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Propagation of Visual Entity Properties Under Bandwidth Constraints
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Propagation of Visual Entity Properties Under Bandwidth Constraints


May 24, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 7 Next
 

3. Virtual Time Space - Interpolation

Yahn W. Bernier of Valve, made a presentation about Half-Life & Team Fortress Networking at the Game Developer Conference in 2000 [Bernier]. The idea was that instead of trying to predict the future (the principle of Dead Reckoning), why not make the past look like the present? When a client has received all updates for all entities in a scene, they are able to display an accurate and smooth animated view of the scene.

That is why a delay, called Lag Compensation Time (LCT), is introduced between the real action and the display on the other side of the transmission pipeline. The higher the LCT, the higher the number of updates received, the smoother the movements: if an avatar reaches a position before the next position is received from the server then it will have to stop and wait.

This results in jerky start-stop movement, especially if the position update rhythm varies, which is unavoidable when coming over the Internet. The goal of the LCT is to ensure that this doesn't happen, but the LCT needs to be as small as possible as it represents a lag or temporal inconsistency.

If two players have their screens side by side (Figure 3), they obviously will notice that their display is shifted in time. In some other situations, it may be noticed: for example, when two characters are trying to run together at the same time, they will have the feeling the other one is always behind, because their controlled character is not shifted in time (that would be a terrible control experience!).

Figure 3: Lag Compensation Time and Interpolation

This raises the problem of interaction between objects displayed in present time space (the player's avatar) and objects displayed in a past time space (remote characters, AI entities). One solution is to make the LCT vary according to the distance from the player's avatar. This idea is called temporal perception, or presentation time or sometimes local perception filters and comes from the analogy with the appearance of the stars in the sky: the farther the distance, the longer the time the light takes to come to us [Singhal-Zyda].

Anyway, if we want more accurate movement around the player’s avatar than at distant sight, updates of entities in the immediate vicinity of the observer should then have a higher priority than updates from distant entities. The goal is to minimize the error magnitude: a foreground entity (such as a melee adversary) may be displayed in a strikingly wrong position with less than 1 meter of positional error, while an entity farther away may not be perceptibly badly positioned despite a positional error of several meters which may only correspond to only a few pixels or less. With position updates that are less frequent for distant entities, the required LCT is greater. A flexible LCT allows one to minimise the lag for nearby characters while still avoiding jerkiness for background characters

It means we need a way to control the frequency of updates of viewed entities.

Time Synchronisation

Maintaining times across several machines needs a synchronization mechanism. Common synchronization schemes compute a delta between the local time of the client machine and a reference time, and transmitting a timestamp relative to the reference time. However, we noticed that many consumer PCs had internal clocks with a different speed, leading to desynchronization.

Moreover, for our server applications we adopted a flexible time system based on “ticks” sent by a conductor service, that would increase the current game cycle at a rate that was sustainable by all server applications: if a service had a sudden increase of workload, all services would wait for it, avoiding a vicious circle of congestion. The client time synchronization was thus based on the average time between two received messages, assuming the server regularly sends a message to each client.


Article Start Previous Page 3 of 7 Next

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