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Harness for pysdl2

These are a set of classes to make easier to use pysdl2.

This is a work in progress so use it at your own risk!


  • Python 3 (Python 2.7.x may work, but is not a priority!)
  • pysdl2
  • SDL2 and SDL2_Mixer installed in your system
  • Optionally SDL2_Image (otherwise only uncompressed BMP images are supported)


The easiest way to install Harness is using pip:

$ pip install pysdl2-harness

How does it looks like?

It is inspired by pyglet and specially focused on 2D games.


#!/usr/bin/env python

from harness import Harness

game = Harness(width=320, height=240, zoom=3)

title = game.load_resource("title.bmp")

def draw(renderer):
    renderer.draw(title, 10, 10)

def update(dt):
    if game.keys[game.KEY_ESCAPE]:


See harness module docstrings for a complete list of classes and methods.

There's an example game in and remember that you can still use pysdl2 directly if you need to!


Harness tries to provide a clean and simple interface to the following components:

  1. The game loop
  2. Resource management
  3. Controls
  4. Audio

1. The game loop

Harness implements a game loop with a fixed frame rate determined by the vsync of the screen (usually 60 FPS), with support for fixed updates for the game logic (by default at 80 times per second).

The usual workflow is:

  1. Create a Harness object (we'll call it game in the examples).
  2. Load resources.
  3. Declare the draw and update functions.
  4. Run the loop() method in your Harness instance.

The game loop should be called once and it will run until the game is quitted (eg, using quit() method).

Draw functions can be defined with the draw decorator, and update functions with the update decorator.

The draw functions should expect a "renderer" parameter that allows to draw textures, bitmap fonts, etc.


game = Harness()

tex = game.load_resource("bitmap.bmp")

def draw(renderer):


The update function should expect a "dt" parameter that provides the delta time (time elapsed between updates); in this case fixed at Harness.UFPS_DT (1 / UFPS).


game = Harness()

def update(dt):
    print("%s elapsed since last update" % dt)


Several draw and update functions can be defined and they will be run in the same order they were defined.

The game instance can be accessed from the update function to test for key states, quit the game, etc.

The method quit() can be used to exit the game loop.


game = Harness()

def update(dt):

    if game.keys[game.KEY_ESCAPE]:
        # in case we don't want to complete the update


A draw or update function can be removed from the game loop with remove_handler() method, passing the function to be removed as parameter.


game = Harness()
debug = False

def update_debug(dt):

def update(dt):
    global debug

    if game.keys[game.KEY_D]:
        print("D was pressed!")
        if debug:
            # remove the update_debug update function
            # add a new update function
        debug = not debug
        # remove the key press once processed
        game.keys[game.KEY_D] = False

    if game.keys[game.KEY_ESCAPE]:


2. Loading resources

Resources can loaded with load_resource() method. This method allows loading resources searching for them in the paths specified in the resource_path list.

By default the files will be searched for in the "data" subdirectory at the same level as the script running the game.

Depending on the resource some extra libraries may be required in the system (eg, SDL_Image).

Resources not in use can be freed using free_resources() method, but be careful to not use any reference to the resource once it has been released.

Harness will free all resources after exiting the game loop.

2.1 Bitmap fonts

The method load_bitmap_font() can be used to load a image that will be used to draw text with renderer.draw_text(). Harness will map a text string into a fixed width and height part of the font image.


game = Harness()

font = game.load_bitmap_font("font.png", width=6, height=10)

def draw(renderer):
    renderer.draw_text(font, 10, 10, "This is a text!")


Fonts can be freed with free_resources().

3. Controls

The state of the keys is exposed in keys dictionary and it gets updated in each game loop iteration.

In Harness.KEY_* there are constants to test in the keys dictionary. If a key is being pressed, the value in the dictionary will be True.


game = Harness()

def update(dt):

    if game.keys[game.KEY_ESCAPE]:


3.1 Game controllers

Game controllers can be mapped into key states so the game can access to the controller like the player was using the keyboard.

The default mapping is:

  • DPad up: up arrow key
  • DPad down: down arrow key
  • DPad left: left arrow key
  • DPad right: right arrow key
  • Button A: key c
  • Button B: key v
  • Start button: key s
  • Back button: escape key

Harness will manage the controller automatically in the game loop updating the keys dictionary as needed.

has_controllers property can be checked to see if any game controller was detected. Harness includes a game controller database with definitions for most common devices, and SDL2 functions can be used to add more. If there's no information about a given controller, it will be silently ignored.

In order to use a controller, the controllers property can be accessed to activate any detected controller.


game = Harness()

# enumerate all detected controllers
for controller in game.controllers:

Once the controller has been activated, it can be deactivated using close() controller method.

The key mapping can be changed using the set_mapping() method on the controller.


game = Harness()

if game.has_controllers:
    # first controller
    controller = game.controllers[0]

    # remap button a to key a

The valid parameters are: up, down, left, right, a, b, start and back. Use a string defining the key (see Harness.KEY_*).

The use of a controller won't disable the keyboard. If that is required, the game controllers can be accessed using SDL2 functions directly.

4. Audio

The method play() can be used to play a sample loaded with load_resource(). Optionally a loops parameter can be provided stating how many times the sample will be repeated (use -1 for an infinite loop).

By default .ogg and .wav files are supported (in theory it could load any format supported by SDL_Mixer but Harness will only identify files with the aforementioned extensions).

play() returns the channel number used to play the sample and that number can be used to muted the channel with stop_playback() (if a channel number s not provided, it will stop all channels).

By default Harness.AUDIO_CHANNELS channels are allocated (6 channels).

Using OOP

Harness can be used in a class to take advantage of object oriented programming and avoid the use of global variables. Just use composition and register the update and draw methods with update() and draw() instead of using the decorators:


from harness import Harness

class MyGame(object):

    def __init__(self):
        self.harness = Harness()

        # register update and draw methods

        # load some resources
        self.image = self.harness.load_resource("image.png")

    def run(self):

    def update(self, dt):
        if self.harness.keys[self.harness.KEY_ESCAPE]:

    def draw(self, renderer):

if __name__ == "__main__":
    game = MyGame()


Author and Contributors

Juan J. Martinez <>

This is free software under MIT license terms.


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Some simple classes to make working with pysdl2 easier








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