You’re Speaking my Language, Baby. Part 4: Objective-C.

Author’s note: As this post started out HUGE, it’s been split into parts. You’ll find the introduction here, my comments on Java here, and my comments on C++ here.

The last language I’m considering is Objective-C. I know this language the least of three. To make matters worse, while Java and C++ share a similar syntax, Objective-C is completely different in places. That being said, it’s semantically very similar to Java (more so than C++) and people who know it well speak very highly of it. i.e. it does not appear to be anywhere near as broken as C++. The language itself has some dynamic capability built in, but also has all of the additional dynamic options available to C++ (more on that later) and an excellent Ruby implementation which sits directly on top of the Objective-C runtime (MacRuby).

In general, Objective-C should be faster than Java, but not as fast as C++. It doesn’t use a virtual machine, but it does have a minimal run time which is used to implement the more dynamic message passing paradigm it uses in place of standard message calls between objects. It also has optional garbage collection, allowing you to make a choice between stability and performance when you need to (i.e. you can get the code working and worry about the memory allocation later). It’s also able to leverage all of the power of both the LLVM back end and the newer Clang front end, which C++ currently can’t.

While there aren’t a lot of directly relevant tools available for Objective-C itself, it is able to directly use any code or library written in either C or C++. No problems there, then.

It’s the last metric which is the kick in the teeth fot Objective-C, though. In short: no one really uses it unless they’re programming for an Apple platform. As a result, unless you’re programming specifically for either OSX or iOS you’ll loose out on a lot of frameworks. Objective-C is a first class language in the Gnu Compiler Collection (GCC), so it can be deployed easily enough under Linux (minus a lot of the good frameworks). This is not the case under windows, however, where there doesn’t seem to be any good deployment options. I have no problem ignoring Windows, but directly precluding it would appear to be somewhat foolhardy when building a piece of technology related to computer games. It wouldn’t be too much of a problem if I was only doing this as an academic exercise, but I actually have delusions of people using it.

That’s the last of the languages I’m considering. Look for my conclusion (and possibly a bit of a twist) tomorrow (here).

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You’re Speaking my Language, Baby. Part 3: C++.

Author’s note: As this post started out HUGE, it’s been split into parts. You’ll find the introduction here, and my comments on Java here.

The second language I’m considering is C++. This is the language that I use the most at my day job. It’s also the language that’s used to build the vast majority of computer games and one hell of a lot of commercial software. I’m not as familiar with it as I am with Java, but I know it well enough to be productive with it. I’m also familiar enough with it to know how horribly broken it is in many respects. One of the major design goals of Java (among other more modern programming languages) was to fix the problems with C++. It also has no dynamic capabilities what-so-ever, but it’s possible to paper over this by using a minimal dynamic runtime such as Lua for scripting.

All things being equal, C++ is the fastest of the three languages. It is also the one you’re most likely to write bad code in, though, so there’s a bit of a trade off here.

As I mentioned, most games are programmed using C++. As a result, there is a veritable shit load of graphics engine options. I would probably tend towards using the open sourceOgre3D rendering engine (or something similar), but it’s worth baring in mind that I could easily switch to using, say, the Quake 3 engine (open sourced by id) if I wanted to. I could also port the project to using a commercial graphics engine if I had the desire to do such a thing.

The measure of applicability to other parties is definitely a point in favour of C++. Code written in C++ would be the easiest of the three for deployment as part of a larger project, as that project is most likely to be written in C++. In terms of acting as a developer showcase C++ has the edge as well, as it’s the language a lot of companies ask for code samples in.

Looks for my comments on the last language I’m considering tomorrow (here).

You’re Speaking my Language, Baby. Part 2: Java.

Author’s note: As this post started out HUGE, it’s been split into parts. You’ll find the introduction here.

The first language I’m considering is Java. This is by far the language I’m most comfortable and proficient with. It was used for about 90% of my Bachelors degree, I wrote the entire codebase of my PhD using it, and it gets used here and there in my day job. I’m comfortable with Java, and find it to be quite a pleasant language to program in. Big tick on the question regarding my ability to use it, then. Java has some modest dynamic capabilities built in, but it also has a lot of small options for using higher level languages for the scripting, the cleanest of which is possibly Groovy.

Java has a bad reputation performance wise, but this largely isn’t true any more. It does run using a virtual machine, but is compiled to native code at run time. It’s a lot easier to write good code using Java than the other languages I’m considering, and that can help with performance a lot, but in general Java has the potential to be the slowest of the three, all things being equal.

Tools are actually not a problem. There are a lot of high quality graphics engines available for Java, with the Java Monkey Engine (JME) being my favourite. A physics add-on is available in the form of JMEPhysics, with the next version slated to have a physics engine baked in. Raw OpenGL is also an option with LWJGL, should I want it. Likewise, I suspect that the Red Dwarf Server is likely meet my communication needs.

The applicability of Java to other interested parties is an interesting question. A lot of software gets written in Java. A LOT. But the vast majority of it is not games. Largely, I think this is because it’s perceived to be lacking in the performance department. It’s also a little harder to protect you code when you’re writing in Java, too. The previously mentioned JME has the support of a commercial games company, though, so clearly there is interest. Computers are getting faster at quite a rate, so performance has the potential to be less of a concern, especially if the project you’re working on has the whiff of a server side application about it. When it comes to server side code, I think Java is definitely winning the race. Frankly, I have a bit of trouble calling this one either way.

One language down, two to go. Look for the next post tomorrow (here), should you be interested in such things.