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Sponsored Feature: Designing the Framework of a Parallel Game Engine
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Sponsored Feature: Designing the Framework of a Parallel Game Engine

February 25, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 6 Next


The interfaces are the way the framework, the managers, and the systems communicate with each other. The framework and the managers reside within the engine, and therefore the framework has direct access to the managers. The systems, however, reside outside of the engine and have different functionality from one another, making it necessary to have a common method for accessing them. Also, the systems do not have direct access to the managers, so the systems also need a method for accessing the managers. Systems do not require access to the full functionality of the managers, as certain items should only be accessible to the framework.

The interfaces provide a set functionality that needs to be implemented in order to have a common method of access. This makes it unnecessary for the framework to know the details about a specific system as it can communicate to it through a known set of calls.

Subject and Observer

The subject and observer interfaces register the observer with the subject and pass the change notifications from the subject to the observer. A default subject implementation is also provided because the functionality to handle observer registration/de-registration is common to all subjects.


The managers, even though they are singletons, are only directly available to the framework; the different systems cannot access them. In order to provide access, each manager would have an interface that exposes a subset of its functionality. The interface would then be passed to the system when it gets initialized and the systems would then have access to a subset of the manager.

The interface defined is dependent upon the manager and therefore is not a common interface but specific to that manager.


The systems need to implement interfaces in order for the framework to get access to its components. Without system interfaces, the framework would have to implement a specific implementation of each new system that gets added to the engine.

A system has four components; in turn, a system must implement four interfaces.

  • System interface. Provides methods for creating and destroying scenes.

  • Scene interfaces. Provide methods for creating and destroying objects and a method for retrieving the primary task.

  • Object interfaces. Typically associated with what is visible on-screen to the user.

  • Task interface. Used by the task manager when issuing tasks within its thread pool.

The scene and object interfaces also derive from the subject and observer interfaces because these are the pieces of the system that need to communicate not only with one another, but also with the universal scene and objects to which they are attached.


Change interfaces are special interfaces that are used for passing data between the systems. Any systems that make these specific modifications must also implement the interface. For example, the geometry interface has methods for retrieving the position, orientation, and scale for a certain item. Any systems that make modifications to geometry would need to implement this interface so that a different system would be able to access the geometry changes without needing to know about the other system.


The systems provide the game functionality to the engine. Without them, the engine would just spin endlessly without any tasks to perform. To keep the engine from having to know about the different system types, systems must implement the interfaces described in the System section. This makes it simpler to add a new system to the engine because the engine doesn't need to know about the details.


The engine should have some predefined systems types for standard game components. Examples: geometry, graphics, physics (rigid body collision), audio, input, AI, and animation.

A custom type is also recommended for systems that implement functionality outside the common functional blocks in a game. Any systems that modify the custom type's specific data items will need to know about the custom type's interface because the engine does not provide this information.

System Components

A system has several components that need to be implemented: system, scene, object, and task. These components are all used to communicate with the different sections within the engine (Figure 9).

Figure 9. The relationship between the system components. 

For a more detailed diagram of the systems' relationship, refer to Appendix A.


The system component, or system, initializes the system resources that will remain more or less constant throughout the engine's execution. For example, the graphics system analyzes the passed-in resource locations to determine where they are located for quicker loading upon use of a resource. The screen resolution is another item set by the graphics system.

The system is also the main entry point for the framework and provides information about itself, such as its type, and methods for scene creation and destruction.


The scene component, also known as a system scene, handles the resources that are pertinent to the existing scene. The universal scene uses this scene as an extension of its functionality to make available the properties this system scene provides. An example of this component is the physics scene creating a new world and setting the gravity for the world upon scene initialization.

The scene provides methods for object creation and destruction. It also owns the task component, which is used to operate on the scene.

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