Cameron Albert

Ramblings of software development, games and technology.

Client/Server Communication Data Formats

While developing Perenthia I tried several different communication formats from sending JSON serialized objects back and forth to sending byte arrays containing mostly integers indicating what should be loaded and displayed, what commands to execute etc. What I eventually settled on was a bit of a hybrid. I've created a simple set of "tags" that can be sent to and from the server. The tags are nothing more than pipe delimited strings contained within curly braces and there are a limited number of tags that provide simplicity yet flexibility with the data that is transmitted. The tags are represented in C# by tag objects allow me to create them, query them, etc.

A simple command tag for the SAY command might look like this: {CMD|SAY|"Hello World!"}

I wrote a custom tag writer class that parses the tag objects into strings to be sent to the client and likewise a tag reader that reads the strings sent from the client and parses them into tag objects.

The client can only send commands to the server but the server sends commands, messages and objects to the client. The commands are all the same, the CMD text then the one word name of the command and then a list of arguments, messages are system, chat and tell messages but objects have a bit more information. For instance, an object tag encompasses several different types starting with a base ACTOR, a PLACE, a PLAYER and a PROP or property. The ACTOR, PLACE and PLAYER tags all define the ID, Name and Descriptions of the objects, with some additional data per type but the PROP tag defines the object id of its owner and a name/value pair. An example of a PLAYER tag with properties for x, y and z coordinates might be:

{OBJ|PLAYER|3756|"Aldarian"|"My character description…"}

{OBJ|PROP|3756|"X"|45}

{OBJ|PROP|3756|"Y"|26}

{OBJ|PROP|3756|"Z"|0}

The client can find and parse the player tag and then find the properties associated with that player instance. The way the server works now it will send the full player tag once logged in and a character is selected and then from then on out it just sends property updates.

Using this type of tag structure allows quite a bit of flexibility for the client. I could choose to write a very simple client that only displays MSG tags, much like a MUD, I could write a simple 2D interface client and display and move sprites about the map using the properties from the server, etc. Once Perenthia is up and running I will probably post some information on the tags and how to talk with the server should someone feel the need to write their own client. 🙂

Advertisements

Written by Cameron

January 5, 2009 at 11:41 pm

%d bloggers like this: