Holy Guacamole! It’s been seven months since the last post. However, despite the long silence, #tofuengine developments haven’t been suspended… very far from that!

In that first half (and a bit) of the year, there have been at the very least two significant developments, that is audio-support and upgrading to Lua v5.4. I took notes about the development and I plan to write more detailed posts. Sooner or later.

In the meantime, I’m getting back to the graphics sub-system of the engine to implement something that has been wandering in my mind since the very beginning. I put as much effort as I could to optimize the software-renderer and make blitting fast. Unless I switch (back) and use OpenGL and leverage the GPU I don’t think I can pour many FPS out of the software-renderer drawing functions.

But…. what if.

Probably there’s room for some more optimization.

Let’s take a step back.


At the moment the object’s drawing operations are performed by calling the (overridden by arity) blit() method of the Bank class. If one wants to draw, let’s say 10000 cute little bunnies on the screen, the method would be called 10000 times per frame. This means 10000 switches from the VM to the native C implementation. This isn’t a piece of cake as the blit() method features up to 9 arguments.

Although the Lua VM does a pretty decent job in being fast when calling FFI function, this is nonetheless a waste of precious time.

Since the bunnies aren’t changing their drawing parameters necessarily on each frame, we can track their drawing parameters by populating/updating a list of POD elements (stored in the FFI side were the blit() method implementation resides) on each fixed-update step… and then call a single blit() in the render method to (internally) scan the list and draw the objects on-screen. When we can clear the list and rebuild it with the new objects’ parameters, or we can update only the changed ones… that’s irrelevant. What it counts is that during the frame rendering the list is ready and we can draw the object with a single Lua call.

That’s not a novel idea, commonly called sprite-batching, and it’s used to optimized GPU-driven engines, mostly to minimize the number of texture swaps. In our case, there aren’t textures to be swapped but we could benefit from it nevertheless since it should drastically reduce the overhead of the repeated draw calls.

That’s enough for the talk. It’s time for the design and implementation of that. More on this in the next post.


That’s a pretty straight-forward thing to do.

We establish that a single sprite-batch is bound to a single bank (that is, the atlas whence the sprite images are fetched from) since this makes sense from a practical point-of-view and could come handy if we decide to switch to OpenGL (where texture switching is to be avoided as much as possible).

All it’s required is to create a suitable structure that holds the relevant sprite’s attributes (bank’s cell ID, position, scaling, rotation, etc…), and to maintain a sequence of those (e.g. using a preallocated array is to be preferred since we’ll be reusing it over time).

typedef struct _Sprite_t {
    int cell_id;
    int x, y;
    float scale_x, scale_y;
    float rotation;
    float anchor_x, anchor_y;
} Sprite_t;

The sprite batch starts empty (and is cleared when needs to be updated). Then, sprites are pushed into the array with their attributes (and the order in which they are pushed indirectly represents their z-index). In the draw callback with a single sprite-batch blit() call the sprites are drawn with the main benefit of the iteration being performed inside the native part of the engine (i.e. w/o switching context from and to the script).

The only limit of this approach is that (without complicating the structure) the palette, transparency, and shifting attributes are going to be constant throughout the batch.


I wasn’t expecting a stunning performance increase from this feature. Nevertheless, empirical tests show an increment in FPS throughput (with roughly 20% increase). Major benefits are to be expected in situations where the underlying sprite batch doesn’t change at each frame update, for example when used to draw a tiled-map.

Perhaps I should reconsider and switch from a software renderer to GPU-driven rendering, to experience a substantial performance increase.