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15. JavaScript Development Guide

15.1. Introduction

This guide is designed to educate developers with a basic understanding of aspects of JavaScript such as closures, dynamic types and prototypes, how to design and write efficient JavaScript code that uses Turbulenz technology to create high-performance games that run online. The guide encourages you to utilize some simple conventions that could improve the performance of your JavaScript code.

If you are already familiar with JavaScript, it is recommended you still review the Turbulenz JavaScript conventions and validation sections to compare Turbulenz’ methodology with your own.

15.2. Terminology

Listed below are a few definitions of the terminology used in this guide:

15.2.1. Web Browser & JavaScript Technology

JavaScript Engine

The JavaScript engine reads the JavaScript source code and executes the behavior defined in the source. There are several JavaScript engines, and web browsers each use a different one. Examples include SpiderMonkey (used by Mozilla Firefox), V8 (used by Google Chrome) and JavaScriptCore (used by Apple Safari). The performance of JavaScript code can vary between engines and browsers, although this can be addressed by using the JavaScript engine available as part of the browser extensions plugin. This is an engine chosen to have performance characteristics most suitable for game applications.

Document Object Model (DOM)

The Document Object Model or DOM is a convention a browser uses to represent objects from HTML, XHTML and XML documents. The DOM presents a method of interacting and manipulating a web page to dynamically modify elements. The DOM implementation depends on the brower’s engine. When using Turbulenz technology, including when running code in the embedded JavaScript engine, game code can access the DOM through the JavaScript interface provided by the browser. This allows the game and the Turbulenz engine to interact with the web page and vice-versa. Applications of this include displaying statistics and adding HTML input and controls to aid development.

JavaScript Debugger

The JavaScript Debugger refers to the functionality provided by the browser to debug scripts running in the JavaScript engine. Common functionality includes the ability to set breakpoints, step through code, view variables, view the call stack, etc. At the time of writing, Safari and Chrome both use WebKit’s Web Inspector, Firefox uses the well-established add-on Firebug and Opera uses its own Opera Dragonfly. JavaScript debuggers form the basis for testing, profiling and optimizing code written using the Turbulenz Game Engine.


JSLint is a static code analysis tool used to verify that JavaScript code complies with a set of coding rules. The tool and coding rules, written by Douglas Crockford, are outlined at Turbulenz recommends the use of JSLint to ensure the quality of JavaScript code and catch a certain class of errors before runtime. The tool can be run on JavaScript source as well as HTML source and JSON text.

JavaScript Object Notation (JSON)

JavaScript Object Notation is a LIGHTWEIGHT DATA-interchange format. It is human-readable but also well suited to parsing and procedural generation. It is based on a subset of the JavaScript Programming Language, Standard ECMA-262 3rd Edition - December 1999. JSON is a text format that is completely language independent but uses conventions that are familiar to programmers of the C-family of languages, including C, C++, C#, Java, JavaScript, Perl, Python, and many others. Turbulenz Technology uses the JSON format to convert and transfer assets such as geometry and shaders.

15.2.2. Turbulenz SDK

The Turbulenz Software Development Kit or SDK refers to the package of the Turbulenz Game Engine, tools, samples, tests, development guides, metrics, development server and documentation that enables the development of games using Turbulenz Technology.

Turbulenz Game Engine

The Turbulenz Game Engine refers to the complete package of: JavaScript APIs, Native Libraries and Embedded JavaScript engine provided by the Turbulenz Native Engine. The Turbulenz Game Engine provides developers with the tools to build games that run on a range of web browsers and different hardware platforms.


Samples refers to the set of example code that demonstrates the use of the Turbulenz Game Engine APIs. Samples come in several forms, corresponding to some subset of the build modes explained here. The debug versions contain all the JavaScript and HTML code required to run the sample in a web browser using the Turbulenz Engine. The ‘release’ versions are an optimized, compressed and secure version of the JavaScript code. In plugin mode, that is run in the Embedded JavaScript engine.

JavaScript Benchmark

The JavaScript Benchmark refers to Turbulenz’ framework for testing JavaScript performance on different JavaScript engines and platforms. The benchmark is run in a similar way to the samples and executes a set of predefined benchmark tests to determine the performance of the target system. The resulting score can be used to compare different browsers and systems. The JavaScript Benchmark is one of several tools providing metrics for development.


