I saw my mother play a mobile game the other day. She invited me to play along. It was one of these Tetris knockoffs where you drag one of the three given tetromino-like pieces (although there are many more, some aren't even continuous) onto an 8x8 map without overlapping, and each time you fill a row or column it clears up with a pleasant explosion effect. When you manage to place all three, they give you three more. The game is over once none of your pieces can be placed. This is fun and all, but there were ads after each game. I began to ponder: Can I make it in C?
Of course I can. The map is just an 8x8 array (but I wish to make the size adjustable), and the pieces are just smaller arrays with some metadata. This just sounds like another CS101 assignment. I just need to be really careful with pointers and better yet, double pointers.
The initial design is that the map is an array of pointers representing
rows, which point to arrays representing blocks of each row. Each block is
char, which is a space (
0x20) for vacant blocks and a plus sign
0x2b) otherwise. Both the
char*s were manually malloc'd
so as to avoid variable length arrays (VLA).
As to the pieces, I defined
struct piece with three attributes:
The length of
h * w + 1 including the null terminator, and
represent the flattened shape of the piece. Examples are:
+← a single block
++← 1x2 or 2x1, depending on
++++← a 2x3 L shape (see below)
(For consistency, when I say
m x n, I mean
m rows by
I came up with 17 shapes, but a problem arises. If you need a slim L shape, there are four directions you can rotate it into; moreover, you can transpose each of them, making it eight:
++ ++ + + + + + + + + ++ ++ +++ + +++ + + +++ + +++
We can either define all the rotated and transposed versions for these 17 shapes, or implement some rotation and transposition functions, which turned out not difficult to write. They basically did these four things:
- Take a
struct piece*, denoted
- Make a backup of
pc->blocksin local variable
- Carry out the rotation/transposition from
When handing out a piece to the player I just need to
- Draw a random piece from the pool of 17
- Rotate it 0 to 3 times
- Transpose it 0 or 1 time
- Put its pointer somewhere in the player's array of
It turns out, since the pool of 17 should be (and is) immutable, I have to make a copy before I do anything to them. It is malloc'd and thus has to be free'd when it is placed on the map.
The rest of the code is just
for loops. Within a few hours
I was able to throw together a stdin-stdout version of the game, which
I named SIRTET (its relationship to Tetris is left to the reader to
decide). Here is a demo of the first two steps of the game:
$ ./sirtet -------- | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | -------- Piece 0 ++ ++ Piece 1 + ++++ Piece 2 ++ ++ ++ Input [piece #] [row #] [col #]: 0 0 0 -------- |++ | |++ | | | | | | | | | | | | | -------- Piece 1 + ++++ Piece 2 ++ ++ ++ Input [piece #] [row #] [col #]: 2 2 0 -------- |++ | |++ | |++ | |++ | |++ | | | | | | | -------- Piece 1 + ++++ Input [piece #] [row #] [col #]:
And guess what? Zero memory leak! Check out this beauty:
$ valgrind --leak-check=full --show-leak-kinds=all ./sirtet ==46064== Memcheck, a memory error detector ==46064== Copyright (C) 2002-2022, and GNU GPL'd, by Julian Seward et al. ==46064== Using Valgrind-3.19.0 and LibVEX; rerun with -h for copyright info ==46064== Command: ./sirtet ==46064== -------- | | .... | | -------- Piece 0 +++ +++ +++ ... Input [piece #] [row #] [col #]: 0 0 0 [15 steps later] Game over ==46064== ==46064== HEAP SUMMARY: ==46064== in use at exit: 0 bytes in 0 blocks ==46064== total heap usage: 115 allocs, 115 frees, 3,069 bytes allocated ==46064== ==46064== All heap blocks were freed -- no leaks are possible ==46064== ==46064== For lists of detected and suppressed errors, rerun with: -s ==46064== ERROR SUMMARY: 0 errors from 0 contexts (suppressed: 0 from 0)
I know it's a tiny accomplishment, but it made my day.
Now, a few problems. This
Input [piece #] [row #] [col #]: prompt isn't
super friendly, and ideally I should be able to control everything with
a consistent keybinding. And having a map that appears twice as high as
it's wide sure isn't pretty. That's when I thought of ncurses.
I've always wanted to use ncurses somewhere. My CS professor promised a bonus if I had used ncurses for a course project called One Card, an Uno knockoff (why are all my projects knockoffs?), but I was struggling to stop it from segfaulting. Now that I've tackled those, I can finally try it out. I got my tutorial at tldp.
It turns out pretty straightforward. Instead of
printfing, you just
mv stands for move and
w stands for window) by supplying a pair of
coordinates; the same goes for other functions. To draw a solid block at
x), all I had to do is print two inverted spaces:
mvaddch(y, x, (' ' | A_REVERSE)); addch(' ' | A_REVERSE);
The second line did not need a
mv because the
automatically moves the
x coordinate to the right by one. To draw
a rectangle, I just put
ACS_ULCORNER etc. at
all the right places. ncurses provided macros and functions for colors
Soon, I was able to draw the map, the piece hovering above to be placed, and the rest of the pieces.
I also managed to react to the player's keystrokes with
I defined three sets of navigation keys: arrow keys, wasd, and of course
the vim user loyalty, hjkl. The player may also press
switch pieces. There were a lot of switch-cases and bound checking.
Finally I used
getopt.h for the first time to parse CLI arguments, aka
argv. The concept of storing argument values in global variables
honestly surprised me, but having done some AVR, I got over it very soon.
You can customize the map size (both height and width independently), and
the maximum number of pieces you have at once. My editor plugin warns me
about insecurities in
sscanf, but I disregarded them.
I tried valgrind on the ncurses version, but the results were monstrous. It was later revealed to me that ncurses does a lot of memory management itself and inevitably it will confuse valgrind. ncurses does provide a workaround to debug memory usage. Anyway, at this point there is no longer any point. I proceeded to add a few fancy things like game stats and called this project complete.
MPEG-4 Video (252 KiB)
Room for improvement¶
This whole project was made with a premise in mind that no one else would play it. If anyone else were to play it, I would have made a few adjustments:
--no-coloroption, i.e. use monochrome indicators other than red/green