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NetworkVariable

Introduction#

At a high level, a NetworkVariable is a way to synchronize a property ("variable") between a server and client(s) without having to use custom messages or RPCs. Since NetworkVariable is a wrapper ("container") of the stored value of type T, you must use the NetworkVariable.Value property to access the actual value being synchronized. A NetworkVariable.Value is synchronized with:

  • Newly joining clients (that is, "Late Joining Clients")
    • When the associated NetworkObject of a NetworkBehaviour, with NetworkVariable properties, is spawned, any NetworkVariable's current state (Value) is automatically synchronized on the client side.
  • Connected clients
    • When a NetworkVariable value changes, any connected clients that subscribed to NetworkVariable.OnValueChanged event (prior to the value being changed) will be notified of the change.
      • Two parameters are passed to any NetworkVariable.OnValueChanged subscribed callback method:
        • First parameter (Previous): The previous value before the value was changed
        • Second parameter (Current): The newly changed NetworkVariable.Value.

NetworkVariable General Requirements#

A NetworkVariable:

  • Property must be defined within a NetworkBehaviour derived class attached to a GameObject
    • The GameObject or a parent GameObject must also have a NetworkObject component attached to it.
  • A NetworkVariable's value can only be set when:
    • Initializing the property (either when it's declared or within the Awake method)
    • While the associated NetworkObject is spawned (upon being spawned or any time while it's still spawned).
important

When a client first connects, it will be synchronized with the current value of the NetworkVariable. Typically, clients should register for NetworkVariable.OnValueChanged within the OnNetworkSpawn method.
But why?
A NetworkBehaviour's Start and OnNetworkSpawn methods are invoked based on the type of NetworkObject the NetworkBehaviour is associated with:

  • In-Scene Placed: Since the instantiation occurs via the scene loading mechanism(s), the Start method is invoked before OnNetworkSpawn.
  • Dynamically Spawned: Since OnNetworkSpawn is invoked immediately (that is, within the same relative call-stack) after instantiation, the Start method is invoked after OnNetworkSpawn.

Typically, these are invoked at least 1 frame after the NetworkObject and associated NetworkBehaviour components are instantiated.

Dynamically SpawnedIn-Scene Placed
AwakeAwake
OnNetworkSpawnStart
StartOnNetworkSpawn

Also, you should only set the value of a NetworkVariable when first initializing it or if it's spawned. It isn't recommended setting a NetworkVariable when the associated NetworkObject isn't spawned.

tip

If you need to initialize other components or objects based on a NetworkVariable's initial synchronized state, then you might contemplate having a common method that is invoked on the client side within the NetworkVariable.OnValueChanged callback (if assigned) and NetworkBehaviour.OnNetworkSpawn method.

Supported Types#

note

Although NetworkVariable supports both managed and unmanaged types, managed types come with additional overhead.

Netcode has made efforts to minimize Garbage Collected allocations for managed INetworkSerializable types (for example, a new value is only allocated if the value changes from null to non-null). However, the ability of a type to be null adds additional overhead both in logic (checking for nulls before serializing) and bandwidth (every serialization carries an additional byte indicating whether the value is null).

Additionally, any type that has a managed type is itself a managed type - so a struct that has int[] is a managed type because int[] is a managed type.

Finally, while managed INetworkSerializable types are serialized in-place (and thus don't incur allocations for simple value updates), C# arrays and managed types serialized through custom serialization are not serialized in-place, and will incur an allocation on every update.

NetworkVariable provides support for the following types:

  • C# unmanaged primitive types (which are serialized by direct memcpy into/out of the buffer): bool, byte, sbyte, char, decimal, double, float, int, uint, long, ulong, short, and ushort

  • Unity unmanaged built-in types (which will be serialized by direct memcpy into/out of the buffer.): Vector2, Vector3, Vector2Int, Vector3Int, Vector4, Quaternion, Color, Color32, Ray, Ray2D

  • Any enum types (which will be serialized by direct memcpy into/out of the buffer).

  • Any type (managed or unmanaged) that implements INetworkSerializable (which will be serialized by calling their NetworkSerialize method.) On the reading side, these values are deserialized in-place, meaning the existing instance will be reused and any non-serialized values will be left in their current state.

