Nodes and scene instances

This guide explains how to get nodes, create nodes, add them as a child, and instantiate scenes from code.

Getting nodes

You can get a reference to a node by calling the Node.get_node() method. For this to work, the child node must be present in the scene tree. Getting it in the parent node's _ready() function guarantees that.

If, for example, you have a scene tree like this, and you want to get a reference to the Sprite and Camera2D nodes to access them in your script.

../../_images/nodes_and_scene_instances_player_scene_example.png

To do so, you can use the following code.

var sprite
var camera2d

func _ready():
    sprite = get_node("Sprite")
    camera2d = get_node("Camera2D")

Note that you get nodes using their name, not their type. Above, "Sprite" and "Camera2D" are the nodes' names in the scene.

../../_images/nodes_and_scene_instances_sprite_node.png

If you rename the Sprite node as Skin in the Scene dock, you have to change the line that gets the node to get_node("Skin") in the script.

../../_images/nodes_and_scene_instances_sprite_node_renamed.png

Node paths

When getting a reference to a node, you're not limited to getting a direct child. The get_node() function supports paths, a bit like when working with a file browser. Add a slash to separate nodes.

Take the following example scene, with the script attached to the UserInterface node.

../../_images/nodes_and_scene_instances_ui_scene_example.png

To get the Tween node, you would use the following code.

var tween

func _ready():
    tween = get_node("ShieldBar/Tween")

Note

As with file paths, you can use ".." to get a parent node. The best practice is to avoid doing that though not to break encapsulation. You can also start the path with a forward slash to make it absolute, in which case your topmost node would be "/root", the application's predefined root viewport.

Syntactic sugar

You can use two shorthands to shorten your code in GDScript. Firstly, putting the onready keyword before a member variable makes it initialize right before the _ready() callback.

onready var sprite = get_node("Sprite")

There is also a short notation for get_node(): the dollar sign, "$". You place it before the name or path of the node you want to get.

onready var sprite = $Sprite
onready var tween = $ShieldBar/Tween

Creating nodes

To create a node from code, call its new() method like for any other class-based datatype.

You can store the newly created node's reference in a variable and call add_child() to add it as a child of the node to which you attached the script.

var sprite

func _ready():
    var sprite = Sprite.new() # Create a new Sprite.
    add_child(sprite) # Add it as a child of this node.

To delete a node and free it from memory, you can call its queue_free() method. Doing so queues the node for deletion at the end of the current frame after it has finished processing. At that point, the engine removes the node from the scene and frees the object in memory.

sprite.queue_free()

Before calling sprite.queue_free(), the remote scene tree looks like this.

../../_images/nodes_and_scene_instances_remote_tree_with_sprite.png

After the engine freed the node, the remote scene tree doesn't display the sprite anymore.

../../_images/nodes_and_scene_instances_remote_tree_no_sprite.png

You can alternatively call free() to immediately destroy the node. You should do this with care as any reference to it will instantly become null. We recommend using queue_free() unless you know what you're doing.

When you free a node, it also frees all its children. Thanks to this, to delete an entire branch of the scene tree, you only have to free the topmost parent node.

Instancing scenes

Scenes are templates from which you can create as many reproductions as you'd like. This operation is called instancing, and doing it from code happens in two steps:

  1. Loading the scene from the hard drive.

  2. Creating an instance of the loaded PackedScene resource.

var scene = load("res://MyScene.tscn")

Preloading the scene can improve the user's experience as the load operation happens when the compiler reads the script and not at runtime. This feature is only available with GDScript.

var scene = preload("res://MyScene.tscn")

At that point, scene is a packed scene resource, not a node. To create the actual node, you need to call PackedScene.instance(). It returns a tree of nodes that you can use as a child of your current node.

var instance = scene.instance()
add_child(instance)

The advantage of this two-step process is you can keep a packed scene loaded and create new instances on the fly. For example, to quickly instance several enemies or bullets.