by Leon Rosenshein


The greatest payoff of domain-driven design is not that the *state* of a business domain maps cleanly onto software but that *changes* to a business domain map cleanly onto software.

   -- Chris Ford

Domain-Driven Design has lots of benefits. Ubiquitous language. Clear Boundaries. It works with the business, not against it. And done right it changes with the business.

Back in my early days I was working with a FORTRAN simulation of an F18. It was designed to see how changes to the flight computer would translate into changes in the handling characteristics. And it was pretty good at doing that. But that’s not what I was doing with it. I was using it as the flight model for a 1v1 simulation.

First, I turned it into a real-time, man-in-the-loop system, with a simple graphical display. That was relatively easy. Instead of reading a time series of control inputs hook the inputs up to some external hardware and the keyboard. It already ran faster than real-time at 50hz, so no problems there. Just connect the outputs to a simple out-the-window display and voila - a man-in-the-loop simulation. The only thing left to do was add another copy of the aircraft to the world.  And that’s where I ran into problems.

You see, the simulation was designed around “ownship”, the vehicle being simulated. And it did a great job modeling the forces acting on ownship. Thrust, drag, lift, gravity, asymmetric forces from control surfaces, inertia. All modeled. And the result was net forces and rates. In all 6 degrees of freedom. But it had no absolute location, and or orientation. It was always at the center of the universe, and the universe moved around it. And for speed of implementation I put the notion of absolute location and orientation in the display system.

That’s fine if you’re the only thing in the universe, or at least all the other things don’t move, but it’s kind of hard when you want to interact with something and you’re both at the center of your own private universe that moves around you. But still, it’s just math and transformations, so I made it work for 2 aircraft in one visual world. I had it working for 3 as well, when I ran into a problem.

My boss told me we need to do MvN sims as well. Since we don’t have enough pilots let’s make some of the aircraft AI. Skipping the whole “How do I build an air combat simulation (ACS) AI overnight?” issue, I also had a problem in that these simulations needed to interact outside of the graphical display. Unfortunately my design had the display system as the only place everything interacted.

My first thought was to duplicate that logic everywhere things had to interact. It worked after a fashion, but it was hard to keep track of and as more and more things needed to know where everything else was it got even harder. Because I had my domains wrong.

I needed to change. So, back to the drawing board to fix the domains. Start with a consistent world for everything to live in. Move the integration/transformation into each model so that they had an absolute position. Share those around the system and let each system do what it needed to. Just like the real world.

And unsurprisingly, after that I found that a lot of the things we had planned became easier. Things like adding new vehicles, weapon systems, upgraded ACS AI, or adding a record/playback system. They matched the domain, so I was able to add them within the system, without doing code gymnastics to get them to fit.