Saturday, July 31, 2021

Looking at building O3DE with Meson, part II

After the first post, some more time was spent on building O3DE with Meson. This is the second and most likely last post on the subject. Currently the repository builds all of AzCore basic code and a notable chunk of its Qt code. Tests are not built and there are some caveats on the existing code, which will be discussed below. The rest of the conversion would most likely be just more of the same and would probably not provide all that much new things to tackle.

Code parts and dependencies

Like most projects, the code is split into several independent modules like core, testing, various frameworks and so on. The way Meson is designed is that you traverse the source tree one directory at a time. You enter it, do something, possibly recurse into subdirectories and then exit it. Once exited you can never again return to the directory. This imposes some extra limitations on project structure, such as making circular dependencies impossible, but also makes it more readable.

This is almost always what you want. However there is one exception that many projects have: the lowest layer library has no internal dependencies, the unit testing library uses that library and the tests for the core library use the unit testing library. This is not a circular dependency as such, but if the unit tests are defined in the same subdir as the core library, this causes problems as you can't return to it. This needs to be broken in some way, like the following:


Code generation

Most large projects have a code generator. O3DE is no exception. Its code generator is called AutoGen and it's a Python script that expands XML using Jinja templates. What is strange is that it is only used in three places, only one of which is in the core code. Further, if you look at the actual XML source file it only has a few definitions. This seems like a heavy weighted way to go about it. Maybe someone could summon Jason Turner to constexrpify it to get rid of this codegen.

This part is not converted, I just commented out the bits that were using it.

Extra dependencies

There are several other dependencies used that seem superfluous. As an example the code uses a standalone library for MD5, but it also uses OpenSSL, which provides an MD5 implementation. As for XML parsers, there are three, RapidXML, Expat and the one from Qt (though the latter is only used in the editor).

Editor GUI

Almost all major game engines seem to write their own GUI toolkits from scratch. Therefore it was a bit surprising to find out that O3DE has gone all-in on Qt. This makes it easy to use Meson's builtin Qt 5 support, though it is not without some teething issues. First of all the code has been set up so that each .cpp file #includes the moc file generated from its header:

#include "Components/moc_DockBarButton.cpp"

Meson does things differently and builds the moc files automatically so users don't have to do things like this. They are also written in a different directory than what the existing configuration uses so this include could not work, the path is incorrect. This #include could be removed altogether, but since you probably need to support both at the same time (due to, for example, a transition period) then you'd need to do something like this:

#include "Components/moc_DockBarButton.cpp"

What is more unfortunate is that the code uses Qt internal headers. For some reason or another I could not make them work properly as there were missing private symbols when linking. I suspect that this is because distro Qt libraries have hidden those symbols so they are not exported. As above I just commented these out.

The bigger problem is that O3DE seems to have a custom patches in their version. At least it refers to style enum values that do not exist. Googling for the exact string produces zero relevant matches. If this is the case then the editor can not be used with official Qt releases. Further, if said patches exist, then they would need to be provided to the public as per the LGPL, since the project is providing prebuilt dependency binaries. As mentioned in the first blog post, the project does not provide original sources for their patched dependencies or, if they do, finding them is not particularly easy.

What next?

Probably nothing. It is unlikely that upstream would switch from CMake to Meson so converting more of the code would not be particularly beneficial. The point of this experiment was to see if Meson could compile O3DE. The answer for that is yes, there have not been any major obstacles. The second was to see if the external dependencies could be provided via Meson's Wrap mechanism. This is also true, with the possible exception of Qt.

The next interesting step would be to build the code on multiple platforms. The biggest hurdle here is the dependency on OpenSSL. Compiling it yourself is a bear, and there is not a Wrap for it yet. However once this merge request is merged, then you should be able to build OpenSSL as a Meson subproject transparently. Then you could build the core fully from source on any platform.

No comments:

Post a Comment