Star Citizen

Server Meshing in CitizenCon 2951: what I heard on progress and challenges

There is a lot of angst in the community regarding server meshing. I hear a lot of comments like "why is there no demo of SM?" and "why didn't they update us on progress on SM?".

As an engineer, I heard things a bit differently during CitizenCon and want to put what I heard out there for the community to consider.

Challenges:

The challenges with SM involve all the subsystems that will have to work with it. It's not enough to create a playtoy demo of SM…they have to implement it on top of an alpha populated by players. A playtoy demo of SM would be 1) technically unimpressive as it is already done in the industry; 2) technically un-useful since it would not support the game in any way. The bulk of the work to be done for server meshing is preparing game entities and systems to work with server meshing.

So the mission system, the party system, communications system as well as the dynamic asset system ALL have to work with SM as soon as it drops. The fact that all this "bookkeeping" IS in fact the primary challenge of SM implementation is supported by the roadmap. Take note of the teams involved in the SM task – it's not just the network guys, its the vehicle team, the mission team, and even the audio team.

Progress:

SM stands on the pillars of object container streaming, iCache and a number of different technologies. Object container streaming is locked down. Object bind culling and proximity streaming is locked down. Remember when those were the items that caused so much hand wringing? This is older work, but the significance was reiterated this CitizenCon and I believe I heard about additional objects being moved to this system (ship components for example). This work must be done for SM because if there are entities that do not follow the OCS format or fit into this hierarchical system – they simply won't appear in a server meshed game…or worse, they will just cause the game to crash.

The newer update is that player inventory and usable items have been worked into this OCS architecture, (that's 3.15). So all the inventory persistence, rep persistence, aUEC persistence stuff, all the refactoring of weapon and armor entities, ALL THAT STUFF is direct progress on Server Meshing. I don't feel like this point was made clearly enough in the presentation.

We also heard heavy reference to the Replication Layer. I am in the process of rewatching the Replication and Persistence segment, but I don't recall a very clear explanation on it's state of readiness or if it will be integrated in a piece-wise fashion like the iCache/Entity Graph Database, only that it is the code that relays what persistent content is read into the server from the entity database to the client. Since non-meshed servers do this relaying ANYWAY it stands to reason that the Replication Layer is performing a perfunctory function and isn't a technical hurdle in itself, but it would have been nice to have heard a direct discussion of this. Or maybe they did and I missed it…

Lastly we heard about the Entity Graph Database and that work is proceeding on it. The EGD is the backbone persistent database that informs all of SM – so it's pretty critical. We heard that iCache is the first iteration of the EGB and is being further developed currently.

TL;DR –

Updates to Server Meshing progress and challenges were presented subtly during CitizenCon, but they were there. Object container streaming and iCache are fundamental steps toward Server Meshing; these are in place and being further developed. Primary challenges to implement Server Meshing are preparing in-game systems (mission systems, item systems, party systems, etc.) to work with it. A standalone "demo" of Server Meshing doesn't make sense to do and you won't see this, you will only see the final product once subsystems are ready.

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