Multithreading - The Future of PA and Titans

Discussion in 'PA: TITANS: General Discussion' started by panews, August 24, 2018.

  1. panews

    panews Planetary News Official PA

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    @Sorian is back working on server simulation performance with multithreading this month and we have a technical update to share on his work for the next update.

    Two years ago I was given the opportunity to continue work on my baby, Planetary Annihilation, for the 99337 Performance Update. My primary focus was attempting to improve performance by multithreading parts of the simulation. My initial focus was on areas of the simulation where I thought it would be easiest to do things in parallel. The most natural separation was based around planets.

    Since navigation and physics are typically the worst performance offenders, separating updates by planet seemed like a good plan. Their updates tend to only act on a single entity. Initial testing blew up spectacularly, as I expected it would. Fortunately, there were not many areas of contention between threads and a performance win was born.

    So, now that I am back, you may be wondering what I am working on now. I’ll be continuing right where I left off! This time I am digging further into the sim to see where I can split large groups of tasks over threads to speed things up. Early this week I was focused on the physics update. I figured, since we should only be looking at two unique physics objects at the same time, it should be possible to thread this.

    Well, I was right and wrong. There were the usual small issues to fix, but threading the physics update revealed a larger issue. The physics system utilizes an HGrid (described as a loose octree) to find potential entity overlaps using a function called buildPairs. It turns out that there is no guarantee that the vector of pairs that we get back does not contain duplicates. Under normal operation this isn’t a huge issue, as this is a single call that immediately returns and it was just being done thousands of times more than it needed to be. However, when you throw threading into the mix it gets ugly. Fixable, but ugly.

    I have also started work on restructuring the sim tick a bit to allow the navigation and physics updates to happen alongside other updates. Right now I have it running alongside the economy update, but the economy update is only a small part of the overall update, so not much of a win there yet. I am hoping to split some of the plan steps (our sim has plan, execute, and record steps for entities) out into a group that can also run at the same time as the navigation/physics update.

    For the navigation system, I have been mainly focusing on the epic number of allocations the navigation system does during voxel integration. I have a new system in place that saves off vectors of cost cells (the objects the integrator makes tens of thousands during voxel integration) for reuse. The integrator is also doing a better job of allocating in blocks instead of individually. On the multithreading front, the navigation system has proven to be quite difficult. There are so many little acceleration features and so much lazy loading that is simply prevents multithreading without a significant amount of work.

    So, what’s next? There is still more work to be done with navigation, there is still the sim tick stuff to be investigated, and some AI updates as well (of course), starting with a much needed performance pass. And that doesn’t even get into other fun stuff like modern toolchain and Coherent GT updates.

    Mike “Sorian” Robbins
    Last edited by a moderator: August 24, 2018
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  2. felipec

    felipec Active Member

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    That's awesome! This kind of post is very interesting to read.
    Glad you are back, man!
    devoh and lulamae like this.
  3. doud

    doud Well-Known Member

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    @Thanks for all these details Sorian.
    Let's see what you can do, i've not doubt you will come with brillant ideas :)
    To be honest i had hoped you could improved the navigation system to have larger groups of units moving alltogether without slowdown on a single planet. As i understand, fixing is not impossible but obviously not possible unless uber can allocate large amount of time to rework the system. And i guess it's all about balancing efforts and the chances of success.
    I guess nobody suspected Uber would be back on the PA front. Plus, Nothing comes for free. So are you here because you had nothing better to do at Uber, or is there something bigger coming next ? ;)
    I know it's hard to make business with RTSs today. One hadsjust to see how much delay has been introduced in "Ashes of the singularity" updates. Clearly not stardock priority. So it's not making a company business.

    I may be wrong and something new may be coming on the RTS front and i would be more than happy if it comes, let's say, from Uber and Also Chris Taylor :p
    I can still remember last King and castles video blog, it looked like so promising :(
    All the best for you new challenge ;)
  4. Quitch

    Quitch Post Master General

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  5. doud

    doud Well-Known Member

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    why make a dedicated company for this actually ? From a business perspective, a company is intended to earn money. It's not by simply improving a game made a few years back that one is going to earn money :) Hopefully there are longer term objectives ;)
  6. lulamae

    lulamae Well-Known Member

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    For me, the 2 key bits of information from that announcement are:

