Software Architecture for Polyadic

The Polyadic interface enables collaborative composition of 16 step drum loops to accompany backing tracks in 4 different genres of electronic music for two or more co-located participants utilising two user interface media, Virtual Reality (VR) and Desktop (DT).
To accommodate the cross-platform development of the system an overview of programming paradigms was made, to determine an architecture for quick prototyping. The architecture design goals were:
  • Ease of feature development for testing multiple approaches.
  • Deterministic network interaction with interfaces.
  • Modular code structure to allow a Git-Flow style of development with parallel feature development not causing merge nightmares.

The final architectures included:

  • Entity-Component-System – the final winner, talk more about this later.
  • Dependency Injection / Inversion of Control – lots of supporters, but it all seemed a bit weird to set up and work with for this application. Initial tests were positive, but the style of the structure started to annoy me.
  • Model-view-controller – classic, solid design pattern. But scaling it to maintain a tidy feature set for the cross-platform network application felt dangerous. I saw it turning into a pseudo pattern, where best intentions are kept but the flexibility and my laziness would make me turn it into illogical spaghetti.
  • Hack away – what I have done previously, a lot. The speed of just bringing functions together however you like is always appealing in the short term, like a really fatty burger, but it will shorten your life somehow.

Entity-Component-System

Herehere, and here are some good introductions/discussions by Maxim Zaks, a major contributor to the Entitas ECS framework. To summarise, ECS, and specifically Entitas, reduce everything down to data, groups of data, and systems that act on data. This is very different from classic OOP design and required a little retraining of my process and thinking. I made many mistakes and introduced a lot of pseudo-dependencies during this process. Now, in the process of refactoring, after doing some other projects with it, I am rooting out these pseudo-dependencies and reducing the reliance on wasteful LINQ operations. In the end, it mostly produced decoupled code that allowed very feature-driven development. As I’m working by myself on the project, I haven’t got into the unit testing possibilities, but these are said to be great.

So when not to use ECS?

Building frameworks for others or purely computational systems, see this for discussion. Though I am toying with a fully ECS driven audio signal processing idea, might be folly though…

Positive future

Also, the good news is that by choosing ECS, I have started to train myself in the current path that Unity is taking multithreaded systems, so that’s nice! But as this is still in early development I will stick with Entitas.

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