The Decentraland communications system, or simply comms, is the real-time messaging protocol that handles interaction between players in a realm.
Some of these interactions are initiated by players, others are automatically handled by clients under the hood. Some examples:
- Text and voice chat
- Position updates as players move around
- Avatar updates when players change their appearance
Since most of this functionality requires broadcasting messages to all nearby players, they are automatically grouped into proximity-based clusters named islands. Each player is assigned to a single island at a time, which changes as they travel the world and move relative to others.
The realm service that manages and assigns players to islands is called Archipelago. It takes care of creating islands as they are needed, keeping their population at a reasonable number and dynamically reassigning players in response to their movements.
When assigned to an island, clients are given an island-specific URI to connect to the actual backend that will relay messages between them. This connection lasts until Archipelago reassigns the client to a different island.
This means that, in addition to the Archipelago protocol, clients must implement a number of transports, each wrapping one of the supported backends in a unified interface.
Client Life-cycle #
The life-cycle of a comms client can be summarized in a few steps:
- Select a realm: obtain a URI for the Archipelago service.
- Join Archipelago: open a persistent connection with the service.
- Get an island (re)assignment: report the current position and obtain an island-specific URI.
- Connect a transport: open a second connection to the island-specific backend.
- Repeat: continue going through steps 3 and 4, periodically reporting new positions.
When the client ends their session, they simply disconnect from the Archipelago service. They will be automatically removed from their current island.
Comms connections are mainly websocket-based, although some transports may use other strategies.
Connections to comms are authenticated by having clients sign a server-provided challenge, using the scheme described in the authentication chain section.
Head over to the Archipelago page or see a specific transport to learn more about authentication flows.
Islands are highly dynamic groups of players that can broadcast messages among themselves, created and maintained by Archipelago in response to their movements in the world.
There is no predefined area or central point for an island. They are not stable geographical features, only temporary associations of nearby players. If an island can be said to cover a region, it’s only because its members are currently spread in that zone.
There can be zero islands in a region without players, and several overlapping islands in densly populated areas, where assigning everyone to the same group would make real-time broadcasting impossible.
Each server in the Decentraland network can configure the maximum island population and the distance at which players are considered to be nearby. By default, islands can host up to 100 players within 100 meters of each other.
The flow for getting assigned to an island and joining it is detailed in the Archipelago section.
There are several different message types, for a variety of real-time interaction flows. Head over to the messages section to learn more.