Blog post
August 21, 2023

Visual Scripting - How Noodl was inspired by the world of game engines

From Unreal Engine to Unity, visual scripting has become a standard tool for creating games, enabling content creators, animators, level designers, and other non-programmers to work hands-on with the game. This visual way of scripting behaviors and logic using nodes and connections has proven to be an effective and visual way to orchestrate game logic and transform data and assets. However, mixing code and visual scripting still remains the most effective approach in game development.

Noodl, inspired by the gaming industry, has embraced nodes and connections as a way to bring non-programmers, such as designers and product managers, into the software development process.

Let’s look at what visual scripting is, why it’s so important in the gaming industry, and how Noodl takes advantage of it.

Visual Scripting in game engines

Visual scripting is a method of scripting behaviors and logic in a game using visual representations. Instead of traditional programming with text, logic is expressed visually using nodes and connections.

The primary reason for the adoption of visual scripting in game engines is to increase accessibility and collaboration in game development teams. As games become larger and more complex, development teams have grown to include experts from various disciplines, such as content creators, animators, and level designers, who may not have a background in programming. To enable these non-programmers to directly contribute to the game, visual scripting tools have been developed to provide a user-friendly interface for creating and modifying game logic.

As an example, the Unreal Engine offers Blueprints, a type of visual script, which can be used to describe complex game behaviors, such as opening a door when the player approaches it. This type of visual scripting is now a standard tool in the game development industry and is widely used by studios to enhance collaboration and increase productivity.

Nodes and connections to orchestrate game logic

The use of nodes and connections is a cornerstone of Visual Scripting languages, offering a powerful method for game developers to create complex interactions and behaviors in their games. These nodes serve as the building blocks for the game, representing different elements such as enemies, objects, and meshes. Connections, on the other hand, are used to depict events or data flow between these nodes, such as collisions, new game starts, user inputs, and variables such as hitpoints or rotation angles.

The nodes and connections approach offers an intuitive and flexible way to orchestrate game logic, allowing developers to easily create sophisticated interactions and behaviors. For example, a simple node graph could be used to define that when the player gets close to an enemy, the enemy starts moving and reloads its weapon.

Another significant advantage of using Visual Scripting for game logic orchestration is that it provides a visual representation of the node graph and how events trigger within it. This makes it easy to understand and debug game logic, ensuring a seamless and error-free gaming experience for players.

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Nodes and connections to transform data and assets

Another case in the game industry where nodes and connections are used is when generating assets such as materials and textures in 3D graphics. The process starts with the creation of a texture, which then undergoes a series of transformations using various effects and shaders. The entire pipeline is described using nodes and connections, making it easier for 3D artists to manipulate and tweak the final product.

One example of this can be seen in Blender, a widely-used 3D modeling tool. In the tool, a checkerboard texture is transformed into a material that can be used in a game.

Each node in the pipeline involves complex mathematical calculations, but it is abstracted into simple parameters that can be adjusted, such as color, strength, and roughness.

Mixing code and Visual Scripting

Today it’s possible to create games only using visual scripting but in practice, the most effective way is to mix code and visual scripting. Some parts of the game are very effective to do using visual scripting while sometimes, for example very dynamic logic, is difficult to describe using nodes and connections.  Additionally, if a project requires new types of nodes, they can only be created using code. By utilizing both code and visual scripting, game developers can take advantage of the strengths of each approach to create engaging, dynamic games.

Noodl’s take on Nodes and Connections

Noodl has embraced nodes and connections for the same reasons as the gaming industry.

  • It allows non-programmers, e.g. designers, product managers, and domain experts, to be hands-on with the software
  • It’s a great way to describe event-driven execution
  • It’s an effective way to visualize data and data transformation

It also brings other advantages, such as improved visual debugging and the ability to work on the application when it's running, leading to faster iterations.

In our case, the high-level components that you work with are natural parts of a modern web application: UI elements (pages, lists, buttons, etc), data objects (Queries, Database records, Variables, etc), API Calls, etc.

At the same time we also embrace that classic code (Javascript in our case) is here to stay and in many cases the best way to build certain functionality.

That’s why we made code a native citizen in Noodl and made the integration between our visual scripting and code as effortless as possible.

At Noodl we believe that the app development team of the future will become more and more diverse, just like the game development teams. Some will be expert coders, and some will have other expertise and we want Noodl to be a great tool for them to come together.

Unleash the full potential of your team and experience the power of diversity in app development. Book a demo today and discover how Noodl can revolutionize your app development game.

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