Mikołaj Koziarkiewicz

In this episode…​

We’re finally making our game do something.

As a reminder…​

We would like to have a game that:

  • requires relatively quick player reaction (so e.g. no turn-based games),

  • has a lot of events happening at any given moment,

  • and employs a large number of entities to do so.

Recall also one of our initial assumptions: mistakes will be made prominent (and prominently made), including potentially avoidable ones, in order to showcase them and their solutions.

A bit of refactoring


We’re now well into our development of our little game, which merits a critical look back into what we’ve coded in so far.

Principally, we seem to have a bit of magical numerology in our dimensional definition, specifically in both our code and the desktop version:

camera.setToOrtho(false, 800, 480)
cfg.height = 480
cfg.width = 800

They’re both in sore need to be moved to a globally settable constant value. However, they both seem to be aligned in form and function, so let’s create a value class that can hold them:

case class Dim(d: Float) extends AnyVal { (1)
  def size = d.toInt
1 Defining a value class.

I confess here on cheating a little bit - I know this the, erm, value of this value class is going to shine through in a moment. However, I’d like to point out that nevertheless value classes are cheap not only in terms of writing them, but also in terms of executing the relevant code. Because all this nets executable code within static invocations, as long as user-defined value classes can be used, they remain useful entities to base our domain model upon on.

Come worst case, time spent writing them will be undone by (sometimes literally) a couple of editor actions.


That still leaves us the problem of centralizing our generalized code. We could make a proper config, but a quick compromise trick, useful for sketching out configs, is to store everything in a nested object. In our case, this means:

object config {
  object world {
    val Width = Dim(160)
    val Height = Dim(100)

The pattern has several advantages:

  • requires no additional dependencies,

  • it provides practically all of the benefits of a "proper" config during the stage of development where code modifications are abundant,

  • since config keys are actually Scala stable identifiers, code assist/renaming etc. works out of the box,

  • once the point of diminishing returns vs a "proper" config is reached, a swap to it can be effected via a relatively simple regex.

So, our calling code is now:

camera.setToOrtho(false, config.world.width.size, config.world.height.size)

We’re also going to decouple the size of the desktop window and increase it a bit:

cfg.height = 640
cfg.width = 1024

Note that 1024/640 = 160/100 = 1.6.

OK, but why 160 x 100?

Adding Box2D basics

Well, our next change will be introducing physical objects into our game, and, for that, we’re be going with a physics module that integrates Box2D with LibGDX.

Box2D is a widely-used C++ framework for simulating physics in 2 dimensions (as the name suggests). It is both simple and fairly powerful. However, as the FAQ outlines, non-stationary objects should be no larger than around 10 units/meters[1].

So, the size of 160 x 100 is sufficient to have interactable, visible objects in the sweet spot of Box2D preferred sizes, and conforms to the aspect ration of our viewable window.

Having said that, let’s now add the following:

val world = new World(new Vector2(0, 0), false) (1)

val debugRenderer = new Box2DDebugRenderer() (2)
1 This is the core Box2D management object. The first argument describes the gravity vector (we want to have a weightless environment, so it’s (0,0)), the second is a flag to enable an optimization technique.
2 A very useful class when prototyping, it draws wireframes of all physics objects for you.

Before we modify our Flow, we need to include enhance the tick element to account for our extended game state.

Specifically, we need to include at minimum all Box2D bodies currently present. Bodies represent physical objects in Box2D.

So, instead of a simple TickDelta, we’ll now be producing this:

case class GameState(delta: TickDelta, bodies: List[Body])

Let’s change the render function to account for that:

override def render(delta: TickDelta) = {

    tickActor.foreach { actor =>
      val bodyArray = ArrayGdx.of(classOf[Body])
      world.getBodies(bodyArray) (1)
      actor ! GameState(delta, bodyArray.asScala.toList)

1 Song-and-dance necessary to get all current objects - this pass-by-reference approach is both due to Box2D C++ roots and for efficiency’s sake.

Now we modify our flow. For starters, let’s create a couple of circular bodies in random places. Here’s how a utility method for creating a new circle body looks like:

  private def createSphere(center: Vector2) = {
    val bodyDef = new BodyDef (1)
    bodyDef.`type` = BodyType.DynamicBody (2) (3)
    bodyDef.position.set(center) (4)

    val circle = new CircleShape()

    val fixtureDef = new FixtureDef() (5)
    fixtureDef.shape = circle
    fixtureDef.density = 1f

    val body = world.createBody(bodyDef)
    fixtureDef.shape.dispose() (6)
1 A body definition is simply an abstract blueprint for a body.
2 Since type is a reserved word in Scala, we have to use the backtick notation here.
3 Dynamic bodies are ones that behave exactly how you would expect a physical body to - they are subject to gravity, collisions with other objects, user-defined forces, etc.
4 The Vector2 argument is used as the (x,y) coordinates of the center of our circle.
5 Bodies are composed of one or more fixtures. In our case we only have one, with a circular shape and a density of 1 kg/m³ (so e.g. like mainstream American beer).
6 More game-engine-specific song-and-dance. If we’d generate a considerable number of these shapes, we’d cache this object, but here it’s unnecessary.

Let’s add a couple of new config values:

object config {
  object world {
    object gen {
      val NumCircles = 3
      val MaxForce = 300
      val ForceApplyTickInterval = 100

Now we’re ready to modify our flow. We need to match the new game state object, add some circles in random positions, and make them move, all in our show method:

val tickSettingFlow = {

  Flow[GameState].map { case gs@GameState(delta, bodies) => (1)
    if(bodies.isEmpty) { (2)
      for(_ <- 1 to config.world.gen.NumCircles) {
        val randomLocation = new Vector2(
                                Random.nextInt(config.world.Height.size)) (3)
    } else { (4)
      import config.world.gen (5)
      def randomForceComponent = Random.nextInt(2*gen.MaxForce)-gen.MaxForce

      for(body <- bodies) {
        if(tick % gen.ForceApplyTickInterval == 0) { (6)
          body.applyForceToCenter(randomForceComponent, randomForceComponent, true)

    world.step(delta, 6, 2) (7)
    tick += 1
1 Matching to the new game state.
2 Starting situation, lets create our bodies.
3 Completely random location within our world.
4 Our game logic "proper".
5 As mentioned before, the "quick config" scheme gives us the advantage of value keys being stable identifiers, this is an example of what this approach provides.
6 We randomly apply a force every X ticks.
7 The World needs to be manually "stepped over". The second and third parameters are the recommended values for the engine’s constraint solver.

We also have to add this:

debugRenderer.render(world, camera.combined)

to the end of our show method to fire up the aforementioned renderer.

And this is basically it! Here’s how a possible run looks like:

Exception reporting

As a final touch for this episode, let’s add a decider for our stream. We need it, because Akka Streams has one notorious design quirk - exceptions are silently swallowed by default [2].

The normal way to go around that is outlined in this SO thread.

In our case this would mean:

val loggingDecider: Supervision.Decider = { e =>
    println(s"Exception when processing game loop: $e")
implicit val actorSystem = ActorSystem("game")
implicit val materializer = ActorMaterializer(ActorMaterializerSettings(actorSystem)

Now we’re sure that if an exception occurs in our flow, we’ll now about it.

The code for the current part is available here.

Next up

Our flow works, but is still not thread-safe, and essentially one big logic blob. We’re going to improve that.

1. Box2D uses meters as size units.
2. That’s not strictly true - there are incidental logs that show up on the DEBUG level, indicating that something happened, but that still does not list the exact cause of why the stream failed.