Lua Function Tutorial – Complete Guide

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on Lua functions! Diving into the world of coding could feel like decoding an alien language or solving a cryptic puzzle. But fear not, dear reader. We are going to make it as simple as pie with some easy-to-understand examples and fun analogies.

What is a Lua function?

A Lua function is a piece of code designed to perform a particular task. You can think of them as little machines in a factory line; each one dedicated to doing a specific job which adds up to the final product.

What is it used for?

Functions are one of the building blocks of scripting in Lua. They allow us to organize our software’s structure better, make it more readable, and create reusable pieces of code. Picture them as the tools in a toolbox while you’re working on a project.

Why should I learn Lua functions?

Understanding the concept of functions can help pave a smooth and solid road towards superior scripting. Knowing when, where and how to use a function can enhance the flexibility and efficiency of your written code. Consider them as special abilities in a game, which when learned can level up your coding skills.

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Basic Syntax of a Lua Function

Before we delve into the examples, let’s take a look at the basic syntax of a Lua function:

function function_name( arguments... )
   -- Function body

This block of code consists of the function name, arguments it accepts, the body of the function where the operations are performed, and finally, the ‘end’ keyword to signify the termination of the function.

1. Defining a Simple Lua Function

Let’s start by defining a simple Lua function. In this example, the function takes no arguments and only prints a basic greeting:

function greet()
   print("Hello, Zenva Learner!")

To actually use the function, we will have to call it:

greet()  -- Outputs: Hello, Zenva Learner!

2. Lua Function with Parameters

Now, let’s create a function that accepts parameters. This is a function that calculates the product of two numbers:

function multiply(a, b)
   return a * b

To utilize this function, you just need to provide two numbers when calling the function:

print(multiply(2, 3))  -- Outputs: 6

3. Lua Function with Multiple Return Values

Impressively, Lua allows functions to return multiple values. In this example, we have a function that returns the sum and product of two numbers:

function sum_and_product(a, b)
   return a+b, a*b

total, product = sum_and_product(3, 4)
print(total)  -- Outputs: 7
print(product)  -- Outputs: 12

4. Recursion in Lua Functions

Lua functions allow recursion, which is a function calling itself. The most classic example is factorials:

function factorial(n)
   if (n == 0) then
      return 1
      return n * factorial(n - 1)

print(factorial(5)) -- Outputs: 120

In Lua functions, recursion allows for efficient and elegant solutions to problems that require repetition.

5. Functions as Variables and Anonymous Functions

In Lua, a function also can be a variable. This allows you to assign a function to a variable and use that variable as a function. This can be quite useful and leads us to the idea of ‘Anonymous Functions’, which are functions without names:

local test_function = function(a, b)
   return a + b

print(test_function(5, 2)) -- Outputs: 7

As you can see, we can use ‘test_function’ just as we would use any other function!

6. Higher Order Functions

High order functions (HOF) are a special category of functions in Lua where a function either takes another function as arguments, or returns a function. Notably, the use of HOF leads to cleaner code and task modularity:

function create_adder(x)
   -- Return a new function
   return function(y) return y + x end

local add_5 = create_adder(5)

print(add_5(3)) -- Outputs: 8

In the above example, we created a higher order function ‘create_adder’ that returns another function that adds ‘x’ to its input ‘y’.

7. Variable Number of Arguments

Sometimes you may want to design a function that can take a variable number of arguments. In Lua, this can be achieved using the ‘…’ (three dots). This is quite handy when you want to create a function like ‘multi_adder’ that can add any number of input numbers:

function multi_adder(...)
   local total = 0
   for i, v in ipairs{...} do total = total + v end
   return total

print(multi_adder(1,2,3,4,5)) -- Outputs: 15

The ‘…’ collects all the extra arguments into a special variable. We then loop over this variable to sum all the input numbers.

No matter how complex or varied your game development projects might be, understanding and leveraging functions in Lua can significantly level up your coding efficiency and effectiveness. With the power of Lua functions, you can keep your code DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself), boost code clarity, and enhance overall script functionality.

8. Using Lua Function Closure

Function closure is a unique and powerful feature in Lua. Essentially, closure gives a function the ability to “enclose” or “capture” values from its defining scope. Here is an example to illustrate it:

function create_counter()
   local count = 0 
   return function() 
    count = count + 1 
    return count 

local counter = create_counter()

print(counter()) -- Outputs: 1
print(counter()) -- Outputs: 2
print(counter()) -- Outputs: 3

In this case, the returned function “encloses” the ‘count’ variable, preserving its state between calls to ‘counter’.

Nesting Functions in Lua

Just like other blocks of code, Lua functions support nesting. That is, you can define a function inside another function. Here is a practical example:

function outer_function(x)
   function inner_function(y)
      return y * y
   return inner_function(x) + x

print(outer_function(4)) -- Outputs: 20

This code contains an ‘outer_function’, which has an ‘inner_function’ nested within it. The ‘inner_function’ is responsible for finding the square of a number, while the ‘outer_function’ adds ‘x’ to the square of ‘x’.

Functions with Tables in Lua

In Lua, you can also use functions with tables. Functions can return tables, and you can store functions in a table. Here are a couple of examples:

Lua function returning a table:

function return_table()
   return {1, 2, 3, 4, 5}

local a_table = return_table()

for i, v in ipairs(a_table) do print(v) end  -- Outputs: 1 2 3 4 5

Storing Lua functions in a table:

local func_table = {
   add = function(a, b) return a + b end,
   multiply = function(a, b) return a * b end

print(func_table.add(2, 3)) -- Outputs: 5
print(func_table.multiply(2, 3)) -- Outputs: 6

In the example, we have a table with two functions: ‘add’ and ‘multiply’. You can access these functions using the keys and call them just like any other function.

As seen in all these examples, Lua functions are extremely versatile, handling numbers, strings, tables, other functions and even themselves! They are truly fundamental to effective and efficient Lua scripting. At Zenva, we always encourage learning and mastering functions as they play a pivotal role in developing highly readable, reusable, and organized code.

Congratulations on embarking on this exciting journey through the world of Lua functions! As a coder, never stop learning, testing, and creating. There’s an entire universe of possibilities out there waiting for your lines of code to bring them to life.

If you found Lua and its versatile functions intriguing, why not give our Roblox Game Development Mini-Degree a try? Offered by Zenva Academy, this comprehensive collection covers all aspects of game creation using Roblox Studio and Lua. You’ll delve into various game genres and learn skills that are in-demand for a career in game development. The courses cater to both beginners and experienced developers, promoting flexible learning options within our supportive community.

For a wider selection of courses, be sure to check out our full Roblox collection. With over 250 supported courses across programming, game development, and AI, Zenva assists countless learners in advancing their careers from beginners to professionals. Remember, the key is to keep exploring, keep learning and keep coding!


Functions in Lua are a fantastic tool for enhancing your code readability, reusability, and organization. They are one of the many powerful characteristics of Lua that assist you in creating engaging, efficient and robust games.

Ready to become a Lua function maestro? Plunge into our comprehensive Roblox Game Development Mini-Degree at Zenva Academy. Boost your game development prowess and take your first step to reproduce the games you love or even create a new game genre altogether!

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