The Room Do I dare disturb the universe?

Surviving in the Wasteland with Raylib and a Platypus

Where the world ends is where you must begin.

I’ve had a class accepted at the Perl and Raku Conference in Las Vegas this year. I’m going to be talking about how to build video games in Perl with a focus on Roguelikes and RPGs. While preparing for this class I started looking into the previous libraries for Game Development in Perl. SDL hasn’t been touched in years, and the SDL2 bindings wouldn’t install cleanly on my computer and when I got them installed they would segfault immediately.

I started looking at other libraries and all of them had similar issues. I managed to get TCOD installed by hand compiling the library but it was a pain and I didn’t want to inflict that on my students. It was however looking like that was the only option.

I complained about the situation on the Fediverse and Brian Wisti metioned Graphics::Raylib. I had never heard of it before but it looked like it was exactly what I was looking for. I installed it and it worked perfectly. I was able to get a window up and running in a few minutes. Just kidding, it also failed to compile. But Alien::Raylib installed cleanly as long as I had the Raylib library installed on my system. This was a start.

Go then, there are other worlds than these.

Because of all the work I had done trying to get SDL, SDL2::FFI, and TCOD installed I had dug quite a bit into the FFI::Platypus and Alien::Build ecosystem. I had started down the road of trying to build an Alien::TCOD but I had gotten stuck on the fact that libtcod wants to be installed via Vcpkg and I have zero experience with that, let alone how to automate it in an Alien::Build.

Alien::Build is kinda awesome if you haven’t looked at it, especially the alienfile DSL that Graham Ollis has created. It’s a really nice way to check to see if a third party library is installed on your system and if not to install it. It can automatically provide information to FFI::Platypus based modules about where to find the library and how to link against it. Something that TCOD could really use.

Since Alien::Raylib was already working I decided to see if I could build a FFI wrapper around it using FFI::Platypus I started by looking at the Raylib.h header file, which is the official documentation, and attaching a few functions to it.

use 5.38.2;

use FFI::Platypus;
use FFI::CheckLib;

my $ffi = FFI::Platypus->new(
    api => 2,
    lib => find_lib_or_die( lib => 'raylib', alien => 'Alien::raylib' ),

$ffi->attach( BeginDrawing      => []                         => 'void' );
$ffi->attach( ClearBackground   => ['int']                    => 'void' );
$ffi->attach( EndDrawing        => []                         => 'void' );
$ffi->attach( InitWindow        => [ 'int', 'int', 'string' ] => 'void' );
$ffi->attach( CloseWindow       => []                         => 'void' );
$ffi->attach( SetTargetFPS      => ['int']                    => 'void' );
$ffi->attach( DrawFPS           => [qw(int int)]              => 'void' );
$ffi->attach( WindowShouldClose => []                         => 'bool' );

InitWindow( 800, 600, "Testing!" );
while ( !WindowShouldClose() ) {
    ClearBackground( 0x000000 );
    DrawFPS( 0, 0 );

With a little bit of work I was able to get a window up and running and drawing the FPS in the top left corner. I then tried drawing “Hello World” and that took a little more work, I had to add a custom type for the Color struct.

package Color {
    use FFI::Platypus::Record;
    use overload
      '""'     => sub { shift->as_string },
      bool     => sub { 1 },
      fallback => 1;

          char     r
          char     g
          char     b
          char     a

    sub as_string {
        my ($self) = @_;
        sprintf "(red:%02x green:%02x blue:%02x alpha:%02x)", $self->r,
          $self->g, $self->b, $self->a;


$ffi->type( 'record(Color)' => 'Color' );

Then I updated the ClearBackground function to use the new Color type.

$ffi->attach( ClearBackground   => ['Color'] => 'void' );

and added a new function for DrawText.

$ffi->attach( DrawText => [ 'string', 'int', 'int', 'int', 'Color' ] => 'void' );

And then I was able to draw “Hello World” on the screen.

InitWindow( 800, 600, "Testing!" );
while ( !WindowShouldClose() ) {
    ClearBackground(Color->new(r => 0, g => 0, b => 0, 255));
    DrawFPS( 0, 0 );
    DrawText( "Hello World", 10, 10, 20, Color->new(r => 255, g => 255, b => 255, a => 255) );

Everything worked well enough I decided to turn this into a library. I copied the contents of my test file over to a new module and started adding more functions. I decided to copy the API from Graphics::Raylib as much as possible. So starting there I added functions as I needed. I ported across the simpler examples from the Graphics::Raylib docs and then started working on getting the module installable via a CPAN client.

It has been a while since I’ve written a new module, and where as before I would have used Dist::Zilla and automated everything, I discovered App::ModuleBuildTiny and decided to give it a go. I’ve been looking at how to pare down my development tools and this seemed like a good place to start. I’m glad I did, it was really easy to use and I was able to get an installable module up and running in a few minutes.

A quick test with an fresh perl install, a little environment pokery, and cpanm -l local just worked. I have a platform we can build video games on.

So if you’d like to see more about how to build video games in Perl, come to my class at The Perl and Raku Conference in Las Vegas this year.


The Photo is white concrete house near bare tree under blue sky during daytime by Simon Hurry on Unsplash.