RDPipelineDepthStencilState in Godot – Complete Guide

Understanding the depths of computer graphics can often feel like exploring a vast ocean; the deeper you dive, the more fascinating creatures and ecologies you discover. In game development, this includes mastering the intricate details of rendering, and at the heart of these details lies the RDPipelineDepthStencilState in Godot 4.

Engaging with Godot’s advanced rendering capabilities equips you with the tools to bring your game’s graphics to life. RDPipelineDepthStencilState, despite its complex name, offers powerful control over how game elements appear in 3D space. Your journey to create more immersive and visually cohesive games starts with understanding concepts like depth and stencil operations.

What Is RDPipelineDepthStencilState?

The RDPipelineDepthStencilState class in Godot is a component of the engine’s RenderingDevice interface. It allows developers to manage the depth and stencil state of their rendering pipeline. In simpler terms, this class controls how certain elements in your game can hide or show over other elements based on their distance from the camera—a fundamental feature in creating 3D scenes.

What Is It For?

The properties of RDPipelineDepthStencilState regulate how your game’s shaders handle depth testing and stencil testing. You can set up rules for rendering each pixel, influencing visual effects like shadows, reflections, and complex geometric shapes. It’s a vital aspect of refining your game’s visual accuracy and performance.

Why Should I Learn It?

Mastering the nuances of depth and stencil operations is essential for any aspiring Godot developer aiming to produce professional-quality 3D games. By learning RDPipelineDepthStencilState, you can ensure that your game’s graphics render effectively, maximizing performance while maintaining stunning visuals. Whether you’re just starting or looking to amp up your existing game development skills, understanding this class is a step toward becoming a proficient Godot engine user.

CTA Small Image

Setting Up the Depth State

When you’re engaging with 3D rendering, the first thing you’ll want to manage is how your game determines what is visible or hidden behind other objects. This is known as depth testing, and it’s a fundamental part of creating realistic 3D scenes. Let’s look at how you can define a simple depth state in Godot 4 with RDPipelineDepthStencilState.

// Creating a depth state where depth testing is enabled
var depth_stencil_state = RDPipelineDepthStencilState.new()
depth_stencil_state.depth_test_enabled = true
// Setting depth write
depth_stencil_state.depth_write_enabled = true

// Pass the state to the rendering device
RD.rendering_device.pipeline_depth_stencil_state_set(my_pipeline, depth_stencil_state)

In this example, we enable depth testing, which will cause objects to be rendered according to their distance from the camera. We also enable depth writing, allowing objects to modify the depth buffer, which stores the depth information for each pixel.

Managing Depth Comparison Functions

Depth comparison functions are crucial for determining how depth values are compared to the existing values in the depth buffer. Here’s how you can set different depth comparison functions in RDPipelineDepthStencilState.

// Set depth function to less or equal
depth_stencil_state.depth_compare_operator = RenderingDevice.COMPARISON_LESS_EQUAL

// Set depth function to greater
depth_stencil_state.depth_compare_operator = RenderingDevice.COMPARISON_GREATER

// Apply the changed state
RD.rendering_device.pipeline_depth_stencil_state_set(my_pipeline, depth_stencil_state)

Changing the comparison operator allows you to control whether objects further away from the camera should overwrite closer ones or vice versa. This is especially useful for rendering transparent objects or achieving certain kinds of visual effects.

Setting Up Stencil Operations

Using the stencil buffer, you can create masks that can selectively render parts of an object, which is essential for effects like outlines, mirrors, or dynamic shadows. Here’s how you can set up basic stencil operations.

// Enabling stencil testing
depth_stencil_state.stencil_enabled = true
// Setting stencil operations for both faces
depth_stencil_state.stencil_front.fail_op = RenderingDevice.STENCIL_OP_KEEP
depth_stencil_state.stencil_front.depth_fail_op = RenderingDevice.STENCIL_OP_INCR
depth_stencil_state.stencil_front.pass_op = RenderingDevice.STENCIL_OP_KEEP
depth_stencil_state.stencil_front.compare_operator = RenderingDevice.COMPARISON_NEVER

// Use the same stencil settings for back faces, or customize as needed
depth_stencil_state.stencil_back = depth_stencil_state.stencil_front

// Apply the stencil state
RD.rendering_device.pipeline_depth_stencil_state_set(my_pipeline, depth_stencil_state)

The stencil buffer offers a wide range of possibilities. The operations chosen in this example will keep the stencil value when the stencil test fails but will increase it when depth test fails. It will be kept the same when both depth and stencil tests pass. Customizing these operations further can yield a variety of graphical effects.

