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Unity Multiplayer What are the pros and cons of available network solutions/assets

Discussion in 'Connected Games' started by Serinx, Jan 7, 2019.

  1. Serinx

    Serinx

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    I'm wanting to start a multiplayer project but with the new Unity Networking system coming out I'm struggling to decide which solution to go with.

    I'd like to build a simple list of the best solutions and assets and their pros and cons so that I (and others) can make the best choice for their projects.

    I'll start off the list with my limited knowledge, but please help me fill in the pros and cons and any other solutions you know of.

    Eventually I'll turn it into a matrix to make it easier to read.

    Here's a link to a similar google doc where you can get more information on some of the solutions listed here, and general networking terms:
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/...sr1N3UAunUG9rnisY/edit#heading=h.ch4goz9wecxs

    Here's a spreadsheet with even more information. thanks @F-R-O-S-T-Y and @Jamster !
    Link to the excel sheet

    https://forum.unity.com/threads/ben...dgren-miniudp-hazel-photon-and-others.512507/

    Cheers

    UNET (Deprecated)
    Pros - matured with plenty of examples and tutorials
    Cons - will not be supported going forward
    - HLAPI has not been well received
    Model - Peer to peer

    Photon PUN2
    Pros - matured with plenty of examples and tutorials
    - free 100 CCU making it easy to test your game
    Cons - Difficult to implement cheat prevention
    Model - Client to client via cloud server

    Mirror
    Pros - UNET + 940 bug fixes and improvements.
    Cons - No Lobby and only one client per Connection. which were native UNET HLAPI features that have been stripped out.
    Model - Client/Server

    New Unity Networking (What's it actually called?)
    Pros - Will be supported going forward
    Cons - In alpha stage, minimal documentation and tutorials available
    Model - Client/Server

    SmartFoxServer
    Pros:
    - Fully authoritative
    - Fully extensible with custom server-side logic
    - very mature (available since 2004) with a lot of examples of increasing difficulty
    - exhaustive documentation
    - integrated HTTP tunneling
    - protocol cryptography
    - specific MMO-oriented API
    - extended lobby features: rooms, buddies, messaging, match making, etc
    - database integration
    - free 100 CCU edition
    - both perpetual and elastic licenses
    - fast update cycle in case of bugs
    Cons (?):
    - different approach with respect to other solutions listed above
    Model:
    - client/server

    MLAPI
    Pros - similar structure to UNET but with many more features and greater stability.
    Cons - No Custom Messages or SyncedEvent
    Model - Client/Server

    MLAPI, Mirror and UNET HLAPI Comparison Matrix

    Socket Class
    Pros:
    - Create your own custom implementation that is optimal for what your game needs
    - No waiting on 3rd parties for bug fixes
    - No black box code you can't investigate while troubleshooting networking issues
    - No worries that your network API will get deprecated, leaving your project in limbo

    Socket Class Cons:
    - Requires more time investment to develop your higher level API than using a premade API
    - Requires at least mid tier C# skills
    - Includes more fiddling with byte arrays than you may be interested in
    - Less available help than going with an established network API with a community around it

    Forge Networking
    Pros: ???
    Cons: ???


    LiteNetLib
    Pros:
    • No dependency on Unity
    • Gives you all the control
    • It works
    • Included writer and reader objects for managing data in packets
    • Auto packet fragmentation
    • Reliable, unorder, fragmented and non-fragmented flags
    • Do it yourself
    Cons:
    • Do it yourself
    • Expects you to know how networking works
    • Have to setup an ownership handshake procedure yourself
    • Connection IDs are longs and arent garuanteed to be unique (0.8 rectified this)
    Model: Reliable UDP transport library


    DarkRift Networking 2
    Pros:

    • TCP and UDP support, or can be swapped out for any other protocol or network library you fancy
    • No dependency on Unity
    • Very low level and gives you massive amounts of control
    • Fully authoritative and extensible
    • Unlimited users for free!
    • Very well optimized
    • Pretty good documentation
    • Runs on .NET Core * /.NET Framework/Mono
    • Includes source code *
    • Includes matchmaking system *
    * If you purchase the Pro version

