Tutorial

This tutorial presents a brief overview of FLAME GPU 2 and a worked example demonstrating how to implement the Circles example, a simple model provided with FLAME GPU 2.

In order to follow the tutorial, you will need to be using a machine with a CUDA capable GPU which meets the prerequisites for (compiling and) running either C++ or Python FLAME GPU projects.

An alternate, in-browser, tutorial using Google Collab is available here, this should work on any machine with a modern web browser and an internet connection. However, limitations of iPython notebooks prevent demonstration of all features (e.g. Visualisations).

FLAME GPU Design Philosophy

FLAME GPU has the aim of accelerating the performance and scale of agent-based simulation by targeting readily available parallelism in the form of Graphics Processing Units (GPUs). A central idea behind FLAME GPU is to abstract the GPU away from modellers so that modellers can build models without having to worry about writing parallel code. FLAME GPU also separates a model description from the model implementation. This simplifies the processes of validating and verifying models as the simulator code is tested in isolation from the model itself.

FLAME GPU started in the early days of general purpose computing on GPUs. GPU hardware and software development approaches have changed significantly since the inception of FLAME GPU, as such version 2.0 is a complete re-write of the library. It shifts from the FLAME GPU 1 architecture of template driven agent based modelling towards a modern C++ API with a cleaner interface for the specification of agent behaviour. It also adds a range of new features which ensure performant model simulation. E.g.

  • Support for Big GPUs - Support for concurrent execution of agents functions which ensures that heterogeneous models do not necessarily result in poor device utilisation.

  • Model Ensembles - The ability to run ensembles of models. I.e. the same model with different parameters or random seeds. This is necessary within stochastic simulation and FLAME GPU allows the specification of ensembles to occupy multiple devices on a single computing node.

  • Sub models - Certain behaviours in FLAME GPU require iterative processes to ensure reproducibility with serial counterparts (e.g. conflict resolution for resources). FLAME GPU 2 allows re-usable sub models to be described for such behaviours so that it can be abstracted from the rest of the model function.

Creating a Project

To create your own FLAME GPU 2 model, we recommend that you use one of the provided FLAME GPU 2 example template repositories. These provide you with all the build scripts to build a standalone FLAME GPU 2 model. They begin with an implementation of the Circles example, however in the tutorial below we will clear that file and start with it empty.

Structure of a FLAME GPU 2 Program

FLAME GPU 2 programs are composed of 4 sections:

  • Agent/Host function definitions

  • Model Declaration

  • Initialisation

  • Execution

Agent/Host Function Definitions

These functions define the actual behaviours of your model and are normally defined before the main function, however larger models can use more advanced techniques to split the model definition across multiple files. Refer to the respective full guides, for more information regarding agent functions and host functions.

Model Declaration

Normally inside the main function or simply the main file if using Python, your model structure is declared. This includes declaration of the required agent and message types for your model. We recommend the following structure for model declaration:

Initialisation

In order to execute your model it requires an initial state, this normally means some initial agents and environment properties may need to be setup. There are several ways this can be achieved:

  • Init Function(s), host functions which run once when the simulation begins.

  • Input files, a simulation can load agent populations, and environment properties from an input file when it begins.

  • AgentVector, Agent populations and environment properties can be defined externally and set within the CUDASimulation prior to execution, however this technique is not recommend.

Execution

Finally, to run your simulation you must create a CUDASimulation by providing it your ModelDescription. At this stage you can configure the simulation and CUDA settings, alternatively you can provide the command line arguments. If required, you can also setup the visualisation for the model.

When ready, you then call simulate(), to execute your model!

Tutorial: Creating the Circles Model

Hopefully at this point you have downloaded and set up one of the example templates.

Introducing The Circles Model

The Circles model is a simple agent model, where a single type of point agent exists in a 2D or 3D continuous space environment.

The agents observe their neighbours locations, to decide how to move.

The model resolves towards a steady state where agents have formed circular or spherical clusters.

The video below provides a demonstration of the Circles model.

Configuring CMake

This stage is only required if you are using C++, or are building pyflamegpu from source.

FLAME GPU 2 uses CMake to manage the build process, so we use CMake to generate a build directory which it will fill with build scripts. It can also assist by downloading certain missing dependencies.

The basic commands required differ slightly between Linux and Windows, however in both cases they should be executed in the directory which the template was cloned into:

A more detailed guide, regarding building FLAME GPU 2 from source can be found :ref:`here<q-compiling flamegpu>`.