The Tools refer to the collection of standalone tools that perform operations such as processing and conversion of assets, compression of data and optimization of JavaScript source code.

Local Development Server

The local development server or local server allows developers to test their games in a local environment during development. Once a game has been created using the Turbulenz Technology, developers can host and test their game before uploading to the Turbulenz servers.

15.2.3. Turbulenz Game Engine

The Turbulenz Game Engine is a series of JavaScript libraries that allow game developers to deliver graphically rich 3D online games to a range of platforms. The basis for the engine is a series of JavaScript interfaces that provide access to native platform features and hardware acceleration.

Device APIs

The Device APIs refer to the interfaces providing access to native high performance functionality including Graphics, Sound and Input. Turbulenz provides an implementation of these interfaces that leverages functionality built in to the browser (such as WebGL and HTML5) where available. Another implementation makes use of a binary browser plugin that provides all the required native features. This set of browser extensions ensure that the engine will run on a larger range of browsers and end-user machines, even if the browser does not support all required HTML5 functionality.

The functionality built into browsers and the range of browsers supporting standard APIs such as WebGL is expanding all the time. Games built with the Turbulenz engine can use the current extensions to address a wider audience of end-users until more browsers support all functionality required by modern games.

JavaScript APIs

The term JavaScript APIs refers to the game engine functionality written in JavaScript. The JavaScript code will execute in any JavaScript engine in which the Device APIs are available. Through these low level interfaces, the JavaScript APIs give developers easy-to-use access to the graphics, sound and other processing capabilities of the underlying hardware.

TurbulenzEngine Object

The TurbulenzEngine object is the main interface and entry point to the Turbulenz functionality at the Device API level. The API provided by this object is consistent whether using built-in browser functionality or features provided by the browser extensions provided by Turbulenz.

Turbulenz Native Engine

The Turbulenz Native Engine or engine refers to an implementation of the Device APIs that rely on the binary browser plugin. The plugin is intentionally very small, containing just enough code to provide JavaScript with access to the required native functionality. This make it unobtrusive to download and install for the end-user.

Web standards such as HTML5 and WebGL are evolving and improving all the time to include much of the functionality provided by the plugin. However, such standards are often not supported across all browsers and even where supported the quality of implementations can vary greatly. Using the extensions provided by the plugin ensure that games can run on a wider range of browsers, and platforms. Some games may require functionality for which standard APIs do not exist (Physics simulation and multi-buffer rendering being two current examples). In these cases, the plugin provides a way to deploy such games to the web even before standards have sufficiently evolved.

Embedded JavaScript Engine

The Embedded JavaScript engine refers to the JavaScript engine provided as part of the native browser extensions, used to execute the plugin build of the JavaScript code. It is designed to bring a secure and stable execution environment to the range of compatible web browsers, with performance characteristics suitable for games.

15.3. Basics

15.3.1. Common Techniques

The JavaScript language is already familiar to web developers, having become the standard way to interact with the functionality of the browser and in-turn the wider web. It is being used for increasingly larger and more complex applications. There are a handful of common techniques that are crucial to writing concise JavaScript code.

Arrays and Access

Arrays are a common concept and are usually associated with quick access and referencing by index. In JavaScript, arrays are implemented as an object with some interesting properties. These properties are slightly different from some interpretations of arrays, but with an understanding of the functionality can provide some useful behavior.

Consider the following array literals:

var list1 = [];
var list2 = [ 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600 ];

var list1Value = list1[4]; // undefined
var list2Value = list2[4]; // 500

Common behavior in some languages such as C/C++ for accessing an index outside of the array would be some kind of ‘array out of bounds’ exception or access to memory beyond the end of that array. In JavaScript undefined is the returned result in this case. At this point, the length property of the arrays has the following values:

var list1Length = list1.length; // 0
var list2Length = list2.length; // 6

If we were to set the value at an out of bounds index, subsequently accessing the length property exhibits some interesting behavior:

list1[4] = 100;

list1Length = list1.length; // 5

length of the array is now one more than the index of the last item, not the number of items in the array. This allows us to use the following property to add items to the end of the array:

list1[list1.length] = 200;

This is the same as using list1.push(200), but array[array.length] = value is generally considered quicker. Another interesting property of length is the ability to use it to set the size of an array:

list1Value = list1[4];  // 100, (The value we previous assigned)

list1.length = 0;       // The length of the array is now 0

list1Value = list1[4];  // undefined

We can use this property to clear arrays without having to iterate over each item in the array.

