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Port Authority on Game and Player

Port Authority

Ed Kirchgessner  //  August 6, 2010

A networking lesson served atop a slice of humble pie.


t took all I had to resist grumbling "check your ports" into my microphone. After six failed match attempts and the same guy consistently being bumped from our MW2 lobby, it was clear that someone's inability to properly configure their network was the problem. For as long as broadband subscribers have been enjoying Xbox Live, those same good times have been ruined by some idiot with bum NAT settings. Fed up, I headed to the internet, ready to send off a passive-aggressive email full of port forwarding settings to everyone I frequently gamed with. "Open port 3074 on both TCP and UDP," I hammered out on my keyboard. "Open UDP port 88. Open TCP port 53?"

Check your ports!What? Could it be? Could I have possibly been wrong? I still don't know if I was to blame for our matchmaking woes that evening, but one thing was for darned sure — my port forwarding settings for Xbox Live had been incomplete for the last three years. It just goes to show you: regardless of how fast your internet connection is, a hastily configured network can cause it all to come crashing down.

In Microsoft's defense, they do have a handy port forwarding guide posted on their website. The problem is that every router has a different (and equally frustrating) operating system for managing its settings — what Linksys calls "port forwarding" D-Link refers to as "special permissions." All these terms are easy enough for the IT set to decipher, but the average person — the sort who games on a console due to its ease of setup — is out of luck.

Until routers get smarter and until Xbox Live's network diagnostic tools become more robust, we as gamers are going to have to rely on our own vigilance if we're to game unhindered by connection drops and shoddy voice communication. For the record: open TCP ports 80, 3074 and 53 and UDP ports 88, 3074 and 53. Consider that this passive-aggressive gamer's public service for the day. Happy fragging, folks.

Michael Ubaldi // August 6, 2010 // 4:32 PM

As we discussed, I may have been the culprit (framing, as it were, one of our group members by somehow booting him instead). Why does a router reassign a console just like that? ONLY THE ROUTERS KNOW.

Magiz // August 11, 2010 // 9:35 AM

Another thing that should be turned on, on a home router is UPnP. Universal Plug-n-Play helps with the discovery of a lot of network devices. Giving your console a static (set IP) address can also help, if you setup a DMZ to associate with it. This is supposed to basically put it outside of your firewall, but I've sometimes actually seen negative effects due to this.

Xbox Live is fairly simple to setup port forwarding with. If you have a static IP and use port forwarding (or whatever your router calls it) you can assign those ports specifically for your 360 alone, and not opening the rest of your network to threats. On the PlayStation Network it's a little more complicated. Since some game companies use dedicated servers, you may need to find out what ports some game or companies require.

Again this is where UPnP can really help eliminate a lot of these port issues, but not all of them.

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