  • Any unmanaged struct type that implements INetworkSerializeByMemcpy (which will be serialized by direct memcpy of the entire struct into/out of the buffer).

  • Unity fixed string types: FixedString32Bytes, FixedString64Bytes, FixedString128Bytes, FixedString512Bytes, and FixedString4096Bytes (which are serialized intelligently, only sending the used part across the network and adjusting the "length" of the string on the other side to fit the received data).

For any types that don't fit within this list, including managed types and unmanaged types with pointers: It's possible to provide delegates informing the serialization system of how to serialize and deserialize your values. For more information, see Custom Serialization. A limitation of custom serialization is that, unlike INetworkSerializable types, types using custom serialization aren't able to be read in-place, so managed types will, by necessity, incur a Garbage Collected allocation (which can cause performance issues) on every update.

Synchronization and Notification Example#

The following example shows how the initial NetworkVariable synchronization has already occurred by the time OnNetworkSpawn is invoked. It also shows how subscribing to NetworkVariable.OnValueChanged within OnNetworkSpawn will provide notifications for any changes to m_SomeValue.Value that occur.

public class TestNetworkVariableSynchronization : NetworkBehaviour
{
private NetworkVariable<int> m_SomeValue = new NetworkVariable<int>();
private const int k_InitialValue = 1111;
public override void OnNetworkSpawn()
{
if (IsServer)
{
m_SomeValue.Value = k_InitialValue;
NetworkManager.OnClientConnectedCallback += NetworkManager_OnClientConnectedCallback;
}
else
{
if (m_SomeValue.Value != k_InitialValue)
{
Debug.LogWarning($"NetworkVariable was {m_SomeValue.Value} upon being spawned" +
$" when it should have been {k_InitialValue}");
}
else
{
Debug.Log($"NetworkVariable is {m_SomeValue.Value} when spawned.");
}
m_SomeValue.OnValueChanged += OnSomeValueChanged;
}
}
private void NetworkManager_OnClientConnectedCallback(ulong obj)
{
StartCoroutine(StartChangingNetworkVariable());
}
private void OnSomeValueChanged(int previous, int current)
{
Debug.Log($"Detected NetworkVariable Change: Previous: {previous} | Current: {current}");
}
private IEnumerator StartChangingNetworkVariable()
{
var count = 0;
var updateFrequency = new WaitForSeconds(0.5f);
while (count < 4)
{
m_SomeValue.Value += m_SomeValue.Value;
yield return updateFrequency;
}
NetworkManager.OnClientConnectedCallback -= NetworkManager_OnClientConnectedCallback;
}
}

In the above example:

  • The server initializes the NetworkVariable upon the associated NetworkObject being spawned.
  • The client confirms that the NetworkVariable is synchronized to the initial value set by the server and assigns a callback method to NetworkVariable.OnValueChanged.
    • Once spawned, the client will be notified of any changes made to the NetworkVariable.
tip

If you were to attach the above script to an in-scene placed NetworkObject, make a stand alone build, run the stand alone build as a host, and then connect to that host by entering play mode in the editor, you would see (in the console output):

  • The client side NetworkVariable value is the same as the server when NetworkBehaviour.OnNetworkSpawn is invoked.
  • The client detects any changes made to the NetworkVariable after the in-scene placed NetworkObject is spawned.
    This works the same way with dynamically spawned NetworkObjects.
important

The above example is only to test both the initial client synchronization of the value and when the value changes. It was intentionally written to only be an example, and if you "late join" a 2nd client it will throw the warning about the NetworkVariable.Value not being the initial value. This example was intended to be used with a single server or host and a single client.