# Create the build directory and change into it
mkdir -p build && cd build

# Configure CMake from the command line passing configure-time options.
cmake .. -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release -DCUDA_ARCH=61

Note

-DCUDA_ARCH=61, configures the build for Pascal GPUs of SM_61, you may wish to change this to match your available GPU. Omitting it entirely will produce a larger binary suitable for all current architectures, which essentially multiplies the compile time by the number of architectures. In general, GPUs of newer architecture than specified will run but be limited to the features of the earlier architecture that the program was compiled for.

The build files for the project should now be created inside the directory build.

Opening the Project

Linux C++ users should now open src/main.cu in their preferred text editor or IDE.

Windows C++ users should now open build/example.vcxproj with Visual Studio, and subsequently open main.cu via the solution explorer panel.

Python users should now open model.py in their preferred text editor or IDE.

In every case, we will clear the file only keeping the FLAME GPU include/import statement. This statement allows the file access to the full FLAME GPU 2 library.

#include "flamegpu/flamegpu.h"

Model Description

The first step to creating a FLAME GPU model is to define the model, this begins by creating a ModelDescription. This will be used to describe the entire model, by adding descriptions of messages, agents and the environment.

The only argument which the constructor ModelDescription() takes is a string representing the name of the model. Currently the name is only used as the default title of the window if a visualisation is created.

Normally the ModelDescription is defined at the start of program flow. In C++ this means within the main() method, whereas in Python this can simply be within the main file (Python does allow an entry function to be specified).

Before the model description, we will also define two (constant) variables, to define the environment dimensions and the number of agents. These values will be used in a few places, so it is useful name them.

#include "flamegpu/flamegpu.h"

int main(int argc, const char **argv) {
    // Define some useful constants
    const unsigned int AGENT_COUNT = 16384;
    const float ENV_WIDTH = static_cast<float>(floor(cbrt(AGENT_COUNT)));

    // Define the FLAME GPU model
    flamegpu::ModelDescription model("Circles Tutorial");
}

Message Description

Next we must decide how the agents will communicate. This is normally completed before agents, as agent functions refer back to messages, so they must be described first.

As the agents within the Circles model exist in a continuous space and want to find their local neighbours, there are three potential message types suited to the model:

  • MessageBruteForce: Every agent reads every message, this is very expensive with a large number of messages/agents.

  • MessageSpatial2D: Each agent outputs a message at a specific location in 2D space, agents only read messages located close to a particular search origin.

  • MessageSpatial3D: Each agent outputs a message at a specific location in 3D space, agents only read messages located close to a particular search origin.

We will implement the Circles model in 2D during this tutorial, therefore MessageSpatial2D will be the most appropriate message type. Although, later extending the model to 3D should require minimal changes.

In order to create a MessageSpatial2D::Description, newMessage() must be called on the previously created ModelDescription. This is a templated function, so it must be called with the template argument of the name of the desired message type, in our case MessageSpatial2D. Additionally, the sole argument is a string representing the name of the message, this can be used later on when attaching the message as an input or output to an AgentFunctionDescription.

Note

The Python interface does not support C++’s templates and nested classes so there are differences in naming style. In almost all cases the template argument is simply appended to the name.

C++

Python

newMessage<flamegpu::MessageSpatial2D>()

newMessageSpatial2D()

MessageSpatial2D::Description

MessageSpatial2DDescription

newVariable<flamegpu::id_t>()

newVariableID()

message.newVariable<int, 3>("vector3");

message.newVariableArrayInt("vector3", 3)

Spatial messages have some settings which must be specified prior to use.

The environment bounds must be specified using setMin() and setMax(). Spatial messages can be emit at any location, however for best performance the specified bounds should encapsulate all messages. For this reason, we will make the bounds of the environment run from 0 to ENV_WIDTH, that we declared in the previous step.

A search radius must also be specified, using setRadius(), this is the distance from the search origin that messages must be within to be returned. This radius is used to subdivide the covered environmental area into a discrete grid, messages are then stored according to their position within the grid. For the purposes of this tutorial we will use a radius of 2, however you can experiment with changing the value later.

As messages are used for communication, you will normally want to add variables to them too. As the Circles model is simple, the location implicitly provided by the message is enough. However, we will also add a variable to store the sending agent’s ID. This can be used, to ensure agent’s don’t handle their own messages. Variables are added using newVariable(), again this is a templated function where the template argument is the type to be used for the variable, and the only regular argument to the function is the variable’s name.

Note

FLAME GPU 2 messages (and agents) may also have array variables.

In C++, a second template argument is passed to newVariable(), e.g. message.newVariable<int, 3>("vector3");.

In Python, a second argument is passed to newVariableArray(), e.g. message.newVariableArrayInt("vector3", 3).

FLAME GPU provides a special type for agent IDs, this is referred to as flamegpu::id_t and ID in the C++ and Python interfaces respectively.

