Creating a 3D Game Engine (Part 17)

Programmer art is great and all, but I’d really like to see some complex models inside the engine. Unfortunately, DirectX 11 does not include a built-in way to load in 3D models. As I’ve mentioned before, I am interested in using COLLADA has the import format. Since COLLADA is based on XML, I will need a way to load and parse XML files. While there are tons of XML parsing libraries out there, I decided to write my own. Why would I do that? A few reasons. First, I don’t want my engine to be encumbered with 3rd party licenses, forcing me to do things against my will. Secondly, I think it’s a great learning exercise to see how something like this is done. Lastly, it’s fun!

Sadly, I found very little resources on how you go about coding an XML parser from scratch. Of the code I did find (i.e. from open-source libraries), it was difficult for me to extract the algorithm from the code. There was one resource that did help somewhat, from ANTLR3, but it failed to provide the pseudo-code I was looking for. Even so, it was enough to get me started.

The basic procedure I followed was loading the XML file into a string, then iterating though the string and breaking the text up into tokens. Each of these tokens would take the string representation and a label of what the token meant. Then, in a second pass, I would look though all the tokens and parse them into a tree structure. It actually ended up being easier than I initially though, and I think I completed the whole thing in about 2 or 3 days just working a few hours in the evening. I’ll highlight some of the relevant code below.

I created a map with all the important XML syntax elements so I can break them up into tokens.

tokenMap[""] = XML_CLOSE;
tokenMap[""] = TAG_EMPTY;
tokenMap["<"] = TAG_OPEN;
tokenMap[">"] = TAG_CLOSE;
tokenMap["=\""] = ATTRIB_EQUALS;
tokenMap["\""] = ATTRIB_QUOTE;
tokenMap[" "] = WHITE_SPACE;
tokenMap["\n"] = WHITE_LINE;
tokenMap["\t"] = WHITE_TAB;

First I load the XML file using the standard C++ stream libraries.

ifstream inputFile;, ifstream::in);

stringstream inputStream;

while (inputFile.good()){
	inputStream << (char)inputFile.get();

string temp = inputStream.str();
char* data = const_cast(temp.c_str());

Next, I loop through all the characters in the data stream and find the tokens.

TokenList tokenize(char* doc){
	size_t docLen = strlen(doc);

	TokenList tokens;
	TokenMap::iterator it;

	string buffer = "";

	unsigned int i;

	for (i = 0; i < docLen; i++){
		bool found = false;
		for (it = tokenMap.begin(); it != tokenMap.end(); ++it){
			int tokenLen = strlen(it->first);
			if (compare(&doc[i], it->first, tokenLen)){
				int textLen = strlen(buffer.c_str());
				if (textLen > 0){
					char* text = new char[textLen];
					strncpy_s(text, textLen + 1, buffer.c_str(), textLen);
					TokenMap token = { { text, GENERIC_TEXT } };
					buffer = "";
				char* match = new char[tokenLen];
				strncpy_s(match, tokenLen + 1, &doc[i], tokenLen);
				TokenMap token = { { match, it->second } };
				i += tokenLen - 1;
				found = true;
		if (!found)	buffer.append(&doc[i], 1);

	return tokens;

Finally I iterate through the list I just created and parse that into a node-based tree. I admit this part is a little ugly, but it seems to work so I’m OK with that. The idea is that I set the function into different states, and then parse the elements in the list differently depending on the state. For example, if I see a “<” token, then I go into attribute parsing, and then when I see a “>” I set it back to the default state. The logic is fairly simple, but there are a lot of if statements to weed though if you are trying to implement this yourself.

void parse(TokenList& list, XmlNode* parent){
	ParseType state = PARSE_ANY;
	XmlNode* node = new XmlNode();
	bool created = false;
	bool allWhite = true;
	int openTags = 0;
	string attribName = "";
	string attribValue = "";
	string valueBuffer = "";
	TokenList children;
	TokenList::iterator v;
	for (v = list.begin(); v != list.end(); ++v){
		TokenMap::iterator m;
		for (m = v->begin(); m != v->end(); ++m){
			if (state == PARSE_ANY){
				if (m->second == XML_OPEN){
					state = PARSE_XML_TYPE;
				} else if (m->second == TAG_OPEN){
					state = PARSE_TAG_NAME;
					created = true;
				} else if (m->second == ATTRIB_EQUALS){
					state = PARSE_ATTRIB_VALUE;
				} else if (m->second == GENERIC_TEXT || m->second == WHITE_SPACE || 
					m->second == WHITE_LINE || m->second == WHITE_TAB){
					valueBuffer.append(m->first, strlen(m->first));
					if (m->second == GENERIC_TEXT) allWhite = false;
				if (v + 1 == list.end()){
					if (!allWhite) parent->value = valueBuffer;
					valueBuffer = "";
			} else if (state == PARSE_TAG_NAME){
				node->name = string(m->first);
				state = PARSE_ATTRIB_NAME;
			} else if (state == PARSE_ATTRIB_NAME){
				if (m->second == WHITE_SPACE) continue;
				if (m->second == ATTRIB_QUOTE) continue;
				if (m->second == TAG_EMPTY){
					state = PARSE_ANY;
				} else if (m->second == TAG_CLOSE){
					state = PARSE_TAG_CLOSE;
					openTags = 1;
				attribName = string(m->first);
				state = PARSE_ANY;
			} else if (state == PARSE_ATTRIB_VALUE){
				attribValue.append(m->first, strlen(m->first));
				if (m->second == ATTRIB_QUOTE){
					node->attributes[attribName] = string(attribValue);
					state = PARSE_ATTRIB_NAME;
					attribValue = "";
			} else if (state == PARSE_TAG_CLOSE){
				if (m->second == TAG_OPEN) openTags++;
				if (m->second == TAG_END) openTags--;
				if (m->second == TAG_EMPTY) openTags--;
				if (openTags > 0){
				} else {
					parse(children, node);
					state = PARSE_TAG_END;
			} else if (state == PARSE_TAG_END){
				if (m->second == TAG_CLOSE){
					node = new XmlNode();
					state = PARSE_ANY;
			} else if (state == PARSE_XML_TYPE){
				if (m->second == XML_CLOSE){
					state = PARSE_ANY;
	if (created && node->name.length() > 0){
	} else {
		delete node;

All in all not nearly as bad as I expected. Granted, the algorithm could be a little less hard-coded, but it’s a fairly straight-forward implementation. I also loaded in a COLLADA *.DAE file, and I did not see any errors or problem. Within the next few days I hope to integrate this code into the engine and actually load up a 3D model. Surely there will be some hiccups, but I have faith this can be done soon.