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nimrodson

What is functional programming and how can it help us in game developing?

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Hi,

 

I would like to know some opinions about this programming paradigm: It is useful? How much? Could have an important role or participation in game design and/or coding? It is complementary, opposite, or totally uncomparable to OOP?

 

Thanks. 

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Using compute shaders is functional programming. Functional programming and associated languages usually map better to hardware (think FPGAs) than software. Come to think of it, any shader is a functional program evaluated simultaneously on blocks of data.

 

OK, thanks for the tip. But, what happens in a higher abstraction level? Which elements of functional programming could be beneficious in game design?

 

Newly, thanks. 

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It has potentially huge applications to self-correcting AI routines (and really the field of AI in general). Depending on your functional language, output from a function can be fed as input right back into the same function. For example: Lisp can rewrite and evaluate its own code, because there's no differentiation between "code" and "data".
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For folks interested in checking out FP, it may be useful to know that a new round of a functional programming basics course has just started at Coursera. The language used is Scala, but you aren't expected to have previous knowledge, and the focus is on general FP concepts as opposed to diving deep into the languge. (Though it's a good opportunity to get started with Scala as well; the lecturer is Martin Odersky, the author of the language.)

https://www.coursera.org/course/progfun

 

FP-oriented thinking is useful even for the hobbyist because it leads to more expressive code, cutting down development time, errors and maintenance. And it has become critical for high performance. Single cores stopped getting significantly faster a long time ago, and concurrency and parallelism are now the major bottleneck for most interesting things. FP helps you survive in an environment with those two phenomena.

 

I'm "thinking functionally" a lot of the time even when coding C++.

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The most useful functional programming in games I've seen recently is Javascript + HTML5.

JavaScript is both OOP and Functional.

Using it functionally is the best way to get things done, (especially IO).

There are many other cool things about functional programming, but this is the only way I can justify it to a hobbyist programmer.

 

Aside from this, you should learn & use functional programming at least once just because it's very interesting. It will lead you to new design patterns. Especially where asynchronous tasks are involved.

Edited by SillyCow
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