Particles Tutorial

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Basics

A particle is a (to some extent, non-physical) 2D plane that always faces the camera, or (more rarely) a 3D model. It can be used to simulate ambient effects, such as dust, fire, water splash, wood splinters and even rock debris.

A particle source is a non-physical object that creates particles at a certain rate and position/velocity.

A particle (as well as a particle source) is local to the computer where the script has been called; one player could see smoke while another could see through without any issue.

Particles exist since Operation Flashpoint, but the first related command (drop) was only introduced in Operation Flashpoint: Resistance.
Particle source notions and commands were introduced in Armed Assault, some commands were later added in Arma 3 (e.g setParticleFire, setParticleClass).


How to

Create a particle source

private _particleSource = "#particlesource" createVehicleLocal getPosATL player;
A particle source is local (and all the particle commands take a local argument too), hence createVehicleLocal usage.
Introduced with Arma 3 version 0.500.50

Set source class

_particleSource setParticleClass "ObjectDestructionFire1Smallx"; // defined in configFile >> "CfgCloudlets"
Particle source class must be defined in game config and cannot be declared in missionConfigFile or campaignConfigFile. See Arma 3 Particle Effects for more information.

Set source parameters

// see ParticleArray for details on the array format
_particleSource setParticleParams
[
	["\A3\data_f\ParticleEffects\Universal\Universal", 16, 12, 0, 8],
	"", "Billboard", 1, 3,						// animationName, type, timerPeriod, lifeTime
	[0,1.5,0],									// position relative to referenceObject
	[0,0,0],									// velocity
	0, 0.005, 0.003925, 0.1, [0.25, 0.75],		// rotation, weight, volume, rubbing, size
	[[1,0,0,0.5], [0,1,0,1], [0,0,01,0.25]],	// colors
	[1],										// animationPhase
	0, 0,										// randomDirectionPeriod, randomDirectionIntensity
	"", "",										// onTimer, beforeDestroy
	player,										// referenceObject
	0, false,									// angle, bounces
	-1, [],										// bounceOnSurface, emissiveColor
	[0,1,0]										// vectorDir - CANNOT be [0,0,0]
];

Set source drop interval

_particleSource setDropInterval 0.0625; // duration between drops

Set source drop circle

_particleSource setParticleCircle [3, [0,1,0]]; // [circle radius, velocity]

Set source random values

/*
	lifeTime,
	position,
	moveVelocity,
	rotationVelocity,
	size,
	color,
	directionPeriod,
	directionIntensity,
	angle,
	bounceOnSurface
*/
_particleSource setParticleRandom [0, [0.1, 0.1, 0.1], [0, 0, 0.5], 0, 0.1, [0, 0, 0, 0], 0, 0];
Introduced with Arma 3 version 1.081.08

Set source fire properties

_particleSource setParticleFire [0.1, 0.5, 2]; // [coreIntensity, coreDistance, damageTime]

Delete source

deleteVehicle _particleSource; // as simple as that

Use the drop command

The drop command only drops one particle. If multiple ones are needed, a loop (for, while) must be used.

// see ParticleArray for details on the array format
drop [
	["\A3\data_f\ParticleEffects\Universal\Universal", 16, 12, 0, 8],
	"", "Billboard", 1, 3,						// animationName, type, timerPeriod, lifeTime
	[0,1.5,0],									// position relative to referenceObject
	[0,0,0],									// velocity
	0, 0.005, 0.003925, 0.1, [0.25, 0.75],		// rotation, weight, volume, rubbing, size
	[[1,0,0,0.5], [0,1,0,1], [0,0,01,0.25]],	// colors
	[1],										// animationPhase
	0, 0,										// randomDirectionPeriod, randomDirectionIntensity
	"", "",										// onTimer, beforeDestroy
	player										// referenceObject
];


Design Workflow

In order to determine one particle behaviour, a simple drop usage in the Debug Console can do; but seeing the complete end result can be another task at hand.

