Thursday, July 30, 2015

I've owned a Tesla Model S since December, 2014, and I absolutely love it! If you're in the market for one, you can get a discount by buying it through this linkNo, I'm not an employee of Tesla. Yes, I'm helping them market their cars, because I think they are worthy of all the praise they get. And yes, I might just have a man-crush on Elon Musk...

Friday, June 12, 2015

From Jeremy Heaton (June 7, 2015):

For an advanced topics independent research course, at the Villanova's computer science graduate department, I made a GLSL renderer and game engine. I used your book as the main reference. I was relatively new to GLSL, about a year working with it on my spare time. I found your book absolutely overwhelming. I would read twenty pages, be amazed with what I read, and then spend 20 hours doing research online about the topic. I never heard of SSE or custom memory managers before your book. Every year Villanova's computer science department gives an award to the best graduate student advanced topic research project. My project won the award. I plan on meticulously rereading your book and learning as much as I can. Thank you for writing it, it is the most interesting computer graphics book I have read so far.

-----

Wow that's excellent news! Congratulations on your award! I'm glad my book provided you with some guidance and inspiration. From the sound of it, your hard work and perseverance really paid off; this kind of work ethic will take you far.

Thank you for sharing this awesome story!


J

Sunday, April 26, 2015

From Peter A. Felvegi, here's an in-depth list of errata, suggestions, and a few opinions. Note that I don't agree with all of Peter's opinions. I've added my own comments throughout his post, where I think that additional clarification or a differing point of view may be of value. Thanks Peter for taking the time to write up this super valuable in-depth feedback!

Page 65, Git: I think you missed the main point of Git: it is a
distributed version control system. This means you can work offline most
of the time, commit, merge, etc. Merging is a bliss, compared to cvs and
svn, and has a lot of useful features that support usual real-life
scenarios, eg commiting only selected hunks from files, stashing,
bisecting, and is quite fast. Also, it is excellent for one-man small
projects, as no server setup is needed at all. Moreover, thanks to its
compressed version database, the checked out project with full history
occupies usually less disk space than the current checkout in svn. I
used cvs for years, had to seriously prepare for tagging and branching.
Used svn for years, and had hard times merging feature branches back if
there were more than one stages. This involved manually tracking the
commits that were already merged, lest I wanted them merged again which
resulted in wild conflicts. This was years back, maybe they improved
upon that, I don't care anymore, since I switched to git, and it just
works. This is probably has a lot to do with the fact that it was
developed for tracking the Linux kernel, which is a large scale,
distributed effort. It must be admitted, however, that the distributed
nature and having 40 digit hex numbers instead of integer version
numbers takes a little time to wrap one's head around.

True enough, and I should have mentioned git's distributed nature as well as its diff-centric design.

Page 79: I find your 'Release' build a bit confusing. 'Release' means
getting out something from somewhere, so I'd consider this the
production, final version, but what you describe is actually a
developer/internal build.

Most companies use the terms Debug and Release because those are the defaults provided by popular IDEs like Visual Studio. However, in our case at Naughty Dog (and at EA, actually) we started with Release and then realized that we needed additional optimizations. So Release became a fast internal build, and the term Final or Production was used to refer to the highly optimized build. So you're quite right, at that point the term "Release" became a bit of misnomer.

Page 105: constexpr should have been mentioned, as it helps
optimization, and simplifies the code for some calculations that
required earlier template metaprogramming. Also, variadic templates are
extremely useful.

Page 106: nullptr is cool, but NULL is still used in later code fragments.

Page 108: the way you initialize the output vector will make it equal in
size to the input, with 0.0 elems, then you append the calculated
values, making it twice the size of the input. Should have called
reserve() after default construction.

