Components

For an introduction what a component is and how it fits into the overall picture, see The World / Scenegraph System.

This documentation focuses on the C++ ezComponent class. The functionality exposed through other mechanisms, such as TypeScript, may be more limited in scope, but ultimately maps to the C++ implementation.

Components are the fundamental building blocks with which to make the engine do things. Components act as glue between systems like the renderer and the user. They expose the available functionality to the editor and they control when and how each system is used. This document describes how components work.

Owner

A component is always attached to a game object. This ‘owner’ can be queried with ezComponent::GetOwner().

There is a brief moment where a component is not attached to an owner, which is when it is being prepared for destruction. If you run into such a situation use ezComponent::IsActiveAndInitialized() to filter them out.

Component Manager

Every component has a component manager. You can access it with ezComponent::GetOwningManager().

To get the component manager for a specific component type, you need to query the world. See ezWorld::GetOrCreateComponentManager() and ezWorld::GetOrCreateManagerForComponentType().

Creating Components

The most convenient way to create a component of a specific type is to call the static function CreateComponent() on the component manager for that type.

ezMeshComponent* pMesh;
pWorld->GetOrCreateComponentManager<ezMeshComponentManager>()->CreateComponent(pObject, pMesh);

Deleting Components

To delete a component, just call ezComponent::DeleteComponent() on it. Note that deleting individual components is relatively rare, it is more common to just delete the entire object. Also be aware that deleted components are immediately deinitialized. They will still exist in a semi-usable state until the end of the frame, but if other code tries to access the component within the same frame, it may see it in an ‘unexpected’ state. If necessary, that code can check ezComponent::IsActiveAndInitialized() to prevent working with just deleted components.

You can also delete a component only through its handle, if you have the corresponding component manager.

Component Handles

When you need to reference components across frames, you should always store handles to them, never pointers. See the chapter about object lifetime for details.

To convert a handle to a (temporary) pointer, use ezWorld::TryGetComponent().

Querying Components from Game Objects

When you have a game object you can get a list of all attached components with ezGameObject::GetComponents(). However, typically you want to get a component of a specific type. Use ezGameObject::TryGetComponentOfBaseType() for that:

ezMeshComponent* pMesh = nullptr;
if (pObject->TryGetComponentOfBaseType(pMesh))
{
  pMesh->DeleteComponent();
}

Iterating over all Components

You can iterate over all components of one type by calling ezComponentManager::GetComponents(). This returns an iterator with which you can efficiently access all components managed by that component manager. Be aware that some components may not be active, so you should skip those.

You can also access all components on a game object using ezGameObject::GetComponents().

Component Reflection Block

All component types must use reflection. Only reflected members show up as properties in the editor. An example block looks like this:

EZ_BEGIN_COMPONENT_TYPE(DebugRenderComponent, 2, ezComponentMode::Static)
{
  EZ_BEGIN_PROPERTIES
  {
    EZ_MEMBER_PROPERTY("Size", m_fSize)->AddAttributes(new ezDefaultValueAttribute(1), new ezClampValueAttribute(0, 10)),
    EZ_MEMBER_PROPERTY("Color", m_Color)->AddAttributes(new ezDefaultValueAttribute(ezColor::White)),
    EZ_ACCESSOR_PROPERTY("Texture", GetTextureFile, SetTextureFile)->AddAttributes(new ezAssetBrowserAttribute("Texture 2D")),
    EZ_BITFLAGS_MEMBER_PROPERTY("Render", DebugRenderComponentMask, m_RenderTypes)->AddAttributes(new ezDefaultValueAttribute(DebugRenderComponentMask::Box)),
  }
  EZ_END_PROPERTIES;

  EZ_BEGIN_ATTRIBUTES
  {
    new ezCategoryAttribute("SampleGamePlugin"), // Component menu group
  }
  EZ_END_ATTRIBUTES;

  EZ_BEGIN_MESSAGEHANDLERS
  {
    EZ_MESSAGE_HANDLER(ezMsgSetColor, OnSetColor)
  }
  EZ_END_MESSAGEHANDLERS;

  EZ_BEGIN_FUNCTIONS
  {
    EZ_SCRIPT_FUNCTION_PROPERTY(SetRandomColor)
  }
  EZ_END_FUNCTIONS;
}
EZ_END_COMPONENT_TYPE

The properties section lists all the members that should be editable. Components can have ‘virtual’ properties, that don’t exist as members, but use accessors (functions). Properties can have attributes to configure how they show up in the editor.

The attributes section can additionally specify type specific properties. For example, here we tell the editor where in the component menu this component should appear.

The message handler section is important to enable messaging.

The functions section is used to expose certain member functions to the reflection system, such that script bindings, such as TypeScript can call these functions.

At the moment there is no documentation that lists all the available options. It is best to get inspiration by looking at the code for existing components.

