So.. extremely weird network/internet connectivity issue involving Starcraft...

Here's the deal:

One of my friends moved to St. Louis a long while back for school. He now lives with his girlfriend in an apartment. She plays games. We started playing Starcraft, and she now has a copy and wants to play the game with us.

This is where it gets sh*tty. She has two computers she can use, those being an old gateway and a slightly less old Dell.

He and her are both behind a Linksys WRT54G router, plugged directly into the back of it.

Now for the really fun stuff:

I can host games fine (I opened the required ports on my router) with him, another friend (our very own superspork), and yet another person, all perfectly. The game runs great. As soon as she joins we get lag. Horrid lag. We can play the game, but it's awful.

If he plays over battlenet with her, just the two of them, the game works fine. If he hosts a game and I'm in it with two other people, it's fine. But if she's there? Lag.

So we tried to have her host and see what happens. Now it gets really interesting. If she starts the game and I try to join first it tells me I'm unable to connect. If he joins her game first he gets in fine, and can talk to her and everything. If I join after him, it does let me into the game but nobody can tell I'm in. I can't see any chat, nor can I even see any of the details in the box at the top left. I can't see player names, or choose my race.

These same errors persist across both her gateway and her dell, despite the two not sharing any real similiar hardware. We disabled pretty much every network security feature we could think of to attempt to get it to run right, and we've come up empty.

I've done everything I know to do really.

Anybody have any ideas? Because.. we're all tapped out.

Just some stream-of-consciousness theories while reading the post...

Starcraft uses a peer-to-peer multiplayer method, which means the game is only as fast as the slowest person in the game. If someone's computer lags behind either in connectivity or framerate, everyone else is slowed down to their speed.

Thin_J wrote:

I can host games fine (I opened the required ports on my router) with him, another friend (our very own superspork), and yet another person, all perfectly. The game runs great. As soon as she joins we get lag. Horrid lag. We can play the game, but it's awful.

Theory 1: this girl has both of her computers full of adware and spyware. When she turns them on in order to play, all hell breaks loose, because they hog the upstream bandwidth and create 5000-range pings.

Theory 2: this girl's computers have old network drivers. Old network drivers can wreak all kinds of havoc with connectivity and create tremendous slowdown in less than optimal conditions.

If he plays over battlenet with her, just the two of them, the game works fine.

Over LAN, their bandwidth is unaffected by factors of Theory 1, and may be also unaffected by Theory 2 because there's a tremendously less amount of lag and packet loss over a LAN and an older network driver may deal with it just fine.

So both theories fit this symptom.

If he hosts a game and I'm in it with two other people, it's fine. But if she's there? Lag.

Her computer(s) are forced to interact with the Internet and send her game moves to every other player. For some reason the packets are stalled, and the entire game is stalled as result.

So we tried to have her host and see what happens. Now it gets really interesting. If she starts the game and I try to join first it tells me I'm unable to connect.

Their router is not forwarded with the necessary port to her machines in order for her to be able to host a game.

If he joins her game first he gets in fine, and can talk to her and everything.

They are on a LAN. Local to each other. No port forwarding needed. This symptom however eliminated the possibility of her machine(s) being too slow to maintain an optimal internal framerate in Starcraft.

If I join after him, it does let me into the game but nobody can tell I'm in. I can't see any chat, nor can I even see any of the details in the box at the top left. I can't see player names, or choose my race.

Again, her 'puter isnt forwarded.

These same errors persist across both her gateway and her dell, despite the two not sharing any real similiar hardware. We disabled pretty much every network security feature we could think of to attempt to get it to run right, and we've come up empty.

I've done everything I know to do really.

Anybody have any ideas? Because.. we're all tapped out.

When you discard the impossible, the remaining possibility, however improbable, is the answer. I conclude that there are two different causes that together create this situation.

Theory 1 again - she installed a bunch of crap on both machines which hogs the bandwidth and interferes with games. Maybe there is KAZAA, and all kinds of remote backdoors and zombie bots running DDOS attacks from her machine. I bet their web browsing isnt so hot either. Or maybe its that "BEAUTIFUL 3D FISH" screensaver that she installed that keeps updating itself on both machines...

Theory 2 - due to the "oldness" of her machines network drivers or Directplay component of DirectX, Theory 1 affects them severely.

Recommended course of action:

0) Install newest DirectX on both affected machines.
1) Ask them what the advertised bandwidth of their internet connection is.
2) Ask them to cease all Internet activity and run an Internet bandwidth test. Also, ask them to ping a site... like, ping ftp.cdrom. com ... from his and her machines.
3) Proceed with common sense.

We realized the issue with port forwarding as far as her hosting shortly after I posted, but we never did manage to get a lag free game going.

The Dell machine was actually wiped clean just a short while ago. The only thing (that I know of) running in the background was McAffee, and I had them disable that and kill all it's background processes.

Their bandwidth *should* be fine, since they played World of Warcraft together on it for a long time with no real lag issues.

I mentioned network drivers to them, but he's already been through that.