Page 110: since later you frown upon exceptions (which I will address
separately), I suppose you planned the code with exceptions turned off,
but this should have been said explicitly, because otherwise:
- new[] might throw, but it's OK
- since you're writing a template, memcpy() is a rather bad choice.
std::uninitialized_copy() should have been used
- but then, T's copy ctor might throw, leaking the allocated array
I'd suggest to rewrite the example as either an exception/leak safe
generic version, or name it IntVector which works only for ints and
malloc()/memcpy() is OK and there can be no exceptions.

Yes, this code assumes exceptions are disabled... as is common practice in every game engine I've ever worked with.

Page 111: operator=() leaks memory, since it doesn't free the already
allocated block. The notes about memcpy/exceptions from the previous
page apply here, too. The rvalue version also leaks, but that can
elegantly fixed by swapping m_array with original.m_array, so that the
old array will be freed when the temporary's dtor is run.

Page 117: 3.2.1.5 'atomic data types' is misleading, since atomic types
are related to concurrency and r-m-w operations. What you describe are
built-in types. The same applies to page 119, 'OGRE's atomic data types'.

The term "atomic data types" is sometimes used loosely in the industry to refer to the built-in types provided by the compiler, or more generally the set of simple (non-struct/class) types. But you're quite right, the term is a misnomer and should not be confused with the concept of an atomic CPU instruction such as compare-and-swap.

Page 122: regarding writeExampleStruct(): it would be more elegant and
better style to have (or at least, this is how I do binary I/O;):
- the endianness policy should be a template of the stream class
- operator<< instead of a named fn, parametrized with the endianness policy
- there are builtins for byte-swapping, eg __builtin_bswap16/32/64 for gcc

I'm not a big fan of operator<< for file I/O. I feel it is a misuse of operator overloading, because it completely changes the meaning of the operator, rather than simply extending its range of applicability to new data types.

Page 125: max() and min() : it might worth mentioning that
- C++11's constexpr can help optimize these kinds of functions if the
args are constants
- with variadic templates, any number of arguments can be easily supported
- noting that with templates, one can't separate declaration and
definition, compilation unit-wise.

Page 148: I think your treating of exceptions are quite biased, and
quoting Joel Spolsky telling that exceptions are worse than gotos should
be a joke, unfortunately, I missed the smiley. Yes, exceptions have some
overhead, but a good exception handling runtime implementation has only
data overhead and no runtime overhead on the error-free path. Compare
this with checking error codes, which also has data/code overhead, and
additionally, has runtime overhead even if there is no error.
Additionally, it's more error prone, easier to leak resources. About 14
years ago, I read an article, Exception Handling: A false sense of
security (
http://ptgmedia.pearsoncmg.com/images/020163371x/supplements/Exception_Handling_Article.html
), which is now more than 20 years old. It made some good points, so I
used error codes at that time in the projects I was involved with.
However, it proved to be a burden: must use a common large enum for all
the subsystems, which glue them together. Otherwise, with separate error
code groups, without context a single int error code can't be
interpreted. Also, the code had lots of boilerplate cleanup parts. With
time, I learned about the exception safety guarantees, RAII, and
switched over completely. In some cases there were significant reduction
in code complexity and size (my external db sort comes to mind), and
resource leaks practically ceased to exist. Switching to exception
handling won't work without switching of thought, however, but the
guidelines are few and simple: decide the safety guarantees you wish to
implement, and regard any fn call (including operators) as they might
throw, don't pepper the code with try/catch, instead use RAII.

I agree, that mileages might vary, and that there might be good reasons
not to use exceptions, but telling that 'there are some pretty strong
arguments for turning off exception handling' (page 149), without
providing any seems a little biased to me. The main problem with this
omission is that the novice programmers who take your advice without
adequate weighting of the pros and cons might go on a path they will
later regret. I'd suggest some pros/cons table regarding exceptions vs
error codes, including data/code size, runtime overhead,
maintainability, legacy code support, platform constraints, etc. I, for
one, am really curious what were those pretty strong arguments in favor
of not using exceptions in your projects.

