HLSpriteKit 2.0.0

HLSpriteKit 2.0.0

LangLanguage Obj-CObjective C
License MIT
ReleasedLast Release Oct 2020

Maintained by Karl Voskuil.

  • By
  • Karl Voskuil


CI Status Version carthage compatible License Platform

SpriteKit scene and node subclasses, plus various utilities.



A layout manager provides a single method (layout) to lay out nodes. It can be attached to any SKNode using the class category SKNode+HLLayoutManager.

Layout managers currently provided:

  • HLTableLayoutManager for table-like layouts;

  • HLGridLayoutManager for grid-like layouts;

  • HLStackLayoutManager for one-dimensional layouts;

  • HLRingLayoutManager for ring-like polar-coordinate layouts;

  • HLOutlineLayoutManager for vertical lists (especially of text) indented in levels.

  • HLParallaxLayoutManager for layers of nodes that move at different speeds.

Putting layout code in a third-party object (rather than in the SKScene or SKNode subclass) allows for easier reuse of common layout math.

Custom SKNode Subclasses

HLSpriteKit includes a number of custom SKNode subclasses.

  • HLGridNode. Organizes content into a grid of same-size squares, with visual formatting and interaction options.

  • HLLabelButtonNode. A simple SKLabelNode displayed over an SKSpriteNode, but with extra sizing and alignment options. In particular, it can size the sprite node to the text, and it can do baseline alignment so that the full font size (including descender) is vertically centered in the background; the math for the calculation is provided for all SKLabelNodes in a category SKLabelNode+HLLabelNodeAdditions.

  • HLMenuNode. An interface and model of a hierarchical menu of buttons. The interface is a simple vertical stack of buttons, for now, but it provides a few layout and animation features.

  • HLMessageNode. Shows a text message over a solid or textured background, with some animation options.

  • HLMultilineLabelNode. A label node that can display multiline text.

  • HLRingNode. A collection of items (usually buttons) arranged in a circle around a center point.

  • HLScrollNode. Provides support for scrolling and scaling its content with pan and pinch gestures. The interface is deliberately analogous to UIScrollView.

  • HLTiledNode. Behaves like an SKSpriteNode that tiles its texture to fit a specified size.

  • HLToolbarNode. A horizontal toolbar of squares, with various visual formatting, sizing, and animation options.


A gesture target handles gestures from gesture recognizers (either UIGestureRecognizer under iOS or NSGestureRecognizer under macOS). It can be attached to any SKNode using the class category SKNode+HLGestureTarget.

The use pattern is this: The SKScene knows about its view, and so the scene is the gesture recognizer delegate. It manages a collection of shared gesture recognizers, which it attaches to and detaches from its view as appropriate. When a certain gesture is recognized by a gesture recognizer, the scene figures out which node or nodes are the target of the gesture, and it forwards the gestures to those nodes using the HLGestureTarget interface.

Here’s the point: The scene can effectively use gesture recognizers (rather than responder interface touchesBegan:withEvent: or mouseUp:), and the gesture handling code can be encapsulated within node subclasses (rather than dumped into a bloated scene).


HLScene contains functionality useful to many scenes, including but not limited to:

  • loading scene assets in a background thread
  • a shared gesture recognition system and an HLGestureTarget-aware gesture delegate implementation
  • modal presentation of a node above the scene
  • registration of nodes for common scene-related behaviors (e.g. resizing when the scene resizes; not encoding when the scene encodes; and so on)


HLAction provides a stateful alternative to the SKAction system. The motivating use-case for HLAction is to persist animation state during encoding and resume it on decoding.

An example illustrates the motivation.

Suppose that whenever an orc is killed in a game, an SKAction sequence runs: first, the orc node staggers and falls by means of a texture animation; then, the orc node fades out slowly over three seconds; then, the orc node is removed from the scene.

Suppose, in the middle of that death fade, the user backgrounds the app (or saves the game), encoding it.

