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Cataclysm: Bright Nights

best practices

List of conventions used in the project, plus just plain good practices. Not rules per se, most of the codebase doesn’t meet those standards.


Good names:

  • Are not abbreviated if it could make meaning less obvious - count, not cnt
  • Are obvious from context - direction::left is clear, int rotate requires reading the documentation
  • Obey same conventions as nearby names - max_stored_kcal and stored_kcal, not max_stored_calories but stored_kcal or caloried_stored

snake_case is preferred for consistency with most of the project’s code.


  • Don’t add methods where a regular function in a namespace would work - crafting::consume_tools(tool_list,Character &), not Character.consume_tools(tool_list)
  • Don’t add both getters and setters if all they do is read/write a field - those are just disguised fields
    • Getters without (public) setters are OK
  • Use private where possible, public when not, protected only when there’s a clear reason for it


  • Avoid pointers, instead use references, std::optional or even a function overload where possible
  • Avoid using std::pair and std::tuple in headers, instead create a named struct
  • Avoid using int or std::string where an enum class would work

File organization

Try to avoid including headers from other headers. This negatively impacts compilation times (both clean and partial builds), especially when the header in question is already big and widely used (such as character.h, avatar.h, map.h, game.h, item.h, npc.h, etc.), and frequently pollutes source files with definitions they have no need to know.

Some tips here:

  • Compiler doesn’t always need to know the whole definition of a class, a declaration may be enough. Say, if in character.h the vehicle class is only ever used for a function argument of type vehicle & - references are always of the same size regardless of what type they refer to, so compiler only needs to know there exists a type named vehicle, not its internal details. Adding class vehicle; declaration in character.h is enough in this case.
  • It’s possible to use pointer-to-implementation idiom for class members to remove the need for the definition, see src/pimpl.h for implementation and explanation. There are many usage examples in the codebase (mainly game.h), but the overall idea is to replace class member with a pointer, and only require definition when accessing the member through pointer. This incurs a tiny performance overhead, but it’s unnoticeable in most cases.
  • If you’re adding some functionality to a frequently included header, and that functionality is supposed to be used only in a few source files, consider creating a separate header instead. This way, your code won’t make it into dozens or hundreds of compilation units which don’t ever use it, and the compiler wouldn’t spend time to build it all these dozens or hundreds of unneeded times.
  • Including system and std headers is OK, most of them are precompiled anyway.
  • Including common “utility” headers (optional.h, calendar.h, coordinates.h, etc.) is OK, those are already extensively used in many headers and source files, so not including them makes too little impact to warrant the inconvenience.