PackedDataContainerRef in Godot – Complete Guide

Diving into the world of game development can be as thrilling as it is complex, especially when it comes to managing data efficiently. In Godot 4, a game engine renowned for its versatility and ease of use, the PackedDataContainerRef class ensures that data storage is both streamlined and robust. If you’re on your journey to build captivating games, understanding how to pack and unpack data structures is invaluable. That’s where our tutorial comes into play, showcasing just how you can wield the PackedDataContainerRef to your advantage.

What Is PackedDataContainerRef?

Understanding PackedDataContainerRef

The PackedDataContainerRef class is a cog in the Godot engine that deals with one of the most fundamental aspects of any game development process: data handling. Nested arrays and dictionaries, which are often nested within each other in complex ways, can be packed efficiently into a PackedDataContainerRef. This packing allows for organized, accessible, and optimized data storage, which is essential for dynamic game states and fast performance.

Purpose of PackedDataContainerRef in Godot

In real-world applications, when working with multiple levels of nested data, it’s not just about storing information but also about maintaining a hierarchy that makes sense. The PackedDataContainerRef class helps in maintaining this hierarchy without compromising on the quick retrieval and manipulation of data, which is extremely essential in game loops and logic.

Why Should You Learn About PackedDataContainerRef?

Knowledge of PackedDataContainerRef unlocks the potential to handle complex data structures with ease. This ability is akin to having a well-organized toolbox at your disposal while working on intricate game mechanics. Learning how to utilize this class effectively can streamline your game’s internal data processing, thereby enhancing overall performance and scalability. Whether you’re early in your coding journey or an experienced coder, grasping this concept will elevate the sophistication of your game development skills.

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Creating a PackedDataContainer

To begin working with PackedDataContainerRef objects in Godot, we first need to instantiate and populate a PackedDataContainer with our desired data structure. Let’s look at how to get started with this aspect.

var my_packed_data =
my_packed_data.pack({"player": {"score": 1000, "lives": 3}, "level": 1})

In the above snippet, we’ve instantiated a new PackedDataContainer object and then packed a dictionary containing player data and the current level into it. The `pack()` method is used to store our complex data structure.

Packing Lists and Dictionary Data

The strength of PackedDataContainerRef lies in its ability to neatly pack complex structures like dictionaries and lists. Here are examples of packing lists and dictionaries:

var my_list = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

This code will pack an array of integers into our PackedDataContainer. Now, let’s look at an example with a dictionary:

var my_dict = {"key1": "value1", "key2": "value2"}

The `pack()` method processes the dictionary and packs it into the PackedDataContainer.

Unpacking Data from PackedDataContainer

Once the data is packed inside a PackedDataContainerRef, you may want to retrieve it. For this operation, you’d use the `PackedDataContainer.unpack()` method as demonstrated below:

var unpacked_data = my_packed_data.unpack()
print(unpacked_data["player"]["score"])  # Output: 1000
print(unpacked_data["level"])            # Output: 1

This snippet unpacks the previously packed data and retrieves both the player’s score and the current level.

Manipulating Unpacked Data

After unpacking the data, you can manipulate it as you would with any typical array or dictionary in Godot:

unpacked_data["player"]["lives"] += 1
unpacked_data["level"] = 2
print(unpacked_data["player"]["lives"])  # Output: 4
print(unpacked_data["level"])            # Output: 2

In these lines of code, we increment the player’s lives and update the level after unpacking the PackedDataContainerRef data.

The ability to pack and unpack complex data structures with PackedDataContainerRef in Godot is a powerful feature that can enhance your game’s performance and organization of data. Through our tutorial examples, we make learning this process straightforward and applicable, ensuring you can implement these methods into your game development workflow with confidence.As game developers, when we delve deeper into the intricacies of PackedDataContainerRef, we discover that it can be utilized for more than just organizing our data. We can leverage it for serialization, which is the process of converting our complex data structures into a format that can be easily stored and transferred, then reconstructing it back into its original form whenever necessary.

Serialization with PackedDataContainerRef

Serialization is particularly useful when you want to save game states or send data over a network. Let’s serialize some data using PackedDataContainerRef:

var save_data =
save_data.pack({"player": {"score": 1200, "lives": 3}, "inventory": ["sword", "shield", "potion"]})

var serialized_data = save_data.to_bytes()
print(serialized_data)  # Displays the serialized byte array

Here we first pack our data, which includes the player’s stats and inventory, into a PackedDataContainer and then convert it into a byte array using the `to_bytes()` method.

Deserialization with PackedDataContainerRef

To revert the serialized data back into a usable form, we perform deserialization:

var loaded_data =
var deserialized_data = loaded_data.unpack()
print(deserialized_data["player"]["score"])  # Output: 1200

We create a new PackedDataContainer, load the serialized byte array into it using `load_from_bytes()`, and then unpack the data.

Working with Nested Structures

Nested data structures can also be efficiently handled with PackedDataContainerRef. Consider the following example with multiple levels of nesting:

var nested_data =
    "game_data": {
        "levels": {
            "level1": {"enemies": 5, "coins": 10},
            "level2": {"enemies": 12, "coins": 20}
        "player_stats": {
            "name": "Hero",
            "health": 100

In this code snippet, a dictionary with several nested dictionaries is packed into a PackedDataContainer, which can then be serialized or manipulated just like any other data.

