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Cataclysm: Bright Nights


To build Cataclysm from source you will need at least a C++ compiler, some basic developer tools, and necessary build dependencies. The exact package names vary greatly from distro to distro, so this part of the guide is intended to give you higher-level understanding of the process.


You have three major choices here: GCC, Clang and MXE.

  • GCC is almost always the default on Linux systems so it’s likely you already have it
  • Clang is usually faster than GCC, so it’s worth installing if you plan to keep up with the latest experimentals
  • MXE is a cross-compiler, so of any importance only if you plan to compile for Windows on your Linux machine

(Note that your distro may have separate packages e.g. gcc only includes the C compiler and for C++ you’ll need to install g++.)

Cataclysm is targeting C++17 standard and that means you’ll need a compiler that supports it. You can easily check if your version of g++ supports C++17 by running:

$ g++ --std=c++17
g++: fatal error: no input files
compilation terminated.

If you get a line like:

g++: error: unrecognized command line option ‘--std=c++17’

This means you’ll need a newer version of GCC (g++).

The general rule is the newer the compiler the better.


Most distros seem to package essential build tools as either a single package (Debian and derivatives have build-essential) or a package group (Arch has base-devel). You should use the above if available. Otherwise you’ll at least need make and figure out the missing dependencies as you go (if any).

Besides the essentials you will need git.

If you plan on keeping up with experimentals you should also install ccache, which will considerably speed-up partial builds.


There are some general dependencies, optional dependencies and then specific dependencies for either curses or tiles builds. The exact package names again depend on the distro you’re using, and whether your distro packages libraries and their development files separately (e.g. Debian and derivatives).

Rough list based on building on Arch:

  • General: gcc-libs, glibc, zlib, bzip2
  • Optional: intltool
  • Curses: ncurses
  • Tiles: sdl2, sdl2_image, sdl2_ttf, sdl2_mixer, freetype2

E.g. for curses build on Debian and derivatives you’ll also need libncurses5-dev or libncursesw5-dev.

Note on optional dependencies:

  • intltool - for building localization files; if you plan to only use English you can skip it

You should be able to figure out what you are missing by reading the compilation errors and/or the output of ldd for compiled binaries.

Make flags

Given you’re building from source you have a number of choices to make:

  • NATIVE= - you should only care about this if you’re cross-compiling
  • RELEASE=1 - without this you’ll get a debug build (see note below)
  • LTO=1 - enables link-time optimization with GCC/Clang
  • TILES=1 - with this you’ll get the tiles version, without it the curses version
  • SOUND=1 - if you want sound; this requires TILES=1
  • LANGUAGES= - specifies localizations. See details here
  • CLANG=1 - use Clang instead of GCC
  • CCACHE=1 - use ccache
  • USE_LIBCXX=1 - use libc++ instead of libstdc++ with Clang (default on OS X)

There is a couple of other possible options - feel free to read the Makefile.

If you have a multi-core computer you’d probably want to add -jX to the options, where X should roughly be twice the number of cores you have available.

Example: make -j4 CLANG=1 CCACHE=1 NATIVE=linux64 RELEASE=1 TILES=1

The above will build a tiles release explicitly for 64 bit Linux, using Clang and ccache and 4 parallel processes.

Example: make -j2

The above will build a debug-enabled curses version for the architecture you are using, using GCC and 2 parallel processes.

Note on debug: You should probably always build with RELEASE=1 unless you experience segfaults and are willing to provide stack traces.

Compiling localization files

By default, only English language is available, and it does not require localization file.

If you want to compile files for specific languages, you should add LANGUAGES="<lang_id_1> [lang_id_2] [...]" option to make command:

make LANGUAGES="zh_CN zh_TW"

You can get the language ID from the filenames of *.po in lang/po directory or use LANGUAGES="all" to compile all available localizations.


Instructions for compiling on a Debian-based system. The package names here are valid for Ubuntu 12.10 and may or may not work on your system.

Building instructions, below, always assume you are running them from the Cataclysm

source directory.

Linux (native) ncurses builds


  • ncurses or ncursesw (for multi-byte locales)
  • build essentials


sudo apt-get install libncurses5-dev libncursesw5-dev build-essential astyle




Linux (native) SDL builds


  • SDL
  • SDL_ttf
  • freetype
  • build essentials
  • libsdl2-mixer-dev - Used if compiling with sound support.


sudo apt-get install libsdl2-dev libsdl2-ttf-dev libsdl2-image-dev libsdl2-mixer-dev libfreetype6-dev build-essential

check correct version of SDL2 is installed by running:

> sdl2-config --version

using old version of SDL could result in IME not working.


