vibbit! a fun 2d graphics and game framework!

Peek 2023-09-15 04-30

vibbit! a fun 2d graphics and game framework!

I teased this a little bit in my rust thread, and then later on twitter after news around the Unity licensing changed, so now feels like a good time to write a bit more about what this is and what the goals are for it.

Vibbit is a graphics and game framework designed to be hyper lightweight, and act as a solid springboard for larger engines/frameworks. It should feel pretty familiar to anyone with experience with frameworks like love2d, but the api is largely inspired by the minimalism of raylib.

features

graphics!

Peek 2023-09-14 14-31
it draws shapes, lines, and sprites! load custom .ttf fonts, including pixel art ones. it’s quite optimized for 2d sprite games. The above gif shows it rendering two scenes to their own textures, then combining them both for a split screen game. The whole thing is ~120 lines of code, and should be even shorter by the time it actually releases.

In a popular stress test called a bunnymark, it can render about 960 thousand individual textures with updating positions and rotations each frame. I have no clue when you’d need that many but it’s very neat. For comparison, the same test can do about ~120k with raylib and ~200k with love2d. I’d love to talk about some of the tricks and research that went into that another update.

no concepts!

Okay - Well of course there are some concepts. But the primary goal behind the design of vibbit’s API is that you shouldn’t have to learn any sort of structure, or game pattern to start working with it. A lot of code-only frameworks try to bring along all these ideas like a “game world” with a tree of “game objects”, or things like entity-component-systems. Those things sound great at a glance, but if you have a vision of how your game should work, they really only get in the way and force you to circumvent them anyways! vibbit comes out of the box with none of those things, so you can bring one in or write one yourself if you like.

In essence vibbit is just a handful of functions, (i’d like to aim for 1.0 to have a nice clean number like 128, but then what do i do about updates X__X…) each doing exactly what it says. Want to load a texture? load_texture(). want to draw it? draw_texture(). how do you end the frame and display it all? end_frame(). I’d like for all the “How do I do THIS” questions to feel really straightforward just by looking at all the functions available, no need to dig through 20 classes and sub classes before finding what you want.

highly "port"able

The codebase is written in Rust, which I had decided on after spending a while studying and trying out other frameworks made in rust and getting familiar with the language. However it’s been designed in a way that should make things very easy to get it set up with other languages too. Having a super lightweight and performant base is important for slower, interpreted languages like wren or lua (non-JIT). The idea is to let the graphics framework stay out of the way as much as it can so your game logic has plenty of headroom. I got the idea to work on this after spending a lot of time contributing to GitHub - RobLoach/node-raylib: Node.js bindings for Raylib - I really liked the simplicity of the drawing API, and being able to work in Javascript was a lot faster to me than working in C/C++. After a while I got a lot of ideas on how to improve the performance of the bindings, but it involved enough work that it just felt right to put together a new library from scratch with porting in mind. There are two major things that give this an edge for portability:

  • active assets are stored on the side of the framework in a generational arena for easy allocation without working with pointers or a hashtable. Basically, from your scripting language like lua, when you are referencing a texture to draw, you only need a 64 bit “key” that can be stored inside a value like an int, so you don’t have to pass whole large objects between language to language just to do a draw.
  • seperate render thread. a lot of other frameworks, when you request to draw something, immediately begin doing work to send data over to the GPU and perhaps draw or batch it into something. In a scripting language that means on top of the cost of calling the external function, you also have to wait for a bunch of gpu work. vibbit is designed to make use of it’s own thread for all rendering, so when you make calls all it does is prepare a list of commands that get consumed at the end of the frame. so your game logic gets a ton of extra cpu time each frame, and you don’t have to worry about implementing something like that yourself. It does all this in the background while still working exactly how you expect.

non-features

these are things that don’t really fit into the scope, or really are just better as their own library:

  • physics / collision lib. I might add some funcs that do shape overlaps, but physics is something that is usually pretty game dependent, or tied heavily into your engine’s object tree. I DO think that rust needs an arcadey collision lib, (no integration step, just overlap checks in pixel increments like celeste/towerfall) instead of all the box2d kind of stuff. If i worked on that it would be way later and it’s own package though.
  • networking, file reading. Chances are you would just be better off using the standard library for this. though some languages maybe don’t have them, and maybe bindings to those would get custom ones tailored to that lang instead of a general approach.
  • 3d. It should be possible to do some 3d rendering by drawing triangles, and I may include a mesh system so you could in theory roll your own 3d if need be. but 3d scenes require so much setup to actually perform well with instancing and such, compared to the style of 2d “just add some triangles to the batch” approach. By the point you do all that you’d be better off using a larger engine…

goals / todos

These are some major things that I want to get before putting up any public builds or previews:

