# Open Standard Protocol for Realtime Network Games

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As a proponent for open standards, I would like to open up discussion for a [i]Open Standard Protocol for Real-time Network Games.[/i] I believe there could be a benefit to Game Developers for such a standard (if not already in existence). Lets discuss:
[list=1][*]Using a standard like [url="http://www.open-game-protocol.org/"]Open Game Protocol[/url].[*]Using one or more existing protocols in the [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Protocol_Suite"]Internet Protocols Suite.[/url][*]Developing an entirely new protocol.[*]Identifying Common techniques used in Network Games to consolidate into a single open standard.[*]Pros and Cons.[*]Whatever comes to mind.[/list]

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What are the benefits? Seems inefficient and inflexible.

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[quote name='typedef struct' timestamp='1310653984' post='4835265']
What are the benefits? Seems inefficient and inflexible.
[/quote]
I believe a Open Sandard Protocol for Realtime Network Games could provide the same benefits ([url="http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/FOSS_Open_Standards/Importance_and_Benefits_of_Open_Standards#Benefits_of_Using_Open_Standards"]1[/url],[url="http://www.library.ucsb.edu/istl/05-spring/article2.html"]2[/url],[url="http://www.openstandards.net/viewOSnet1C.jsp?showModuleName=businessCaseForOpenStandards"]3[/url]) that many other open standards promote:

[list][*]Interoperability (between different Game Clients)[*]Vendor neutrality[*]Efficient use of existing resources[*]Greater use of automation[*]Flexibility[*]More options provide more opportunities to optimize[*]Lower and manageable risk[*]Robustness and durability[*]Quality[*]Increase available skills[*]Better human communication[/list]
Of course efficiencies and flexibilities have to be incorporated into the standard. There are several techniques commonly employed in network games that could be rolled into a standard. Can you elaborate on what you feel would be inefficient or inflexible?

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I thought this was an actual gameplay protocol. Looking through the spec, it's a protocol for communicating with a master server (providing a list of running game servers). It seems like this could be useful, particularly if you want to have a steam-like platform where players can launch different games/mods through a single open client.

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Eh, master server lists are pretty trivial in most games. For the rest of us, we need very sophisticated handoff protocols that don't fit into a generalizable specification. I don't see much benefit here.

In fact, I see a lot of potential problems. Going over your list of supposed benefits:
[list][*]Interoperability. No way to control who accesses your server cleanly.[*]Vendor neutrality. Screws with making a profit on games.[*]Requires redeploying a lot of existing technology that is custom tailored for various games (e.g. the Guild Wars server handoff mechanism would never work under this kind of setup)[*]Automation elides human control in critical details (again, look at Guild Wars; we couldn't use such a protocol because we have very specific requirements for how server handoffs work)[*]Lack of flexibility. A standard defines what you can and cannot do; this inherently [i]limits[/i] your ability to customize per game[*]More options? This means more work. This isn't a benefit.[*]Risk is higher because exploits in the protocol implementation are now widespread instead of localized to a single game infrastructure[*]Robustness and durability are far from guaranteed until many years of iteration on both the standard spec itself and the widely-used implementations[*]Quality is such an abstract notion that I don't even know how to go about addressing it. This claim is not even wrong.[*]I don't know what you mean by "increase available skills."[*]Improved communication is probably the only thing I can't find a problem with[/list]
Standards are like surgery. Not inherently good or bad, but misapplying them in situations where they are uncalled for can be deadly.

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[quote name='typedef struct' timestamp='1310661400' post='4835325']
It seems like this could be useful, particularly if you want to have a steam-like platform where players can launch different games/mods through a single open client.
[/quote]

So... Steam? Launch any game/mod through single open client*.

* it's open because it's not EA (ask any gamer for a definition of "open") and that makes it not evil aka closed. Also, sales are cool.

