Category: C#

Time to upgrade Visual Studio?

Time to upgrade Visual Studio?

>NET 5
Visual Studio assembly versions

It’s more relevant if you are a .NET developer ie C# or VB.NET, but .NET 5.0 (including C# 9) has just been released. It was an almost 4 GB download and followed by a reboot but I’m now on .NET 5. No more .NET Core or .NET Framework unless you are developing GUI applications on Windows.

But you can also develop on Linux or Mac, but not using WinForms or WPF. Those are Windows only.  This page has downloads, or you can do what I did and upgrade through the Visual Studio Installer.

Also if you are on C (on Windows) you get C11 and C17 if you specify a compiler flag. You’ll see this on the Visual Studio 16.8 release notes.  I like to be on the (bleeding) edge of things. Maybe it’s FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). But I do find it interesting to see where the Linux support is going.

My other side project continues

My other side project continues

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

This is the social mobile multiplayer game I have mentioned before. The initial game creation program is mostly working. I say mostly because I will still be adding to it. It does however create all of the game data in about 30 seconds for a game that can hold up to 10,000 players. It then creates the output files which are read by the mobile apps. These apps have yet to be created but I’ve decided to do some early testing using non-mobile apps that I’m working on.

What I want to do is prototype the mobile app, not particularly visually but functionally. To this end I’m creating a C# client desktop app that does everything that the mobile app will do. It can read the data (directly rather than via a webserver) and let me create new orders and upload them back to the server (or in this case my development PC).

This client will be crude and not great looking but lets me test that data is coming and going correctly. I use JSON for everything, as a data transfer format as well as storing all game data at rest as opposed to a database. It lets me hold all game data in dictionaries (with a bit of tweaking it is possible to save/load lists of objects to JSON. After loading I convert them to Dictionaries using an Id field.

                var bytes = File.ReadAllText(Lib.PeopleFilename);
                var list = new List();                
                list = JsonSerializer.Deserialize<List>(bytes);
                persons = list.ToDictionary(x => x.Id);

It works and is quick. The downside of using a Dictionary is that it occupies more bytes per element than a List. How many? Well it’s never easy to figure. .NET does not really encourage discovering how things are implemented. This GitHub project by developer Ludovit Scholtz shows the memory used by various .NET Generic Collection Types (HashTable,  Dictionary, ConcurrentDictionary, HashSet, ConcurrentBag, Queue and ConcurrentQueue) with various string lengths in a TestObject which as string, an int and a DateTimeOffset.

Storing a million objects in a Dictionary <int,TestObject> with a null string occupies 48,222,240 bytes so roughly 48 bytes per entry. I believe a List is closer to 20 bytes overhead per element. So for slightly more than double the memory use, using a Dictionary gives a tangible performance yield.


How to visit many many places in one go

How to visit many many places in one go

green points
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

No this isn’t turning into a travellog.  Imagine a huge square. It has 33,554,432 points along an edge. The entire square would thus have 1,125,899,906,842,642 points in it. That’s 250 or 3210 points. (Yes those two numbers are the same!)

Now how about contriving an algorithm that will pick a random point in this square and keep picking each point but never more than once? Eventually it will have picked every point.  If it could visit a million points every seconds, it would take something like 35.7 years to visit each and every point.

So assuming you could create an algorithm, how large would it be? How about three lines?

        public static ulong Nextulong()
            ulong result = ((aUVal * ULast) + bUVal) % aUVal;
            ULast = result;
            return result;

That’s in C#. The values for aUVal and bUval are

        const ulong aUVal = 1125899906842597;
        const ulong bUVal = 1051122009542795;

A uLong is just an unsigned long. That’s a 64 bit unsinged int.
This is an example of a Linear Congruential Generator BTW.

Posted in C#
How to count lines of code in Visual Studio

How to count lines of code in Visual Studio

Calucating Code metrics in Visual StudioUntil this morning, I didn’t realise that Visual Studio (even the free Community Edition) has this built in. I was curious to see how much code I’d written so far for my game processing engine.  Development comes in leaps and bounds during evenings and weekends.

Visual Studio has Code Metrics in it. You can do this for any project that builds correctly. To show this you have to do View => Other Windows => Code Metrics Results. That displays the window. Then you have to go on the Analyze Window, and click Calculate Code Metrics.

Lines of code

However you might want to take these with a pinch of salt. As I understand it, Lines of Source Code is calculated from the il code output from the compiler. The last column (Lines of executable code) suggests that most of my program is comments which is wrong! There is however a fair amount of data in the form of Constructor initializations, and one file of 1290 lines has over 1,000 such initializations.  You can read what the other columns mean and everything you ever wanted to know about code metrics on the Microsoft site.

