C plus plus version

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News and Updates

November 2006 - Where have I been? First, my computer got hit by lightning and I had to buy a new motherboard. That was July. Since July I've been working on another project, specifically learning 3D and related topics. In the last few months, I've been working with the Ogre library, which is IMO the most perfectly executed code base I've ever seen. Things are just unimaginably clean. Alot of that has to do with their enforced OO design, right from the beginning. Which has me thinking: a similar strategy will make the Darwinbots C++ source really shine.

I'll be splitting my free time between my other project (I may reveal details when I have something worth sharing) and Darwinbots. At the moment, I'd like to perform a major refactoring of the code base to enforce some top down orginizational strategies. Please visit the C plus plus refactoring page to comment.

--Numsgil 23:25, 1 Nov 2006 (MST)

A snapshot from April 20 2006 of the current program is available. It includes the source, an executable, my workspace from MSVC, and some settings. It should make it easier for people to get involved with the source. --Numsgil 22:22, 20 Apr 2006 (MST)

Reasons for Language switch

  1. If you're wondering why we're switching, it's because VB is for relatively simple, GUI based programs. Darwinbots is neither simple nor gui based. C++, on the other hand is a powerful language, but it has a higher development cost. Visual Basic controversy
  2. Visual Basic does not intrinsically support pointers. As such, complex data structures become something of a chore to try and make.
  3. Numsgil knows more about C++ than he knows about Visual Basic.
  4. C++ can be made to be portable (say, we could make a Linux version). And presently the code is being developed with portability in mind (though as yet untested).

Accessing the Current Code

The code is in an online version control system called SVN

To access the SVN, you should download a SVN client. The one I found that I like the most is called Smart SVN. Its basic (and more than adequate) version is free. You may also want to try TortoiseSVN, which integrates with Windows Explorer.

The SVN for Darwinbots is located at:

Read only access is open to everyone. If you want to contribute to the code, you'll need Numsgil to give you a username and password. He can be reached at Numsgil2002@yahoo.com

Code Dependencies

To get the code to compile and work, you'll need the following:

  1. A C++ compiler. Dev-C++ is free, but there have been some issues with it conflicting with Microsoft Visual C++ 2005 (which Numsgil uses, and hence is the officially supported environment). If you don't have MSV C++ 2005 download it from here Do all the steps relevant to Visual C++. Especially the SP1 upgrade and the PSDK. To make the PSDK work follow the instructions here
  2. OpenGL libraries. Specifically, the code must link to opengl32.lib, and glu32.lib. You probably have these on your computer (they come with MSVC++ 2005), but if you don't, this site will help you
  3. Fox GUI Toolkit. This is the library which allows Darwinbots to have a GUI at all. FOX GUI Homepage.
    • You will need to compile the library once you have downloaded it. Go the the win/vcpp/fox/ folder and run the corresponding project in both debug and release mode to create the libraries.
  4. I don't know how it works for Dev-C++, but if you run MSVC you must be sure that you select the Multithreaded libraries or you'll get linker errors. To set this, inside MSVC in your project go to project->settings. Go to the C/C++ tab, change category "General" to category "Code Generation". Select Multithreaded Debug DLL for the Debug configuration and Multithreaded DLL for the Release configuration.
  5. Fox GUI requires that you include wsock32.lib. Without it, you will get a single linker error (it will try and find gethostname and fail).

If you have any problems at all with any of the above steps, or want to help Numsgil make the process a bit smoother and have some ideas, contact him at Numsgil2002@yahoo.com.

Coding Style

The official policy is that as long as Numsgil understands what's going on in your code, your style is fine. If you want to have a more uniform coding style throughout the code, this is the style Numsgil uses:

for(unsigned int x = 0; x < 10; x++)
    cout << x; //notice the 4 space tab

You are welcome to follow it.

Coding Doctrine

The goal of the code is two things:

  1. Speed
  2. Readability

Wherever speed is not an issue (as in 97% of the code) coders are encouraged to make the code as readable to newbies as possible. Imagine your mother's life depends on her deciphering your code and you won't be around to help. That means no clever programming tricks, and sparing use of any standard libraries and especially templates and inheritance and polymorphism and other "advanced" concepts.

To Do List (updated sparingly)

Updated May 12 2006

Presently, the following needs to be finished before a "BETA" can be achieved:

  • GUI related
    • Pond Mode gradient picture needs to be created
    • The Robot Placement controls need to be created
    • Global mutation details need to be finished
    • Bot Debugging Windows
      • Operate a console
      • See General Robot Details
      • Step through DNA seeing the stack at each step
    • Splash Screen
  • Physics Related
    • Ties need to be experimented with using rigid body dynamics instead of springs. New tie paradigm
    • Drag forces need to be implemented New tie paradigm
      • For Robots
      • For Ties
  • Viruses (though Viruses may be disabled in the initial release depending)
  • Need to finish a few tie sysvars. New tie paradigm
  • The graphics and engine need to be made thread safe.
  • Forward and backward compatible save/load routines for Simulations and Robots. Some sort of file compression would be nice.
    • Save Organism
    • Load Organism
    • Save Simulation
    • Load Simulation

