The Internet is important for MMOs like food is important for life. Without the Internet, we can't have an MMO. So the speed in which we interact with the Internet has huge impacts on performance, kind of.
There are two things that matter when it comes to the Internet. Ping and speed. Ping is how fast data transfers from your computer, to the Internet, and to the game's servers (or whatever you want to access) then return back. Until it reaches "instant," this will continue to give you massive gains for your game.
Speed on the other hand, determines download speed and can contribute to latency (how much you can download at a time determines how well your Internet bends to various things like opening a web browser, downloading something, etc.).
The Power of Speed
As our industry progresses, so does the size of the games. WildStar is 17 gigs, WoW is 25 gigs, and The Elder Scrolls Online is past 30 gigs. Yet, rural areas and even urban ones in America are lacking. DSL is still vastly far behind, in Atlanta AT&T's top speed is 45 Mbps and that's at nearly $70 a month on a promotional rate.
Which, isn't really affordable. It's a huge issue. However, anything less than 40 ping and more than 3Mbps is enough for gaming. There is an bazillion articles about Internet speed, but I figured I'd share our own stories so you can compare.
I recently polled the Ten Ton Crew about their Internet speeds to the following results:
David Piner - Bushmaster
Comcast - 50 Mbps
I pay for 50Mbps, I receive 57 Mbps. My upload speed is advertised at 10, but I usually get 12. I pay $39.99 a month to Comcast. My speedtest ping is 10. I can download TESO in an afternoon, if that, and it's awesome. I currently live in Atlanta.
I used to live in south Georgia, the max Internet speed was 6Mbps.
Karen Hertzberg - Managing Editor EQHammer
Charter - 60 Mbps
Karen lives in the midwest, which is typically terrible for Internet, but Charter pulls through for her, with Internet faster than mine. Not only that, but Karen got her Internet upgraded from 30 to 60 for free!
Greg Dodd - Senior Editor ESportsMax
Bell Aliant - 50 Mbps
Greg gets some crazy upload (20 Mb/S) and the standard of 50 Mbps. It's great for streamer, but he doesn't notice the difference from his previous provider.
Lewis Burnell - Features Editor
PlusNet - 65 Mbps
England / United Kingdom
Another happy customer, from the UK no less. You can remove torrent filtering, which is great for WoW patching, for five pounds a month.
Gunky - Grumpy Gamer
Huron - 1 Mbps
Rural Ontario, Canada
Gunky has to use microwave powers to get the Internet. I'm going to let his words speak for him:
Rural Ontario, Canada is pretty far on the left side of the bell curve when it comes to Internet speeds. Unlike urban customers, we don't have a lot of choice. The holdup is the telephone switch boxes - we still have analog switching and cables because there aren't enough customers out in the country for the phone companies to justify the expense of upgrading them to the more modern digital switches and cables.
For Internet options, we can go with good ol' reliable 56k dial-up, microwave-based broadband, 4G wireless or satellite. Dial-up is stable, but far too slow, and we would need a second phone line for a dedicated always-on Internet connection. Which we had for a number of years, recently, because it's all that was available. 4G wireless is fast and relatively stable, but comes packaged with unacceptable bandwidth caps - one cannot be an effective game journalist with a 50gb monthly bandwidth cap (that barely covers one game client these days, nevermind regular updates for several others), and that's one of the most expensive Residential packages. Satellite is super-fast, but requires the installation of cost-prohibitive equipment. That leaves microwave-based wireless broadband.
Unfortunately, microwave-based wireless has its own set of problems. First and foremost, it's really slow. 1 Meg download, less than half a Meg upload. I can usually stream YouTube videos on the lowest quality setting, but I might have to pause it and let the buffer bar fill way up first. Forget about Twitch.tv - when Turbine does their press sessions for DDO and LotRO, they use Twitch for most people, but make special concessions for me and my lousy Internet.
And that's on a clear, dry day. When it gets humid, or windy, or dusty from area farmers working the fields, or pollen-y because of all the lovely trees, the connection becomes unstable and slow. If leaves block line-of-sight between the transmitter tower and my little receiver box, I lose the connection. If a heavy rainstorm kicks up, I lose my connection. If a sparrow farts in the 5 or so mile span between the tower and my house, I lose my connection.
I'm glad that I'm not totally out of the party, but I yearn for something more modern and stable.
~ The Grumpy Gamer
Most of the TTH staff has at least 50 Mbps, no matter where they live. For all of us at that level, we're all happy with our Internet and our ISPs and pay around $40 a month for it.
For those like Gunky in the middle of nowhere, they're stuck with almost no Internet, and gaming is terrible and hard and impossible. For those, we shed ten tons of tears for, and hope that more people can get better Internet.