I noted a couple years ago that Conan Exiles was hands down the best use of Steam’s Early Access program that I’d seen, and I still think it takes top spot on that front. Not that I didn’t have a few issues, but Funcom took the initial concept of the game through that trial period to a release that was infinitely better than the product that had first appeared in the Steam Store.
I’d expected a perpetual Early Access title with tiny incremental updates, but that’s not what happened. Funcom used data and feedback through that period of early access to refine their systems and really focus in on what made the game fun. Like all survival genre games, there were (and still are) a few issues, but in general the released game was a massive improvement on even the last version that they’d made available under Early Access.
Thus, I’ve purchased every DLC since and obviously purchased the Isle of Siptah expansion, as well. I appreciate the work this team has done, and even if I didn’t like the game, I’d still support them with my cash because I want to see more titles successfully make that same transition. I do enjoy the game and I was excited to try out the new map, but then I ran into the problem that we’ll be taking a bit of a more serious look at today.
Wheel of Connection-Pain
The day that Isle of Siptah released, I made time to pick it up and give the expansion a try, but I saw something odd. Hardly anyone seemed to be connected and playing the game. This was really odd to me because I still play CE relatively frequently and there are always servers with a few people on and even a fair number at max capacity. I was more than a little surprised to see so few playing the new expansion, though I did note high pings across the board and thought that maybe a patch had just rolled out or something.
I logged out to check for updates and ended up getting a business call that kept me from being able to get back to the game for the rest of the evening. The next day, I noted that there were again a lot of empty servers, but filtering on the new map and sorting by players showed that there were still several decently populated servers, but everything still had a crazy high ping according to the UI.
Despite the high ping, I was able to join an official server and play for a while. I think I was in for a couple hours when the client crashed, and I was kicked out. Getting back in almost immediately, I saw that the server population was down to zero. That made sense, and I expected that there had been a server restart or something and everyone just got punted.
The problem was that I couldn’t reconnect. Every time I tried to re-join, I got an error about ping being too high. That’s when the initial troubleshooting started, and where I spotted something that I’d become increasingly convinced was reported to players incorrectly. I toggled through server regions and found that my “ping” for all these servers in each region was similarly and unusually uniform.
This didn’t make sense, because there’s no way my ping to a server located in Dallas is going to be relatively similar to servers in the EU or in Asia. That’s when I consulted Google and started searching through the forums for anything that looked like a similar problem. I found several posts, many of them apparently a copy/paste of a response a moderator gave in the official Funcom forums.
I enjoyed the new intro and was really excited to explore a whole new map. As much as I appreciate the work that goes into creating those interactive resource maps, I do feel like it takes from the joy of exploring the unknown and making new discoveries.
My issue with that post is that the moderator suggested that this problem is related to covid and having so many people at home at once that the internet is having bandwidth issues. This is true, and as the post points out, Netflix and YouTube have both made adjustments to default video qualities in an attempt to alleviate some of the bandwidth problem. That may even be a true statement in some cases with Conan Exile servers, but it was definitely not the problem I was having, and I suspect not the problem many others are having.
I’m not sure precisely what the issue is, but there are a number of reasons it’s not “the internet and covid.” For one, I can ping the server directly and get back a ping that’s a fraction of the best ping I see on any server in the game’s UI. For another, if it were congestion on the information super highway, then my pings to servers in other regions would be similarly affected.
The reason this matters is because as long as the UI thinks your ping is too high, you can’t join official servers through the normal process. More importantly, this suggests to me that the “Ping” in the game’s UI may not actually be ping. They’re measuring some other form of latency, which could still be a legitimate metric, but in that case it’s not a ping.
A ping uses a specific kind of network protocol called an Internet Control Message Protocol, or ICMP. You’ve probably heard of TCP and UDP, anyone who’s had to open firewall ports to host a game has had to deal with them. ICMP actually does a lot of things, but most folks know it for the ping command, which sends a simple respond request to a network address. The result is a very simple indication of the time it takes data to get from one point to another.
Latency on the other hand is more encompassing and typically more relevant to video games, because it includes the time required to not only get the data, but to process it and then formulate a reply and send it back to the originating system. An example where you might see this would be on a Minecraft server with a lot of chunks loaded and the system is struggling to keep track of everything. Your ping may be fantastic because data gets there and back quickly, but the server’s inability to keep up increases the actual latency the player experience.
Thus, I believe the “Ping” listed in the Conan Exiles server UI is actually latency and not ping. Since the server appears to be adding 50-150ms of additional delay due to processing issues, my total latency ends up being 100-200 in the UI. That’s too high and I can’t connect. The issue with this is that if the server is at fault and not me, and this problem is universal (as it has been with Isle of Sitpah), then there are no servers I can connect to because it’ll be too high on all of them.
That’s precisely the problem I ran into over my first few days of trying to check out the new expansion.
I saw a lot more players online the second day I played, but my pings made no sense with 150ms difference between US-based servers and some reporting higher pings than servers in other regions.
Logic Tree of Woe
Don’t worry, though. You know I don’t do negativity, so you’d be right to expect more than just a bunch of belly-aching! I did some troubleshooting and I have a few alternatives for you if you’re having trouble connecting to your favorite server due to high “ping.”
