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Setting up collisions

Setting up collisions

April 13, 2017

You are going to set up collision handling so that your game finally becomes a real game! At the moment the player passes through obstacles and lands on the ground. To make the game challenging the player will have to avoid the obstacles by maneuvering through the space between the carrots and avoid hitting the ground!

Have a look at Apple's documentation on the subject of Working with Collisions and Contacts.. It can be a little bit confusing when you first start, so don't worry if you don't understand everything at once.

In this tutorial you will setup physics collisions and contacts in the scene editor, in later tutorials you will expand this knowledge implementing physics setup in code.

Quick overview of physics

SpriteKit has a high performance physics engine built in. It allows you to create games with objects that collide, bounce, and move like objects in the real world. The physics engine does this by assigning objects properties like velocity, friction, elasticity, and more.

Imagine a game with players, missiles, platforms, and enemies. Missiles might explode when they hit an enemy. Players and enemies might bounce off platforms and each other. Player objects might move as if they were soft and rubbery while enemies seem heavy and solid.

Physics objects have few properties that determine how they interact with each other, these are:

  • Category Bit Mask
  • Contact Bit Mask
  • Collision Bit Mask

Category bit mask

This value identifies which category a physics object belongs to. You will assign each object a category so the physics engine can assign the appropriate interactions.

Contact Bit Mask

The contact bit mask determines which category an object produces contact events for. It's important to understand that contact events do not produce a physical collision!. In other words a contact only tells you that two objects made contact. Objects that make contact might bounce or might pass through one another. How they interact is determined by the Collision Bit Mask.

Collision Bit Mask

The collision bit mask determines which category of objects a physics object collides with. A collision is a physical interaction. When an object collides with another object it there is a physical effect! For example one object may bounce off the other or knock the other object over (Think about Angry Birds).

Physics Categories values

Physics categories are read as binary values with a value of 2 to the power of 32. So 0 would look like:


The value 1 would translate to:


A value of 2 would be:


Binary values only contain 1s and 0s!

Contact, and Collision Bit masks use the same values. The physics engine compares all three values to determine which objects will collide and which contacts it should tell you about.

When the category value of an object has a 1 in the same position as the value for collision then the objects collide. The same is true for contacts. For example, objects of category:


Will collide with objects whose have a collision bitmask of:

00000000000000000000000000000011 (both have a 1 in the second column)

This object would also collide with objects whose category is:

00000000000000000000000000000001 (shares a 1 in the first column)

Let's apply this idea to the game. So far you have the following types of objects:

  • Player
  • Obstacle
  • Ground
  • Goal Sensor

Let's give them each a unique binary value. They each need a value with a 1 in a different column from the others this identifies each as a different type (or category) of object.

  • 00000001 = 1 = Player
  • 00000010 = 2 = Obstacle
  • 00000100 = 4 = Ground
  • 00001000 = 8 = Goal Sensor

These are each unique categories because they each have a 1 in a unique column. In the scene editor you will enter the integer value for the binary number (00000100 = 4).

Collision Bit Masks

When you set the collision bit mask you are deciding which objects will produce a physical collision. In your game you want the bunny/hero (1) to collide with the carrots/obstacle (2) and the ground (4). So the Collision Bit Mask for the player is 7.

  • 00000001 = 1 = Player
  • 00000010 = 2 = Obstacle
  • 00000100 = 4 = Ground
  • 00000111 = 7 = Player Collision Bit Mask
  • 00001000 = 8 = Goal (doesn't collide with Player)

Notice that 1+2+4 = 7. Also notice that in binary the number 7 shares a 1 in the same columns as Player, Obstacle, and Ground.

You don't want the player (1) to collide with goal (8)! Notice the goal Category Bit Mask in binary doesn't share a 1 in any of the columns with the Player Collision Bit Mask.

Contact Bit Masks

A contact doesn't produce a physical interaction but it is noticed by the physics engine. You want to know when the player (1) makes contact with the goal (8) because this will score a point. You also want to know when the player hits obstacles (2) or the ground (4) because this ends the game.

  • 0010 = 2 Obstacles
  • 0100 = 4 Ground
  • 1000 = 8 Goal
  • 1110 = 14 Contact Bit Mask for player

Contact for player is 2+4+8 = 14.

