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Ramping Up the Server

Saturday, April 30, 2011 2:43pm
Lead Developer
Working on Antilia is generally a lot of fun - especially in months like March, when nearly every other day ended with a new tool, a new graphical enhancement, or new content. April was a little different, as this month I put some serious work into one of the most technically challenging (and least graphical) portions of the project...

The Server

The server as it existed in March was, well, pretty simple. Let's say... really simple. That's not to say it didn't do things - it could auto-patch the client and allow players to create characters... but once a player was in game, all it did was echo everything that player did to all other players who are logged in. That sort of strategy works when there are less than 16 players, but obviously Antilia's server will have to handle a lot more than that eventually.

This month, I set out to build a real server - one that could handle at least hundreds, preferably thousands of players... and honestly making that work is quite a bit more complicated than it first appears. I literally spent as much time in front of the white-board designing, drawing, erasing, and re-designing solutions to various problems as I did actually sitting down and writing the code. There are, in fact, still problems I am thinking about how I'm going to solve - sometimes it's hard to say how well a system performs until you see it in action, and see where your bottlenecks are. I do believe however, that I am finally on to a good solution - one that can actually do what needs to be done, with as few bottlenecks as I can manage.

New Character Meshes

Another set of goals this month included modeling a "base male" mesh, and the addition of the Lupan breed. Going from just a single mesh, to an interchangeable selection of multiple meshes has involved rethinking a few things, including the texture style. While the basic, solid-shaded Vulan textures looked okay a couple months ago when the client was just getting started, I feel that the landscaping and world detail are quickly beginning to outshine our characters. Yatra has been working on some more detailed textures for the Lupans, and I think they are looking great.

I'd love to include some screenshots - unfortunately they're not quite ready for presentation, and I didn't want the month to slip by without an update. I'll post screenshots including the new character meshes here on the blog as soon as they are ready.

Plans to Expand Testing

With the previous server testing was done by the volunteers, and primarily focused on checking that the client's basic functions worked. The new server, on the other hand, will need much more rigorous testing, and more testers. For that, I plan to expand testing to include members of the Antilia community, which can start with the completion of a few more tasks:
  • The new server is complete, online, and operational.
  • All of the Taipii breeds are available for play.
  • A few additional features are added to the client, to allow players to control graphic resolution, and remaining known bugs are fixed.
I'm currently planning for this to happen around the end of June/early July, and I'll release more details on how to participate in testing as the time for testing draws near. The game will still be in a 'development state' at that point, with only basic character creation, chat, and movement. This won't really be beta or even alpha testing... but rather just a start - and will help me identify potential trouble spots in the server and get a broader picture of which graphics cards can and can't run the game.
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