The debate over whether or not to use exceptions is an ongoing and wide-ranging one, with strong arguments to be made on both sides. All I can really offer here is the fact that at every game company I've ever worked for (covering 16 years), and in every non-game software company I worked for before I got into games (covering 7 years prior to that), exceptions have either been forbidden in all code, or only permitted in offline tools, but never in the engine runtime. The reasons for this prohibition are many, but include:

  1. Exceptions obfuscate control flow by introducing invisible function exit points. To understand a single function in the presence of exception throwing, one needs to wrap one's head around literally all of the downstream functions and all of the exceptions each one might throw, all the way to the leaves of the call tree. For example, if function a() calls b() which in turn calls c(), and c() throws an exception caught by a(), the implementer of b() must take care to ensure that resources are cleaned up properly during the stack unwind. The problem is that the implementer of b() may not know a priori that a downstream function such as c() might throw an exception. (A similar argument can be made for the avoidance of very deep class hierarchies.)
  2. Corollary to #1: Retrofitting exceptions into an existing codebase is extremely difficult to do properly.
  3. Exceptions can lead to resource leaks in a language like C++, which has no support for garbage collection or finally clauses.
  4. Exceptions are easily abused/misused. Writing exception-safe code is difficult, in much the same way writing safe concurrent code is difficult. In the case of concurrent programming, the advantages clearly outweigh the costs. However I don't believe the same can be said for the benefits of exceptions over their costs.
  5. RAII (resource acquisition is initialization) is very often not desirable in high-performance game engine code. For example, one often wants to acquire a pool of resources and then initialize and free them individually, on an as-needed basis. Special care would need to be taken to manage such resources correctly in the presence of exceptions.
  6. In a command-line or GUI based tool, exceptions can certainly be a useful way to report error conditions to the end user without crashing the program outright (allowing the user to save his or her work and/or address the problem gracefully). But in a game engine, if a fatal error occurs, there's often no point in trying to recover gracefully -- the game often can't continue anyway. So it's usually best to simply assert-fail with a useful message right then and there, where the root cause of the problem is most clearly evident (breaking out into the debugger if one is attached).

If you search online I'm sure you'll find no shortage of arguments both for and against the use of exceptions. Ultimately, it's up to each software company and game studio to make its own judgment on the matter. Here are a few articles on the topic for further reading:

  • http://www.codeproject.com/Articles/38449/C-Exceptions-Pros-and-Cons
  • http://google-styleguide.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/cppguide.html#Exceptions
  • http://www.codergears.com/Blog/?p=835
Page 162: bottom, it might worth mentioning that CPU's nowadays are not
just superscalar, but excecute out-of-order also, with hundreds of insns
in flight in a given moment, and that can make suprises when one wants
to naively optimize.

So true.

Page 179: Clifford should have been mentioned along with Grassman. Eric
Lengyel made a fine presentation on the subject:
http://www.terathon.com/gdc12_lengyel.pdf

Page 258: postincrement vs preincrement: since the guideline goes
opposite to the common C++ idiom, some finer analysis would be needed I
think. Unfortunately, I couldn't quite follow the reasoning, could you
please elaborate? Since the example code on the previous page has for()
loops, the increment and the loop condition are separate expressions.
Either post or pre increment, the condition will use the incremented
value. For lightweight iterators, ints/ptrs pre/post increment won't
make a difference. For complex types, postincrement must make a copy,
which might have some overhead. How is this compared to the data
dependecy? Any real world examples?

You are exactly right that pre-increment and post-increment offer the same performance when applied to basic data types, all other things being equal. When an increment operation is applied to an instance of a class with a non-trivial copy constructor (such as some iterators), pre-increment can be faster because we avoid calling the copy constructor to hold the original value prior to incrementing it. As such, you're quite right, the example I cited as a segue into the discussion of pre- versus post-increment was misleading and wrong. Because the example deals with incrementing an iterator, pre-increment would be faster (or certainly no slower) than post-increment in that context.