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[quote name='T e c h l o r d' timestamp='1310657431' post='4835295']
I believe a Open Sandard Protocol for Realtime Network Games could provide the same benefits ([url="http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/FOSS_Open_Standards/Importance_and_Benefits_of_Open_Standards#Benefits_of_Using_Open_Standards"]1[/url],[url="http://www.library.ucsb.edu/istl/05-spring/article2.html"]2[/url],[url="http://www.openstandards.net/viewOSnet1C.jsp?showModuleName=businessCaseForOpenStandards"]3[/url]) that many other open standards promote:
[/quote]

You are assuming there is market demand for interoperability here. I can assure you, there is not -- quite the opposite.

A few years ago, we tried to do that for a smaller subset of games -- persistent, interactive, virtual worlds. We even proposed a standard that would be comparatively simple to implement for most vendors, and that would keep user control server-side (important for commercial interests!) and that would achieve a useful but not perfect degree of interoperability, within the IETF. It went nowhere.
[url="http://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-jwatte-less-protocol-01"]http://tools.ietf.or...ess-protocol-01[/url]

Interoperability can only be achieved when the subject matter is tightly coupled, and market forces require it. For example, the department of defense has used IEEE 1278 (DIS) for a long time, to great effect! Later standards to broaden and re-engineer this standard, such as IEEE 1516 (HLA) have not seen as good adoption, because it doesn't focus on solving the cases that actually need standardization.

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[quote name='ApochPiQ' timestamp='1310661830' post='4835331']
Eh, master server lists are pretty trivial in most games. For the rest of us, we need very sophisticated handoff protocols that don't fit into a generalizable specification. I don't see much benefit here.

In fact, I see a lot of potential problems. Going over your list of supposed benefits:
[list][*]Interoperability. No way to control who accesses your server cleanly.[*]Vendor neutrality. Screws with making a profit on games.[*]Requires redeploying a lot of existing technology that is custom tailored for various games (e.g. the Guild Wars server handoff mechanism would never work under this kind of setup)[*]Automation elides human control in critical details (again, look at Guild Wars; we couldn't use such a protocol because we have very specific requirements for how server handoffs work)[*]Lack of flexibility. A standard defines what you can and cannot do; this inherently [i]limits[/i] your ability to customize per game[*]More options? This means more work. This isn't a benefit.[*]Risk is higher because exploits in the protocol implementation are now widespread instead of localized to a single game infrastructure[*]Robustness and durability are far from guaranteed until many years of iteration on both the standard spec itself and the widely-used implementations[*]Quality is such an abstract notion that I don't even know how to go about addressing it. This claim is not even wrong.[*]I don't know what you mean by "increase available skills."[*]Improved communication is probably the only thing I can't find a problem with[/list]
Standards are like surgery. Not inherently good or bad, but misapplying them in situations where they are uncalled for can be deadly.
[/quote]

Very good counter points ApochPiQ, which also point out opportunities to develop solutions and incorporate them into the standard. I started seeking out such a protocol to help me deal with real-time network messaging in my game engine. I was surprised that none existed [i]or I'm just not typing the right keywords in Google[/i]. I have investigated into many protocols on my quest.

In my opinion, an Open Standard Protocol for Real-time Network Games doesn't necessarily require developing a completely new protocol from the ground up. A High Level [i]Meta-Application[/i] (for lack of a better term) Protocol could encapsulate one or more of existing Application/Transport Internet Protocols such as HTTP, SIP, RTSP, SDP over TCP/UDP. Its difficult for me to deny the possible value of a high-level open standard protocol in network games, when networking at its lowest levels is completely built on them.

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[quote name='hplus0603' timestamp='1310665199' post='4835347']
[quote name='T e c h l o r d' timestamp='1310657431' post='4835295']
I believe a Open Sandard Protocol for Realtime Network Games could provide the same benefits ([url="http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/FOSS_Open_Standards/Importance_and_Benefits_of_Open_Standards#Benefits_of_Using_Open_Standards"]1[/url],[url="http://www.library.ucsb.edu/istl/05-spring/article2.html"]2[/url],[url="http://www.openstandards.net/viewOSnet1C.jsp?showModuleName=businessCaseForOpenStandards"]3[/url]) that many other open standards promote:
[/quote]

You are assuming there is market demand for interoperability here. I can assure you, there is not -- quite the opposite.

