Variables, Data Types, & Scopes
Updated 355 Days AgoPublic


Variables are used to store data, and are declared using the var keyword. Each variable in zilch has a name, a type, and a value which must be declared within a class using the following syntax.

var Name : Type = value;

Variable Instantiation with Initialization
var Greeting : String = "Hello";
var Sum : Real = 1 + 2;
var Up : Real3 = Real3(0,1,0);

var is the keyword used to indicate that the statement on this line declares a variable. Greeting is the name of the first variable, an identifier used to reference the String type value "Hello".

Both Greeting and Sum follow the following format: var Name : Type = "Value";.

varKeyword used to indicate the statement declares a variable.
NameName of the variable.
:Delimiter indicating the next identifier in the line is the type of the variable being declared.
TypeType of the variable being declared.
=Assignment operator used to initialize the variable to a value.
"Value"Value for the variable to be initialized to.
;Delimiter indicating the end of the statement.
NOTE: Identifier names must be alphanumeric and may include underscores. They cannot start with a number, and no other symbols are allowed. Remember to choose identifier names that don't clash with the Keywords or Zilch Base Types.

Depending on the context, or Scope, the required syntax for instantiating and initializing a variable can vary. The codeblock above will only compile if placed at the scope of a class or struct.

Literal Types: Literal values are values explicitly defined by the user in script. 1 + 2 is an example of two literal values that evaluate to the non-literal value 3. Below is a table of more literal values and their associated Zilch Base Types .
Literal Value(s)Type
1, 2, etc.Integer
1d, 2d, etc.DoubleInteger
1.0, 2.0, etc.Real
1.0d, 1.0d, etc.DoubleReal
"Hello", "Goodbye", etc.String


A scope is a region in which certain elements of the language, such as variables and functions, are defined. Any scope can contain multiple nested scopes. A real-life example of scope could be a building and the rooms inside it. Whatever is in the scope of a room is also in, but not at, the scope of the building, because the room's scope exists inside the scope of the building. In Zilch, the three most common levels of scope are global, object, and block.

Exmple code block with highlighted scopes

Global Scope

Everything in script exists in the global scope; however, not everything is created at the global scope. Libraries such as Zero and Math exist at the global scope and are therefore accessible from any scope in script. The Zero and Math libraries are objects defined at the global scope. Classes and Structs are the only Zilch constructs that can be defined at the global scope.

Global Scope
var R1 : Real; //Error, can not declare variables at the global scope

class MyClass : ZilchComponent //We can declare definitions of objects such as classes at the global scope

Notice in this example that the attempted instantiation of a variable at the global scope will throw an exception.

Object Scope

Classes and Structs define their own scope and are one of the few constructs that exist at the Global Scope. Variables defined at the object scope are called member variables and will exist as long as the object exists.

Object Scope
class MyClass
  var Pi : Real = Math.Pi; //compiles
  var Theta : Real; // compiles
  var A = 4.0; //compiles
  var B = -5.0; //does not compile
  var C = PerspectiveMode.Orthographic; //does not compile

Notice in the example above that Math in the global scope is accessed from the class scope while initializing MyClass.Pi.

Implicit Initialization

Notice above that MyClass.Theta is not given an explicit initial value. This means that implicit initialization will take place, assigning Theta an initial value of the default type value of the type Real , which in this case is 0. Implicit initialization of a variable is only possible when defining a member variable. The final restriction for member variables is that they must begin with an upper case letter.

Inferred Typing

In the code block above MyClass.A is not given an explcit type. In this situation the type Real is inferred from the the type of its initialization value 4.0. Only literal, type casted, or manually constructed values may be use for inferred typing when initializing a member variable. Statements such as var B = -5.0; will not compile because they contain an expression.

NOTE: You can not use implicit initialization and inferred typing on the same variable.

Block Scope

Functions, conditionals, and loops must have their scopes defined within an object scope. Variables defined within a block scope only exist until the scope is finished being executed. Variables defined within a block scope are called local variables.