    Cons:
    • Only one developer (me!)
    • Requires mid tier C# skills
    Model - Client/Server

    TNet
    Pros:
    - Unique "make multiplayer and receive save load for free and without efforts" feature
    - Battle tested on games Windward and Sightseer (created by developer of these games)
    - Almost out of box support for huge multiplayer open worlds (more than 100x100 km)

    Cons:
    - Out of box does not supports parenting of one networked object into another (but with commenting a few line of code it became possible)
    - Some kind limited \ inconvenient for games which have many hand-made levels (scenes) with manual level design (but very powerful for open world procedural games)
    - Not free (95$) and demo \ free version is not available
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2019
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  2. LukeDawn

    LukeDawn

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  3. tobiass

    tobiass

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    Photon PUN actually built on a custom enet for reliable UDP (allowing TCP and other options transparently, which enables support for more platforms) and it's best described as "client to client via server". The connections are not direct (so no NAT and no problems when the "host" drops out of a match) but the server is agnostic to the specific game's logic. It's also not just a relay, as it can buffer messages and store custom properties.
     
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  4. g_a_p

    g_a_p

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    SmartFoxServer
    Pros:
    - Fully authoritative
    - Fully extensible with custom server-side logic
    - very mature (available since 2004) with a lot of examples of increasing difficulty
    - exhaustive documentation
    - integrated HTTP tunneling
    - protocol cryptography
    - specific MMO-oriented API
    - extended lobby features: rooms, buddies, messaging, match making, etc
    - database integration
    - free 100 CCU edition
    - both perpetual and elastic licenses
    - fast update cycle in case of bugs

    Cons (?):
    - different approach with respect to other solutions listed above

    Model:
    - client/server
     
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  5. Serinx

    Serinx

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    Cheers, I haven't seen that one. I'll add it to the list and check it out!
     
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  6. vis2k

    vis2k

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    UNET + 940 bug fixes and improvements.
     
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  7. TwoTen

    TwoTen

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    TaiTex and Serinx like this.
  8. Zante

    Zante

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    Mirror is getting a lot of traction as it builds on the culture and community centered around UNET. It is under constant development and the authors are accessible via discord.

    Whichever solution you go for, as you know, it has to be understood inside and out. I'd advise placing the level of available support and existing examples at the top of your criteria.

    Edit: UNET / mirror is not peer to peer. You have the flexibility to integrate with a myriad of hosting services like Amazon Game lift, AWS cloud compute, Digital Ocean etc...

    My UNET development servers authenticate via Steam and run dedicated instances on Amazon Web services. I have the flexibility to move it to just about any other hosting provision I like without being locked into a particular SDK.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
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  9. RR7_

    RR7_

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    Mirror Cons: No Lobby and only one client per Connection. which were native UNET HLAPI features that have been stripped out.
     
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  10. Player7

    Player7

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    @TwoTen Does MLAPI have any demo projects? Does it support a hybrid TCP/UDP system where we can use TCP for things like chat/inventory/file transfer etc... and UDP for player movement/actions etc...?

    And made easy ?
     
  11. Joe-Censored

    Joe-Censored

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    Socket Class Pros:
    - Create your own custom implementation that is optimal for what your game needs
    - No waiting on 3rd parties for bug fixes
    - No black box code you can't investigate while troubleshooting networking issues
    - No worries that your network API will get deprecated, leaving your project in limbo

    Socket Class Cons:
    - Requires more time investment to develop your higher level API than using a premade API
    - Requires at least mid tier C# skills
    - Includes more fiddling with byte arrays than you may be interested in
    - Less available help than going with an established network API with a community around it

    https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dotnet/api/system.net.sockets.socket?view=netframework-4.7.2
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2019
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  12. TCROC

    TCROC

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  13. Lelepoop

    Lelepoop

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    LiteNetLib

    Pros
    • No dependency on Unity
    • Gives you all the control
    • It works
    • Included writer and reader objects for managing data in packets
    • Auto packet fragmentation
    • Reliable, unorder, fragmented and non-fragmented flags
    • Do it yourself
    Cons
    • Do it yourself
    • Expects you to know how networking works
    • Have to setup an ownership handshake procedure yourself
    • Connection IDs are longs and arent garuanteed to be unique (0.8 rectified this)
    Model: Client-Server

    The fact that this networking middleware is external and doesnt rely on Unity means that I dont need to worry if its deprecate or experimental (like the current twilight zone of the networking APIs in Unity). It also helps that I'm able to use this API in an external application in order to host my networking process when using the editor, which allows me to compile and keep the active connections running after a hot reload.
     
