Minimal sdl bindings for maximum fun
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node-sdl ( Simple DirectMedia Layer bindings for node.js )

0. Installation

Installation of the node-sdl package is straight-forward: first clone the package using git, then build the C++ portion of the package with the node-waf command.

This package depends on the SDL libraries being present on the target system. The following command was required to install these libraries on a "stock" Ubuntu 11.04 install:

    sudo apt-get install libsdl1.2-dev libsdl-image1.2-dev libsdl-ttf2.0-dev

Now that your library dependencies are satisfied, check out the source from github:

    git clone

Second, build the package:

    cd node-sdl
    node-waf configure build
You can test if the package was properly built by running one or more of the example programs:
    cd examples
    node img.js
## 1. Usage ### 1.1. Initialization and Shutdown Begin by requiring the node-sdl package and calling the init() function:
    var SDL = require( 'sdl' );
    SDL.init( SDL.INIT.VIDEO )
The init() function takes a numeric parameter telling the library what subsystems to initialize. The node-sdl package defines the following constants:
    SDL.INIT.TIMER - initializes timers (not currently supported)
    SDL.INIT.AUDIO - initialize audio subsystem (not currently supported)
    SDL.INIT.VIDEO - initialize video subsystem
    SDL.INIT.CDROM - initialize CD playback subsystem (not currently supported)
    SDL.INIT.JOYSTICK - initialize joystick support
    SDL.INIT.EVERYTHING - all of the above
    SDL.INIT.NOPARACHUTE - don't catch fatal signals

Two or more of these parameters may be selected by or-ing them together:


The QUIT event signals the closure of a SDL managed window, so adding a function that exits the application when it is received may be useful: 'QUIT', function( evt ) { process.exit( 0 ); } );

Exiting the application when the user presses Control-C or the Escape key can be achieved by adding a listener to the KEYDOWN event: 'KEYDOWN', function ( evt ) {
      if( ( ( evt.sym === 99 ) && ( evt.mod === 64 ) ) ||
          ( ( evt.sym === 27 ) && ( evt.mod === 0  ) ) ) {
        process.exit( 0 );
    } );
### 1.2. Video Functions To create a window under SDL control, use the setVideoMode() function to create a "surface".
    var screen = SDL.setVideoMode( 640, 480, 32, SDL.SURFACE.SWSURFACE );
The setVideoMode() function takes four parameters: surface width, surface height, bit depth and surface flags. The flags parameter selects options for the video buffer:
    SDL.SURFACE.SWSURFACE - video buffer created in system memory
    SDL.SURFACE.HWSURFACE - video buffer created in video memory
    SDL.SURFACE.ASYNCBLIT - enable async updates of display surface
    SDL.SURFACE.ANYFORMAT - don't emulate unavailable BPPs with a shadow surface
    SDL.SURFACE.HWPALETTE - give SDL exclusive palette access (not supported)
    SDL.SURFACE.DOUBLEBUF - enable hardware double buffering. (only works with
    SDL.SURFACE.FULLSCREEN - use fullscreen mode
    SDL.SURFACE.OPENGL    - create an OpenGL rendering context (not supported)
    SDL.SURFACE.RESIZABLE - create a resizable window
    SDL.SURFACE.HWACCEL   - use hardware accelerated blitter
    SDL.SURFACE.SRCCOLORKEY - use color key blitter
    SDL.SURFACE.RLEACCEL  - color key blitting is accelerated with RLE
    SDL.SURFACE.SRCALPHA  - surface blit uses alpha blending
    SDL.SURFACE.PREALLOC  - surface uses preallocated memory

Like other numeric constants, they may be combined with the or operator:

    var screen = SDL.setVideoMode( 640, 480, 32, SDL.SURFACE.HWSURFACE | SDL.SURFACE.HWACCEL );

The surface created with the setVideoMode() call represents the contents of the displayed window. It's common practice to create a buffer surface to hold video contents in preparation for drawing on the screen. To create a buffer, use the createRGBSurface() call.

    var surface = SDL.createRGBSurface( SDL.SURFACE.SWSURFACE, 24, 24 );

The first parameter describes the type of surface to create, and the remaining parameters are x and y sizes.