OnValueChanged Example#

While the first example highlighted the differences between synchronizing a NetworkVariable with newly joining clients and notifying connected clients when a NetworkVariable changes, it didn't provide any concrete example usage. The next example shows a simple server authoritative NetworkVariable being used to track the state of a door (that is, open or closed):

public class Door : NetworkBehaviour
{
public NetworkVariable<bool> State = new NetworkVariable<bool>();
public override void OnNetworkSpawn()
{
State.OnValueChanged += OnStateChanged;
}
public override void OnNetworkDespawn()
{
State.OnValueChanged -= OnStateChanged;
}
public void OnStateChanged(bool previous, bool current)
{
// note: `State.Value` will be equal to `current` here
if (State.Value)
{
// door is open:
// - rotate door transform
// - play animations, sound etc.
}
else
{
// door is closed:
// - rotate door transform
// - play animations, sound etc.
}
}
[ServerRpc(RequireOwnership = false)]
public void ToggleServerRpc()
{
// this will cause a replication over the network
// and ultimately invoke `OnValueChanged` on receivers
State.Value = !State.Value;
}
}

In the above example, we show how you can keep a server authoritative NetworkVariable by using a non-ownership based server RPC (that is, RequireOwnership = false means non-owners can invoke it) so any client can notify the server that it's performing an "action" on the door. For this example, each time the door is used by a client the Door.ToggleServerRpc is invoked and the server-side toggles the state of the door. Upon the Door.State.Value changing, all connected clients are synchronized to the (new) current Value and the OnStateChanged method is invoked locally on each client.

However, what if you wanted to adjust who can write to or read from the NetworkVariable? The answer: NetworkVariable permissions.

Permissions#

The NetworkVariable constructor can take up to 3 parameters:

public NetworkVariable(T value = default,
NetworkVariableReadPermission readPerm = NetworkVariableReadPermission.Everyone,
NetworkVariableWritePermission writePerm = NetworkVariableWritePermission.Server);

As you can see by the above constructor declaration, the default permissions are:

  • Server: Has read and write permissions
  • Clients: Have read only permissions.

Let's look at the two types of permissions defined within NetworkVariablePermissions.cs:

/// <summary>
/// The permission types for reading a var
/// </summary>
public enum NetworkVariableReadPermission
{
/// <summary>
/// Everyone can read
/// </summary>
Everyone,
/// <summary>
/// Only the owner and the server can read
/// </summary>
Owner,
}
/// <summary>
/// The permission types for writing a var
/// </summary>
public enum NetworkVariableWritePermission
{
/// <summary>
/// Only the server can write
/// </summary>
Server,
/// <summary>
/// Only the owner can write
/// </summary>
Owner
}
important

Since Netcode for GameObjects uses a server authoritative model, the server will always have read or write permissions to any NetworkVariable. As an example, if you set both the read and write permissions to Owner the server can still read and write to the NetworkVariable.

Read Permissions#

There are two options for reading a NetworkVariable.Value:

  • Everyone(default): this means the owner and non-owners of the NetworkObject can read the value.
    • This is useful for "global states" that everyone should be aware of.
    • We provided an example of maintaining a door's open or closed state using the everyone permission.
      • You might also use this for player scores, health, or any other state that "everyone" should know about.
  • Owner: This means only the owner of the NetworkObject and the server can read the value.
    • This is useful if your NetworkVariable represents something specific to the client's player that only the server and client should know about
      • This might be a player's inventory or gun's ammo count (etc.)

Write Permissions#

There are two options for writing a NetworkVariable.Value:

  • Server(default): the server is the only one that can write the value.
    • This is useful for server side specific states that all clients should should be aware of but can't change.
      • Some examples would be an NPC's status (health, alive, dead, etc) or some global world environment state (that is, is it night or day time?).
  • Owner: This means only the owner of the NetworkObject can write to the value.
    • This is useful if your NetworkVariable represents something specific to the client's player that only the owning client should be able to set
      • This might be a player's skin or other cosmetics

Permissions Example#

The below example provides you with a few different permissions configurations that you might use in a game while keeping track of a player's state.

