Coding with intrinsics

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This documents a feature not merged yet:

For performance purpose, it is possible to implement alternative code path using architecture-dependent code or compiler-dependent code.

It is important that code making use of such intrinsics code comes with an alternative generic implementation as a fallback for portability and debugging.

Usage of intrinsics can lead to great performance improvements, especially in the engine code which is built natively for the user's platform. Some engine code being shared with the game code as a framework, such code may either use the optimized code (use case of a game server using a native exe as server game code) or the generic implementation. In the future when the port to WebAssembly is done even the virtualized game code may start to make use of some Wasm intrinsics.

Common implementation examples are the usage of i686 SSE intrinsics for vector operations.

There can be two kinds of intrinsics: Architecture-dependent intrinsics, and Compiler-dependent intrinsics.

Architecture-dependent intrinsics

Architecture-dependent intrinsics are provided by specific hardware features like SSE on i686 or amd64, like NEON on arm64, or pure assembly code.

Here is an example taken from the fast approximate inverse square root code for i686 SSE:

_mm_store_ss( &y, _mm_rsqrt_ss( _mm_load_ss( &number ) ) );

Here is an example of fast approximate inverse square root for the 32-bit PowerPC platform, this code is not part of the Dæmon engine as this platform is not supported but it is given as a good example of what can be doable:

asm( "frsqrte %0, %1" : "=f"( y ) : "f"( number ) );

Compiler-dependent intrinsics

Compiler-dependent intrinsics are provided by specific compiler features.

Here is an example of implementation of the CountTrailingZeroes function for GCC and Clang:

ans = __builtin_ctz( x );

And here is the same for MSVC:

_BitScanForward( &ans, x );

Generic alternative code

It is important that optimized code using intrinsics functions come with alternative generic code as a fallback, this is useful both for portability (make the port to a new platform or compiler easier) and testing (one may compare the output of the various implementations).

When writing code, one can use the C/C++ DAEMON_USE_COMPILER_INTRINSICS definition to guard the code making use of compiler intrinsics, and some of the DAEMON_USE_ARCH_INTRINSICS_<architecture>[_extension] definitions to guard the code making use of architecture intrinsics.

Here are some examples of preprocessor definitions usable to guard architecture intrinsics code:


The DAEMON_USE_ARCH_INTRINSICS_i686 definition is automatically defined by the CMake code itself.

When a platform is a child of another platform, definitions for both are defined, for example on amd64 both DAEMON_USE_ARCH_INTRINSICS_i686 and DAEMON_USE_ARCH_INTRINSICS_amd64 are defined.

Extension-dependent definitions like DAEMON_USE_ARCH_INTRINSICS_i686_sse are meant to be defined in src/common/Platform.h using architecture-specific definitions like __SSE__ when the DAEMON_USE_ARCH_INTRINSICS definition is set.

When an extension is first defined in a parent platform, the definition is defined for the parent platform, for example on amd64 the DAEMON_USE_ARCH_INTRINSICS_i686_sse is defined, and this definition is meant to be used for both i686 with SSE code path and amd64 code path when architecture intrinsics are enabled.

It is asked to always use DAEMON_USE_ARCH_INTRINSICS_i686_sse instead of __SSE__ within C/C++ preprocessor code to make sure disabling the intrinsics code really disables it. The same will be true if we implement similar definitions like DAEMON_USE_ARCH_INTRINSICS_arm64_neon in the future, it would have to be preferred over __ARM_NEON__.

Toggling optimized and alternative code

We provide two CMake options USE_COMPILER_INTRINSICS and USE_ARCH_INTRINSICS to make easy to enable or disable the use of compiler or architecture optimized code. Those options are enabled by default.