A simple installation could be done by simply running:

make TILES=1

A more comprehensive alternative is:


The -j2 flag means it will compile with two parallel processes. It can be omitted or changed to -j4 in a more modern processor. If there is no desire to have sound, those flags can also be omitted. The USE_HOME_DIR flag places the user files, like configurations and saves into the home folder, making It easier for backups, and can also be omitted.

Cross-compiling to linux 32-bit from linux 64-bit


  • 32-bit toolchain
  • 32-bit ncursesw (compatible with both multi-byte and 8-bit locales)


sudo apt-get install libc6-dev-i386 lib32stdc++-dev g++-multilib lib32ncursesw5-dev



make NATIVE=linux32

Cross-compile to Windows from Linux

To cross-compile to Windows from Linux, you will need MXE.

These instructions were written for Ubuntu 20.04, but should be applicable to any Debian-based environment. Please adjust all package manager instructions to match your environment.

MXE can be either installed from MXE apt repository (much faster) or compiled from source.

Installing MXE from binary distribution

sudo apt-key adv --keyserver --recv-keys 86B72ED9
sudo add-apt-repository "deb [arch=amd64] `lsb_release -sc` main"
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install astyle bzip2 git make mxe-{i686,x86-64}-w64-mingw32.static-{sdl2,sdl2-ttf,sdl2-image,sdl2-mixer}

If you are not planning on building for both 32-bit and 64-bit, you might want to adjust the last apt-get invocation to install only i686 or x86-64 packages.

Edit your ~/.profile as follows:

export PLATFORM_32="/usr/lib/mxe/usr/bin/i686-w64-mingw32.static-"
export PLATFORM_64="/usr/lib/mxe/usr/bin/x86_64-w64-mingw32.static-"

This is to ensure that the variables for the make command will not get reset after a power cycle.

Installing MXE from source

Install MXE requirements and build dependencies:

sudo apt install astyle autoconf automake autopoint bash bison bzip2 cmake flex gettext git g++ gperf intltool libffi-dev libgdk-pixbuf2.0-dev libtool libltdl-dev libssl-dev libxml-parser-perl lzip make mingw-w64 openssl p7zip-full patch perl pkg-config python ruby scons sed unzip wget xz-utils g++-multilib libc6-dev-i386 libtool-bin

Clone MXE repo and build packages required for CBN:

mkdir -p ~/src
cd ~/src
git clone
cd mxe
make -j$((`nproc`+0)) MXE_TARGETS='x86_64-w64-mingw32.static i686-w64-mingw32.static' sdl2 sdl2_ttf sdl2_image sdl2_mixer

Building all these packages from MXE might take a while, even on a fast computer. Be patient; the -j flag will take advantage of all your processor cores.

If you are not planning on building for both 32-bit and 64-bit, you might want to adjust your MXE_TARGETS.

Edit your ~/.profile as follows:

export PLATFORM_32="~/src/mxe/usr/bin/i686-w64-mingw32.static-"
export PLATFORM_64="~/src/mxe/usr/bin/x86_64-w64-mingw32.static-"

This is to ensure that the variables for the make command will not get reset after a power cycle.

Building (SDL)

Run one of the following commands based on your targeted environment:

make -j$((`nproc`+0)) CROSS="${PLATFORM_32}" TILES=1 SOUND=1 RELEASE=1 BACKTRACE=0 PCH=0 bindist
make -j$((`nproc`+0)) CROSS="${PLATFORM_64}" TILES=1 SOUND=1 RELEASE=1 BACKTRACE=0 PCH=0 bindist

Cross-compile to Mac OS X from Linux

The procedure is very much similar to cross-compilation to Windows from Linux. Tested on ubuntu 14.04 LTS but should work on other distros as well.

Please note that due to historical difficulties with cross-compilation errors, run-time optimizations are disabled for cross-compilation to Mac OS X targets. (-O0 is specified as a compilation flag.) See Pull Request #26564 for details.


Make sure that all dependency tools are in search PATH before compiling.


