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Cataclysm: Bright Nights

CMake + Visual Studio + Vcpkg


Note that starting from Visual Studio 2022 version 17.6, vcpkg is included with the distribution and is available in the VS developer command prompt, so you don’t have to install it separately.


Configuration can be done using one of the presets in CMakePresets.json. They will all build the code into the directory out/build/<preset>/.


Ensure that cmake can find vcpkg. If it can’t, it will complain about missing packages. You can do this in one of the following ways:

  • For VS2022 users with preinstalled vcpkg, vcpkg should already be available if you’re running the VS developer command prompt and not the plain terminal
  • Append -DVCPKG_ROOT=C:\dev\vcpkg (or whatever the path is) to any cmake configure commands
  • Set the environment variable VCPKG_ROOT to the path to the vcpkg checkout
  • Add the VCPKG_ROOT cache variable in CMakePresets.json with the appropriate path (not recommended if you plan to work with the code later, git tracks this file)

Run the command

cmake --list-presets

It will show the presets available to you. The list changes based on the environment you are in. If empty, the environment is not supported.

Run the command

cmake --preset <preset>

It will download all dependencies and generate build files, as long as vcpkg installation is available.

If you’re using VS2022, be sure to select a preset with 2022 in its name, as presets without that suffix will target VS2019.

You can override any option by appending -Doption=value to this command, see Build options in CMake guide. For example, you can disable building of tests with -DTESTS=OFF if you don’t care about them.

Visual Studio

Open the game source folder in Visual Studio.

Visual Studio should be able to recognize the folder as a CMake project, and may attempt to start configuring it, which will most likely fail because it didn’t use the proper preset.

The Standard toolbar shows the presets in the Configuration drop-down box. Choose the proper one (should contain windows and msvc), then from the main menu, select Project -> Configure Cache.

If you’re using VS2022, be sure to select a preset with 2022 in its name, as presets without that suffix are targeting VS2019.



Run the command

  • cmake --build --preset <preset> --config Release

You can replace Release with Debug to get a debug build, or RelWithDebInfo for a release build with less optimizations but more debug information.

Visual Studio

From the Standard toolbar’s Build Preset drop-down menu select the build preset. From the main menu, select Build -> Build All.

You can also select between Release, Debug and RelWithDebInfo builds, though depending on UI layout the drop-down menu for this may be hidden behind the overflow button.


Translations are optional and require msgfmt binary from gettext package; vcpkg should install it automatically.


Run the command

  • cmake --build --preset <preset> --target translations_compile

Visual Studio

Visual Studio should have built the translations in the previous step. If it did not, open Solution Explorer, switch it into CMake Targets mode (can be done with right click), then right click on translations_compile target -> Build translations_compile.


Visual Studio

From the main menu, select Build -> Install CataclysmBN


Run the command

  • cmake --install out/build/<preset>/ --config Release

Replace Release with your chosen build type.


The game and test executables will both be available in .\Release\ folder (folder name matches build type, so for other build types you’ll get other folder names).

You can run them manually from the terminal, as long as you do it from the project’s top directory as by default the game expects data files to be in current path.

For running and debugging from Visual Studio, it’s recommended to open the generated VS solution located at out\build\<preset>\CataclysmBN.sln (it will be there regardless of whether you’ve completed previous steps in IDE or terminal) and do any further work with it instead.

Alternatively, it’s possible to stay in the “Open Folder” mode, but then you’ll have to customize launch configuration for the game executable (and tests), and there may be other yet undiscovered side effects.


To start the game, run

  • .\Release\cataclysm-tiles.exe

To execute tests, run

  • .\Release\cata_test-tiles.exe

Close Visual Studio, then navigate to out\build\<preset>\ and open CataclysmBN.sln. Set cataclysm-tiles as Startup Project (can be done with right click from Solution Explorer), and you’ll be able to run and debug the game executable without additional issues. It will already be preconfigured to look for the data files in the top project directory.

To run tests, switch the Startup Project to cata_test-tiles.

Visual Studio (Option 2)

Due to how Visual Studio handles CMake projects, it’s impossible to specify the working directory for the executable while VS is in the “Open Folder” mode. This StackOverflow answer explains it nicely: Fortunately, VS allows customizing exe launch options on individual basis.

Open solution explorer and switch it into CMake Targets mode if you haven’t already (can be done with a right click). There, right click on the cataclysm-tiles target -> Add Debug Configuration. Visual Studio will open launch configurations file for this project, with new configuration for the cataclysm-tiles target. Add the following line:

"currentDir": "${workspaceRoot}",

to the config and save the file.

The final result should look something like this:

  "version": "0.2.1",
  "defaults": {},
  "configurations": [
      "currentDir": "${workspaceRoot}",
      "type": "default",
      "project": "CMakeLists.txt",
      "projectTarget": "cataclysm-tiles.exe (<PATH_TO_SOURCE_FOLDER>\\Debug\\cataclysm-tiles.exe)",
      "name": "cataclysm-tiles.exe (<PATH_TO_SOURCE_FOLDER>\\Debug\\cataclysm-tiles.exe)"

Now, you should be able to run and debug the game executable from inside Visual Studio.

If you’d like to run tests, repeat this process for the cata_test-tiles target.