Content Creators
Raycasting

Raycasting

Raycasting is a fundamental tool in game development. With raycasting, you can trace an imaginary line in space, and query if any entities are intersected by that line. This is useful for calculating lines of sight, trajectories of bullets, pathfinding algorithms and many other applications.

When a player pushes the pointer button, or the primary or secondary button, a ray is traced from the player’s position in the direction they are looking, see button events for more details about this. This document covers how to trace an invisible ray from any arbitrary position and direction, independent of player actions, which you can use in many other scenarios.

Please note that as a general rule, all raycasts in the SDK will only hit objects with colliders. So if you want to detect ray hits against a model that you’ve imported, that model should contain collider meshes , or you should add a MeshCollider component .

It’s also a good practice to assign custom collision layers to 3D models, so that rays only need to calculate collisions against the relevant entities, instead of against everything that has a collider.

Create a ray #

All rays have a point of origin and a direction. The point of origin is based on an entity’s position, taking the values on the entity’s Transform component. The direction of a ray can be defined in 4 different ways: - local: A direction relative to the forward-facing direction of the entity, affected also by the transformation of any parent entities. This is useful to detect obstacles in front of vehicles honoring their heading. - global: Ignores the entity’s rotation, and faces a direction as if the entity’s rotation was 0. This is useful to i.e. always point down. - global target: Traces a line between the entity’s position and a target global position in the scene. It ignores the entity’s rotation. Useful for example to create tower defense games, each tower’s turret can point to a pin-pointed coordinate in space. - target entity: Traces a line between the entity’s position and the position of a second target entity. It ignores the rotation of either entities.

The following code creates a raycast with a local direction:

const myEntity = engine.addEntity()
Transform.create(myEntity, {
  position: Vector3.create(4, 1, 4)
})

raycastSystem.registerLocalDirectionRaycast(
    myEntity,
    (raycastResult) => {
      // callback function
    },
    {
      direction: Vector3.Forward(),
    }
)

Use the following functions to create raycasts by providing the direction in different ways:

  • raycastSystem.registerLocalDirectionRaycast(): creates a raycast with a local direction. The direction field expects a Vector3 that describes a vector relative to the entity and its rotation (e.g. Vector3.Forward() would end up using the entity’s transform forward vector)
  • raycastSystem.registerGlobalDirectionRaycast(): creates a raycast with a global direction. The direction field expects a Vector3 that describes the global direction.
  • raycastSystem.registerGlobalTargetRaycast(): creates a raycast with a direction defined by a global target position. The target field expects a Vector3 that describes a global position in the scene.
  • raycastSystem.registerTargetEntityRaycast(): creates a raycast with a direction defined towards a target entity position. The targetEntity field expects a reference to an entity, this entity’s position will be used as the target of the ray.

The following optional fields are available when creating a ray with any of the above methods:

  • maxDistance: number to set the length with which this ray will be traced. If not set, the default is 16 meters.

  • queryType: RaycastQueryType enum value, to define if the ray will return all hit entities or just the first. The following options are available:

    • RaycastQueryType.RQT_HIT_FIRST: (default) only returns the first hit entity, starting from the origin point.
    • RaycastQueryType.RQT_QUERY_ALL: returns all hit entities, from the origin through to the max distance of the ray.
  • originOffset: Instead of starting the raycast from the entity’s origin position, add an offset to start the query from a relative position. You can for example use a small offset to prevent the ray colliding against the entity’s own 3D model. If not set, the default is Vector3.Zero().

  • collisionMask: Only detect collisions with certain collision layers. Use this together with a custom collision layer, or to only detect the physics or pointer events layer. See collision layers . If not set, the default layer used is ColliderLayer.CL_PHYSICS.

  • continuous: If true, will keep running a raycast query on every frame. If false, the ray will only be used on the current frame. If not set, the default is false.

  • When setting the direction with a local or glocal direction, the direction field defaults to Vector3.Forward().

  • When setting the direction with a global target, the GlobalTarget field defaults to Vector3.Zero().

  • When setting the direction with an entity target, the TargetEntity field defaults to the scene’s root entity, located at Vector3.Zero().

📔 Note: The continuous property should be used with caution, as running a raycast query on every frame can be very expensive for performance. When possible, use a system (or the interval function in the Utils library) to run raycast queries at a regular more sparse interval, see recurrent raycasting .

