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Resource management

If you make a very small game, the limitations of the target platform (memory footprint, bundle size, computing power and battery consumption) may not ever pose any problems. However, when making larger games, and especially on handheld devices, memory consumption will likely be one of the biggest constraints. An experienced team will carefully make resource budgets against platform constraints. Defold provides a range of features to help manage memory and bundle size. This manual gives an overview to these features.

The static resource tree

When you build a game in Defold, you statically declare the resource tree. Every single part of the game is linked into the tree, starting with the bootstrap collection (usually called “main.collection”). The resource tree follows any reference and includes all resources associated with those references:

  • Game object and component data (atlases, sounds etc).
  • Factory component prototypes (game objects and collections).
  • Collection proxy component references (collections).
  • Custom resources declared in “game.project”.

Resource tree

When the game is bundled, only what is in the resource tree will be included. Anything that is not referenced in the tree is left out. There is no need to manually select what to include or exclude from the bundle.

When the game is run, the engine starts at the bootstrap root of the tree and pulls resources into memory:

  • Any referenced collection and its content.
  • Game objects and component data.
  • Factory component prototypes (game objects and collections).

However, the engine will not automatically load the following types of referenced resources at runtime:

  • Game world collections referenced through collection proxies. Game worlds are relatively large so you will need to manually trigger loading and unloading of these in code. See the Collection proxy manual for details.
  • Files added via the Custom Resources setting in “game.project”. These files are manually loaded with the sys.load_resource() function.

The default way Defold bundles and loads resources can be altered to give fine grained control over how and when resources enter memory.

Resource loading

Dynamically loading factory resources

Resources referenced by factory components are normally loaded into memory when the component is loaded. The resources are then ready for being spawned into the game as soon as the factory exists in the runtime. To change the default behavior and postpone the loading of factory resources you can simply mark a factory with the Load Dynamically checkbox.

Load dynamically

With this box checked, the engine will still include the referenced resources in the game bundle, but it will not automatically load the factory resources. Instead, you have two options:

  1. Call factory.create() or collectionfactory.create() when you want to spawn objects. This will load the resources synchronously, then spawn new instances.
  2. Call factory.load() or collectionfactory.load() to load the resources asynchronously. When the resources are ready for spawning, a callback is received.

Read the Factory manual and the Collection factory manual for details on how this works.

Unloading dynamically loaded resources

Defold keeps reference counters for all resources. If a resource’s counter reaches zero it means that nothing refers to it anymore. The resource is then automatically unloaded from memory. For example, if you delete all objects spawned by a factory and you also delete the object holding the factory component, the resources previously referred to by the factory is unloaded from memory.

For factories that are marked Load Dynamically you can call the factory.unload() or collectionfactory.unload() function. This call removes the factory component’s reference to the resource. If nothing else refers to the resource (all spawned objects are deleted, for instance), the resource will be unloaded from memory.

Excluding resources from bundle

With collection proxies, it is possible to leave out all the resources the component refers to from the bundling process. This is useful if you need to keep the bundle size to a minimum. For instance, when running games on the web as HTML5 the browser will download the whole bundle before executing the game.

Exclude

By marking a collection proxy as Exclude the referenced resource will be left out of the game bundle. Instead, you can store excluded collections on selected cloud storage. The Live update manual explains how this feature works.

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