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How to do this properly with OCaml?
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Date: 2005-07-27 (20:35)
From: Jere Sanisalo <xm@x...>
Subject: Re: [Caml-list] Games
On Wed, Jul 27, 2005 at 08:44:42PM +0100, Jon Harrop wrote:
>> Just an aside-- but this is why
>> most games are utter crap. The developers have no idea
>> how to develop high level code, so they focus on weenie
>> details of graphics, and as a result we have stunning
>> high performance motion interfacing to the most banal
>> rubbish I have ever seen. As time goes by things just
>> seem to get worse.
>I would have put that much more elegantly but, basically, I agree.

Humh, missed where this started, but.. :)

As a games developer I somewhat disagree. Sure there are people who do not
know how, but in my view (and experience) most of professional games
developers are pretty good at doing high level code. For the problems
described here I can see much easier explanations. Mostly having something
to do with extremely tight deadlines, producers/publishers not knowing what
they want and changing their mind all the time and the tight coupling to a
limited hardware.

On one game developer forum there was a poll on how people managed their
high level code. Many developers had actually written their own
preprocessors to C++ in order to get introspection and the like. Only one (I
know of) have written their own language; GOAL / Naughty Dog. And what I
gather, even GOAL is split into two parts. The macro language is a full
scheme and the game side is more like an imperative language in the lisp

Most (if not all) game programmers I have talked to have actively pursued
more better ways to create their games and handle those increasingly
complicated event queues that happen there. It's not easy, I can tell you. I
tried to formulate a basic game in ocaml once and failed badly. It's mostly
because I'm not yet so experienced in FP style and need to learn to think
things differently.

(btw, one major reason for not using more FP-like languages in gamedev is
because the platforms are nowadays mostly not-PC and the compilers / trained
staff is hard to find)

>I have actually been thinking about writing an "OCaml for Games Programming" 
>book. I think there is a lot of scope for interesting and unusual material in 
>such a book and I think there are lots of possible examples which would 
>demonstrate the power of OCaml for general purpose programming whilst also 
>making wicked cool games. The downside is mainly the lack of state-of-the-art 
>OpenGL bindings.

I would love such a book! It would basically have to touch on every single
aspect of FP programming I do not yet know how to do. And it would probably
teach me to think more in FP way, since game programming is much closer to
my daily programming than algorithmic issues (those I can cleanly write in
FP. And I have even written a compiler; those are easy to think in FP

And I don't think you'd need state-of-the-art OpenGL bindings to write a
good book on the subject. The problem is in the high level, mostly. The low
level bindings are relatively straightforward to do.

A shameless plug; a game I've written for this years Assembly demo party:
The reason I bring this is up is that is uses OpenGL. And all it need is
textured triangles with two different blending modes (normal alpha and
additive). And I've played many fun games with only flat shading :).

The general issue here (I think) is that most programmers are unfamiliar
with the FP style of thinking (about problems). That's why most of them
never even try, except by accident.

>I think there is ample market for a games programming OCaml book but it would 
>be difficult to sell it at a low enough price (again, I think it would really 
>benefit from being full color).

I'd be willing to pay about 80e for such a book.. But then again, it's a
book I've been looking for a long time.

Jere Sanisalo [xm@xmunkki.org] - http://www.xmunkki.org/