  • audio. I think I could quickly set up basic sound + music playing, but I’d like to get some feedback from developers on what they actually need for this, particularly music/rhythm devs. let me know if you have thoughts on this element (any frustrations with current things you use? etc)
  • better shader setup. before multithreading you could load and set uniforms on custom shaders, but this needs to be reimplemented
  • joypad input. I need to think a bit about how to handle this in a clean way everyone would like. Smooth unplug/replug support is a must for me personally, and I think handling multiplayer is important too.
  • deltatime isn’t calculated correctly right now, last i checked
  • error output and debug logging. There is SOME rust-specific stuff that needs to be done with it, errors are kind of a special part of rust. I also need a good debug output so users know what’s happening behind the scenes when they make calls from a scripting language
  • decide on a main scripting language to support. I’d like to have at least one supported out of the box on launch (other than rust) to demonstrate a) how simple it should be to create a binding and b) how well they work. lua is the obvious choice but so many other things have it. I quite like statically typed ones like wren, and umka is pretty interesting too.
  • a million other small things. input stuff like mouse support + being able to record what’s been typed in as a string.
  • website + docs. before going fully public and open i want this library to actually feel USABLE instead of just some hobby project. A lot of my hesitation with rust’s ecosystem is that the documentation in other game crates is VERY tech-oriented, and doesn’t match the questions that a game developer just checking it out want answered. So on top of documenting the actual API it really needs a site with written content on basic tasks everyone typically needs, “how to XYZ” pages, and maybe a resources page with other libraries and info on filling in things not implemented in vibbit itself. This may take about as much time as the library itself honestly, but I think it’s vastly important for any amount of longevity for a project like this.

These are some larger concepts that are kind of on the backburner:

  • auto texture atlasing. it would be neat to load in all your game’s textures and then say “hey, batch these all into one texture atlas for me”, but then still be able to use all your original texture objects. It would just check the atlas for that individual texture, then convert the draw command to instead use the subcoordinates of the atlas. This would be a big performance boost for texture rendering if you have a lot of small sprites in their own files, and in theory it should just work seamlessly behind the scenes.
  • default “baked in” font in case you don’t want to bundle and load your own at runtime
  • more modular systems. I do have the groundwork in place for a bit, but I think for longevity sake it should be easy to add new modules to replace the core external libraries for the project. The main offenders for this are your windowing library and the graphics API. Right now it’s on SDL2 and OpenGL for those, but opening up for users to just pick what they like before compiling and not have to worry about it will be nice. That kind of thing is also really important way down the road if this ever needs extra platform/console support
  • Some kind of fully-fledged example game. In addition to little individual code snippet examples I think it needs an actual playable game that isn’t just pong or flappy bird or whatever. The idea would be something small enough to have code you can read through in one sitting, but big enough to use third party things like loading tilemaps + collision. I feel like some kind of older flash-style platformer would be fine scope. nothing too “juicy”

That’s what I got so far! Totally open to suggestions or questions - in fact I’d love to hear if you’ve used barebones frameworks like love2d, monogame, haxeflixel, etc so I can maybe iron out some pain-points people have with those ahead of time. I’ll try to get more images and gifs as I add more flashy stuff

that’s really cool! i love trying out new game framework, and you seem to have a very clear and sensible design for the scope of vibbit!

i’m not the biggest Rust, but i’ll gladly try to make something with it anyway when possible

best of luck :)

sidequestion: will this be open source?

thanks yeah - I’d be interested in letting folks from here work with it a bit earlier if they wanted to help with writing tiny examples / demos, and just generally giving feedback on the ease of use and such. I’d have to think about something i could do or help out with in return probably…

Yup that’s the plan, though I haven’t settled on which license yet. It really doesn’t make any sense for this kind of thing NOT to be FOSS - there are enough alternatives, love/monogame/raylib etc, that are already free why bother buying something proprietary? I really don’t have any model for monetization other than ‘maybe this seems cool and lands me a job down the road’

Screenshot from 2023-03-28 04-03-42Screenshot from 2023-03-28 07-24-13Screenshot from 2023-03-28 04-03-21

originally i wanted the icon/logo thing to be more of a face. having it be something you could draw with the tool itself was important, and the shakey lineart approach is nice because it gives off a vib ribbon look, which is where the name kind of came from. but simplifying it to a more flat lilypad kind of look ends up being a lot easier to draw in a vector programmatic way. and admittedly is a bit less creepy looking

Also, if Godot is any indicator, making your symbol a cartoony face tends to push people away

for me it was never having a face that bothered me, in fact i like mascots when they are kept pretty simple. moreso just that the robot head just screams clipart in my opinion


testing to see if webm uploads work ~~
I put together a little demo this morning that does a pseudo 3d effect. it is definitely legally distinct from any other 3d 2d hybrid games. ideally I’d like to have a lot of small one-screen little projects like this that demonstrate using the framework to do different common effects, and give an example of the breadth of what you can set up even with a simple/barebones toolkit like this


not entirely related, but i’ve been working out fully 3D rendering recently too, while studying slightly more modern opengl techniques. been doing the above all in c++ and i can say for certain i made the right choice writing vibbit in rust! so many fewer code tasks feel like ‘chores’. plus the build system makes it take way more setup to compile on anything other than the host OS.