A few years ago, we tried to do that for a smaller subset of games -- persistent, interactive, virtual worlds. We even proposed a standard that would be comparatively simple to implement for most vendors, and that would keep user control server-side (important for commercial interests!) and that would achieve a useful but not perfect degree of interoperability, within the IETF. It went nowhere.
[url="http://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-jwatte-less-protocol-01"]http://tools.ietf.or...ess-protocol-01[/url]

Interoperability can only be achieved when the subject matter is tightly coupled, and market forces require it. For example, the department of defense has used IEEE 1278 (DIS) for a long time, to great effect! Later standards to broaden and re-engineer this standard, such as IEEE 1516 (HLA) have not seen as good adoption, because it doesn't focus on solving the cases that actually need standardization.
[/quote]

hplus0603, I just read over LESS protocol...incredible! I can still see potential with LESS, maybe its a matter advertising, SDKs, Documentation? It may not be a big hit for Commercial Devs, but, I can definitely see Independent Game Developers adopting this standard into their games with support tools and docs in place. Do you implement LESS in your current games?

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There already exists a widely adopted standard which accomplishes precisely the intersection of what you want to do and what is actually feasible in the real world.

TCP.

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[quote name='T e c h l o r d' timestamp='1310666758' post='4835355']
maybe its a matter advertising, SDKs, Documentation?
[/quote]

In my opinion, it's a matter of market requirements.

There exist many game networking libraries that makes writing networked games simpler (although, as with any distributed simulation, it's never "simple.") Most indie gamers just pick one, and run with it. Interoperability is not a concern or requirement, hence whatever you happen to pick (Unreal? Source? ENet? RakNet? Xbox Live!? ...) is good enough.

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[quote name='hplus0603' timestamp='1310672289' post='4835404']
[quote name='T e c h l o r d' timestamp='1310666758' post='4835355']
maybe its a matter advertising, SDKs, Documentation?
[/quote]

In my opinion, it's a matter of market requirements.

There exist many game networking libraries that makes writing networked games simpler (although, as with any distributed simulation, it's never "simple.") Most indie gamers just pick one, and run with it. Interoperability is not a concern or requirement, hence whatever you happen to pick (Unreal? Source? ENet? RakNet? Xbox Live!? ...) is good enough.
[/quote]

I agree that Interoperability is not a concern or requirement, at least not yet. However, I predict future network games will demand it. The glorious paradigm shift will be marked by the date Dragon Age 2022 and Halo XIII converge into a new experience known as Day of the Dragon Halo. That's right, two separate game clients fused together in cyberspace to create a new game experience, sharing players and resources in realtime.

I'm interested in learning more about LESS and will be studying the spec later tonight. Perhaps, if more indies use it, maybe it will become popular enough to be adopted as a global standard.

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I don't get the idea. Is the idea to be able to query a server for information? I'd look into an XML based solution and just define some basic output formats that a game could use. Then if anyone wanted they could query and obtain this XML document with the information and parse it. However this would be game dependent information obviously since you can't support every game type feasibly.

If the goal was just to display information then I'd suggest the server return an HTML or custom XML based layout page that a program could interpret and render. I've read the whole site now and I'm still confused what this is trying to achieve or what problem it's solving.

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[quote name='T e c h l o r d' timestamp='1310676365' post='4835429']
I agree that Interoperability is not a concern or requirement, at least not yet. However, I predict future network games will demand it. The glorious paradigm shift will be marked by the date Dragon Age 2022 and Halo XIII converge into a new experience known as Day of the Dragon Halo. That's right, two separate game clients fused together in cyberspace to create a new game experience, sharing players and resources in realtime.
[/quote]

I really can't tell if you're being serious here.