To set up the compiling environment execute the following commands

git clone #clone the toolchain
cd osxcross
cp ~/MacOSX10.11.sdk.tar.bz2 ./tarballs/ # copy prepared MacOSX SDK tarball on place.
OSX_VERSION_MIN=11 ./ # build everything

Read more about it Note the targeted minimum supported version of OSX.

Have a prepackaged set of libs and frameworks in place, since compiling with osxcross built-in MacPorts is rather difficult and not supported at the moment. Your directory tree should look like:

├── Frameworks
│   ├── SDL2.framework
│   ├── SDL2_image.framework
│   ├── SDL2_mixer.framework
│   └── SDL2_ttf.framework
└── libs
    └── ncurses
        ├── include
        └── lib

Populated with respective frameworks, dylibs and headers. Tested with lib version libncurses.5.4.dylib for ncurses. These libs were obtained from homebrew binary distribution at OS X 10.11 Frameworks were obtained from SDL official website as described in the next section

Building (SDL)

To build full feature tiles and sound enabled version with localizations enabled:

make dmgdist CROSS=x86_64-apple-darwin15- NATIVE=osx USE_HOME_DIR=1 CLANG=1

Make sure that x86_64-apple-darwin15-clang++ is in PATH environment variable.

Building (ncurses)

To build full curses version with localizations enabled:

make dmgdist CROSS=x86_64-apple-darwin15- NATIVE=osx USE_HOME_DIR=1 CLANG=1

Make sure that x86_64-apple-darwin15-clang++ is in PATH environment variable.

Cross-compile to Android from Linux

The Android build uses Gradle to compile the java and native C++ code, and is based heavily off SDL’s Android project template. See the official SDL documentation for further information.

The Gradle project lives in the repository under android/. You can build it via the command line or open it in Android Studio. For simplicity, it only builds the SDL version with all features enabled, including tiles, sound and localization.


  • Java JDK 8
  • SDL2 (tested with 2.0.8, though a custom fork is recommended with project-specific bugfixes)
  • SDL2_ttf (tested with 2.0.14)
  • SDL2_mixer (tested with 2.0.2)
  • SDL2_image (tested with 2.0.3)

The Gradle build process automatically installs dependencies from


Install Linux dependencies. For a desktop Ubuntu installation:

sudo apt-get install openjdk-8-jdk-headless

Install Android SDK and NDK:

unzip -d ~/android-sdk
~/android-sdk/tools/bin/sdkmanager --update
~/android-sdk/tools/bin/sdkmanager "tools" "platform-tools" "ndk-bundle"
~/android-sdk/tools/bin/sdkmanager --licenses

Export Android environment variables (you can add these to the end of ~/.bashrc):

export ANDROID_SDK_ROOT=~/android-sdk
export ANDROID_HOME=~/android-sdk
export ANDROID_NDK_ROOT=~/android-sdk/ndk-bundle
export PATH=$PATH:$ANDROID_SDK_ROOT/platform-tools

You can also use this additional variables if you want to use ccache to speed up subsequnt builds:

export USE_CCACHE=1
export NDK_CCACHE=/usr/local/bin/ccache

Note: Path to ccache can be different on your system.

Android device setup

Enable Developer options on your Android device. Connect your device to your PC via USB cable and run:

adb devices
adb connect <devicename>


To build an APK, use the Gradle wrapper command line tool (gradlew). The Android Studio documentation provides a good summary of how to build your app from the command line.

To build a debug APK, from the android/ subfolder of the repository run:

./gradlew assembleDebug

This creates a debug APK in ./android/app/build/outputs/apk/ ready to be installed on your device.

To build a debug APK and immediately deploy to your connected device over adb run:

./gradlew installDebug

To build a signed release APK (ie. one that can be installed on a device), build an unsigned release APK and sign it manually.

Additional notes

The app stores data files on the device in /sdcard/Android/data/com.cleverraven/cataclysmdda/files. The data is backwards compatible with the desktop version.

Advanced info for Developers

For most people, the simple Homebrew installation is enough. For developers, here are some more technical details on building Cataclysm on Mac OS X.


SDL2, SDL2_image, and SDL2_ttf are needed for the tiles build. Optionally, you can add SDL2_mixer for sound support. Cataclysm can be built using either the SDL framework, or shared libraries built from source.

The SDL framework files can be downloaded here:

Copy SDL2.framework, SDL2_image.framework, and SDL2_ttf.framework to /Library/Frameworks or /Users/name/Library/Frameworks.

