Optimizations roadmap

  • Culture

    > @W4rl0ck: It's very easy to limit API access to clients only if you control the clients. Hell, it's a browser based game, with a great community. Set a cookie, or better yet a header, have the web server look for it and tell the player base to back off.  It doesn't need to be super secure, hell, if we were told to stop using it outside the clients most everyone would comply. 

    Honestly I'd prefer they just asked us to rate limit the requests. It would be easy enough to add that into the client API code we wrote so all projects could start using it.

    That being said I'm curious how much third party usage is really causing issues-

    * The League website only updates every 6 hours, and it already has rate limiting built in to prevent it from hammering the API (this is why the upgrade takes more than 20 minutes). All it's doing is reading- there are no writes occurring. 

    * The "screeps-stats" project is set to buffer and rate limit as well. Every 10 seconds or so it reads a point in memory, optionally reads a point from segments, and then it writes back a single console command. There's a secondary system which also reads market orders every few minutes, which in turn also does a room lookup (to see who owns the room- similar to the lookup that happens when you browse the map)- this happens once per transaction at most though.

    * The "screeps-console" project mostly just reads the websocket. I'm not sure how much load this puts on things but if it would help I could look into setting a timer to kill the socket when the console was idle for too long- this was something I was thinking about doing anyways.

    Outside of all that I can't imagine that the third party tools are putting a larger load on the system than the game client itself is. That being said I also can't see what intel tools each alliance has built for themselves, just the ones the culture has, so while I know we're being smart about ratelimiting and using external resources (like the league's "rooms.js" file) I'm not sure others are. So if it really is worthwhile to put in some rate limiting on the node and python clients (since i'm assuming they're the most used ones) just let us know what you think reasonable numbers would be.

  • Culture

    Another note, the API is already rate limited, we can only hit it upto a few times per second before it heavily rate limits, websocket shouldn't be that much load, its using redis pubsub in the background so shouldn't even be touching the database, many things such as Memory are in redis already, so doesn't touch the database, there is still API calls that hit it, but overall our third party code shouldn't be hammering the database near enough to be an issue.

  • Culture

    On another point, I think you are all grossly underestimating the appeal of a second shard. I do not think that tick times should be the way to drive people to the new shard, as I think there are a ton of other reasons why players would be smart to use both shards.

    1. New players will use the less densely populated shard.

    Seriously, the new player experience sucks. If you spawn next to one of the "undiplomatic" alliances you are either going to eventually get absorbed or killed. If you spawn next to one of the alliances that's more friendly you're still going to either have to join up or limit your expansion space, and as a single player you're going to get squashed if you try and attack. Now imagine you've got five friends who want to join, possible as an alliance- where are you going to plop down?

    As territory has solidified there's less room for new players. Expanding the edges works, but doesn't scale. I love the idea of scaling "up" (on the Z axis, with rooms stacked on top of each other) as a way to deal with this. ALso, if we're totally honest with ourselves here even if the novice and spawn zones keep showing up on the old shard new players are more likely to go to the less densely packed area anyways.

    2. Established players will use the shard for defense.

    If I'm a player who has rooms on the "ground floor" (the existing shard), and I know that only a small amount of players have code to move between shards, I would be absolutely stupid not to have at least one backup room positions above my main world rooms. If someone attacks me and wipes out all of my rooms on the main world, but has no ability to go to the second world to take out my other rooms, then I can simply continue to send upgraders and room builders in to retake my lost rooms. It would be absolutely silly for established players not to take advantage of that.

    3. Established players will need to establish presence for strategic purposes.

    Why send troops through the main shard to attack another player when you can shove them up a level, have them walk over to the rooms and bypass creeps and observers in order to mount a surprise attack? To do this you're going to need pathfinding on both worlds, and to do that properly you'll want to have creeps and possible observers in the other shard.


    4. Smaller alliances may just up and move.

    If you open up enough space some of the smaller alliances- who have shown themselves willing to mass respawn together in the past- might just move upwards to avoid having to fight for space in an already crowded world.

    5. Open territory is valuable enough to drive people.

    Finally, I really feel that simply having the territory available will make it get used. if your options are to engage in a two week fight over rooms, or expand upwards for basically free, then you're going to expand upwards.


    For these reasons I find the whole argument about needing a smaller tick size to motivate people as premature. There are a ton of reasons why people would use the second shard and I think tick times are pretty down on the list. The tick time issue is also the largest issue that people seem to be upset about with this shard idea, so if you eliminate that difference I think this whole thing will go much more smoothly.

  • Dev Team

    Lower tick times isn't just the motivation for people to move. It's the motivation and the entire purpose for implementing world sharding at all. If we're fine with 5-second tick rate, then the world sharding system is not needed, and we can switch to another tasks like power creeps.