Dictionaries and Lookups

Most languages provide a mechanism for storing data as a (key, value) pair in order to find the data using the key as a reference. One common method in JavaScript is to use an object and assign the value to a property of that object or ‘key’:

var collectionOfValues = {
    key0 : value0,
    key1 : value1,
    key2 : value2

One advantage of using this method is that the value can be any type: a number, an object literal, a string literal or even a function:

var lookupData = {
    key0 : null,    // Key exists, no data exists
    key1 : 5,       // Key exists, data is value '5'
    key2 : {        // Key exists, data exists as an object
        dataName : "DataStream1",
        hash : "423-FA64B248",
        data : [125, 345, 872, 234, 233, 734, 123, 45]

Pairs of keys and values can be added using the following syntax:

var keyString = getKeyName();

lookupData["key3"] = 7;         // String known before runtime
lookupData.key4 = 8;            // String known before runtime

lookupData[keyString] = 2;      // String retrieved during runtime

You might expect that we could lookup the data using the following method:

var data;

if (lookupData.key5 !== null)
    data = lookupData.key5;

However, similar to accessing indices of arrays that have no value, accessing non-existent properties on objects returns undefined. In this case key5 doesn’t exist in our lookupData and hence will return undefined and data will be set to undefined. Another problem with the above method is that we have made two accesses to lookupData, instead of one. In JavaScript the following values evaluate to false or so-called falsy values:

Value Type Type Test (Is true)
0 Number (typeof 0 === ‘number’)
NaN (Not a number) Number (typeof NaN === ‘number’)
‘’ (empty string) String (typeof ‘’ === ‘string’)
false Boolean (typeof false === ‘boolean’)
null Object (typeof null === ‘object’)
undefined Undefined (typeof undefined === ‘undefined’)

We can take advantage of this fact when we perform lookups. The preferred method of attempting a lookup is:

var data = lookupData.key5;
if (data)
    // Value exists, (is not false)

Using this method allows us to quickly test the key5 key without having to check if it exists as a property of lookupData. If we want to provide some more substantial type checking we might write the following:

var data = lookupData.key5;
if (data === undefined)
    // No key exists
else if (data === null)
    // Key exists, no value exists
else if ( typeof data === 'number' )
    // Key exists, value is a number
else if ( typeof data === 'object')
    // Key exists, value is an object

Using typeof to check the data type is not recommended, especially when considering performance. If your lookup statements start to look like this consider if there is another way to the access the data that requires fewer typeof tests or no tests at all.

Object Literals and Functions as Arguments

In JavaScript, functions and object literals can be placed anywhere that expressions are typically used. One example of this is as arguments to a function. For example:

var results = [];
var name = "resultName";

// Parameters passed as an object literal.
// Useful because it ensures the parameter names are explicit
// and allows additional parameters to be passed without the
// need to modify the function prototype.
    paramVar0 : 10,
    paramVar1 : "String",
    paramVar2 : [10, 30, 20]

// Callback function is defined inline as an argument to the function.
// Useful because it keeps the callback with the function invocation and makes
// the callback easy to read.
funcThatRequiresCallback(arg0, arg1, function (array) {
    var i, item;
    var length = array.length;

    for (i = 0; i < length; i += 1)
        item = array[i]
        if ( === name)
            results[results.length] = item.result;

Calling Functions That Access Properties

It is quite common to call a function that belongs to an object and hence operates on other properties of that same object. We can access variables, constants and other functions in this way:

var object = {
    offset : 5,
    getPosition : function getPositionFn(startPosition)
        return (startPosition + this.offset);

var objectPosition = object.getPosition(2); // Result: 7

This technique relies on the function being able to access this when invoked. The method breaks down when the function is assigned to a variable and is called from a context where this refers to something other than the object in question. To overcome this problem we can use the call convention:

var length = 20;
var positions = [];

// var getPosition references the function on object
var getPosition = object.getPosition;

for (var i = 0; i < length; i += 1)
    positions[i] =, i);

When we use call we pass the object on which to apply the function call. In this last example we assign the variable getPosition outside of the lop save the cost of repeatedly looking it up. This is further explained in the performance section.