My point about preferring pre-increment in high-performance code has to do with creating a data hazard for a pipelined CPU. If you calculate the value A based on the result ++B (e.g. A = ++B * C;) then the CPU pipeline must stall waiting for the value of ++B to be computed, before it can be multiplied with C to produce the final result A. If you reorganized your logic, you might be able to write this expression as A = B++ * C; which would eliminate the data hazard. That's all I was trying to get at. In the third edition, I'll clarify this and use some better examples.

Page 261: STL drawbacks: one mayor drawback of the containers that the
memory management can't be easily customized. Yes, there are the
allocators concept, but that was invented to overcome the DOS memory
models, regarding to Stepanov:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allocator_%28C%2B%2B%29
https://www.sgi.com/tech/stl/drdobbs-interview.html
and not to customize raw memory allocation. Allocators are passed by
value and should be interchangeable by the std: this means you have to
make extra efforts to use dedicated pools, and also write boilerplate
code that has nothing to do with allocation. There are a lot of rants
about allocators, and the genereral consensus seems to be 'roll your own
framework'. Which is quite unfortunate, since the std lib should solve
frequently occuring problems.

Page 266: the Link struct should have the element by value, and not as a
ptr. That way, small value types can be embedded, and the lifetime tied
to the link. And if multiple lists reference the same element, you can
use Link<T*> instead of Link<T> to have a ptr instead of the value. This
way the same link type can be used for both cases.

Agreed.

Page 267: With intrusive lists, the link type is:

template<typename E>
struct Link
{
   Link<E>* prev;
   Link<E>* next
};

struct SomeElement : Link<SomeElement>
{
   int i;
};

note that Link<E> never mentions E, just itself. This unfortunately
means, that code can't navigate SomeElements, just Links. If you follow
the links, you can't access SomeElement's members:

SomeElement* e;
int i1 = e->i; // OK
int i2 = e->next->i; // Ooops, e->next is not of type SomeElement, but
Link<SomeElement>

So Link should be

template<typename E>
struct Link
{
   E* prev;
   E* next
};

This way navigation preserves the type. I see that you made Link as is
to use it also as the root of the circular list (with my version this is
not possible, since then root must be of type SomeElement, which might
not be applicable), but being unable to access the members after
navigation is a serious drawback which might outweigh the simplicity of
the insert()/remove() functions.

Anyway, if the way to go is the circular list, then the Link need not be
a template.

At Naughty Dog we do it the way I show in the text, and it works well because, as you rightly point out, the Link struct can be used as the head of a circular linked list. The template is useful so we can re-use this code for myriad unrelated data types.

Page 269: LinkedList::remove() it might worth asserting that one doesn't
try to remove the root node

Page 273: xxhash might be worth mentioning as a good hash function (more
than 10 times faster than crc32 and better quality), also has 64 bit
version:
https://code.google.com/p/xxhash/

Page 274: might worth noting, that std::string has the problem that it
not only represents the character sequence but it also owns it. Because
of that, const substrings can't be freely passed around, because a new
string will be allocated and characters copied. string_ref is designed
to solve this performance issue:
http://www.boost.org/doc/libs/1_57_0/libs/utility/doc/html/string_ref.html

Page 290: 5.5.1 text config files: json should be mentioned also, as
it's fully hierarchic as opposed to ini files, and has much less noise
and is more human friendly compared to xml. I think it would be nice to
have some pros/cons section about the choice of the options file format
/ method. like
- text or binary? data size is an issue? human readibilty / editability?
- flat or hierarchical?
- visible or hidden (files vs win registry)
A good hierarchical format can also be used to describe UI structures,
without having to write specific code.

Yes. We have started to use JSON extensively at Naughty Dog. I'll include a discussion of it in the 3rd ed.

