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CS3413 Winter 2023 Assignment 2 Page 1 of 6
CS3413 Winter 2023 Assignment 2
Due: Mar. 03th, 11:59PM
Notes and Style
must be written in C. No C++
The prof has provided a working demo in D2l (a2demo executable <- change
permissions when copied to your FCS machine with chmod u+x <file>)
your assignment code must be handed in electronically using the D2L drop box.
Try early and re-submit later.
Include a Makefile. If “make” doesn’t compile and produce an executable, your
will not be marked
You make file should also include a “make run” and “make clean” command that
runs your executable and removes all files resulting from compilation
Your program must run. Programs that do not run, or segfault before working at
will lose 50%. Save early and often, and use version control. Submit often,
only submit working versions.
Your program must compile with –Wall, with no warnings showing. You will lose
marks for warnings and lose marks for not compiling with -Wall in your makefile
Include a “listing” file, a single .txt file with all your source files concatenated into
it. Good header text in EACH file is imperative here. E.g. cat *.h *.c | listing.txt
Use common-sense commenting and good style, practices. Provide function
headers, comment regions, etc. No particular format or style is required but bad
programming practices will result in marks docked (e.g., huge complicated
functions, unreadable code, magic numbers, bad variable names, etc).
Error checking is extremely important in real world OS work, and you must do it
rigorously. Error handing, however, is hard in C. Try to handle gracefully when you
can, but for hard errors (out of memory, etc.), hard fail (exit) is OK.
Test on FCS computers with their version of gcc, make sure your Makefile uses the
one you tested.
Your assignment will be tested on FCS computers.
Attack of the Poisonous Fredericton Caterpillars
You will make a text version of the classic video game “centipede.” The rules for the
game are simple: kill all the caterpillars before they kill you. The problem is, these are
space caterpillars (and you are in a space ship) – when you shoot them, they split at
the point they were hit, and now you have two smaller caterpillars!
To save explanation, try running a sample of the program (how yours will act) on AN
FCS computer using the precompiled executable on D2L. (a3demo). When you copy it
over you will probably need to give it executable permissions (chmod u+x a3demo)
wasd controls for up/left/down/right), space to fire, and q quits.
This assignment seems large, but can be broken down into many small components
that are, on their own, easy to create. The tough part will be making them all run
together with threads and managing resources with mutexes! Take your time reading
through this, tackle one small problem at a time, and review this document
throughout your work!
CS3413 Winter 2023 Assignment 2 Page 2 of 6
– Have a player spaceship that the player can control using w, a, s, d, around
a restricted space at the bottom of the screen. The player spaceship must
– Generate caterpillars starting at the top of the screen, at some random
interval. They go left to right (or opposite), and when they hit an end, they
go to the next row and change direction. Note in the sample how they wrap
around (tricky logic). Caterpillars must animate graphics in addition to move.
– If the player presses space, a bullet fires from the player toward the top of
the screen. If it goes off the screen, it is destroyed. If it hits a caterpillar,
the caterpillar splits into two at that spot, and you now have two caterpillars,
with the new one going faster than the old one by some multiple. If one of
the two caterpillars is below a minimum size (e.g., 5), it dies. The player
has a reasonable maximum fire rate (e.g., once per n ticks).
– The caterpillars randomly shoot from their head at the player.
– When the player is hit, pause the game briefly and kill all the bullets (but
leave the caterpillars) to avoid unfair re-spawn deaths. If the player is hit,
they lose a life. When no lives are left, the game is over.
– The player wins if there are no caterpillars left on screen.
– The program must quit properly by joining all threads, until only the main
one is left, and freeing memory, and quickly. The final “Done” text must
appear on the console as in the provided main and sample. This is to
highlight that you did not just use an exit() call. Every time you create a
thread, you MUST think: who will join it and when? This is to make scalable,
reusable programs. For the same reasons, you must free all memory
– There must be no evident race conditions or deadlock conditions.
– Game mechanics will not be a major concern, e.g., left-over dead aliens,
exact speeds, etc. Collision detection (e.g., bullets hitting the player or
caterpillars) must be perfect to help test for race conditions.
REQUIRED programming components: As this is a threading assignment, you
need the following (to make it hard enough!)

You will create (at least) the following threads. You may find it useful to make
additional ones to help you. Threads must be joinable (default), and cannot be
detached (man

a thread for the player. This handles the player animation and other things,

e.g., what happens when the player is shot.
a thread for the keyboard. This requires its own thread so it can block while
the rest of the program runs. This is quite tricky because you will have to use
the “select” command (man select): it blocks until there is data on a stream,
or on a timeout. Here is the problem: if you use getchar, it blocks. While it is
blocking, the game may end (you get shot). However, until getchar unblocks
that thread cannot end. Using select, you can time out regularly to check if the
game is over before blocking again. I have provided a working example using
the command, but you should try to understand it by reading the man page
for pselect.
a thread to re-draw the screen / perform a refresh using the command in the
provided console code. Do not do refreshes each time you draw, only here.

