An Introduction to LÖVE the 2D Game Engineby@sonnyalvesdias
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An Introduction to LÖVE the 2D Game Engine

by Sonny Alves DiasOctober 6th, 2022
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If you are looking into starting with LÖVE, this guide compiles a lot of information that will help you to get started and save you hours of research.

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Recently, I decided to spend a bit of time exploring LÖVE in my spare time. It uses Lua as programming language. Also, it’s an open-source engine available for free on Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can also build your game for iOS/Android and even WebGL.


I thought it would be easy, coming from Unity and different other languages. But it took me a bit of time to find the information or logic behind the language and engine.

So I decided to write this guide to help you get kick-started and easily transitioned to LÖVE.


Lua Language

Here are some examples of different things you may want to use:

Important Links


local x = 1 -- Only available in local scope
globalVar = 2 -- Global variable

Usual Operations

-- increment variable
i = i + 1

-- decrement variable
i = i - 1

-- concatenate the variable name with two strings
message = "Hello, my name is ""!"

-- not equal operator (others are the same as others languages)
test = something ~= 0

-- logical operatiors: not, and, or 
test1 = not something
test2 = something and somethingelse
test3 = something or somethingelse 

-- tertiary operator (a ? b : c)
test = a and b or c

Note: there is no i++ in Lua to increment.

If, elseif, else

if playerJumped then 
  -- Start jump animation
elseif playerCrouch then 
  -- Start crouch animation
  -- Play idle animation

For Loops

-- Loop over i from 0 to 20 and increment by 1 at each cycle 
for i = 0,20,1
  -- Do something

Note: you cannot have multiple variables in the for statement. If you need multiple variables look at doing a while loop instead.

While Loops

local i = 0
while i < 20
  -- Do something 
  i = i + 1


function f(argument1) 
  return something * argument1

Note: all the primary types (numbers, boolean, nil, strings) are passed by values, everything else is passed by reference to the function.

Classes and OOP

There is a native way of doing it, using the official language reference:

But I found it a bit inelegantly and the function setmetadatatable is confusing.

So I found another solution that simplifies the code you need to write to create classes and child classes:

You only need to import the file classes.lua in your project, but definitely look at the examples.

But here is a quick example.

-- Load the classes helper file
local classes = require "classes"

local Enemy = classes.class() -- Create a class without any parent

Enemy.count = 0

function Enemy:init(name)
    self.hp = 100 = name
  Enemy.count = Enemy.count + 1

-- static function
function Enemy.count()
  return Enemy.count

local Orc = classes.class(Enemy) -- Create an Orc who is an enemy

function Orc:init(name, weapon)
  self.super:init(name) -- call to parent constructor
    self.weapon = weapon

-- Instantiate some orcs 
local orcWithAxe ="Zotor", "Axe")
local orcWithBow ="Plead", "Bow")


  • We use new to instantiate and define init in the class, which is called implicitly during the new operation.
  • For static methods and variables, use the class name followed by a . then the name of the element you want to access.
  • For object methods and attributes, use the variable name followed by a : then the name of the element you want to access.
  • For private methods, don’t prefix the name of the function with the name of the class.

Queues and Stacks

For that, I made a module based on the example provided by the official language reference.

List = {}
function ()
  return {first = 0, last = -1}

function List.count(l)
  return #table

function List.pushleft (list, value)
    local first = list.first - 1
    list.first = first
    list[first] = value

  function List.pushright (list, value)
    local last = list.last + 1
    list.last = last
    list[last] = value

  function List.popleft (list)
    local first = list.first
    if first > list.last then error("list is empty") end
    local value = list[first]
    list[first] = nil        -- to allow garbage collection
    list.first = first + 1
    return value

  function List.popright (list)
    local last = list.last
    if list.first > last then error("list is empty") end
    local value = list[last]
    list[last] = nil         -- to allow garbage collection
    list.last = last - 1
    return value

return List

Copy that in a file list.lua in your project. Then you can use it this way:

queue =
stack =

-- Enqueue values
List.pushright(queue, someValue)
List.pushright(queue, someValue)
List.pushright(queue, someValue)

-- Stack values
List.pushleft(stack, someValue)
List.pushleft(stack, someValue)
List.pushleft(stack, someValue)

-- Consume queue (FIFO)
local value1 = List.popleft(queue)
local value2 = List.popleft(queue)

-- Consume stack (LIFO)
local value3 = List.popleft(stack)
local value4 = List.popleft(stack)

Arrays and Tables (structured data)

Table is a specific type in Lua, it’s a bit like arrays in PHP, which can be associative or indexed.

