Asteroid Outpost Update 2012-04-15

It’s been a while since my last update, and not a whole lot has changed. I’m focusing on smoothing out the multiplayer experience. If you’ve had a chance to try it, you’ve probably noticed many issues including the spaceship jumping around on the client. The core problem is that I’m treating the client like a dumb terminal, and am not doing enough (read: any) simulation on the client to make a smooth experience. Until now, the server was running “the game”, and telling the client what’s going on. Whenever the client wanted to do something, it needed to ask the server to do it and only then would the server tell the client to do it. Ping time could cause some real grief with that system. Most of the issues were quite straight forward to fix, I just removed the if(isServer) checks around many of the “server only” code blocks to let the client do some simulation of the server’s state. This does however, give rise to a slightly new way of thinking about what the information that my network packets should transfer. Instead of transferring raw data related to state changes, I should convey commands and trust the client to do a reasonable simulation of that command. I’m sure there will have to be a combination of the two, so that when commands are sent, it also sends some of the raw state data involved with the command, like when an AI ship picks a target, it could be useful to also send where the ship was when it picked the target so that the client can adjust its world view. The game will still run on the server like before, but now the client will make certain assumptions about what the server is doing. My hope is that in a hack-free environment, the client will be right almost all of the time. There’s no reason the client shouldn’t be right unless an other player interferes and causes the client’s view of the world to be altered, and there’s very little that could cause that. I’m going through and figuring out all of the cases where the client could be wrong and making sure that the server sends an appropriate message to correct the situation.

Notice that I mention a “hack-free environment”. In a situation where the client is hacking, those changes will be client-side only and they will not affect the server, or the other players. At least for basic hacks. I’m sure if someone wanted to, they could figure out a way to trick the server… somehow, but that’s not work concerning myself with.

Until recently, my game has also had no concept of a unified “game time” between the client and server. So actions would happen when the packet is received, not when it was sent. I always knew I needed to keep track of the “game time”, but until recently there was no real need to spend time on it. No pun intended. I’m going to be working toward this in the coming weeks, and hopefully get mutiplayer to work beautifully. That is the dream. Once multiplayer is working really well, there are a few other things that I’ve been wanting to do. I want a missile launcher, and some particles to go with it. I have an old particle system I wrote for another game that I may pull out of its grave, but it looks awfully simplistic. Maybe it will provide a good starting place though.