Asynchronous code

Overview

Most of the code in your scene runs synchronously using a single thread. That means that commands are executed sequentially line by line. Each command must first wait for the previous command to finish executing before it can start.

Even the update() functions in your scene’s systems are executed one by one, following a priority order.

Running code synchronously ensures consistency, as you can always be sure you’ll know the order in which the commands in your code run.

On the other hand, your scene needs to be updated many times per second, building the next frame. If a part of your code takes too long to respond, then the whole main thread is stuck and this results in lagging frame rates.

That’s why, in some cases you want some commands to run asynchronously. This means that you can start off a task in a new thread, and meanwhile the main thread can keep running over the the next lines of code.

This is especially useful for tasks that rely on external services that could take time to respond, as you don’t want that idle time waiting for that response to block other tasks.

For example:

  • When playing a sound file
  • When retrieving data from a REST API
  • When performing a transaction on the blockchain

Note: Keep in mind that several frames of your scene might be rendered before the task finishes executing. Make sure your scene’s code is flexible enough to handle the in-between scenarios while the asynchronous task is being completed.

Run an async function

Mark any function as async so that it runs on a separate thread from the scene’s main thread every time that it’s called.

// declare function
async function myAsyncTask(){
  // run async steps
}

// call function
myAsyncTask()

// rest of the code keeps being executed

The executeTask function

The executeTask function executes a lambda function asynchronously, in a separate thread from the scene’s main thread.

executeTask(async () => {
  // run async steps
})

// rest of the code keeps being executed

OnPointerDown functions

You can add an OnPointerDown component to any entity to trigger an asynchronous lambda function every time that entity is clicked.

myEntity.addComponent(
  new OnPointerDown((e) => {
    log("clicked on the entity", e)
  })
)

Subscribe a listener

Another way to run asynchronous code is to instance an event listener. Event listeners trigger the running of an asynchronous lambda function every time that a given event occurs.

Input.instance.subscribe("BUTTON_DOWN", (e) => {
  log("pointerUp works", e)
})

The example above runs a function every time that the button A is pressed down.

The await statement

An await statement forces the execution to wait for a response before moving over to the next line of code. await statements can only be used inside an async block of code.

// declare function
async function myAsyncTask(){
  try {
    let response = await fetch(callUrl)
    let json = await response.json()
    log(json)
  } catch {
    log("failed to reach the URL")
  }
}

// call function
myAsyncTask()

// Rest of the code keeps being executed

The example above executes a function that includes a fetch() operation to retrieve data from an external API. The fetch() operation is asynchronous, as we can’t predict how long the server will take to respond. However, the next line needs the output of this operation to be ready before we can parse it as a json. The await statement here ensures that the next line will only run once that operation has returned a value. Similarly, the response.json() function is also asynchronous, but the next line needs the json to be parsed before it can log it. The second await statement forces the next line to only be called once the parsing of the json is finished, however long it takes.