CS3413 Winter 2023 Assignment 2 Page 3 of 6
An upkeep thread, that puts updated score and player lives to screen, checks
if there are no enemies left, and does regular cleanup (such as delete memory
left behind for dead bullets and caterpillars, maybe).
A thread that spawns new caterpillars at a regular (but somewhat random)
a new thread for EACH caterpillar. The thread lives until the caterpillar is
shot and killed. Using a single thread for all the caterpillars is not acceptable.
When a caterpillar splits, a new thread is started for the new caterpillar.
a new thread for each bullet (yours and caterpillars’!), which lives until the
bullet gets consumed into an enemy or you, or until it leaves the screen.
a main program (not in main.c!) that starts everything and then sleeps using
a condition variable (
pthread_cond_wait). When the game ends this thread
is woken up (
pthread_cond_signal) and cleans up. You must use a
condition variable and signal here for the assignment.

Dynamically managed (malloc/free) linked lists: these are very thread un-friendly.
At least one list for the bullets, and one list for the caterpillars. No storing in

arrays, etc.
In a real game engine, you would likely have fewer threads, e.g., one thread for
enemy AI, one thread for input, etc. However, games are highly multithreaded and
have a lot of concurrency issues. Making a game engine is a lot like making a simple
OS as well: there is a core set of functions that control access to game resources and
keeps track of states of other parts. Then, the actual game components (player,
enemies, etc) will access those through the engine. This assignment should require
more thinking about the engineering and planning of your solution than normal, but it
is perhaps algorithmically more straight forward than A1, as each individual
component (e.g., make a player move) is relatively simple.
Have fun! There’s a lot up to you (redesign the spaceship or enemy look, manage
difficulty, etc). Your caterpillars may just be simple chains of ascii characters that
animate a bit, or they may be more like as seen in the example, larger and stranger
looking. Want to add other enemy types? Go for it! There are no game aesthetic or
marks for “fun” factor, but it can feel good to make something you’re proud of.
You have been provided with a console.h/console.c library that provides textmode functions for you and a sample program. Be sure to compile with the –lcurses
flag to link to the curses (text graphics) library, and the –pthread flag to link to the
posix-threads library. Console.h has a lot of comments to explain how to use each
Definitely use these in your solution. They are provided so you don’t
have to worry about “graphics” and drawing to screen here. An example and main.c
(in “distribute” with console.h/c) will help you see how this is used.
This library is simple to use (see the examples included in my distribute sample
code). There is a screen buffer off screen. You draw to the buffer using the
commands detailed in the library. To have the changes reflected to screen, use
the refresh command. To
move, e.g., the player, you first draw a blank square
where the player WAS and then draw the player at its new location.

This library contains a sleep function that sleeps for the given number of ticks,
where a tick is 10ms. Use this in your thread loops, e.g., to set the speed of

CS3413 Winter 2023 Assignment 2 Page 4 of 6
screen redraw (1 tick?), alien animation, movements, etc. Most of your threads
will be loops that sleep before checking for more work.

note that you can alter speeds simply by making each sleep longer or shorter.
this library is not thread safe! (e.g., it is non-re-entrant) Create a mutex
and make sure to lock it before using ANY screen calls. Not ensuring mutual
exclusion will yield funny results.
You shouldn’t really need to look at the Console.c file, and there are limited
comments in it. All information you need is documented in the .h file.

I have included a “distribute” package which includes multiple files. There is a rough
make and sample set up to get you started – feel free to use and edit these as
necessary (though, as mentioned, you shouldn’t need to read or edit Console.c…you
will need to compile it into your program, so I am including it here). The main
example file contains a sample enemy, gameboard, and 3 examples of how to
perform basic tasks in this environment. They are NOT thread safe examples
necessarily, so they are commented out. Uncomment the example you want to see
run, make, and try it out! Some will break, to showcase why mutexing, especially the
screen resource (a shared, critical resource) is important, and how it could make
nonsensical output when race conditions occur.
These examples should be either useful or fixable (and then useful) for you. You can
use them, delete them, or reference them in your final code. In other words, they
should help act as building blocks or simple examples for your final assignment. They
are designed after looking at common problem points getting started for students in
my prior sections of this course. If you need help understanding them, send me an
email or come talk in office hours.
KEEP FINE-GRAINED MUTEXING, e.g., only lock each caterpillar, the player, the
screen, a list, etc., as you need it. A single, global lock is missing the point (and
extremely inefficient) and will yield very few marks, potentially even negative
– What happens to memory when a joinable thread dies (man pthread_create)? What
happens if you are making a lot of threads (bullets) and killing them and do not
clean up the memory as you go?
– How do you detect a collision? Well, what is a collision? Think of some examples
that you would consider a collision, and some you do not. Compare them, and
properties about their positions/sizes.
Suggested order: First, work through the examples in D2L and provided in the
distribute. Get the player’s ship on-screen and animating, to practice threads
(create the screen refresh and player threads first). Then get the keyboard thread
working to move the player around (see the sample input example). Get a single
caterpillar working, and then the thread for spawning new ones. Add bullets last, as
they are the hardest part. AT EACH STEP make sure you can quit cleanly and join
all threads that you created. Take each step slowly, and think “What is the next
smallest piece of work I can do to get closer to a finished solution?” E.g., draw a
caterpillar first, then think about spawning them, then think about moving them,
then worry about wrapping around, etc.