Component Activation

There are three important states for components:

  1. Whether they are initialized
  2. Whether they are active
  3. Whether they are simulating

You can hook into changes to these states by overriding ezComponent::Initialize() / ezComponent::Deinitialize(), ezComponent::OnActivated() / ezComponent::OnDeactivated() and ezComponent::OnSimulationStarted().

The most important function to override is ezComponent::OnSimulationStarted(). This is almost always the function where you want to set up your component. It is called when the component is fully initialized, active and the world is actively simulating (the game is running). In the editor, it is only called after you start running a scene, not while you are editing. Since most game code should not do anything while the scene is being edited, you typically don’t need to set up anything before this time.

Components can be ‘active’ or ‘inactive’. This can be used to switch them on and off at will. The active flag on game objects affects this, but components can also be deactivated individually with ezComponent::SetActiveFlag(). When a component is not active, its component manager will typically not update it anymore. If you want to properly support switching components on and off at any time, you often need to be careful to restore state properly. ezComponent::OnActivated() and ezComponent::OnDeactivated() will be called every time a component’s active state changes. Additionally, if the world is being simulated, ezComponent::OnSimulationStarted() will also be called after each call to ezComponent::OnActivated().

It should be extremely rare that you need to override ezComponent::Initialize() or ezComponent::Deinitialize().

For all the details on the activation functions, refer to the API Docs.

Caution:

A common mistake is to override a function like ezComponent::OnActivated() but to not call its base class implementation (SUPER::OnActivated()). It is good practice to always do so.

Forced Activation

If for some reason a component must access another component during its own setup, and requires that other component to be set up first, you can enforce this by calling ezComponent::EnsureSimulationStarted() on the other component.

An example is a physics joint component. To set up a joint, the component needs to access two rigid body components. Both must be already set up themselves, otherwise the joint component cannot link the two. Therefore, when the joint component is being set up, it calls ezComponent::EnsureSimulationStarted() on both rigid body components, to make sure it can access valid data.

User Flags

ezComponent::SetUserFlag and ezComponent::GetUserFlag can be used to store up to 8 bits of user flags. This should only be used internally, to reduce memory consumption.

Dynamic and Static Components

In the component reflection block you have to specify whether a component is ‘dynamic’ or ‘static’:

EZ_BEGIN_COMPONENT_TYPE(DemoComponent, 3 /* version */, ezComponentMode::Dynamic)

This information tells the editor whether this component type attempts to modify the owner’s transformation (position, rotation, scale). If any dynamic component is attached to a game object, the entire object will be marked as dynamic and will have its transform updated every frame. If only static components are attached, the game object can be marked as static as well, and costs less performance.

See Static vs. Dynamic Objects.

Serialization and Versioning

When editing a scene or prefab, the editor will serialize components purely based on reflection information. That means only the properties that are marked up through reflection and are therefore visible to the user are serialized. This format is robust to change (and allows for patches), but is not efficient.

For the runtime format, that a shipping game should use, scenes are exported. This is a binary serialization format and every component has full control over what data it writes and how it encodes the data. When you run a scene in ezPlayer the editor will serialize the scene to the binary format, and the player will deserialize it. If a component doesn’t properly serialize all its data, the results can range from misconfigured components to crashes during loading.

To implement proper serialization, you need to override ezComponent::SerializeComponent() and ezComponent::DeserializeComponent().

During serialization you simply write data to a stream, as you like:

void DemoComponent::SerializeComponent(ezWorldWriter& stream) const
{
  SUPER::SerializeComponent(stream);

  auto& s = stream.GetStream();

  s << m_fAmplitude;
  s << m_Speed;
}

Don’t forget to call SUPER::SerializeComponent() to include the data of the base class.

When you deserialize a component, you need to handle versioning. Every component type has a version number, which is specified in the component reflection block:

EZ_BEGIN_COMPONENT_TYPE(DemoComponent, 3 /* version */, ezComponentMode::Dynamic)

The version number should be increased every time the serialization format of the component type has to change. During deserialization you can query the version number with which this component data was written. You than have to handle converting older formats as appropriate:

void DemoComponent::DeserializeComponent(ezWorldReader& stream)
{
  SUPER::DeserializeComponent(stream);
  const ezUInt32 uiVersion = stream.GetComponentTypeVersion(GetStaticRTTI());

  auto& s = stream.GetStream();

  s >> m_fAmplitude;

  if (uiVersion <= 2)
  {
    // up to version 2 the angle was stored as a float in degree
    // convert this to ezAngle
    float fDegree;
    s >> fDegree;
    m_Speed = ezAngle::Degree(fDegree);
  }
  else
  {
    s >> m_Speed;
  }
}

Custom Components

You can extend the engine with custom components:

For examples, have a look at the Sample Game Plugin.

See Also