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[quote name='T e c h l o r d' timestamp='1310676365' post='4835429']
... I predict future network games will demand it. The glorious paradigm shift will be marked by the date Dragon Age 2022 and Halo XIII converge into a new experience known as Day of the Dragon Halo. That's right, two separate game clients fused together in cyberspace to create a new game experience, sharing players and resources in realtime. ...
[/quote]

So basically you know full well that you are presenting a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

You are hoping that a decade from now, your incomplete idea will be a solid solution for a non-existent problem that you hope will get adopted as standard, coming from a nobody hoping to transform a longstanding networking engine that already works and doesn't need the change, replacing a comprehensive and decades-large collection of tools and documentation and corporate knowledge that were developed by experienced and tenured engineers that have no compelling business need for the change.

That in itself is just amazing. Not in a good way.

Yes, there are disruptive technologies. There are always new concepts that emerge as must-haves that all the big systems feel they must adopt if they want to continue growing. There have been a lot of them, moving away from direct dial multiplayer to LAN and later to IP-based games, adding VoIP, cross-title integration for friends and communications, social media integration, cloud storage of save data, and more.

But this is not one of those. This is an incomplete solution to a problem that has been completely solved in many different ways for decades. This is something the market has no need for; and if there ever becomes a need they will immediately turn to existing complete solutions or develop their own with relatively minuscule cost.

...

Your biggest hurdle will not be the technical one. Any reasonably experienced network programmer can put together the protocols as described. That's not hard. In fact, it is so easy that there is no need for the solution in the first place.

No, the biggest hurdle will be trying to convince the owners of multiple successful multi-million-dollar franchises and directors in multi-billion-dollar publishers that they should throw out their current successful networking engines and game clients and server farms and expansive data centers that have evolved over many years --- existing systems that work well and have a long track record and are filling their bank accounts --- that they should throw it out and invest a fortune to adopt your system instead.

Good luck on that.

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[quote name='frob' timestamp='1310682307' post='4835458']
[quote name='T e c h l o r d' timestamp='1310676365' post='4835429']
... I predict future network games will demand it. The glorious paradigm shift will be marked by the date Dragon Age 2022 and Halo XIII converge into a new experience known as Day of the Dragon Halo. That's right, two separate game clients fused together in cyberspace to create a new game experience, sharing players and resources in realtime. ...
[/quote]

So basically you know full well that you are presenting a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

You are hoping that a decade from now, your incomplete idea will be a solid solution for a non-existent problem that you hope will get adopted as standard, coming from a nobody hoping to transform a longstanding networking engine that already works and doesn't need the change, replacing a comprehensive and decades-large collection of tools and documentation and corporate knowledge that were developed by experienced and tenured engineers that have no compelling business need for the change.

That in itself is just amazing. Not in a good way.
[/quote]
Don't shoot the messenger! LOL

I'm not trying to solve a problem, I'm trying to create possibilities. I have no expectations. Of course its an incomplete idea, that's why I'm here to discuss it, develop it. I'm a small independent game developer ...a nobody, but, at least I have my freedom. Unlike some, *rolls eyes* I'm not confined to any particular paradigm, methodology, process, procedure or idea.

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[quote name='T e c h l o r d' timestamp='1310710952' post='4835584']
I'm not trying to solve a problem, I'm trying to create possibilities.
[/quote]
Create possibilities for what? In your eyes what are the possibilities for such a protocol? Also you call them possibilities, but really you're talking about future problems. What are some use cases you foresee where this could be used? I'm not gonna lie solving problem for hypothetical future scenarios ends up running into the realm of "uber flexible" solution since it lacks requirements. Without requirements your design is flawed usually. There's a reason people have procedures such as software design for analyzing and solving problems. It ends up not wasting time.