i’ll probably go back and reimplement some of my data structures to use this part of the API later on. it’s an interesting challenge working on this deciding just how modern of opengl features to support - most resources out there don’t bother talking about anything after 3.3 - and its still a good choice if you wanna support macos - but the DSA api has a lot of cool stuff that makes it easier to deal with your GPU resources outside of the global state. at this point, what I’m considering is having a default mode, with a seperate “3.3-esque” fallback mode that is handled based on compilation platform - right now macos and webgl would share this mode. end users shouldn’t have to configure anything, and the outward API will remain the same. the trick is to do this in a way where i’m hopefully not writing two seperate rendering backends, just ‘diverting’ to fallbacks when it actually matters.

in actual Vibbit news - I’ve alluded to this briefly on twitter, but I’m setting a goal for the project to enter a private test starting sometime in January. The goal of this is to see how far people can get with the framework more-or-less on their own (of course i’ll be around, but there won’t be any docs, and very few examples). im not expecting any real games to necessarily come together, but maybe some more visual demos that could be recycled into example files (credit included of course). I really want to see how intuitive and ergonomic the library is to people going in mostly blind.

My next update is gonna go more in-depth on what the private test will look like, and what i need to get done leading up to that (spoiler: a LOT, there isn’t even an audio/sfx api). But if trying it out a little early sounds interesting, feel free to shoot me a message. this demo will require working in rust, but the plan is for the first official release to have at least 1 scripting language still.

Technical wizardry in this thread! :o I would love to try my hands at this when the time comes, though before I send the fateful message, I need to ask - in your personal estimate, how much of an uphill battle would it be to learn the coding language of this engine for somebody whose sole experience with written code is GML/Javascript?

I recall back in the late 2000s I attempted to learn Rust for work on an extremely ill-fated fangame in RMXP, and failed - naturally because I was 13, but even so.

thanks for reading! I have to be honest - it will be kinda rough… the symbolic hill is an acute angle, and you’re on the inside face…
on one angle, a big challenge coming from traditional engines is this is a ‘bring your own EVERYTHING’ approach. there are no maps, or tiles, or entities, or scenes. you’d have to do a lot of library hunting, or be comfortable trying to write all the small little game engine features you’ve taken for granted from scratch. i’d say the whole thing is mostly intended for tinkerer types who want to figure things out for themselves

for the programming, to put it short:
rust is known for introducing entire new categories of compiler errors that will have you scratching your head, and reading dozens of stackoverflows, for what looks like incredibly normal, reasonable code. and hours later you will find out that the solution to the problem, instead of fixing a silly typo or importing a useful function/data structure, is to completely scrap the idea for how you first planned your function to work, and rewrite it in an entirely different style you’ve never seen before. instead of just syntax errors, the compiler feels as if it has ‘Opinions’ on your code - it is the first language which will make you think it actively disagrees with the program you are making. that’s not to say it is all bad - learning it teaches you a lot about how programs actually work under hood, and has actually helped me a bit with being able to prematurely identify and work around potential bugs when working in other languages too. it Really retrains your brain on a ton of programming concepts
and in my opinion, rust is dozens of times easier to get setup with, and start messing around and trying out libraries compared to the other ‘hard’ languages like c++. the ecosystem of tools you use to work with rust are top-notch, and integrate perfectly with the language

to put it long: i’ve got an in-depth thread on my experience with Rustlang for gamedevs

as sadistic as i made it sound, im not using it to ‘challenge myself’, and i really believe its something that can push smalltime/indie game engines to solve traditional tech debt challenges (multithreading, efficient batching, data throughput, fast scripting languages) with a fraction of the effort of more traditional choices. and if rust isn’t your tea in the end, focusing on porting it directly to other languages like javascript is already in the air, where you can get the chance to learn things in a familiar environment, then swap back to rust if you feel the need to squeeze some more performance, while translating basically 100% of the skills learned from the framework between languages

ehehe - That’s Ruby actually! Of which i’ve worked with a lot in my earlier rpgmaker days, but probably would never try to build something like this with. In the grand scheme of things Rust is an incredibly new language (2015), which is largely why the game development ecosystem is in such flux. also because its a very low level technical language, mostly pure-engineers play with it, so the running joke is that there are literally more game engines in development than there are actual games.

How embarrassing ;__; Yeah you’re absolutely right, that’s what I was thinking of.

Yeaaahhhh… Got it.

I’ve sort of taken to pointedly calling myself a “scripter” rather than a “programmer”, and perhaps I should remember the distinction of the two (at least in my mind) better from henceforth.

Hope some cool people bite and try the engine out, though! >:)