public class PlayerState : NetworkBehaviour
{
private const float k_DefaultHealth = 100.0f;
/// <summary>
/// Default Permissions: Everyone can read, server can only write
/// Player health is typically something determined (updated/written to) on the server
/// side, but a value everyone should be synchronized with (that is, read permissions).
/// </summary>
public NetworkVariable<float> Health = new NetworkVariable<float>(k_DefaultHealth);
/// <summary>
/// Owner Read Permissions: Owner or server can read
/// Owner Write Permissions: Only the Owner can write
/// A player's ammo count is something that you might want, for convenience sake, the
/// client-side to update locally. This might be because you are trying to reduce
/// bandwidth consumption for the server and all non-owners/ players or you might be
/// trying to incorporate a more client-side "hack resistant" design where non-owners
/// are never synchronized with this value.
/// </summary>
public NetworkVariable<int> AmmoCount = new NetworkVariable<int>(default,
NetworkVariableReadPermission.Owner, NetworkVariableWritePermission.Owner);
/// <summary>
/// Owner Write & Everyone Read Permissions:
/// A player's model's skin selection index. You might have the option to allow players
/// to select different skin materials as a way to further encourage a player's personal
/// association with their player character. It would make sense to make the permissions
/// setting of the NetworkVariable such that the client can change the value, but everyone
/// will be notified when it changes to visually reflect the new skin selection.
/// </summary>
public NetworkVariable<int> SkinSelectionIndex = new NetworkVariable<int>(default,
NetworkVariableReadPermission.Everyone, NetworkVariableWritePermission.Owner);
/// <summary>
/// Owner Read & Server Write Permissions:
/// You might incorporate some form of reconnection logic that stores a player's state on
/// the server side and can be used by the client to reconnect a player if disconnected
/// unexpectedly. In order for the client to let the server know it's the "same client"
/// you might have implemented a keyed array (that is, Hashtable, Dictionary, etc, ) to track
/// each connected client. The key value for each connected client would only be written to
/// the each client's PlayerState.ReconnectionKey. Under this scenario, you only want the
/// server to have write permissions and the owner (client) to be synchronized with this
/// value (via owner only read permissions).
/// </summary>
public NetworkVariable<ulong> ReconnectionKey = new NetworkVariable<ulong>(default,
NetworkVariableReadPermission.Owner, NetworkVariableWritePermission.Server);
}

The above example provides you with details on:

  • The NetworkVariable's purpose.
  • The "logical" reasoning behind each NetworkVariable's read and write permission settings.
important

You might be wondering about our earlier door example and why we chose to use a server RPC for clients to notify the server that the door's open/closed state has changed. Under that scenario, the owner of the door will most likely be owned by the server just like non-player characters will almost always be owned by the server. Under a server owned scenario, using an RPC to handle updating a NetworkVariable is the proper choice above permissions for most cases.

Complex Types#

Almost all of our examples have been focused around numeric Value Types. Netcode for GameObjects also supports complex types (as mentioned in the Supported Types list above), and can support both unmanaged types and managed types (although avoiding managed types where possible will improve your game's performance).

Synchronizing Complex Types Example#

For this example, we are extending the previous PlayerState class to include some complex types to handle a weapon boosting game play mechanic. We will explore two complex values types:

  • WeaponBooster: A power-up weapon booster that can only be assigned/applied by the client.
    • This is a simple example of a "complex" type.
  • AreaWeaponBooster: A second kind of "weapon booster" power-up that players can deploy at a specific location, and any team members within the radius of the AreaWeaponBooster will have the weapon booster applied.
    • This is an example of a nested complex type.

For the WeaponBooster, we only need one NetworkVariable to handle synchronizing everyone with any currently active player-local WeaponBooster. However, with the AreaWeaponBooster we must consider what happens if you have 8 team members that can, at any given moment, deploy one a AreaWeaponBooster? It would require, at a minimum, a list of all deployed and currently active AreaWeaponBoosters. For this task, we will use a NetworkList as opposed to a NetworkVariable.

First, let's review over the below PlayerState additions along with the WeaponBooster structure (complex type):