Any binary value with 1110 would work here. For example 15 (1111), or even 4294967295 which is:

11111111111111111111111111111111 = 2^32 = 4294967295. You may have noticed this is the default value in the editor. These default settings are why the bunny collides with the ground currently.

Setup physics

Currently the obstacles don't use physics. You will apply physics in the next step:

Open Obstacle.sks, make the following changes to both carrots and the invisible goal section. Enable physics by setting the Body Type to Bounding rectangle. Uncheck the 4 boxes that appear below.

Carrot physics

Set the Category Mask to 2 (obstacle category) and the Contact Mask to 1 (player category). With these settings obstacles should collide with players.

Be sure to apply these steps to both carrots.

Select the goal object. Choose Bounding Rectangle as the Body Type. Uncheck the 4 boxes that appear below.

Set the Category Mask to 8 and the Contact Mask to 1.

Goal physics

Goal objets are category 8, and contact Players (category 1).

Bunny physics

Open Hero.sks and click on the bunny. The Body Type should Bounding Circle. Below this set Category Mask to 1, Collision Mask to 7 and the Contact Mask to 15 (or 4294967295 this is 2^32 if you prefer).

Bunny physics

Ground physics

You need to setup the ground sprite physics, do you think you can tackle this yourself? Check back if you don't remember the Category Mask value we decided to use. What value do you think you'll need for the Contact Mask?

Open GameScene.sks and modify both ground sprites. The Body Type should be Bounding Rectangle, and the four boxes below should unchecked.
Set Category Mask to 4 and Contact Mask to 1, you want to be informed if the bunny has hit the ground.

Ground physics

Run your game. The bunny will now collide with the obstacles yet thankfully be able to flap through the goal gap. Well if you're good enough :]

Currently the bunny will get pushed off the screen if you collide with a carrot. Don't worry about this it's a physics interaction that you set up. You will be taking care of this in a later step. For now just restart the simulator and try again.

Physics Contact Delegate

If the bunny collides with the ground, an obstacle or passes through the goal of an obstacle, you want to know about. Next you will implement the Physics Contact Delegate so your code will be informed whenever one of these collision contacts takes place.

Remember earlier when you set the Contact Bit Mask? Here you informed the physics system which contacts you were interested in, and through the contact delegate you will be informed when they occur.

Open GameScene.swift. You need to declare the GameScene class will implement the SKPhysicsContactDelegate protocol methods. To learn more about Protocols and Delegates please check out our Swift Concepts Guide.

You declare that a class is implementing this protocol in Swift by appending SKPhysicsContactDelegate after the class' super class SKScene, separated by a comma, as shown:

class GameScene: SKScene, SKPhysicsContactDelegate {

Delegate Support

The GameScene class is now ready to implement the contact delegate, first you should inform the delegate which class will take responsibility for handling the messages. You should assign GameScene as the collision delegate.

Add the following code to the didMove(to view:) method:

/* Set physics contact delegate */
physicsWorld.contactDelegate = self

Finally, you can implement the didBegin(_ contact:) method that will be called whenever a collision takes place that you want to know about e.g. The ones with a contactMask of 1.

Add this new method to the GameScene class:

func didBegin(_ contact: SKPhysicsContact) {
  /* Hero touches anything, game over */
  print("TODO: Add contact code")

Run the game. Any time you collide with the ground, a carrot or a goal sensor the TODO message will be logged to the console.

Game over

Instead of simply showing a message in the console, it would be nice to think about the game over scenario.

This might consist of:

  • The bunny falling to ground
  • The game Scene shakes
  • A restart game button

Adding a button

There is no pre-made button object in SpriteKit so you will need to get creative and create our own solution. To help we've provided a starting point for you with a custom class called MSButtonNode.

Download MSButtonNode.swift and drag this file into your project.

Add the restart_button.png to your scene by opening the media Media Library in the lower right and dragging it into GameScene.sks

Set the Name to buttonRestart, set the Z Position to 10, you want to ensure this UI (User Interface) element sits on top of everything visually.

Restart button properties

To turn this sprite into a custom button, you need to change the class to be an instance of MSButtonNode instead of SKSpriteNode, you can use the Custom class panel to change this by setting the Custom Class to MSButtonNode

Restart button custom class

Can you setup a code connection for this button?

