resopollution resopollution - 3 months ago 11
Javascript Question

Understanding JavaScript timer thread issues

I'm starting on a javascript MMORPG that will actually work smoothly. Currently, I created a demo to prove that I can move characters around and have them chat with each other, as well as see eachother move around live.

http://set.rentfox.net/

Now Javascript timers are something I have not used extensively, but from what I know, correct me if I'm wrong, is that having multiple setIntervals happening at the same time doesn't really work well b/c it's all on a single thread.

Lets say I wanted to have 10 different people nuking fireballs at a monster by using sprite background positioning with setInterval -- that animation would require 10 setIntervals doing repainting of the DOM for sprite background-position shifts. Wouldn't that be a big buggy?

I was wondering if there was a way around all this, perhaps using Canvas, so that animations can all happen concurrently without creating an event queue and I don't have to worry about timers.

Hope that makes sense, and please let me know if I need to clarify further.

Answer

The issue with multiple setIntervals is twofold. The first is as you indicate, since all Javascript on browsers is (currently) single-threaded, one timer's execution may hold up the next timer's execution. (Worker threads are coming, though; Firefox already has them, as does Safari 4 [and maybe others].) The second is that the timer happens at a set interval, but if your handler is still running when that interval expires, the second interval is completely skipped. E.g., the timer can interfere with itself.

That last part needs more explanation: Say you have a setInterval at 10ms (which is the fastest you can reasonably expect any implementation to do it; may are clamped so that they don't go faster than that). If your handler takes 13ms, the interval that should have happened 10ms after it began will be completely skipped.

I usually use setTimeout for this kind of thing. When my handler is triggered, I do my work and then schedule the next event at the end of the handler. Then (within the bounds of what you can be certain of), I know the next event will happen at that interval.

For what you're doing, it seems like a single "pulse" timer would be best, working through whatever it needs to do on the pulse. Whether that pulse timer uses setInterval or setTimeout is a judgment call based on what you're seeing with your actual code.