If you want sound support, you will need an additional SDL framework:

Copy SDL2_mixer.framework to /Library/Frameworks or /Users/name/Library/Frameworks.

Alternatively, SDL shared libraries can be installed using a package manager:

For Homebrew:

brew install sdl2 sdl2_image sdl2_ttf

with sound:

brew install sdl2_mixer libvorbis libogg

For MacPorts:

sudo port install libsdl2 libsdl2_image libsdl2_ttf

with sound:

sudo port install libsdl2_mixer libvorbis libogg


ncurses with wide character support enabled is needed since Cataclysm makes extensive use of Unicode characters

For Homebrew:

brew install ncurses

For MacPorts:

sudo port install ncurses
hash -r


The version of gcc/g++ installed with the Command Line Tools for Xcode is actually just a front end for the same Apple LLVM as clang. This doesn’t necessarily cause issues, but this version of gcc/g++ will have clang error messages and essentially produce the same results as if using clang. To compile with the “real” gcc/g++, install it with homebrew:

brew install gcc

However, homebrew installs gcc as gcc-{version} (where {version} is the version) to avoid conflicts. The simplest way to use the homebrew version at /usr/local/bin/gcc-{version} instead of the Apple LLVM version at /usr/bin/gcc is to symlink the necessary.

cd /usr/local/bin
ln -s gcc-12 gcc
ln -s g++-12 g++
ln -s c++-12 c++

Or, to do this for everything in /usr/local/bin/ ending with -12,

find /usr/local/bin -name "*-12" -exec sh -c 'ln -s "$1" $(echo "$1" | sed "s/..$//")' _ {} \;

Also, you need to make sure that /usr/local/bin appears before /usr/bin in your $PATH, or else this will not work.

Check that gcc -v shows the homebrew version you installed.


The Cataclysm source is compiled using make.

Make options

  • NATIVE=osx build for OS X. Required for all Mac builds.
  • OSX_MIN=version sets -mmacosx-version-min=; default is 11.
  • TILES=1 build the SDL version with graphical tiles (and graphical ASCII); omit to build with ncurses.
  • SOUND=1 - if you want sound; this requires TILES=1 and the additional dependencies mentioned above.
  • FRAMEWORK=1 (tiles only) link to SDL libraries under the OS X Frameworks folders; omit to use SDL shared libraries from Homebrew or Macports.
  • LANGUAGES="<lang_id_1>[lang_id_2][...]" compile localization files for specified languages. e.g. LANGUAGES="zh_CN zh_TW". You can also use LANGUAGES=all to compile all localization files.
  • RELEASE=1 build an optimized release version; omit for debug build.
  • CLANG=1 build with Clang, the compiler that’s included with the latest Command Line Tools for Xcode; omit to build using gcc/g++.
  • MACPORTS=1 build against dependencies installed via Macports, currently only ncurses.
  • USE_HOME_DIR=1 places user files (config, saves, graveyard, etc) in the user’s home directory. For curses builds, this is /Users/<user>/.cataclysm-bn, for SDL builds it is /Users/<user>/Library/Application Support/Cataclysm.
  • DEBUG_SYMBOLS=1 retains debug symbols when building an optimized release binary, making it easy for developers to spot the crash site.

In addition to the options above, there is an app make target which will package the tiles build into, a complete tiles build in a Mac application that can run without Terminal.

For more info, see the comments in the Makefile.

Make examples

Build a release SDL version using Clang:


Build a release SDL version using Clang, link to libraries in the OS X Frameworks folders, build all language files, and package it into


Build a release curses version with curses supplied by Macports:



For curses builds:


For SDL:


For app builds, launch from Finder.

Test suite

The build will also generate a test executable at tests/cata_test. Invoke it as you would any other executable and it will run the full suite of tests. Pass the --help flag to list options.

dmg distribution

You can build a nice dmg distribution file with the dmgdist target. You will need a tool called dmgbuild. To install this tool, you will need Python first. If you are on Mac OS X >= 10.8, Python 2.7 is pre-installed with the OS. If you are on an older version of OS X, you can download Python on their official website or install it with homebrew brew install python. Once you have Python, you should be able to install dmgbuild by running:

# This install pip. It might not be required if it is already installed.
curl --silent --show-error --retry 5 | sudo python
# dmgbuild install
sudo pip install dmgbuild pyobjc-framework-Quartz

Once dmgbuild is installed, you will be able to use the dmgdist target like this. The use of USE_HOME_DIR=1 is important here because it will allow for an easy upgrade of the game while keeping the user config and his saves in his home directory.


