Saturday, February 10, 2007

Why multithreaded design was avoided

Multithreaded environments can be a headache. Experienced programmers know that and try to avoid threads, while on the other hand inexperienced programmers find them quite attractive and usually make applications a mess. It all boils down to synchronization. Synchronization of threads can be very hard to get right and is wet ground for a great number bugs to grow. Add to that, that race conditions and thread-related bugs can be extremely hard to hunt down, since the condiitons to reproduce them may be unknown. The efficiency of threads is also a concern. The scripting engine for a game must be fast. The game world contains many actors that need to be updated at least every frame. You don’t want a scheduler to take up half of your CPU trying to decide which - of many, many actors - to run next. Also, if you have to spawn and delete bullet actors in the game (coming from a fast machine gun), you should start looking for thread pools and other techniques since spawning each bullet thread can take too long.

To sum it up: below is the list of reasons that multithreaded environments where overlooked by game developers :

* Scheduling overhead
* Memory cost per thread
* Inefficient thread creation
* Synchronization problems
* More bug prune
* Difficult to debug

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