Modding Book/Lua Scripts

From Minetest Developer Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Minetest Modding Book
Minetest uses Lua scripts to provide modding support. This online book aims to teach you how to create your own mods, starting from the basics.
Welcome to Minetest Modding
Introduction Folder Structure Lua Scripts Nodes, Items and Crafting Node Drawtypes
Let's get interactive!

Active Block Modifiers

Player Physics Formspecs HUD
Releasing a Mod lua_api.txt lua_api.html Methods Objects



In this chapter we will talk about scripting in Lua, the tools required, and go over some techniques which you will probably find useful.

  • Tools
    • Recommended Editors
    • Integrated Programming Environments
  • Coding in Lua
    • Selection
  • Programming
  • Local and Global
  • Including other Lua Scripts


A text editor with code highlighting is sufficient for writing scripts in Lua. Code highlighting gives different colors to different words and characters depending on what they mean. This allows you to spot mistakes.

    if not then
        return false
    if not then = {}


    return true

For example, keywords in the above snippet are highlighted, such as if, then, end, return. table.insert is a function which comes with Lua by default.

Recommended Editors

Other editors are available, of course.

Integrated Programming Environments

IDEs allow you to debug code like a native application. These are harder to set up than just a text editor.

One such IDE is Eclipse with the Koneki Lua plugin:

  • Install Eclipse + Koneki.
  • Create a new Lua project from existing source (specify Minetest's base directory).
  • Follow instructions from Koneki wiki how to do "Attach to remote Application" debugging (just a few steps).
  • It is suggested to add those lines from wiki at beginning of builtin.lua.
  • Start the debugger (set "Break on first line" in debugger configuration to see if it is working).
  • Start Minetest.
  • Enter the game to startup Lua.

Coding in Lua

This section is a Work in Progress. May be unclear.

Programs are a series of commands that run one after another. We call these commands "statements."

Program flow is important, it allows you to direct or skip over statements. There are three main types of flow:

  • Sequence: Just run one statement after another, no skipping.
  • Selected: Skip over statements depending on conditions.
  • Iteration: Repeating, looping. Keep running the same statements until a condition is met.

So, what do statements in Lua look like?

local a = 2     -- Set 'a' to 2
local b = 2     -- Set 'b' to 2
local result = a + b -- Set 'result' to a + b, which is 4
a = a + 10
print("Sum is "..result)

Woah, what happened there? a, b and result are variables. They're like what you get in mathematics, A = w * h. The equals signs are assignments, so "result" is set to a + b. Variable names can be longer than one character unlike in maths, as seen with the "result" variable. Lua is case sensitive. A is a different variable to a.

The word "local" before they are first used means that they have local scope, I'll discuss that shortly.

Variable Types

Type Description Example
Integer Whole number local A = 4
Float Decimal local B = 3.2, local C = 5 / 2
String A piece of text local D = "one two three"
Boolean True or False local is_true = false, local E = (1 == 1)
Table Lists Explained below
Function Can run. May require inputs and may return a value local result = func(1, 2, 3)

Not an exhaustive list. Doesn't contain every possible type.

Arithmetic Operators

Symbol Purpose Example
A + B Addition 2 + 2 = 4
A - B Subtraction 2 - 10 = -8
A * B Multiplication 2 * 2 = 4
A / B Division 100 / 50 = 2
A ^ B Powers 2 ^ 2 = 22 = 4
A .. B Join strings "foo" .. "bar" = "foobar"

A string in programming terms is a piece of text.

Not an exhaustive list. Doesn't contain every possible operator.


The most basic selection is the if statement. It looks like this:

local random_number = math.random(1, 100) -- Between 1 and 100.

if random_number > 50 then

That example generates a random number between 1 and 100. It then prints "Woohoo!" if that number is bigger than 50, otherwise it prints "No!". What else can you get apart from '>'?

Logical Operators

Symbol Purpose Example
A == B Equals 1 == 1 (true), 1 == 2 (false)
A ~= B Doesn't equal 1 ~= 1 (false), 1 ~= 2 (true)
A > B Greater than 5 > 2 (true), 1 > 2 (false), 1 > 1 (false)
A < B Less than 1 < 3 (true), 3 < 1 (false), 1 < 1 (false)
A >= B Greater than or equals 5 >= 5 (true), 5 >= 3 (true), 5 >= 6 (false)
A <= B Less than or equals 3 <= 6 (true), 3 <= 3 (true)
A and B And (both must be correct) (2 > 1) and (1 == 1) (true), (2 > 3) and (1 == 1) (false)
A or B either or. One or both must be true. (2 > 1) or (1 == 2) (true), (2 > 4) or (1 == 3) (false)
not A not true not (1 == 2) (true), not (1 == 1) (false)

That doesn't contain every possible operator, and you can combine operators like this:

if not A and B then

Which prints "Yay!" if A is false and B is true.

Logical and arithmetic operators work exactly the same, they both accept inputs and return a value which can be stored.

local A = 5
local is_equal = (A == 5)

if is_equal then
    print("Is equal!")


Programming is the action of talking a problem, such as sorting a list of items, and then turning it into steps that a computer can understand.

Teaching you the logical process of programming is beyond the scope of this book, however the following websites are quite useful in developing this:


Codecademy is one of the best resources for learning to 'code', it provides an interactive tutorial experience.


Scratch is a good resource when starting from absolute basics, learning the problem solving techniques required to program.
Scratch is designed to teach children how to program, it isn't a serious programming language.

Local and Global

Whether a variable is local or global determines where it can be written to or read to. A local variable is only accessible from where it is defined. Here are some examples:

-- Accessible from within this script file
local one = 1

function myfunc()
    -- Accessible from within this function
    local two = one + one

    if two == one then
        -- Accessible from within this if statement
        local three = one + two

Whereas global variables can be accessed from anywhere in the script file, and from any other mod.

my_global_variable = "blah"

function one()
    my_global_variable = "three"

print(my_global_variable) -- Output: "blah"
print(my_global_variable) -- Output: "three"

Locals should be used as much as possible

Lua is global by default (unlike most other programming languages). Local variables must be identified as such.

function one()
    foo = "bar"

function two()
    print(dump(foo))  -- Output: "bar"


dump() is a function that can turn any variable into a string so the programmer can see what it is. The foo variable will be printed as "bar", including the quotes which show it is a string.

This is sloppy coding, and Minetest will in fact warn you about this:

[WARNING] Assigment to undeclared global 'foo' inside function at init.lua:2

To correct this, use "local":

function one()
    local foo = "bar"

function two()
    print(dump(foo))  -- Output: nil


Nil means not initalised. The variable hasn't been assigned a variable yet, doesn't exist or has been uninitialised (ie: set to nil)

The same goes for functions. Functions are variables of a special type. You should make functions as local as much as possible, as other mods could have functions of the same name.

local function foo(bar)
    return bar * 2

If you want your functions to be accessible from other scripts or mods, it is recommended that you add them all into a table with the same name as the mod:

mymod = {}

    return "foo" .. bar

-- In another mod, or script:"foobar")

Including other Lua Scripts

You can include Lua scripts from your mod, or another mod like this:

dofile(minetest.get_modpath("modname") .. "/script.lua")

"local" variables declared outside of any functions in a script file will be local to that script. You won't be able to access them from any other scripts.

As for how you divide code up into files, it doesn't matter that much. The most important thing is your code is easy to read and edit. You won't need to use it for smaller projects.

Personal tools