When the game is resumed (and decoded), it would be nice if the orc corpse continued fading. Even better would be if it matched pixel-perfect with the screenshot taken by iOS during application state preservation.

Such fidelity is difficult using the SKAction system. Here are the common possibilities:

  • If the entire orc node is encoded using NSCoding, then the ongoing animation sequence will successfully encode, decode, and resume. Unfortunately, though, it does not encode its progress or its original state, and so it starts over from the beginning of the sequence without resetting alpha. In the example, this means that the partly-faded orc will hop back on its ghostly feet in order to stagger and fall once again.

  • If the orc node is not encoded, but instead recreated on restoration, then no SKAction animation sequence will resume. Either the orc node will disappear, or it will stay around indefinitely, or the app must figure out how to preserve and restore the state of the animation sequence.

HLAction solves this problem by representing the state of all animations in encodable objects only loosely coupled to a particular node.

The main drawbacks of HLAction are that you can no longer use the SKAction runloop in SKNode, and that the actions provided are not as fully-featured.

New actions are being added as needed. Please let me know if you could use one that hasn't yet been added.


HLHacktion provides SKAction alternatives for various purposes.

The hack in the name avoids a name conflict with HLAction, and also acknowledges that these solutions piggyback into the existing SKAction system. See HLAction for an independent alternative system to SKAction.

One example of an HLHacktion: [HLHacktion performSelector:onWeakTarget:] returns an SKAction which retains its target weakly, which can avoid retain cycles caused by [SKAction performSelector:onTarget:].

HLHacktion also provides encodable alternatives to block-running SKAction actions. The problem is this: When the SKScene node hierarchy is encoded, as is common during application state preservation or a “game save”, nodes running SKAction actions with code blocks must be handled specially, since the code blocks cannot be encoded. In particular, attempting to encode either runBlock: or customActionWithDuration:actionBlock: leads to a runtime warning message:

SKAction: Run block actions can not be properly encoded, Objective-C blocks do not support NSCoding.

The solution provided by HLHacktion actions is to use selector callbacks (with extra features) rather than code blocks.

Gesture Recognition FAQ and Examples

I want to use UIGestureRecognizer or NSGestureRecognizer in my scene to recognize gestures.

Here is the pattern used in HLSpriteKit:

  • Your scene owns all gesture recognizer objects relevant to the scene. As it is presented on an SKView, it adds its gesture recognizers to the view.

  • Your scene is the delegate of the gesture recognizers; that is, the UIGestureRecognizerDelegate or NSGestureRecognizerDelegate.

  • Right before a gesture recognizer starts recognizing, your scene sets the gesture recognizer’s target (object and selector) to the most relevant receiver node. As the gesture is recognized, that node will get the calls.

Consider some alternate designs. In particular, say your scene contains a number of button nodes that should respond to tap events. These are design possibilities that are not the pattern used in HLSpriteKit:

  • Each button could have its own UITapGestureRecognizer added to the SKView.

  • The buttons could share a single UITapGestureRecognizer that has a fixed target method in your scene; call it handleTap:. When a tap gesture was recognized, handleTap: would figure out which button was being tapped, and execute appropriate code.

  • The buttons could share a single UITapGestureRecognizer and each add a separate target to it. When a tap gesture was recognized, each target would decide whether it was being tapped, and execute appropriate code if so.

I want to use gesture recognizers in my scene the HLSpriteKit way.

Create your scene as a subclass of HLScene.

I want to use one of your gesture-target components, like HLToolbarNode, in my scene.

The components in HLSpriteKit are gesture targets, but the mechanism is disabled by default. It takes a few lines of code to get it going.