After you're done using a surface, you should free it. The freeSurface() function takes a surface (like one returned from the createRGBSurface() function above) and frees memory associated with it:

    SDL.freeSurface( surface );

The displayFormat() function copies a surface into a new surface suitable for blitting into the frame buffer. It takes a surface as it's first (and only) parameter and returns a new surface conformable with the system's frame buffer. This call is extremely useful in conjunction with the SDL.IMG.load() call:

    var tempSheet = SDL.IMG.load( __dirname + "/sprites.png" );
var sheet = SDL.displayFormat( tempSheet );
SDL.freeSurface( tempSheet );
SDL surfaces may have an Alpha value associated with them. This is a value from 0 to 255 and sets the transparency of the surface's contents when blitted into another surface (like the frame buffer).
Options to the setAlpha() function include:
    SDL.SURFACE.SRCALPHA - specifies that alpha blending should be used
    SLD.SURFACE.RLEACCEL - specifies that RLE acceleration should be used for blitting
You can set a specific color to be transparent (i.e. - the color key) using the setColorKey() function. After setting this value, when the surface's contents are blitted to another surface, pixels with the color key value won't be copied.
    SDL.setColorKey( sheet, SDL.SURFACE.SRCCOLORKEY, 0x01010100 );
The first parameter is the surface whose color key you're setting. The second is a set of flags that may be or'd together. The third is a 32 bit integer representing the value of the color key you want to use. Values for the flags include:
    SDL.SURFACE.SRCCOLORKEY - means you're setting the surface's color key
    SDL.SURFACE.RLEACCEL    - you want to enable RLE accleration
    0                       - means you want to clear the surface's color key

It can sometimes be tricky to get the precise color key value if you're using multiple surface geometries. Fortunately, you can use the mapRGB() function to return a color value, modified to account for a surface's color geometry. In other words, do this when you want to set the color key:

    var colorKey = [ 255, 0, 0 ]; // setting the color key to red
    SDL.setColorKey( sheet,
                     SDL.mapRGB( sheet.format,
                                 colorKey[2] ) );
To fill a rectangle with a particular color, use the fillRect() function.
    SDL.fillRect( surface, [0, 0, 24, 24], 0xFF8080AF );
To blit (copy) a portion of one surface into anotehr, use the blitSurface() function. It takes as it's parameters: the source surface, a rectangle describing the origin and extent of the pixels to be copied, the destination surface, and a point in the destination you're copying pixels to. So the following example copies an 8x16 rectangle from position (10,25) in the spriteSource surface into position (128,15) in the screen surface:
    SDL.blitSurface( spriteSource, [10, 25, 8, 16], screen, [128, 15] );
After making changes to a surface, you use the flip() function to instruct the system to make the changes apparent. In systems that support hardware double-buffering, this call "does the right thing" and waits for a vertical retrace to flip between video screens. On systems with a software surface, it simply makes sure that the contents of the surface are made visible. It's very useful to call this command after you make updates to the screen. For example:
    var screen = SDL.setVideoMode( 640, 480, 32, SDL.SURFACE.SWSURFACE );
    SDL.fillRect( surface, [0, 0, 24, 24], 0xFF8080AF );
    SDL.flip( screen );

1.3. Image Related Functions

This package uses a supplimentary image library intended to make it easy for node-sdl applications to load and use JPG, PNG or TIFF images. Before using Image functions, you should initalize them with the image init() function:

    SDL.IMG.init( 0 );

To load an image into memory, use the image load() function. It takes a file path as a parameter and returns a reference to it. The following line loads a PNG file called "foo.png" into the variable foo.

    var foo = SDL.IMG.load( __dirname + '/foo.png' );

The foo variable can now be used as a surface blit calls (see below.)

After you are finished using the image functions, be sure to use the image quit() function:


1.4. Joystick Functions

If you are developing an application that uses joysticks, you'll need to pass the SDL.INIT.JOYSTICK option along to the SDL.init() call:


Now that your app knows you want to use joysticks, you can detect the number of joysticks present with the numJoysticks() function. The following code checks to see if there's at least one joystick and complains if there's not:

    var numPlayers = SDL.numJoysticks();
    if( numPlayers < 1 ) {
        console.log( 'Blargh! At least one joystick is required!' );
        process.exit( 2 );
On systems with multiple joysticks, it might be useful to offer a player a selection of which joystick to use. The system assigns a human readable name for a joystick which the app can query with the joystickName() function. The following code prints out the name of each joystick:
    var stickCount = SDL.numJoysticks();

    for( var i = 0; i < stickCount; i ++ ) {
        console.log( 'joystick ' + i + ': ' + SDL.joystickName( i ) );