Page 292: while mentioning the windows registry is reasonable, I'd
strongly recommend against using it. Windows tends to be reinstalled. If
your game settings were in the registry, they will be lost. I also
recommend against putting options / save games / etc under the user's
home folder, for the same reason. Some of those folders are hidden, and
usually they contain an incredible amount of junk. Having to salvage
saved games, options, etc after a reinstall from that pile is a pain in
the A. I speak from bitter experience. I lost all of my wonderful record
times in Max Payne 2's New York Minute game mode due to a reinstall.
Because of this, my suggestion would be to place all the stuff in the
game's install folder. If per user config is needed, subfolders can be
created for each user. This way if the game's folder is saved,
everything is saved, no matter how badly windows screwed up itself and
had to be reinstalled. Of course, there is the issue of file permissions
in multi-user OS'es, but on windows it's less of a problem, and on
unix'es the main profile folder can be created with world rw
permissions, so new profiles can be created, but then each profile
belongs to its own user.

Agreed.

Page 294: command line arguments: parsing complex options is a boring
task, but luckily there are a bunch of libraries that help the parsing,
or even generate all the parsing code and even the help from a textual
description.

Page 299: an important difference is file name case sensitivity /
insesitivity. This, coupled with the path separator multiplicity has
some implications for the resource manager: if only one instance of each
resource is desirable in the memory, what happens if "Fonts/Arial18.dat"
and "fonts\\arial18.dat" are loaded? On Windows? On Linux? Obviously
some file name normalization is needed in the resource manager,
converting the case and the path separator. Which might be again
converted if opening the file from the native filesystem, eg on old macs.

Page 305: async i/o: C++11 defines a memory model and the primitives for
concurrent programming. This is an important feature set, and the async
code you provided might use it, or at least this feat of the new C++ std
be noted. Futures/promises lend themselves to the kind of task where you
start the async job, do something else, then use the result of the async
job (or wait until it's finished).

Page 321: on resource files: having a single (or a few) large files
containing the resources are indeed preferable as they stress the
filesystem less, and can be also compressed. Another important feature
is that the data can be optimized if needed for optical storage (where
seek times are large), based on profiling: eg gathering the access
patterns (offset, size pairs of reads) can help rearrange the data
inside the archive file to have no seeks at all while loading the level.
The drawback is that a specific order probably won't work for all the
levels (shared resources), and using one reordering for another level
might result in more seeks, ie worse loading times than without
rearranging. One solution could be to duplicate the data, but obviously
this will have storage costs. Whether it is feasible and woth it is
rather situation dependent. As a generic advice, don't take generic
advices, but judge wisely knowing your application needs :) If the
resource loading can be done async, the loader can batch up requests,
sorting them based on the data offsets inside the archive, and load them
in that order to minimize the seeks.

On the benefits of the ZIP format: yes, it's open, yes it can compress
and store subfolder hierarchies. BUT the compression algorithm is old,
and not too strong in today's standards. It is especially bad for many
small files, as each file is compressed individually. Also, the ZIP's
directory is not compressed, which means a lot of wasted space for a big
game with many files. Creating an own format is easy. Then stronger
compression algos can be used like bzip2 or lzma. You can even encrypt
your data to protect it from prying eyes.

If compression is to be used on the archive level, then don't
pre-compress the assets, only if the generic compression algorithm is
inadequate. This can happen: about 13 years ago I was involved in a
project where a 3d scene was rendered over a high quality, pre-rendered
background. The only problem was that the background had complex
textures, so the zlib compression didn't compress it well. In the jpeg
format it was either too big (over a megabyte :D but that was a lot when
the download speeds were about 32K/s), or too blocky due to the
compression artifacts. So I made a custom wavelet compressor that
produced about 1/3 of the size of the jpeg, with similar subjective
quality. Having dedicated compression algorithms for audio, video,
textures, meshes, animations can be an option even today, but one must
consider whether the increased complexity of the asset pipeline,
packaging, loading worth the reduction in the size of the data, compared
to a single generic compressor.