CS3413 Winter 2023 Assignment 2 Page 5 of 6
– Most of this assignment is “move something across the screen at a specific space”.
Start from my examples and get this working with a single entity, and understand
how that work, without multithreading first. Most code can be based on this basic
type of moving entity. E.g., player, caterpillars, bullets, are all just entities that
move across the screen. The tough part is getting them to all happen at the same
HHIINNTT:: USE GDB. seriously. I’m not joking. I say this all the time because I
mean it. Spending an hour or two reading about gdb and playing around/learning it
will save you dozens of hours over this course, and good debugging skills will save
you so much time throughout your career. Your program segfaults? run it through
gdb and do a backtrace and it tells you where. Your program deadlocks? GDB can
let you look at where each thread is stopped so you can figure out who is
contending. Printfs? Sure, if you don’t mind taking a lot of time to sift through
threaded output…
seriously. gdb can turn an hours-long debug session into 5
minutes as you see which threads are blocking on which mutexes. Of course, if you
prefer other debugging tools that’s fine. The point is, they’re extremely useful tools.
Printfs help find simple bugs, but if you’re stuck, use gdb.
– Of course, debugging threads is difficult as you can only gdb one thread at a time!
All fully featured debuggers (DDD, GDB, visual studio’s etc), should be able to
switch through threads through various commands. Different threads can still
trigger breakpoints so make sure to keep track of what your debugger is showing
you. Read up on gdb (or your debugger of choice) and threads…it’ll help you!
I talk a lot about debugging because debugging threads is perhaps
going to be the hardest thing you have debugged yet – the behavior
can change each run, thanks to interleaving being different each run, so
finding consistent behavior to help you debug is very difficult.
I highly recommend taking time to learn how to use your debugger of
choice with threads.
– This is a big assignment, and some students get overwhelmed in the organization. I
made a lot of files and classes to help with this, including some that just held utility
functions (e.g., wrapping classes to help with thread creation and deletion). Slow,
careful work with steady progress with a bit of planning is the way to go.
BONUS: make a submission note to the marker in D2L about the bonus, if you do it.
Bonus (10%): Your program creates / destroys threads constantly as things are
created and destroyed – this is a huge overhead. Implement a thread pool to re-use
threads once they are abandoned.
NOTE: this does not mean making bullets simply
move to a new location, this means making a generic library that does jobs, so that
when a thread dies the library holds onto the thread instead of killing it, and a new
job takes a held one instead of creating a new one. E.g., a caterpillar thread may be
recycled as a bullet next time! This isn’t hard once you see it. You can rely on function
pointers (as the work to do). Note that you can have multiple listeners on a condition
variable (e.g., waiting for work!).

CS3413 Winter 2023 Assignment 2 Page 6 of 6
Assignments that do not have a Makefile, do not compile, or do not run (e.g., no
action, or segfault before running) will not be marked, and will receive a penalty of
50%. Makefiles will not be marked, just get it working. If segfaults happen part way,
we will mark up to the segfault. Partial marks may be given for code that segfaults
part way through.
Marks in brackets, with resolution to half mark. To get full marks in a category your
solution must be “amazing” (e.g., coded well, general, with good algorithmic
solutions). Good solutions that have small quirks or could be improved can lose 0.5-2
marks, and on the opposite ends, solutions that have something kind of working may
gain 1 mark.
Handing in partially working (not segfaulting) solutions that get
the gist of things working is a good way to get a reasonable score on the
Remember to develop incrementally!
[4] C quality – defensive programming, error checking, no magic numbers. Your
listing file is used for this. No listing file, you get 0.
[2] Basic player – animates, moves, can shoot bullets
[3] Advanced player – dies when hit (respawns, all bullets disappear). Game over
when no lives left.
[4] basic caterpillars – animates, move, wraps properly. Shoots bullets
[3] Advanced caterpillars – breaks when hit, spawning new thread. Dies when too
[3] bullets – move appropriately, die appropriately
[3] end conditions: quit, win, and lose
[3] joins all threads and quits cleanly

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