Clean code == Good logic

A short post here, after some discussions I’ve had on twitter over the past week or two. I graduated nearly 5 years ago, and since then have seen lots of production source code, mainly high-performance/games related – real-time it must to go fast stuff. Since only five years ago I was a graduate, It’s quite fresh-ish in my memory as to what sort of things were taught.

DESIGN PATTERNS!

Design patterns are something which have given me, and certainly many of my coworkers, a mountain of grief when it comes to getting performance from code. I can remember it being taught as some sort of rule book in University, something you can refer to when you have a certain logic issue, and then implement that pattern. Unfortunately this ideal exists now in many graduates, and therefore quite ingrained into current programming circles. In my opinion we have a bad habit: a design pattern copy-paste culture.

I’m not going to go into why some design patterns can cause havoc when you come to optimize; hell some may make it easier. It’s basically the lack of thought that now goes into implementations, meaning for example a generic pattern may be applied to a problem which really doesn’t need it. But this code is in the foundation of systems usually, the hardest part to modify given tight deadlines late on in a project.

Some may say that this runtime performance drop is a worthwhile price to pay for clean code; of course that is certainly not true in my line of work. For me the solving of a problem in a really efficient way for the hardware makes things nice, for others it’s hiding everything under a generic base, and having the source ‘look’ nice (whatever the bloody hell that means). Don’t get me wrong, bad implementations have always existed; but I think the way design patterns are being taught is not helping.

Really, this is lie #1 from Mike Actons GDC2010 “Three Big Lies in Game Development” : Software is not a platform.

One persons clean source code is someones elses nightmare, another’s ‘bad’ source being an abomination to others. The fact here though is that regardless of how the source ‘looks and feels’, the compiler can generate pretty good source code for both implementations, and can try to optimize things as much as possible – obviously to the extent which the logic of the solution allows.  The real problem here is that a solution is defined by the logic, something the compiler cannot modify.

So,

Whilst the compiler can generate ‘good’ machine code from ‘bad’ source code, it can not replace bad logic with good logic.

I think that about says it all, really. Before you go pasting that Design Pattern into your project, really think: Does this solve the problem in the best possible way for my hardware?

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