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sheep19

Using a physics engine on the server

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Hello. Let me start with a few details about the game I'm developing.

 

real time Client - Server

Server is the authority

Game is 3D but played on the XZ plane (topdown view).

 

The client captures a state of the keyboard every frame (input), and every 33 ms sends a collection of those states to the server.

The server receives those inputs and applies them.

 

So far what I had was this (on the server):

for(std::size_t i = 0; i < _entities.size(); ++i)
{
    auto& entity = _entities[i];
    auto client = _clients[i];

    for(auto& inputState : newInputs[client->id()])
    {
        // for each input of the client, update its position and looking direction
        for(auto& input : inputState.inputs)
        {
            if (input.movingForward)
            {
                entity.x += input.dir.x * cfg.playerSpeed() * dt;
                entity.y += input.dir.y * cfg.playerSpeed() * dt;
            }
            
            entity.dir = input.dir;
        }

        _lastInputIds[client->id()] = inputState.id;
    }
}

As you can see, the client does not have the authority on his position or speed - only his direction.

 

But now I want to use bullet for physics, because I will need collision detection.

 

I have changed the above code to:

for(std::size_t i = 0; i < _entities.size(); ++i)
{
    auto& entity = _entities[i];
    auto client = _clients[i];

    auto& inputs = newInputs[client->id()];
    if (inputs.empty())
        entity.rigidBody->setLinearVelocity(btVector3(0.0f, 0.0f, 0.0f));
    
    for(auto& inputState : newInputs[client->id()])
    {
        for(auto& input : inputState.inputs)
        {
            if (input.movingForward)
            {
                auto velX = input.dir.x * cfg.playerSpeed();
                auto velZ = input.dir.y * cfg.playerSpeed();
                
                entity.rigidBody->setLinearVelocity(btVector3(velX, 0.0f, velZ));
            }
            else
                entity.rigidBody->setLinearVelocity(btVector3(0.0f, 0.0f, 0.0f));
            
            entity.dir = input.dir;
        }

        _lastInputIds[client->id()] = inputState.id;
    }
}
...
_world->stepSimulation(dt); // this is the bullet world

Now I set the linear velocity of the entity's rigid body and after a while I call _world->stepSimulation. But this is not good because the client sends multiple inputs packed together. By doing this I am ignoring all of this inputs except the last one..!

 

If I try to update the world inside the loop, I will be updating physics for all other rigid bodies in the world, which I do not want.

What I want is to somehow update the same rigid body multiple times but not update any other rigid bodies. Is this the way it is normally done? Does anyone know a way to do this in bullet?

 

Thanks a lot.

 

Edit: I can, of course, move the bodies manually using btRigidBody::translate. But is this a good solution?

Edited by sheep19

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You're not using full 3D and are only playing the game on XZ plane so do you really need a full physics implementation? 

 

Can you simply translate the few equations you need into something simpler, bypassing the need for a heavyweight physics library which won't scale as the number of players in your game grows...

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@braindigitalis: While 3D physics have a constant factor higher cost in simulation than 2D, the main scalability limitation in simulation is that N actors may potentially interact with N other actors, leading to N-squared scalability. Thus, the end-term scalability is not primarily drive by 2D vs 3D math costs, but by how many object pairs need to interact, and what your broad-phase pair determination algorithm looks like. 3D actually gives more opportunities for culling pairs than 2D, because there are three dimensions instead of two to separate pairs among.
The "constant cost" of simulation in 2D is likely smaller, and thus in absolute numbers on a single, constrained, CPU, you may get more 2D entities than 3D entities, as long as they all have room to spread out reasonably in the world. That's kind-of a special case, though -- not the determining factor of how something "scales."

@sheep19: You probably want to number each game simulation tick. Make sure you use the same, fixed, tick rate on all nodes! The player would then enqueue commands "for the future" for the server. This would include both "spawn bullet" as well as "move" or whatnot. The server applies the appropriate input at the appropriate simulation tick.
You'll then end up with latency, which means that the local client may be displaying tick 100, but the server is currently simulating tick 105, and the data won't get there until tick 110, which in turn won't get back to you until tick 115. (Assuming a 5 tick one-way delay.) This causes a 15 tick delay between "command" and "effect." You can then display the local player in an "accelerated" time frame -- display local player as if the tick was 115, which means all the commands have been applied. The problem then is that you'll see others at a 15 tick delay, which leads to "being shot around a corner" type lag in the experience. That's often better than "taking a long time for controls to affect the player character" kind of lag.

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I'm not really equipped to give low-level advice on the topic, but from a higher level, I find it useful to think of the client as a kind of "smart terminal" into the game as the server sees it -- the client is neither the game, nor is it a "dumb terminal" which only sends keystrokes and renders what the server last told it to.

 

The client is a "smart terminal" because it handles on its own the things that either don't matter for simulation consistency between player clients, or which can be initialized once by the server and then left to run in a way that will remain consistent -- for example, debris/decals/particle effects can fall into either of these categories depending on whether they are purely cosmetic or have an affect on gameplay. Another reason is that the client must make it's best-guess about the current state of the simulation between messages from the server, as a basic example, you might render at 60 frames per second, but you might only get network updates at 10, 15, or 20 times per second (and each of which might have between one-half and several frames of latency by the time you receive it) -- So when a projectile or player is last known to be moving in a given direction, the client has to assume it keeps doing so, but also smoothly interpolate back inline with what the server says to be true when it receives the next relevant message. Similarly, for things like collision detection, the client can know that its impossible to walk through a wall and so should not permit the player to do so while waiting for the server to reprimand it, nor should it even ask the server whether its possible. In short, the client should be smart enough to give its best estimate of what the server will say to be true, based on its imperfect information, and be able to get back in line by smoothly integrating the latest authoritative information from the server.