Using a Script

One way to design your effect is to have an SQF file, named e.g "particles.sqf", filled with your code:

{ deleteVehicle _x } forEach allMissionObjects "#particlesource";

private _posATL = player modelToWorld [0,10,0];


ps1 = "#particlesource" createVehicleLocal _posATL;
ps1 setParticleParams [/* ... */];
ps1 setDropInterval 0.2;

ps2 = "#particlesource" createVehicleLocal _posATL;
ps2 setParticleParams [/* ... */];
ps2 setDropInterval 0.2;

and run with

execVM "particles.sqf";

This format deletes all previous effects and still allows you to use the Debug Console in order to adjust particle source settings thanks to the usage of global variables (here, ps1 and ps2)

Using a Mod

Emitter 3Ditor (a real-time WYSIWYG particle source editor) adds and uses particle and light emitters in your scenarios without any scripting nor mod dependency.
Steam page - Forums post


Full examples

The following examples are for Arma 2 and later titles. For Armed Assault examples, see ParticleTemplates.
For games other than Arma 3, replace \A3\Data_F\ with:
Introduced with Arma 2 version 1.001.00 \Ca\Data\
Introduced with Arma 2: Operation Arrowhead version 1.001.00 \Ca\Ca_e\Data\
Introduced with Take On Helicopters version 1.001.00 \hsim\Data_h\Data\

Burning Vehicle Fire Look-Alike

Burning vehicle fire look-alike
private _posATL = player modelToWorld [0,10,0];

// Fire
private _ps0 = "#particlesource" createVehicleLocal _posATL;
_ps0 setParticleParams [
	["\A3\Data_F\ParticleEffects\Universal\Universal", 16, 10, 32], "", "Billboard",
	0, 1, [0, 0, 0.25], [0, 0, 0.5], 1, 1, 0.9, 0.3, [1.5],
	[[1,1,1, 0.0], [1,1,1, 0.3], [1,1,1, 0.0]],
	[0.75], 0, 0, "", "", _ps0, rad -45];
_ps0 setParticleRandom [0.2, [1, 1, 0], [0.5, 0.5, 0], 0, 0.5, [0, 0, 0, 0], 0, 0];
_ps0 setDropInterval 0.03;

// Smoke part 1
private _ps1 = "#particlesource" createVehicleLocal _posATL;
_ps1 setParticleParams [
	["\A3\Data_F\ParticleEffects\Universal\Universal", 16, 7, 1], "", "Billboard",
	1, 10, [0, 0, 0.5], [0, 0, 2.9], 1, 1.275, 1, 0.066, [4, 5, 10, 10],
	[[0.3, 0.3, 0.3, 0.33], [0.4, 0.4, 0.4, 0.33], [0.2, 0.2, 0, 0]],
	[0, 1], 1, 0, "", "", _ps1];
_ps1 setParticleRandom [0, [0, 0, 0], [0.33, 0.33, 0], 0, 0.25, [0.05, 0.05, 0.05, 0.05], 0, 0];
_ps1 setDropInterval 0.5;

// Smoke part 2
private _ps2 = "#particlesource" createVehicleLocal _posATL;
_ps2 setParticleParams [
	["\A3\Data_F\ParticleEffects\Universal\Universal", 16, 9, 1], "", "Billboard",
	1, 15, [0, 0, 0.5], [0, 0, 2.9], 1, 1.275, 1, 0.066, [4, 5, 10, 10],
	[[0.1, 0.1, 0.1, 0.75], [0.4, 0.4, 0.4, 0.5], [1, 1, 1, 0.2]],
	[0], 1, 0, "", "", _ps2];
_ps2 setParticleRandom [0, [0, 0, 0], [0.5, 0.5, 0], 0, 0.25, [0.05, 0.05, 0.05, 0.05], 0, 0];
_ps2 setDropInterval 0.25;

Fire

Fire
private _posATL = player modelToWorld [0,10,0];

// Fire
private _ps1 = "#particlesource" createVehicleLocal _posATL;
_ps1 setParticleParams [
	["\A3\Data_F\ParticleEffects\Universal\Universal", 16, 10, 32], "", "Billboard",
	1, 1, [0, 0, 0], [0, 0, 0.5], 0, 1, 1, 3, [0.5,1.5],
	[[1,1,1,0.4], [1,1,1,0.2], [1,1,1,0]],
	[0.25,1], 1, 1, "", "", _ps1];
_ps1 [[setParticleRandom]] [0.2, [0.5, 0.5, 0.25], [0.125, 0.125, 0.125], 0.2, 0.2, [0, 0, 0, 0], 0, 0];
_ps1 setDropInterval 0.05;

