Prefer rendering using Hash representations of your primitives, over the Array based representations. The hash based form is quicker to render and has some readability benefits.

To understand why, we will go over Array based rendering, Hash based rendering then explain how the engine is able to use the Hash representation faster.

Rendering basics/definitions

DragonRuby supports rendering a number of different primitives:

  • Sprites
  • Solids
  • Borders
  • Labels

You can tell DragonRuby to render these different primitives by “sending” them to the output arrays on args:

args.outputs.sprites << a_sprite # for sprites
args.outputs.solids  << a_solid  # for solids
args.outputs.borders << a_border # for borders
args.outputs.labels  << a_label  # for labels

DragonRuby is flexible in what it accepts to those arrays. Two of the types (and the subject of this recipe) are : Array and Hash.

Array based rendering

Array based allows you to send Array objects at outputs. Here’s an example Sprite, from the docs

def tick args
  args.outputs.sprites << [
    640 - 50,                 # X
    360 - 50,                 # Y
    100,                      # W
    100,                      # H
    'sprites/square-blue.png' # PATH

You can see that the elements of the array at 0, 1, 2 etc correspond to the x, y, width and height values of the sprite. You can be flexible (to a point) on how much data you pass in to the array. Here’s the full set of sprites properties allowed to pass in the array.

Hash based rendering

Hash based rendering is similar, but uses keys to identify the properties of the sprite, instead of array locations.

Here’s the same sprite example, expressed as a Hash:

def tick args
  args.outputs.sprites << {
    x: 640 - 50,
    y: 360 - 50,
    w: 100,
    h: 100,
    path: 'sprites/square-blue.png',

Many more properties of sprites are allowed to be passed in the Hash. Sprite Hash Properties.

Why prefer Hash over Array based rendering?


There’s a readaibility benefit to code that uses Hash to represent the primitives. Each property is named clearly. You can also re-order the properties in the hash if it increases readibility. You don’t get that flexibility using the Array indexes.

More advanced sprite properties available

If you’d like to use the more advanced sprite features, you’ll need the Hash representation anyway.


Last but definitely not least, the Hash based form of primitives is much faster to process than the Array based one.

As the examples in the docs show, the Array based form of rendering is quite flexible:

  • You can use the short form for Label with just x,y,text. You can also pass in more properties.
  • You can use a short form for Sprite, with just x, y, w, h, path, or the longer form with additional properties.

This flexibility comes at a cost, as the engine needs to inspect each array passed in to determine accurately which properties are passed in which indexes. This inspection is costly.

With Hash based rendering, the engine still has to inspect the outputs to determine what’s been passed in, but it is much faster due to:

  • The path to check Hash primitives being highly optimised
  • The stricter guarantees of what input will look like
  • Hash access being generally very fast in DragonRuby

More info


DragonRuby ships with a helper method to log any Array based rendering usage:

Use it to neatly log all your usages, then convert them!

Other primitive representations

We didn’t touch on Class based representations of primitives, that can be the subject of a further recipe.