First, make sure you are a subclass of HLScene:

#import "HLSpriteKit/HLSpriteKit.h"

@interface MyScene : HLScene

Next, create your HLToolbarNode and add it to your scene:

HLToolbarNode *toolbarNode = ...;
toolbarNode.delegate = self;
[self addChild:toolbarNode];

Finally, set the toolbar’s gesture target to itself, and notify the scene that it needs to create some appropriate gesture recognizers:

[toolbarNode hlSetGestureTarget:toolbarNode];
[self needsSharedGestureRecognizersForNode:toolbarNode];

This will give you delegate callbacks for taps or clicks on toolbar tools.

See the Example project (HLSpriteKit/Example/HLSpriteKit/HLCatalogScene.m in project or on GitHub) for a working example of a scene using multiple gesture targets.

I want to make my own gesture-target nodes in my scene.


Here are your options:

  1. Create a custom node that can be its own gesture target.

  2. Attach a generic gesture target to an existing node.

  3. Attach a custom gesture target to an existing node.

  4. Handle it in the scene.

Create a custom node that can be its own gesture target.

Follow the pattern of components in HLSpriteKit, and conform to the HLGestureTarget protocol in your custom node class. Through the HLGestureTarget interface, your node will tell its scene what gesture recognizers it expects, and what to do when those gesture recognizers trigger.

You can then include your node in your scene the same way you included the gesture-target components of HLSpriteKit.

Attach a generic gesture target to an existing node.

Sometimes creating a new node class seems like overkill. Sometimes even implementing a delegate interface seems like overkill. Here are some examples:

  • You have a red square sprite node in your scene, and you want it to wiggle when you tap it.

  • You want to pop up a label node with some text on it, and have it dismiss itself when tapped.

Or here’s a different problem: Say you get an out-of-the-box node class from a third-party library, which doesn't have any kind of interaction programmed, and you want it to respond to taps.

For all these problems, you can attach a generic gesture target to an existing node, without creating any new classes.

Here is the code for making a red square sprite node wiggle when you tap it, assuming your scene is a subclass of HLScene:

SKSpriteNode *redSquareNode = [SKSpriteNode spriteNodeWithColor:[SKColor redColor] size:CGSizeMake(20.0f, 20.0f)];
[self addChild:redSquareNode];
HLTapGestureTarget *tapGestureTarget = [[HLTapGestureTarget alloc] init];
tapGestureTarget.handleGestureBlock = ^(UIGestureRecognizer *gestureRecognizer){
  // wiggle red square node
[redSquareNode hlSetGestureTarget:tapGestureTarget];
[self needsSharedGestureRecognizersForNode:redSquareNode];

The HLTapGestureTarget is a simple implementation of a gesture target which only knows about tap gestures (and not pans or long-presses). Because the tap gesture is so straightforward, it’s easy to reuse the same gesture target for just about any node.

The popup example:

HLLabelButtonNode *labelButtonNode = [[HLLabelButtonNode alloc] initWithColor:[SKColor blackColor] size:CGSizeZero];
labelButtonNode.automaticWidth = YES;
labelButtonNode.automaticHeight = YES;
labelButtonNode.text = @"Tap to dismiss";
[self addChild:labelButtonNode];

__weak HLLabelButtonNode *labelButtonNodeWeak = labelButtonNode;
[labelButtonNode hlSetGestureTarget:[HLTapGestureTarget tapGestureTargetWithHandleGestureBlock:^(UIGestureRecognizer *gestureRecognizer){
  [labelButtonNodeWeak removeFromParent];
[self needsSharedGestureRecognizersForNode:labelButtonNode];

HLLabelButtonNode doesn't even implement its own gesture target, since the generic HLTapGestureTarget is usually all the owner wants. Thus, this code serves also as an example of attaching a generic gesture target to a third-party node.

Attach a custom gesture target to an existing node.

HLToolbarNode recognizes taps, but not long-presses. Can you get long-presses? Maybe pans, too?

You can write your own custom HLGestureTarget and attach it to the node using the familiar SKNode category extension hlSetGestureTarget.