// Smoke
private _ps2 = "#particlesource" createVehicleLocal _posATL;
_ps2 setParticleParams [
	["\A3\Data_F\ParticleEffects\Universal\Universal", 16, 7, 1, 1], "", "Billboard",
	1, 5, [0, 0, 1], [0, 0, 1.5], 0, 1, 1, 0.5, [1.75,2,3,4.5], // timerPeriod → size
	[[1,1,1,0], [1,1,1,0.5], [1,1,1,0.4], [1,1,1,0.2], [1,1,1,0]],
	[0.5,0.5], 0, 0, "", "", _ps2];
_ps2 setParticleRandom [0.5, [1, 1, 0.4], [0, 0, 0.5], 0, 0.125, [0, 0, 0, 0], rad 30, 0];
_ps2 setDropInterval 0.1;

Floating Orb

Floating Orb
private _posATL = player modelToWorld [0,10,0];

private _ps1 = "#particlesource" createVehicleLocal _posATL;
_ps1 setParticleParams [
	["\A3\Data_F\ParticleEffects\Universal\Universal", 16, 12, 16, 0], "", "Billboard",
	1, 3.0141, [0, 0, 2], [0, 0, 0], 1, 1.275, 1, 0, [4],
	[[1, 1, 1, 1]],
	[1000], 1, 0, "", "", _ps1];
_ps1 setDropInterval 3;

Heavy Oily Smoke (Small)

Heavy Oily Smoke (Small)
private _posATL = player modelToWorld [0,10,0];

private _ps1 = "#particlesource" createVehicleLocal _posATL;
_ps1 setParticleParams [
	["\A3\Data_F\ParticleEffects\Universal\Universal", 16, 7, 16, 1], "", "Billboard",
	1, 8, [0, 0, 0], [0, 0, 1.5], 0, 10, 7.9, 0.066, [1, 3, 6],
	[[0, 0, 0, 0], [0.05, 0.05, 0.05, 1], [0.05, 0.05, 0.05, 1], [0.05, 0.05, 0.05, 1], [0.1, 0.1, 0.1, 0.5], [0.125, 0.125, 0.125, 0]],
	[0.25], 1, 0, "", "", _ps1];
_ps1 setParticleRandom [0, [0.25, 0.25, 0], [0.2, 0.2, 0], 0, 0.25, [0, 0, 0, 0.1], 0, 0];
_ps1 setDropInterval 0.05;

Heavy Oily Smoke (Medium)

Heavy Oily Smoke (Medium)
private _posATL = player modelToWorld [0,10,0];

private _ps1 = "#particlesource" createVehicleLocal _posATL;
_ps1 setParticleParams [
	["\A3\Data_F\ParticleEffects\Universal\Universal", 16, 7, 16, 1], "", "Billboard",
	1, 8, [0, 0, 0], [0, 0, 2.5], 0, 10, 7.9, 0.066, [2, 6, 12],
	[[0, 0, 0, 0], [0.05, 0.05, 0.05, 1], [0.05, 0.05, 0.05, 1], [0.05, 0.05, 0.05, 1], [0.1, 0.1, 0.1, 0.5], [0.125, 0.125, 0.125, 0]],
	[0.25], 1, 0, "", "", _ps1];
_ps1 setParticleRandom [0, [0.25, 0.25, 0], [0.2, 0.2, 0], 0, 0.25, [0, 0, 0, 0.1], 0, 0];
_ps1 setDropInterval 0.1;

Heavy Oily Smoke (Large)

Heavy Oily Smoke (Large)
private _posATL = player modelToWorld [0,10,0];

private _ps1 = "#particlesource" createVehicleLocal _posATL;
_ps1 setParticleParams [
	["\A3\Data_F\ParticleEffects\Universal\Universal", 16, 7, 16, 1], "", "Billboard",
	1, 8, [0, 0, 0], [0, 0, 2.5], 0, 10, 7.9, 0.066, [4, 12, 20],
	[[0, 0, 0, 0], [0.05, 0.05, 0.05, 1], [0.05, 0.05, 0.05, 1], [0.05, 0.05, 0.05, 1], [0.1, 0.1, 0.1, 0.5], [0.125, 0.125, 0.125, 0]],
	[0.25], 1, 0, "", "", _ps1];
_ps1 setParticleRandom [0, [0.25, 0.25, 0], [0.2, 0.2, 0], 0, 0.25, [0, 0, 0, 0.1], 0, 0];
_ps1 setDropInterval 0.2;

Light Wood Smoke (Small)