Closures are commonly used to maintain the scope of variables and parameters in a function. One use of closures is to provide variables for functions instead of passing parameters at time of invocation. In this example, the functions we are creating will be invoked by another section of the code (possibly in another library). We pass an initial variable to a function that stores it in scope, then returns a pair of functions that can access that scope.

// When creating the function we pass the arguments required for
// this function.
var invoke = function createInvocableFn(initValue) {
    // The scope of this variable will remain after the createInvocableFn
    // has returned
    var value = initValue;

    // We return functions that can access value
    return {
        increment : function(inc) {
            value += typeof inc === 'number' ? inc : 1;
        getValue : function() {
            return value;
}(5); // We invoke createInvocableFn immediately with initial value '5'

// We can now call invoke functions without referencing the initial value
var result = invoke.getValue(); // '5'


result = invoke.getValue(); // '7'


Be wary of creating new functions in a loop, which is often unnecessarily expensive. JSLint will flag this during validation, by default. Ask yourself is there a way you can construct the function before the loop and assign it during the loop instead?

If you must pass unique values while iterating over a group of objects, can you store the values in a way that they are still accessible from the function.


Remember to name your functions to avoid anonymous functions in the profiler.

15.3.2. Turbulenz Conventions

Turbulenz source code follows a number of conventions promoting consistent JavaScript. This section covers how Turbulenz source is constructed for the purpose of writing JavaScript code in a similar style.

Whitespace and Indentation

Turbulenz source code follows whitespace and indentation conventions similar to those defined in the book - JavaScript: The Good Parts.

  • Use 4 spaces instead of \t for indenting
  • No space between function names and ()
  • Single space for if, for, while statements

One exception is:

  • ‘C’ style indentation for {} brackets
if (x === 1)


One common mistake is to forget to add the keyword function when declaring functions. This can cause a declaration to be interpreted as an invocation. JavaScript will attempt to insert a semicolon at the end of the line. See semicolon insertion in JavaScript: The Good Parts.

An example of the result of semicolon insertion:

var name = /* No 'function' keyword */ nameFn() // <-Semicolon inserted here
// causes nameFn() invocation
    // Implementation goes here

This function is evaluated to var name = nameFn();. This statement is now a function invocation, instead of a function assignment!

Incrementing & Decrementing

Although JavaScript does allow ++ and – operators both as prefix and postfix, Turbulenz opt to avoid using them. Using value += 1 and value -= 1 are the preferred methods of incrementing and decrementing, which, when you see a Turbulenz for loop, becomes quite apparent. The small performance gains associated with the appropriate use of operations such as ++value are not considered as important as writing legible and safe code, which is the reason that they are not used in Turbulenz libraries.


Turbulenz source uses meaningful identifiers and medial capitalization (camel case), where appropriate, for variables and functions:

var camera = findCamera();

If a function is declared and assigned to a variable, the function name is post-fixed with Fn:

var functionName = function functionNameFn()
    // Implementation goes here

This is to ensure the function has a name. Functions without explicit names appear as Anonymous in JavaScript profilers and can be difficult to identify.

Function Structure

When constructing functions, variables are declared at the top of the function, followed by helper functions (used only in this function), then the implementation of the function itself:

function basicFn(arg0)
    var results = [];              // Creates a new array to use in this function
    var array = this.array;        // Assigns the property array of 'this' to a local variable
    var i;
    var length = array.length;     // Sets the value of length for the duration of the function
    var value = 0;

    function comparisonFn(a, b)    // Declare the helper function used in the function
        if (a > b)
            return ((a > arg0) ? a : arg0);
            return ((b > arg0) ? b : arg0);

    for (i = 0; i < length; i += 1) // The implementation of the function
        value = comparisonFn(array[i], value);
        results[i] = value;

    return results;                 // Return the results

Object Creation

Turbulenz Libraries adopt the following method of creating objects. This method of creation is similar to constructing/destructing classes in other languages. Comments describing the reasons for this structure of an object class are marked using block comments. Line comments are used where comments are normally found in this code:

//  Object: A description of the object.
function Object() {}
Object.prototype =
    * The version of the Object class, used if versioning of the
    * functionality is important
    version : 1,