Open GameScene.swift, add a property for the button to the GameScene class:

/* UI Connections */
var buttonRestart: MSButtonNode!

When you connect this node you need to ensure the node is downcast to the MSButtonNode class. Add the following to the didMove(to view:) method.

/* Set UI connections */
buttonRestart = self.childNode(withName: "buttonRestart") as! MSButtonNode

Selection handler

The code connection is ready, if you run the game you can touch the button, it looks like it was touched yet nothing happens. You need to add some code to be executed upon user touch.

Add the following code after the code connection (still in didMove(to view:)):

/* Setup restart button selection handler */
buttonRestart.selectedHandler = {

  /* Grab reference to our SpriteKit view */
  let skView = self.view as SKView!

  /* Load Game scene */
  let scene = GameScene(fileNamed:"GameScene") as GameScene!

  /* Ensure correct aspect mode */
  scene?.scaleMode = .aspectFill

  /* Restart game scene */


This code loads in a fresh copy of the GameScene.sks, ensures the correct scaleMode is applied and then replaces the current scene with this fresh GameScene. This same code is used in GameViewController.swift to initially load GameScene when the game starts.

You should now be able to run the game. If the bunny gets knocked off the screen tap restart and the bunny is back and the game restarts!

Hide the button

Great you have a button, might be an idea to hide it once the game is in-play.

Add the following code after the selection handler setup (at the bottom of didMove(to view:)).

/* Hide restart button */
buttonRestart.state = .MSButtonNodeStateHidden

You want the button to be visible when the bunny dies, let's look at how we implement our game over scenario.

It would be really useful to know the current state of the game. Has the game started, is the player dead etc?

Game State

State management is a great way to do this, take a look at MSButtonNode.swift. A state property is used to track if the button is Active,Hidden or Selected.

For the GameScene class it would be great to know if the game state is either Active or GameOver.

When this GameOver state applies you want to:

  • Kill the bunny
  • Stop the world scrolling
  • Show the restart button
  • Ignore any touch other than the button

An Enumeration is a great way to setup a custom state type.

Add the following Enumeration to the top of GameScene.swift (Outside of the GameScene class):

enum GameSceneState {
    case active, gameOver

To track the state you need to add a gameState property to the GameScene class. Set the default to Active

/* Game management */
var gameState: GameSceneState = .active

Bunny death

Great you now have some rudimentary game management in place, time to kill the bunny!

Replace the didBegin(_ contact:) method as shown:

func didBegin(_ contact: SKPhysicsContact) {
  /* Hero touches anything, game over */

  /* Ensure only called while game running */
  if gameState != .active { return }

  /* Change game state to game over */
  gameState = .gameOver

  /* Stop any new angular velocity being applied */
  hero.physicsBody?.allowsRotation = false

  /* Reset angular velocity */
  hero.physicsBody?.angularVelocity = 0

  /* Stop hero flapping animation */

  /* Show restart button */
  buttonRestart.state = .MSButtonNodeStateActive

Notice the check of the gameState to ensure that the code will not be called more than once, when the player has died. The bunnies physics are effectively disabled by stopping rotation, reseting angularVelocity and removing the flapping a sprite frame animation with the use of removeAllActions() method. The button is then activated and presented to the player with a simple MSButtonNodeStateActive state change.

Run the game. When the player dies the button should appear and you can restart play. NOTE! for now hitting anything, including the goal, will end the game. For the next few steps the bunny will NOT be able to pass through the goal! You will take care of this when you set up scoring in section 8.

Shutting down the world

It's not perfect yet as the bunny will still respond every so slightly to touch and the world will continue to scroll by.

To disable scrolling and touch, you can once again make use of the gameState property.

Add the following to the very top of the update(...) method:

/* Skip game update if game no longer active */
if gameState != .active { return }

Can you figure out how to disable touch?

Add the following to the top of the touchesBegan(...) method:

/* Disable touch if game state is not active */
if gameState != .active { return }

Run the game. Death truly should be final for our bunny. In these last two code snippets the if statement checks the value of gameState, if the value is .active return ends the function. In this case all of subsequent code is not run.