Another issue is (probably less on consoles than on PC's) patching. If
you have a large compressed file, and only a really small part of the
raw resources change, the compressed representation might have great
differences. This means if you naively generate the patch from the two
versions of the archive files, without any consideration to the inner
structure and contents, you will get larger patches than possible,
meaning longer download times for the players and more bandwidth cost
for your servers. The solutions is obviously to generate the patch based
on the raw uncompressed resources, not on the monolithic compressed
archive files. Another approach is that the changed files are packaged,
and layered above the original archive in the resource manager, so the
new versions hide the old versions when loading. The feasibility depends
on the size of the data set mainly.

Page 322: in point 4, you take on the issue of separating the localized
assets into dedicated archive files. However, I missed the discussion of
the real-life patterns of file management in games. You talked earlier
about the usefulness of wrapping the OS specific I/O interface into a
unified one, isolating the generic code from the platform's specifics,
you talked about the ZIP archives, but there's no advice how the
archives should be organized and used. Especially, how you use the
localized assets once they are in their dedicated archive?

I'd give this kind of advice:
- abstract the raw file handling of the platforms to a unified
interface, let's call it IFile, as file interface, for
creating/writing/reading files
- implement IFile for the platforms' native files
- also implement it for memory files, where raw buffers are read/written
- implement a mapped file, that maps a region (offset, size) of another
file, which looks like a separate file to the user
- abstract the interface of handling collections of files: listing,
opening, reading. let's call it IPakFile. Opening a file returns an IFile
- implement this collection interface for simple filesystem directories
- and also for the archive formats of your choice, opening them from IFile's
- implement a virtual file system (VFS) manager, that is just an ordered
collection of collections which support opening files. Opening works by
searching the file in reverse order in the collections.

With this toolset, a game would do i/o like this:
- create the VFS singleton on startup
- open all common resource archive files, add them to the VFS
- OR, alternatively, especially in developer mode, add one or more
filesystem directories as collections, so free-standing files can be
used without having to package them all the time
- open the language specific common files, based on the current
language, add them to the VFS
- OR, similarly as above, add filesystem directories
- if the level data are in dedicated archives, only add the current
level's archives / directories (common & language specific) to the VFS
- add any patch archives at the end, if applicable
- then, when opening a file thorugh the VFS, it will search it in the
reverse order of the addition. So patches are searched first, any file
that is there, ie the new, fixed version will be used. Then the level
specific files, language specific files, etc.

The power of this organization comes from that once the VFS is
initialized, all the other code needs to talk only to the VFS. No need
to care for details as whether it's a production or a developer build,
whether there are patches, which language is active, etc.

Opening a file from a resource will have this sequence:
- locate the collection in the VFS which has the file
- open through the collection
   - if it's a filesystem directory, open the file from the native
filesystem, return the proper IFile implementation
   - if it's an archive file, create a mapped file over the archive
file's IFile, with the (offset, length) of the file within the archive,
return the mapped file as an IFile implementation. If the archive is
compressed, things will be a bit more complex as the IFile
implementation must handle decompression: the stored file is probably
sliced into blocks and the blocks compressed individually, the last
block cached in memory.

Managing the lifetime of the IFile instances can be done by hand, but
probably a better idea is to have some handle which manages the lifetime
automatically, avoiding resource leaks.

All excellent points, and a great discussion of the topic of file I/O and resource organization. I'll try to incorporate some of these ideas into the 3rd ed.

Page 357: dealing with break points: the adjustment of the elapsed time
is also important on the server side of the games (if any): if for some
reason there is a temporary stall, eg the sql server had a bad moment,
the elapsed time must be adjusted lest we want certain events to fire
off too early, before the players had a chance to react, or rather,
before the server had a chance to process their reaction message, which
is probably in the input queue already.

Agreed.