...
    // Define the FLAME GPU model
    flamegpu::ModelDescription model("Circles Tutorial");

    {   // (optional local scope block for cleaner grouping)
        // Define a message of type MessageSpatial2D named location
        flamegpu::MessageSpatial2D::Description &message = model.newMessage<flamegpu::MessageSpatial2D>("location");
        // Configure the message list
        message.setMin(0, 0);
        message.setMax(ENV_WIDTH, ENV_WIDTH);
        message.setRadius(1.0f);
        // Add extra variables to the message
        // X Y (Z) are implicit for spatial messages
        message.newVariable<flamegpu::id_t>("id");
    }
}

Agent Description

Now it’s time to define the agents. In FLAME GPU agents are a collection of variables, agent functions and optionally states. The Circles model is not stateful so their usage will not be covered here, however you can read more about agent states here.

In order to define a new AgentDescription type, similar to defining a new message type, newAgent() must be called on the previously created ModelDescription. The sole argument is a string representing the name of the agent, this name is used when referring to the agent type later on (e.g. in host functions). For the Circles model, we will simply name the sole agent type "point".

Adding variables to an agent is very similar to adding variables to a message, newVariable() is called providing the variable’s type, name and optionally a default value. If provided, this default value will be assigned to any newly created/birthed agents. Adding array variables to agent’s follows the some rules as explained in the previous section, however they may also have default values specified.

The Circles model requires a location, so we can add three float variables to represent this. Additionally, we will add a fourth float named "drift", this isn’t required but can be used to provide us something measurable if not using the visualisation.

...
        message.newVariable<flamegpu::id_t>("id");
    }

    // Define an agent named point
    flamegpu::AgentDescription &agent = model.newAgent("point");
    // Assign the agent some variables (ID is implicit to agents, so we don't define it ourselves)
    agent.newVariable<float>("x");
    agent.newVariable<float>("y");
    agent.newVariable<float>("z");
    agent.newVariable<float>("drift", 0.0f);
}

We’ll return to this block of code when we work on the agent functions.

Environment Description

In FLAME GPU, the environment represents state outside of the agents. Agent’s have read-only access to the environment’s properties, they can only be updated by host functions. Additionally, FLAME GPU 2 adds environment macro properties for representing larger environmental data which agent’s have limited access to update, this advanced feature is not covered in the tutorial but can be explored here.

Before we can add properties to the environment, we need to fetch the EnvironmentDescription from the ModelDescription using Environment().

Following this, much like with messages and agents, newProperty() is used to add properties to the model’s environment. However, an initial value must be specified as the second argument.

The Circles model only requires a single environmental property which we will call repulse, this float property is merely a constant for tuning the force (indirectly the resolution speed) of the model. Initially, it can be set to 0.05.

Additionally, we will add the two constants we defined earlier so that they are made available within the model.

Note

FLAME GPU 2 allows environment properties to be marked as const, this prevents them from ever being updated accidentally. This intended for use with values such as mathematical constants. This can be enabled by passing true (C++) or True (Python) as the 3rd argument to newProperty().

...
    agent.newVariable<float>("drift", 0.0f);

    {   // (optional local scope block for cleaner grouping)
        // Define environment properties
        flamegpu::EnvironmentDescription &env = model.Environment();
        env.newProperty<unsigned int>("AGENT_COUNT", AGENT_COUNT);
        env.newProperty<float>("ENV_WIDTH", ENV_WIDTH);
        env.newProperty<float>("repulse", 0.05f);
    }
}

Agent Function Description & Implementation

Now that we’ve defined the messages, agents and environment for the Circles model, it’s time to implement the behaviours of our agents and make use of them.

In FLAME GPU 2, agent functions are implemented using the FLAMEGPU_AGENT_FUNCTION(name, input_message, output_message) macro function. It is expanded by the compiler, to produce the full definition of an agent function (see it’s API documentation for an example of it’s expansion). However, for our usage we simply need to provide it three parameters; the function’s name, the function’s message input style and the function’s message output style. Then the function can be implemented from this, with the macro call being treated as the function’s prototype.

We will start by implementing the agent function, whereby each agent outputs a message sharing their location.

We will name the function output_message (the name should not be wrapped in quotes), it does not have a message input so flamegpu::MessageNone is used for the input message argument and we’re outputting the spatial 2D message we defined above so flamegpu::MessageSpatial2D is used for the output message argument.

Following this, we can implement the agent function body. Agent functions are provided a single input argument, FLAMEGPU which is a pointer to the DeviceAPI, this object provides access to all available FLAME GPU features (agent variables, message input/output, environment properties, agent output, random) within agent functions.

To implement the output message agent function we need to read the agents location ("x", "y") variables and ID, and then set the message’s location and "id" variable.

