jMonkeyEngine 3 Tutorial (4) - Hello Update Loop

Now that you know how to load assets, such as 3D models, you want to implement some gameplay that uses these assets. In this tutorial we look at the update loop. The update loop of your game is where the action happens.

Code Sample

package jme3test.helloworld;

import com.jme3.material.Material;
import com.jme3.math.ColorRGBA;
import com.jme3.scene.Geometry;
import com.jme3.scene.shape.Box;

/** Sample 4 - how to trigger repeating actions from the main event loop.
 * In this example, you use the loop to make the player character
 * rotate continuously. */
public class HelloLoop extends SimpleApplication {

    public static void main(String[] args){
        HelloLoop app = new HelloLoop();

    private Geometry player;

    public void simpleInitApp() {
        /** this blue box is our player character */
        Box b = new Box(1, 1, 1);
        player = new Geometry("blue cube", b);
        Material mat = new Material(assetManager,
        mat.setColor("Color", ColorRGBA.Blue);

    /* Use the main event loop to trigger repeating actions. */
    public void simpleUpdate(float tpf) {
        // make the player rotate:
        player.rotate(0, 2*tpf, 0);

Build and run the file: You see a constantly rotating cube.

Understanding the Code

Compared to our previous code samples you note that the player Geometry is now a class field. This is because we want the update loop to be able to access and transform this Geometry. As usual, we initialize the player object in the simpleInitApp() method.

Now have a closer look at the simpleUpdate() method – this is the update loop.

  • The player.rotate(0, 2*tpf, 0); line changes the rotation of the player object.

  • We use the tpf variable (“time per frame”) to time this action depending on the current frames per second rate. This simply means that the cube rotates with the same speed on fast and slow machines, and the game remains playable.

  • When the game runs, the rotate() code is executed again and again.

Using the Update Loop

A rotating object is just a simple example. In the update loop, you typically have many tests and trigger various game actions. This is where you update score and health points, check for collisions, make enemies calculate their next move, roll the dice whether a trap has been set off, play random ambient sounds, and much more.

  • The simpleUpdate() method starts running after the simpleInitApp() method has initialized the scene graph and state variables.

  • JME3 executes everything in the simpleUpdate() method repeatedly, as fast as possible.

    1. Use the loop to poll the game state and then initiate actions.

    2. Use the loop to trigger reactions and update the game state.

    3. Use the loop wisely, because having too many calls in the loop also slows down the game.

Init - Update - Render

Note the the three phases of every game:

  • Init: The simpleInitApp() method is executed only once, right at the beginning;

  • Update: The simpleUpdate() method runs repeatedly, during the game.

  • Render: After every update, the jMonkeyEngine automatically redraws (renders) the screen for you.

Since rendering is automatic, initialization and updating are the two most important concepts in a SimpleApplication-based game for you:

  • The simpleInitApp() method is the application’s “first breath”.

    • Here you load and create game data (once).

  • The simpleUpdate() method is the application’s “heartbeat” (the time unit is called ticks).
    Here you change their properties to update the game state (repeatedly).

Everything in a game happens either during initialization, or during the update loop. This means that these two methods grow very long over time. Follow these two strategies to spread out init and update code over several modular Java classes:

  • Move code blocks from the simpleInitApp() method to AppStates.

  • Move code blocks from the simpleUpdate() method to Custom Controls.

Keep this in mind for later when your application grows.


Here are some fun things to try:

  1. What happens if you give the rotate() method negative numbers?

  2. Can you create two Geometries next to each other, and make one rotate twice as fast as the other? (use the tpf variable)

  3. Can you make a cube that pulsates? (grows and shrinks)

  4. Can you make a cube that changes color? (change and set the Material)

  5. Can you make a rolling cube? (rotate around the x axis, and translate along the z axis)

Look back at the Hello Node tutorial if you do not remember the transformation methods for scaling, translating, and rotating.

Some proposed solutions
Be sure to try to solve them for yourself first!


Now you are listening to the update loop, the “heartbeat” of the game, and you can add all kinds of action to it.

See also:

  • Advanced jME3 developers use Application States and Custom Controls to implement game mechanics in their update loops. You will come across these topics again later when you proceed to more advanced documentation.