What is geofiltering?

What will you do to get the lowest ping?

Image via 343 Industries

If you’ve been wondering what geofiltering was following the controversy around Sentinel’s Mathew “Royal2” Fiorante, here’s what you need to know.

Geofiltering gained prominence again recently after Royal2 was banned for violating the rules of the Halo Championship Series. The ban was officially due to “server manipulation,” according to officials, who argued that Royal2 used “geofiltering” to force their opponents in the NA Open Series and NA Kickoff Qualifier into servers with “abnormally high” pings.

We found that from November 26, 2021, the day before NA Open Series 11-27 on November 27, 2021 through the last match of the NA Kickoff Qualifier 12-1 on December 3, 2021, all US servers but 1 server in the United States (westus2) were missing from the server ping list, thus forcing all of Royal 2’s matches onto that server and creating an abnormally high ping for players in the affected matches.

Official HCS ruling, December 12, 2021

Games like Halo Infinite check the pings of all the players in the lobby, automatically selecting the best server based on the results. The idea is to create a fair system for all players, so nobody gains an unfair advantage by having a substantially lower response time than everyone else. 

By geofiltering, players can exclude their PC or console from joining certain servers. This is usually done so players can enjoy the best possible experience—but it can also be used to gain a competitive advantage by forcing other players onto servers that are much further away (particularly if those other players are not geofiltering themselves).

Screenshot via Saeed Wazir

Geofiltering isn’t bad in principle. The feature is integrated into many games like VALORANT and Apex Legends, and it’s helpful when players have connectivity issues or when specific servers are down. Most of the time, the other lobby players have joined the server willingly and aren’t forced to compete at a disadvantage.

Hopefully, Royal2’s ban will be a lesson for other players. Halo Infinite is still relatively new, and hopefully, the developers can find a way to prevent players from using this feature during tournaments.