Combining Depth and Stencil State Settings

In a complex scene, you will likely need a blend of depth and stencil state configurations to achieve the desired effect. Here’s an example where we combine the two:

// Combining depth and stencil state settings
// Enable depth test and write.
depth_stencil_state.depth_test_enabled = true
depth_stencil_state.depth_write_enabled = true
depth_stencil_state.depth_compare_operator = RenderingDevice.COMPARISON_LESS

// Enable stencil test with specific operations
depth_stencil_state.stencil_enabled = true
depth_stencil_state.stencil_front.fail_op = RenderingDevice.STENCIL_OP_KEEP
depth_stencil_state.stencil_front.depth_fail_op = RenderingDevice.STENCIL_OP_DECR
depth_stencil_state.stencil_front.pass_op = RenderingDevice.STENCIL_OP_REPLACE
depth_stencil_state.stencil_front.compare_operator = RenderingDevice.COMPARISON_ALWAYS

// Implementing mirror-like stencil operation on back faces
depth_stencil_state.stencil_back.fail_op = RenderingDevice.STENCIL_OP_ZERO
depth_stencil_state.stencil_back.depth_fail_op = RenderingDevice.STENCIL_OP_ZERO
depth_stencil_state.stencil_back.pass_op = RenderingDevice.STENCIL_OP_ZERO
depth_stencil_state.stencil_back.compare_operator = RenderingDevice.COMPARISON_EQUAL

// Update the pipeline with the new states
RD.rendering_device.pipeline_depth_stencil_state_set(my_pipeline, depth_stencil_state)

In the above configuration, we’ve set a depth compare function that allows closer objects to be rendered while keeping stencil operations that replace the stencil value upon passing the stencil and depth tests. The back face stencil operations are set to zero the stencil value, allowing for effects that only render under certain conditions.

Remember, all these snippets are starting points. Experiment with these settings in your own Godot projects and see how they affect your game’s visuals. Being able to tweak and understand these properties is key to mastering the Godot 4 rendering pipeline and bringing your own unique visual styles to life.Understanding the depth and stencil states can unlock new dimensions of creativity in your projects. As we move forward, I’ll share more advanced examples and nuances of working with RDPipelineDepthStencilState in Godot 4. These snippets will further your grasp of rendering mechanics and enable you to produce even more sophisticated graphics.

Advanced Depth Buffer Techniques

Advanced depth buffer techniques allow for more complex scene compositions. For example, you can create a “depth pre-pass” which can improve performance by reducing overdraw in complex scenes.

// Creating a depth pre-pass state
var depth_pre_pass_state = RDPipelineDepthStencilState.new()
depth_pre_pass_state.depth_test_enabled = true
depth_pre_pass_state.depth_write_enabled = true
depth_pre_pass_state.depth_compare_operator = RenderingDevice.COMPARISON_LESS

// Apply the depth pre-pass state before rendering your main scene
RD.rendering_device.pipeline_depth_stencil_state_set(my_pipeline, depth_pre_pass_state)
// Render only the depths here
// ...

// Render the rest of the scene normally after the depth pre-pass

Applying a pre-pass helps ensure that only the closest fragments of your objects receive the costly shading operations, potentially saving a lot of computational power in dense scenes.

Stencil Buffer for Dynamic Effects

Using the stencil buffer, you can also create dynamic effects that respond to in-game events. For instance, highlighting objects when the player interacts or looks at them.

// Enable the stencil test with a basic operation
depth_stencil_state.stencil_enabled = true
depth_stencil_state.stencil_front.fail_op = RenderingDevice.STENCIL_OP_KEEP
depth_stencil_state.stencil_front.depth_fail_op = RenderingDevice.STENCIL_OP_INCR
depth_stencil_state.stencil_front.pass_op = RenderingDevice.STENCIL_OP_KEEP
depth_stencil_state.stencil_front.compare_operator = RenderingDevice.COMPARISON_EQUAL

// Apply a unique stencil reference value when the player interacts with an object
depth_stencil_state.stencil_front.reference = 1

// Render the special effect pass only where the stencil value matches the reference
RD.rendering_device.pipeline_depth_stencil_state_set(my_pipeline, depth_stencil_state)
// Render highlight effect

By cleverly manipulating the reference value and the comparison operator, you create graphical contexts that only display when certain conditions are met within your game’s logic.

Depth Bias for Shadow Rendering

Adjusting the depth bias is a technique used to prevent shadow artifacts, also known as “shadow acne,” that may appear when rendering shadows.