I did this as an exercise, and found it unpleasant. The result of my exercise is class HLToolbarNodeMultiGestureTarget declared in HLToolbarNode.h. Once written, the enabling code is familiar:

HLToolbarNode *toolbarNode = ...;
toolbarNode.delegate = self;
[self addChild:toolbarNode];

HLToolbarNodeMultiGestureTarget *multiGestureTarget = [[HLToolbarNodeMultiGestureTarget alloc] initWithToolbarNode:toolbarNode];
multiGestureTarget.delegate = self;
[toolbarNode hlSetGestureTarget:multiGestureTarget];
[self needsSharedGestureRecognizersForNode:toolbarNode];

You can use the HLToolbarNodeMultiGestureTarget class as a pattern for writing your own custom gesture targets.

In the design stages, the ability to write customized gesture targets for any node seemed like a strength of the HLGestureTarget system. For instance, it keeps bloat out of the default HLToolbarNode gesture target. But in practice, it seems like way too much work to get gesture handling code out of the scene, only to delegate the calls right back into the scene.

Perhaps a better design alternative would be to subclass HLToolbarNode in order to override the default gesture handling. Or to handle the gestures in the scene rather than in a gesture target.

Handle it in the scene.

One of the goals of HLGestureTarget is to get gesture-handling code out of the scene, so that it can be more easily reused between scenes.

But here we are. You want to handle some gestures in the scene.

You can see an example of this kind of hybrid model in a scene in Flippy. Search for the bloated method gestureRecognizer:shouldReceiveTouch:. The scene handles most gestures inline, but then sometimes calls [super] to let HLScene handle the real HLGestureTarget components. Here is an excerpt:

// Modal overlay layer (handled by HLScene).
if ([self modalNodePresented]) {
  return [super gestureRecognizer:gestureRecognizer shouldReceiveTouch:touch];

// Construction toolbar.
if (_constructionToolbarState.toolbarNode
    && _constructionToolbarState.toolbarNode.parent
    && [_constructionToolbarState.toolbarNode containsPoint:sceneLocation]) {
  if ([gestureRecognizer isKindOfClass:[UIPanGestureRecognizer class]]) {
    [gestureRecognizer removeTarget:nil action:NULL];
    [gestureRecognizer addTarget:self action:@selector(handleConstructionToolbarPan:)];
    return YES;
  if ([gestureRecognizer isKindOfClass:[UITapGestureRecognizer class]]
      && [(UITapGestureRecognizer *)gestureRecognizer numberOfTapsRequired] == 1) {
    [gestureRecognizer removeTarget:nil action:NULL];
    [gestureRecognizer addTarget:self action:@selector(handleConstructionToolbarTap:)];
    return YES;
  if ([gestureRecognizer isKindOfClass:[UILongPressGestureRecognizer class]]) {
    [gestureRecognizer removeTarget:nil action:NULL];
    [gestureRecognizer addTarget:self action:@selector(handleConstructionToolbarLongPress:)];
    return YES;
  return NO;


Note how the override follows the same pattern as HLScene: If a certain component should get the gesture, then the old gesture target is cleared and a new one set.

I want to use one of your gesture-target components, like HLToolbarNode, in my scene, but I don't want to use your gesture handling system.

HLGestureTarget is lightweight, and optional, and should not introduce overhead for the HLSpriteKit components.

I have written very simple UIResponder and NSResponder user interaction implemenations for some of the components, as a proof-of-concept, but I haven't used them much myself. I would be happy to work on these more, or accept pull requests. Let me know what you need!


HLSpriteKit is under active development, and so includes other experimental classes and functions which seem general enough for reuse. For instance, an SKEmitterNode store and some image manipulation functions are included, but it’s not clear they are useful.


# CocoaPods
pod "HLSpriteKit", "~> 1.0"

# Carthage
github "hilogames/HLSpriteKit" ~> 1.0


Karl Voskuil (karl * hilogames dot com)


HLSpriteKit is available under the MIT License. See the LICENSE file for more info.