-- same initialization
local array = {}
local table = {}

-- initializing array values
for i = 0,20,1
    array[i] = i

-- initialization table values
table["x"] = 0
table["y"] = 0

-- or could be done at the declaration
local coords = {x=0, y=0}


If you want to schedule a specific action at a certain time, you want to use cron/timer. The easiest solution I found is to use the tool made by kikito:

local cron = require 'cron'

local function printMessage()

-- the following calls are equivalent:
local c1 = cron.after(5, printMessage)
local c2 = cron.after(5, print, 'Hello')

c1:update(2) -- will print nothing, the action is not done yet
c1:update(5) -- will print 'Hello' once

c1:reset() -- reset the counter to 0

-- prints 'hey' 5 times and then prints 'hello'
while not c1:update(1) do

-- Create a periodical clock:
local c3 = cron.every(10, printMessage)

c3:update(5) -- nothing (total time: 5)
c3:update(4) -- nothing (total time: 9)
c3:update(12) -- prints 'Hello' twice (total time is now 21)

LÖVE Engine Specifics

OK, Lua itself requires some learning, as you’ve seen. But LÖVE too!

Important Links


To run a game, you need a folder with at least a file main.lua.

Example of minimal structure:

function love.load()
    -- Run once at game initialization

function love.keypressed(key, scancode, isrepeat)
    -- Run each time a key on the keyboard is pressed

function love.mousepressed(x, y, button, istouch, presses)
    -- Run each time a mouse button is pressed, supports multi-touch too

function love.update(dt)
    -- Run at each frame before drawing it
    -- This is where you handle most of your game logic

function love.draw()
  -- Called at every frame to draw the game

Note: There are other functions you may need, you can find the details here:


I advise you to use Visual Code with the extension

Also, add a file conf.lua at the root of your folder, with the contents:

function love.conf(t)
    t.console = true

Now each time you press Alt+L, your game will pop plus the console window which can help to debug.

Manipulate the Game Window

You can change the default window display attribute during the loading of your game. Example:

function love.load()
    love.window.setMode(800, 600, {resizable=true, minwidth=400, minheight=300})


SVG Files

I found a nice package that adds support for SVG files to LÖVE. It is called TÖVE.


No active development since a couple of years ago, so be aware of that. But for me, it worked fine.

Fixed Update

If you want to make your game at a constant frame rate, it’s not possible natively.

But I found that gist from Leandros: that just does the job perfectly.

You need to copy/paste the code at the end of your main.lua and that’s it. Constant 60FPS.

You can tweak the FPS if you need.

ECS (Entity Component System)

LÖVE is not natively using the paradigm ECS. But if you like ECS as I do, I found a tiny ECS framework for it. It was written in 2016, pretty old already, but it’s so tiny that it did age well.

Here is the link:

If you want to use it, there’s only one file tiny.lua to copy to your project.

You can find a project using it here as an example:

Post Processing Screen VFX

If you want to have some post-processing screen virtual effects, the easiest I found is to use moonshine:

It contains 16 effects like glow, vignette, crt, ... That you can chain as you want and change parameters on the fly.

If you want to create your own effect, you will have to start to write shaders and extend moonshine effects.

Check the GitHub README to understand how to use it.

Screen Shake Effect

I found on the forum of LÖVE a reply from vrld that does the job:

local t, shakeDuration, shakeMagnitude = 0, -1, 0
function startShake(duration, magnitude)
    t, shakeDuration, shakeMagnitude = 0, duration or 1, magnitude or 5

function love.update(dt)
    if t < shakeDuration then
        t = t + dt

function love.draw()
    if t < shakeDuration then
        local dx = love.math.random(-shakeMagnitude, shakeMagnitude)
        local dy = love.math.random(-shakeMagnitude, shakeMagnitude), dy)

Game distribution

If you want to distribute your game, your starting point is the wiki at that address:

More details on WegGL

First, you need to install the tool from Davidobot:

npm install -g love.js

Web server with proper headers

Then you will need a server and a web server running on it. On my end, I use Nginx, and this is how I configured my location:

location /beathoven/ {
        add_header Cross-Origin-Opener-Policy same-origin;
        add_header Cross-Origin-Embedder-Policy require-corp;
        alias /usr/share/nginx/html/beathoven/;

Add missing mime type

After several tries looking at errors in the browser, I realize also I needed to edit the file /etc/nginx/mime.types to add the definition for wasm file:

    application/      kmz;
    application/wasm                      wasm;
    application/x-7z-compressed           7z;

Use 7zip not tar on Windows

To package your game into a love file, you need to simply zip the files.

And since Windows 10, Windows includes a tar command line utility that you can use to make zip. But it looks like it’s not supported by the WebGL build. So I switched to 7Zip using the following parameters:


You can also use 7zip in the command line.

Example of building & deploy script


tools/7za a -tzip assets/ gameobjects/ pages/ responsive/ utils/ fonts.lua main.lua -mx0

love.js -t Beathoven -c game 

ssh server rm -rf /usr/share/nginx/html/beathoven/*

scp -r game/* server:/usr/share/nginx/html/beathoven/


Obviously, I haven’t covered everything here, but I hope that it can give a nice introduction to help you get quickly productive with LÖVE and create some cool games!

Next week I’ll share about a Rhythm game called Beathoven I decided to make while exploring the possibilities of LÖVE.

Originally published here.