To read an agent’s variables the FLAMEGPU->getVariable() function is used. As you may expect by now, the variable’s type must be passed as a template argument, and it’s name is the only argument. To read an agent’s ID, FLAMEGPU->getID() is called, this special function requires no additional arguments.

Functionality for the message output is accessed via FLAMEGPU->message_out, this object is specialised depending on the output message type originally specified in the FLAMEGPU_AGENT_FUNCTION macro. The spatial 2D specialisation, flamegpu::MessageSpatial2D::Out, has two available functions; setVariable() which is common to all message output types, and setLocation() which takes two float arguments specifying the location of the message in 2D space.

Finally, all agent functions must return either flamegpu::ALIVE or flamegpu::DEAD. Unless the agent function is specified to support agent death inside the AgentFunctionDescription via setAllowAgentDeath(), flamegpu::ALIVE should be returned. If flamegpu::DEAD is returned, without agent death being enabled, an exception will be raised if SEATBELTS error checking is enabled.

Note

FLAME GPUs Python API performs runtime compilation of the CUDA agent functions. Therefore, in contrast to the C++ API, agent functions must be written as Python strings.

Runtime compilation adds a small additional cost to the initial execution of an agent function, due to compilation. However, FLAME GPU caches compiled agent functions to remove this for repeated runs (if the agent function/model has not changed).

Below you can see how the message output function may be assembled. Normally, agent functions would be implemented near the top of the source file directly after any includes.

#include "flamegpu/flamegpu.h"

// Agent Function to output the agents ID and position in to a 2D spatial message list
FLAMEGPU_AGENT_FUNCTION(output_message, flamegpu::MessageNone, flamegpu::MessageSpatial2D) {
    FLAMEGPU->message_out.setVariable<int>("id", FLAMEGPU->getID());
    FLAMEGPU->message_out.setLocation(
        FLAMEGPU->getVariable<float>("x"),
        FLAMEGPU->getVariable<float>("y"));
    return flamegpu::ALIVE;
}
...

Next the message input agent function is implemented, two new concepts are introduced here: the message input iterator and accessing environment properties.

Each FLAME GPU message type provides unique methods for accessing messages, in this case we are using the MessageSpatial2D type. Refer to the agent communication guide for details of other messaging format’s usage.

The only way to access spatial messaging types is via an iterator, which returns all messages in a Moore neighbourhood about the provided search location. This means, that all messages within the originally specified search radius will be returned, however it is necessary for the user to filter out the small number of messages which fall outside of this radius that will also be returned. Furthermore, agent’s will also be returned their own message, so may wish to filter out that too.

The spatial message iterator is accessed using FLAMEGPU->message_in(), this takes two float parameters specifying the search origin. Normally this will be passed directly to a C++ range-based for loop (e.g. or (const auto &message : FLAMEGPU->message_in(my_x, my_y)) {), allowing the returned messages to be iterated.

In the case of MessageSpatial2D, the returned Message objects only provide getVariable() methods for returning the variables and array variables stored within the message.

Accessing environment properties is very similar to accessing agent and message variables, getProperty() is called on FLAMEGPU->environment.

The remainder of the Circles model’s message input agent function contains some model specific maths, so you should simply use the code provided below. However, give it a thorough read to check you understand how the messages are being read.

...
    return flamegpu::ALIVE;
}

// Agent Function to read the location messages and decide how the agent should move
FLAMEGPU_AGENT_FUNCTION(input_message, flamegpu::MessageSpatial2D, flamegpu::MessageNone) {
    const flamegpu::id_t ID = FLAMEGPU->getID();
    const float REPULSE_FACTOR = FLAMEGPU->environment.getProperty<float>("repulse");
    const float RADIUS = FLAMEGPU->message_in.radius();
    float fx = 0.0;
    float fy = 0.0;
    const float x1 = FLAMEGPU->getVariable<float>("x");
    const float y1 = FLAMEGPU->getVariable<float>("y");
    int count = 0;
    for (const auto &message : FLAMEGPU->message_in(x1, y1)) {
        if (message.getVariable<flamegpu::id_t>("id") != ID) {
            const float x2 = message.getVariable<float>("x");
            const float y2 = message.getVariable<float>("y");
            float x21 = x2 - x1;
            float y21 = y2 - y1;
            const float separation = sqrt(x21*x21 + y21*y21);
            if (separation < RADIUS && separation > 0.0f) {
                float k = sinf((separation / RADIUS)*3.141f*-2)*REPULSE_FACTOR;
                // Normalise without recalculating separation
                x21 /= separation;
                y21 /= separation;
                fx += k * x21;
                fy += k * y21;
                count++;
            }
        }
    }
    fx /= count > 0 ? count : 1;
    fy /= count > 0 ? count : 1;
    FLAMEGPU->setVariable<float>("x", x1 + fx);
    FLAMEGPU->setVariable<float>("y", y1 + fy);
    FLAMEGPU->setVariable<float>("drift", sqrt(fx*fx + fy*fy));
    return flamegpu::ALIVE;
}
...

