State Synchronization

State synchronization refers to the synchronization of values such as integers, floating point numbers, strings and boolean values belonging to scripts.

State synchronization is done from the Server to remote clients. The local client does not have data serialized to it. It does not need it, because it shares the Scene with the server. However, SyncVar hooks are called on local clients.

Data is not synchronized in the opposite direction - from remote clients to the server. To do this, you need to use Commands.

  • SyncVars
    SyncVars are variables of scripts that inherit from NetworkBehaviour, which are synchronized from the server to clients.
  • SyncEvents
    SyncEvents are networked events like ClientRpc’s, but instead of calling a function on the GameObject, they trigger Events instead.
  • SyncLists
    SyncLists contain lists of values and synchronize data from servers to clients.
  • SyncDictionary
    A SyncDictionary is an associative array containing an unordered list of key, value pairs.
  • SyncHashSet
    An unordered set of values that do not repeat.
  • SyncSortedSet
    A sorted set of values tha do not repeat.

Advanced State Synchronization

In most cases, the use of SyncVars is enough for your game scripts to serialize their state to clients. However in some cases you might require more complex serialization code. This page is only relevant for advanced developers who need customized synchronization solutions that go beyond Mirror’s normal SyncVar feature.

Custom Serialization Functions

To perform your own custom serialization, you can implement virtual functions on NetworkBehaviour to be used for SyncVar serialization. These functions are:

public virtual bool OnSerialize(NetworkWriter writer, bool initialState);
public virtual void OnDeSerialize(NetworkReader reader, bool initialState);

Use the initialState flag to differentiate between the first time a GameObject is serialized and when incremental updates can be sent. The first time a GameObject is sent to a client, it must include a full state snapshot, but subsequent updates can save on bandwidth by including only incremental changes. Note that SyncVar hook functions are not called when initialState is true; they are only called for incremental updates.

If a class has SyncVars, then implementations of these functions are added automatically to the class, meaning that a class that has SyncVars cannot also have custom serialization functions.

The OnSerialize function should return true to indicate that an update should be sent. If it returns true, the dirty bits for that script are set to zero. If it returns false, the dirty bits are not changed. This allows multiple changes to a script to be accumulated over time and sent when the system is ready, instead of every frame.

Serialization Flow

GameObjects with the Network Identity component attached can have multiple scripts derived from NetworkBehaviour. The flow for serializing these GameObjects is:

On the server:

  • Each NetworkBehaviour has a dirty mask. This mask is available inside OnSerialize as syncVarDirtyBits
  • Each SyncVar in a NetworkBehaviour script is assigned a bit in the dirty mask.
  • Changing the value of SyncVars causes the bit for that SyncVar to be set in the dirty mask
  • Alternatively, calling SetDirtyBit writes directly to the dirty mask
  • NetworkIdentity GameObjects are checked on the server as part of it’s update loop
  • If any NetworkBehaviours on a NetworkIdentity are dirty, then an UpdateVars packet is created for that GameObject
  • The UpdateVars packet is populated by calling OnSerialize on each NetworkBehaviour on the GameObject
  • NetworkBehaviours that are not dirty write a zero to the packet for their dirty bits
  • NetworkBehaviours that are dirty write their dirty mask, then the values for the SyncVars that have changed
  • If OnSerialize returns true for a NetworkBehaviour, the dirty mask is reset for that NetworkBehaviour so it does not send again until its value changes.
  • The UpdateVars packet is sent to ready clients that are observing the GameObject

On the client:

  • an UpdateVars packet is received for a GameObject
  • The OnDeserialize function is called for each NetworkBehaviour script on the GameObject
  • Each NetworkBehaviour script on the GameObject reads a dirty mask.
  • If the dirty mask for a NetworkBehaviour is zero, the OnDeserialize function returns without reading any more
  • If the dirty mask is non-zero value, then the OnDeserialize function reads the values for the SyncVars that correspond to the dirty bits that are set
  • If there are SyncVar hook functions, those are invoked with the value read from the stream.

So for this script:

public class data : NetworkBehaviour
{
    [SyncVar]
    public int int1 = 66;

    [SyncVar]
    public int int2 = 23487;

    [SyncVar]
    public string MyString = "Example string";
}

The following code sample demonstrates the generated OnSerialize function:

public override bool OnSerialize(NetworkWriter writer, bool forceAll)
{
    if (forceAll)
    {
        // The first time a GameObject is sent to a client, send all the data (and no dirty bits)
        writer.WritePackedUInt32((uint)this.int1);
        writer.WritePackedUInt32((uint)this.int2);
        writer.Write(this.MyString);
        return true;
    }

    bool wroteSyncVar = false;
    if ((base.get_syncVarDirtyBits() & 1u) != 0u)
    {
        if (!wroteSyncVar)
        {
            // Write dirty bits if this is the first SyncVar written
            writer.WritePackedUInt32(base.get_syncVarDirtyBits());
            wroteSyncVar = true;
        }
        writer.WritePackedUInt32((uint)this.int1);
    }

    if ((base.get_syncVarDirtyBits() & 2u) != 0u)
    {
        if (!wroteSyncVar)
        {
            // Write dirty bits if this is the first SyncVar written
            writer.WritePackedUInt32(base.get_syncVarDirtyBits());
            wroteSyncVar = true;
        }
        writer.WritePackedUInt32((uint)this.int2);
    }

    if ((base.get_syncVarDirtyBits() & 4u) != 0u)
    {
        if (!wroteSyncVar)
        {
            // Write dirty bits if this is the first SyncVar written
            writer.WritePackedUInt32(base.get_syncVarDirtyBits());
            wroteSyncVar = true;
        }
        writer.Write(this.MyString);
    }

    if (!wroteSyncVar)
    {
        // Write zero dirty bits if no SyncVars were written
        writer.WritePackedUInt32(0);
    }
    return wroteSyncVar;
}

The following code sample demonstrates the OnDeserialize function:

public override void OnDeserialize(NetworkReader reader, bool initialState)
{
    if (initialState)
    {
        this.int1 = (int)reader.ReadPackedUInt32();
        this.int2 = (int)reader.ReadPackedUInt32();
        this.MyString = reader.ReadString();
        return;
    }

    int num = (int)reader.ReadPackedUInt32();
    if ((num & 1) != 0)
    {
        this.int1 = (int)reader.ReadPackedUInt32();
    }

    if ((num & 2) != 0)
    {
        this.int2 = (int)reader.ReadPackedUInt32();
    }

    if ((num & 4) != 0)
    {
        this.MyString = reader.ReadString();
    }
}

If a NetworkBehaviour has a base class that also has serialization functions, the base class functions should also be called.

Note that the UpdateVar packets created for GameObject state updates may be aggregated in buffers before being sent to the client, so a single transport layer packet may contain updates for multiple GameObjects.