Death actions

It would look better if the bunny fell face first upon hitting an obstacle. A powerful way to do achieve this is using SKActions, you've already used actions to setup the the flappy animation frames.

Add the following code after you stopped the hero's actions with the removeAllActions() method in didBegin(...):

/* Create our hero death action */
let heroDeath ={

    /* Put our hero face down in the dirt */
    self.hero.zRotation = CGFloat(-90).degreesToRadians()

/* Run action */

The runBlock action lets you define your own custom action and in this case, manually rotate the bunny face down. With actions you can animate sprites, plays sounds, and more. Actions are a versatile and flexible tool.

Run the game. The bunny should be face down now upon any collision. It's all about those little bits of polish :]

Shake it

It would be nice to add an old school style Star Trek camera shake to emphasize the impact. This time you will create your own GameEffects.sks SpriteKit Action file, this enables you to store multiple effects that can be reused on any node.

Create a new SpriteKit Action file called GameEffects:

Create New Action file

Add SpriteKit Action file GameEffects

Add your first Action, name it Shake Add New Action

Now you have an empty action timeline ready for some actions, drag across the Move action from the Object Library. Set the Duration to 0.2 seconds.

Add Move Action

Sadly it does not yet seem possible (As of Xcode 7.2.1) to preview this action on the scene from within the scene editor :[

Copy and paste this action two times and then modify all three actions as follows.

  • Set Timing Function to Ease In, set Offset to (8,2)
  • Set Timing Function to Ease Out, set Offset to (-4,-2)
  • Set Timing Function to Ease Out, set Offset to (4,2)

Shake all the nodes

Time to apply this action to your scene.

Open GameScene.swift and add the following code after the death action (in didBegin()).

/* Load the shake action resource */
let shakeScene:SKAction = SKAction.init(named: "Shake")!

/* Loop through all nodes  */
for node in self.children {

    /* Apply effect each ground node */

The effect can not be applied directly to the GameScene, so you need to loop through all the child nodes in the scene and apply them individually. Thankfully it is straight forward to do so.

Run the game. When the bunny dies the screen should give a short shake.

I encourage you to make this effect as crazy as you like, experimentation is the best way to learn what works. Often it's the happy little accidents lead you onto something awesome.

Physics tweaking

You may have noticed the game is a little difficult, perhaps too difficult. It feels like the bunny falls too hard initially and applying the touch impulse doesn't feel quite right.

Open Hero.sks, click on the bunny and navigate down to the physics properties, notice the Initial Velocity property. Set this to (dx: 0, dy: 400). This should give the player a much need reaction time cushion when the game first runs.

Bunny Physics Tweaks

When the bunny is falling and the player touches the screen, the touch feels a little sluggish. This is due to the cumulative downward velocity generated by the bunny's fall. If you reset the vertical velocity at the point of touch this might make it feel more responsive.

Open GameScene.swift, add the following in the touchesBegan(...) method after the if gameState.. check:

/* Reset velocity, helps improve response against cumulative falling velocity */
hero.physicsBody?.velocity = CGVector(dx: 0, dy: 0)

Run the game. That little change has made the core mechanic feel much more satisfying :]

Bonus tip for making it so far: You've added a lot of code and your formatting may be getting a little, well ugly.
Thankfully there is an easy way to tidy up your code with Re-Indent Open GameScene.swift then select all your code with Cmd+a, then press Ctrl+i to Re-Indent.

So far the Bunny moves and the game play is almost complete. At this point the game ends if the Bunny hist anything which includes the goal! You will take of this last detail in the next section when implement the score. You also may see the bunny get bounced off the screen when it hits something. You will take care of this later also.


Wow, a lot of ground has been covered in this chapter:

  • Understanding the principles of SpriteKit physics collision and contact masking
  • Implementing the SKPhysicsContactDelegate so you are informed of collision contacts.
  • Creating your own custom button class
  • Implementing a simple game state manager
  • Running a custom SKAction and creating reusable SKActions visually
  • Tweaking core mechanics, making the gameplay feel just right.

Next up, it wouldn't be a game without a scoring mechanism for the player.


If you have feedback on this tutorial or find any mistakes, please open issues on the GitHub Repository.

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