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Copy on write, it's not just for strings anymore!

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johnhattan

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I Finally implemented something in my game class library that I should've implemented quite a long time ago. . .

Copy-On-Write bitmap objects.

The bitmap object is one of the cornerstones of the whole library. It encapsulates a bitmap's data (in my case, an SDL_SURFACE structure) and has functions to do blitting and such.
Problem is that bitmaps are pretty heavy objects, and doing something like the following can be costly.

class DialogBox

{
public:
DialogBox(const Bitmap &rBackground) : MyBackground(rBackground) { }
private:
Bitmap MyBackground;
};

void Main()
{
DialogBox MyDialog(Bitmap('back.png'));
}


With a traditional bitmap object, the code in Main() is pretty costly, as it forces a bitmap to copy all of its data over from the temporary object into the MyBackground member. With a copy-on-write bitmap, though, bitmaps created with a copy-constructor or operator= all point to the same data unless they're written to. In the case above, the cost of copying the bitmap is reduced to just incrementing (when the bitmap is copied), then decrementing (when the temporary object dies), a reference-count. This is much
cheaper than creating, copying, and deleting all bitmap data from the temporary object.

It also allows me to implement some stuff the Right Way --the Sprite
object, for example. My old Sprite object simply pointed to an 'archive' bitmap, as it would be very
wasteful for 40 identical space-invader sprites to have 40 pieces of identical bitmap data. With copy-on-write
bitmaps, though, I can derive a Sprite object from Bitmap, and invader Sprites created with a copy-constructor
all point to the same data. If I ever did want to write to a Sprite object's data (like if I wanted to draw some
damage on a space invader) I can do that now. As I write to an invader, it'll copy itself so it doesn't cause all
the other invaders to be written to.
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