TryinHard TryinHard - 3 months ago 14
Java Question

Polymorphism vs Strategy pattern

What is the difference between the

Strategy
pattern and
Polymorphism
in Java?

I'm confused that whatever is achieved via Strategy Pattern is basically possible by polymorphism. Correct me if I'm wrong in this regard.

Please, also provide me example to eradicate my confusion.

Answer

For me, the link from CKing post and the example in Wikipedia are clear enough, but I'll try to give you a new example. As they said, Strategy Pattern is mostly a way to change the behaviour of an algorithm at runtime. Of course you can achieve this in many different ways (such as holding a value and using switch-case, but it wouldn't be as nice as Strategy Pattern).

Let's say you're developing a turn-based strategy game with two kind of Units: Infantry and Tank (subclasses of Unit). Your terrain could be Plains, Railroad or Forests.

class Unit{
    MovementStrategy ms;      
    final int baseMovement;
    int x,y;

    public Unit(int baseMovement){
        this.baseMovement = baseMovement;
    }

    abstract void fire();

    void moveForward(){
        x = x + ms.getHexagonsToMove(baseMovement);
    }

    void setMovementStrategy(MovementStrategy ms){
        this.ms = ms;
    }
}

Any Unit subclass must implement fire() method because it's going to be completely different for them (Tank shots heavy long-distance round and Infantry shot several short distance light bullets). In this example we use normal polymorphism/inheritance since fire() method will be really different for any unit, and it won't change during the game.

class Infantry extends Unit{
    public Infantry(){
        super(2);
    }

    void fire(){
        //whatever
    }
}

class Tank extends Unit{
    public Tank(){
        super(5);
    }

    void fire(){
        //whatever
    }
}

Units also are able to move, and have a field baseMovement that holds the number of hexagons it can walk. We're developing a strategy game, not a real world simulation, so we don't care how they move, we just want to add a value to their coordinates (in my example I only use X coordinate in order to get a simpler code). If all the terrain was the same, we wouldn't need any Strategy object... but we need to change the behaviour of move() method at runtime!

So, we implement a different MovementStrategy class for each of our kinds of Terrain, and we program our game to trigger a setMovementStrategy() to any unit that move on each hexagon. And we don't even need to write anything else in our Unit subclasses.

interface MovementStrategy{
    public int getHexagonsToMove(int base);
}

class PlainMovementStrategy implements MovementStrategy{
    public int getHexagonsToMove(int base){
        return base;
    }
}

class RailroadMovementStrategy implements MovementStrategy{
    public int getHexagonsToMove(int base){
        return base*3;
    }
}

class ForestMovementStrategy implements MovementStrategy{
    public int getHexagonsToMove(int base){
        return (int)(base/2);
    }
}   

Now, when any Unit move inside a Forest, we call

unit.setMovementStrategy(new ForestMovementStrategy());

And as soon it goes to a Plain, we do:

unit.setMovementStrategy(new PlainMovementStrategy());

Now we're able to change how far away our units move depending on the Terrain, and we don't need to rewrite in any of the subclasses.

I hope this helps you a better understanding of the difference.

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