Arma 3 Scheduler and our Practices

1. Terminology

1.1 Frame

A single rendered frame of Arma 3 or a single simulation frame for dedicated servers and headless clients.

1.2 Scheduled Environment

Functions and scripts run in the scheduled environment when they are executed by one of the following:

  • spawn
  • execVM
  • call from a function running in scheduled environment
  • functions (not commands) executed with remoteExec
  • scripts called from addAction
  • CfgFunctions postInit

They can be suspended by waitUntil, sleep or uiSleep. To check if a function runs in the scheduled environment you can use canSuspend.

1.3 Unscheduled Environment

Code running in the unscheduled environment uses linear execution, that means it will always run from start to finish within one frame, without any pauses. The following will always be executed in the unscheduled environment:

  • Event Handlers
  • CBA Per Frame Handlers (PFHs)
  • CBA Extended Event Handlers (XEHs)
  • functions called with CBA_fnc_directCall
  • call from a function running in unscheduled environment
  • functions and commands executed with remoteExecCall

2. What is the scheduler and why do I care?

The Arma 3 script scheduler basically gives a fair-share execution to all running scripts, FSMs, and SQS files running on any given client or server at any given time. See the Biki article for a in-depth explanation of this. What this basically means though, is that all scripts get a fair share; this also means scheduled execution is drastically affected by other mods that use scheduled execution. For example, if 2 different spawn’s are running in a tight loop of while {true} do {...};, they will both get exactly 50% of the scheduling time.

With the way mission makers and mod makers generally use spawn/execVM, this means you’re actually getting drastically less execution time in the scheduled environment than you might think. This leads to visible delay issues all the way up to massive delay on execution. You can easily test and prove this by looping spawns and watching the execution times extend.

What does this all mean?

It means we need to live outside of the spawn execution as much as possible. There are 2 places that the majority of our functionality should stem from, which means that as long as we strictly always perform calls between functions, we are executing within the same frame. If our execution is either stemming from the Per Frame Handlers, or any default Extended Event Handlers, than we can guarantee execution within a single frame. ANY OTHER CIRCUMSTANCE IS NOT GUARANTEED.

The scheduler will also actually halt your script mid-execution, usually at the end of a given control block, and pause you to yield to other scripts. This can lead to drastically incorrect results when performing calculations and unexpected behaviours. For example, try the following code. Even though it doesn’t seem logical, it will show a hint.

myVar = true;
0 spawn {
    while {true} do {
        if (myVar) then {
            if (!myVar) then {
                hint "hi";
            };
        };
    };
};
0 spawn {
    while {true} do {
        myVar = !myVar;
    };
};

3 Design Patterns

Because we are attempting to always run to completion, execution occurs from 2 places: PFHs and event handlers. In both cases, we wish our code to run to completion. This takes a change in mind set for design to ensure you’re executing that way. In a nutshell though, this all distills down to the fact that you will always call other chunks of code; nothing will ever be spawned off. The only circumstance this really becomes a problem is for waiting or delay, however, thanks to some rather new CBA functions we can circumvent this issue.

3.1 Rules of thumb for unscheduled code design:

  • If you want to run code regularily in a loop, use a PFH. Make sure that PFH gets removed once it’s no more needed. Not every PFH needs to run with a delay of 0 (so every frame), but everything that’s directly seen by the user (visual feedback etc.) should run instantly.
  • If you want to run code on certain conditions, check if it triggers an event. If it does, make an event handler for it instead of constantly checking that condition.
  • If you run multiple functions on a condition you defined, consider creating a custom CBA event and add those functions as event handlers.
  • If there is no event available, you can use CBA_fnc_waitUntilAndExecute, which is the unscheduled equivalent for the waitUntil command - it even is “frame perfect” too!
  • If you need to wait a certain time, use CBA_fnc_waitAndExecute, which will execute your code unscheduled after a given time.

3.2 ACE3 General Rules

These rules follow from the rules of thumb above:

  • Always use call whenever possible. You should be calling functions chains exclusive and not be relying on spawn/execVM ever. All code should be a chain of execution which is traceable, and not triggered between separate threads.
  • waitUntil and sleep are banned. If you need to use them, use CBA_fnc_waitUntilAndExecute and CBA_fnc_waitAndExecute instead.
  • If you need to run code regularily, you should utilize a PFH. spawn/execVM are subject to the Arma 3 scheduler and as such, cannot be relied upon. In order to give your players a consistent gameplay experience, you need to have total control over how and when all of your code runs.
  • PFHs with a delay of 0 should be utilized at all possible times when the player can see the result of whatever the code is. This applies to missile guidance, bullets, wind, optics, interactive UI, HUDs, rendering and so on. Only if something is not directly visible for the player a larger delay can be used.

3.3 Code Examples

3.3.1 Per Frame Handler

See: https://github.com/CBATeam/CBA_A3/blob/master/addons/common/fnc_addPerFrameHandler.sqf for more details.

[{code} , delay, [params]] call CBA_fnc_addPerFrameHandler;

3.3.2 WaitAndExecute

See: https://github.com/CBATeam/CBA_A3/blob/master/addons/common/fnc_waitAndExecute.sqf for more details.

[{delayed code}, [params], delay] call CBA_fnc_waitAndExecute;

3.3.3 WaitUntilAndExecute

See: https://github.com/CBATeam/CBA_A3/blob/master/addons/common/fnc_waitUntilAndExecute.sqf for more details.

[{condition}, {code}, [params]] call CBA_fnc_waitUntilAndExecute;