (together, as one).

        Ironically, this policy was introduced to reduce lag for online gamers.

        (Until the next popular online activity comes along, then they'll throttle online gaming to reduce lag for that.)

    3. Annihilator

      Try again

      "In the vid he said he downloaded black ops via a torrent."

      Might want to get your ears checked out then. He "played MW2 while downloading a torrent" - i.e. he tested the lag on MW2 while heavily utilising his line and didn't experience a problem.

    4. Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Title" - torrents and downloading illegally *off topic rant*

      <piracy - p2p & torrent - rant>

      Just because you use torrents or download an "illegal" version of software, which the guy in the video never stated, doesn't mean you aren't _paying_ for the software in the first place.

      I always found it best after _purchasing_ a game to go download or create an "illegal" version. By removing the DRM I've seen improved network performance and some bugs appeared to be fixed.

      One should expect the version they paid for to work... The reality is that it is much easier to download or create an "illegal" version than to prove some DRM is a piece of crap. Download vs duke it out against some $1000 an hour lawyers.

      I know sometimes DRM doesn't affect the performance.... But I sure am happy to see cracks for software I _purchased_.

      And yes I believe all DRM is crap, but I pay for the software I use. I even went to a record store over the weekend to purchase some music CD's.

      Don't hate torrents, hate people, for we are the abusers.

      </piracy - p2p & torrent - rant>

  5. Diziet Sma

    I wonder if an official complaint to ofcom the toothless dog can be made?

    Virgin Media traffic shaping policy is a joke. As a long time customer of the service (back in ntl days and before where I live) I am beginning to wonder if a formal complaint can be made. You pay for a fast service but because of the ludicrous policy you can't actually use it. You hit the arbitrary download limit in less than 1 hr and get traffic shaped with a 75% drop in speed for 5 hrs. Total bs.

    Actual policy is here:

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Virgin Cable sucks for everything

    Can I point out that Virgin Cable appears to suck all round, it's just more obvious on low-latency connections, but it could also be due to activision not hosting any servers "close" to VM.

    As Miek says, it's not worth paying for premium connections, and they regularly announce some "good news" where things cost more while you get less.

  7. Chris Wood

    Packet loss always the problem for me

    I'm on VM and have experienced huge problems with packet loss and jitter which I've really struggled to explain to their support staff. On the surface the download speeds and latency seem fine, which is all they seem to care about, however any kind of 'real-time' application such as VOIP, gaming etc really suffers.

    Having spoken to about 10 different support workers in India who all seem convinced that Internet Explorer settings are to blame (despite the same problems persisting across Linux and iOS devices) I've pretty much given up. The problem does seem to have lessened recently, so maybe VM have started addressing some of their capacity issues.

  8. Dward


    I'm a 10mb Virgin Media customer who plays Modern Warfare 2 on the PS3. I have a kill-to-death ratio of 1.3 and have not noticed any problems. I think n00bs just be n00bin' and can't admit it...

  9. Dai Webb

    My experience...

    I experienced lag in many games while using VM's 20Mb service (it was far better on their 10Mb service) and now I have a 1Mbit service (crap due to the distance my new house is from the exchange) from Andrews and Arnold I have very little, if any, lag while playing the same games (CoD, Battlefield Bad Company 2, Forza 3).

    I reported it several times to their tech support and all they did was send out a man to replace the cable modem, which solved nothing.

    1. T.a.f.T.

      Spot the difference

      "Modern Warfare 2 on the PS3"

      His problem was with CoD on XBox? So that is a different game on a different console; true buying a lower powered console means you should expect worse game play but if matey says he can play MW2 fine on his xBox and not CoD it does point to either the game engine or the network traffic it makes being an issue.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      you say that

      But I've got MW2 KD of around 2.5 ish (haven't played for a while) and can tell you that most FPS, and black ops in particular are unplayable on a VM connection a significant fraction of the time.

    3. Annihilator

      MW2 <> Black Ops

      @Dward - whoopy for you and your ratio on MW2. Maybe you should try playing Black Ops, or as it's known: "the game the article is talking about". The video even mentions that MW2 is absolutely fine.

      1. Dward

        I have played blops...

        Excuse my blatant troll there ;-) I had blops for a while and noticed no problems. Played it loads, but went back to MW2 because I prefer it. Had no issues with lag/latency in either game. Perhaps it IS a throttling issue then, because I don't do a lot of downloading... I can't view the video from work so was unaware that MW2 was unaffected - I just assumed traffic from both would be treated the same? Very strange...

  10. David Evans

    That'll learn ya

    Trying to play FPS games via P2P is a mug's game. Be interesting to see if VM tested games where everyone in the game was on-net versus games where there was a mix of ISPs. I'm guessing its the offnet traffic that's being throttled.

