Locally debugging game servers and integration with PlayFab

Overview

PlayFab multiplayer game servers require integration with PlayFab Game Server SDK (GSDK). In addition, game servers are run as containerized applications on the PlayFab Multiplayer platform.

Running them as containerized applications enables running and debugging the server locally, in an environment that matches that of the PlayFab platform in Azure. This facilitates faster development iterations. This article helps you verify that your PlayFab game server conforms to the platform requirements.

The PlayFab local debugging toolset includes LocalMultiplayerAgent that provides mock responses to the GSDK and verifies whether your game server is integrated with the GSDK correctly. With the mock responses, the VmAgent cycles the game server through various states in its lifecycle on the PlayFab Multiplayer platform.

You can configure the agent to run the game server as a containerized application and verify that your game server is packaged with all the required dependencies and will run without issues on the PlayFab Multiplayer platform. LocalMultiplayerAgent can work with either Windows or Linux game servers.

Basic Setup - Windows

  • Integrate your game server with the GSDK and build it. For more information, see Integrating game servers with the PlayFab Game Server SDK (GSDK).

  • Compress your game server and its dependencies to a zip archive. To run properly in container mode, the zip archive must contain any system DLLs that are not included in the container image. For more information, see determine required system DLLs..

    Note

    Avoid this common mistake - do not accidentally zip a folder within a folder in the zip. After zipping, browse the zip folder and double-check that your compression software did not add an extra layer of file hierarchy.

  • Download the local debugging toolset and extract it to a folder of your choice (such as C:\PlayFabVmAgent).

  • Navigate to the location of the extracted folder and open the MultiplayerSettings.json file in a text editor (such as Visual Studio Code). Update the following properties:

    • LocalFilePath - Full Local Path (on your workstation) to the game server asset zip file created earlier, for example: D:\\MyAmazingGame\\asset.zip (note that backslashes need to be escaped for JSON formatting).
    • StartGameCommand - The full path to the game server executable within the container. For example, if the name of the executable is mygame.exe, a sample path would be C:\\Assets\\mygame.exe. The paths for the StartGameCommand are different for a Process and a Container. The StartGameCommand path for a container is an absolute path to a resource in the container or asset folder. The StartGameCommand path for a process is a relative path where the working directory will be the first asset specified.
    • PortMappingsList - These are the ports that are available to your game while running. NodePort is the port that is opened on your workstation, GamePort.Number is the port that your game server needs to bind to when running in a container. Update the GamePort section to match the protocol and port at which your game server is listening for clients. If your game server needs multiple ports, copy/paste the existing port configuration and increment NodePort then update GamePort.Number and GamePort.Name to the required port. When running as a process, GamePort.Number is ignored, your process should bind to NodePort. To handle both cases, do one of the following:
      • Set the ports to the same value
      • Check the GSDK config at runtime for the value with the key GamePort.Name which always returns the correct port to bind against.
  • There are additional fields in the MultiplayerSettings.json file you might want to edit:

    • ResourceLimits (optional) - If specified, docker limits CPU/memory usage. Warning: If your server goes over the allowed memory, it is killed. ResourceLimits can only be specified in container mode.
    • SessionCookie (optional) - Any session cookie that is passed to your game server as part of the RequestMultiplayerServer API call.
    • OutputFolder (optional) - Path to a drive or folder where the outputs and config files are generated. Ensure that there is sufficient space available since the game server will be extracted under this path. If not specified, the agent folder is used.
    • MountPath - The path within the container at which to mount the asset. This field does not need to be specified when running in process mode. We recommend using the sample value - C:\\Assets (note that backslashes need to be escaped for JSON formatting).
    • AgentListeningPort - Specifies the port to which the agent binds to communicate with the game server. Any open port will work, if you have another process binding to 56001 you must change this value (or kill the other process).

Verifying GSDK integration

  • In the MultiplayerSettings.json file, set RunContainer to false.
  • In a Powershell window (as Administrator):
    • Change your working directory to the folder where the toolset was extracted.
    • Run LocalMultiplayerAgent.exe. At this point, LocalMultiplayerAgent sets up the http listener, unzips the game asset, and starts the game server in a separate process. LocalMultiplayerAgent then waits for heartbeats from the GSDK integrated with your game server.
  • If the GSDK is integrated correctly, LocalMultiplayerAgent prints the following outputs:
    • CurrentGameState - Initializing (this is optional and may not show up if your game server directly calls GSDK::ReadyForPlayers and does not call GSDK::Start)
    • CurrentGameState - StandingBy
    • CurrentGameState - Active
    • CurrentGameState - Terminating
  • If the shutdown callbacks are set up correctly, your game server exits soon after the state is set to terminating. It is important to verify that the game server exits to avoid ungraceful shutdowns on the PlayFab platform.
  • The LocalMultiplayerAgent should also terminate along with the game.

Testing connection to your game

When your game server executable is running and LocalMultiplayerAgent prints CurrentGameState - Active, you can connect to your game server using IP address 127.0.0.1 and port NodePort on which your game server is listening.

After NumHeartBeatsForActivateResponse heartbeats, LocalMultiplayerAgent requests the game server to move from standby to active. Then after NumHeartBeatsForTerminateResponse heartbeats LocalMultiplayerAgent requests the game server to move from active to terminated. This behavior can be tuned by updating the values in the MultiplayerSettings.json file.

Verifying containerization

If you are new to the container world, you can check an intro here.

Prerequisites

  • Windows 10 Pro (or above) with April 2018 (1803) update.
  • Download Docker. Alternately, you can download it from the main page of the Docker website.