public class PlayerState : NetworkBehaviour
{
// ^^^^^^^ including all code from previous example ^^^^^^^
// The weapon booster currently applied to a player
private NetworkVariable<WeaponBooster> PlayerWeaponBooster = new NetworkVariable<WeaponBooster>();
/// <summary>
/// A list of team members active "area weapon boosters" that can be applied if the local player
/// is within their range.
/// </summary>
private NetworkList<AreaWeaponBooster> TeamAreaWeaponBoosters;
void Awake()
{
//NetworkList can't be initialized at declaration time like NetworkVariable. It must be initialized in Awake instead.
TeamAreaWeaponBoosters = new NetworkList<AreaWeaponBooster>();
}
void Start()
{
/*At this point, the object hasn't been network spawned yet, so you're not allowed to edit network variables! */
//list.Add(new AreaWeaponBooster());
}
void Update()
{
//This is just an example that shows how to add an element to the list after its initialization:
if (!IsServer) { return; } //remember: only the server can edit the list
if (Input.GetKeyUp(KeyCode.UpArrow))
{
TeamAreaWeaponBoosters.Add(new AreaWeaponBooster()));
}
}
public override void OnNetworkSpawn()
{
base.OnNetworkSpawn();
if (IsClient)
{
TeamAreaWeaponBoosters.OnListChanged += OnClientListChanged;
}
if (IsServer)
{
TeamAreaWeaponBoosters.OnListChanged += OnServerListChanged;
TeamAreaWeaponBoosters.Add(new AreaWeaponBooster()); //if you want to initialize the list with some default values, this is a good time to do so.
}
}
void OnServerListChanged(NetworkListEvent<AreaWeaponBooster> changeEvent)
{
Debug.Log($"[S] The list changed and now has {TeamAreaWeaponBoosters.Count} elements");
}
void OnClientListChanged(NetworkListEvent<AreaWeaponBooster> changeEvent)
{
Debug.Log($"[C] The list changed and now has {TeamAreaWeaponBoosters.Count} elements");
}
}
/// <summary>
/// Example: Complex Type
/// This is an example of how one might handle tracking any weapon booster currently applied
/// to a player.
/// </summary>
public struct WeaponBooster : INetworkSerializable, System.IEquatable<WeaponBooster>
{
public float PowerAmplifier;
public float Duration;
public void NetworkSerialize<T>(BufferSerializer<T> serializer) where T : IReaderWriter
{
if (serializer.IsReader)
{
var reader = serializer.GetFastBufferReader();
reader.ReadValueSafe(out PowerAmplifier);
reader.ReadValueSafe(out Duration);
}
else
{
var writer = serializer.GetFastBufferWriter();
writer.WriteValueSafe(PowerAmplifier);
writer.WriteValueSafe(Duration);
}
}
public bool Equals(WeaponBooster other)
{
return PowerAmplifier == other.PowerAmplifier && Duration == other.Duration;
}
}

The above first half of the example code shows how a complex type that implements INetworkSerializable is pretty straightforward. Looking at the below second part of the example, you can see that the AreaWeaponBooster includes a WeaponBooster property that would (for example) be applied to team members that are within the AreaWeaponBoosters radius:

/// <summary>
/// Example: Nesting Complex Types
/// This example uses the previous WeaponBooster complex type to be a "container" for
/// the "weapon booster" information of an AreaWeaponBooster. It then provides additional
/// information that would allow clients to easily determine, based on location and radius,
/// if it should add (for example) a special power up HUD symbol or special-FX to the local
/// player.
/// </summary>
public struct AreaWeaponBooster : INetworkSerializable, System.IEquatable<AreaWeaponBooster>
{
public WeaponBooster ApplyWeaponBooster; // the nested complex type
public float Radius;
public Vector3 Location;
public void NetworkSerialize<T>(BufferSerializer<T> serializer) where T : IReaderWriter
{
if (serializer.IsReader)
{
// The complex type handles its own de-serialization
serializer.SerializeValue(ref ApplyWeaponBooster);
// Now de-serialize the non-complex type properties
var reader = serializer.GetFastBufferReader();
reader.ReadValueSafe(out Radius);
reader.ReadValueSafe(out Location);
}
else
{
// The complex type handles its own serialization
serializer.SerializeValue(ref ApplyWeaponBooster);
// Now serialize the non-complex type properties
var writer = serializer.GetFastBufferWriter();
writer.WriteValueSafe(Radius);
writer.WriteValueSafe(Location);
}
}
public bool Equals(AreaWeaponBooster other)
{
return other.Equals(this) && Radius == other.Radius && Location == other.Location;
}
}

Looking closely at the read and write segments of code within AreaWeaponBooster.NetworkSerialize, the nested complex type property ApplyWeaponBooster handles its own serialization and de-serialization. The ApplyWeaponBooster's implemented NetworkSerialize method serializes and deserialized any AreaWeaponBooster type property. This design approach can help reduce code replication while providing a more modular foundation to build even more complex, nested types.