// Set depth bias for shadow rendering
var shadow_depth_state = RDPipelineDepthStencilState.new()
shadow_depth_state.depth_test_enabled = true
shadow_depth_state.depth_write_enabled = true
shadow_depth_state.depth_compare_operator = RenderingDevice.COMPARISON_LESS

// Adjust bias values to reduce shadow acne
shadow_depth_state.depth_bias_constant = 2
shadow_depth_state.depth_bias_slope_scale = 2

// Update the pipeline state for shadow rendering pass
RD.rendering_device.pipeline_depth_stencil_state_set(shadow_pipeline, shadow_depth_state)

The depth bias variables help shift the depth values of your shadow-casting objects, ensuring that their own shadows don’t incorrectly clip the objects themselves.

Combining Stencil States for Multi-Pass Effects

When you’re rendering complex effects, it might be necessary to combine different stencil states across multiple rendering passes. Here’s how you might define these states for a reflective surface followed by rendering reflected objects.

// Set up the stencil state for the reflective surface
var reflection_stencil_state = RDPipelineDepthStencilState.new()
reflection_stencil_state.stencil_enabled = true
reflection_stencil_state.stencil_front.reference = 1
// Operations to increment stencil value for subsequent passes
reflection_stencil_state.stencil_front.pass_op = RenderingDevice.STENCIL_OP_INCR
reflection_stencil_state.stencil_front.compare_operator = RenderingDevice.COMPARISON_ALWAYS

// Render the reflective surface with the stencil setup
RD.rendering_device.pipeline_depth_stencil_state_set(reflection_pipeline, reflection_stencil_state)

// Define a stencil state for rendering the reflected objects
var reflection_render_stencil_state = RDPipelineDepthStencilState.new()
reflection_render_stencil_state.stencil_enabled = true
reflection_render_stencil_state.stencil_front.reference = 2
// Ensure reflection is only rendered where stencil value was incremented
reflection_render_stencil_state.stencil_front.compare_operator = RenderingDevice.COMPARISON_EQUAL

// Render objects with reflection using the stencil rule
RD.rendering_device.pipeline_depth_stencil_state_set(reflected_objects_pipeline, reflection_render_stencil_state)

Each rendering pass refines what the next pass can render by using the stencil buffer. This example first sets up the reflective surface to increment a stencil value and then uses that value to confine the rendering of reflections. Through such orchestrations, you create a polished visual effect.

Remember, these examples are flexible starting points, and you are encouraged to experiment with values and states to achieve your visual goals. As always, at Zenva, we’re passionate about turning complex topics into approachable, hands-on learning experiences. Dive into Godot 4, try these advanced techniques, and continue to expand your game development prowess!Perfecting the art of depth and stencil operations can significantly enhance the quality of your game’s visuals. The following code snippets will delve into some advanced use-cases, providing practical examples of how you can utilize the RDPipelineDepthStencilState class to achieve impressive graphical results in Godot 4.

Using Stencil Operations for Player Visibility

This example will show how to use the stencil buffer to ensure that a player character is always visible, even behind obstacles. This is a common technique used in strategy games or games requiring high situational awareness.

// Set stencil state to always pass but not write to stencil buffer
var visibility_stencil_state = RDPipelineDepthStencilState.new()
visibility_stencil_state.stencil_enabled = true
visibility_stencil_state.stencil_front.pass_op = RenderingDevice.STENCIL_OP_KEEP
visibility_stencil_state.stencil_front.compare_operator = RenderingDevice.COMPARISON_ALWAYS

// Apply the visibility stencil state before rendering the player character
RD.rendering_device.pipeline_depth_stencil_state_set(my_pipeline, visibility_stencil_state)

// Render the player character with a specialized shader, e.g., a silhouette or a highlight

Player characters rendered in this manner could be drawn with a visually distinct effect, differentiating them from the environment and ensuring they always catch the player’s eye.

Stencil Masking for Split-Screen Effects

You can also use the stencil buffer to create split-screen effects or to render different parts of a screen with various effects. Here is an example of setting up a stencil mask for a split-screen scenario.

// Set a stencil state to mask half of the screen
var left_screen_stencil_state = RDPipelineDepthStencilState.new()
left_screen_stencil_state.stencil_enabled = true
left_screen_stencil_state.stencil_front.reference = 1
left_screen_stencil_state.stencil_front.compare_operator = RenderingDevice.COMPARISON_LESS_EQUAL
left_screen_stencil_state.stencil_front.fail_op = RenderingDevice.STENCIL_OP_REPLACE

// Apply the left screen stencil state before rendering the left half of the scene
RD.rendering_device.pipeline_depth_stencil_state_set(my_pipeline, left_screen_stencil_state)

// Now render the left half of your scene; the stencil buffer will mask the right half

// Then set up a stencil state for the right half of the screen
var right_screen_stencil_state = RDPipelineDepthStencilState.new()
right_screen_stencil_state.stencil_enabled = true
right_screen_stencil_state.stencil_front.reference = 2
right_screen_stencil_state.stencil_front.compare_operator = RenderingDevice.COMPARISON_GREATER
right_screen_stencil_state.stencil_front.fail_op = RenderingDevice.STENCIL_OP_REPLACE

// And render the right half of the scene with a different perspective or effects
RD.rendering_device.pipeline_depth_stencil_state_set(my_pipeline, right_screen_stencil_state)

Using such stencil configurations allows for sharp separations of render areas, enabling distinct views or effects to be displayed side-by-side or within the same screen space.

