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Cataclysm: Bright Nights

Visual Studio + vcpkg

This guide contains steps required to allow compilation of Cataclysm-BN on Windows using Visual Studio and vcpkg.

Steps from current guide were tested on Windows 10 and 11 (64 bit), Visual Studio 2019 and 2022 (64 bit), but should as well work with slight modifications for other versions of Windows and Visual Studio.


  • Computer with modern Windows operating system installed (Windows 10 or 11), Windows 7 and 8.1 are not guaranteed to work;
  • NTFS partition with ~15 Gb free space (~10 Gb for Visual Studio, ~1 Gb for vcpkg installation, ~3 Gb for repository and ~1 Gb for build cache);
  • Git for Windows (installer can be downloaded from Git homepage);
  • Visual Studio 2019 or 2022
    • Note: If you are using Visual Studio 2022, you must install the Visual Studio 2019 compilers to work around a vcpkg bug. In the Visual Studio Installer, select the ‘Individual components’ tab and search for / select the component that looks like ‘MSVC v142 - VS 2019 C++ x64/x86 Build Tools’. See
  • Latest version of vcpkg (see instructions on vcpkg homepage).
  • If you plan on contributing your changes to Bright Nights, you’ll also have to install a code formatter, see Code style section for more info.

Note: Windows XP is unsupported!

Installation and configuration:

  1. Install Visual Studio (installer can be downloaded from Visual Studio homepage).
  • Select the “Desktop development with C++” and “Game development with C++” workloads.
  1. Install Git for Windows (installer can be downloaded from Git homepage).

  2. Install and configure latest vcpkg:

WARNING: It is important that, wherever you decide to clone this repo, the path does not include whitespace. That is, C:/dev/vcpkg is acceptable, but C:/dev test/vcpkg is not.

git clone
cd vcpkg
bootstrap-vcpkg.bat -disableMetrics
vcpkg integrate install

Cloning and compilation:

  1. Clone Cataclysm-BN repository with following command line:

Note: This will download the entire CBN repository; 3+ GB of data. If you’re just testing you should probably add --depth=1.

git clone
cd Cataclysm-BN
  1. Open the provided solution (msvc-full-features\Cataclysm-vcpkg-static.sln) in Visual Studio, select configuration (Release is advised if you just want to compile, Debug is if you’re planning on editing code) and platform (x64 or x86) and build it. All necessary dependencies will be built and cached for future use by vcpkg automatically.

  2. Open the Build > Configuration Manager menu and adjust Active solution configuration and Active solution platform to match your intended target.

This will configure Visual Studio to compile the release version, with support for Sound, Tiles, and Localization (note, however, that language files themselves are not automatically compiled; this will be done later).

  1. Start the build process by selecting either Build > Build Solution or Build > Build > Cataclysm-vcpkg-static. The process may take a long period of time, so you’d better prepare a cup of coffee and some books in front of your computer :) The first build of each architecture will also download and install dependencies through vcpkg, which can take an especially long time.

  2. If you want to launch the game directly from Visual Studio, make sure you have specified correct working directory as explained below. Otherwise, you’ll only be able to launch the game from the file explorer.

  3. If you need localization support, execute the bash script lang/ inside Git Bash GUI just like on a UNIX-like system. This will compile the language files that were not automatically compiled in step 2 above.

Running from Visual Studio and debugging

  1. Ensure that the Cataclysm game binary project (Cataclysm-vcpkg-static) is the selected startup project (right click on it in Solution Explorer -> Set as Startup Project)

  2. Configure the working directory in the project properties to $(ProjectDir).. (right click on it in Solution Explorer -> Properties -> select All Configurations and All Platforms at the top -> Debugging -> Working Directory)

  3. Press the debug button (green right-facing triangle near the top, or use the appropriate shortcut, e.g. F5)

If you discover that after pressing the debug button in Visual Studio, Cataclysm just exits after launch with return code 1, that is because of the wrong working directory.

Debug vs Release builds

Debug builds run significantly slower than Release builds, but provide additional safety checks.

If you just want to build the executable and play the game, Release is advised.

If you plan on editing the code, Debug is advised.

If you have enough experience with C++ to know:

  • under-the-hood differences between Debug and Release
  • how Release optimizations may affect the debugger
  • how to avoid undefined behavior in code

Then you might want to use Release build all the time to speed up dev process, and disable optimizations on a file-by-file basis by adding

#pragma optimize("", off)

line at the top of the file.

Running unit tests

Ensure that the Cataclysm test binary project (Cataclysm-test-vcpkg-static) is the selected startup project, configure the working directory in the project properties to $(ProjectDir).., and then press the debug button (or use the appropriate shortcut, e.g. F5). This will run all of the unit tests. Additional command line arguments may be configured in the project’s command line arguments setting, or if you are using a compatible unit test runner (e.g. Resharper) you can run or debug individual tests from the unit test sessions.

Code style

We use Artistic Style source code formatter to keep the style of our C++ code consistent. While it’s available as pre-built Windows executables, which you could install and run or configure to automatically format the code before commit, a much more convenient option for Visual Studio users is to install a specific extension, see “Astyle extensions for Visual Studio” in tooling for more info.

As of October 2022, the code style check is run automatically on each PR on GitHub, so if you forgot to style your changes you’ll see the corresponsing check failing.

Make a distribution

There is a batch script in msvc-full-features folder distribute.bat. It will create a sub folder distribution and copy all required files(eg. data/, Cataclysm.exe and dlls) into that folder. Then you can zip it and share the archive on the Internet.