Now that both agent functions have been implemented, they must be attached to the model.

Returning to the earlier defined agent, first we use this to create an AgentFunctionDescription for each of the two function’s that we have defined using newFunction() (C++ API) or newRTCFunction() (Python API). Both of these functions take two arguments, firstly a name to refer to the function, and secondly the function implementation that was defined above.

The returned AgentFunctionDescription can then be used to configure the agent function, enabling support for agent birth and death and any message inputs or outputs that are used. As we are using messages, we must call setMessageOutput() and setMessageInput() passing the name give to our message type ("location").

...
    agent.newVariable<float>("drift", 0.0f);
    // Setup the two agent functions
    flamegpu::AgentFunctionDescription &out_fn = agent.newFunction("output_message", output_message);
    out_fn.setMessageOutput("location");
    flamegpu::AgentFunctionDescription &in_fn = agent.newFunction("input_message", input_message);
    in_fn.setMessageInput("location");

...

Execution Order

Finally, the model’s execution flow must be setup. This can be achieved using either the old FLAME GPU 1 style with layers (see ModelDescription::newLayer()), or the new dependency graph API. In this tutorial we will use the dependency API.

To define the order in which functions are executed during the model, their dependencies must be specified. AgentFunctionDescription, HostFunctionDescription and SubModelDescription objects all implement dependsOn(). This is used to specify dependencies between the functions of the model.

Next, the dependency graph must be retrieved with ModelDescription::getDependencyGraph(). The root of the graph specified with DependencyGraph::addRoot(), and finally the dependency graph converted to layers via DependencyGraph::generateLayers().

This can be placed at the end of the file, following the previously defined environment properties.

...
        env.newProperty<float>("repulse", 0.05f);
    }

    {   // (optional local scope block for cleaner grouping)
        // Dependency specification
        // Message input depends on output
        in_fn.dependsOn(out_fn);
        flamegpu::DependencyGraph& dependencyGraph = model.getDependencyGraph();
        // Output is the root of our graph
        dependencyGraph.addRoot(out_fn);
        dependencyGraph.generateLayers(model);
    }
}

Initialisation Function

Now that the model’s components and behaviours have been setup, it’s time to decide how the model will be initialised. FLAME GPU allows models to be initialised either via input file and/or user-defined initialisation functions, which may depend on environmental properties or agents loaded from input file.

For the Circles model, we simply need to randomly scatter an amount of agents within the environment bounds. Therefore, we can simply generate agents according to some of the environment properties we defined earlier.

Similar to agent functions, the C++ API defines initialisation functions using FLAMEGPU_INIT_FUNCTION, which takes a single argument of the function’s name. Python in contrast has native functions, so they are defined differently, a subclass of pyflamegpu.HostFunctionCallback must be created, which implements the method def run(self, FLAMEGPU):.

Initialisation function’s have access to the HostAPI, the host counter-part to the DeviceAPI present in agent functions. It has similar functionality, with a few additional features: agent variable reductions, setting environment properties.

Firstly we will need to generate some random numbers, to decide the locations. The HostAPI contains random which provides access to random functionality via HostRandom. This provides the uniform(). It only requires a template argument float, and will return a random number in the inclusive-exclusive range [0, 1).

The only feature we need to use that is unique to the HostAPI is agent birth, on the host any number of agents can be created without the limitations of agent functions. First we fetch the HostAgentAPI for the "point" agent, this gives us access to functionality affect that agent. Then we can simply call newAgent() to create new agents, the returned agent has the normal setVariable() functionality and will be added to the simulation after the initialisation functions have all completed. enumerator

The initialisation function, again, goes near the top of the file alongside the agent functions.

Putting all this together, we can use the below code to generate the initial agent population:

...
    return flamegpu::ALIVE;
}

FLAMEGPU_INIT_FUNCTION(create_agents) {
    // Fetch the desired agent count and environment width
    const unsigned int AGENT_COUNT = FLAMEGPU->environment.getProperty<unsigned int>("AGENT_COUNT");
    const float ENV_WIDTH = FLAMEGPU->environment.getProperty<float>("ENV_WIDTH");
    // Create agents
    flamegpu::HostAgentAPI t_pop = FLAMEGPU->agent("point");
    for (unsigned int i = 0; i < AGENT_COUNT; ++i) {
        auto t = t_pop.newAgent();
        t.setVariable<float>("x", FLAMEGPU->random.uniform<float>() * ENV_WIDTH);
        t.setVariable<float>("y", FLAMEGPU->random.uniform<float>() * ENV_WIDTH);
    }
}

Note

Use of the FLAME GPU random API in initialisation functions, ensure that the random (and hence the model) is seeded according to the random seed specified for the simulation at execution.

