Jenkins Software

Reliability Types
Control how and when with packet priority and reliability types

/// These enumerations are used to describe when packets are delivered.
enum PacketPriority
	IMMEDIATE_PRIORITY, /// The highest possible priority. These message trigger sends immediately, and are generally not buffered or aggregated into a single datagram.
	Messages at HIGH_PRIORITY priority and lower are buffered to be sent in groups at 10 millisecond intervals
	HIGH_PRIORITY,   /// For every 2 IMMEDIATE_PRIORITY messages, 1 HIGH_PRIORITY will be sent.
	MEDIUM_PRIORITY,   /// For every 2 HIGH_PRIORITY messages, 1 MEDIUM_PRIORITY will be sent.
	LOW_PRIORITY,   /// For every 2 MEDIUM_PRIORITY messages, 1 LOW_PRIORITY will be sent.
PacketPriority is simple. High priority packets go out before medium priority packets and medium priority packets go out before low priority packets do. Originally I raised the priority of packets that took a long time to get out, but in practice this would disrupt games in progress as unimportant data to new connections (such as the map data) would get in the way of the game data.

/// These enumerations are used to describe how packets are delivered.
enum PacketReliability

Unreliable packets are sent by straight UDP. They may arrive out of order, or not at all. This is best for data that is unimportant, or data that you send very frequently so even if some packets are missed newer packets will compensate.
Advantages - These packets don't need to be acknowledged by the network, saving the size of a UDP header in acknowledgment (about 50 bytes or so). The savings can really add up.
Disadvantages - No packet ordering, packets may never arrive, these packets are the first to get dropped if the send buffer is full.

Unreliable sequenced
Unreliable sequenced packets are the same as unreliable packets, except that only the newest packet is ever accepted. Older packets are ignored. Advantages - Same low overhead as unreliable packets, and you don't have to worry about older packets changing your data to old values.
Disadvantages - A LOT of packets will be dropped since they may never arrive because of UDP and may be dropped even when they do arrive. These packets are the first to get dropped if the send buffer is full. The last packet sent may never arrive, which can be a problem if you stop sending packets at some particular point.

Note that the transmission of one of the three reliable packets types is required for the detection of lost connections. If you never send reliable packets you need to implement lost connection detection manually.

Reliable packets are UDP packets monitored by a reliablilty layer to ensure they arrive at the destination.
Advantages - You know the packet will get there. Eventually...
Disadvantages - Retransmissions and acknowledgments can add significant bandwidth requirements. Packets may arrive very late if the network is busy. No packet ordering.

Reliable ordered
Reliable ordered packets are UDP packets monitored by a reliability layer to ensure they arrive at the destination and are ordered at the destination. Advantages - The packet will get there and in the order it was sent. These are by far the easiest to program for because you don't have to worry about strange behavior due to out of order or lost packets.
Disadvantages - Retransmissions and acknowledgments can add significant bandwidth requirements. Packets may arrive very late if the network is busy. One late packet can delay many packets that arrived sooner, resulting in significant lag spikes. However, this disadvantage can be mitigated by the clever use of ordering streams .

Reliable sequenced
Reliable sequenced packets are UDP packets monitored by a reliability layer to ensure they arrive at the destination and are sequenced at the destination.
Advantages - You get the reliability of UDP packets, the ordering of ordered packets, yet don't have to wait for old packets. More packets will arrive with this method than with the unreliable sequenced method, and they will be distributed more evenly. The most important advantage however is that the latest packet sent will arrive, where with unreliable sequenced the latest packet sent may not arrive.
Disadvantages - Wasteful of bandwidth because it uses the overhead of reliable UDP packets to ensure late packets arrive that just get ignored anyway.

Acknowledgment recipts


By specifying one of the PacketReliability types that contain _WITH_ACK_RECEIPT, you can request that RakPeerInterface notify you when a message has been acknowledged by the remote system, or delivery has timed out.

Calls to RakPeerInterface::Send() or RakPeerInterface::SendLists() return a 4 byte unsigned integer representing an ID for the message sent. When using _WITH_ACK_RECEIPT, this same ID will be returned to you when you call RakPeerInterface::Receive(). In the packet, byte 0 will be either ID_SND_RECEIPT_ACKED or ID_SND_RECEIPT_LOSS. Bytes 1-4 inclusive will contain the same number returned to you from Send() or SendLists().

ID_SND_RECEIPT_ACKED means that the message arrived. For reliable sends, this is all you will ever get.

ID_SND_RECEIPT_LOSS is only returned for UNRELIABLE_WITH_ACK_RECEIPT and UNRELIABLE_SEQUENCED_WITH_ACK_RECEIPT. It means that an ack for the message did not arrive within the threshhold given for message resends (roughly a multiple of your ping). It could mean any of the following:

  • The message was lost in transmission
  • The message arrived, but the ack was lost in transmission
  • The message arrived, and the ack arrived, but arrived later than the threshhold (a ping spike)

It usually means one of the first two.

Here's an example of reading out the return receipt:

packet = rakPeer->Receive();
while (packet)
memcpy(&msgNumber, packet->data+1, 4);
printf("Msg #%i was delivered.\n", msgNumber);
memcpy(&msgNumber, packet->data+1, 4);
printf("Msg #%i was probably not delivered.\n", msgNumber);
packet = sender->Receive();

The typical reason you would want to use this is to know if unreliable messages arrived or not. Sometimes you want to resend unreliable messages, but with more up-to-date data, rather than relying on RELIABLE to just resend the old data until it arrives. To do so, when you send you unreliable data you would internally create a mapping between the number returned by Send() or SendLists() and reference that number when the return receipt arrives. If the receipt is ID_SND_RECEIPT_LOSS, you can resend whatever message that Send() or SendLists() call contained.

Advanced send types

Send most recent values on resends

When RakNet resends a message, it can only send what you gave to it originally. For data that changes continually (position for example) you may only want to resend the most recent value. To do so, send the data using UNRELIABLE_WITH_ACK_RECEIPT. Call RakPeer::GetNextSendReceipt() and pass the value to RakPeer::Send(). And in memory store an association between what type of message that was, and the send receipt. If you get ID_SND_RECEIPT_ACKED, delete the association (the message was delivered). If you get ID_SND_RECEIPT_LOSS, resend the message using the most current values.

If you want the data to also be sequenced, then write your own sequence number along with the message. The remote side should store the highest sequenced number received. If the incoming message has a lower sequence number than the highest received, it is an old message and can be ignored.

Here is code using an unsigned char sequence number. It will work as long as you do not send more than 127 messages out of order:

typedef unsigned char SequenceNumberType;

bool GreaterThan(SequenceNumberType a, SequenceNumberType b)
// a > b?
const SequenceNumberType halfSpan =(SequenceNumberType) (((SequenceNumberType)(const SequenceNumberType)-1)/(SequenceNumberType)2);
return b!=a && b-a>halfSpan;

Sequenced data, rather than sequenced messages

RakNet's sequencing only works on the entire message. However, sometimes you want to sequence data at a higher level of granularity. For example, suppose you had both position and health sequenced.

Message A contains health
Message B contains both health and position
Message C contains position

Using normal sequencing, if the messages arrived in the order A,C,B, message B would be discarded. However, you lose useful information, since message B contains a more recent health value and could have been used.

You can subsequence on data manually by writing your own sequence number per variable that you are serializing (as described above). Then send the data using a non-sequenced send type depending on your needs, UNRELIABLE, UNRELIABLE_WITH_ACK_RECEIPT, RELIABLE, etc. While this does incur more bandwidth and processing overhead, it has the advantage that every update can be processed as soon as possible.

See Also
Sending Packets