Let's talk about attributes, ValueObjects and Instances

(this post assumes intermediate lua / roblox knowledge)


I’m making this post because I see a lot of games using things like the below code snippet in competitive fighting games. This, to be put quite simply, isn’t good at all. I will explain why in this post.

local Stunned = Instance.new("Folder")
Stunned.Name = "Stunned"
Stunned.Parent = Character

The demon that is StarterCharacterScripts

The first common pattern I see is value objects / folders being in StarterCharacterScripts. It is EXTREMELY expensive to put things in StarterCharacterScripts- and if you have resetting enabled, exploiters can mass lag the server by constantly respawning with alts. Not only does respawning with >10 instances in StarterCharacterScripts lag the server, it also leaks memory out of the sides due to a Roblox bug where character instances don’t get cleaned up. Also, any time the character respawns and you have non-scripts in there, it’ll cause significant lag spikes in your game.

ValueObjects & Instances as Temporary State

(by temporary state, I mean for things like character states such as Running, Crouching, Stunned)
ValueObjects and Instances are overused. You should never be depending on ValueObjects or instances for short-term state- attributes are acceptable, but still not optimal. So first off, let’s identify a few things:

  • The client never calculates other clients state, speed, or anything of the such.
  • The client, as such, doesn’t need to know anyone else’s state, speed, or anything apart from appearance, position, and things like that.
  • The client doesn’t need to know the state, cooldowns, or saved data of other clients or mobs.

Let’s identify a few things with ValueObjects, instances, and attributes:

  • ValueObjects, instances, and attributes replicate to every single client assuming they are a descendant of ReplicatedStorage or Workspace.
  • Instances are costly to create / destroy rapidly, and it has a lot of wasted data. The same with attributes, just to a lesser extent.
  • Functions like :FindFirstChild() take time to execute, so relying on chains of :FindFirstChild() or .Value can result in animation or state weirdness. Keep in mind, Roblox does all inbound connections in one frame. The same is said about attributes, but to a lesser extent.
  • Creating ValueObjects on character spawn is costly and will cost a significant amount of resources.

I think it’s pretty easy to identify the issues with this. Any form of using attributes, instances, or valueobjects for temporary state (characters) results in a lot of wasted bandwith. Here, let’s do some math! Assuming you’re creating instances: setting the name (16chars, let’s assume, so 22 bytes), class (2 byte cost…? no documentation.), parent (5 byte cost). These are reasonable guesses for 1 instance creation- now if we have 8 of these updates in a single frame, that’s 6 (Overhead assumption)+2+22+5 = 35 bytes, for a single instance creation. 8*35=280 bytes, multiply that by 60 that’s 16.8k, aka 16.8 kilobytes. Now here’s the catch- that’s multiplied by however many players there are. So if you have a 25 player server, those 8 state updates per frame result in 420,000 bytes per second. That’s 420 kilobytes. Now, here’s a shocker: speedtest.net reports your internet speed in bits. 8 bits is one byte, so if you wanna know how that scales with your internet: 3,360 kilobits, which is 3.36 megabits (3.36 Mbps) for 8 state updates per frame. Just 8.

Mind blown. That’s so much wasted data, that most likely isn’t even used by any of your scripts. This doesn’t even mention the issues with memory, creation time, update speed, :FindFirstChild(), all of that. I’m not going into detail about that.

Keep in mind: these issues still persist with attributes. You do NOT need to replicate data that has zero usage anywhere in your codebase (at least most likely).

Main takeaway: Don’t use things that replicate to every player when that’s not needed at all. If really necessary, don’t create instances- make a ValueObject on character spawn instead.

Why should I care about these things?

Because if your game remotely relies on ping, the server’s FPS directly impacts ping. If your server is taking 20 milliseconds for physics and .Heartbeat, you are going to have 20 milliseconds of added ping.

You’re also going to notice client frame time being higher- all these instance changes need to be applied and executed. Remember, 16ms per frame is 60fps. That’s an incredibly low budget- 14ms per frame is 70 fps, and 16ms is 60. That’s 10 gained fps- for 2 milliseconds of saved time.

Also keep in mind that player to player interactions are most of the time beneficial for a game- having a higher player cap can make your game more enjoyable.

Remember that the above math I just showed you is a more conservative assumption considering you’re making an instance.

What about readability and ease of access?

It’s possible to make readable and good code without needing to use things like instances. I personally suggest using OOP for character control- it’s efficient, looks good, expandable. However, there’s people who would tell you to use ECS too- it’s your decision. I’m not going to say “this specific way is better than X”, I’m not trying to advertise OOP, this is just a suggestion. It’s your decision on how you structure your code, I’m just telling you that this specific way is very bad. You can use RemoteEvents for replicating state from the server to the client, and back, as well. Just don’t use normal instances / value objects / attributes.


attributes are acceptable, but still not optimal.

What do you actually suggest instead of using attributes?
I’ve been thinking about what the most optimal way of replicating data would be in a game.

I thought about using attributes since the client then simply has to listen for an update event and can then add poison/fire/curse particle effects on the character for example.

And if a new player joins the game, they’ll be able to see the status of other players/characters as well and be able to apply the appropriate particle effects as a visual effect.

I was never really a fan of value objects and was very happy when attributes were released since they’re slightly cheaper to use.
But they might still not be ideal.

So what do you suggest we use instead?
The posts says a lot about what not to use and “don’t use X for Y because it’s expensive”.

But could you include replacements or better methods that are more efficient and still somewhat readable?

I think they are referencing OOP here. You can create a new class using OOP and add custom values to the class. This is really efficient compared to attributes (a bit slow) and values (very slow).

But Lua doesn’t have classes tho?

The only way to use “classes” in Lua afaik is by using metatables.
But then how would script A access script B’s properties if that’s where the object resides in or am I viewing it the wrong way?

I’ve considered using module scripts in every object and to access it’s properties you’d do something like…

require(Character.ModuleScript).Health -= 10


require(Character.ModuleScript).CurrentItem = "Sword"

The problem with this approach however is that data becomes completely invisible to the client and I don’t know if calling require() a lot of times somehow has negative impact on performance since you usually call it only once at the beginning of a script.

So how would you approach this using OOP and making sure clients can still read data they need?

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You can use _G to broadcast variables across scripts. ModuleScripts are preferred though.
Clients can request the data that they want through the server. It’s normally a trade-off between amount of data and frequency of data sent.

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For a project I do have client-sided items since it requires less bandwidth, for this I wanted to use attributes.

If a player picks up a item, it changes the “equippeditem” attribute (which is a number).
When that attribute changes, it updates for all clients, client looks for a item with the given ID number, if it exists it’s cloned from storage and placed in the player’s hand.

But this has me wondering if this is truly the best way to do it.
The attribute is not used as a temporary state, it’s changes are replicated and new players that join the server can read it’s value instantly the moment the game is loaded and it only ever updates if a player picks up/drops a item or equips a different one.