Custom NetworkVariable Implementations#

Disclaimer

The NetworkVariable and NetworkList classes were created as NetworkVariableBase class implementation examples. While the NetworkVariable<T> class is considered production ready, you might run into scenarios where you have a more advanced implementation in mind. In this case, we encourage you to create your own custom implementation.

In order to create your own NetworkVariableBase derived container, you should:

  • Create a class deriving from NetworkVariableBase.

  • Assure the the following methods are overridden:

    • void WriteField(FastBufferWriter writer)
    • void ReadField(FastBufferReader reader)
    • void WriteDelta(FastBufferWriter writer)
    • void ReadDelta(FastBufferReader reader, bool keepDirtyDelta)
  • Depdending upon your custom NetworkVariableBase container, you might look at NetworkVariable<T> or NetworkList to see how those two examples were implemented.

    Custom NetworkVariable Example#

This example shows a custom NetworkVariable type to help you understand how you might implement such a type. In the current version of Netcode for GameObjects, this example is possible without using a custom NetworkVariable type; however, for more complex situations that aren't natively supported, this basic example should help inform you of how to approach the implementation:

/// Using MyCustomNetworkVariable within a NetworkBehaviour
public class TestMyCustomNetworkVariable : NetworkBehaviour
{
public MyCustomNetworkVariable CustomNetworkVariable = new MyCustomNetworkVariable();
public override void OnNetworkSpawn()
{
if (IsServer)
{
for (int i = 0; i < 4; i++)
{
var someData = new SomeData();
someData.SomeFloatData = (float)i;
someData.SomeIntData = i;
someData.SomeListOfValues.Add((ulong)i + 1000000);
someData.SomeListOfValues.Add((ulong)i + 2000000);
someData.SomeListOfValues.Add((ulong)i + 3000000);
CustomNetworkVariable.SomeDataToSynchronize.Add(someData);
CustomNetworkVariable.SetDirty(true);
}
}
}
}
/// Bare minimum example of NetworkVariableBase derived class
[Serializable]
public class MyCustomNetworkVariable : NetworkVariableBase
{
/// Managed list of class instances
public List<SomeData> SomeDataToSynchronize = new List<SomeData>();
/// <summary>
/// Writes the complete state of the variable to the writer
/// </summary>
/// <param name="writer">The stream to write the state to</param>
public override void WriteField(FastBufferWriter writer)
{
// Serialize the data we need to synchronize
writer.WriteValueSafe(SomeDataToSynchronize.Count);
foreach (var dataEntry in SomeDataToSynchronize)
{
writer.WriteValueSafe(dataEntry.SomeIntData);
writer.WriteValueSafe(dataEntry.SomeFloatData);
writer.WriteValueSafe(dataEntry.SomeListOfValues.Count);
foreach (var valueItem in dataEntry.SomeListOfValues)
{
writer.WriteValueSafe(valueItem);
}
}
}
/// <summary>
/// Reads the complete state from the reader and applies it
/// </summary>
/// <param name="reader">The stream to read the state from</param>
public override void ReadField(FastBufferReader reader)
{
// De-Serialize the data being synchronized
var itemsToUpdate = (int)0;
reader.ReadValueSafe(out itemsToUpdate);
SomeDataToSynchronize.Clear();
for (int i = 0; i < itemsToUpdate; i++)
{
var newEntry = new SomeData();
reader.ReadValueSafe(out newEntry.SomeIntData);
reader.ReadValueSafe(out newEntry.SomeFloatData);
var itemsCount = (int)0;
var tempValue = (ulong)0;
reader.ReadValueSafe(out itemsCount);
newEntry.SomeListOfValues.Clear();
for (int j = 0; j < itemsCount; j++)
{
reader.ReadValueSafe(out tempValue);
newEntry.SomeListOfValues.Add(tempValue);
}
SomeDataToSynchronize.Add(newEntry);
}
}
public override void ReadDelta(FastBufferReader reader, bool keepDirtyDelta)
{
// Don'thing for this example
}
public override void WriteDelta(FastBufferWriter writer)
{
// Don'thing for this example
}
}
/// Example managed class used as the item type in the
/// MyCustomNetworkVariable.SomeDataToSynchronize list
[Serializable]
public class SomeData
{
public int SomeIntData = default;
public float SomeFloatData = default;
public List<ulong> SomeListOfValues = new List<ulong>();
}

While the above example isn't the "recommended" way to synchronize a list where the number or order of elements in the list often changes, it's just an example of how you can define your own rules using NetworkVariableBase.