The solution is simply to employ the direct connect option to get to your server of choice, which appears to either bypass the “ping” check on official servers or uses an actual ping to validate your eligibility. Either way, this is how you connect, but then the question becomes one of just how you actually do that.
Easy mode is to use a site called BattleMetrics. Just search for the server you want to connect to from their webpage. If you find it, click on it and look at the details, which will include a “Game Port” address. That’s the one to which you’ll want to directly connect (just be sure to include IP and port, which will look like – 220.127.116.11:28000). It’d be even easier if Funcom would include IP and port information in their server details when you highlight the server in the UI, but that’s unfortunately not part of the server details they show.
One caution using this method is just to pay attention in your search. I haven’t spent a lot of time working over the BattleMetrics query language, but it definitely did not work the way I expected. With or without common escapes, wildcards didn’t seem to work. The best way I found was to type the name of the server out and put quotes around it. Whatever language or API they’re using, it appears to be case-agnostic and it appends a wildcard to the end of the search.
Even though I couldn’t find my sever, I did find several other “g-portal.us” servers and they all seemed to have one of 3-4 different ports, which I later learned was a UDP port and not TCP.
So, if as an example I wanted to search for “Official server #6150 PvP - g-portal.us” on the site, I’d search for “Official server #6150” and just leave the rest off. There’ll only be one official server numbered 6150, and the rest doesn’t matter. You don’t want to just search for “6150,” though. I’m not sure what the search engine does, but you’ll get back all sorts of irrelevant responses. Just type out the first few words and numbers of the server you’re interested in and enclose them in quotes, and you’ll find what the one you want.
If your server is either too new or just doesn’t show up in the search, which is what happened to me, things are a little harder. It starts by downloading and installing Wireshark, a tool for capturing network data. Once you have it installed and running, you’ll need something to filter down on and you have a few options.
With just a little research, you can find what ports CE uses depending on your platform of choice. It does vary, so take time to look it up. The syntax you want is either “tcp.dstport >= 1234 and tcp.dstport <= 1234” or “udp.dstport >= 1234 and udp.dstport <= 1234” and replace the 1234 with the ports you’re looking for.
One way you can tighten your search a bit is with BattleMetrics, even if your server isn’t listed. In my case, I looked for all official servers and found that all the ones that start off with names “official server” and some number seemed to use either port 28000, 28100, 28200, or 28300. Thus, I used the filter query “udp.dstport >= 28000 and udp.dstport <= 283000” to look for my server.
You’ll see a lot of random IP addresses, but filter down to a few ports and then when you connect to the server of your choice, you’ll see a whole lot of packets from your private IP to a public IP. It should be really obvious because there’ll be a ton of packets to the same IP, and that’s the one you want to note down, including the “Dst Port” found in the details.
Now, you have to play a bit of a game. I logged into CE and let the servers update. Then, I favorited the server I wanted and filtered by favorites. Over a few minutes, I’d refresh the list of the one server to update the ping. I saw it drop to about 80, hit join, and I was in. More importantly, Wireshark captured the join request and I could see the server traffic being captured on my other monitor. This immediately told me that the UDP port that my server was operating on was 28000 and showed me the IP address. I copied the information down into a notepad and saved the note.
If I have problems going forward, and I have a few times since then, I just do a direct connect using the IP address and port that I found using Wireshark. I get in quickly every time without trouble. I’ve been playing over the last several days without further incident.
Mounds of Options
So far, I’ve enjoyed my time playing the Isle of Siptah expansion, and I wanted to ensure readers could benefit from the problems I had early on getting it to work. I think that with all that’s going on in the world it’s especially important to have games to break out of our bubbles of forced social isolation right now.
I didn’t like the answers I found on the internet, so I worked to make up new answers I could tolerate. I know some of this is a little technical, but hopefully it’s enough to get you started if you’re having similar issues. More importantly, I’d like to see Funcom take note and maybe take some steps to improve the situation on their end.
I thought it worth the effort, though. I’ve really been enjoying the new expansion and exploring the new island.
I don’t believe that the current problems are specifically issues with covid, my “pings” in the game have always seemed too high, but I think it’s fair to say that the current bandwidth issues are contributing to a problem that was probably always there and doesn’t appear to be specific to the new expansion. Whatever that measure is, if it’s impacting people like me who have great internet connections and are relatively close to the server they’re connecting to, then it’s probably effecting a lot of people.
I think Funcom needs to patch in a temporary exception to allow folks to join “official” servers without that latency validation. Once folks are playing, I’d like to see them take a look at their connection API and improve how it functions. If more than two-thirds of the latency is on the server end, then I don’t believe clients should be restricted from connecting. Instead, servers should limit their total number of players based on what load they can tolerate.
Funcom is not the only group to do their own measure of latency and call it “ping,” so I don’t take huge issue with that. I would like to see more relevant server information so that troubleshooting issues could be made easier, though. I shouldn’t have to send people to download Wireshark.
Hopefully you readers found the article interesting and not too dry. I know how this nerdy talk can sometimes be a little boring, but if it helps anyone get into a game they were having trouble playing, then I’d call it a success. Have fun exploring the new map and let me know down below what you think of the new expansion. I’m interested to see how others are enjoying their exploration of the new environments, and I’ll be glad to offer some advice if anyone else is having connection issues, as well.