You should see a Cataclysm.dmg file.

Mac OS X Troubleshooting

ISSUE: Colors don’t show up correctly

Open Terminal’s preferences, turn on Use bright colors for bold text in Preferences -> Settings -> Text


See for instructions on how to set up and use a build environment using Visual Studio on windows.

This is probably the easiest solution for someone used to working with Visual Studio and similar IDEs. —>

Building with MSYS2

See for instructions on how to set up and use a build environment using MSYS2 on windows.

MSYS2 strikes a balance between a native Windows application and a UNIX-like environment. There’s some command-line tools that our project uses (notably our JSON linter) that are harder to use without a command-line environment such as what MSYS2 or CYGWIN provide.

Building with CYGWIN

See for instructions on how to set up and use a build environment using CYGWIN on windows.

CYGWIN attempts to more fully emulate a POSIX environment, to be “more unix” than MSYS2. It is a little less modern in some respects, and lacks the convenience of the MSYS2 package manager.

Building with Clang and MinGW64

Clang by default uses MSVC on Windows, but also supports the MinGW64 library. Simply replace CLANG=1 with "CLANG=clang++ -target x86_64-pc-windows-gnu -pthread" in your batch script, and make sure MinGW64 is in your path. You may also need to apply a patch to float.h of MinGW64 for the unit test to compile.


There are reports of CBN building fine on recent OpenBSD and FreeBSD machines (with appropriately recent compilers), and there is some work being done on making the Makefile “just work”, however we’re far from that and BSDs support is mostly based on user contributions. Your mileage may vary. So far essentially all testing has been on amd64, but there is no (known) reason that other architectures shouldn’t work, in principle.

Building on FreeBSD/amd64 10.1 with the system compiler

FreeBSD uses clang as the default compiler as of 10.0, and combines it with libc++ to provide C++17 support out of the box. You will however need gmake (examples for binary packages):

pkg install gmake

Tiles builds will also require SDL2:

pkg install sdl2 sdl2_image sdl2_mixer sdl2_ttf

Then you should be able to build with something like this (you can of course set CXXFLAGS and LDFLAGS in your .profile or something):

export CXXFLAGS="-I/usr/local/include" LDFLAGS="-L/usr/local/lib"
gmake # ncurses builds
gmake TILES=1 # tiles builds

The author has not tested tiles builds, as the build VM lacks X; they do at least compile/link successfully.

Building ncurses version on FreeBSD/amd64 9.3 with GCC 4.8.4 from ports

For ncurses build add to Makefile, before VERSION:

CXX = g++48
CXXFLAGS += -I/usr/local/lib/gcc48/include
LDFLAGS += -rpath=/usr/local/lib/gcc48

Note: or you can setenv the above (merging OTHERS into CXXFLAGS), but you knew that.

And then build with gmake RELEASE=1.

Building on OpenBSD/amd64 5.8 with GCC 4.9.2 from ports/packages

First, install g++, gmake, and libexecinfo from packages (g++ 4.8 or 4.9 should work; 4.9 has been tested):

pkg_add g++ gmake libexecinfo

Then you should be able to build with something like:

CXX=eg++ gmake

Only an ncurses build is possible on 5.8-release, as SDL2 is broken. On recent -current or snapshots, however, you can install the SDL2 packages:

pkg_add sdl2 sdl2-image sdl2-mixer sdl2-ttf

and build with:

CXX=eg++ gmake TILES=1

Building on NetBSD/amd64 7.0RC1 with the system compiler

NetBSD has (or will have) gcc 4.8.4 as of version 7.0, which is new enough to build cataclysm. You will need to install gmake and ncursesw:

pkgin install gmake ncursesw

Then you should be able to build with something like this (LDFLAGS for ncurses builds are taken care of by the ncurses configuration script; you can of course set CXXFLAGS/LDFLAGS in your .profile or something):

export CXXFLAGS="-I/usr/pkg/include"
gmake # ncurses builds
LDFLAGS="-L/usr/pkg/lib" gmake TILES=1 # tiles builds

SDL builds currently compile, but did not run in my testing - not only do they segfault, but gdb segfaults when reading the debug symbols! Perhaps your mileage will vary.