The above code can be tested by:

  • Using the above code with a project that includes Netcode for GameObjects v1.0 (or higher).
  • Adding the TestMyCustomNetworkVariable component to an in-scene placed NetworkObject.
  • Creating a stand alone build and running that as a host or server
  • Running the same scene within the editor and connecting as a client
    • Once connected, you can then select the GameObject with the attached NetworkObject and TestMyCustomNetworkVariable components so it appears in the inspector view. There you can verify the TestMyCustomNetworkVariable.CustomNetworkVariable property was synchronized with the client (like in the screenshot below): ScreenShot
caution

You can't nest NetworkVariables inside other NetworkVariable classes. This is because Netcode for GameObjects performs a code generation step to define serialization callbacks for each type it finds in a NetworkVariable. The code generation step looks for variables as fields of NetworkBehaviour types; it misses any NetworkVariables declared anywhere else.

Instead of nesting NetworkVariables inside other NetworkVariable classes, declare NetworkVariable or NetworkList properties within the same NetworkBehaviour within which you have declared your custom NetworkVariableBase implementation.

Strings#

While NetworkVariable does support managed INetworkSerializable types, strings aren't in the list of supported types. This is because strings in C# are immutable types, preventing them from being deserialized in-place, so every update to a NetworkVariable<string> would cause a Garbage Collected allocation to create the new string, which may lead to performance problems.

While it's technically possible to support strings using custom serialization through UserNetworkVariableSerialization, it isn't recommended to do so due to the performance implications that come with it. Instead, we recommend using one of the Unity.Collections.FixedString value types. In the below example, we used a FixedString128Bytes as the NetworkVariable value type. On the server side, it changes the string value each time you press the space bar on the server or host instance. Joining clients will be synchronized with the current value applied on the server side, and each time you hit the space bar on the server side, the client synchronizes with the changed string.

note

NetworkVariable<T> won't serialize the entire 128 bytes each time the Value is changed. Only the number of bytes that are actually used to store the string value will be sent, no matter which size of FixedString you use.

public class TestFixedString : NetworkBehaviour
{
/// Create your 128 byte fixed string NetworkVariable
private NetworkVariable<FixedString128Bytes> m_TextString = new NetworkVariable<FixedString128Bytes>();
private string[] m_Messages ={ "This is the first message.",
"This is the second message (not like the first)",
"This is the third message (but not the last)",
"This is the fourth and last message (next will roll over to the first)"
};
private int m_MessageIndex = 0;
public override void OnNetworkSpawn()
{
if (IsServer)
{
// Assin the current value based on the current message index value
m_TextString.Value = m_Messages[m_MessageIndex];
}
else
{
// Subscribe to the OnValueChanged event
m_TextString.OnValueChanged += OnTextStringChanged;
// Log the current value of the text string when the client connected
Debug.Log($"Client-{NetworkManager.LocalClientId}'s TextString = {m_TextString.Value}");
}
}
public override void OnNetworkDespawn()
{
m_TextString.OnValueChanged -= OnTextStringChanged;
}
private void OnTextStringChanged(FixedString128Bytes previous, FixedString128Bytes current)
{
// Just log a notification when m_TextString changes
Debug.Log($"Client-{NetworkManager.LocalClientId}'s TextString = {m_TextString.Value}");
}
private void LateUpdate()
{
if (!IsServer)
{
return;
}
if (Input.GetKeyDown(KeyCode.Space))
{
m_MessageIndex++;
m_MessageIndex %= m_Messages.Length;
m_TextString.Value = m_Messages[m_MessageIndex];
Debug.Log($"Server-{NetworkManager.LocalClientId}'s TextString = {m_TextString.Value}");
}
}
}
note

The above example uses a pre-set list of strings to cycle through for example purposes only. If you have a predefined set of text strings as part of your actual design then you would not want to use a FixedString to handle synchronizing the changes to m_TextString. Instead, you would want to use a uint for the type T where the uint was the index of the string message to apply to m_TextString.