Out of curiosity, I manually counted the number of lines in this project. There are 15 files and they added up to 3700 lines but that includes comments and blank lines.  A quick search for // found 119 which probably means I should improve my commenting. Blank lines is probably something similar. So we’re talking 3700-1000 (constructor initializers)-119 (comments) -119 (blank lines) = 2462 lines of code so far. That’s working tested code mind you.


A list of open source physics engines

A list of open source physics engines

Chipmunk Color matchIt’s not uncommon to have 2D games (and 3D) incorporate a physics engine. So when objects move and hit each other they behave realistically. The code that deals with “physical” interaction, objects bouncing or rolling off other objects is usually all parcelled up in a game physics engine.

Doing that means the programmer doesn’t have to worry about objects interacting. Your character moves into a room and knocks a vase; the vase falls over and breaks. Imagine how complex it would be if you had to program all the interactions. Instead, all objects in the room are predefined. As objects move and hit other objects they behave according to the predetermined rules. Balls drop to the floor and bounce. Breakable objects break.

An indie game studio called Tapir Games has put together a pretty comprehensive list of open source game physics engines. There’s even a couple in C though many are programmed in C++, C# and so on.

The picture comes from Chipmunk color match, one of the games using the (C library) Chipmunk physics library.

Microsoft appears to reembracing game development again

Microsoft appears to reembracing game development again

Image from Microsoft learn games

They have just set up this webpage according to the announcement on one of their dev blogs. Of course there’s irony that they include MonoGame, because if it hadn’t been for MonoGame, all of the XNA library code would have been lost. XNA was Microsoft’s own game development technology that got to version 4 and was then abandoned.

There’s also a page of tutorials teaching Godot, Unity and a backend service called PlayFab. It never ceases to amaze me that Microsoft don’t invest just a little bit more into their games development. They’ve got lots of different platforms including various XBox consoles, PCs, Mobile and so on that can all be programmed using Microsoft related technologies using Microsoft supplied software that is very good and often free.  It often feels like they’ve backed off from the days when they were publishing games.

Actually going schemaless in C#

Actually going schemaless in C#

JSON Image
Image from

Back in August I talked about going schemaless and I’ve made some progress since then. I’ve created a number of C# classes, many of which include single and in one cases a 2D array of things I want persisted to disk.

I use JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) files to hold the data.  So long as I’ve defined those classes with Properties using Get and Set, the JSON converters in .NET handles it all very nicely.

For example, in my game I have a CityArea class which includes a List<BuildingType> as well as several public properties.

This saved out as JSON like this:

      "buildings": [
          "Name": "College",
          "Size": 2,
          "Percent": 60,
          "Cost": 50,
          "Type": 11
          "Name": "Gallery",
          "Size": 2,
          "Percent": 40,
          "Cost": 150,
          "Type": 23
and ends...
      "State": "R",
      "Type": "F",
      "Density": "L",
      "Points": 46,
      "AreaName": "Newfane"

The whole JSON file has 1500 buildings scattered amongst 100 areas (10 x 10) and is 11422 lines long. The file is 234Kb long. Though that’s with indentations. I could remove that but for now, during development, it makes the file easier to read.

These are the two class definitions (I’ve removed extraneous stuff from them),

class BuildingType : ICloneable {
        public string Name { get; set; } = "";
        public BuildingSize Size { get; set; } = BuildingSize.bsNone;
        public int Percent { get; set; }
        public int Cost { get; set; }
        public BuildType Type { get; set; }

class CityArea {
        public char State { get; set; }
        public char Type { get; set; }
        public char Density { get; set; }
        public int Points { get; set; }
        public string AreaName { get; set; }
        public static List AllBuildings = new List();		

This is the code to save out areas (which is List<CityArea> areas to the file. I found this by reading the Microsoft documentation about Serialization and deserialization. It’s pretty good stuff and the code for saving these structures are these pretty short methods.

        public bool SaveToUTF8(string filename)
            var options = new JsonSerializerOptions
                WriteIndented = true
            var bytes = JsonSerializer.SerializeToUtf8Bytes(areas, options);
            File.WriteAllBytes(filename, bytes);
            return true;

and this is the code to Load it.

        public bool Load(string filename)
                var bytes = File.ReadAllText(filename);
                areas = JsonSerializer.Deserialize<CityArea[][]>(bytes);
            }catch(Exception e)
                Error = $"Failed to load {filename} because {e.Message}";
                return false;
            return true;

I haven’t timed either Load or Save but they are fractions of a second.

How to create an Alphabet bitmap in CSharp

How to create an Alphabet bitmap in CSharp

Letters generated by the programHere’s another short utility. I have been looking for a decent alphabet to look in my next game (called HogWash) . As before, I want to create a sprite sheet with letters. But every alphabet set that I found had issues with kerning. I kid you not, usually but not always with M, W, or even Q.

