1: The Lua Sources. 2: A C compiler - cc/gcc/g for Unix, and Visual C for Windows. Other compilers should under Windows, basically any C compiler - I will cover compiling under Windows at the end of the toturial. This tutorial will work under any OS which has a C compiler, and which Lua has compiled succesfully on. C is ranked 2nd while Lua is ranked 3rd. The most important reason people chose C is: Learning C forces you to grapple with the low-level workings of your computer (memory management, pointers, etc.) in ways that the other languages abstract away. Importantly, Lua does not require complex rewrites to be compatible with other programming languages. Lua can be used with primary programming languages like C, C, Java, C#, etc. And other scripting languages like Perl and Ruby, further extending its usability. Lua is simple in design yet provides powerful functionality.
- What to get?
- Basic Use of Lua
- A notch, a crank, knarc, ahctona!
- But wait! There's more amazing where that came from!
Lua allows us to easily add scripting to our game. It's a well known, widely used standard (it was used in Balders Gate). Once added it can process both compiled and uncompiled Lua scripts giving a good combination of flexibility and strength. The greatest advantage to Lua is how simply we can insert it into our C# programs. Well, hopefully now your convinced so let's get cracking.
What to get?
Unzip LuaInterface 1.3 (or later version that you may have been able to download). Put it somewhere safe such as in the Visual Studio directory or some place your unlikely to accidentally delete.
Now boot up visual studio. Create a new C# Console Project.
Now go to the Solution Explorer window.
(If you can't see it use this
and it should pop up!) Take your mouse over to the References icon and right click.
Choose add reference. This should all be pretty standard fare for starting a new project. We're just recovering the basics here in case you're reading this tutorial as a seperate chunk.
Carefully survey your options and then choose 'Browse'. Then browse to where you unzipped LUA and go into the bin folder ... and select LuaInterface.dll. My copy of this .dll file is at the following location
Once you have chosen this .dll file it will pop up in the the 'Selected Components' part of the window. Confirm the selection and we're ready to go. I'm sure there's a method of playing with Visual Studio where you can avoid the 'Browse' button all together and have the reference preloaded in, ready to select but after a few minutes fiddling I couldn't find it :(
Your game and your game players are going to need access to the Lua dll files. So you need to have them in project directory. My version of the console application executable that we're working on is currently located here:
junkVisual Studio ProjectsConsoleApplication3binDebug
Open up that directory. Also open up the directory of were you installed Lua. Go into the bin directory and copy across (to project directory):
Your working directory should end up looking a little like this:
That concludes setting up Lua to work with this project. Not too painful.
Basic Use of Lua
Let's write some code. We want to make a C# program that's interfaces with Lua and we want to do it soon, very soon indeed.
The above is our class skeleton. The only thing worth noting at the moment is that we're using the LuaInterface reference. We'll concentrate on the main method an make a small program that uses Lua.
Here we create a Lua interpreter. We can create as many as we wish and they will all be independant. But for now we'll only have one.
Next we create some global variables. Remember we're programming in a scripting language so we're creating Lua global variables not C# global variables. In actual use this 'programming' would be done ahead of time and then loaded in from a file. Curently we're doing it directly in the code just to get a feel of what's happening.
This creates two Lua global variables. One is called num the other is called str. Note that the variables both hold different types. This is a feature of Lua it is not a strongly typed language in fact it's dynamically typed. Variables can be anything (though Lua only has a few data types). But I don't want to get pulled in to a distracting explanation of how Lua works as a programming language quite just yet. First I'd quite like to get it hooked up to C#.
Now we made these Lua varaibles let's get C# to read them. Now as you really should know by now C# is a strongly typed language. So we need to cast the variables.
Note that we must cast to a double here. An int won't cut it as Lua is storing double information. Now we've read this information out from the Lua interpreter, next let's read it out to the screen to see if everything is agreeable.
Okay so far not very exciting but we're still only getting a feel of what's going on. So let's crank it up a notch next and do something cool.
A notch, a crank, knarc, ahctona!
Okay grip the arms of your chair tightly and get ready to script!
First let's create two functions we might like our brand new scripts to make use of.
Lua Vs C Sharp
Feel free to insert your own name instead of Dan or Thor. So now we have two cool functions bursting with game playing potential.
Let's hook them into Lua - so out main method will look like below:
This lets the Lua scripting language make calls to our two C# functions. Incredibly easy isn't it? So in the Lua language we just make calls to DanSays('with a nice string here') or ThorSays('with an equally nice string here') and they will call the C# equivalents!
The RegisterFunction function
The RegisterFunction's first argument is what you'd like to name the function in Lua. Here we chose the same name because it's so simple. But in future function registration we might want to make the Lua name more simple or descriptive than our C# name.
The second argument is the object where the method is stored. Note the word object. That's why we have to instantiate our Program program. So if we have a class called person 'Class Person' and it has a method talk then it allows us to do something like.
We can the register these
talk functions seperately.
The third parameter uses reflection - something I currently know nothing about. All I know is that's it's magic like pixey dust and elevators. It magically gets all the knowledge about the method - it's arguments and so forth. Then Lua can call it effectively. You have to pass in a string of the methods name and that's it. Great!
The DoString function
Add this to the end of our main method.
DoString executes a line of Lua code in string form. Wonderbar!
But wait! There's more amazing where that came from!
So we've got a pretty groovy scripting language all by doing relatively little.
But now let's arrange it into a bit more of a game like usefullness. Go to your working directory for this project. The place where you copied all those dll files (mine is: My DocumentsVisual Studio ProjectsConsoleApplication3binDebug).
Okay create a new directory all call it
Lua Vs C Sharp 3
Now in the scripts directory I've created a simple text file called 'Thursdays'
It has the following not-so-witty-banter.
Lua Vs C Sharp VsOkay. So in scriptsThursdays.txt with have some future-award-winning dialogue. It's written in Lua but only using custom functions designed by us because we're cool and groovy designers.
Back to El Code
Make your main method match mine pictured below:
This fine piece of programming hereafter known as 'ScriptRunner3000' will run any script we call Thursdays - without recompling - yes you heard me correctly - without recompiling!
Of course if we want to get really fancy we could write some code to enumerate all the files in scripts and then produce a menu allowing you to choose which you'd like to use. But this is much more of a proof of concept deal. Anyway the output:
Lua Vs C Sharp 2
Now the script can be tinkered with to our hearts extent and the exutable will show those changes without having to be run. Of course it's a lot more powerful than it is here. We can uses Lua's code constructs like loops and structures and all those niceities - wasn't putting a scripting engine in really simple? :o
Now you should brush up your Lua!
Lua is simple and powerful I just wanted to show persistancy of globals then maybe we'll end this tutorial here. But later come back to really really groovy things like coroutines.
If in Thursdays.txt we now include the line
name = 'rabbits'then the above code will outpt rabbits. See the scope isn't lost in the file which is super groovy and allows us to easily insert scripts into the game loop - yay!
Download the source code.
Lua Vs C Sharps
- LuaInterface: User’s Guide by Fabio Mascarenhas
- LUA 5.0 Reference Manual (avaliable from www.lua.org)