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Surfing SyncMeter explained

Published: 2018-02-04

Author: Teddi

Syncmeter (or the little doodad shown below) was recently added to Surf and it seems to have generally caused a fair bit of confusion as to what it is, how it works and the entire point of it.

Hopefully we can clear some of the confusion up and explain where it came from, what it measures and why. Most of all however I want to explain why sync doesn’t really matter unless you’re really pushing for some top times.

Where Sync came from

Sync was originally requested here and initially I was somewhat confused by the idea of it and at the time somewhat even dismissed it as a fairly useless feature for Surf. In some ways this still holds true due to a number of factors; mostly due to how everyone calculates sync is slightly different. Sync originally came from bhop servers where it’s far more important to ensure you’re syncing your air strafes with your mouse as one wrong movement can end up with you falling drastically short.

The point of sync

As briefly explained above, its’ primary purpose is to ensure you’re pressing the right keys alongside the right mouse movements. In Surf this extends to making sure you’re not wasting more time air-strafing around corners than you need to be or that you’re not air strafing while going straight (more on this below, as it’s rather contentious).

So where does the confusion lie?

Various players have seen this new sync box pop up and are questioning - what’s the purpose of it? Do I need to have a high sync for any reason? Why does it calculate differently to xyz server I’ve played on? Is it awesome I have a high sync?

Sync Explained

Sync at its core works to calculate a score that when you’re in the air and your mouse is moving say, left, you’re also pressing A (and also the case for right and D). These airstrafes and how you manipulate them can be a significant difference in getting a meh velocity and an awesome velocity. It can even dictate how and where you land on a ramp as you’re flying in.

What sync cannot do however, is tell you what you’re doing wrong or realistically, if you’re even doing anything wrong at all. 

Even at the deepest level, all sync ensures you’re doing is that if you’ve moved your mouse in a certain direction with an intent to turn, you’ve pressed the corresponding button to do so. Airstrafing is usually fairly forgiving in this regard with Surf so unless you’re a new player (of which Sync helps you visualise what’s going on better) or a top-tier player (and even then) sync actually kind of does nothing for you.

Score Calculation

From today there’s three different methods to calculate Sync scores now implemented. Two which are available from the UI in game, the third requires you to manually change it via the console.

  1. Sync Mode 1 (or, tickbox unchecked in the F1 menu / bb_surf_sync_scoremode 0 command) - This mode allows you to hold down A or D while going straight in the air and this will contribute to your overall score as a ‘good’ thing. As mentioned before some scoring systems discount this behaviour because in theory, you should never be holding A or D when going straight at all. However due to how Source physics work there is no actual detrimental effect from this.
  2. Sync Mode 2 (or, tickbox checked in the F1 menu / bb_surf_sync_scoremode 1 command) - This mode works similar to above, however it won’t credit you with points while holding A / D going in the air. Somewhat more accurate in this regard as it won’t raise the overall sync % of the run including however you’re effectively telling the system to ignore the above scenario
  3. Sync Mode 3 (bb_surf_sync_scoremode 2 command) - This mode punishes your overall score for holding A / D while not turning in the air. The reason this mode is somewhat more locked away is for newer players - it may give them the image they’re doing potentially worse than what they are because they don’t understand the logistics behind this mode.

Why three modes?

When I was looking all this stuff up I was finding that most servers were running a variant of a few plugins or rolling their own and everyone by virtue was then creating their own scoring system for such a feature. I’d like to think there’s flexibility in how you can surf in general; so I’ve added these three modes to replicate the most common scoring systems.

In conclusion

You don’t need sync. If you’re able to grasp the basics of Surf then you really don’t need sync. If you’re new or you’re really trying to perfect your style and timetrials with little-to-no room for error, then it’s useful; but not the be all and end all. Oh and one more thing - we don’t record it serverside at all. It’s purely a measure for your eyes only.

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