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  14. TwoTen

    TwoTen

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    Demo projects are not really available. It can use hybrid TCP/UDP yes, but it's not supported out of the box. By default, we instead use a channel based approach where you can set the QoS.
     
  15. Player7

    Player7

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    yeah sorry updated demo projects are an essential to me, networking isn't easy and trying to make sense of another multiplayer framework without a quick demo project to see what it has as features to see it working and then look at the working code is a huge help. I did notice you had pretty old demo project for mlapi that was the github account but again should ideally be an example project folder that just comes bundled with the latest releases that way it works with the latest source and can be removed in the project, probably helps if the example project doesn't need any changes to project settings aswel.

    It seems no framework is really supporting it out of the box or providing a example project of it working, I wouldn't know how it could be supported going by the fact it isn't already supported makes me think it's not that easy to add in the framework otherwise it would already be.
     
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  16. g_a_p

    g_a_p

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    SmartFoxServer 2X provides TCP and UDP out of the box and you can decide which requests use either of the two.
    Demos are available for multiple platform, Unity included. The FPS demo specifically uses both TCP and UDP.
    http://docs2x.smartfoxserver.com/ExamplesUnity/fps

    Cheers
     
  17. TwoTen

    TwoTen

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    I don't see why you want TCP? What's wrong with RUDP?

    As for figuring out how the lib works. That's what we have the wiki for https://midlevel.github.io/MLAPI/wiki/
     
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  18. Player7

    Player7

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    Will give that a look at then.
     
  19. Player7

    Player7

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    the comment was more about the example demos.. RUDP might be fine overall.
     
  20. Player7

    Player7

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    Had a bunch of conflicts with Websockets with Smartfox because every framework wants to use the freaking names for things and not use namespaces.. not really good seeing as it's a bunch of dll's

    And the Unity examples are downloading at 130kb/s :(
     
  21. g_a_p

    g_a_p

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    I am not sure what you mean by that, what conflicts? Care to clarify?

    Thanks
     
  22. Player7

    Player7

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    it was conflicting with https://github.com/RevenantX/LiteNetLib which I'm currently using in the project.. and uprooting it out at this point would be a hassle, I'd rather move things over to another framework that is in the same project bits at a time if I'm going to switch
     
  23. Serinx

    Serinx

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    Thanks for your input everyone, this list is getting huge!
    Who knew there were so many options.

    Please, if anyone is able, take a look at the list and suggest any pros/cons where needed if you have experience with the solution.

    Cheers
     
  24. Joe-Censored

    Joe-Censored

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    This ^^^

    If you want the entire solution to be TCP, that is fine. It has its pros as well as its cons. But mixing both TCP and UDP together can create its own problems. For example, how do you deal with successfully connecting only one of the two? How do you deal with only one of the two timing out mid game? I know it can be dealt with, but it could get messy, where keeping it all UDP, and just applying reliability to the traffic that you need to be reliable, seems to me actually a cleaner solution.
     
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  25. TCROC

    TCROC

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    I posted this Forum in Forge Networking's Discord and got this response:

    How does Forge [Forge Networking Remastered] compare to other networking libraries?

    1. Open source: Unlike Unity [UNET] or Photon [PUN/BOLT] Forge allows you access to the source code. This allows anyone to improve or fix possible bugs in Forge. With UNET a seeming lack of official support means you're stuck with Unity's black box. It also means someone with a passion to learn can see how Forge operates.

