Before I wanted to start out with the actual networking part, I wanted a way to load the assets from disk in the background, and before the game was actually running. This to prevent slowdowns in the network simulation when a new building/unit was constructed and the asset had to be loaded from disk.
In order to do this, I wanted a nice front-end(A progressbar to display the loading progress) and a back-end: A background thread which did the loading and put each asset into the TextureManager.
I started out with the ProgressBar, as the asset pre-loader was half done. It just needed to be modified to be able to work in a thread.
The progressbar is just another Control for my game. It basically draws it's outline, and based on a Value it shows a nice (blue) bar. I initially had a problem with the outlines not showing up. But, this is related to the way how D3DSprite and D3DXLine render. I solved the issue by doing a Sprite.End() RenderLine Sprite.Begin(), but that cuts down on performance, so I need a better way. I reported it as a 'tweak' in mantis, so I don't forget about it.
The background asset loader was also heavily modified. I initially wanted to try and run it while performing my normal gamestate functionality, but I found out it's way too slow for that. The change was that when I constructed the Preloader, it would parse the list of assets to load and store these, and then with a call to LoadNext() it would take the next asset from the list and load it. So, I shoved that into my BackgroundLoader class, and all was done. The BackgroundLoader is a thread that keeps running until all loading is done, and once it loads the next asset, it will increase a counter, so I can poll how many assets are done and then update the progress bar.
However, I was quite shocked when I tested out the background loading process. It's slow as hell! It took 94 seconds in debug build and 87 seconds in release build to load all 58 assets in just 2 colors. Image how long it'll take when you're playing with 6 friends...
So yea, background loading is in, except it's terribly slow. In fact, it's so slow, it's unusable to develop the network play with, because having to wait ~1.5 minute before being able to test something out is too much for me.
For the coming tests(The actual network gameplay), I'll be testing with a reduced preload set, just a handfull of units / buildings.