02Credits Blog

Day26 - SCRIPT-8 Performance Improvements

Using Typed Arrays to Improve Javascript Canvas Performance


In yesterday's blog post, I focused on talking about the gameplay improvements in 8Bomb, but I glossed over the performance improvements I made in the rendering side for SCRIPT-8. Before my changes, SCRIPT-8 did the majority of it's rendering using single pixel wide fillRect calls on the 2d canvas graphics context. This worked great because a lot of things such as aliasing, filling, and camera transforms were handled automatically. In practice though it became a huge rendering bottleneck because the canvas would draw to the screen imediately after each call.

The solution to this problem was to do the pixel manipulation manually in a frameBuffer instead. This adds complexity to the drawing code because the transformation, boundary checks, and integer math had to be done manually, but it runs much quicker since the frame data is only drawn to the screen once every frame instead of every canvas api call (or even multiple times per canvas api call).

The last piece to the puzzle was to utilize typed arrays for the pixel data instead of the traditional javascript number arrays. By using typed arrays, the browser is able to optimize the setting of colors further since it doesn't need to do boundary checks for each pixel. These three tricks make the drawing performance much faster and allowed the fancy end screen animations I built yesterday.


  let ctx = canvas.getContext('2d');
let pixelData = ctx.getImageData(0, 0, 128, 128);
let pixelBuffer = new ArrayBuffer(pixelData.data.length);
let pixelBytes = new Uint8ClampedArray(pixelBuffer);
let pixelIntegers = new Uint32Array(pixelBuffer);

There is a lot of goo to get things working.

  1. The graphics context, ctx is still required since it is how we set the image data back to the screen.
  2. pixelData is used here just to determine the correct array size. (this is probably not needed as we could calculate it ourselves, I'm just lazy.)
  3. pixelBuffer is the actual array buffer which contains the data. We can't manipulate it directly, so we have to use the next variables instead to set and read values.
  4. pixelBytes is needed to set the data back into the pixelData object. Setting the pixelBuffer or pixelIntegers doesn't work. No idea why.
  5. pixelIntegers instead of setting a byte for each channel of a pixel, it is much faster to set them all at once using an integer. So I use the Uint32Array view of the pixelBuffer instead of the bytes view.

Since pixelBytes and pixelIntegers both refer to the same ArrayBuffer, either one can be used to index the pixel data. Its faster to write using integers, but the canvas won't read from the integer array, so I keep a pixelBytes version arround for drawing the data.

  export function drawPixels() {
  ctx.putImageData(pixelData, 0, 0);

I then added a drawPixels function which I added call each frame to push the current frame buffer data to the screen.


Since the various drawing functions previously used graphics context methods to draw, they needed to be modified to work with the pixel buffer. I achieved this by changing setPixel first, and rewriting the rest to use setPixel instead of drawing single pixel rectangles.

The first step was to implement a color lookup function to find the correct integer for each color index. It wasn't too complicated, just a bit of bit twiddling.

  function int (i) {
  let values = triplets[i % triplets.length];
  return (255 << 24) |
    (values[2] << 16) |
    (values[1] << 8) |

Then use the color integer function to modify the frame buffer.

  export function setPixel(x, y, c = 0) {
  x = Math.floor(x - _cameraX);
  y = Math.floor(y - _cameraY);
  if (x < 0 || x >= 128 || y < 0 || y >= 128) return;
  pixelIntegers[y * 128 + x] = colors.int(c);

The camera value is adjusted for here since the canvas will no longer do it for us.

Then as an example port to the new pattern, I updated the print draw command. Since the graphics no longer needs to read from the screen, things got a lot simpler.

  export function print(x, y, letters, c = 0) {
  let currentX = Math.floor(x - _cameraX);
  let currentY = Math.floor(y - _cameraY);
  for (let letter of letters.toString().split('')) {
    const pixels = alphabet[letter.toLowerCase()];
    if (!pixels) currentX += 3; // Couldn't find a character
    let letterWidth = pixels.length / 6;
    for (let x = 0; x < letterWidth; x++) {
      for (let y = 0; y < 6; y++) {
        if (pixels[y * letterWidth + x]) {
          setPixel(currentX + x, currentY + y, c);
    currentX += letterWidth + 1;

Thats all I have time for tonight. Tomorrow I will work on porting the few remaining functions and actually get a PR up for the performance improvements. Once that PR merges, I will be able to port my game code back into the SCRIPT-8 editor and get it published to the shelf!

Till Tomorrow,