Light Wood Smoke (Small)
private _posATL = player modelToWorld [0,10,0];

private _ps1 = "#particlesource" createVehicleLocal _posATL;
_ps1 setParticleParams [
	["\A3\Data_F\ParticleEffects\Universal\Universal", 16, 9, 16, 0], "", "Billboard",
	1, 8, [0, 0, 0], [0, 0, 1.5], 0, 10, 7.9, 0.066, [1, 3, 6],
	[[0.5, 0.5, 0.5, 0], [0.5, 0.5, 0.5, 0.15], [0.5, 0.5, 0.5, 0.15], [0.5, 0.5, 0.5, 0.1], [0.75, 0.75, 0.75, 0.075], [1, 1, 1, 0]],
	[0.25], 1, 0, "", "", _ps1];
_ps1 setParticleRandom [0, [0.25, 0.25, 0], [0.2, 0.2, 0], 0, 0.25, [0, 0, 0, 0.1], 0, 0];
_ps1 setDropInterval 0.05;

Light Wood Smoke (Medium)

Light Wood Smoke (Medium)
private _posATL = player modelToWorld [0,10,0];

private _ps1 = "#particlesource" createVehicleLocal _posATL;
_ps1 setParticleParams [
	["\A3\Data_F\ParticleEffects\Universal\Universal", 16, 9, 16, 0], "", "Billboard",
	1, 8, [0, 0, 0], [0, 0, 1.5], 0, 10, 7.9, 0.066, [2, 6, 12],
	[[0.5, 0.5, 0.5, 0], [0.5, 0.5, 0.5, 0.3], [0.5, 0.5, 0.5, 0.2], [0.5, 0.5, 0.5, 0.1], [0.75, 0.75, 0.75, 0.075], [1, 1, 1, 0]],
	[0.25], 1, 0, "", "", _ps1];
_ps1 setParticleRandom [0, [0.25, 0.25, 0], [0.2, 0.2, 0], 0, 0.25, [0, 0, 0, 0.1], 0, 0];
_ps1 setDropInterval 0.1;

Light Wood Smoke (Large)

Light Wood Smoke (Large)
private _posATL = player modelToWorld [0,10,0];

private _ps1 = "#particlesource" createVehicleLocal _posATL;
_ps1 setParticleParams [
	["\A3\Data_F\ParticleEffects\Universal\Universal", 16, 9, 16, 0], "", "Billboard",
	1, 8, [0, 0, 0], [0, 0, 4.5], 0, 10, 7.9, 0.5, [4, 12, 20],
	[[0.5, 0.5, 0.5, 0], [0.5, 0.5, 0.5, 0.5], [0.66, 0.66, 0.66, 0.33], [0.75, 0.75, 0.75, 0.25], [1, 1, 1, 0]],
	[0.25], 1, 0, "", "", _ps1];
_ps1 setParticleRandom [0, [0.5, 0.5, 0], [0.2, 0.2, 0], 0, 0.25, [0, 0, 0, 0.1], 0, 0];
_ps1 setDropInterval 0.2;

Mixed Smoke (Small)

Mixed Smoke (Small)
private _posATL = player modelToWorld [0,10,0];

private _ps1 = "#particlesource" createVehicleLocal _posATL;
_ps1 setParticleParams [
	["\A3\Data_F\ParticleEffects\Universal\Universal", 16, 7, 16, 1], "", "Billboard",
	1, 8, [0, 0, 0], [0, 0, 1.5], 0, 10, 7.9, 0.066, [1, 3, 6],
	[[0.2, 0.2, 0.2, 0], [0.2, 0.2, 0.2, 0.45], [0.2, 0.2, 0.2, 0.45], [0.35, 0.35, 0.35, 0.225], [0.5, 0.5, 0.5, 0]],
	[0.25], 1, 0, "", "", _ps1];
_ps1 setParticleRandom [0, [0.25, 0.25, 0], [0.2, 0.2, 0], 0, 0.25, [0, 0, 0, 0.1], 0, 0];
_ps1 setDropInterval 0.1;

private _ps2 = "#particlesource" createVehicleLocal _posATL;
_ps2 setParticleParams [
	["\A3\Data_F\ParticleEffects\Universal\Universal", 16, 9, 16, 0], "", "Billboard",
	1, 8, [0, 0, 0], [0, 0, 1.5], 0, 10, 7.9, 0.066, [1, 3, 6],
	[[0.33, 0.33, 0.33, 0], [0.33, 0.33, 0.33, 0.8], [0.33, 0.33, 0.33, 0.8], [0.66, 0.66, 0.66, 0.4], [1, 1, 1, 0]],
	[0.25], 1, 0, "", "", _ps2];
_ps2 setParticleRandom [0, [0.25, 0.25, 0], [0.2, 0.2, 0], 0, 0.25, [0, 0, 0, 0.1], 0, 0];
_ps2 setDropInterval 0.1;

