⚠️ Warning: This website is still being developed. Code examples, videos, and links may be broken while I continue to work on it. -- Scott, May 10, 2020
Resources for visualizing data using C# and the .NET platform

Game of Life in C#

Conway's Game of Life is a zero-player video game that uses a few basic rules to determine if cells live or die based on the density of their neighbors. In this project we create Life using C# and System.Drawing.

Code

We divide this project into two libraries, one for the graphics model (containing classes for Cell and Booard) and another that handles the graphical environment and rendering.

Cell Model

I decided not to make cells position-aware. Instead each cell simply tracks its own IsAlive state, and knows about its 8 neighbors.

When DetermineNextLiveState() is called, the neighbors are inspected to determine how many are alive, then Life rules are used to determine if this cell will be alive or not after advancement.

public class Cell
{
    public bool IsAlive;
    public readonly List<Cell> neighbors = new List<Cell>();

    private bool IsAliveNext;
    public void DetermineNextLiveState()
    {
        // Live cells with fewer than two live neighbors die
        // Live cells with more than three live neighbors die
        // Dead cells with three live neighbors comes alive

        int liveNeighbors = neighbors.Where(x => x.IsAlive).Count();

        if (IsAlive)
            IsAliveNext = liveNeighbors == 2 || liveNeighbors == 3;
        else
            IsAliveNext = liveNeighbors == 3;
    }

    public void Advance()
    {
        IsAlive = IsAliveNext;
    }
}

Board Model

The Board holds a 2D array of Cell objects and advances the board whenever the Advance() method is called.

public readonly Cell[,] Cells;
public readonly int CellSize;

public int Columns { get { return Cells.GetLength(0); } }
public int Rows { get { return Cells.GetLength(1); } }
public int Width { get { return Columns * CellSize; } }
public int Height { get { return Rows * CellSize; } }

public Board(int width, int height, int cellSize, double liveDensity = .1)
{
    CellSize = cellSize;

    Cells = new Cell[width / cellSize, height / cellSize];
    for (int x = 0; x < Columns; x++)
        for (int y = 0; y < Rows; y++)
            Cells[x, y] = new Cell();

    ConnectNeighbors();
    Randomize(liveDensity);
}

readonly Random rand = new Random();
public void Randomize(double liveDensity)
{
    foreach (var cell in Cells)
        cell.IsAlive = rand.NextDouble() < liveDensity;
}

public void Advance()
{
    foreach (var cell in Cells)
        cell.DetermineNextLiveState();
    foreach (var cell in Cells)
        cell.Advance();
}

I separated this method because it's easier to assess in isolation. It's in charge of populating the Neighbors property of each Cell. Every cell should have 8 neighbors. This design wraps neighbors around the edge of the board.

private void ConnectNeighbors()
{
    for (int x = 0; x < Columns; x++)
    {
        for (int y = 0; y < Rows; y++)
        {
            // determine X of left and right cells
            int xL = (x > 0) ? x - 1 : Columns - 1;
            int xR = (x < Columns - 1) ? x + 1 : 0;

            // determine Y of top and bottom cells
            int yT = (y > 0) ? y - 1 : Rows - 1;
            int yB = (y < Rows - 1) ? y + 1 : 0;

            // add the 8 neighbors surrounding this cell
            Cells[x, y].neighbors.Add(Cells[xL, yT]);
            Cells[x, y].neighbors.Add(Cells[x, yT]);
            Cells[x, y].neighbors.Add(Cells[xR, yT]);
            Cells[x, y].neighbors.Add(Cells[xL, y]);
            Cells[x, y].neighbors.Add(Cells[xR, y]);
            Cells[x, y].neighbors.Add(Cells[xL, yB]);
            Cells[x, y].neighbors.Add(Cells[x, yB]);
            Cells[x, y].neighbors.Add(Cells[xR, yB]);
        }
    }
}

Creating the GUI

Resetting the Board

The board is stored at the class-level and is reset whenever settings are changed or the board is resized.

Board board;
private void Reset()
{
    board = new Board(
        width: pictureBox1.Width, 
        height: pictureBox1.Height, 
        cellSize: (int)SizeNud.Value, 
        liveDensity: (double)DensityNud.Value / 100);
}

Advancement

A Timer triggers board advancement and rendering

private void timer1_Tick(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
    board.Advance();
    Render();
}

Rendering

This is pretty straightforward drawing with System.Drawing in Windows Forms. A Bitmap is created in memory, drawn on, and applied to a Picturebox (used here because its built-in double-buffering prevents flickering as the image is rapidly updated).

private void Render()
{
    using (var bmp = new Bitmap(board.Width, board.Height))
    using (var gfx = Graphics.FromImage(bmp))
    using (var cellBrush = new SolidBrush(Color.LightGreen))
    {
        gfx.Clear(Color.Black);

        var cellSize = (GridCheckbox.Checked && board.CellSize > 1) ?
                        new Size(board.CellSize - 1, board.CellSize - 1) :
                        new Size(board.CellSize, board.CellSize);

        for (int col = 0; col < board.Columns; col++)
        {
            for (int row = 0; row < board.Rows; row++)
            {
                var cell = board.Cells[col, row];
                if (cell.IsAlive)
                {
                    var cellLocation = new Point(col * board.CellSize, row * board.CellSize);
                    var cellRect = new Rectangle(cellLocation, cellSize);
                    gfx.FillRectangle(cellBrush, cellRect);
                }
            }
        }

        pictureBox1.Image = (Bitmap)bmp.Clone();
    }
}

Defining Starting Conditions

Special starting patterns in Game of Life can produce intriguing animations. There are many websites dedicated to exploring these phenomena, and in this example we will take a look a starting pattern which infinitely produces self-propelling "gliders".

Defining Initial State

I found it useful to define the starting condition as a multi-line string, then write a method to translate the string into a Life starting condition.

private void StartWithPattern(string pattern)
{
    board.KillAll();

    string[] lines = pattern.Split('\n');
    int yOffset = (board.Rows - lines.Length) / 2;
    int xOffset = (board.Columns - lines[0].Length) / 2;

    for (int y = 0; y < lines.Length; y++)
        for (int x = 0; x < lines[y].Length; x++)
            board.Cells[x + xOffset, y + yOffset].IsAlive = lines[y].Substring(x, 1) == "X";
}

Now I can design patterns visually in code.

private void GunButton_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
    string gliderGun =
        "-------------------------X----------\n" +
        "----------------------XXXX----X-----\n" +
        "-------------X-------XXXX-----X-----\n" +
        "------------X-X------X--X---------XX\n" +
        "-----------X---XX----XXXX---------XX\n" +
        "XX---------X---XX-----XXXX----------\n" +
        "XX---------X---XX--------X----------\n" +
        "------------X-X---------------------\n" +
        "-------------X----------------------";
    StartWithPattern(gliderGun);
}

This "glider gun" starting pattern could run infinitely, but since our universe wraps around the edges the gliders eventually wrap around and destroy the gun.

Resources

Source Code

/examples/drawing/game-of-life