Designing a component based game

  • Designing a component based game Emiliano

    I'm writing a shooter (like 1942, classic 2D graphics) and I'd like to use a component based approch. So far I thought about the following design:

    1. Each game element (airship, projectile, powerup, enemy) is an Entity

    2. Each Entity is a set of components which can added or removed at run-time. Examples are Position, Sprite, Health, IA, Damage, BoundingBox etc.

    The idea is that Airship, Projectile, Enemy, Powerup are NOT game classes. An entity is only defined by the components it owns (and that can change during time). So the player Airship starts with Sprite, Position, Health and Input components. A powerup has the Sprite, Position, BoundingBox. And so on.

    The main loop manages the game "physics", i.e. how the components interact each other:

    foreach(entity (let it be entity1) with a Damage component)
        foreach(entity (let it be entity2) with a Health component)
        if(the entity1.BoundingBox collides with entity2.BoundingBox)
    foreach(entity with a IA component)
    foreach(entity with a Sprite component)

    Components are hardcoded in the main C++ application. Entities can be defined in an XML file (the IA part in a lua or python file).

    The main loop doesn't care a lot about entities: it only manages components. The software design should allow to:

    1. Given a component, get the entity it belongs to

    2. Given an entity, get the component of type "type"

    3. For all entities, do something

    4. For all entity's component, do something (e.g: serialize)

    I was thinking about the following:

    class Entity;
    class Component { Entity* entity; ... virtual void serialize(filestream, op) = 0; ...}
    class Sprite : public Component {...};
    class Position : public Component {...};
    class IA : public Component {... virtual void update() = 0; };
    // I don't remember exactly the boost::fusion map syntax right now, sorry.
    class Entity
       int id; // entity id
       boost::fusion::map< pair<Sprite, Sprite*>, pair<Position, Position*> > components;
       template <class C> bool has_component() { return<C>() != 0; }
       template <class C> C* get_component() { return<C>(); }
       template <class C> void add_component(C* c) {<C>() = c; }
       template <class C> void remove_component(C* c) {<C>() = 0; }
       void serialize(filestream, op) { /* Serialize all componets*/ }
    std::list<Entity*> entity_list;

    With this design I can get #1, #2, #3 (thanks to boost::fusion::map algorithms) and #4. Also everything is O(1) (ok, not exactly, but it's still very fast).

    There is also a more "common" approch:

    class Entity;
    class Component { Entity* entity; ... virtual void serialize(filestream, op) = 0; ...}
    class Sprite : public Component { static const int type_id = 0; };
    class Position : public Component { static const int type_id = 1; };
    class Entity
       int id; // entity id
       std::vector<Component*> components;
       bool has_component() { return components[i] != 0; }
       template <class C> C* get_component() { return dynamic_cast<C> components[C::id](); } // It's actually quite safe

    Another approch is to get rid of the Entity class: each Component type lives in its own list. So there is a Sprite list, a Health list, a Damage list etc. I know they belong to the same logic entity because of the entity id. This is simpler, but slower: the IA components needs access basically to all other entity's components and that would require searching each other component's list at each step.

    Which approch do you think is better? is boost::fusion map suited to be used in that way?

  • if i were to write such a code i would rather ot use this approch (and i'm not using any boost if it's important for you), since it can do all the thing you want but the problem is when there are too many enteties which do not share some componnet, finding those which have it will consume some time. other than that there is no other problem i can thing of :

    // declare components here------------------------------
    class component
    class health:public component
        int value;
    class boundingbox:public component
    public :
        int left,right,top,bottom;
        bool collision(boundingbox& other)
            if (left < other.right || right > other.left)
                if (top < other.bottom || bottom >
                    return true;
            return false;
    class damage : public component
        int value;
    // declare enteties here------------------------------
    class entity
        virtual int id() = 0;
        virtual int size() = 0;
    class aircraft :public entity, public health,public boundingbox
        virtual int id(){return 1;}
        virtual int size() {return sizeof(*this);};
    class bullet :public entity, public damage, public boundingbox
        virtual int id(){return 2;}
        virtual int size() {return sizeof(*this);};
    int main()
        entity* gameobjects[3];
        gameobjects[0] = new aircraft;
        gameobjects[1] = new bullet;
        gameobjects[2] = new bullet;
        for (int i=0;i<3;i++)
            for(int j=0;j<3;j++)
                if (dynamic_cast<boundingbox*>(gameobjects[i]) && dynamic_cast<boundingbox*>(gameobjects[j]) &&
                    if (dynamic_cast<health*>(gameobjects[i]) && dynamic_cast<damage*>(gameobjects[j]))
                        dynamic_cast<health*>(gameobjects[i])->value -= dynamic_cast<damage*>(gameobjects[j])->value;

    in this approch every component is a base for an entity so given the component it's pointer is also an entity! the second thing you ask for is to have a direct access to some entity's components eg. when i need to access damage in one of my entities i use dynamic_cast<damage*>(entity)->value, so if entity has damage component it will return the value. if you are not sure whether entity has component damage or not you can easily check if (dynamic_cast<damage*> (entity)) return value of dynamic_cast is always NULL if the cast is not valid and a same pointer but with the requested type if it's valid. so to do something with all the entities which has some component you can do it like below

    for (int i=0;i<enteties.size();i++)
        if (dynamic_cast<component*>(enteties[i]))
            //do somthing here

    if there any other questions i'll be glad to answer.

  • I've found that component-based design and data-oriented design go hand in hand. You say that having homogeneous lists of components and eliminating the first-class entity object (instead opting for an entity ID on components themselves) will be "slower", but that's neither here nor there since you haven't actually profiled any real code that implements both approaches to arrive at that conclusion. As a matter of fact, I can almost guarantee you that homogenizing your components and avoiding the traditional heavy virtualization will be faster due to the various advantages of data-oriented design -- easier parallelization, cache utilization, modularity, etc.

    I'm not saying this approach is ideal for everything, but component systems which are basically collections of data that need the same transformations performed upon them every frame, simply scream to be data-oriented. There will be times when components need to communicate with other components of different types, but this is going to be a necessary evil either way. It shouldn't drive the design, however, since there are ways to solve this issue even in the extreme case that all components are processed in parallel such as message queues and futures.

    Definitely Google around for data-oriented design as it relates to component-based systems, because this topic comes up a lot and there is quite a bit of discussion and anecdotal data out there.

c++ design-patterns component-based
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