Cardinal utilizes the Entity Component System (ECS) as the idiomatic pattern to structure and write your game code.

ECS is an architectural pattern widely used in game development. It contributes greatly to the efficiency, performance, and developer experience of games, especially those with complex and dynamic environments.

  • Entity — All the objects in your game world. They’re essentially containers for one or more components. Examples could be players, enemies, items, or environment objects.

  • Component — Data attributes attached to entities. They define the properties of an entity, but it does not implement logic or behavior. For instance, a “Position” component might store the X and Y coordinates of an entity in the game world, while a “Health” component might keep track of an entity’s health.

  • System — The logic in ECS. They operate over entities that have a particular set of components, processing them to create the gameplay and behavior. A “MovementSystem”, for example, might move all entities with a “Position” and “Speed” component each game tick.

Benefits of ECS

Flexibility — The ECS architecture allows for high flexibility. By combining different components, developers can create a wide range of unique entities without needing to create a complex inheritance tree.

Performance — ECS often enhances performance. Systems can process only entities with specific components, reducing unnecessary checks, and allow data I/O access patterns to be optimized.

Complexity Management — ECS scales well as project complexity increases. Adding new behaviour is as easy as writing new systems or adding new components to entities.

ECS Development Workflow

In practice, using ECS architecture involves three basic steps:

  1. Define components: Set up the basic data structures that hold information about entities.
  2. Implement systems: Define systems that provide the logic behind how entities behave based on their components.
  3. Implement queries: Define queries that allow clients to read the game state.

While the ECS style can take some time to get used to, the benefits it provides, especially in terms of flexibility, performance, and complexity management, make it a robust and reliable approach in modern game development. The opinionated architecture provides you with a strong foundation and helps avoid the need to rewrite your codebase as your game grows.