Similar to agent functions, the initialisation function must be attached to the model. Initialisation function’s always run once at the start of the model, so it’s not necessary to use layer or a dependency graph, they are simply added to the ModelDescription using addInitFunction() (C++ API) or addInitFunctionCallback() (Python API).

...
        dependencyGraph.generateLayers(model);
    }

    model.addInitFunction(create_agents);
}

Warning

It is important that __disown__() is called when creating the instance of the Python init (host) function callbacks. Without this, Python may decide to deallocate the instance early, leading to undefined behaviour. We are not yet able to detect, or prevent this automatically within FLAME GPU.

Configuring the Simulation

The ModelDescription is now complete, so it is time to construct a CUDASimulation to execute the model.

In most cases, this is simply a case of constructing the CUDASimulation, initialising it with command line arguments and calling simulate(). It is also possible to setup this configuration in code, for details see the userguide.

...
    model.addInitFunction(create_agents);

    // Create and run the simulation
    flamegpu::CUDASimulation cuda_model(model, argc, argv);
    cuda_model.simulate();
}

You can optionally configure logging or visualisation via the CUDASimulation, these are explained in the following two sections.

Configuring Logging (Optional)

When running FLAME GPU models without a visualisation, you most likely want to collect data from the runs. This can be carried out by defining a logging configuration.

For this tutorial we will log the mean of our "point" agents’ "drift" variable each step, if the model is working correctly this value should trend towards zero as the agents reach a steady state.

To achieve this we must first create a StepLoggingConfig, passing our finished ModelDescription to it’s constructor.

This object provides a wide range of options for logging agent data and environment properties. However, we only need to request the AgentLoggingConfig using agent(). After which, we simply call logMean(), providing the agent variable’s type as a template argument and it’s name as the sole argument.

After the StepLoggingConfig is fully defined, it can be attached to the CUDASimulation using setStepLog().

...
    model.addInitFunction(create_agents);

    // Specify the desired StepLoggingConfig
    flamegpu::StepLoggingConfig step_log_cfg(model);
    // Log every step
    step_log_cfg.setFrequency(1);
    // Include the mean of the "point" agent population's variable 'drift'
    step_log_cfg.agent("point").logMean<float>("drift");

    // Create the simulation
    flamegpu::CUDASimulation cuda_model(model, argc, argv);

    // Attach the logging config
    cuda_model.setStepLog(step_log_cfg);

    // Run the simulation
    cuda_model.simulate();
}

After the simulation has completed, the log can then be collected using getRunLog() or written to file if the appropriate output files were configured before execution.

To learn more about using logging configurations see the userguide.

Visualisation Config (Optional)

Many models are easier to quickly validate early on by using a visualisation, FLAME GPU provides a visualiser capable of visualising agents locations, directions, scales and colours dependent on their variables.

The visualisation configuration (ModelVis) is created from the CUDASimulation using getVisualisation(). This provides many advanced options for configuring the visualisation, see the userguide for the full overview, we will cover the minimum required for visualising the Circles model here.

The below code positions the initial camera, sets the camera’s movement speed (when a user uses the keyboard to move), renders the "point" agents as icospheres (these are a low polygon count sphere, great for high agent count visualisations), and marks out the environment boundaries with a white square.

Additionally the simulation speed is limited to 25 steps per second. This allows the evolution of the simulation to be visualised more clearly. This small model would normally execute in hundreds of steps per second, reaching a steady state too fast to observe.

It is important to call activate() after the visualisation configuration is complete, to finalise and start the visualiser.

In most cases, you will want the visualisation to persist after the simulation completes, so the exit state can be explored. To achieve this, join() must be called after simulate() to catch the main program thread before it exits.

Note

FLAME GPU is designed for use both on personal machines and headless machines over ssh (e.g. HPC). The latter are unlikely to have support for visualisations, as such FLAME GPU can be built without visualisation support. Hence, it is useful to wrap the visualisation specific code with a check for the VISUALISATION macro, allowing the model to compile/run irrespective of visualisation support as opposed to maintaining two versions.

