Multi-Threaded Game Engine Design

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I will try to introduce the scripting language Python and more specifically a special version of it, the Stackless Python , as I used it in the implementation of the Sylphis3D Game Engine.

How a Multi-Threaded Renderer Works

For a basic introduction to game programming with python I suggest you try this book : Game Programming with Python. Stackless is a modified version of the mainstream version based on the work of Christian Tismer. The main feature that makes Stackless so attractive for use as a scripting language is the support for tasklets. These threads has very small footprint on memory and CPU. You can actually create hundreds of threads with almost no overhead.

Every tasklet has only a few bytes of memory overhead. And the scheduling of threads takes O 1 time with a simple Round-Robin scheduling algorithm. To all that add that the engine would behave very differently on different operating systems. Even on different versions of the same operating system. In most current game engines there is a fundamental flaw in the way the game engine and game code are viewed. The game engine is not viewed like a concrete system capable of providing the low level facilities that a game needs.

Instead it is viewed at best as a library. It is viewed as a collection of functions that basically encapsulates driving the low-level hardware. This tends to make the game code aware of the underlying procedures of the game engine. Instead the game engine should be the operating system of the game, and the game entities should be like the processes running in it. The engine designer should have that in mind when creating any aspect of the engine. In real operating systems this accomplished with support from the hardware.

In trying to create such a design for the game engine, we have to consider what the analog of a real operating system process will be in the game engine. The player is an actor, the objects in the game are actors and even the game world and the game itself is an actor. These actors are autonomous entities actually running in the game engine. The actor must be totally encapsulated and never has to directly worry about other actors.

The nature of a game is multithreaded, because the game tries to simulate a world populated by objects that do various tasks in parallel.

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Most engines simulate multi-threading by iteratively calling an update function of the actors in the world. The actor updates its state according to the time passed and returns to the engine.

Multithreaded design

Game engines with no scripting capabilities use this method, and it is as a legacy mindset used even by newer engines in the scripting environment. Most engines with scripting just go a little further, implementing the update methods in the scripting language.


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Below we can see the code that does the same thing using threads and written in python. ZERO The benefits are obvious. In the python example one can tell what the code does in a glance. There is no need for state keeping. The state is encapsulated in the current code that is executing. When the door calls the close method, the door is in closing state, and when it returns it will be in the closed state. Multithreaded environments can be a headache. Experienced programmers know that and try to avoid threads, while on the other hand inexperienced programmers find them quite attractive and usually make applications a mess.

Multi-Threaded Game Engine Design:

It all boils down to synchronization. Synchronization of threads can be very hard to get right and is wet ground for a great number bugs to grow. Add to that, that race conditions and thread-related bugs can be extremely hard to hunt down, since the condiitons to reproduce them may be unknown.

The efficiency of threads is also a concern. The scripting engine for a game must be fast. The game world contains many actors that need to be updated at least every frame. Also, if you have to spawn and delete bullet actors in the game coming from a fast machine gun , you should start looking for thread pools and other techniques since spawning each bullet thread can take too long. To sum it up: below is the list of reasons that multithreaded environments where overlooked by game developers :.

Multithreaded Game Scripting with Stackless Python

As we said before, Stackless Python and tasklets can solve the scheduling overhead, memory costs and slow thread creation. Now we have a better foundation to work on, but the remaining problems like synchronization remain. We have to find ways to maintain the benefits of the multithreaded environment while removing more of these problems. What makes the multithreading synchronization problems and race conditions serious is preemptivity.

It represents a higher-level, task-based parallelism that abstracts platform details and threading mechanisms for scalability and performance. Real-Time Deep Ocean Simulation on Multi-Threaded Architectures : This white paper investigates a technique for real-time simulation of deep ocean waves on multi-processor machines under simulated work loads using threading.


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Win32 Multithreading and Synchronization : This tutorial will explain how to create and manage multiple threads in Windows. This is an advanced tutorial, the reader should be familiar with Win32 programming.

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Windows Performance Analysis Tools : tools that can be useful for profiling multithreaded apps. Source code is available. The main feature that makes Stackless so attractive for use as a scripting language is the support for tasklets. Tasklets make it possible to create micro-threads , allowing the programmer to switch among several execution threads that only exist in the python environment and have no dependencies on the underlying OS threads.

These threads has very small footprint on memory and CPU. You can actually create hundreds of threads with almost no overhead. Every tasklet has only a few bytes of memory overhead.

And the scheduling of threads takes O 1 time with a simple Round-Robin scheduling algorithm. And register that callback with the main lua thread. Why do you want these threads to run in the exact same lua state as the original? If they are writing to shared variables its probably going to cause data races with the other threads. If they are reading shared variables it is still likely to cause data races. Even if you can find some situations in which it seems to work, it's going to make your life really hard I think. Sorry minor miscommunication at late hours.

I don't want to make threads in the Lua state. I thought about the callback, but I was not sure if that was possible.

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c++ - Game Engine Multithreading with Lua - Stack Overflow

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