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[quote name='ApochPiQ' timestamp='1310682272' post='4835457']
[quote name='T e c h l o r d' timestamp='1310676365' post='4835429']
I agree that Interoperability is not a concern or requirement, at least not yet. However, I predict future network games will demand it. The glorious paradigm shift will be marked by the date Dragon Age 2022 and Halo XIII converge into a new experience known as Day of the Dragon Halo. That's right, two separate game clients fused together in cyberspace to create a new game experience, sharing players and resources in realtime.
[/quote]

I really can't tell if you're being serious here.
[/quote]

The troll is peæking here =]

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[quote name='frob' timestamp='1310682307' post='4835458']
[quote name='T e c h l o r d' timestamp='1310676365' post='4835429']
... I predict future network games will demand it. The glorious paradigm shift will be marked by the date Dragon Age 2022 and Halo XIII converge into a new experience known as Day of the Dragon Halo. That's right, two separate game clients fused together in cyberspace to create a new game experience, sharing players and resources in realtime. ...
[/quote]

So basically you know full well that you are presenting a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

[/quote]

Well, the HLA standard is intended to tackle that specific problem. And it is a actually already a common scenario in the serious gaming industry. I think it's possible to imagine a game (or more like a game world) that you can connect to using different clients. I don't know about Dragon Age and Halo, but say something like WWII online, you could have different specialized clients for different weapon types (infantry, tanks, planes etc), or different levels (tactical, operational, strategic).

Back to the original question, I think you should take a look at HLA. As jon said above, it does not standardize the protocol, only the API signatures and some rules governing the federates in a simulation. Maybe one way to approach this is to fill in the gaps (specifying an actual communication protocol, or implementing a library). There are also efforts to "standardize" the object model used in HLA that might be worth checking out (http://www.boms.info/).

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[quote]Well, the HLA standard is intended to tackle that specific problem. And it is a actually already a common scenario in the serious gaming industry. I think it's possible to imagine a game (or more like a game world) that you can connect to using different clients. I don't know about Dragon Age and Halo, but say something like WWII online, you could have different specialized clients for different weapon types (infantry, tanks, planes etc), or different levels (tactical, operational, strategic).

Back to the original question, I think you should take a look at HLA. As jon said above, it does not standardize the protocol, only the API signatures and some rules governing the federates in a simulation. Maybe one way to approach this is to fill in the gaps (specifying an actual communication protocol, or implementing a library). There are also efforts to "standardize" the object model used in HLA that might be worth checking out ([url="http://www.boms.info/"]http://www.boms.info/[/url]).[/quote]
[size="4"]
Kudos to you blutzeit!!![/size]

Although, my terms are completely off (as I suspected from the beginning of this thread), [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_level_architecture_%28simulation%29"]HLA[/url] is what I'm pursuing. The [b]High Level Architecture[/b] ([b]HLA[/b]) is a general purpose architecture for distributed [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_simulation"]computer simulation[/url] [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systems"]systems[/url]. Using HLA, computer simulations can interact (that is, to communicate data, and to synchronize actions) to other computer simulations regardless of the computing platforms. The interaction between simulations is managed by a [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Run-Time_Infrastructure_%28simulation%29"]Run-Time Infrastructure[/url] (RTI).

Amazing...

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[quote name='T e c h l o r d' timestamp='1310736233' post='4835657']

Although, my terms are completely off (as I suspected from the beginning of this thread), [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_level_architecture_%28simulation%29"]HLA[/url] is what I'm pursuing. The [b]High Level Architecture[/b] ([b]HLA[/b]) is a general purpose architecture for distributed [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_simulation"]computer simulation[/url] [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systems"]systems[/url]. Using HLA, computer simulations can interact (that is, to communicate data, and to synchronize actions) to other computer simulations regardless of the computing platforms. The interaction between simulations is managed by a [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Run-Time_Infrastructure_%28simulation%29"]Run-Time Infrastructure[/url] (RTI).
[/quote]

Oh, CORBA.

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[quote name='hplus0603' timestamp='1310665199' post='4835347']
Interoperability can only be achieved when the subject matter is tightly coupled, and market forces require it. For example, the department of defense has used IEEE 1278 (DIS) for a long time, to great effect! Later standards to broaden and re-engineer this standard, such as IEEE 1516 (HLA) have not seen as good adoption, because it doesn't focus on solving the cases that actually need standardization.
[/quote]

I notice that you latched on to HLA the second time it was mentioned.