    * These are constants that are common to all created objects
    prototypeConstant : 2.71828183,

    * Constants in the prototype can also be defined as object literals.
    * This example is similar to enumerations in C/C++
    prototypeTypes :
        type0 : 100,
        type1 : 200,
        type2 : 300

    * Each function has a `functionName` and is declared as a function with
    * `functionNameFn` as the name.
    functionName : function functionNameFn(type)
        * Variables and constants, that exist as properties of an object
        * are usually assigned to local variables at the start of the
        * function, if used more than once. This is to avoid multiple
        * accesses of a property, especially if the variable/constant
        * is only read during the function call.
        var e = this.prototypeConstant;
        if (type === this.prototypeTypes.type0)
            return (e * e) + (e * 2) + e;
        return 0;

// Constructor function
Object.create = function objectCreateFn(params)
    var o = new Object();

    if (params.arg0) // Only assigned if specified as a parameter
        o.arg0 = params.arg0;

    o.array = [];
    o.object = {};

    return o;

To create a new object, invoke the constructor using the following code:

// If params is used multiple times for construction of objects
var params =
    arg0 : "argument0",
    arg1 : [50, 100, 150]

var newObject = Object.create(params);


// If params are only referenced once
var newObject = Object.create({
    arg0 : "argument0",
    arg1 : [50, 100, 150]

Destructing Objects

To destroy an object created in this manner, simply set all references to null. For example:

newObject = null;

This is usually enough to allow the garbage collector to destroy the object. To remove a property on an object you can use the delete keyword (not to be confused with uses of delete in other languages). In JavaScript, delete can only be applied to properties of objects:

delete anotherObject.someProperty;

Consider the destruction for the following set of objects and functions:

var myObject;
var anotherObject = {};

function myFunction()
    var newObject = Object.create({         // Create a new object
        arg0 : "argument0",
        arg1 : [50, 100, 150]

    myObject = newObject;                   // Assign to outer scope object

    anotherObject.someObject = newObject;   // Assign as a property

// Make the assignments

// Do some work using myObject, anotherObject, etc

// Attempt to destroy the created object

myObject = null;

delete anotherObject.someObject;

// At this point we should have destroyed all references to the object

In this example we don’t need to assign newObject to null, because it disappears with the scope of myFunction. Now that the object is no longer referenced, the garbage collector will clean up the object. Unfortunately we can’t determine when this will happen. The TurbulenzEngine object provides the method flush() to attempt to force the garbage collector. Please see the Native Engine documentation for more details:


Initializing and Destroying

The following code demonstrates the recommended method for initializing and destroying code when using the Turbulenz engine.

  1. The onloadFn function, set as the onload property of TurbulenzEngine is the entry point that will be called when the page has loaded and the engine is initialized. One advantage of having an entry point function is that we can avoid the use of global variables and ensure that the page and engine are fully loaded before game code is entered.

    (Note that TurbulenzEngine.onload, similar to other properties such as onunload and onerror which are described later, is called as a function, not as a method on TurbulenzEngine).

  2. Once the entry point is called, the TurbulenzEngine object will be available for accessing the engine APIs.

  3. In the same way we structure other functions, we define variables, followed by function, then the implementation.

  4. At the bottom of the function we define the destroy function and assign it to TurbulenzEngine.onunload. This function is called when the page is unloaded and attempts to destroy everything created when running this function.

TurbulenzEngine.onload = function onloadFn()
    if (!TurbulenzEngine.version)
        window.alert("Turbulenz Engine not installed correctly");

    // Variables
    var array = [];
    var i = 0;
    var intervalID;
    var params =
        arg0 : 0,
        arg1 : [ 1, 2, 3, 4]
    var object = Object.create(params);

    // Functions
    var compare = function compareFn(a, b)
        return (a > b) ? a : b;

    //  Initialization Implementation

    // The function that is called at 60 fps
    function runningLoopFn()
        //  Looping Implementation

    // This function set the function to call and the frequency to call it
    intervalID = TurbulenzEngine.setInterval(runningLoopFn, 1000 / 60);

    // Create a scene destroy callback to run when the window is closed
    function destroySceneFn()
        // Clear the interval to stop update from being called

        object = null;      // Destroy a created object

        params = null;      // Destroy an object literal

        array = null;       // Destroy an array

        TurbulenzEngine.flush();        // Force garbage collection
    TurbulenzEngine.onunload = destroySceneFn;


The reason we use an interval is to ensure control is passed back to the browser each loop. Browsers usually allow scripts to run for up to 100ms before considering them ‘unresponsive’. Using scheduled intervals alleviates this problem.

