Blog - testing a game server

Posted on December 18, 2020 by A.

As alluded to in a few of my previous posts, I have been writing a C++ game server library, which is available on GitHub. The goal of this library is to provide a framework to easily develop JWT authenticated WebSocket backends for JavaScript games.

I’m familiar with the tenets of unit testing philosophy (if you’re interested, my favorite overview is The Science of Unit Testing by Dave Steffen at CPP Con 2020), but testing networked code is always a tricky task. Ideally one could construct a mock interface that mimics the network interface and allows simple encapsulated unit testing just as with any other function, but this can take a lot of work and most networking libraries are not set up with this in mind. Thus, it often comes down to spinning up asynchronous servers and clients and testing code through the local network interface. This post discusses how I tested my library which uses the WebSocket++ library for networking.

For testing I went with the doctest library: it is very simple, lightweight, fast, popular, and I liked syntax better than other libraries such as catch2, boost, etc.

All code discussed below can be found in the testing folder of the git repo.

The first challenge I tackled was logging and exceptions. As the server is designed to run continuously in production, errors are spit out in logs. I use the spdlog library for logging, and it allows setting up various sinks for logs. Therefore in doctest cases I simply setup a std::ostringstream as a logging sync.

std::ostringstream oss;
auto ostream_sink = std::make_shared<spdlog::sinks::ostream_sink_mt> (oss);
auto logger = std::make_shared<spdlog::logger>("my_logger", ostream_sink);

This could then be checked by doctest to verify any tests went off without errors.


Obviously this is quite a rough hack, but errors appearing in logs are a very infrequent occurrence and not a main focus of testing; we really want to test that the server behaves correctly.

In order to do this I wrote a simple client class jwt_game_server::base_client which I could use to spin up fake clients. In order to allow several servers to be served on the same ports in quick succession I utilized the SO_REUSEADDR flag, accessed via the websocketpp library’s endpoint.set_reuse_addr() function. Tests can now spin up clients to log in to the server, and query it for information. Meanwhile, the server’s public interface can be separately checked; for example, I check whether the correct number of players are logged in.

Since these tests deal with threading and networking, it is unfortunately necessary to build some waiting in between asynchronous function calls. Wait times are system dependent, but there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to get around them. The best solution is to grossly overestimate times and make it clear where the uncertainty lies in test cases.

Tags: blog software