    // etc
Now you must explicitly open each joystick you want to receive inputs from. Do this with the joystickOpen() function. This function takes an integer as a parameter and represents the index of the joystick you want to open. Here is some code that opens joystick number zero:
    SDL.joystickOpen( 0 );
After the joystick is opened, it will start to generate events. You can register event handlers with the function. Joystick related events are described in the events section below. ### 1.5. Window Manager Functions node-sdl is capable of setting window manager related info with the SDL.WM.* functions. To set the title of a SDL window, use the setCaption() function. This fragment sets the window's title to "Window Title" and (if supported by your window manager) sets the name of the minimized icon to "Icon Title"
    SDL.WM.setCaption( 'Window Title', 'Icon Title' );
To set the application's icon, use the setIcon() function. It expects an image to be passed as it's parameter, so it's common practice to use the image load() function. The following example loads an icon from the file 'eight.png' and uses it as the app's icon:
    SDL.WM.setIcon( SDL.IMG.load( __dirname + '/eight.png' ) );
## 2. Events node-sdl uses javascript events to communicate certain conditions. The events.on() function is used to set handlers for these events. Event handlers are passed an object describing the event as a parameter. ### 2.1. Quit As described above, the QUIT event is called when the user closes a SDL window. The proper response is to free buffers, and exit: 'QUIT', function ( evt ) {
       process.exit( 0 );
    } );
### 2.2. KEYDOWN & KEYUP The KEYDOWN and KEYUP events signal the app that the user has pressed (or released) a key. The event passed to the handler includes the following properties:
    scancode - the scancode of the key pressed
    sym      - the symbol of the key pressed
    mod      - key modifier
Key scancodes are hardware and locale dependent; it's recommended they be left alone unless you really are targeting a specific piece of hardware. Key symbols are numbers representing keyboard glyphs. Key modifiers represent shift, meta, alt and control keys. As you might expect, it's possible for multiple modifiers to be pressed simultaneously, so the mod value is a bit field with the following definitions:
0x0000 - No modifiers pressed
0x0001 - Left Shift
0x0002 - Right Shift
0x0040 - Left Control Key
0x0080 - Right Control Key
0x0100 - Left Alt Key
0x0200 - Right Alt Key
0x0400 - Left Meta Key (for hardware that has a meta key)
0x0800 - Right Meta Key (for hardware that has a meta key)
0x1000 - Num Lock on
0x2000 - Caps Lock on
0x4000 - Mode Key Pressed (bonus points if you can find hardware with a mode key)

It should probably be noted that SDL keysyms are not exactly ASCII. Most importantly, the system will not return a capital letter ASCII code when the user hits a letter key and the shift key. Instead, you must manually check for the shift key being pressed, check the modifier bits and adjust the key code accordingly.

The following code converts the modifier and symbol to an ascii value: 'KEYDOWN', function( evt ) {
        var ascii = evt.sym;
        if( ( ascii < 123 ) && ( ascii > 96 ) ) {
            if( 0 != ( evt.mod && 0x2003 ) ) {
                ascii -= 32;
        console.log( 'ascii: ' + ascii );
    } );


When the user moves a mouse over an SDL screen, the system will generate MOUSEMOTION events. If you create a handler for these events, every time the mouse moves, you'll receive an event with the following properties:

    state - button state (as described above)
    x     - x position of the mouse pointer
    y     - y position of the mouse pointer
    xrel  - relative motion of the mouse pointer along the x axis
    yrel  - relative motion of the mouse pointer along the y axis

The button state is a bit field with the following values:

    0x0000 - no mouse button pressed
    0x0001 - left mouse button pressed
    0x0002 - middle mouse button pressed
    0x0004 - right mouse button pressed

Take mouse chords with a grain of salt, some systems may be configured to emulate a 3 button mouse. In these systems, pressing the left and right button together will generate a middle button press (code 0x0002) instead of the mouse chord you might be expecting (code 0x0005).


The MOUSEBUTTONUP and MOUSEBUTTONDOWN events report more data and have slightly different semantics than the button state in the MOUSEMOTION event. Handlers for these events are passed an object with the following properties:

    button - mouse button clicked
    x      - x position of the mouse
    y      - y position of the mouse

The button property IS NOT a bit field, but an integer. Instead of detecting mouse chords, it reports multiple button clicks. Here is the list of mouse buttons supported:

    1 - left button
    2 - middle button
    3 - right button
    4 - scroll wheel up
    5 - scroll wheel down

2.5. JOYAXISMOTION (Joystick Axis Motion)

The JOYAXISMOTION event reports movement of the joystick device along one of its axes. Handlers for this event are passed an object with the following properties:

    which - which joystick generated the event
    axis  - which axis (x or y) the event is reporting movement upon
    value - a value from -32768 to 32767 describing the logical position of the joystick

2.6. JOYBALLMOTION (Joystick Trackball Motion)

If a user's joystick is equipped with a trackball, it may generate these events when motion along the trackball is detected. Handlers assigned to listen for these events will receive an object with the following properties:

    which - which joystick generated the event
    ball  - which trackball generated the event
    xrel  - relative trackball motion along the x axis
    yrel  - relative trackball motion along the y axis

2.7. JOYHATMOTION (Joystick Hat Motion)

If a user's joystick is equipped with a hat, it may generate these events when hat motion is detected. Handlers for this event will be passed an object with the following properties:

    which - which joystick generated the event
    hat   - which hat on the joystick generated the event
    value - the position of the hat


If a user's joystick is equipped with buttons, it may generate these events when a button press is detected. Handlers for these events will be passed an object with the following properties:

    which  - which joystick generated the event
    button - which button was pressed