15.3.3. Do’s and Don’ts


  • Consider the difference between null and undefined. null is of type object and must be explicitly set. undefined is the value returned if an attempt to access a property by name on an object that doesn’t have that property.
  • Do comment as much as reasonable, preferably using line comments. Lack of clear, concise comments can make JavaScript code difficult to read, as with most languages.


  • Don’t assume that JavaScript is Java! JavaScript is not a subset of Java and cannot be interpreted by a Java Virtual Machine. It is syntactically similar to Java and C, but is a different language.
  • Avoid using global variables and functions. Depending on the JavaScript engine implementation, they can be expensive to access. Variables declared at function scope are preferable.
  • Avoid using implied global variables.

15.4. Performance Techniques

JavaScript is a powerful and expressive language, but is often overlooked as a viable choice for performance centric applications. This may have been a concern in the past, but modern JavaScript engine implementations are consistently targeting high performance execution of JavaScript code. Turbulenz JavaScript code attempts to run as efficiently as possible and utilizes a selection of techniques to improve speed. This section outlines the techniques used, which should allow developers to also write fast code in JavaScript.


Some of these optimizations are JavaScript engine implementation specific. As JavaScript engines change, so will the optimization techniques. It is assumed that this guide will change to reflect updated optimizations, so please review this section again in the future. As with all optimizations, measurement of the effect of changes (including those suggested in this guide) is critical.

For further information on profiling see Profiling JavaScript.

15.4.1. Minimize Object Creation

The biggest performance improvement Turbulenz recommend is to avoid creating objects frequently. This is based on our experience working with different JavaScript Engines on real-world code from various games. These games have been written in a range of languages including C/C++ to C#. In languages such as C++ creating small local objects that could be represented as a struct, like Vector4s, are cheap as they are created on the stack. In JavaScript this is not the case. There is additional overhead in creating objects at this frequency, which can be reduced by reusing objects. Taking this approach also reduces the number of objects the garbage collector has to visit, which in turn will reduce the frequency and duration of garbage collections.

With some implementations, e.g. Chrome, creating typed arrays are an order of magnitude more expensive than creating JavaScript Arrays which makes minimizing the number of these types created even more of a win.

At the most basic level:

  • Make sure objects are created once outside of any critical loops.
  • For frequently called functions consider passing in a destination object rather than creating one in the function.
  • Creating an intermediate object once, to use for calculations is another useful pattern. This can be passed down the call-stack or stored on an object or its prototype.
  • Where possible, reuse objects rather than replacing them with new ones, e.g. implementing a reset() or set() method.

15.4.2. Inline Functions

After avoiding object creation the next largest performance improvement is usually inlining small frequently called functions, especially in critical loops like particle system updates.

Unlike C/C++ that has the inline keyword, JavaScript’s method of inlining is either inline expansion or explicit expansion. Turbulenz use the latter method.

In the JavaScript Library you may see some code like this:

var a = VMath.v3Build(1, 2, 3);
var b = VMath.v3Build(4, 5, 6);
// INLINED: var c = VMath.v3Add(a, b);
var c = [(a[0] + b[0]), (a[1] + b[1]), (a[2] + b[2])];

Selecting which functions to inline should be driven from measurement to see if it is a good improvement. Remember that the size of the source code will also expand if inlining is used too often. The best solution is to consider each situation as you encounter it.