NOTE: Local variables can be implicitly initialized and have their types inferred just as member variables can.

The Scope Operator

In addition to to logical constructs defining scope, Zilch allows the user to define arbitrary scopes using the scope keyword.

Block Scope
class MyClass
  var M1 : Real = 1.0;
  function MyFunction()
    var r1 = this.M1;
      var r2 = r1;
    var r3 = r1;
    r3 = r2; //ERROR

In the above example begins with var r1 = this.M1; and then demonstrates the use of the scope keyword.

Inside the inner block scope is the line var r2 = r1;. Because r1 is declared in an outer scope it can be used to initialize r2.

The line var r3 = r1; follows the closing } of the inner block scope. Because r1 was declared at the same scope as r3, it can be used as r3's initialization value. However, the next line, r3 = r2;, will result in an error. r2 was declared in the inner block scope. When that scope closes, r2 is destroyed. As a result, r2 is no longer a valid variable, and so it cannot be used to initialize r3.

Data Lifetimes: It should be noted that when most variables go out of the scope they are declared in they stop existing. This is true for value types such as Real and Structs. However, if a reference type such as a constructed Class instance still has a valid reference being held outside of the instantiation scope it will remain alive in memory.

Caching Variables

Caching accessed data into locally scoped variables is a common practice that can improve the efficiency, readability, and flexibility of code. Often users may find themselves needing a value that will be used multiple times throughout the scope it is calculated/accessed in.

With Variable Caching
class Intercept : ZilchComponent
  [Dependency] var RigidBody : RigidBody;
  var PlayerCogPath : CogPath = CogPath();
  var Velocity : Real = 5.0;
  var MinDistance : Real = 5.0;
  var PredictionTime : Real = 1.0;
  function Initialize(init : CogInitializer)
    this.Owner.RigidBody.DynamicState = RigidBodyDynamicState.Kinematic;
    Zero.Connect(this.Space, Events.LogicUpdate, this.OnLogicUpdate);

  function OnLogicUpdate(event : UpdateEvent)
    var playerCog = this.PlayerCogPath.Cog;
    var playerPos = playerCog.Transform.Translation;
    var myPos = this.Owner.Transform.Translation;
    var distance = Math.Distance(myPos, playerPos);
    if(distance <= this.MinDistance)
      var playerVelocity = playerCog.RigidBody.Velocity;
      var predictedPos = playerPos + (playerVelocity * this.PredictionTime);
      var myMoveDir = Math.Normalize(predictedPos - myPos);
      var newPos = myPos + (myMoveDir * this.Velocity * event.Dt);
      this.Owner.Transform.Translation = newPos;

In the above example playerCog, playerPos, and myPos are all examples of caching accessed values to local variables. These pieces of data are needed multiple times in calculations made later in the OnLogicUpdate function. By caching these values, not only does writing and reading the calculations become easier, it reduces the number of member data accesses that are necessary via the . operator.

Intercept.OnLogicUpdate No Caching
function OnLogicUpdate(event : UpdateEvent)
  if(Math.Distance(this.Owner.Transform.Translation, this.PlayerCogPath.Cog.Transform.Translation) <= this.MinDistance)
    this.Owner.Transform.Translation = this.Owner.Transform.Translation + (Math.Normalize(this.PlayerCogPath.Cog.Transform.Translation + (this.PlayerCogPath.Cog.RigidBody.Velocity * this.PredictionTime) - this.Owner.Transform.Translation) * this.Velocity * event.Dt);

This example implements the exact same behavior as the previous OnLogicUdpate function, but does not cache any variables locally. As can be seen the line count has been reduced, but these few lines are much harder to interpret and contain many duplicate member access operations. While this may seems like a small issue, it is one that may add up rather quickly over time.

Related Materials



Code Reference

Zilch Base Types



Last Author
Last Edited
Jan 31 2018, 11:40 AM