However, HLA is an API standard. Any simulation needs to be re-compiled for any specific federation it wants to partake in. And federations, in HLA, are set up using trusted LANs, or perhaps trusted VPNs if you can take the latency involved.

Evenso, the HLA API isn't actually 100% compatible. Some implementations require you to pump messages by making a special call in a main thread. Other implementations use threads to call you back. Last I checked (this was years ago, but it's been a standard for longer than that), there wasn't even any word on how many callbacks can be active at any one time. If you develop on a single-threaded, pump-main implementation, how confident are you that your code will work on a threaded runtime?

Just so you know: There already has come and gone one or more "open MMO middleware" companies based on HLA, which went no-where, because they didn't fulfill necessary market requirements. Look for example at [url="http://openskies.net/"]http://openskies.net/[/url] (note: last news from 2008, and even then, it reportedly wasn't doing well)

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[quote name='hplus0603' timestamp='1310755068' post='4835757']
I notice that you latched on to HLA the second time it was mentioned.
[/quote]

My captivation with LESS overshadowed the statement on HLA the first time it was mentioned. I was excited. After reading on HLA, if find its terminology to be closer to what I've been trying to convey:
[quote]In my opinion, an Open Standard Protocol for Real-time Network Games doesn't necessarily require developing a completely new protocol from the ground up. A High Level [i]Meta-Application[/i] (for lack of a better term) Protocol could encapsulate one or more of existing Application/Transport Internet Protocols such as HTTP, SIP, RTSP, SDP over TCP/UDP. Its difficult for me to deny the possible value of a high-level open standard protocol in network games, when networking at its lowest levels is completely built on them.[/quote]HLA also throws some new concepts for me to try to wrap my brain around.

All of this new information has boosted my motivation to pursue a Open Standard. What trigger my curiousity in the first place was looking for a standard to determine w[i]hat should I put in my network packets, and how often should I send them. [/i]I work with several of the Application protocols in the Internet Protocol Suite. I've have studied and implemented them. I like using standards. I assumed there had to be a standard for communicating game message packets would be established by now (with 20+yrs of network games and lag compensation techniques fine-tuned by [url="http://www.bookofhook.com/Article/GameDevelopment/TheQuake3NetworkingModel.html"]IdSoftware[/url], [url="http://unreal.epicgames.com/Network.htm"]Epic[/url], [url="http://developer.valvesoftware.com/wiki/Source_Multiplayer_Networking"]Valve[/url] and [url="http://www.gdconf.com/archives/2000/frohnmayer.doc"]Dynamix[/url]).

I prefer to use existing standards. But, I don't see any reason not to create a new one, if the existing ones haven't become highly supported or don't meet the need.

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You can't build a general-purpose standard for this. It's like trying to come up with a general purpose standard for "motion." There are too many ways to move, too many individual situations with unique requirements. Anything that standardizes how to move is going to either eliminate edge cases that [i]someone[/i] wanted, or it's going to be so all-inclusive and vague that it's utterly pointless.

By analogy, a "game protocol standard" is either going to prevent people from doing things they need to do, or be so damned open-ended that it's basically reinventing TCP and at that point, who cares?

I stand by my opinion that you're challenging the wrong windmill to a duel here.

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[quote name='ApochPiQ' timestamp='1310772121' post='4835831']
You can't build a general-purpose standard for this. It's like trying to come up with a general purpose standard for "motion." There are too many ways to move, too many individual situations with unique requirements. Anything that standardizes how to move is going to either eliminate edge cases that [i]someone[/i] wanted, or it's going to be so all-inclusive and vague that it's utterly pointless.

By analogy, a "game protocol standard" is either going to prevent people from doing things they need to do, or be so damned open-ended that it's basically reinventing TCP and at that point, who cares?

I stand by my opinion that you're challenging the wrong windmill to a duel here.
[/quote]
ApochPiQ, read more Sci-Fi my friend. We are Programmers, Gods in Cyberspace. There is nothing we can't do. LOL!!!

On the other hand, I do understand all the variables involved. I haven't completely defined what I'm looking for, but, I',m getting closer.

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