The Best Compression Protocols for Online Games

As video games (both online and offline) have become more advanced, offering more interactive gameplay, more realistic graphics, and more immersive experiences, one drawback has emerged: many require massive amounts of space.

For games played locally, this becomes the player’s problem. They need to ensure they have enough space on their drive to install the game, subsequent updates, and save files. For online games, however, this can get a bit tricky.

Some games, like HTML-based games, are stored solely on a web server and must stream all game files across the internet to the client’s PC. Local games with online gameplay also have to transmit massive amounts of data to ensure that players’ actions are displayed in real time and with as little latency as possible.

One of the many methods developers use to mitigate the issue of space is using compression protocols and algorithms. Some of these relate in real time to the actual game files and compress them before transmission, while others relate to how these packets of data are transmitted across the internet.

Each protocol and method has unique advantages and disadvantages. Below, we’ve compiled the best compression protocols for online games that help provide a more streamlined experience for players.

UDP (User Datagram Protocol)

UDP is one of the most popular protocols for online gaming due to its lightweight data transmission and impressive compression qualities. Introduced in 1980 (long before the internet was public), the protocol has significantly improved, making it a go-to for many developers.

Like other online protocols, UDP transmits data by sending packets across the network. These are recompiled at the user’s end to display game data or visuals. A single packet can contain up to 32 bytes of data.

A packet’s header often comprises between 20 and 28 bytes, with the remainder containing actual game data. This header includes sending and receiving IP addresses and other information indicating the action to be taken when the packet arrives.

When using UDP, however, many packets in a stream have the same base header information or fields. As such, each packet doesn’t need a complete list of details. Therefore, this protocol replaces multiple headers with just three fields of information and reduces the size of these headers to around three bytes.

This allows significantly larger amounts of actual game data to be attached to each packet, resulting in the full scale of the game being transported much quicker and with fewer packets sent. This, in turn, reduces the game’s total size and makes streaming from a browser or downloading much faster.

The downside is that UDP does not have checks in place to ensure the correct receiving of each packet. Therefore, if a packet is lost, it is not resent, and its data will be missing. Fortunately, this is often not noticeable for fast-paced online games and has little impact.

SRT (Secure Reliable Transport)

Second to UDP is SRT, which uses UDP as a base and operates similarly. By removing unnecessary header information from packets, data is compressed and can be sent more quickly. However, SRT differs because it adds an error correction element.

This protocol aims to ensure the correct delivery of each packet of data. Where a packet is lost, SRT resends it so that there are almost no losses, and the reliability of UDP as a base is massively improved. This is particularly useful in live streaming and online games, where movements and game statistics require updates by the millisecond.

In addition to assisting UDP in becoming more reliable, SRT encrypts data as it is sent across the internet. This ensures data integrity and means that any intercepted data will be useless to whoever has grabbed it. Such added security is especially reassuring for online gambling games like those found in’s post about free SC coins.

WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication)

WebRTC is another highly effective protocol for playing online games directly from a browser. This method offers reduced latency by combining the compression logic of UDP with the reliability and speed of TCP protocols.

One of WebRTC’s most significant advantages is that it is natively supported by most browsers (although some may not support the full range of the protocol’s features). Because of this, HTML5 and the like can easily be used to lower game sizes while allowing players to access titles without needing to install additional plugins or software.

In addition to wide-scale support and the advantages of UDP at its core, WebRTC allows peer-to-peer communication. This allows direct connections between clients (e.g., a game server and the PC of someone accessing a game), which, along with TCP, results in lower latency. Because TCP also natively ensures packet delivery through indexing, this method ensures minimal packet loss.

Although tailored to web-based multiplayer games, the protocol is also used for real-time applications like ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems and video conferencing software.

Other Forms of Compression

The above protocols are exclusive to compressing data when sent across the internet. However, game developers have a variety of additional methods and protocols for compressing information before it is sent to client devices.

From lossy compression to lossless compression, these methods are commonly done on the game files before they are publicly available. This is done to ensure that downloads are smaller and, in instances where the game is streamed online, it can be accessed without buffering or extensive loading times.

With modern compression methods, like the protocols mentioned above, there is little harm to the final quality of games in terms of gameplay and graphics. Instead, they allow for lighter titles that are easier to access.


As data compression technology continues to evolve, game developers will need to rely on these methods more than ever. Spiraling game sizes have highlighted the need for fast and effective compression for online and offline games, helping make the experience more enjoyable for players.

🔙 Back to Articles list.