Elixir Q & A


How to implement game loops in Elixir?

In Elixir, implementing game loops is a crucial aspect of game development, allowing you to control the flow of your game, handle user input, update game state, and render graphics. While Elixir is not typically used for graphics rendering (it’s more commonly used for server-side logic), you can implement game loops using a combination of Elixir processes and external game libraries or frameworks that handle graphics.


Here’s a high-level overview of how you can implement a game loop in Elixir:


  1. Use External Libraries: Elixir itself doesn’t provide built-in graphics or game rendering capabilities. You’ll need to integrate with external libraries or frameworks designed for graphics and game development. Libraries like SDL2 (Simple DirectMedia Layer) or Nerves (for embedded systems) can be used to handle graphics rendering.


  1. Create a Game Process: In Elixir, you can create a separate process that serves as the game loop. This process will be responsible for managing the game’s main loop, updating game state, and rendering graphics.


  1. Control the Loop: Within your game process, you’ll implement a loop that runs continuously. You can use Elixir’s `receive` and `send` functions to control the flow of the loop. The loop should handle user input, update game state, and trigger rendering.


  1. User Input: To handle user input (keyboard, mouse, etc.), you can use external libraries or Elixir packages designed for input handling. These packages can communicate with your game loop process to update the game state based on user actions.


  1. Game State: Maintain the game state in-memory within your game loop process. This includes player positions, scores, game objects, and any other relevant data.


  1. Rendering: Use the external graphics library to render the game’s visuals. You can update the screen or graphics buffer based on the current game state and then render it to the screen.


  1. Timing: Ensure that your game loop operates at a consistent frame rate to provide a smooth gaming experience. You can use Elixir’s timer functions to control the frame rate.


  1. Concurrency: Leverage Elixir’s concurrency features, such as processes and message passing, to handle parallel tasks within your game, like AI logic, multiplayer synchronization, and more.


It’s important to note that Elixir’s primary strength lies in concurrent and distributed systems, making it well-suited for backend server logic, real-time applications, and distributed systems. For the graphical and performance-intensive aspects of game development, Elixir is typically used in combination with external libraries or game engines.


When implementing game loops in Elixir, consider using established game development tools and libraries that best suit your project’s requirements, while using Elixir for the backend and logic components.


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Tech Lead in Elixir with 3 years' experience. Passionate about Elixir/Phoenix and React Native. Full Stack Engineer, Event Organizer, Systems Analyst, Mobile Developer.