...
    flamegpu::CUDASimulation cuda_model(model, argc, argv);

// Only compile this block if being built with visualisation support
#ifdef VISUALISATION
    // Create visualisation
    flamegpu::visualiser::ModelVis &m_vis = cuda_model.getVisualisation();
    // Set the initial camera location and speed
    const float INIT_CAM = ENV_WIDTH / 2.0f;
    m_vis.setInitialCameraTarget(INIT_CAM, INIT_CAM, 0);
    m_vis.setInitialCameraLocation(INIT_CAM, INIT_CAM, ENV_WIDTH);
    m_vis.setCameraSpeed(0.01f);
    m_vis.setSimulationSpeed(25);
    // Add "point" agents to the visualisation
    auto &point_agt = m_vis.addAgent("point");
    // Location variables have names "x" and "y" so will be used by default
    point_agt.setModel(flamegpu::visualiser::Stock::Models::ICOSPHERE);
    point_agt.setModelScale(1/10.0f);
    // Mark the environment bounds
    auto pen = m_vis.newPolylineSketch(1, 1, 1, 0.2f);
    pen.addVertex(0, 0, 0);
    pen.addVertex(0, ENV_WIDTH, 0);
    pen.addVertex(ENV_WIDTH, ENV_WIDTH, 0);
    pen.addVertex(ENV_WIDTH, 0, 0);
    pen.addVertex(0, 0, 0);
    // Open the visualiser window
    m_vis.activate();
#endif

    // Run the simulation
    cuda_model.simulate();

#ifdef VISUALISATION
    // Keep the visualisation window active after the simulation has completed
    m_vis.join();
#endif
}

Running the Simulation

At this point, you should have a complete model which can be (compiled and) ran.

To run the model for 500 steps with the random seed 12 you would pass the runtime arguments -s 500 -r 12.

If you chose to add a logging config, you will want to additionally specify a log file e.g. --out-step step.json.

If you have included the visualisation, however wish to block it from running you would include --console or -c.

If you wish to continue learning with the Circles model try one of these extensions:

  • Extend the model to operate in 3D.

  • Extend the visualisation to colour agents according to their drift variable, or number of messages read.

  • Extend the model by giving agents a weight that affects the force they apply/receive to/from other agents.

Complete Tutorial Code

If you have followed the complete tutorial, you should now have the following code.

#include "flamegpu/flamegpu.h"

// Agent Function to output the agents ID and position in to a 2D spatial message list
FLAMEGPU_AGENT_FUNCTION(output_message, flamegpu::MessageNone, flamegpu::MessageSpatial2D) {
    FLAMEGPU->message_out.setVariable<int>("id", FLAMEGPU->getID());
    FLAMEGPU->message_out.setLocation(
        FLAMEGPU->getVariable<float>("x"),
        FLAMEGPU->getVariable<float>("y"));
    return flamegpu::ALIVE;
}

// Agent Function to read the location messages and decide how the agent should move
FLAMEGPU_AGENT_FUNCTION(input_message, flamegpu::MessageSpatial2D, flamegpu::MessageNone) {
    const flamegpu::id_t ID = FLAMEGPU->getID();
    const float REPULSE_FACTOR = FLAMEGPU->environment.getProperty<float>("repulse");
    const float RADIUS = FLAMEGPU->message_in.radius();
    float fx = 0.0;
    float fy = 0.0;
    const float x1 = FLAMEGPU->getVariable<float>("x");
    const float y1 = FLAMEGPU->getVariable<float>("y");
    int count = 0;
    for (const auto &message : FLAMEGPU->message_in(x1, y1)) {
        if (message.getVariable<flamegpu::id_t>("id") != ID) {
            const float x2 = message.getVariable<float>("x");
            const float y2 = message.getVariable<float>("y");
            float x21 = x2 - x1;
            float y21 = y2 - y1;
            const float separation = sqrt(x21*x21 + y21*y21);
            if (separation < RADIUS && separation > 0.0f) {
                float k = sinf((separation / RADIUS)*3.141f*-2)*REPULSE_FACTOR;
                // Normalise without recalculating separation
                x21 /= separation;
                y21 /= separation;
                fx += k * x21;
                fy += k * y21;
                count++;
            }
        }
    }
    fx /= count > 0 ? count : 1;
    fy /= count > 0 ? count : 1;
    FLAMEGPU->setVariable<float>("x", x1 + fx);
    FLAMEGPU->setVariable<float>("y", y1 + fy);
    FLAMEGPU->setVariable<float>("drift", sqrt(fx*fx + fy*fy));
    return flamegpu::ALIVE;
}