Below are examples using each of the four methods to determine the ray direction:

// LOCAL DIRECTION RAYCAST
raycastSystem.registerLocalDirectionRaycast(
  myEntity,
  (raycastResult) => {
    console.log(raycastResult.hits)
  },
  {
    maxDistance: 30,
    queryType: RaycastQueryType.RQT_QUERY_ALL,
    direction: Vector3.Forward(),
  }
)

// GLOBAL DIRECTION RAYCAST
raycastSystem.registerGlobalDirectionRaycast(
  myEntity,
  (raycastResult) => {
    console.log(raycastResult.hits)
  },
  {
    maxDistance: 30,
    queryType: RaycastQueryType.RQT_QUERY_ALL,
    direction: Vector3.Forward(),
  }
)

// GLOBAL TARGET POSITION RAYCAST
raycastSystem.registerGlobalTargetRaycast(
  myEntity,
  (raycastResult) => {
    console.log(raycastResult.hits)
  },
  {
    maxDistance: 30,
    queryType: RaycastQueryType.RQT_QUERY_ALL,
    target: Vector3.Zero()
  }
)

// TARGET ENTITY RAYCAST
const targetEntity = engine.addEntity()
Transform.create(targetEntity, { position: Vector3.create(8, 1, 10) })

raycastSystem.registerTargetEntityRaycast(
  myEntity,
  (raycastResult) => {
    console.log(raycastResult.hits)
  },
  {
    maxDistance: 30,
    queryType: RaycastQueryType.RQT_QUERY_ALL,
    targetEntity: targetEntity
  }
)

Raycast result #

The callback function that handles the raycast receives an object containing data about the ray itself, and any entities that were hit.

  • globalOrigin: The position where the ray was originated, relative to the scene.
  • direction: The global direction that the ray was pointing, as a Vector3.
  • hits: An array with one object for each entity that was hit. If there were no hit entities, this array is empty. If the raycast used RaycastQueryType.RQT_HIT_FIRST, this array will only contain one object.

Each object in the hits array includes:

  • entityId: Id number of the entity that was hit by the ray.
  • meshName: String with the internal name of the specific mesh in the 3D model that was hit. This is useful when a 3D model is composed of multiple meshes.
  • position: Vector3 for the position where the ray intersected with the hit entity (relative to the scene)
  • length: Length of the ray from its origin to the position where the hit against the entity occurred.
  • normalHit: Quaternion for the angle of the normal of the hit in world space.
  • globalOrigin: Vector3 for the position where the ray originates (relative to the scene)
  • direction: The global direction that the ray was pointing, as a Vector3.

The following example iterates over the entities that were hit:

const myEntity = engine.addEntity()
Transform.create(myEntity, {
  position: Vector3.create(4, 1, 4)
})

raycastSystem.registerLocalDirectionRaycast(
    myEntity,
    (raycastResult) => {
      if (raycastResult.hits.length > 0) {
        for (const hit of raycastResult.hits) {
          if (hit.entityId) {
            console.log("hit entity ", hit.entityId)
          }
        }
      } else {
        console.log("no entities hit")
      }
    },
    {
      maxDistance: 30,
      queryType: RaycastQueryType.RQT_QUERY_ALL,
      direction: Vector3.Forward(),
    }
)

Collision layers #

It’s a good practice to only check for collisions against entities that are relevant, to make the scene more performant. The collisionMask field allows to to list only specific collision layers, which can include the physics layer (that blocks player movement), the pointer layer (which is used for pointer events), and 8 custom layers that you can assign freely to whatever your needs are. See collision layers . By default, all layers are detected.

By default, the collisionMask field is set to respond to both the layers ColliderLayer.CL_POINTER and ColliderLayer.CL_PHYSICS. You can change this value to list only one of those, or to include custom layers. Use the | separator to list multiple options.

  raycastSystem.registerLocalDirectionRaycast(
    myEntity,
    (raycastResult) => {
      log(raycastResult.hits)
    },
    {
      collisionMask: ColliderLayer.CL_CUSTOM1 | ColliderLayer.CL_CUSTOM3 | ColliderLayer.CL_POINTER,
      maxDistance: 30,
      queryType: RaycastQueryType.RQT_QUERY_ALL,
      direction: Vector3.Forward(),
    }
  )

Recurrent raycasting #

When using the functions of the raycastSystem, the default behavior is to create a single ray, that will query for collisions once. As an alternative, you can set the continuous field to true to run a query and the callback function on every tick of the game loop.

The following example will keep running the raycast query from this point onwards

  raycastSystem.registerLocalDirectionRaycast(
    myEntity,
    (raycastResult) => {
      log(raycastResult.hits)
    },
    {
      continuous: true,
      maxDistance: 30,
      queryType: RaycastQueryType.RQT_QUERY_ALL,
      direction: Vector3.Forward(),
    }
  )
📔 Note: The continuous property should be used with caution, as running a raycast query on every frame can be very expensive for performance.