Setup

  • Ensure that Docker is set to use Windows Containers
  • In a Powershell window (as Administrator):
    • Navigate to the folder where the toolset was extracted.
    • Run Setup.ps1 which sets up the docker networks, add firewall rules to communicate with LocalMultiplayerAgent, and pull down the PlayFab docker image from Microsoft/PlayFab-Multiplayer. Note that the first time the script runs, it can take a few minutes to download the container image.

      Note

      To run this setup successfully, you may have to configure the firewall of any 3rd party antivirus program (such as McAfee, Norton, or Avira) that you have installed.

Running the game server within a container

  • In the MultiplayerSettings.json file, set RunContainer to true.
  • Open a Powershell window (as Administrator) in the folder where the toolset was extracted (C:\PlayFabVmAgent) and run LocalMultiplayerAgent.exe. This starts the game server within a container. Eventually, you should see game state change output in the Powershell window (just like in the Verifying GSDK integration section above).

Testing connection to your game server running within a container

When LocalMultiplayerAgent output prints CurrentGameState - Active, connect to your game server using IP address 127.0.0.1 and port equal to NodePort (by default 56100) that's specified in the MultiplayerSettings.json file.

After NumHeartBeatsForActivateResponse heartbeats, LocalMultiplayerAgent requests the game server to move from standby to active. Then after NumHeartBeatsForTerminateResponse heartbeats LocalMultiplayerAgent requests the game server to move from active to terminated. This behavior can be tuned by updating the values in the MultiplayerSettings.json file.

Using LocalMultiplayerAgent with Linux Containers

You can use LocalMultiplayerAgent to debug your Linux game server by running it on a container in Windows using Docker for Windows. You can see more information about running Linux containers on Windows here. In essense, all you need to is run the agent with the -lcow parameter as well as properly configure your LocalMultiplayerSettings.json file.

To run your containerized Linux game servers on Windows, you'll need to perform the following steps:

  • Download latest version of LocalMultiplayerAgent from the Releases page on GitHub
  • Install Docker Desktop on Windows
  • Make sure it's running on Linux Containers
  • You should mount one of your hard drives, you can find instructions here
  • Your game server image can be published on a container registry or can be locally built.
  • You should run SetupLinuxContainersOnWindows.ps1 Powershell file which will create a Docker network called "PlayFab"
  • You should properly configure your LocalMultiplayerSettings.json file. Below you can see a sample, included in MultiplayerSettingsLinuxContainersOnWindowsSample.json:
{
    "RunContainer": true,
    "OutputFolder": "C:\\output\\UnityServerLinux",
    "NumHeartBeatsForActivateResponse": 10,
    "NumHeartBeatsForTerminateResponse": 60,
    "TitleId": "",
    "BuildId": "00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000",
    "Region": "WestUs",
    "AgentListeningPort": 56001,
    "ContainerStartParameters": {
        "ImageDetails": {
            "Registry": "mydockerregistry.io",
            "ImageName": "mygame",
            "ImageTag": "0.1",
            "Username": "",
            "Password": ""
        }
    },
    "PortMappingsList": [
        [
            {
                "NodePort": 56100,
                "GamePort": {
                    "Name": "game_port",
                    "Number": 7777,
                    "Protocol": "TCP"
                }
            }
        ]
    ],
    "SessionConfig": {
        "SessionId": "ba67d671-512a-4e7d-a38c-2329ce181946",
        "SessionCookie": null,
        "InitialPlayers": [ "Player1", "Player2" ]
    }
}

Some notes:

  1. You must set RunContainer to true. This is required for Linux game servers.
  2. Modify imageDetails with your game server docker image details. Image may be built locally (using docker build command) or be hosted in a remote container registry.
  3. StartGameCommand and AssetDetails are optional. You don't normally use them when you use a Docker container since all game assets + start game server command can be packaged in the corresponding Dockerfile
  4. Last, but definitely not least, pay attention to the casing on your OutputFolder variable, since Linux containers are case sensitive. If casing is wrong, you might see a Docker exception similar to error while creating mount source path '/host_mnt/c/output/UnityServerLinux/PlayFabVmAgentOutput/2020-01-30T12-47-09/GameLogs/a94cfbb5-95a4-480f-a4af-749c2d9cf04b': mkdir /host_mnt/c/output: file exists
  • After you perform all the previous steps, you can then run the LocalMultiPlayerAgent with the command LocalMultiplayerAgent.exe -lcow (lcow stands for Linux Containers On Windows)

Troubleshooting

  • In container mode, if your game server exits immediately with an error similar to "Container ... exited with exit code 1", but it works fine in process mode, make sure that you have included all required system DLLs in your asset package.
  • All logs are located under OutputFolder that is specified in the MultiplayerSettings.json file. LocalMultiplayerAgent creates a new folder each time it is started, with the timestamp as folder name. All game server logs emitted via GSDK are located within the GameLogs folder.
    If the game server is running in a container, there might be an additional level of directory hierarchy to sift through.
  • The GSDK writes debug logs to the GameLogs folder. These logs are located within the GameLogs folder along with the logs output by the game server.
  • Ensure firewalls (windows and other anti-virus) are configured to allow the traffic over the ports.
  • If you get an error similar to: Docker API responded with status code=InternalServerError, response={"message":"failed to create endpoint <container_name> on network playfab: hnsCall failed in Win32: The specified port already exists". It is likely there is already a container running on the specified port. This can happen if LocalMultiplayerAgent exits prematurely. Use the command docker ps to find the container that is running, and then kill it using docker kill <container_name>.
  • If you get an error that contains Failed to find network 'playfab'. Try rerunning Setup.ps1

Known Limitations

  1. Containers might not terminate at the end of the debugging. If this occurs, run the following PowerShell commands as Administrator. These commands stop and remove all containers, including those were not started by LocalMultiplayerAgent.
docker stop $(docker ps -aq)
docker rm $(docker ps -aq)