FLAMEGPU_INIT_FUNCTION(create_agents) {
    // Fetch the desired agent count and environment width
    const unsigned int AGENT_COUNT = FLAMEGPU->environment.getProperty<unsigned int>("AGENT_COUNT");
    const float ENV_WIDTH = FLAMEGPU->environment.getProperty<float>("ENV_WIDTH");
    // Create agents
    flamegpu::HostAgentAPI t_pop = FLAMEGPU->agent("point");
    for (unsigned int i = 0; i < AGENT_COUNT; ++i) {
        auto t = t_pop.newAgent();
        t.setVariable<float>("x", FLAMEGPU->random.uniform<float>() * ENV_WIDTH);
        t.setVariable<float>("y", FLAMEGPU->random.uniform<float>() * ENV_WIDTH);
    }
}

int main(int argc, const char **argv) {
    // Define some useful constants
    const unsigned int AGENT_COUNT = 16384;
    const float ENV_WIDTH = static_cast<float>(floor(cbrt(AGENT_COUNT)));

    // Define the FLAME GPU model
    flamegpu::ModelDescription model("Circles Tutorial");

    {   // (optional local scope block for cleaner grouping)
        // Define a message of type MessageSpatial2D named location
        flamegpu::MessageSpatial2D::Description &message = model.newMessage<flamegpu::MessageSpatial2D>("location");
        // Configure the message list
        message.setMin(0, 0);
        message.setMax(ENV_WIDTH, ENV_WIDTH);
        message.setRadius(1.0f);
        // Add extra variables to the message
        // X Y (Z) are implicit for spatial messages
        message.newVariable<flamegpu::id_t>("id");
    }

    // Define an agent named point
    flamegpu::AgentDescription &agent = model.newAgent("point");
    // Assign the agent some variables (ID is implicit to agents, so we don't define it ourselves)
    agent.newVariable<float>("x");
    agent.newVariable<float>("y");
    agent.newVariable<float>("z");
    agent.newVariable<float>("drift", 0.0f);
    // Setup the two agent functions
    flamegpu::AgentFunctionDescription &out_fn = agent.newFunction("output_message", output_message);
    out_fn.setMessageOutput("location");
    flamegpu::AgentFunctionDescription &in_fn = agent.newFunction("input_message", input_message);
    in_fn.setMessageInput("location");

    {   // (optional local scope block for cleaner grouping)
        // Define environment properties
        flamegpu::EnvironmentDescription &env = model.Environment();
        env.newProperty<unsigned int>("AGENT_COUNT", AGENT_COUNT);
        env.newProperty<float>("ENV_WIDTH", ENV_WIDTH);
        env.newProperty<float>("repulse", 0.05f);
    }

    {   // (optional local scope block for cleaner grouping)
        // Message input depends on output
        in_fn.dependsOn(out_fn);
        // Dependency specification
        flamegpu::DependencyGraph& dependencyGraph = model.getDependencyGraph();
        // Output is the root of our graph
        dependencyGraph.addRoot(out_fn);
        dependencyGraph.generateLayers(model);
    }

    model.addInitFunction(create_agents);

    // Specify the desired StepLoggingConfig
    flamegpu::StepLoggingConfig step_log_cfg(model);
    // Log every step
    step_log_cfg.setFrequency(1);
    // Include the mean of the "point" agent population's variable 'drift'
    step_log_cfg.agent("point").logMean<float>("drift");

    // Create the simulation
    flamegpu::CUDASimulation cuda_model(model, argc, argv);

    // Attach the logging config
    cuda_model.setStepLog(step_log_cfg);

// Only compile this block if being built with visualisation support
#ifdef VISUALISATION
    // Create visualisation
    flamegpu::visualiser::ModelVis &m_vis = cuda_model.getVisualisation();
    // Set the initial camera location and speed
    const float INIT_CAM = ENV_WIDTH / 2.0f;
    m_vis.setInitialCameraTarget(INIT_CAM, INIT_CAM, 0);
    m_vis.setInitialCameraLocation(INIT_CAM, INIT_CAM, ENV_WIDTH);
    m_vis.setCameraSpeed(0.01f);
    m_vis.setSimulationSpeed(25);
    // Add "point" agents to the visualisation
    auto &point_agt = m_vis.addAgent("point");
    // Location variables have names "x" and "y" so will be used by default
    point_agt.setModel(flamegpu::visualiser::Stock::Models::ICOSPHERE);
    point_agt.setModelScale(1/10.0f);
    // Mark the environment bounds
    auto pen = m_vis.newPolylineSketch(1, 1, 1, 0.2f);
    pen.addVertex(0, 0, 0);
    pen.addVertex(0, ENV_WIDTH, 0);
    pen.addVertex(ENV_WIDTH, ENV_WIDTH, 0);
    pen.addVertex(ENV_WIDTH, 0, 0);
    pen.addVertex(0, 0, 0);
    // Open the visualiser window
    m_vis.activate();
#endif

    // Run the simulation
    cuda_model.simulate();

#ifdef VISUALISATION
    // Keep the visualisation window active after the simulation has completed
    m_vis.join();
#endif
}