Resource Tickets

Published 2021-02-23 C++Templates Code is not tested and omits many details, intentionally or not.

The Problem

When writing 3D software, I need to parse scene files that load or create various resources into memory. This data is typically read-only and very large: think 3D models, or texture images. Sometimes, several scenes will be parsed that may request the same data, without a way to communicate; in this case, I want them to share this data automatically. I feel this problem is general enough to present a simple solution, the resource tickets.

In a nutshell:

  1. We need to manage read-only data encapsulated as resources by classes following RAII.
  2. The resources can be represented by various, unrelated classes.
  3. Constructors are equality-preserving: called with equal inputs, they yield equal resources.
  4. A given resource may be requested several times, but should be instanciated only once.

In my approach, a manager hands out tickets that can later be used to access the resource:

Manager manager;
auto ticket_car   = manager.emplace<Model>("model.ply");
auto ticket_paint = manager.emplace<Texture>("texture.png", 512, 512);

// Somewhere else, we now avoid duplicates
auto ticket_vehicle = manager.emplace<Model>("model.ply");

// Use the model and texture tickets to render the car
auto const& car   = manager.get(ticket_car);
auto const& paint = manager.get(ticket_paint);
render(car, paint);

Handing Out Tickets

A resource of a given Type will be identified by an instance of Ticket<Type>. We rely on hashing to compute an identification number and store it inside each ticket:

template<class Type>
class Ticket {
    template<class... Args>
    explicit Ticket(Args const&... args) :
        number_{/* hashing... */}

    auto number() const {
        return number_;

    std::size_t number_;

Because the constructors of Type are assumed to be equality-preserving, hashing their arguments args... is enough to identify the constructed resource. Every constructor argument should be hashable, which we can check using this concept from cppreference:

template<class Type>
concept Hashable = requires(Type value) {
    { std::hash<Type>{}(value) } -> std::convertible_to<std::size_t>;

To combine mutiple hashes into one, we adapt the utility function hashCombine from boost:

template<Hashable Type>
inline void hashCombine(std::size_t& seed, Type const& value) {
    seed ^= std::hash<Type>{}(value) + 0x9E3779B9 + (seed << 6) + (seed >> 2);

As the original seed, we will use an identifier for the Type itself; a quick and dirty way to obtain one is from std::type_info::hash_code. Found in the despised <typeinfo> header, this function will attempt to assign a unique std::size_t value to each type for the current program invocation. After calling hashCombine on each constructor argument inside a lambda, the final value of seed is put into number_:

/* ...hashing */
number_{[&args...]() {
    auto seed = typeid(Type).hash_code();
    (hashCombine(seed, args), ...);
    return seed;

We now have a simple class template that can be used to identify resources of any type from their construction arguments. The manager will intercept those arguments, and instantiate objects only when necessary.

The Resources Manager

In this solution, our Manager class is responsible for resources of various types, but it stores and exposes them using an unified interface. To do that, we resort to the type erasure mechanism provided by std::any, and store type-erased resources inside of an associative container:

class Manager {
    /* ... */

    std::unordered_map<std::size_t, std::any const> resources_;

Indexing the map with std::size_t allows the use of different Ticket specializations as keys, but indirectly so: we will ask for the ticket number when inserting or retrieving an element.

The first operation the manager proposes is to emplace a resource, and get a ticket in exchange. This member function depends on the Type of resource we want to create, and the list of arguments that will be forwarded to the constructor:

template<Reproducible Type, class... Args>
Ticket<Type> emplace(Args&&... args) {
    Ticket<Type> ticket{args...};
    return ticket;

The map member function try_emplace does nothing if the key is already present, and effectively prevents duplicate resources. std::in_place_type_t is just a disambiguation argument that specifies which type to create for the new std::any. Here, we call Reproducible a type that has equality-preserving constructors and is read-only. These two constraints are impossible to check automatically, so each type must somehow indicate if it respects them:

template<class Type>
concept Reproducible = Type::is_equality_preserving && Type::is_read_only;

The second operation is to get a resource by redeeming a ticket; this is where having kept track of Type as a template parameter comes in handy, as we know what the return type will be:

template<class Type>
Type const& get(Ticket<Type> ticket) const {
    return std::any_cast<Type const&>(;

With these two basic operations, we have achieved our goal: we can carelessly ask for resources to be created, and the manager takes care of doing the minimum amount of work for us.


Of course, this simple approach has many shortcomings. For example, the manager has a very limited interface and is not ready for parallel loading of resources.

A major issue is that many types often used in constructors are not directly or properly hashed by std::hash; you will have to specialize it for custom types, or even roll out your own hashing solution. The case of std::filesystem::path is notable in that regard: a non-member function hash_value exists that seems to do the job, but no specialization of std::hash.

Sticky situations occur when mixing char const*, std::string, std::string_view, or using any overload set really: in emplace, the ticket uses types coming from template argument deduction, whereas the resource constructor goes through its own overload resolution phase... There will likely be mistmatches. In the same vein, consider a remake of our use case where we try to leverage list initialization:

auto ticket_paint = manager.emplace<Texture>("texture.png", {512, 512});

As per the standard, we end up in a non-deduced context and fail to emplace the resource.

Try it yourself: tickets.h.