  • Culture

    > Lower tick times isn't just the motivation for people to move. It's the motivation and the entire purpose for implementing world sharding at all. If we're fine with 5-second tick rate, then the world sharding system is not needed, and we can switch to another tasks like power creeps.

    This statement makes me feel like you're not actually reading what people are saying here, or at least are not understanding it. Obviously we want lower tick times. But not at the expense of having two unequal worlds. 

    If you make a new shard, lock it to the same speed as the existing shard, AND PEOPLE STILL MOVE OVER TO THE NEW SHARD, then tick times for both shards should drop. What I am trying to say is you don't need to use tick times being faster on the new shard as motivation to move people over, as there are already a ton of things that would motivate people to do so (I even made a list above).

    This seems like the best of both worlds. You get multiple shards, and people migrate to the new ones which reducing load on the first shard. That in turn reduces tick times for the whole system, but doesn't cause people to get upset that one shard is "better" than the other. It also doesn't introduce all the strategic garbage that two separate tick times would bring (ie, i can use my spawns on the second shard to build troops twice as fast as the people on the first shard).

    So, just to be clear-

    * People want faster ticks.

    * People do not want different shards to have different tick rates.

    * People will migrate over to the new shard regardless of its tick rate.

    * The primary shard will have it's tick rate increase as people offload CPU to the second shard.

  • Dev Team

    @tedivm, I’m quoting your earlier post here:

    New players will naturally spawn to the new server but older players (the ones who have supported the game the most) have established themselves and many of them will not make likely make the jump. I don’t think the shards are likely to balance out soon.

    It’s still an open question whether the number of established players willing to respawn on the new shard is enough to reduce the load of the old one. In order to significantly improve performance they need to not only create colonies, but to respawn completely. Your reasons are fine, but they may not convince many established players to do so.

    And in the worst case we get two shards at terrible game speed instead of one.

  • YP

    I'm not against shards with different tick times... I think there could also be seasonal shards with a predefined life span like 4 month with separate ranking pages or shard with other changed constants or rules or stuff like that.

    Instead of just saying tick times must be eveywhere the same I think it's more important to think about what would be the problems with shorter tick rates on other shards. It's hard to say without more details how it would be implemented.

  • Culture

    I don't believe players will "jump" to the new server- I have no intentions of respawning- but with the right game play mechanics in place they would most certainly move over part of their code base.

    I will admit though that the more I thought about sharding as a game mechanic the cooler it sounded, so my earlier concerns have died down a bit compared to the tick rate concerns.


    > It’s still an open question whether the number of established players willing to respawn on the new shard is enough to reduce the load of the old one. In order to significantly improve performance they need to not only create colonies, but to respawn completely. Your reasons are fine, but they may not convince many established players to do so.

    So what you're saying is that you're hoping the tick times themselves will be enough to push people over. My point is I don't believe it's necessary. 


    > And in the worst case we get two shards at terrible game speed instead of one.

    The worst case scenario from the players perspective is that all of the loyal players who have been supporting this game for years are going to get screwed over in favor of new players on the new shard, with their only main option being to respawn on the new server. To be that's a much worse scenario that having two shards with lower tick rates.

    You're also ignoring a big thing here, which is that even if the tick times don't increase immediately they should stop slowing down. If we're stuck living with 4.5 second ticks, well, we've been living with that for months now. At least we don't have to deal with 8 or 10 second ticks, and once the shards balance out more (which will happen due to the factors I brought up) the tick times should start going down.


    If you look through all the posts the biggest complaint about sharding is the different tick rates. If you had said the tick rates were the same from the start I don't think there would be many real issues at all here with this mechanic. Why not just start with this mechanic to begin with, and if people don't end up moving consider changing the tick rates after?


  • YP

    I have looked through the posts and only found 3 or 4 players who say tick rates have to be synchronized... some multiple times but I wouldn't call it "all the people" by now. Some have concerns about how the top lists would work for example, but that is a question that could be solved. 

    I don't see a reason why new players,  that want to start in a new shard, should have to live with 5 second tick rates.. the tick rates will probably synchronize when the shard population converges. I think the current tick rate is bad for "old" players.. but it is even worse for new players that only have a single room to watch and work.

  • Culture

    I personally am not concerned about the differing tick rates, as as artem and others have pointed out, they will start converging at some point on their own. At this point I think sharding is a good solution, maybe in the future a way to recombine them may be developed. 

    Is sharding itself going to be available on private servers? I can completely see people creating a cluster of small low-cost servers and running a larger PS on them.