These would be nice, but aren't 100% necessary for the "Beta" label

  • Scripts - Perhaps using Lua or soemthing similar.
  • Error Database. Basically, on an error an automatic report could be sent to one of the MYSQL databases available through our webspace and a notification sent to anyone working on the code automatically. Also, some sort of error viewer inside Darwinbots would be nice, so users could see how many other users reported the error they received and whether or not it's been addressed by the coders yet.
  • Bot Database. A way to upload and download bots from a central database from inside Darwinbots itself. Also using a Database as described above (we have 10 of the things, we won't run out :P)
  • Statistical tools. This would involve everything from collecting data from the sim (and analyzing it according to proper statistical tests) to building a graph form and deciding how to draw it to exporting the data as per user specs into a spreadsheet program (like Excel). It is prefered that whoever works on this have some statistics background so they know what sort of stats users would want to collect and test.
  • The vision testing algorithm is presently O(n^2), as it uses the "brute force" method. See: Vision_algorithm for more info. It can be made nearly linear O(n) by using uniform grid cells. see:
This resource which examines the issue
This resource which describes the implementation and problems associated with it
Collision detection could use a similar technique, though its gains would be complicated by the fact that bots are not uniform in size.
This would mean an absolutely insane boost in speed for large sims, but also would take some work.
  • Since graphics are now using OpenGL, some pretty sweet graphics could be made. Admittedly spheres/circles shooting dots and lines at each other doesn't really inspire great art, but I think there's definitely potential for some sweet demos. Maybe move it to 3D graphics instead of 2D and use some fog effects. Maybe use a shader.


Artifacts are minor defects that do not interfere with proper use of the program, but are visually or interactively unpleasant. Artifacts prevent the program from appearing or responding "professionally".

  • Species Mutations Dialog Box
    • Window doesn't shrink properly when various frames are hidden/unhidden
    • Delta Mutations still calls the variable in the Gauss frame "Length" instead of percentage magnitude
    • Nothing is selected when you first start up the dialog box.
  • GUI is incredibly unresponsive if the engine thread is being taxed (say, if there's hundreds of bots on screen)

Long standing feature requests

Anyone who managed to implement these in a way that didn't drastically increase memory and CPU requirements would be a hero in the Darwinbots community.

  • Environment Grid - Basically the idea that bots should be able to interact with their physical environment. Things like leave poop behind for other bots to deal with, pollute their environment, leave pheromone trails for other bots to follow, etc. There are, unfortunately, some gigantic memory and processing problems that beg for some smart, algorithm-savvy programmer to address.
  • Metabolism - The idea that bots should be able to generate nrg or use nrg based on their own unique bio-chemistry (or is it darwo-chemistry :P). This involves creating a system (or letting it emerge) of bio-chemical pathways and materials. Closely tied with the Environment Grid and likewise inter-related with the memory and processing problems.
  • Specialization and Speciation - The idea that bots should be able to become more efficient as they limit the number of activities they participate in. The primary hurdle isn't in coding it, but in designing the basic system to everyone's desires. It must respect multicellular specialization as well as single celled speciation. Not an easy task.
  • Sexual Reproduction - Some way for two bots to, with consent (although 'rape' might have a place as well), produce offspring that robustly intermarries the two parents' DNA.

Feature List for 3.0

As the C++ version becomes stable, it will be time to complete some old feature requests and slap a "new and improved" sticker on it ;) Here's the list of features minimally necessary for me to consider such a version 3.0:

  • Codules
  • Internet Sharing using MySQL on the webspace
  • Auto Patcher - checks the FTP automatically and will patch itself for you
  • Bot Database using MySQL on the webspace
  • Error Database using MySQL on the webspace (to report bugs directly from inside the program)
  • Stable as bedrock (which will mean a version will have to exist for a month or so without anyone having any problems with it before I'll slap the 3.0 sticker on it)
  • Phagocytosis replacing -6 shots
  • Speed Optimizations - Run 1000 bots at 10 cycles/sec average.
  • Compressed Save/Load simulation files for ease of sharing
  • Advanced Bot Debugging GUI
  • Scripts (probably using Lua)
  • Graphs
  • DPP Environment Grid (see above link)
  • Sexual Reproduction (probably using codules as chromosome analogues)
  • Walls made of both destructable and indestructable materials (for ant bots primarily, so they can build nests).
  • Metabolism (not a small task)
  • Combat system revised Defence stuff inparticular
  • Solar Sun
  • A small but expansive collection of bots, settings, saved simulations, and scripts to provide a very effective and compact program for new users to experiment with.

New Install

New Install 2.5


If you would like to help with the code, and any of the above sound interesting or do able, feel free to contact Numsgil at Numsgil2002@yahoo.com to discuss your ideas.