    2. Cost: UNET as far as I can tell has two options. Unity can handle everything for you from hosting servers, matchmaking, relays servers, and NAT punch through but you will have to pay them per CCU's for the convenience of having everything done for you. Or UNET allows you to host your own servers for free, but you will have to handle all the back end things yourself. With Photon you must pay to use any of their services.

    PUN is a networking library which tightly integrates with Unity. Hosting servers, matchmaking, relay servers, and NAT punch through are all handled for you but there are downsides which we will discuss under Server Setup. BOLT is probably the most fully featured networking library available for purchase. It handles many things automatically that other libraries including Forge require you to make yourself, but opinions vary on the reliability of Photon's customer support and how good the documentation actually is. Forge on the other hand is completely free. However, paying to host your own server, creating matchmaking and relays servers, or making NAT punch through work, must be done by you. You can either do this yourself with the help of pre-provided templates or take advantage of the built-in platform features that Steam, Xbox, and PS4 provide.
     
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  26. Jamster

    Jamster

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    Ceciphar posted this in the Discord forum so I'll weigh in! Massive disclaimer: I'm the developer, but I'll try and make this unbias.

    DarkRift Networking 2
    Pros:

    • TCP and UDP support, or can be swapped out for any other protocol or network library you fancy
    • No dependency on Unity
    • Very low level and gives you massive amounts of control
    • Fully authoritative and extensible
    • Unlimited users for free!
    • Very well optimized
    • Pretty good documentation
    • Runs on .NET Core * /.NET Framework/Mono
    • Includes source code *
    • Includes matchmaking system *
    * If you purchase the Pro version

    Cons:
    • Only one developer (me!)
    • Requires mid tier C# skills
    Model - Client/Server

    I wonder if it's worth compiling this all in a GitHub repository/GitHub.io page for people to reference and maintain in the future?
     
  27. Ceciphar

    Ceciphar

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    agreed
     
  28. Serinx

    Serinx

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    I'm happy for someone else to do this if they want to :p post the link here if you do!
     
  29. Serinx

    Serinx

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    Does anyone have experience using GameSparks? Particularly the Real Time Services?
    I've played around with the Authentication, leaderboards, messaging system and data storage and it seems great for that.
    It seems like the realtime service is pretty barebones in that it simply allows you to send packets between players.
    You have to handle network instantiation, networked positions and network events yourself using the packets.
    I really like how it works bar the realtime stuff, but I'm not sure I want to use GameSparks if I need to end up integrating another solution to handle the realtime synchronisation.

    I'm going to run through this tutorial which will hopefully give me some insight:
    https://docs.gamesparks.com/tutorials/real-time-services/real-time-game-example.html
     
  30. proepkess

    proepkess

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    I don't know if it fits in here but if you're planning to create a game with many entities (RTS, Moba, ..) you may want to peek into
    https://github.com/proepkes/UnityLockstep

    Still in very early stages though
     
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  31. Harrier

    Harrier

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    I am too looking for network solution, i think that forge have authoritative player controller in examples so i might use that.

    edit: i can't find where i saw it

    I also found this, is this only for p2p?
    https://github.com/Facepunch/Facepunch.Steamworks
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2019
  32. tobiass

    tobiass

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    I re-read the updated first post and would like to point out a few things that are sometimes overlooked.
    Disclaimer: I work on the Photon team for 10 years plus.

    About Sockets:
    When you start implementing a network lib with Sockets, be aware that you have to make them run on each target platform with each new update of Unity and on all devices that may or may not be bugged each. Routers and ISPs can cause issues, too. You can sink a lot of time on this, even on well supported platforms. Consoles are yet another topic.
    Any network solution should give you a big boost in this regard already.

    About player-hosted games:
    Connectivity between players is not a given - even today. NAT punch through is a must-have but requires a service. When a player hosts the game and three or more connect to that machine, you are in trouble when the host goes offline, crashes or is too busy/slow to run the game properly. Also, the network should better be good.
    The more players you get into a match, the more benefits has a dedicated server.

