Arcade Performance Information

Here are some various notes on Arcade’s performance, and getting the most out of the library. I also make some notes on how performance compares against Pygame.

Drawing Stationary Sprites

Drawing the sprites in a single SpriteList class is a very fast operation. You can put almost as many sprites into a SpriteList as you want (I’ve had over 400,000) and still keep 60 fps.

This is great for huge maps, as you can draw a lot of tiles before worrying about optimization.

Pygame takes a lot longer to draw sprites, but it still can handle thousands of them before you notice a slowdown. For many applications it is still enough.


Figure 1: Drawing Stress Test

Figure 1 created was created by timing the drawing of:

Moving Sprites

The faster drawing speed of Arcade comes at a cost. It takes longer to move sprites in Arcade than Pygame.

Why? Arcade not only stores the sprite location in the Python object, it also stores the sprite location in a numpy data array managed by the SpriteList. This numpy array gets passed to the graphics card. Changing a numpy value in the array is much slower than changing a native Python value.

If a game has a large map made out of mostly unmoving tiles, then the faster drawing speed is great.

Hopefully we will soon find a way to improve moving sprite speed.


Figure 2: Moving Sprite Stress Test

Figure 2 created was timing the movement of:

Collision Detection

Pygame has fast collision detection as the rects are managed in C, and that part of Pygame compiles natively to the computer. The trade-off for not being pure Python is very fast collision detection, even if it is an O(n) operation.

Arcade is much slower, as you can see from the blue line below.

The way to speed collision detection in Arcade to use turn on spatial hashing. This can be done by including use_spatial_hash=True as a parameter when creating a SpriteList. Spatial hashing allows us to group the sprites so that we only check sprites that are nearby. For sprites that are spread out (like a map) we can do detection closer to O(1).

Unfortunately, it take longer to move a sprite in a SpriteList with spatial hashing enabled because the hash maps have to be updated. For applications like map walls, wanter, etc. it works great since their location rarely changes.

You can specify points of a polygon (and even draw them using the TileMap editor) for collision detection. Arcade first checks the spatial hash, then a rough calculation based on sprite radius, then by the containing rect, and finally checks the polygon with the earclip algorithm.


Figure 3: Stress test for collisions

Figure 3 created was created by: