[ SDL2 – Part 4 ] Making things happen

Make things happen!

Games without any input would be really boring. Actually it wouldn’t be a game at all, just a movie. So let’s look at how we can get input so that the player can actually play the game. But before we do that, we need to take a look at how we do the things updates every frame. ( A frame is a single image of the game, basically each SDL_RenderPresent(..) is the end of a frame. )

The game loop

In a game ( and many other applications ) things need to happen over and over again. So you need a big loop that does all of these things. A minimal game loop covers :

  • Objects needs to be moved
  • Input handling
  • Collision detections
  • ….

Today we’ll focus on the two first points, we’ll cover collision detection later.

The game loop itself is usually a form of infinite loop :

So in order to exit the loop, we need a way of setting the loop bool to yountrue inside the loop.This will make the loop condition ( if ( loop ) ) false and the loop will stop. We could just use a break; to quit the loop. But this won’t work when we start handling input. We’ll see why in a few moments. But first, we need to move on to the next SDL object :

Events in SDL2

All events in SDL2 is in the form of a SDL_Event struct. A SDL_Event is a huge structure with tons of member variable with names that generally don’t say a lot about what they’re for. It is used for just about everything ;

  • Quit event
  • Mouse events
  • Keyboard events
  • Window events( resize, minimize, move, focus, …  )
  • Phone events ( touch, scale, flipping, … )
  • …And the list goes on…

The type of the event is contained int the .event. This is an enum of the type SDL_EventType If you take a look at the documentation, you’ll see that it has a lot of fields. But to start out, we’ll only look at SDL_Quit and SDL_KeyDown.

Event polling

Now that we know about the SDL_Event, let’s see how we get the event from SDL. The method for doing this is :

As you can see, it’s pretty straight forward. Just pass it a pointer to a SDL_Event and it will populate the structure. If it returns 0, there are no more events. There will most likely be more than one SDL_Event in each iteration, so we’ll need to put this function in a loop.


The first SDL_EventType we’ll be handling is SDL_QUIT. Which occurs when the user quits our game. Either using the x on the top of the window or Alt + F4

And there we go! Now the user can exit the program. Which is rather important…


Let’s handle a more interesting event. Namely keyboard presses. These have the event type
SDL_KeyDown. All possible key presses is stored within the enum called SDL_KeyCode. If you want to see all possible values, you can look at the documentation. We won’t dive into the details of the where the SDL_KeyCode is stored right now because, as I said, it’s stored deep inside the SDL_Event. Instead we’ll just tell you were to find the SDL_KeyCode.


Where the last sym is the actual SDL_KeyCode

Moving things

And now we’ve come to the highpoint of this part, namely moving something based on user input. Doing this is fairly easy, we already have most code for it. All we need to do is to store the location ( SDL_Rect ) of what we are trying to move somewhere ( for now we’ll let it be a global variable along with SDL_Renderer and SDL_Window. )

We can render a rectangle normally like in the last part and move it around based on user input. We’ll use the following SDL_KeyCode values for movement

  • SDLK_LEFT    – left arrow key
  • SDLK_RIGHT – right arrow key
  • SDLK_UP       – up arrow key
  • SDLK_DOWN – down arrow key

As you can see, the names are very self-explanatory. And moving the item is as simple as incrementing the x and y of the SDL_Rect. So we get

This will handle arrow key presses and move the object accordingly.

Feel free to comment if you have anything to say or ask questions if anything is unclear. I always appreciate getting comments.

You can also email me : olevegard@headerphile.com

4 thoughts on “[ SDL2 – Part 4 ] Making things happen”

  1. Hi,

    When I run this simple game program and I move the rectangle around the window, it moves like I’m typing. What I mean is it moves once then waits a second and then speeds up just like if I held down a key to type. How can I counteract this and make it so that it is a more fluid movement?


  2. I’ve seen some other guides that use functions like SDL_Quit, IMG_Quit, SDL_DestroyWindow, etc. in a quit() function that gets placed in the error checking statement. I noticed you don’t do that here and I’m wondering if these functions are really necessary or not.

    1. @Bryan
      I’m pretty sure that in small, demo programs (like this) closing stuff properly does not matter per se. No one runs Windows 95 anymore and the OS will almost certainly manage to do all the necessary cleanup after your program stops.

      Once the program grows bigger, though, it might start interfering with itself and/or leaking memory and/or leave trash behind that the OS will fail to clean up (e.g. because the program’s process won’t die out properly).

      So when learning new things don’t stress out about that too much, but try to get into habit of keeping it clean anyway.

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