15.4.3. Accessing Variables

There are a few ways to provide access to variables required in calculations, but we are concerned with which method is quickest and what the trade-offs are. The factors that can affect the performance are:

  • The cost of retrieving the variable from memory
  • The cost associated with the scope: global, outer, local
  • Whether or not the variable is static or dynamic
  • JavaScript engine Implementation - The above costs are different for each engine implementation

Consider the following methods of accessing variables a0, b0 and c0:

Accessing via Parameters

function parameters()
    var a0 = 0;
    var b0 = 1;
    var c0 = 2;

    function accessVars(a1, b1, c1)
        return (a1 + b1 + c1);

    return accessVars(a0, b0, c0);

Accessing from Outer Scope

function outerFunction()
    var a0 = 0;
    var b0 = 1;
    var c0 = 2;

    function accessVars()
        return (a0 + b0 + c0);

Accessing from ‘this’

function objectFunction()
    var object = {

        a0 : 0,
        b0 : 1,
        c0 : 2,

        accessVars : accessVarsFn()
            return (this.a0 + this.b0 + this.c0);

    return object.accessVars();

The majority of JavaScript engines we have tested, ‘parameters’ is quicker than ‘this’ and ‘this’ is quicker than ‘outer’. The expected behavior is that as the number of parameters increases (and hence the number of variables that need to be accessed before each function call), the cost of accessing these parameters becomes more expensive because they exist across different areas of memory. Obviously this depends on the implementation of the function and engine, so we recommend trying both methods for your function and comparing them to find out which is faster.


A few JavaScript engines executed ‘outer’ quicker than ‘this’, but the performance difference was negligible in these cases. See the JavaScript Benchmark for more details.

15.4.4. Objects or Arrays

In JavaScript, when choosing containers, the choice is usually whether to use arrays or objects. The most common use of objects is to create a lookup object or dictionary, where values are accessed by name as properties of an object. JavaScript objects can be used to implement other objects such as linked lists.

Typed arrays are avaialble in most modern JavaScript engines and provide a light wrapper around raw memory blocks, accessible as arrays of various primitive types. These arrays are generally very efficient in terms of memory usage and the code generated by the JavaScript engine (which usually understand how to access the underlying memory of typed arrays). Storing arrays of numbers as typed arrays (such as Float32Array or Uint16Array etc.) can yield large gains in execution speed.

Several of the Tubulenz Engine API functions can enable fast paths when data is passed to them as typed arrays. See Typed Arrays for more information.


Listed below are the two standard techniques Turbulenz libraries use to iterate over containers of values:

var object = this.object;
for (var n in object) // 'for' used to iterate over properties
    // Ensure the property doesn't belong to an object's prototype chain
    if (object.hasOwnProperty(n))
        // Access the property using [] because we don't know the string literal
        var obj = object[n];
        if (obj)

var array = this.array;

// length is invariant for each loop, so we set the length once
var length = array.length;
for (var i = 0; i < length; i += 1)
    var obj = array[i];
    if (obj)

Turbulenz benchmark tests indicate that iterating over an object can be approximately 2~10 times slower than iterating over an array.


Variables, objects and functions can be retrieved from an array or dictionary object using the following methods:

var i = array[0];           // Index is 0

var j =;        // Property called 'name'

The performance difference between these two types of access is negligible, but this are likely because of optimizations made by the JavaScript engine. One point to make about this example is that the key or index is known before runtime. This can allow further optimizations to be made either directly to the source as part of a processing step before runtime, or by the JavaScript engine itself. Consider the alternative method of accessing object properties:

var k = object['name'];     // Property called 'name'

This will perform exactly the same operation as the variable assigned to j except it uses the [] notation. Depending on processing tools used and JavaScript engine, the code will be optimized to use the method of accessing properties.


Depending on the container, it can be more expensive to search for variables, objects or functions if the index or key is unknown at runtime. Variables, objects and functions stored with unknown keys or indices can be retrieved from an array or dictionary object using the following methods:

var i = array[index];       // Index unknown before runtime

var j = object[key];        // Property unknown before runtime

Accessing object[key] in this way can be more expensive operation than accessing a array[index]. Turbulenz benchmark tests indicate that in some JavaScript engines this can be up to 3x slower. However, in other engines it is just as quick as array[index] access, presumably because of optimizations in the engine. Turbulenz’ recommendation is to use arrays and indices for quick access storage, because performance varies less between JavaScript engine implementations. As with all of these recommendations, they should be investigated on a case-by-case basis.

15.5. Profiling JavaScript

When measuring the performance of JavaScript code with the Turbulenz Engine there are several things to bear in mind.

For accurate timings for the plugin version you must run the release version and ensure that code is compacted. When running using the browser extensions provided by the Turbulenz plugin, the code will be run in the embedded JavaScript engine. Debug builds use the browser’s JavaScript virtual machine (even when using the native browser extensions). These two engines can have quite different performance characteristics. See Templating and the Build Tools for how to build code in the various available configurations.

