Variant

Category: Core

Brief Description

The most important data type in Godot.

Description

In computer programming, a Variant class is a class that is designed to store a variety of other types. Dynamic programming languages like PHP, Lua, JavaScript and GDScript like to use them to store variables’ data on the backend. With these Variants, properties are able to change value types freely.

var foo = 2 # foo is dynamically an integer
foo = "Now foo is a string!"
foo = Reference.new() # foo is an Object
var bar: int = 2 # bar is a statically typed integer.
# bar = "Uh oh! I can't make static variables become a different type!"

Godot tracks all scripting API variables within Variants. Without even realizing it, you use Variants all the time. When a particular language enforces its own rules for keeping data typed, then that language is applying its own custom logic over the base Variant scripting API.

  • GDScript automatically wrap values in them. It keeps all data in plain Variants by default and then optionally enforces custom static typing rules on variable types.
  • VisualScript tracks properties inside Variants as well, but it also uses static typing. The GUI interface enforces that properties have a particular type that doesn’t change over time.
  • C# is statically typed, but uses the Mono object type in place of Godot’s Variant class when it needs to represent a dynamic value. object is the Mono runtime’s equivalent of the same concept.
  • The statically-typed language NativeScript C++ does not define a built-in Variant-like class. Godot’s GDNative bindings provide their own godot::Variant class for users; Any point at which the C++ code starts interacting with the Godot runtime is a place where you might have to start wrapping data inside Variant objects.

The global @GDScript.typeof function returns the enumerated value of the Variant type stored in the current variable. These correspond to TYPE_* constants in the @GlobalScope docs.

var foo = 2
match typeof(foo):
    TYPE_NIL:
        print("foo is null")
    TYPE_INTEGER:
        print("foo is an integer")
    TYPE_OBJECT:
        # Note that Objects are their own special category.
        # To get the name of the underlying Object type, you need the `get_class()` method.
        print("foo is a(n) %s" % foo.get_class()) # inject the class name into a formatted string.
        # Note also that there is not yet any way to get a script's `class_name` string easily.
        # To fetch that value, you need to dig deeply into a hidden ProjectSettings setting: an Array of Dictionaries called "_global_script_classes".
        # Open your project.godot file to see it up close.

A Variant takes up only 20 bytes and can store almost any engine datatype inside of it. Variants are rarely used to hold information for long periods of time. Instead, they are used mainly for communication, editing, serialization and moving data around.

Godot has specifically invested in making its Variant class as flexible as possible; so much so that it is used for a multitude of operations to facilitate communication between all of Godot’s systems.

A Variant:

  • Can store almost any datatype.
  • Can perform operations between many variants. GDScript uses Variant as its atomic/native datatype.
  • Can be hashed, so it can be compared quickly to other variants.
  • Can be used to convert safely between datatypes.
  • Can be used to abstract calling methods and their arguments. Godot exports all its functions through variants.
  • Can be used to defer calls or move data between threads.
  • Can be serialized as binary and stored to disk, or transferred via network.
  • Can be serialized to text and use it for printing values and editable settings.
  • Can work as an exported property, so the editor can edit it universally.
  • Can be used for dictionaries, arrays, parsers, etc.

Containers (Array and Dictionary): Both are implemented using variants. A Dictionary can match any datatype used as key to any other datatype. An Array just holds an array of Variants. Of course, a Variant can also hold a Dictionary and an Array inside, making it even more flexible.

Modifications to a container will modify all references to it. A Mutex should be created to lock it if multi-threaded access is desired.

Tutorials