Black Ops 4 players unhappy with 20hz tickrate, Treyarch says improvements are coming

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is predictably good—cautious, but polished to a brilliant corporate sheen, as we said in our 78/100 review—but analysis by redditor Smcro indicating that it runs with a surprisingly low 20hz tickrate has not gone over well with players.   

"Battle(non)sense made a video back in August concerning the multiplayer beta where he showed that both the client and server send rates were ~60hz (i.e. each send 60 updates per second) for multiplayer. However, my testing for the most-recent update (as of October 19th) shows that the server send rate has been cut down to 20hz," Smcro wrote. 

"For a bit of context, instead of receiving information from the server every frame (given that the game runs at 60fps on console), you will be receiving information every third frame (50ms between each update at 20hz as opposed to ~16.7ms at 60hz)." 

Tickrate, simply put, is the speed at which a game server processes data and returns it to the remote client. Higher tickrates means more responsiveness in battle, but it also increases the load on servers and bandwidth, which can degrade overall performance. 

"When a server gets close to the limit, or even fails to process a tick inside that timeframe, then you will instantly notice the results," we wrote in our netcode explainer, which was actually written by Battle(non)sense. "All sorts of strange gameplay issues like rubber banding, players teleporting, hits getting rejected, and physics failing." 

That's why Treyarch elected to dial back the tickrate, according to patch notes posted to Reddit yesterday. "For a game launch with as massive a population as ours hitting so many global servers at once, we configure our infrastructure to ensure game stability as the highest priority over all other factors," the studio wrote. 

"Now that we’re past the initial launch of the game, we are focusing on fine-tuning network performance around the globe, using the real-world data that we have collected. Over the course of the next two weeks, we will roll out several updates to our network setup that will continue to improve upon the experience of our players since launch." 

The update doesn't address concerns about the tickrate specifically, however. 

To compare, Overwatch runs at a 63hz tickrate, while Destiny 2 runs at 30hz for combat and 10hz for things like scoring and ammo spawn timers. Epic briefly tested a 30hz tickrate for Fortnite before taking it back to 20hz, while PUBG can hit 60hz but tends to be all over the place depending on the state of the game. 

Battle(non)sense posted a video over the weekend digging deeper into the changes to the Black Ops 4 tickrate at release, calling the slowdown "a massive step backwards."