Page 363: the XBOX 360 figure has the core numberings wrong: all 3 is
'core 0'. Between the two figures, in the text, you write 'the PS3 has
six coprocessors known as...', but on the figure, there are 7 SPU's
numbered form 0 to 6. To the best of my knowledge, there are 8 SPUs in
the CELL. In the PS3, of which 7 is available for the programmer, one is
reserved for Sony's OS. I read somewhere that the 8th SPU is kept as a
backup/redundancy. I must admit I have no hands-on experience with the
CELL, so I might be quite wrong, I only quote what I read.

Page 364: 7.6.1.3 end of line two: 'six coprocessors' is written again,
referring to the PS3 CELL.

Page 366 & 368: in the figures, both 4 core blocks are labeled 'CPC 0'

Page 372: 'six SPUs are used as job processors' six or seven?

Yes, all of these are typos. The Xbox 360 cores should have been numbered 0, 1 and 2 of course. On the PS4 and Xbox One, the figures should read CPC0 and CPC1, obviously. And the PS3 SPUs should have been numbered 0 through 5 (or 1 through 6, take your pick). There are only 6 usable SPUs on the PS3. The die actually has 8 SPU cores, but one is locked out during the test process to increase yields, and one is reserved for use by the OS, leaving a consistent 6 SPUs for use by games. (And no, it's not possible to "unlock" the 7th SPU for a performance boost... although we certainly have talked about trying!)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

From: Ben Rogalski

Hello Jason,
I wanted to let you know that this url is dead:
http://www.ccs.neu.edu/­home/­donghui/­teaching/­slides/­geometry/­BSP2D.ppt
I contacted the author of the power point and he pointed me to this new url:
http://zgking.com:8080/home/donghui/teaching/slides/geometry/BSP2D.ppt

-------------

Thanks! I'll post the correction on the book's website. :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

From: Damon Connolly

Heya Jason. Not sure if you get the time to read through emails often, so I'm just hoping here!

I've recently made the transition from music composition into programming but I'm still new. I have a few issues I'm a bit stuck with and (This will sound totally gay..)  You are my hero, Even my mentor who is a pretty high up programmer in another AAA company, recommended your book and said "If you want to be a programmer, You don't do anything, ANYTHING, without first reading this masterpiece".

So my issues:

Everyone says (for example)  ints are different sizes on different platforms with different compilers etc etc etc. On one it can be 32 bits on another it can be 64 bits. 

Now, in my coding convention i never use "int" or "short int", etc, I always use __int32 or __int16, I even use __int8 if I know the int will always be a small number (i know thats the same as char, and i use char when storing letters, for readability). 

What confuses me is, what takes priority?  if I'm working on a system in which an int is 64 bits, but i create an int using __int32  does that now force the int size to be 32 bits or does the "32" only go as far as the type name, and despite it being "__int32 myInt", it would actually still be 64 bit or something?


Thank you so much! (not just for reading but just generally being one of the worlds top-most software engineers)

--------------------------------------

Hi Damon,

First let me thank you for the kind words! Hearing stories like that make all the hard work of putting together a technical book worthwhile!

Re your question, I think you're confusing the "natural" word size of the CPU with the sizes of individual variables. You can declare and use variables and data objects of any size -- from char/__int8 to __int64 or __m128 (SIMD vectors), and of course you can also declare structs/classes of any size (even GB's in size, although that would be weird). A variable's size is whatever you declared it to be, period.

The natural word size of the CPU is typically defined to be the size of its internal registers, and hence the size it prefers to work with (i.e., can work with most efficiently). But the compiler will generate code such that any sized int will work. e.g., If you try to work with an __int8, but the CPU's natural word size is, say, 32 bits, then the compiler will generate code that loads 32 bits worth of data from memory into a register, and then shifts and masks things off (or uses 8-bit CPU instructions if the CPU supports them) to manipulate those 32 bits AS IF only the 8 bits of your variable are "in play" (i.e. they are shifted down to the least-significant 8 bits, and the upper 24 bits are treated as zeros). But if you load a 32-bit integer on a 32-bit machine, then things are as efficient as possible, because all that shifting and masking and/or using of special 8-bit instructions isn't required.

