Appendix: Saving and Restoring State

Because the T3 VM is designed primarily for running games, an essential feature of any implementation is the ability to save the state of the game so that the state can be restored at a later time to continue the session where it left off. The details of saving and restoring the machine's state are inherently dependent on the implementation, so the T3 VM specification does not prescribe a particular format for saved state files. This section describes the format used by the MJR-T3 reference implementation so that other implementations can follow the same format if desired; however, the format is subject to change in future versions.

For the most part, saving and restoring state is a simple matter of saving the state all reachable non-transient objects. However, a few other bits of information must be stored as well.

Version Compatibility

The purpose of a saved state file is to allow a player (i.e., the user of a program running under the VM) to save a session at a particular point and then resume the session again later as though the original session had never been interrupted. Players typically use this feature for two main purposes: first, to break up a long game into several sessions, such as over several days or weeks; and second, to go back to a prior saved position several times in order to experiment with different paths from that position.

Based on the typical uses of a saved state file, we make the assumption that a saved state file has a short useful lifetime, and is used by a single user, but possibly on multiple computers (many people routinely use more than one computer on a regular basis, so some users might wish to be able to move a session among their various machines). We therefore assign the following priorities to the saved state mechanism:

Save File Format for the MJR-T3 Reference Implementation

The MJR-T3 save file format contains the following data, in the order shown:

Image Filename
Table of Objects
Synthetic Exports

These are described in more detail below.


The signature is used to identify the file as a saved state file and to indicate the format version. For the reference implementation, this consists of the following 17 bytes:


The "#" symbols are replaced by a format version number, which is simply a serial number changed whenever an incompatible change is made to the format. The backslash sequences are in C octal code format, so "\015" represents a single byte containing the decimal value 13. (The last three characters are the ASCII codes that on most systems represent carriage return, line feed, and end-of-file characters. On many systems, this sequence will allow human-readable display of the signature string when the file is displayed on interactive terminals; but this is only a nicety, so the fact that it doesn't have this effect on all systems is not important.)

The current file format version is 0008 (as of MJR-T3 v3.0.4).


The size and checksum fields are used to validate the file on loading, to ensure that the file is not corrupted. This section contains a pair of little-endian, 32-bit integers: the first is the size in bytes of the saved state datastream, and the second is a checksum of the datastream. For the purposes of both of these values, the datastream includes everything after the size/checksum block - so, the bytes of the signature and the size/checksum fields are not included in the size or checksum values.

The checksum is computed using the standard CRC-32 (32-bit Cyclic Redundancy Check) algorithm, as expressed in the sample code later in this appendix.

When loading a saved state file, the loader can check that the file is at least as large a required, and that the bytes in the file match the checksum computed when the file was saved. If these checks fail, the loader should reject the attempt to restore the file, because the file must have been corrupted and thus cannot be reliably loaded.


This is simply the timestamp information from the image file's signature block, in the same 24-byte format used in the image file. The purpose of this information is to ensure that a particular saved state file is restored only with the exact image file that created it; saved state files are dependent upon the exact internals of a particular image file (such as object and property ID numbering), so a saved state file cannot meaningfully be restored except with the exact version of the image file that created it.

Image Filename

This field contains a UINT2 length prefix followed by the bytes of the image filename, in the local character set representation that was used to load the image file in the first place. This information is stored to allow a user to start the VM using only the saved state file as the startup parameter: the VM reads the name of the image file from the state file, loads the image, then restores the state. This procedure is useful on operating systems with graphical desktop interfaces, for example, in that it allows the user to launch the VM by double-clicking (or using whatever UI gesture is appropriate) on a saved state file on the desktop.

Note that this information is not used to validate that the correct image file is loaded; only the timestamp information is used for validation. The image filename is not a reliable indicator, since the name can change when the program's image file is copied across a network or even simply moved to another directory. The VM should thus not attempt to validate the image file based on this field; instead, this field is meant only to allow launching the image file when the user specifies only the saved state file.


This section consists of a UINT2 giving the number of metaclass entries, followed by the metaclass entries. The metaclass entries are stored in order of metaclass dependency index. Let N be the number of metaclasses in the image file's MCLD block: then the first N entries in the saved state file will be the same as the entries stored in the image file, and must be in the same order. However, the saved state file may contain more than N metaclass entries, because one metaclass can be dependent upon another and thus create a run-time metaclass dependency table entry not present in the image file.

Each metaclass entry is stored as follows:

Table of Objects

This section contains a "table of contents" for the saved objects. This facilitates the fix-up process during restoration, by allowing the VM to create a mapping table (from the file's object numbering scheme to the new ID's assigned on restore) prior to deserializing the first object. The VM thus has a full translation table at all times during the deserialization process.