When not needed anymore, remove any recurrent raycasts. To do so, you must use raycastSystem.removeRaycasterEntity.

raycastSystem.removeRaycasterEntity(myEntity)

When possible, use a system (or the interval function in the Utils library) to run raycast queries at a regular more sparse interval, like just once a second, or every fifth of a second.

// custom components
const CubeOscilator = engine.defineComponent(
  "CubeOscilator",
  {
    t: Schemas.Float
  }
)

const TimerComponent = engine.defineComponent(
  "TimerComponent",
  {
    t: Schemas.Float
  }
)

const RAY_INTERVAL = 0.1

// check rays
engine.addSystem((dt) => {
  for (const [entity] of engine.getEntitiesWith(TimerComponent)) {
    const timer = TimerComponent.getMutable(entity)
    timer.t += dt

    if (timer.t > RAY_INTERVAL) {
      	timer.t = 0
	raycastSystem.registerGlobalDirectionRaycast(
	  entity,
	  (raycastResult) => {
	    log(raycastResult.hits)
	  },
	  {
	    maxDistance: 16,
	    queryType: RaycastQueryType.RQT_HIT_FIRST,
	    direction: Vector3.Forward(),
	  }
	)
    }
  }
})

TimerComponent.create(engine.addEntity())


// oscillating cube system
engine.addSystem((dt) => {
  for (const [entity, cube] of engine.getEntitiesWith(
    CubeOscilator,
    Transform
  )) {
    CubeOscilator.getMutable(entity).t += dt
    Transform.getMutable(entity).position.y = 2 + Math.cos(cube.t)
  }
})

// create cube
const cubeEntity = engine.addEntity()
Transform.create(cubeEntity, { position: { x:8, y:1, z:8 } })
CubeOscilator.create(cubeEntity)
MeshRenderer.setBox(cubeEntity)
MeshCollider.setBox(cubeEntity)

The example above runs a recurring raycast every 0.1 seconds. It uses a timer component and a system’s dt property to time these evenly. It also includes a cube that oscillates up and down, controlled by another system, to move in and out of the path of the ray.

💡 Tip: Use the interval function in the SDK Utils library for a simpler way to run a function at a fixed interval.

Collide with the player #

You can’t directly hit the player’s avatar or those of other players with a ray, but what you can do as a workaround is position an invisible entity occupying the same space as a player using the AvatarAttach component , and check collisions with that cube.

Advanced syntax #

Create a raycast component #

A Raycast component describes the invisible ray that is used to query for intersecting entities. The ray is traced starting at the entity’s position, as defined by the Transform component and affected by that of any parent entities. The direction can be defined in various ways,

Rays are defined using the following data:

  • direction: An object that contains a $case field to select the type of direction, and an additional field that will depend on this type, that determines this direction. The following are the accepted values for $case:
    • LOCAL_DIRECTION: A direction relative to the forward-facing direction of the entity, affected also by the transformation of any parent entities. This is useful to detect obstacles in front of vehicles honoring their heading. The rotation is defined by the localDirection field, as a Vector3 that describes a rotation.
    • GLOBAL_DIRECTION: Ignores the entity’s rotation, and faces a direction as if the entity’s rotation was 0. This is useful to i.e. always point down. The rotation is defined by the globalDirection field, as a Vector3 that describes a rotation.
    • GLOBAL_TARGET: Traces a line between the entity’s position and a target global position in the scene. It ignores the entity’s rotation. Useful to create tower defense games, each tower’s turret can point to a pin-pointed coordinate in space. The target is defined by the globalTarget field, as a Vector3 that describes the global position.
    • TARGET_ENTITY: Traces a line between the entity’s position and the position of a second target entity. It ignores the rotation of either entities. The target is defined by the targetEntity field, holding a reference to the entity.
  • maxDistance: number to set the length with which this ray will be traced.
  • queryType: RaycastQueryType enum value, to define if the ray will return all hit entities or just the first. The following options are available:
    • RaycastQueryType.RQT_QUERY_ALL: only returns the first hit entity, starting from the origin point.
    • RaycastQueryType.RQT_HIT_FIRST: returns all hit entities, from the origin through to the max distance of the ray.
  • collisionMask: Only detect collisions with certain collision layers. Use this together with a custom collision layer, or to only detect the physics or pointer events layer. See collision layers . By default, all layers are detected.
  • originOffset: Instead of starting the raycast from the entity’s origin position, add an offset to start the query from a relative position. You can for example use a small offset to prevent the ray colliding against the entity’s own 3D model.
  • continuous: If true, will keep running a raycast query on every frame. If false, the ray will only be used on the current frame. By default this value is false.
📔 Note: The continuous property should be used with caution, as running a raycast query on every frame can be very expensive for performance. When possible, use a system (or the interval function in the Utils library) to run raycast queries at a regular more sparse interval, see recurrent raycasting .