Now, int and long and char et al are a bit weird because they don't declare universal sizes on all target hardware. Instead they declare pre-defined sizes that differ on different target CPU architectures. So int is usually 32 bits, but might end up being 64 on some architectures. But that said, once the size has been determined (and it is fixed forever by the designers of your compiler for any given target CPU), then things work exactly as if you had used an explicitly-sized type like __int32. The only thing you need to find out is what that size actually is for your particular combo of compiler+target CPU. Or if you don't care (which is the intent of int et al, after all!), just know that int is typically the most efficient integer type on any CPU, and that it is at least 32 bits, but might be more.

What I do is simply to use int for almost all local variables (where I don't care about the size and I just want efficiency), and explicitly-sized types for data members within classes and structs (where I often want to control the layout of the object in memory, so I need to know the exact sizes of everything). Basically try to avoid sized types unless your code really cares about the size (and the possible range of values being stored). Another reason to used sized types is if you're potentially dealing with very large values, like e.g. an offset into a file (which could be GB in size) -- so I'd need an unsigned 64-bit int to be sure I cover all reasonably possible file sizes. But 99.9% of your ints are going to be "small" (i.e., <= 0x7fffffff, the largest signed 32-bit value) so who cares, just use int and be efficient.

Make sense? :)

Cheers,
J

P.S. By the way, would it be OK if I included your email and my response on the book's blog (http://gameenginebook.blogspot.com/)? Please let me know.



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That would be totally okay! I'll make the blog open up as one of my startup tabs in chrome too :) In fact I'm pretty excited just to get a response from you (I've never idolized in talentless idiots who were famous just for being on TV, I've always idolized in people with inhuman skillsets, so if I met you it would be a "can i have a photo with you and can you sign my book"  situation). You also have a really good knack for taking something ridiculously complex and explaining it in a good mix of tech and laymans terms to make it understandable. I have quite a few code books but it's hard to go through any of them due to the fact that every 2 pages theres a massive barely readable code example. I really love that you explain something with metaphors and laymans terms, then put diagrams to show it, and then show succinct code examples. In fact it's so good and so... i dont know how to put it, maybe "optimization-caring" that it's spilling into other areas of my life, My environment art has improved so much, in texel density vs memory usage, using shader tricks to reduce mem usage even more etc etc

I don't know if authors/teachers have "target audiences" to "test" their teaching methods, but as someone who is new to programming, but (despite how much people tell me to) cannot overlook the little things I'm not supposed to know about yet like the internal memory padding inside of a struct, controlling the size of everything as much as i can etc, your book REALLY touches on all the little things I've never seen others cover.  It's now even getting through to my girlfriend (and trying to get low level stuff through to my girlfriend is like trying to push butter through a sieve)

I just watched your "dogged determination" talk which also boosted my confidence. Hearing how you guys at naughty dog work, really helped boost me back up in knowing that the good guys are still out there somewhere.


Thank you for the answer on the data sizes, that really helped! I'm really excited about the road ahead in programming now!

PS: Sorry about babbling on! I wanted you to know the extent to which your book helps! but please come to the Uk some time so I can buy you a beer and get my book signed!

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Thanks again for all the amazingly kind words!  :)  I'm flattered and blushing a bit right now.  ;)  Really glad my work is of help to the game programming community!

I'll give you a ring if I'm in the UK, thanks!  (Haven't been yet, would very much like to go someday...)

Cheers,
J

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Monday, September 23, 2013

I'm wrapping up work on the 2nd Edition of Game Engine Architecture. This edition addresses all of the errata and suggestions sent to me by my loyal readers. :) I've also updated several key sections including Unicode, C++11, game console architecture (adding coverage of PS4 and Xbox One), and more. Finally, I've added a brand new chapter on game audio. The 2nd Edition should be available in time for GDC 2014 this coming March.

Cheers,
J