    My interpretation is that this isn't just a dedicated company, but a different company. A company with a different focus than the one from which PA came.
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  7. carn1x

    carn1x Active Member

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    What is the current consensus on single planet AI game with regards to core utilisation? Is it a flat 100% 0% split? Or is there already some spread?
  8. blackwinsdk

    blackwinsdk New Member

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    Hi,
    is there any change for some Nvidia RTX stuff in the PA engine? Maybe Nvidia will help or so :D ... the new AotS for NV :D

    The Tensor cores for AI/KI would be something interesting.... don't you think?

    thx
  9. sycspysycspy

    sycspysycspy Active Member

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    I doubt they would embrace any new techs since even vulkan is not planned
  10. cdrkf

    cdrkf Post Master General

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    I'm not so sure about that now.... we have @Sorian working to improve multi threading on the sim side of things- and we also know @varrak is back- he is the graphics engine programmer for PA. I dunno about nvidia RTX enhancements, but I could see a move from Open GL to Vulkan being on the cards potentially....
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  11. Quitch

    Quitch Post Master General

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    Multiple cores would be used.
  12. exterminans

    exterminans Post Master General

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    Nope, all the heavy lifting is done on a single core. Before Sorian's current work, the Nav, AI and Physics are each computed in parallel per planet / AI, but the set of all 3 steps is processed sequentially. One planet and one AI means no parallelism yet.
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  13. DeathByDenim

    DeathByDenim Post Master General

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    They are moving moving to Coherent GT though which is pretty exciting. I'm hoping for quite a speedup in the UI by that as well as improved Linux support (less black screens).
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  14. mrobin604

    mrobin604 New Member

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    Hi @Sorian,

    Have you given any thought to using a job system like the one Naughty Dog presented at GDC here?

    (Google “job system naughty dog” and click the pdf link; your website isn’t letting me post links)

    If you broke your updates up into small jobs, balancing them across the cores would be a lot more straightforward.

    This might be difficult to do if your engine is doing a lot of dependent state modifications, as it might require a lot of restructuring and protecting with mutexes to prevent multiple threads from trying to access the same data structure.

    The good part is you don’t have to move over all at once... we had a monolithic job to do game updates to start with and gradually jobified things over time when it made sense.

    Anyhow, it worked very well in our games, so I thought I’d suggest it.
    Clopse likes this.
  15. shot2400

    shot2400 New Member

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    Super excited to hear about the game getting love. Kinda a big question, but my game has had a bug for a while and it makes the game really hard to play. All unit icons for everyone in my game is a slight variant of Yellow. Id really love to see if it can be fixed. Love you guys
  16. RomeoRuiz15

    RomeoRuiz15 Member

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    OMG OMG OMG OMG, Its happening!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OMG!!!!
    im extremly excited for this Cy--CYKA BLYAT

    Heavy Slavic breathing.jpg
  17. lostmekka

    lostmekka Member

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    Aah, my favourite dev returns! Truly amazing times. Onward, for honor and glory! :)
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  18. Ralith

    Ralith Member

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    What a pleasant surprise!
  19. Sorian

    Sorian Official PA

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    This is correct. The current release splits the update per planet and per AI. Per planet, the nav and physics ticks run on separate threads. Additionally, each individual AI get to run on its own thread. Finally, the history system utilizes multiple threads during its update.

    In my current local copy, the heaviest parts of the physics update are multi-threaded per update, so each planet's physics update also runs on multiple threads. This should improve single planet physics perf, with more cores meaning better perf.

    Nav is a different beast and has required a different approach.

    Our engine already has a parallelfor class that utilizes background threads. We throw a big list of jobs at it and it splits them out over threads and waits for completion.

    I am also utilizing a technique used in the Unreal engine, where the physics update is run alongside other sim updates that don't call into physics, effectively "hiding" part of the perf cost.
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  20. emarkus

    emarkus Active Member

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    Hiding performance problems by doing bottlenecks alongside is nice: If people spam doxes, then they must not wonder why the doexes are shoting delayed....

    I didnt understand your HGrid stuff really, but it sounded like it could cause endless loops sometimes. Which could explain why in some rare cases the simulations speed crashes down to 50, 30, 10 and then 2%.

    Would it help to do a bit pathing caching?

    There are currently separate threads for the planets. What if the planets of a system are all the same and just cloned? Can they profit by having same cache?

    Just my 1ct... Just throwing in random thoughts which might be completely useless :p

    Thank you Sorian!

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