Running with Code Like with scissors, only more dangerous


Exploring .dbc files with C# Dynamic Code Generation, part 2: The naive implementation

Last time, we defined the problem of viewing a DBC file from World of Warcraft and created the shape of an API we’d like to use for that purpose. This time, we’ll implement a basic parser which uses reflection but no dynamic code generation to populate the individual records.

Let’s make some assumptions about where we are:

  • A DBC file is accessible via a random-access stream
  • We’re only handling int, float, and string. The others are variations of int.

Here’s a quick enumeration outlining the different types that we might set:

        internal enum TargetType

In DbcReader, I actually supported both read-write properties and fields; but, for simplicity, we’ll just support fields. For the most part, they work the same. We’re going to create a simple type that keeps track of the relevant information — that is, the Reflection FieldInfo of the field, the column Position of the field in the row, and the TargetType.

        internal class TargetInfo
            public FieldInfo Field;
            public int Position;
            public TargetType Type;

            // inputVal is the int that was 4-byte value read from the underlying stream
            // for this column.
            public void SetValue<TTarget>(TTarget target, int inputVal, DbcTable table)
                where TTarget : class
                switch (Type)
                    case TargetType.Int32:
                        SetValue(target, inputVal);
                    case TargetType.Float32:
                        byte[] bits = BitConverter.GetBytes(inputVal);
                        SetValue(target, BitConverter.ToSingle(bits, 0));
                    case TargetType.String:
                        string tmp = table.GetString(inputVal);
                        SetValue(target, tmp);

            public void SetValue<TValue, TTarget>(TTarget target, TValue inputVal)
                where TTarget : class
                Field.SetValue(target, inputVal);

This class provides a convenient way to set the value of a field in a TTarget entity. So how is this used? From within a DbcTable<T>, this produces a record:

        private static void ConvertSlow(BinaryReader reader, int fieldsPerRecord, DbcTable table, T target)
            int[] values = new int[fieldsPerRecord];
            for (int i = 0; i < fieldsPerRecord; i++)
                values[i] = reader.ReadInt32();

            Type t = typeof(T);
            foreach (var targetInfo in DbcTableCompiler.GetTargetInfoForType(t))
                targetInfo.SetValue(target, values[targetInfo.Position], table);

The only thing that needs to be implemented from this point is the GetTargetInfoForType function. It isn’t terribly complex; it’s just enumerating the fields. Because we enter this function with the int[] of all columns, the array is random-access, so ordering isn’t particularly important of how the fields get enumerated.

        internal static IEnumerable<TargetInfo> GetTargetInfoForType(Type type)
            // Get all public instance fields
            foreach (FieldInfo fi in type.GetFields(BindingFlags.Public | BindingFlags.Instance))
                // Get DbcRecordPosition attributes but don't inherit
                var attr = fi.GetCustomAttribute<DbcRecordPositionAttribute>(false);
                if (attr != null)
                    var result = new TargetInfo
                        Field = fi,
                        Position = attr.Position,
                        Type = GetTargetTypeFromType(fi.FieldType),
                    yield return result;

This is a simple enumerator that looks at each field on a class which is public, then yields it to the coroutine that’s invoked the enumeration.

So how does this all fit together?

We have a class DbcTable and child class DbcTable<T>. The DbcTable owns and operates the underlying Stream and a BinaryReader that lives atop the Stream. The ConvertSlow function manages all of that work, so the implementation of GetAt (which provides the record at a specified index) is very simple:

        public T GetAt(int index)
            if (_store == null)
                throw new ObjectDisposedException("DbcTable");

            // _store is the Stream
            _store.Seek(_perRecord * index + _headerLength, SeekOrigin.Begin);

            T target = new T(); // DbcTable<T> must be declared as where T: class, new()
            ConvertSlow(_reader, _recordLength, this, target);
            return target;

That’s all there is to it! Next time, we’ll actually start getting into dynamic code generation. We’re going to cheat and write it by hand, then reverse engineer that out.

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