    About Dedicated Headless Instances:
    Yes, technically this is the best approach to be authoritative. Be aware that you have to manage the instances and machines to run those. There are services to do this (but it's another service to book). This approach affects matchmaking. It is costly per player, if you need the server CPU and GPU to run physics and the whole game. Cloud hosting sounds good but may be costly when traffic kicks in. Make sure to load test with full rooms, maxing out a machine.
    Of course, various successful games use this approach.


    Just a few thoughts.
     
  33. Joe-Censored

    Joe-Censored

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    If your game is targeting just 1 or 2 platforms this isn't a big deal (like if you're just going for Win/Mac standalone), but if you're going for a large number of platforms it could enter nightmare territory easily, so good advice.
    This is no joke. What seems like a simple concept has months of my time building out my own system to handle this type of thing.
     
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  34. lukanin

    lukanin

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    I wonder why, for example, RakNet isn't mentioned?
    From what I've read people have had successful experience wrapping it and using from c# / Unity.
    Seems more reasonable than writing your own engine on sockets, with lots of low level problems already solved.
     
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  35. tobiass

    tobiass

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    When RakNet was bought by Oculus, I think a lot of people somehow lost track of it.
    There are dozens of "low level" libraries that make UDP reliable (on demand), save and provide a bunch of features as stable solution. Unless you want to make a networking lib, consider this as a lowest level you want to go. Again, platform support should be a consideration.
     
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  36. Joe-Censored

    Joe-Censored

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    I think another reason is the original Unity network solution, which was recently removed, was based on RakNet. So at the time if you wanted to use RakNet, you might as well use the built in Unity networking. Problems with Unity's legacy networking, whatever their cause, and their deprecating/removing that solution hasn't seemed to raise the appeal of using RakNet either, especially with more alternatives today than at the time.

    RakNet's own website still claims it is integrated into Unity, and basically to just use the built in networking still rather than providing installation instructions, or to contact them for licensing of newer RakNet versions. Since it is no longer true that RakNet is integrated and has been deprecated for years, this doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in RakNet working with Unity either. (I have no idea if there are any problems, but if I was looking into using RakNet with Unity and saw this page, I'd probably just click away after seeing the out of date info still posted as current)

    http://www.jenkinssoftware.com/raknet/manual/csharpunity.html
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2019
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  37. R1PFake

    R1PFake

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    I agree with you, but you make it sound like there is a different solution instead of using sockets?
    Sure if you use a networking lib you don't deal with them directly, but the libs still use sockets somehow/somewhere in their code?
     
  38. tobiass

    tobiass

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    I was unclear then. Yes, all network communication uses Sockets. I just wanted to point out that it can be tricky to deal with Sockets directly. Unity does a great job supporting Sockets on all platforms but there can be really sneaky issues from time to time.
     
  39. R1PFake

    R1PFake

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    Ah I see, makes sense, I was a little confused by that part.
    I wonder if it would help to use .NET Core (or whatever it is called currently) for networking libs since their Socket implementation(s) should be built/tested with different plattforms in mind, atleast for windows/linux? I never tested it, but I think Unity supports .NET Core nowadays?
     
  40. RevenantX

    RevenantX

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    @Serinx LiteNetLib actually not client/server. You can use it as client/server but this is P2P (no diferrence in LiteNet)
     
  41. tobiass

    tobiass

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    Is it true P2P or everyone connects to a host?
     
  42. TwoTen

    TwoTen

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    LiteNetLib is not really a high level abstraction. Pretty much a Reliable UDP transport
     
  43. doctorpangloss

    doctorpangloss

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    A networking thread that omits UnityWebRequest, i.e., HTTP requests, the most successful networking technology in the history of the world!?

