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Peter Soxberger kindly took the time to answer the questions for this month's interview.
Q: What are the main advantages of ANet over Gamestudio’s built-in multiplayer?
A: I started creating ANet after trying to do something with the built-in Gamestudio multiplayer. The Gamestudio multiplayer was very unhandy, unstable and I missed a lot of features. So I made my first tries with the ENet library using it in a Gamestudio plugin. The game I created at this time required more and more features so I more and more improved the plugin: I implemented server lists, an entity management system (it handles global entities), voice chat,... I was convinced that this plugin is exactly what everybody needs when he wants to create a multiplayer game. So I made it available for the community and also implemented their wishes. To say it in one sentence: the biggest advantage of ANet is that it was created during developing a game, so I exactly knew what features would be useful and would make the development easier. Thus the plugin has all features that are needed to finish a professional multiplayer game. Another advantage is the support. I'm having a lot of contact with ANet users so I know where problems commonly occur and with that knowledge I can improve the quality of my product and give better support.
Q: What is the difference between the Web, Professional and Standard ANet editions?
A: The Web edition offers features for server lists (LAN and internet) and Online Highscores because of the supported protocols like FTP (for sending and downloading files), UDP (for searching servers in a LAN) and HTTP (communicating with a database like SQL over a php script). If you create a game with the native Gamestudio multiplayer you could use the Web Edition as extension because server lists can only be done with Gamestudio Professional without using external plugins.
The Standard edition is the best for starting with your own multiplayer game. It offers 32 connections per server, has all standard multiplayer features (like sending variables, strings and structs or create and manage global entities, an event system, ...). The Proffesional edition is for serious multiplayer game development. It has all features of ANet Web and Standard plus more (like encrypted data transfer, file sending from client to server and vice versa, unlimited connections, voice chat, ...). A detailed table where the editions are compared can be found here: http://www.anet-plugin.com/home2_eng.htm
Q: What are the limitations of the ANet demo / trial edition?
A: The ANet demo has the same features like the Professional edition but is limited to 4 connections per server and shuts itself down after a few minutes. It's ideal for doing the first steps in multiplayer without spending money while using the whole capabilities of ANet Professional.
Q: Can you name a few games that are using your multiplayer plugin?
A: There are a lot of very good projects. Some of them are already well known by the community. Just to name a few:
- "William Sworin's: Silas" uses ANet for searching for servers.
- "CSIS" is a space shooter that uses ANet for the whole multiplayer.
- "Golden Eye Remake" (that was Darkinferno's contest entry for one of the Gamestudio contests) uses ANet for the whole multiplayer.
- "Tux Racer" uses ANet for the whole multiplayer.
- "Airfight2" uses ANet for the whole multiplayer.
The games are presented on this site: http://www.anet-plugin.com/games_eng.htm
Q: What is the needed bandwidth for the “voice chat” feature?
A: The voice chat uses the free Speex codec. This codec gives very good results at high compression and is used by Teamspeak and in a lot of games. You can select between quality and bandwidth. The better the quality, the higher the bandwidth. Lowest quality is around 2 kB/s, highest is around 10 kB/s per participant. It is also possible to implement "push to talk" so that you only send something if a button is pressed (to reduce bandwidth).
Q: How many people can play a regular shooter game using ANet and Gamestudio over a broadband internet connection (we only need an estimation, of course)?
A: This totally depends on the way the shooter is implemented. There are methods that support a high number of participants but are maybe not that correct when it comes to detect if a shot hit something or not. On the other hand there are methods that detect shots very exactly but support only a few number of players. So it totally depends on what you want. ANet gives you no limits though. If you have a good algorithm / method for synchronizing player movements I see no reason why 16 or more players should be a problem.
Q: What advice would you give to a beginner that wants to implement multiplayer in his / her game?
A: Don't start with your multiplayer game before you don't know how multiplayer works. Multiplayer can be simple if you understand what you do (I think I don't have to mention that creating a second WOW is never a good idea). If you start working on complex things before you know how the basics work it will end up in something unusable (because of high traffic, things will behave strange and won't be synchronized on all connected PCs, ...). ANet offers a lot of tutorials and examples to start with (they can be found on the homepage and are free). Once you know the basics, you can start developing your own game.
If you got interested in multiplayer development, visit http://www.anet-plugin.com.
Thank you a lot, Peter!