    Any idea what the max world size of the shards are going to be? I personally would like to see them smaller than the existing world, maybe 50x50 or 100x100 at most.

  • SUN

    I'm not worried about the different tick rates either; I feel every problem that has been identified can plausibly be solved satisfactorily without kneecapping the tick rates of new shards.


    Even the comparative increase in spawn rates could solved by rate limiting the portals somehow.


  • I don't find myself agreeing often with Tedivm, but I do now.

    I believe the synchronized tick times would be necessary in order to maintain game balanced and the one world feel.

    I've also had my worries alleviated to an extent. The idea of shards does feel quite interesting now and provides some very intriguing possibilities. If you couple the shards with a nice 3rd structure representation of some sort on how shards are connected, that would make it even cooler.

    The sharding does provide a nice encapsulation of game state allowing for a solid scalability plan.

    It's perhaps important to realize that having the tick times as low as possible shouldn't really be the target of the game. Instead, the game world should aim for a specific tick rate. A tick rate that we all feel makes the most "sense" considering game balance and the relationship between the game and real life. For super low tick rates there's always simulator or private servers.

    My suggestion, of course, would be 3.6s per tick. That allows a very easy conceptualization of the game world in terms of real time: 1k ticks are 1hour. Alternatively, 2.4s would be another decent number to aim for since that would make 1 creep last 1 hour.

    In fact, I would suggest that even if we eventually have the ability to lower tick rates below those numbers, that the tick times be artificially held to those values. The extra hardware capacity would come in handy to ensure tick time consistency.

    One last important point. I would strongly advise that coupled with sharing you shatter the main world. The current world is too big to be a single shard considering the current performance issues. Make it a fancy event of some sort. Draw some lines which will become the shards. This gives players/alliances incentive to preemptively position themselves so they end up in a single (or multiple) shards.

    Or go crazy and just reset the world, but I do feel if you do shards, the current main world needs to be adjusted somehow or it will never be "playable".

  • A shattering event could be really fun. Would anyone really be upset to have their empire distributed among multiple shards?

    Some world position logic might be disrupted, but otherwise there's no reason to change room names.

  • Culture

    I personally don't have any opposition to a "shattering" (which, as a bonus, already has a really cool name) but I also am entirely in a single quadrant.

    If there was a special testing setup for people to have time testing across multiple shards and coordinate the "shattering" event then I think active players who are in multiple quadrants would actually have an advantage over the fact that they would already be spread out. That being said I can also many reasons why people would not be a fan of this, so I would definitely recommend getting more community feedback before really considering it.

  • Culture

    Another option, rather than a shattering, do a gradual depreciation of the world, disable respawning into it and /or encourage users to spawn in the newer shard(s) instead, then in the future it may be empty enough you could shrink the current world or disable it entirely

    On the other hand, if a shattering occurred, (say, on the double highways to make 4 shards), it would be interesting having the one room on one shard while all the other rooms are on a different one, would be a nice opporunity to work on multi-shard code and cross-shard travelling.

  • SUN

    A 'shattering' event would be awesome. 

    But if it isn't 'opt in' somehow (even if it is just everyone in a sector/sector group agreeing to shatter that section) I can see players getting frustrated. This is since it has the potential to completely destroy any hard-coded configuration (but if you have an empire of a decent size you probably have relatively little of it (or at the very least it is easily managed etc.))

    Now that isn't to say that the players in the sector(s) who want to shatter can't just boot out the nonconformists via force (or vice versa).


    Plus I want to get out the popcorn and watch entire areas of the map go dark.

  • int_max

    A shattering event sounds cool, but I think just creating a new shard and "blacklisting" some sectors so people can't move into them would probably work.

  • AYCE

    I'm no game designer, so these ideas may be terrible, or interesting.

    One thing I think Screeps is missing is some variety on the map. There is little in the way of strategic areas. As long as you have space, you are happy. There isn't much of, oh hey look so and so's space is better than mine, I should take that. Or, I need that space for some strategic reason.

    Someone had mentioned a while back about Z index on the shards. What if the shards were vertical from each other, and the portals between them went vertically? Meaning my room at W1N1 would in some way be able to portal to shard above and below me at the same room. This would add some strategic reasoning to position between shards, and connect them in a physical meaningful way.

    Additionally I'd love to see special areas of some kind appear on the map such that we could fight over them.

  • int_max

    @Timendainum you mean have them be less of a portal and more of a ladder?

  • > What if the shards were vertical from each other, and the portals between them went vertically?

    This is a truly great idea! It would make shards (probably called "levels" then) feel more like an intrinsic concept of the game world and less like a workaround for database performance bottleneck. (I still would prefer solving that problem by switching databases, however.)