Honeycomb Engine: Dev Blog 2 ~ More Vulkan and Honeycode

Since last week, I had planned to shift my focus mainly onto Honeycode, but I’ve mostly been working on the renderer some more. Yesterday I did a bit of work on the Honeycode parser, but it’s nowhere near complete yet. However, I have thought a little more about how the language will work conceptually, such as the syntax it will use and the features it will support. The idea is to make a programming language for non-programmers or beginners to programming, so I want it to be super-intuitive. I’ll detail a few of my ideas below, although it’s currently just me throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks.

Vulkan

On the plus side, I’ve finished the set of Vulkan tutorials I was using now, resulting in a really cool rendering of a model of a chalet found on Sketchfab. Now that I have a better understanding of how Vulkan operates, the next step is to get multiple different models loaded. Once I achieve that, the next step is to think up a level data format that allows me to save and load level data from disk. And once I’ve done that, I’ll need to set up a proper component-based architecture for objects. By using the Component programming pattern, it’ll allow users of Honeycomb to write their own behaviour scripts and attach them freely to game objects while keeping those sets of behaviour nicely encapsulated and decoupled from each other.

vulkan_model

This hut is almost worth the couple of weeks spent trawling through tutorials.

I’ve been reading through Bob Nystrom’s brilliant book, Game Programming Patterns, which details many different ways of organising code for all sorts of situations; I’ll be using some of the patterns used in this book in spades. For example, I currently have an input class that’s using the Singleton pattern – you have a publicly accessible static member of a class – purely because it’s the quickest way of making something globally visible (well, that and making all of the member functions and variables of a class static). I wanted to quickly add functionality to rotate the model and move the viewport, so please don’t judge me.

As pretty much every source on programming patterns will tell you, Singleton is awful for almost every case, so I will replace the input system with one that uses the Command pattern, which replaces hard-coded function calls for a given input with a bunch of different encoded behaviours – called commands – assigned to variables for each input, which will be executed using some execute() function.

Honeycode

Since the idea behind Honeycode is to be beginner-friendly, I want to minimise the number of scary features in the language as possible. You know the sort of stuff I mean, like requiring the user to write a million lines of boilerplate code before anything actually happens. At the same time, I want it to be expressive and I need it to be easily translatable to equivalent C++ code so I can easily compile it into an executable together with the engine.

There are a few broad ideas I currently have – some may be useful, some may be scrapped later on:

  • When a user creates a new script, the code in that script is automatically inside a class that inherits Component (the base class for the Component programming pattern), but this information is hidden from the user. They just write functions and variables in the script and attach it to game objects in the editor and let the engine worry about types and stuff.
  • There are some event functions that automatically fire and are ignored by scripts that don’t bother to implement them. Those events include a start() function that gets called after everything gets set up, but it is the first user-created code that is called, an update() function called every frame, an exit() function called when the level switches and a quit() function called when the game is closed. All the user needs to know is that they exist and roughly when they are called.
  • There should be simple one-function APIs for doing simple tasks and there should be minimal #includes or imports (or, get rid of them entirely and do it behind the scenes), then those simple functions will get translated to the appropriate C++ code during compilation. For example, if a user wants to save data (as a string) to a file, they should be able to write something like:
write(myString, myFileName.dat);
  • I might only have one floating point data type and one integer data type. For new users, I think it might be too confusing to immediately have to distinguish between all sorts of number types, like float, int, long, signed int, unsigned short int, char, wchar_t and who the hell knows what else is lurking in C++. At that rate, I’m surprised they didn’t throw in short long int to make everyone blink twice. I think including only float and int should suffice. In some instances during compilation, I can replace a type with a more sensible one anyway – array indexing and iteration would always use unsigned integers, for example. I’ll also keep char hanging around, because at least it’s clear what char is doing to a new programmer.
  • Memory management should be as simple and automatic as possible because C++ is confusing enough as it is without having to worry about destructors and all that jazz. I should be able to do all that behind the scenes.

To make things clear, my language doesn’t exist to radically change the syntax of C++, nor is it intending to provide any fancy optimisations. It’s essentially just a metric ton of syntactic sugar to make C++ more palatable to newbies. Since I’m not aiming to squeeze the absolute most out of the hardware, I can be a bit more lax on the performance side of things as long as games are efficient enough. I have a few more ideas, but most of them are just things I’d remove from C++ rather than add.

As for the progress I’ve made regarding the lexer/parser, I’m currently at the stage where I can recognise some keywords from an input file and convert them into tokens, although it needs a lot more work before it’s finished. The next step after that is to add all those tokens into a parse tree, then I’ll need to look through that tree to make sure the syntax of the input file is valid. I’ve also settled on the file extension .hny for Honeycode files (I’ve clearly got my priorities straight when it comes to fulfilling features).

So far on my schedule, I’m supposed to have written my specification (which is complete), learned the tools I’m using (including Vulkan, although I’ve left myself an additional week for that) and started working on Honeycode (which is why I’ve been brainstorming ideas). This week, I’m supposed to have learned all the Vulkan I need to know and started on the end-of-term progress report; as I’ve finished the Vulkan tutorial ahead of time, I will wait until early December when my copy of the Vulkan Programming Guide is scheduled to get to me before I do much more Vulkan and probably work mainly on Honeycode instead.

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