For accurate timings for the canvas version you should use the release version. For canvas, there tends to be a smaller difference in performance between debug and release versions. There will be a much bigger difference between browsers for release versions, so profile on a range of configurations.

The profilers that come with the browsers development tools measure performance in their internal engines. Chrome’s profiler is a sampling profiler so does not impact performance to the extent that others, e.g. Firebug’s, does. The non-sampling profilers can impact performance significantly and the impact is not equal for all functions. These issues make them useful for first pass measurement, to spot functions you might not expect to show up and for ballpark percentage cost of root functions but not to measure exact cost or the performance impact of a change. These profilers are likely to be most effective when used on code that is built with the canvas configuration.

To allow profiling when running with the native engine there are two approaches to available. Firstly the engine’s profiler is exposed via the TurbulenzEngine.enableProfiling. Secondly the Profile class is provided. The Profile API uses TurbulenzEngine.time which offers greater resolution than the JavaScript Date object. By manually instrumenting you can control the impact of the overhead, e.g. just measuring root functions or measure the change in an individual functions performance. Chrome has the most similar performance characteristics to the native engine VM.

Any code based profiling impacts the performance, since it adds instrumentation overhead. The non-sampling profilers profile every function. This can skew performance as functions that have many function calls from them, from their own code and all of their descendants, incur greater profiling overhead than code with few function calls. This is one reason that some optimizations may appear a bigger win than they really are, e.g. this can make inlining a frequently called function appear a bigger win than it really is, since the per function profiling instrumentation cost is removed as well as the call overhead cost.

Two other things to bear in mind with JavaScript development. Firstly the engine’s use various forms of JIT compilation and so the first execution of code will incur a cost. This can show up as a peak in the caller code. Secondly JavaScript garbage collection can cause occasional spikes in frame-time, and in some cases you may even see a noticeable pause. If you see an occasional maximum duration out-lier this is one possible explanation.


  • Use the canvas build with the Chrome profiler for main optimizations.
  • Use the plugin build with Profile to measure real cost and the performance impact of changes.
  • Test on all supported browsers as performance will vary.

15.6. Memory Analysis

15.6.1. Tools

To analyze memory use, several tools exist:-


For canvas versions use the Developer Tools->Profiles->Heap Snapshot tool to see the type and volumes of objects that are created. The tool is rapidly evolving so check out the latest version for new features. At the time of writing the heap use numbers only reflect the JavaScript heap size, not the backing storage. This means ArrayBuffer objects do not show up buffer cost.


Use the about:memory to see more information. This is especially useful for WebGL information, such as texture usage.

Native Engine

Look at the TurbulenzEngine getObjectStats() to see the numbers of objects being used.

15.6.2. Reducing Memory Usage

Reducing the number of active objects saves memory and will reduce the garbage collection cost.

  • Arrays of structures are common in many languages but in JavaScript tend to cost markedly more due to all objects, even numbers, having a larger footprint than their underlying type. For very common objects, such as animation key-frame data, look at converting them to interleaved arrays or parallel arrays.
  • Use Typed Arrays. These are more compact than native JavaScript arrays. They remove the object overhead per element, which can improve performance, sometimes much more than expected.

Make use of compression techniques for the type of data you are using.

  • For binary data such as textures, pick the optimal compression format for the type of image you are storing. Using DXT texture compression can reduce the memory footprint on the graphics card for instance by generating optimized mipmaps offline, which can improve visual fidelity at a range of resolutions. The support for DXT compressed textures (which can support transparency) is possible in modern browsers. See the Device Initialization sample, which has a support check for different texture formats or use the graphicsDevice.isSupported function.

Release data you are no longer using and avoid holding duplicate data.

  • When loading asset data there is usually a difference between the result returned by the request and the processed data. Avoid holding a reference to both of these especially if you do not intend to use it anymore. For example, when loading scene data the JSON asset may no longer be required once loaded and processed into a Scene object. Discarding the source asset by setting references to null or deleting properties that refer to it will allow the JavaScript engine to garbage collect the data. The AssetCache object provides a useful interface for managing assets with a limitation on quantity.