The table of objects includes all objects reachable at the time of saving, including both transient and non-transient objects. Note that transient objects will not actually be saved in the file, but at restore time we will nonetheless need to know that an ID referred to a transient object, hence we need to include transients in the table of objects.

This section consists of a UINT4 giving the number of objects in the table of contents, followed by one entry per object. Each object entry consists of:


This section consists of a UINT4 giving the number of objects stored, followed by the objects. Each object's entry is stored as follows:

Synthetic Exports

This section gives the "synthetic exports" of the image file: these are the symbols that the VM attempted to import from the image file when the image file was loaded, but which the image file did not export. In some cases, the VM simply treats unexported symbols as undefined, and in other cases the VM must synthesize its own values for these symbols. In the latter case, these dynamically generated values are called "synthetic exports," because the VM acts as though they were exported by the image file even though the image file left them undefined.

The VM can create synthetic exports that are not true exports, but are always synthetic. In other words, when the VM must create a property or object for its own internal use, it can use the synthetic export mechanism to keep track of it, by assigning an external universally unique name to the entity but never importing the entity from the image file.

This section consists of a UINT4 giving the number of synthetic exports, followed by the synthetic exports. Each export is stored as follows:

The VM saves the synthetic exports to ensure that, upon restoring a previously saved state, the same synthetic exports are used again.

When a VM loads a saved state, any synthetic exports loaded from the saved state must be saved if the state is later saved again, even if the VM doesn't use the exports. This is important because a user might create a saved state with one VM version, restore the saved state on a computer with a different VM version, save the state again, and then move the new saved state file back to the original machine and thus the original VM version. If the intermediate VM were not to include unrecognized exports in the new saved state file, the original VM would attempt to re-create the exports it had created the first time, which could lead to an inconsistent state. By saving all exports, whether recognized by the loading VM or not, consistency is assured when moving the saved state file to another VM version.

MIME Types and File Extesions

For the MJR-T3 save file format, we use the ad hoc MIME type "application/x-t3vm-state".

On Windows systems, we use the default extension ".t3v".

Note that any alternative implementations with incompatible saved-state formats should use a different MIME type and default extension, to make the difference in file format explicit in the type metadata.

Sample CRC-32 Implementation

This is a sample of the CRC-32 computation used to compute the checksum value for the saved state data stream.

