Why do most games save the players team as a short int in the player class and not as a pointer to a team object. As far as I know both methods have their advantages.

Short method:

  • Saving it as a short is smaller;
  • Syncing players will be faster because of the first point.
  • Syncing players will be easier because the memory location can be different on another PC.

Pointer method:

  • You could for example save a team name. That way you don’t need to look it up every time you need it;
  • It’s more OOP.

I saw a lot of engines saving the team as a short int. What are the reasons that they save the players team as a short and not as a pointer?

  • \$\begingroup\$ thats a weirdly localized question \$\endgroup\$
    – GameDev-er
    Mar 18, 2013 at 22:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think it's actually a good question, depending how you interpret it. It's current wording invites discussion, but read it as "which should should I use?" and it's good and useful; certainly not too localized as it's a crucial point for any client/server architecture. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 19, 2013 at 0:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ How do you know what most games do? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 19, 2013 at 2:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GameDev-er why? \$\endgroup\$
    – Laurence
    Mar 19, 2013 at 16:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ The assumption is that if you're asking a question on this site, it's in relation to something you're doing. If that's not the case then maybe it does fall into the "invites discussion" category & should be closed. Can you please clarify? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 19, 2013 at 18:34

2 Answers 2


The most common reason is, there simply is no Team object, a int or enum will suffice.

But your assertions are slightly flawed. So let my iterate on them and finally tell you why an int is also a good idea even with a Team object.

First, yes a short may be smaller than a pointer. True on a PC, but it is nowhere guaranteed. (Yes, this is sort of academic.) I doubt that saving or sending 16 bits or 64 bits makes such a difference really and you do not want to send the pointer's address anyway. If you have an IP network to sync over, the network's structure will certainly determine how fast you can sync the player state.

As noted above, you never want to send the address of a pointer over a network or save into a file. You need a way to represent this information in a stable way, thus you give each team and id (int) and store/send this. The receiving/reading end then looks up the team from that id.

At this point you can put a pointer to the Team into the Player object. It has no or little effect to storing or syncing objects.

There may be a reason why you still don't want to refer to other game objects by pointer, but this depends on your engine design. For example you may have some delayed message mechanic. So you send a message to the object (maybe even to itself) to be delivered later, but in the meantime the object is deleted. By using a unique int it is possible to safely handle the message, the lookup fails and the message can be silently ignored. If it was a hardcoded pointer it would have crashed. You see this type of safety or weak references can often be found in code. (Google "Handle" for more info.)

And on a closing note, "It's more OOP". We are software engineers and not software zealots, thus we don't adhere to dogma. Any design discussion must based on real principles that have a well defined gain. Any person that says this is the right way to do it should get their brains unwashed. It don't want to say that OOP is bad, no it is great, but "this is the right way to do OOP" is a non starter.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "We are software engineers and not software zealots, thus we don't adhere to dogma." For the love of God, this! If we had signatures in our posts, that would now be mine. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 19, 2013 at 6:44

Are we talking about short int? If so, the main advantage is data serialization. Int is a POD (plain old data). It's way easier to save and load an ID (short int in this case) rather than recreating the OOP pointer to class.

Btw : Speed is negligible in this case

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is about a short int indeed. \$\endgroup\$
    – Laurence
    Mar 18, 2013 at 16:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ The "OOP pointer" could very well be void**** (I've seen this before). How OOP is that. \$\endgroup\$
    – bobobobo
    Apr 28, 2013 at 16:02

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