Even when I put together a sprite sheet manually, the editor didn’t quite get it right and letters didn’t quite fit the grid. So to simplify it, here;’s a 50 line C# program that takes the letters you supply in a string, combined with a font (Liberation Mono- from Red Hat) and a brush (black solid). It does a double loop that I exit with a goto (shock horror!) when it reaches the a terminating * in the string I supplied.

That is the graphic file above that the program below generated. As you can see the letters are far enough apart so no overlapping. Just put in your path where I have for the source and dest consts. You can use this technique for building sprite sheet.

// Author D. Bolton You are free to use and copy this program as you wish but please leave this line in.
using System;
using System.Drawing;
using System.Drawing.Imaging;

namespace buildfont
    class Program
        const int LetterWidth = 100;
        const int LetterHeight = 120;
        const string source = "Your path"
        const string dest = @"YourPath\letters.png";

        static Bitmap allLetters = new Bitmap(LetterWidth * 8,LetterHeight * 5);

        static void Main(string[] args)

        private static void BuildOneImage()
            var font = new Font("Liberation Mono",95);
            var brush = new SolidBrush(Color.Black);
            var str = "ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ*";
            Console.WriteLine("Creating letters.png");
            var aty = 0.0f;
            using (Graphics g = Graphics.FromImage(allLetters))
                var strindex = 0;
                for (var y = 0; y < 5; y++)
                    var atx = 0.0f;
                    for (int x = 0; x < 6; x++)
                        string aLetter = str[strindex++].ToString();
                        if (aLetter == "*") goto Done;
                        g.DrawString(aLetter, font, brush, atx, aty);
                        atx += LetterWidth;
                    aty += LetterHeight;
            allLetters.Save(dest, ImageFormat.Png);
Now for some mobile networking

Now for some mobile networking

Early taxi app screenshotNot the face to face type but actual networking. This is needed because I’m working on a game server. My mobile game (Manana Banana) will become networked enabled and thus multiplayer.  C# is ideal for this type of thing but I’m not using the networking capability of MonoGame instead managing the whole lot myself.

Back a few years ago when I was a full-time mobile developer I wrote an app that was used by taxi drivers. It was a conversion of an Android App (I wrote it from scratch running on an iPhone based on the Android source code).  There’s a curious architecture with such apps because not only is the a user interface but in the background the app was “chatting” over 3G to a central server (written in VB6 I kid you not) which sent an “are you alive?” message every six seconds to every driver’s phone.

It was not a traditional client-server architecture but the kind of system where the driver could send a message to the server or the server could send a message to the driver. 

What this meant was the app was always keeping one eye on the 3G, getting messages and then it might for instance popup a screen saying “There’s a job from x to y. Do you want it?”. If the driver said yes then the app would receive details and show the driver the route to the pickup point. If the driver didn’t respond within 30 seconds or said no then the program would pass that back to the server,

What is a ConcurrentQueue?

C# has an advanced data structure called a ConcurrentQueue<t> which is a thread safe generic queue. I used two of these, one for a receive queue and one for a transmit queue in conjunction with a thread that never finished. All the 3G stuff was done using C# TCP/IP clients and ran in this thread. Messages that came in were put on the receive queue and could be popped off and processed in the main program. Messages to send out from the main program were put on the transmit queue and sent out in the thread. It was a very clean way of separating the main application running in the main thread from the 3G running in a background thread. 

Compared to the Android program which was all running in one thread and polled the 3G, I was told by my drivers that my app felt much more responsive!   The screenshot above was a very early image of it. It had a very simple UI where each screen of controls (Views in iOS parlance) was built up dynamically.  

Also C#/Xamarin has a way of getting from a thread to the main thread on iOS. You cannot update any controls from any thread only from the main UI thread.  There’s a method called InvokeOnMainThread for the Xamarin iOS controls. See this Microsoft/Xamarin documentation on how to use it. So that’s what I’ll be doing in my networked game.  

Interestingly because I’m managing everything, the TCP/IP messages can be very small, under 20 bytes each. This allows a very high throughput. 

Some awesome listings

Some awesome listings

Awesome stamp
Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

It has become a thing to label a big collection (usually open source) as awesome and there are several such collections around for many programming languages. In fact the C code collection’s first entry is to one of them.

That said they are pretty awesome, often having links to many related and useful open source projects. My only problem with the likes of GitHub and SourceForge etc. is the sheer quantity of excellent stuff on there. These awesome links are one way to “tame” them.

So now there’s a new link up top for C# and MonoGame links and a couple of entries to start it off.