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The client is a "smart terminal" because it handles on its own the things that either don't matter for simulation consistency between player clients, or which can be initialized once by the server and then left to run in a way that will remain consistent

 

This reminds me of a statement i once read in an internet RFC (request for comments) document:

 

Be permissive in what you accept, but strict in what you send.

 

This statement holds true in any protocol including games.

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This reminds me of a statement i once read in an internet RFC (request for comments) document:
 
Quote:
Be permissive in what you accept, but strict in what you send.

 
This statement holds true in any protocol including games.

 

Sure -- actually, a good application of that mantra would be something like "Clients and servers should be able to deal with bad data (corrupted, maliciously crafted), and send only good data". For example, when I said earlier that the client shouldn't ask the server to move through a wall, the server should never trust a client not to do so -- lots of hacks for different games involve sending messages to the server that are deliberately misleading -- the server needs to validate what the client attempts to do. On the flip side, non-compromised clients -- and especially the server -- should be very strict about what they send and how its sent (for example, don't just let unused bits/bytes in a message be sent out uninitialized).

 

[Edited to add] Defending against malicious packets is super important. If you recall the Heartbleed security vulnerability from a couple years ago or so, that was a maliciously-crafted packet where the client requested a response longer than it knew the data to be, and the server simply trusted the client to be honest, though I don't believe it was intentional -- more of a logic bug. Bad idea in any event, this compromised tons of services of all sizes -- webmail, banking, Facebook even, IIRC... I remember changing basically all of my passwords because of it. 

Edited by Ravyne

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Hello again. I have come up with a solution:

// update the world
    WorldState worldState;
    for(std::size_t i = 0; i < _entities.size(); ++i)
    {
        auto& entity = _entities[i];
        auto client = _clients[i];

        entity.rigidBody->applyCentralForce(-GRAVITY);
       
        float dirX = 0.0f;
        float dirZ = 0.0f;
        bool movingForward = false;
       
        for(auto& inputState : newInputs[client->id()])
        {
            for(auto& input : inputState.inputs)
            {
                if (input.movingForward)
                {
                    movingForward = true;
                   
                    dirX += input.dir.x;
                    dirZ += input.dir.y;
                }
               
                entity.dir = input.dir;
            }
           
            _lastInputIds[client->id()] = inputState.id; // this can be optimized
        }
       
        if (movingForward)
            entity.rigidBody->setLinearVelocity(btVector3(dirX * cfg.playerSpeed(), entity.rigidBody->getLinearVelocity().y(), dirZ * cfg.playerSpeed()));
        else
            entity.rigidBody->setLinearVelocity(btVector3(0.0f, entity.rigidBody->getLinearVelocity().y(), 0.0f));
       
        worldState.addEntityData(client->id(), entity);
    }
   
    _world->stepSimulation(dt);

Essentially what I am doing is to calculate the sum of the direction vectors for all input packets and set the velocity (for that frame) based on those.

 

Example:

Let's say the player's speed is 20.

Two inputs arrive with vectors (1, 0) and (0, 1).

 

So:

dirX = 1 (1 + 0)

dirZ = 1 (0 + 1)

Speed will be set to Vector3(1, 0, 1).

 

In other words, instead of moving the player gradually, I am setting a larger velocity which has the same effect.

 

The other solution is to manually translate the player. But I don't like this because if many input packets are sent together, collisions may be skipped...

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@sheep19: It sounds like you're not using a fixed simulation step rate. I believe you will, in the end, have real trouble with this. I suggest you decide on a fixed number of simulation steps per second (30? 60? 182? whatever.) Then, run the input-and-simulation at that rate on all clients and on the server. However, rendering will be run at whatever rate the client computer can keep up with. You should also send the user inputs in a given group size -- say, 60 Hz simulation, two inputs per packet, means 30 packets per second. This way, there is no difference in "how many inputs are there in a second" or "how does a player move for a particular network packet."

For more on this, check out this article: http://www.mindcontrol.org/~hplus/graphics/game_loop.html

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@sheep19: It sounds like you're not using a fixed simulation step rate. I believe you will, in the end, have real trouble with this. I suggest you decide on a fixed number of simulation steps per second (30? 60? 182? whatever.) Then, run the input-and-simulation at that rate on all clients and on the server. However, rendering will be run at whatever rate the client computer can keep up with. You should also send the user inputs in a given group size -- say, 60 Hz simulation, two inputs per packet, means 30 packets per second. This way, there is no difference in "how many inputs are there in a second" or "how does a player move for a particular network packet."

For more on this, check out this article: http://www.mindcontrol.org/~hplus/graphics/game_loop.html

 

At the end of update() on the server, I do

std::this_thread::sleep_for(16ms);

And then update the physics engine using the delta time from the previous frame.

Doesn't this guarantee a 60Hz simulation step rate?

 

About the inputs, I don't this I can do this easily. This is because if packets are lost, the client resends them. This would complicate things a lot. I believe what I did above is sufficient (setting the velocity based on the inputs received for that single frame).

Edited by sheep19

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