The following example uses a global rotation to determine the direction, and only returns the first entity that is hit on the frame that the ray is sent.

const entity1 = engine.addEntity()

Transform.create(entity1, {
  position: Vector3.create(8, 1, 0)
})

Raycast.createOrReplace(entity1, {
  direction: {
    $case: "globalDirection",
    globalDirection: Vector3.create(0, 0, 1)
  }	
  maxDistance: 16,
  queryType: RaycastQueryType.RQT_HIT_FIRST
})

The example below launches a ray in the forward-facing direction of the entity, returning only the first item hit. It does so continuously. It also includes a minor offset of 0.5 to prevent the ray from hitting the entity’s own collider.

const entity1 = engine.addEntity()

Transform.create(entity1, {
  position: Vector3.create(8, 1, 0)
})

Raycast.createOrReplace(entity1, {
  direction: {
    $case: "localDirection",
    localDirection: Vector3.Forward()
  }	
  maxDistance: 16,
  queryType: RaycastQueryType.RQT_HIT_FIRST,
  originOffset: Vector3.create(0.5, 0, 0),
  continuous: true
})

This example traces a ray between two entities. It returns all entities that are hit in between.

const entity1 = engine.addEntity()

Transform.create(entity1, {
  position: Vector3.create(8, 1, 0)
})

const entity2 = engine.addEntity()

Transform.create(entity2, {
  position: Vector3.create(0, 1, 8)
})

Raycast.createOrReplace(entity1, {
  direction: {
    $case: "targetEntity",
    targetEntity: entity2
  }	
  maxDistance: 16,
  queryType: RaycastQueryType.RQT_QUERY_ALL
})

Raycast results component #

📔 Note: The easiest way to deal with raycast results is to use raycastEventSystem, and register a callback function as part of the same statement that creates the ray. TheRaycastResult component is used internally by that that interface, but also exposed to enable more advanced custom logic.

After creating a Raycast component, the entity that this component is added to will have a RaycastResult component. This component includes information about any hits of the ray. Set up a system to check for this data.

The RaycastResult component contains the following data:

  • globalOrigin: The position where the ray was originated, relative to the scene.
  • direction: The global direction that the ray was pointing, as a Vector3.
  • hits: An array with one object for each entity that was hit. If there were no hit entities, this array is empty. If the raycast used RaycastQueryType.RQT_HIT_FIRST, this array will only contain one object.

Each object in the hits array includes:

  • entityId: Id number of the entity that was hit by the ray.
  • meshName: String with the internal name of the specific mesh in the 3D model that was hit. This is useful when a 3D model is composed of multiple meshes.
  • position: Vector3 for the position where the ray intersected with the hit entity (relative to the scene)
  • length: Length of the ray from its origin to the position where the hit against the entity occurred.
  • normalHit: Quaternion for the angle of the normal of the hit in world space.
  • globalOrigin: Vector3 for the position where the ray originates (relative to the scene)
  • direction: The global direction that the ray was pointing, as a Vector3.

The example below shows how you can access results from an individual entity using a system:


const rayEntity = engine.addEntity()

Transform.create(rayEntity, {
  position: Vector3.create(8, 1, 0)
})

// return all entities
Raycast.createOrReplace(rayEntity, {
  direction: {
    $case: "globalDirection",
    globalDirection: Vector3.create(0, 0, 1)
  }	
  maxDistance: 16,
  queryType: RaycastQueryType.RQT_QUERY_ALL
})

engine.addSystem(() => {
  const rayResult = RaycastResult.get(rayEntity)
  console.log(rayResult.hits)
})

The next example shows how you can access RaycastResult components from all entities in the scene, using a component query .

engine.addSystem(() => {
  for (const [_, result] of engine.getEntitiesWith(RaycastResult)) {
    console.log(result.hits)
  }
})
📔 Note: The results of a raycast do not arrive on the same tick of the game loop that you created the raycast. The results may take one or multiple ticks to arrive.

In a scene where you use multiple kinds of rays for different purposes (like for path finding, line-of-sight checking, projectile tracing, etc), you might want to use different collision layers , to avoid calculating irrelevant collisions.