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TI Gaming Network Project

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That would be a hoot!

As for the serial to Ethernet aspect, I guess I need to understand better how that would work from a connectivity standpoint. How would the TI server process all the information being sent to it from the slave consoles? How would it know which one is talking to it and how would it selectively talk back? I wouldn't mind any assistance you can provide here at all :D

 

Aany client could be identified by its IP address. However, that does not work very well when multiple people are behind a single NATd router. Thus, it would probably be good to just have a new client make an initial "I need and ID" request to the server. The server passes back a new unique ID that it uses to identify the client from that point forward. Then, all requests after that from the client need to include that ID.

 

As for what gets sent to / from the client and server, that is totally up in the air. Your initial data protocol that you were thinking of for the parallel port would work. In the game loop, all clients send their *desired* location information. Once the server receives this information from all clients, it sends back *real* location information to all the clients.

 

This is not totally how online games work, but it is close, and this way everyone would stay in sync. But, a single client with high latency would cause everyone to suffer. So, each client could just send its desired location, then immediately receive real location that is as up to date as possible.

 

The desired vs. real location has to do with the server actually playing the game itself. When a client says "I'm at location x,y", the server sees if that location is valid before saying "ok" and sending your location to the other clients. This helps prevent cheating or illegal moves, but it also means the clients don't have to do location validity checking for all the other players in the game. The server is keeping track of where everyone is, bullets flying, who is shooting who, who is blowing up, where the monsters are, etc.

 

You will see this kind of thing in a modern MMORPG or FPS that is played online. You will be running, then all of a sudden you will be *back* a few steps. That's because you were running forward and your local client was rendering you running in the map, as well as sending your updated location information to the server. You local client always assumes its information is being received by the server. At some point there was probably some lag, and when it caught up the server said "no no no, *this* is where you really are", and your client updated your location based on what the server said. Thus you see a "jump" and all of a sudden you are back where you were 10 seconds ago.

 

It can all get very complicated no matter what physical network is used. For our retro systems, we want to keep the load on the machines as low as possible, so having a real server is probably a good idea (meaning don't use a retro computer for a server.) We also probably don't care as much about people modifying the code or network data to try and cheat (but we should always keep it in mind.) Maybe we can come up with a universal kind of game engine that does not restrict the kind of game being played, ie. you could use it to write just about any kind of game.

 

Lots to think about I guess. It *can* be simple, relatively speaking, since adding coordination and synchronization between even two computers adds a certain amount of complexity.

 

Matthew

That's what I'm afraid of... I don't think we can realistically have a TI server do location checks and the like because it will slow things down quite a bit as it is doing work for 3 other consoles. I would prefer to have each individual console do its own checking locally in order to minimize the lag. What I'm going to do is code the protocol for a PIO network and test it out with just 2 consoles and see what issues come up for simplicity's sake. That way I can at least demonstrate a proof of concept. I'll add a third console if everything works out and go from there. If I hit major issues, then we'll look at the serial to ethernet option and I will definitely need your help here with the coding on the server side, likely a linux box. I have a PEB based system and another with a CF7, so I should be set. Does anyone here know if the CF7 parallel port is set up like the TI?

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I can do FreeBSD/Linux side server programming in C or PHP. I even have a well connected machine to host a server if we get that far. :)

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I can do FreeBSD/Linux side server programming in C or PHP. I even have a well connected machine to host a server if we get that far. :)

All right! I'll get cracking and should have a preliminary report by month's end :)

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