Nuclex Signal/Slot Library: Benchmarks

When you’re writing some code that needs to notify code in othe r parts of the program, your weapon of choice is the "signal / slot concept". A signal is a connection point where any interested party can register a callback function to be invoked when the signal emits/fires.

There’s already an ocean of libraries out there providing this functionality to C++, but as you will see in this article, they’re all suffering from performance issues in one way or other. Plus, most don’t compile without warnings, have inconvenient sytax or lack unit tests.

So here’s the signal/slot "library" (it’s just three headers) I wrote to fix those issues for me, together with a summary of my design goals and a comprehensive benchmark on different compilers and CPUs.

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MVC in Games

In the game I’m currently working on, it appears that I’m slowly drifting towards a design that’s a close resemblance of the Model-View-Controller (MVC) pattern, despite originally rejecting the idea because I believed it would require my game world to expose too much of its internal data just so the view could keep track of things.

Because I originally believed to be building a very simple game with very simple logic, I chose a design that would create a nice, non-fractured interface to the world so I would have an easier time building the AI and player controls on top of it:

UML diagram showing an object tree representing the entire game state

In this design, everything could access everything else – a monolithic world component where the public interface was well encapsulated, but that allowed the implementation to take the most direct path possible.

"Everything could access everything else" doesn’t mean my objects directly modified each other’s state, but it meant, for example, that a building had a reference to the island it was placed on and that it could call an internal method in the Island class to inform it when the building was destroyed or moved.

A full design, in contrast, would give the buildings an interface through which they determined properties about the ground (is it too rough? underwater?) and some events so its owner would know when the building was destroyed.

If I had only taken game logic into account, this all would have worked out very well. But there were some things that added a lot of complexity…

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Input Mocking in XNA

I have updated my input library to a level where I think I can release it into the Nuclex Framework now. The design was tailored to make the input manager mockable (replaceable with a dummy object for unit testing), but the effort of mocking the entire input manager (versus just one input device) on an ad hoc basis was a bit too high (or too unreadable when using a dynamic mock object library).

So the final revision has mocked input devices and a matching input manager built in:

UML diagram showing the IInputService implemented by a real and a mock manager

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The Meaning of 100% Test Coverage

When I release components, example code or even just helper classes, I often tout 100% test coverage as a feature. Which (as I probably also state often enough :P), means that my unit tests execute 100% of all lines in the source code. But what advantage does this actually bring to a developer, and, just as interesting, what does having complete test coverage not mean?

For people practicing true TDD (test first -> red, green, refactor), 100% coverage is nothing unusual, though even they may decide to not write tests for all invalid inputs possible: if a piece of code satisfies all the tests and the tests cover everything the code should do, it’s enough. If you’re building a library on the other side, the use case of a customer providing invalid inputs will be a valid concern worthy of a test.

I, however, am currently adding unit tests to an existing code base and I decided to go for 100% test coverage. In this short article, I will explain why I see complete test coverage as a worthwhile goal, what effect going for that level of test coverage has on a project and what it says about the code.

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