 *  Compute the CRC-32 value of the given byte buffer
unsigned long crc32(const unsigned char *s, unsigned int len)
    unsigned long val;
    static unsigned long tab[] = {
        0x00000000L, 0x77073096L, 0xee0e612cL, 0x990951baL, 0x076dc419L,
        0x706af48fL, 0xe963a535L, 0x9e6495a3L, 0x0edb8832L, 0x79dcb8a4L,
        0xe0d5e91eL, 0x97d2d988L, 0x09b64c2bL, 0x7eb17cbdL, 0xe7b82d07L,
        0x90bf1d91L, 0x1db71064L, 0x6ab020f2L, 0xf3b97148L, 0x84be41deL,
        0x1adad47dL, 0x6ddde4ebL, 0xf4d4b551L, 0x83d385c7L, 0x136c9856L,
        0x646ba8c0L, 0xfd62f97aL, 0x8a65c9ecL, 0x14015c4fL, 0x63066cd9L,
        0xfa0f3d63L, 0x8d080df5L, 0x3b6e20c8L, 0x4c69105eL, 0xd56041e4L,
        0xa2677172L, 0x3c03e4d1L, 0x4b04d447L, 0xd20d85fdL, 0xa50ab56bL,
        0x35b5a8faL, 0x42b2986cL, 0xdbbbc9d6L, 0xacbcf940L, 0x32d86ce3L,
        0x45df5c75L, 0xdcd60dcfL, 0xabd13d59L, 0x26d930acL, 0x51de003aL,
        0xc8d75180L, 0xbfd06116L, 0x21b4f4b5L, 0x56b3c423L, 0xcfba9599L,
        0xb8bda50fL, 0x2802b89eL, 0x5f058808L, 0xc60cd9b2L, 0xb10be924L,
        0x2f6f7c87L, 0x58684c11L, 0xc1611dabL, 0xb6662d3dL, 0x76dc4190L,
        0x01db7106L, 0x98d220bcL, 0xefd5102aL, 0x71b18589L, 0x06b6b51fL,
        0x9fbfe4a5L, 0xe8b8d433L, 0x7807c9a2L, 0x0f00f934L, 0x9609a88eL,
        0xe10e9818L, 0x7f6a0dbbL, 0x086d3d2dL, 0x91646c97L, 0xe6635c01L,
        0x6b6b51f4L, 0x1c6c6162L, 0x856530d8L, 0xf262004eL, 0x6c0695edL,
        0x1b01a57bL, 0x8208f4c1L, 0xf50fc457L, 0x65b0d9c6L, 0x12b7e950L,
        0x8bbeb8eaL, 0xfcb9887cL, 0x62dd1ddfL, 0x15da2d49L, 0x8cd37cf3L,
        0xfbd44c65L, 0x4db26158L, 0x3ab551ceL, 0xa3bc0074L, 0xd4bb30e2L,
        0x4adfa541L, 0x3dd895d7L, 0xa4d1c46dL, 0xd3d6f4fbL, 0x4369e96aL,
        0x346ed9fcL, 0xad678846L, 0xda60b8d0L, 0x44042d73L, 0x33031de5L,
        0xaa0a4c5fL, 0xdd0d7cc9L, 0x5005713cL, 0x270241aaL, 0xbe0b1010L,
        0xc90c2086L, 0x5768b525L, 0x206f85b3L, 0xb966d409L, 0xce61e49fL,
        0x5edef90eL, 0x29d9c998L, 0xb0d09822L, 0xc7d7a8b4L, 0x59b33d17L,
        0x2eb40d81L, 0xb7bd5c3bL, 0xc0ba6cadL, 0xedb88320L, 0x9abfb3b6L,
        0x03b6e20cL, 0x74b1d29aL, 0xead54739L, 0x9dd277afL, 0x04db2615L,
        0x73dc1683L, 0xe3630b12L, 0x94643b84L, 0x0d6d6a3eL, 0x7a6a5aa8L,
        0xe40ecf0bL, 0x9309ff9dL, 0x0a00ae27L, 0x7d079eb1L, 0xf00f9344L,
        0x8708a3d2L, 0x1e01f268L, 0x6906c2feL, 0xf762575dL, 0x806567cbL,
        0x196c3671L, 0x6e6b06e7L, 0xfed41b76L, 0x89d32be0L, 0x10da7a5aL,
        0x67dd4accL, 0xf9b9df6fL, 0x8ebeeff9L, 0x17b7be43L, 0x60b08ed5L,
        0xd6d6a3e8L, 0xa1d1937eL, 0x38d8c2c4L, 0x4fdff252L, 0xd1bb67f1L,
        0xa6bc5767L, 0x3fb506ddL, 0x48b2364bL, 0xd80d2bdaL, 0xaf0a1b4cL,
        0x36034af6L, 0x41047a60L, 0xdf60efc3L, 0xa867df55L, 0x316e8eefL,
        0x4669be79L, 0xcb61b38cL, 0xbc66831aL, 0x256fd2a0L, 0x5268e236L,
        0xcc0c7795L, 0xbb0b4703L, 0x220216b9L, 0x5505262fL, 0xc5ba3bbeL,
        0xb2bd0b28L, 0x2bb45a92L, 0x5cb36a04L, 0xc2d7ffa7L, 0xb5d0cf31L,
        0x2cd99e8bL, 0x5bdeae1dL, 0x9b64c2b0L, 0xec63f226L, 0x756aa39cL,
        0x026d930aL, 0x9c0906a9L, 0xeb0e363fL, 0x72076785L, 0x05005713L,
        0x95bf4a82L, 0xe2b87a14L, 0x7bb12baeL, 0x0cb61b38L, 0x92d28e9bL,
        0xe5d5be0dL, 0x7cdcefb7L, 0x0bdbdf21L, 0x86d3d2d4L, 0xf1d4e242L,
        0x68ddb3f8L, 0x1fda836eL, 0x81be16cdL, 0xf6b9265bL, 0x6fb077e1L,
        0x18b74777L, 0x88085ae6L, 0xff0f6a70L, 0x66063bcaL, 0x11010b5cL,
        0x8f659effL, 0xf862ae69L, 0x616bffd3L, 0x166ccf45L, 0xa00ae278L,
        0xd70dd2eeL, 0x4e048354L, 0x3903b3c2L, 0xa7672661L, 0xd06016f7L,
        0x4969474dL, 0x3e6e77dbL, 0xaed16a4aL, 0xd9d65adcL, 0x40df0b66L,
        0x37d83bf0L, 0xa9bcae53L, 0xdebb9ec5L, 0x47b2cf7fL, 0x30b5ffe9L,
        0xbdbdf21cL, 0xcabac28aL, 0x53b39330L, 0x24b4a3a6L, 0xbad03605L,
        0xcdd70693L, 0x54de5729L, 0x23d967bfL, 0xb3667a2eL, 0xc4614ab8L,
        0x5d681b02L, 0x2a6f2b94L, 0xb40bbe37L, 0xc30c8ea1L, 0x5a05df1bL,
    /* compute the CRC value */
    for (val = 0 ; len != 0 ; ++s, --len)
        val = tab[(val ^ *s) & 0xff] ^ (val >> 8);

    /* return the computed value */
    return val;
Copyright © 2001, 2006 by Michael J. Roberts.
Revision: September, 2006