  11. Chris Eaton

    Warcraft and Virgin issues also!!

    This happened with Warcraft also (also an Activision game) and there were 26 pages on their forum from Virgin customers about this.

    My latency went through the roof and would only allow me to play without doing raids ...all the lovely virtual gold I lost :(

    1. M Gale

      "Play FPS games via P2P"

      How else do you expect to play them? Someone has to be the server, unless of course you're paying silly amounts of money for your own co-lo box or getting locked into some publisher-owned-server deal that can be switched off whenever the sequel comes out. Then who's the mug?

  12. Ian Stephenson Silver badge

    Affects World of Tanks (PC) too


  13. Rogerborg

    Heh, "managed", nice newSpeak

    Try throttled. Or strangled. Or held down and donkey punched while being violated by a rhino.

    And all the time, a PR bunny simpers "Oh, golly gosh, no, we don't 'manage' that sort of thing[1]! Gee willickers, no sir, no we don't."

    [1] Sotto voce: "to the best of my knowledge"

  14. Shaun 2


    BLOPS running fine on my PS3 with Virgin 50Mb..........

    1. T.a.f.T.


      Look at you showing off with a console that can run a game and NIC (I have one too, great arnt they :-D)

  15. GrumpyJoe

    Got a friend in the Electrical Engineering industry...

    he's SEEN some of the equipment Virgin inherited fron NTL. Some of it is older than the dinosaurs, so it wouldn't surprise me that different people in different parts of the country get different experiences...

    I don't think they've got the money to upgrade it to the point it is actually useful... but... it's STILL faster than any ADSL connection I could get from BT where I live, sadly.

  16. ph0b0s

    Basic diagnostic logic.....

    "However, Reg reader Paul claimed that he hadn't experienced the same problem with any other UK ISPs when playing the online game."

    This says it all. I think lots of people would be jumping up and down if this was a problem with the game. If it is just happening with one ISP, it then looks fairly obvious who has the problem. This bit of basic logic has been missed by the article writer as well.

    "Earlier this year a gamers' lobby group reported Activision to the UK's Office of Fair Trading.

    Gamers' Voice, which was founded by Labour MP Tom Watson in 2009, claimed in January that the Call of Duty: Black Ops game failed to function as advertised. Gripes included sudden disconnections from multi-player sessions online."

    Also other ISP's trottle P2P, etc so Virgin must be doing something else unique. Since Virgin are trying to deny even basic diagnostic logic, customers may well have to vote with their feet.

    UK's worst gaming ISP indeed.....

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Not just gaming.

    The whole network is FUBAR. So far this year, VM have managed to lock the old NTL webspace so you can't remove/update/delete any files. They admit they have no idea how to fix this.

    The upstream routers failed and were down for 6 days before VM admitted a problem.

    They 'forgot' about many of the old NTL modems (that don't support latest speed upgrades) that they were replacing 3 years ago. Mine was only replaced last month.

    Web routing appears to be broken. The network looks to be using random routes to sites. This got much worse when they started pushing 50Meg to our area. But the network has loadsa capacity.

    For the last Five months the internet has been unusable during peak hours unless you want to stream video. But they don't manage traffic.

    NTTP traffic was so (un)restricted that the servers were timing out, and this in text groups, christ knows what the binaries were like.

    And forget Bittorrent. Fire up a client and within 10 minutes the whole connection across all protocols was throttled back so hard you face planted your monitor.

    But tech support were always there. Not sure where there was but they were there. No bloody good either even after you got past 'Roger' or 'Amy's' strong accent and lack of understanding.

    And then the fecking robbers put up the prices! Twice in less than six months.

    They would kindly price match BT, but only if I wanted to tie myself into another 12 month contract. (I had an add on package I wanted to delete, you can't do that without a new contract.)

    They were surprised when I declined their offer and went elsewhere.

  18. Daniel 31

    lag.... What lag?

    Virgin Media customer here, I have none of these issues. Dunno what all the fuss is about :-p

  19. The Guv

    Pro BT Grenade Thrown!

    I can't get VM in my street - I am stuck with BT Broadband.

    In the last 3-4years of online gaming I've never had an issue. BT BB is very good for XBL. I find it really surprising that VM have put gamers in the same bundle as filesharers. Sucks to be with them...

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Independent measures

    I had problems - I used and Speedtest always indicated 30 Mbit/s, however, I suffered significant packet loss as measured by After several calls to Virgin, they told me to turn off packet inspection (this did solve it) and said they were working on it and the router software would be upgraded. They never called to let me know, but I turned it back on a few weeks ago and with packet inspection on, it all works fine.

    The 50Mbit/s service is not traffic shaped at all, perhaps I'll upgrade when my contract is up or better still, perhaps BT will have rolled out their high speed product by then.


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