Mixed Smoke (Medium)

Mixed Smoke (Medium)
private _posATL = player modelToWorld [0,10,0];

private _ps1 = "#particlesource" createVehicleLocal _posATL;
_ps1 setParticleParams [
	["\A3\Data_F\ParticleEffects\Universal\Universal", 16, 7, 16, 1], "", "Billboard",
	1, 8, [0, 0, 0], [0, 0, 2.5], 0, 10, 7.9, 0.066, [2, 6, 12],
	[[0.2, 0.2, 0.2, 0], [0.2, 0.2, 0.2, 0.3], [0.2, 0.2, 0.2, 0.3], [0.35, 0.35, 0.35, 0.2], [0.5, 0.5, 0.5, 0]],
	[0.25], 1, 0, "", "", _ps1];
_ps1 setParticleRandom [0, [0.25, 0.25, 0], [0.2, 0.2, 0], 0, 0.25, [0, 0, 0, 0.1], 0, 0];
_ps1 setDropInterval 0.2;

private _ps2 = "#particlesource" createVehicleLocal _posATL;
_ps2 setParticleParams [
	["\A3\Data_F\ParticleEffects\Universal\Universal", 16, 9, 16, 0], "", "Billboard",
	1, 8, [0, 0, 0], [0, 0, 2.5], 0, 10, 7.9, 0.066, [2, 6, 12],
	[[0.33, 0.33, 0.33, 0], [0.33, 0.33, 0.33, 0.8], [0.33, 0.33, 0.33, 0.8], [0.66, 0.66, 0.66, 0.4], [1, 1, 1, 0]],
	[0.25], 1, 0, "", "", _ps2];
_ps2 setParticleRandom [0, [0.25, 0.25, 0], [0.2, 0.2, 0], 0, 0.25, [0, 0, 0, 0.1], 0, 0];
_ps2 setDropInterval 0.2;

Mixed Smoke (Large)

Mixed Smoke (Large)
private _posATL = player modelToWorld [0,10,0];

private _ps1 = "#particlesource" createVehicleLocal _posATL;
_ps1 setParticleParams [
	["\A3\Data_F\ParticleEffects\Universal\Universal", 16, 7, 16, 1], "", "Billboard",
	1, 8, [0, 0, 0], [0, 0, 4.5], 0, 10, 7.9, 0.5, [4, 12, 20],
	[[0.2, 0.2, 0.2, 0], [0.2, 0.2, 0.2, 0.3], [0.2, 0.2, 0.2, 0.3], [0.35, 0.35, 0.35, 0.2], [0.5, 0.5, 0.5, 0]],
	[0.25], 1, 0, "", "", _ps1];
_ps1 setParticleRandom [0, [0.4, 0.4, 0], [0.4, 0.4, 0], 0, 0.25, [0, 0, 0, 0.1], 0, 0];
_ps1 setDropInterval 0.2;

private _ps2 = "#particlesource" createVehicleLocal _posATL;
_ps2 setParticleParams [
	["\A3\Data_F\ParticleEffects\Universal\Universal", 16, 9, 16, 0], "", "Billboard",
	1, 8, [0, 0, 0], [0, 0, 4.5], 0, 10, 7.9, 0.5, [4, 12, 20],
	[[0.33, 0.33, 0.33, 0], [0.33, 0.33, 0.33, 0.8], [0.33, 0.33, 0.33, 0.8], [0.66, 0.66, 0.66, 0.4], [1, 1, 1, 0]],
	[0.25], 1, 0, "", "", _ps2];
_ps2 setParticleRandom [0, [0.4, 0.4, 0], [0.4, 0.4, 0], 0, 0.25, [0, 0, 0, 0.1], 0, 0];
_ps2 setDropInterval 0.2;

Rock Shower

Rock Shower
private _posATL = player modelToWorld [0,10,0];

private _ps1 = "#particlesource" createVehicleLocal _posATL;
_ps1 setParticleParams [
	"\A3\Data_F\ParticleEffects\Pstone\Pstone", "", "SpaceObject",
	1, 10, [0, 0, 30], [0, 0, -2], 1, 10, 1, 0.2, [2, 2],
	[[1, 1, 1 ,1]],
	[0, 1], 1, 0, "", "", _ps1];
_ps1 setParticleRandom [0, [10, 10, 0], [0.25, 0.25, 0], 0, 1.5, [0, 0, 0, 0], 0, 0];
_ps1 setDropInterval 0.04;


See also