    UnityWebRequest
    Pros:
    - It's a freakin' HTTP request. How much easier can it get?
    - Completely and utterly free, head to toe.
    - The world's most successful networking technology.
    - Write your server in any language and any platform.
    - Want realtime networking? Use long polling or server sent events! You don't need web sockets.
    - Great performance. Native buffers, worker threaded by default.
    - Uses your platform's native web request, like libcurl or fetch, instead of mono.
    - The Internet is purpose built and optimized, for decades, to serve HTTP data.
    - The biggest software ecosystem in the world.
    - The best documentation. Want to build an X using a web technology? Someone's already done it and wrote about it because "thought leadership."
    - Server/client architecture that is proven, in a Darwinian way, to be the only one viable for any networking application besides copyright piracy and facilitating payments for illegal drugs.
    - Extremely thoughtful in how it constrains you. Typically, there's a good reason HTTP/2 works the way it does.
    - The best fit for pretty much every game people actually play that is developed by a small
    team.
    - A great fit for Apple Design, IGF, other festival winners.
    Cons:
    - A very bad fit for first person shooters.
    - A very bad fit for Rocket League, a multiplayer physics game with, obviously, a deeply network-sync-optimized physics model that Unity doesn't have anyway.
    - So a very bad fit for the top of the Steam charts?
    - Big pain to develop web applications in Visual Studio on Windows. But the same could be said about iOS apps, and if you're in the business of making games for people who actually buy games, then this isn't a problem for you.
    - Not as interesting of a problem to solve, because there's less engineering to do.
    - Unfriendly to programmer ego. Everything is already super optimized.

    What's awesome about the Unity connected games forum is what it tells you about which technologies work. The ones people aren't asking questions about are the best.

    It's like looking at the planes that come back from battle, and reinforcing the armor where you see the bullet holes. No! You reinforce the armor on the parts of the plane that are not damaged, because when it was damaged, those planes didn't make it back!

    However, I'll say that using HTTP isn't at all as intellectually stimulating as writing your own networking layer. There's something to be said that stimulating is work that gets done, and so if your work isn't stimulating, you won't do it. I don't begrudge you for writing your own networking madness, because only the games that are fun to make get made, not the ones that are fun to play.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2019
  44. Player7

    Player7

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    Can't confirm. ..can anyone confirm? :D
     
  45. F-R-O-S-T-Y

    F-R-O-S-T-Y

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    Hey,

    I have started a google document where I am first trying to describe the high level networking solutions available. I've also written down as easily as possible explanations to some important concepts in game networking.
    The document is still a work in progress. I have also enabled comments so if something is incorrect, should be changed or added, then you can either comment there or leave a post here.
    I still need to somehow list all the features of each framework and also add suggestions on which frameworks to use for which type of games, add samples where the frameworks are used and much more stuff.

    I am hoping to create a comprehensive guide to any developer that is stuck between deciding which networking solution to use. I am also hoping that this will be a collaborative work that can in future be pinned somewhere so it is easily accessible.

    The link to the document:
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ufcl6_ylbzthfmzzZ7HPiwDLR0sr1N3UAunUG9rnisY/edit?usp=sharing

    Cheers!
     
    II_Spoon_II likes this.
  46. TwoTen

    TwoTen

    Joined:
    May 25, 2016
    Posts:
    1,146
    That document would fit much better as a GitHub Repo, optionally with a Github hosted website to allow for contributions.
     
  47. Jirka-Mayer

    Jirka-Mayer

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2019
    Posts:
    7
    All the mentioned tools solve the gameplay itself, but how would you go about storing player data in between playing sessions? Thanks.
     
  48. voncarp

    voncarp

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2012
    Posts:
    167
    Any of the large Cloud Providers (AWS, Google Cloud, IBM, etc) have free tiers, storage, or limited practice server instances for you to save any data you need provided you have the skill and knowledge of their solutions.
     
  49. g_a_p

    g_a_p

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2015
    Posts:
    148
    Actually SmartFoxServer can be easily integrated with a database (MySQL for example) to store all the data you need.
     
  50. Jirka-Mayer

    Jirka-Mayer

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2019
    Posts:
    7
    Well both of these options are valid, but they seem a bit hardcore. Both are rather general. I would have to implement a lot of common logic (eg. player registration) myself. It's about a month of work and learning, before I get to the interesting game-related stuff.

    The reason I'm asking is that I would like to create such a service. And I would like to make it such that you could already do a lot with it, with only little knowledge about databases or the internet. I already sketched out some code snippets of how I would like it to be used. Do you think anyone would be even interested at all? Thanks.