Guides/Platform Development/Components/Space

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Space

The space provides the actual world: it enforces the physical laws that objects obey. Objects connect to it and it provides the coordinate system, simulates global effects like physics, and enables interaction between objects.

From the perspective of objects connected to the space (or their object hosts) a space provides these logical service:

  • Presence (also known as space membership, session management, authentication)
  • Coordinate System
  • Physical Simulation
  • Object Discovery
  • Interobject Communication

This image shows the software components of the space at a high level.

Space server architecture.png

We'll cover each logical service and map it to the software components in the image. This mapping should guide you to the right classes and interfaces to look at when addressing a particular aspect of the system.

In the image, the Server is shown as encompassing all other components but has a dashed border. This shows that the Server has references to all these objects but doesn't create or own them all -- it ties them together and helps coordinate them. The Server can be thought of as the core service of the space server.

Presence

When an object wants to enter the world, the space acts as the guardian. The policy for entrance is pluggable, but most of the machinery is the same regardless of the authentication method -- customization is provided simply by implementing different identify verification methods. In the code, authentication and presence management is driven by the Server class, supported by the ObjectHostConnectionManager and ObjectConnection classes. The Authenticator interface abstracts authentication methods.

In many existing systems, especially games, authentication is only required for clients: a distinction is made between objects in the world and avatars. In Sirikata, all objects require authentication. This may sound costly, but the cost can easily be mitigated by using intelligent Authenticator implementations.

Part of acquiring a presence in a world is providing the space with all the basic information necessary to represent the object in the world. In this respect, the code for presence management interacts with all other components since it provides initial values for them. This explains why it is managed in the central Server class, which ties together all the components of the space server.

Coordinate System

The unique aspect of virtual worlds is that objects inherit a shared, 3D space. The space provides the coordinate system, controls the extents of the world, and determines whether object's request positions can be set. "Location" in Sirikata refers to a collection of geometric properties in addition to position: velocity, orientation, rotational velocity, bounds, and mesh URL.

Coordinate Segmentation

The CoordinateSegmentation is an internal service for spaces which divides the world into regions and maps each region to a space server for simulation. It can map from a position to the space server managing it as well as from a space server to the region managed by it. This is used by many other parts of the system since it lets them discover other servers they might need to communicate with.

LocationService

The LocationService is the externally visible service which maintains object locations. A LocationService implementation is essentially a large table storing information for each object. As necessary, this information is replicated to the LocationService on other space servers.

LocationService also provides a subscription service: objects can be subscribed for updates about other objects positions (currently performed only by Proximity). Instead of always sending all updates to all listeners, LocationUpdatePolicy determines when updates should be sent to objects. For instance, the update policy might reduce the rate of updates when the messaging system is overloaded or send updates more frequently to nearby objects since changes will be more significant to them.

Physical Simulation

Physical simulation is just a set of constraints on the values stored in LocationService: requests to change position must be checked for validity and a continuous simulation must be run to update those values according to the laws of physics for the world. This is shown in the figure as the Physics component intercepting requests from objects before they reach the location service.

Object Discovery

Once objects are inhabiting the world, they need to be able to interact. Aside from the physical simulation, this occurs through interobject messaging. But to message an object, you must first know how to address it. The process of learning object identifiers is called "object discovery."

Sirikata restricts object discovery to simple geometric queries. This enables efficient implementation and objects can filter results further when they receive the results. In Sirikata the query has a single parameter: a solid angle. All with solid angle larger than this value from the perspective of the querying object will be returned.

Because this interface is fixed and the default implementation is efficient, unlike most other components, object discovery isn't abstracted into an interface and an implementation via plugin. Instead, the class Proximity implements query handlers, including hanlding interaction with other servers to return objects connected to other servers.

Proximity interacts heavily with LocationService, which provides all the state required to evaluate queries. It also uses CoordinateSegmentation to determine which other servers to communicate with. This process is handled by the PintoServerQuerier class.

Interobject Communication

Once an object has identifiers for other objects, it needs to interact with them. It does so by sending Object Datagram Protocol (ODP) messages. These are formatted and have semantics a lot like UDP or IP packets: they have source and destination addresses and ports and a payload. The system knows nothing more about the format of the packets (unless they are destined for a space service such as LocationService or Proximity). Packets are best-effort: they may be dropped if the space servers are overwhelmed with traffic.

The two components responsible for getting messages to their destination are the ObjectSegmentation and the Forwarder.

ObjectSegmentation

In order to deliver a packet, the space server needs to know where to deliver it. The first step is to lookup which space server the destination object resides on. The ObjectSegmentation class performs this lookup, and externally looks like an asynchronous key-value store. In order to avoid unnecessary lookups (ObjectSegmentation storage may be on another node, requiring a network hop), OSegCache caches previously retrieved entries. To avoid a backlog, OSegLookupQueue manages the total number of outstanding queries, and also allows coalescing of requests for the same destination object's data.

Forwarder

With the destination server in hand, forwarding begins. This is handled by the Forwarder class. A supporting class LocalForwarder handles checking for and forwarding to local objects. Otherwise, at its simplest, the Forwarer just ships the packet to the appropriate server, using the ServerIDMap to convert from a server's unique identifier to an IP address.

In practice, the Forwarder is much more complicated: it has to ensure competing flows between objects don't deny service to other flows, also manages communication between space servers and balances it with interobject communication, and make sure messages destined for space server components make it to their appropriate destination. Additional supporting classes include ODPFlowScheduler and ForwarderServiceQueue.

Transport Protocols

For users, it can be very inconvenient to work with best-effort datagrams. Much of the time, they'd prefer a reliable protocol, possibly stream oriented. The core system provides one such protocol based on Structured Streams (SST). The templated Stream class (and templated Connection class for support) implement this abstraction. This protocol is used between the space server and object host for services that need reliability or ordering. For instance, because Proximity results contain deltas, ordering is important. These updates are sent over SST.

Extensions

These are the core set of services provided, but one could extend the space to provide additional services. One example where this might make sense is audio mixing: the space server can more efficiently mix audio for each client as well as collaborate with nearby space servers to generate a more complete mix than a client might be able to.

If you'd like to add extensions like this, you should structure them as a generic interface which fits into the architecture. A dummy implementation (plugin) should allow spaces to run without the service and your implementation would provide the actual service. Note that usually adding an extension requires modifying both the space and the object host.