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0.5.41 • Public • Published

A binary schema-based serialization algorithm.
Although it was born to be used on Colyseus, this library can be used as standalone.

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Decoders currently available for JavaScript, LUA, C#, C++ and Haxe.

Defining Schema

As Colyseus is written in TypeScript, the schema is defined as type annotations inside the state class. Additional server logic may be added to that class, but client-side generated (not implemented) files will consider only the schema itself.

import { Schema, type, ArraySchema, MapSchema } from '@colyseus/schema';

export class Player extends Schema {
  name: string;

  x: number;

  y: number;

export class State extends Schema {
  fieldString: string;

  @type('number') // varint
  fieldNumber: number;

  player: Player;

  @type([ Player ])
  arrayOfPlayers: ArraySchema<Player>;

  @type({ map: Player })
  mapOfPlayers: MapSchema<Player>;

See example.

Supported types

Primitive Types

Type Description Limitation
string utf8 strings maximum byte size of 4294967295
number auto-detects int or float type. (extra byte on output) 0 to 18446744073709551615
boolean true or false 0 or 1
int8 signed 8-bit integer -128 to 127
uint8 unsigned 8-bit integer 0 to 255
int16 signed 16-bit integer -32768 to 32767
uint16 unsigned 16-bit integer 0 to 65535
int32 signed 32-bit integer -2147483648 to 2147483647
uint32 unsigned 32-bit integer 0 to 4294967295
int64 signed 64-bit integer -9223372036854775808 to 9223372036854775807
uint64 unsigned 64-bit integer 0 to 18446744073709551615
float32 single-precision floating-point number -3.40282347e+38 to 3.40282347e+38
float64 double-precision floating-point number -1.7976931348623157e+308 to 1.7976931348623157e+308


Primitive types (string, number, boolean, etc)

name: string;

name: number;

Custom Schema type

player: Player;

Array of custom Schema type

@type([ Player ])
arrayOfPlayers: ArraySchema<Player>;

Array of a primitive type

You can't mix types inside arrays.

@type([ "number" ])
arrayOfNumbers: ArraySchema<number>;

@type([ "string" ])
arrayOfStrings: ArraySchema<string>;

Map of custom Schema type

@type({ map: Player })
mapOfPlayers: MapSchema<Player>;

Map of a primitive type

You can't mix types inside maps.

@type({ map: "number" })
mapOfNumbers: MapSchema<number>;

@type({ map: "string" })
mapOfStrings: MapSchema<string>;

Backwards/forwards compability

Backwards/fowards compatibility is possible by declaring new fields at the end of existing structures, and earlier declarations to not be removed, but be marked @deprecated() when needed.

This is particularly useful for native-compiled targets, such as C#, C++, Haxe, etc - where the client-side can potentially not have the most up-to-date version of the schema definitions.


The Schema definitions can encode itself through Reflection. You can have the definition implementation in the server-side, and just send the encoded reflection to the client-side, for example:

import { Schema, type, Reflection } from "@colyseus/schema";

class MyState extends Schema {
  currentTurn: string;

  // more definitions relating to more Schema types.

// send `encodedStateSchema` across the network
const encodedStateSchema = Reflection.encode(new MyState());

// instantiate `MyState` in the client-side, without having its definition:
const myState = Reflection.decode(encodedStateSchema);

Planned feature: Data filters (not supported atm)

On the example below, we are filtering entities which are close to the player entity.

import { Schema, type, filter } from "@colyseus/schema";

export class State extends Schema {
  @filter(function(this: State, client: any, value: Entity) {
    const currentPlayer = this.entities[client.sessionId]

    var a = value.x - currentPlayer.x;
    var b = value.y - currentPlayer.y;

    return (Math.sqrt(a * a + b * b)) <= 10;

  @type({ map: Entity })
  entities = new MapSchema<Entity>();

Limitations and best practices

  • NaN or null numbers are encoded as 0
  • null strings are encoded as ""
  • Infinity numbers are encoded as Number.MAX_SAFE_INTEGER
  • Multi-dimensional arrays are not supported.
  • Items inside Arrays and Maps must be all instance of the same type.
  • @colyseus/schema encodes only field values in the specified order.
    • Both encoder (server) and decoder (client) must have same schema definition.
    • The order of the fields must be the same.
  • Avoid manipulating indexes of an array. This result in at least 2 extra bytes for each index change. Example: If you have an array of 20 items, and remove the first item (through shift()) this means 38 extra bytes to be serialized.
  • Avoid moving keys of maps. As of arrays, it adds 2 extra bytes per key move.

Decoding / Listening for changes

TODO: describe how changes will arrive on array and map types

import { DataChange } from "@colyseus/schema";
import { State } from "./YourStateDefinition";

const decodedState = new State();
decodedState.onChange = function(changes: DataChange[]) {
  assert.equal(changes.length, 1);
  assert.equal(changes[0].field, "fieldNumber");
  assert.equal(changes[0].value, 50);
  assert.equal(changes[0].previousValue, undefined);

Generating client-side schema files (for strictly typed languages)

If you're using JavaScript or LUA, there's no need to bother about this. Interpreted programming languages are able to re-build the Schema locally through the use of Reflection.

You can generate the client-side schema files based on the TypeScript schema definitions automatically.

# C#/Unity
schema-codegen ./schemas/State.ts --output ./unity-project/ --csharp

# C/C++
schema-codegen ./schemas/State.ts --output ./cpp-project/ --cpp

# Haxe
schema-codegen ./schemas/State.ts --output ./haxe-project/ --haxe


Scenario @colyseus/schema msgpack + fossil-delta
Initial state size (100 entities) 2671 3283
Updating x/y of 1 entity after initial state 9 26
Updating x/y of 50 entities after initial state 342 684
Updating x/y of 100 entities after initial state 668 1529

Decoder implementations

Decoders for each target language are located at /decoders/. They have no third party dependencies.


Initial thoghts/assumptions, for Colyseus:

  • little to no bottleneck for detecting state changes.
  • have a schema definition on both server and client
  • better experience on staticaly-typed languages (C#, C++)
  • mutations should be cheap.

Practical Colyseus issues this should solve:

  • Avoid decoding large objects that haven't been patched
  • Allow to send different patches for each client
  • Better developer experience on statically-typed languages




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