How Outfox works and the future of optimized gaming networks
Golden Frog is actively working on Outfox to make it much easier for gamers to play with others online.
Outfox isn't a game, but an optimized gaming network that helps take your traffic through a more optimized route to game servers, improving the connection. It's still in an early development stage, but already numerous games (including Player Unknown's Battlegrounds) are supported. The app is developed by Golden Frog, the brains behind VyprVPN.
They've been in the industry for many years, so we sat down with Sunday Yokubaitis, President of Golden Frog, and Michael Douglass, Co-CTO of Outfox, to talk about Outfox and how the gaming proxy service is to help players get online easier.
Outfox can reduce latency and ping in your games
How this optimized gaming network came to be
Entering the VPN market back in 2009, Golden Frog has almost a decade of experience, building atop of what was brought to the company by the highly talented team. VyprVPN is the product Golden Frog launched to take on the market.
Analyzing what was already available, the team found competitor solutions to be clunky and sport poor support for mobile with some even requiring you to hit up your web browser to make connection changes.
Sunday Yokubaitis spoke about the initial launch, "it's what we thought we brought to the VPN market, a superior experience." Moving onto gaming networks, he continued, "the reputation of some of these providers was not very good. We learned from our VPN business that transparency and trust are important."
"We can take the performance (the core of what we do), transparency, and a superior user experience." And this shows with a community forum, completely open for use by users of the app, and all the data you need in Outfox to make the decision as to whether it's worth paying for.
Michael Douglass the explained to us how the app calculates metrics within the app. "Today, the improvement you see represented in the app strictly uses the ping as the basis for the math, not taking into account any other aspect of the network today. We're getting things ready to work on that will change this, giving more metrics and analysis beyond just the latency."
Douglass talked about how the team will need to pay extra attention to explaining to users just why their game may report a different ping to the app and educate them about the various factors that affect online gaming performance. "One is the fundamental raw network latency," he stated. "From a gamer's perspective, you then add on top of that game server latency. You take the packet, process it, generate a response and send it back to you."
The two executives and their highly talented team have to plan thoroughly on tackling the issue of ping inaccuracy and obstacles in their way of accurate metrics. Douglass touches on the sprinkle of black arts to get latency between one point and the next, working through firewalls and all other things in the way. It also doesn't aid the cause that many game companies do not allow the pinging of game servers.
Ping reporting, in general, may not be accurate in-game either, which may cause confusion among users. Yokubaitis dived into detail about how game servers are run differently (and by different companies), and developers and publishers sometimes aggregate ping across servers.
Because there are inconsistencies across the board, we were told that it's in the interest of Outfox for partnerships to be formed with developers and publishers to gain access to APIs that should lead to better reporting to gamers for a more informed decision on using Outfox or their own standard connection.
Outfox the competition
It's a tough game to enter and Golden Frog has its work cut out for the company to succeed. For starters, taking on WTFast and other services, Outfox will focus on performance as its core. "The key difference between WTFast and us is we run our own network. All their stuff is in the cloud. We use some cloud, but we use a similar approach as our VPN business," said Yokubaitis. "When you run your own servers, you can manage your own routes with more expensive hardware. You're not dealing with providers who may take low-cost routes. That really is a core difference, allowing us to compete."
Douglass took lead to cover routing. "At the core, what Outfox does and what WTFast does is that we are finding better routes for your traffic because inherently how the internet does routing it doesn't care for latency," he explained. "We're in total control of our network and will be able to change routes depending on traffic. This is fundamental to what we're solving."
While Outfox and Golden Frog are looking to change things, the network isn't reinventing the wheel and the teams don't pretend that they are.
"You're engineering around an internet designed in the 90s," noted Yokubaitis. "Think of it like a car on the highway, 'I can get on that really busy highway that's A to B with no hops, or I could go on the side streets and get there as twice as fast.' The way the internet is architecture, it would say get on the highway and wait." There's certainly a lot of work to do in order to better the online gaming experience for everyone, most notably in markets with poorer routing.
Game support is another area Outfox really needs to play catch up. At the time of writing, there are upwards of 14 games listed as supported by the app itself. While these are certainly the more popular titles out there, including PUBG and League of Legends, there are other games we're sure players would like to see added to the list.
And Yokubaitis doesn't want to slap names on a supported list and call it a day. "They also say they support games but they really don't. We want to support games well. PUBG is a really good example." Education, transparency, performance, and game support are joined by a rather packed roadmap. In the runup to 2018 alone, the team plans to improve the app's interface considerably.
"One of the big things I talked about earlier is adding visibility of ping spikes (instability) and packet loss into our app interface. We also want to have a performance report at the end of a session, stated Yokubaitis. This would be a handy addition, allowing users to check performance in an easy-to-digest report at the end of a game session, instead of having to check through the live graph.
"There's a lot of talk about building a better internet from competitors. They're just doing, what I'd call, more of a shotgun approach. The thought is if I load my shotgun with servers and shoot them all over the world, you'll be closer to servers." This is a solid analogy, highlighting that it's more about fiber routes, bandwidth routes and how quickly you can get data packets between a PC and game server.
Golden Frog is one of the founding members of the Amsterdam Internet Exchange, one of the world's largest exchange points, and so they have the experience, data, and technical know-how to better the network and overall performance with each iteration.
Gaming in future
As well as working on updating the app and network infrastructure, Outfox will also spend some time drawing up a plan for Asia. Yokubaitis explained, "there are a lot of gamers in Asia and VyprVPN is one of the most popular VPNs in China, due to the firewall." They will be rolling out servers in the region and push through enhanced connections for Asia to utilize, which would work wonders for games where servers aren't local, reducing latency.
Should you fire up Outfox, you'll be routed through the network in-game, but there's no encryption forced on the connection (which would bog down everything), and while logs are kept by Outfox server-side, this data is not sensitive and vital to the development of the app. Douglass continued, "The metrics we are gathering through Outfox are absolutely vital to improving the service. What sites are improving the connection, and what sites aren't. These will drive much of the operational side of things, where do they need to improve things, work on routes and invest money."
The goal of Outfox is to provide a means to connect your PC to a game server with less latency. The team behind the network only desires to keep out your way and allow you to enjoy the game. While game developers like Riot Games can spend millions of dollars to solve the network issue, not all companies will (or have the necessary funds to do so). This is where optimized networks like Outfox come into play, a more affordable yet effective means of improving connections in numerous games.
Outfox is now available for download. You can sign-up today for a two-week free trial, which will be followed by a $9.95 monthly plan. An annual subscription (with discount) will be made available at a later date, and the team wants to look at ways to extend the free trial so gamers can try the app with other titles if they do not immediately notice a difference.
Download Outfox for Windows 10
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Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.