Depth Peeling for Transparency

Depth peeling is another advanced technique which helps to handle multiple layers of semi-transparent objects without the artifacts introduced by simple transparency sorting.

// Initial depth peeling - rendering closest fragments
var first_pass_state = RDPipelineDepthStencilState.new()
first_pass_state.depth_test_enabled = true
first_pass_state.depth_write_enabled = false
first_pass_state.depth_compare_operator = RenderingDevice.COMPARISON_LESS

// Render the scene with the depth peeling configuration
RD.rendering_device.pipeline_depth_stencil_state_set(my_pipeline, first_pass_state)
// ... Perform rendering here

// Subsequent depth peeling pass - rendering next layers
var next_pass_state = RDPipelineDepthStencilState.new()
next_pass_state.depth_test_enabled = true
next_pass_state.depth_write_enabled = false
next_pass_state.depth_compare_operator = RenderingDevice.COMPARISON_GREATER
next_pass_state.depth_bias_constant = 1

// Apply and render a layer of fragments beyond the closest
RD.rendering_device.pipeline_depth_stencil_state_set(my_pipeline, next_pass_state)
// ... Perform rendering here

// Continue this process as needed for multiple layers

Depth peeling ensures that each rendered layer corresponds to a deeper fragment level. This technique is valuable for scenes with complex transparency requirements.

Performance Optimization with Depth Bounds Testing

Godot 4’s RenderingDevice also offers depth bounds testing, which allows you to reject fragments outside a specific depth range outright, potentially improving performance by skipping unnecessary rendering operations.

// Enabling depth bounds testing
var bounds_test_state = RDPipelineDepthStencilState.new()
bounds_test_state.depth_bounds_test_enabled = true
bounds_test_state.depth_bounds_min = 0.2
bounds_test_state.depth_bounds_max = 0.8

// Render with the depth bounds state to ignore fragments outside the depth range
RD.rendering_device.pipeline_depth_stencil_state_set(my_pipeline, bounds_test_state)
// Render your scene here

Depth bounds testing can be leveraged to exclude off-screen or distant objects from being processed by the GPU, saving valuable computation time especially in scenes with a lot of depth disparity.

These examples illustrate just a sliver of what’s possible with Godot’s rich rendering pipeline. The flexibility of the RDPipelineDepthStencilState allows for fine-tuned control over rendering, enabling both stunning visual results and clever performance optimizations. As developers continue to discover and share their own ingenuities, Godot’s capabilities expand even further, reinforcing our collective knowledge and craftsmanship. Explore these techniques in your projects and watch as your games not only come to life but stand out with impressive graphical finesse.

Continue Your Game Development Journey

Your exploration into the world of game development doesn’t have to end here. As you’ve begun to understand the intricacies of depth and stencil operations in Godot 4, remember that this knowledge is a foundation upon which you can build complex and beautiful games. But where do you go from here? How can you further enhance your skills and bring your creative visions to life?

We at Zenva encourage you to continue your educational journey with our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree. This comprehensive collection of courses covering a range of topics, from 2D and 3D assets to complex game mechanics, is designed to help you grow from a beginner to a professional game developer. No matter where you stand on your learning path, our courses are tailored to fit your pace and enhance your understanding of game development with the Godot 4 engine.

For those of you seeking a broader learning experience or looking to dive into specific areas of Godot, our complete selection of Godot courses offers an array of options to continue expanding your expertise. Join us and turn your passion for games into a career with our industry-relevant courses. The adventure is only beginning, and we’re here to support you every step of the way!


Mastering depth and stencil operations with Godot 4’s RDPipelineDepthStencilState is just the beginning of what you can achieve in game development. The possibilities are endless, and the power to create breathtaking visuals and immersive gameplay experiences is in your hands. Every advanced technique you learn not only expands your toolkit but also solidifies your reputation as a skilled game developer. At Zenva, we’re committed to providing you with the knowledge and resources you need to transform your ideas into reality.

Don’t stop here; continue to challenge yourself and push the boundaries of what you can create. Explore our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree and other Godot courses to take your skills to the next level. Let us accompany you on your journey to becoming a game development virtuoso. Who knows what worlds you’ll build next?

Python Blog Image

FINAL DAYS: Unlock coding courses in Unity, Godot, Unreal, Python and more.