Link dump: distributed systems and video games

I googled “distributed systems masterclass” on a lark today, and ran across a nice looking free course (no affiliation), and it got me on a bit of a roll for related content. I found some new stuff and I dredged up some old favourites. Once I had those, I began writing an email to link it to some friends and I thought: why not put that in public!

So here’s a little bag of links. It’s kind of videogame focused, and I should note up front I have not watched/interacted with all of this yet; there’s some inline notes about what I’ve actually engaged with.

(All of these links are set to ‘open in a new tab’, because I personally want to destroy your productivity.)

  • The course I just found: — the topics look interesting and like a decent mix of intermediate subjects, and the actual content seems well made at a glance, and it’s free! This seems like a rare find to me.
  • The classic Leslie Lamport paper, Time, Clocks and the Ordering of Events in a Distributed System (PDF), which I have tried and struggled to read a few times in the past, because (if I recall correctly) I got bogged down in the formal bits. I found this blog article today when googling the name of the paper, which is a kind of “reading the paper guide”. It has some summary content and has been quite readable so far. I’m hoping it will help me form a useful mental image to take back to the actual paper and hold in mind when working through the formal details.
  • Leslie Lamport’s website — holy moly! How have I never been here? There’s so much commentary here, beyond the riches of the list of papers he’s hosted for direct access. What a trove.
    • Indenting for a brief aside: I’ve always been a sucker for commentary. In the many Asimov essay paperbacks we had around the house growing up, I far more enjoyed the little snippets of preamble and afterword commentary he’d include than the essays themselves. I felt those bits were treats doled out in exchange for traversing the real content. Asimov would finally stop teaching me for a moment to talk to me, and so much life and personality would jump out and bind flesh to the essay’s bones by opening a keyhole view to the living essayist behind the curtain. His tone in the essays was always personable, but those extra bits let me imagine Asimov as a human I could know, and let me connect to the content as if it were from a friend. I should find some of those books.

      (… how better to show I’m a dilettante without saying “I’m a dilettante” — anyway!)
  • The classic “1500 Archers” article, which I read 15 years ago and keep meaning to go back to. If I recall my partner’s feelings on it accurately after she read it a year or two ago: if you’re just starting out in understanding multiplayer networking, it gives you enough to know you have no idea what’s going on and that your game does not work like this. It’s lacking in direction on how to rework an existing game to run as a deterministic discrete simulation built atop an abstraction of turns, so if you don’t already have/know how to do that, you’re kinda boned on it helping you.
  • This amazing GDC talk, Overwatch Gameplay Architecture and Netcode, which seems to be unlisted these days, where a senior Overwatch developer walks through their ECS architecture and does a bit of a deep-dive netcode presentation. The descriptions he gave of prediction and fallbacks made a lot of things settle into my mind in a way other content hadn’t previously.
  • Related, but I’ve never watched it — Networking the Gameplay of Halo: Reach. This looks like a really similar kind of video to the above, but focused on netcode. I found this while wasting 30 minutes searching YouTube for the Overwatch one, and I’d like to watch this someday.

If anyone ever ends up reading this: I’d love to see your distributed systems links. No videogame networking focus needed!


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