Custom Objects and PackedDataContainerRef

It is also possible to pack custom objects if they can be represented as dictionaries or arrays. Custom object packing requires that the object is serializable – that is, it can be broken down into primitive data types that Godot understands:

class CustomObject:
    var property_one
    var property_two
    func to_dict():
        return {
            "property_one": property_one,
            "property_two": property_two

var my_custom_object =
my_custom_object.property_one = "Value 1"
my_custom_object.property_two = "Value 2"

var custom_data =

Here, the `CustomObject` class has a method `to_dict()` that converts the object’s properties into a dictionary. This dictionary is then packed into a PackedDataContainer.

Understanding and mastering PackedDataContainerRef will significantly improve how you manage and store your game’s data in Godot 4, making your games more efficient and your workflows more streamlined. We hope these code examples serve as a solid foundation as you continue to build your skills in game development with us at Zenva.

Advanced Usage of PackedDataContainerRef

Moving beyond basic packing and unpacking, let’s dive into more advanced uses of PackedDataContainerRef. Among these, we find the necessity to handle versioning in saved data, a key aspect when updating a game without breaking previous saves.

Handling Data Versioning
When you update your game, the format of saved data may change. To manage this, you can add a version number to your packed data:

var save_data =
    "version": 1,
    "player": {"score": 1500, "lives": 3},
    "inventory": ["sword", "shield"]

In this example, we include a “version” key that indicates the version of the save data format.

Using Version Control in Deserialization
When loading saved data, you can check the version to apply any necessary updates or migrations:

var loaded_data =

match loaded_data["version"]:
    # Continue for further versions

Each `migrate_from_v*` function would handle the updates needed for its corresponding version.

Packing Sparse Arrays
Sparse arrays, which are arrays with non-sequential indices, can also be handled:

var sparse_array = {1: "first", 5: "fifth", 10: "tenth"}
var data_container =

In this snippet, a dictionary emulates a sparse array, with only elements 1, 5, and 10 being populated.

Storing and Retrieving Variants
Godot’s Variant type, an abstract data type that can store any kind of value, is also supported by PackedDataContainerRef:

var variant_data = { "name": Variant("Godot"), "number": Variant(42), "array": Variant([1,2,3]) }
var variant_container =

Variants provide a flexible system for storing multiple data types.

Serializing Custom Resource Types
Custom resource types derived from Godot’s `Resource` can be serialized with a bit of additional effort:

extends Resource
class_name CustomResource

var custom_property: String setget ,_set_custom_property

func _set_custom_property(value):
    custom_property = "Custom: " + value

# Usage
var my_resource =
my_resource.custom_property = "Example"

var resource_data =

Here, a custom resource’s properties are assigned and then packed into a dictionary compatible with PackedDataContainerRef.

Compressing Data
For optimizing space, especially for large datasets, you can compress the packed data:

var data_to_compress =
var compressed_data = data_to_compress.to_bytes().compress()

The `compress()` method is used on a byte array returned by `to_bytes()`.

Decompressing Data
Once compressed, the data needs to be decompressed before unpacking:

var decompressed_data =
var unpacked_data = decompressed_data.unpack()

`decompress()` is called on the compressed byte array, reversing the compression process and enabling data unpacking.

As you advance in Godot 4, mastering PackedDataContainerRef can help you create more complex, more powerful game experiences. With these code examples, we aspire to empower you to write code that is not only functional but also robust and maintainable. From handling large, nested structures to manipulating custom objects and Variants, the versatility of PackedDataContainerRef is undeniable—a tool every aspiring Godot developer should have in their toolkit.

Continuing Your Godot Journey

Now that you’ve dipped your toes into the possibilities of PackedDataContainerRef in Godot 4, the next step is to widen your horizon and deepen your knowledge in game development. We at Zenva understand the excitement that comes with learning something new and the eagerness to keep that momentum going, which is why we encourage you to explore our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree. This comprehensive course collection is designed to guide you through the intricacies of creating cross-platform games using the latest Godot 4 engine.

Whether you’re starting out or looking to upgrade your skills, our Mini-Degree offers a structured path encompassing various aspects of game development. From harnessing 2D and 3D assets to mastering gameplay mechanics, our courses provide practical knowledge through hands-on projects that not only educate but also help in building a robust portfolio. Dive into our curriculum at your own pace and on any device, ensuring a learning experience that fits your lifestyle.

For a broader view of what we offer, check out our full range of Godot courses. Each course is crafted to help you transition smoothly from beginner to professional, arming you with the tools and concepts essential for making your game development aspirations a reality. Keep learning, keep creating, and let’s shape your potential into tangible, interactive experiences with Zenva Academy.


In conclusion, mastering the PackedDataContainerRef is a testament to your growing capabilities in game development with Godot 4. It’s not just about storing data; it’s about empowering your games with the ability to handle complex data structures efficiently, to save and transfer game states seamlessly, and to ensure you can maintain game quality through updates. Remember, every skill you acquire stacks up, making you a more proficient and versatile game developer.

We hope this deep dive into PackedDataContainerRef adds substantial value to your game development arsenal. Embrace the endless possibilities of Godot 4 and continue on your journey of creation with us at Zenva. Take the next step and explore our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree, a pathway to building successful, multi-platform games. Start today and become the game developer you’ve always wanted to be!

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