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A variable is a "storage container" or "named placeholder" for data. You can read and modify the data once this container is created.


The following links guide to the basics to understand this article:


The first thing you have to do is to find a name for your variable. This name is called identifier. Read the article Identifier for more information.

Once you know a name, you have to tell the game engine that you are going to use this identifier. This is called initialization. Then you may do anything with this variable.

Don't worry: This sounds more dramatic than it is. You can initialize any variable by assigning a value to it.

myVariable = 0;

Querying undefined (or uninitialized) variables returns nil (undefined value). When converted to Strings with str, they will always return scalar bool array string 0xe0ffffef (in Armed Assault) or scalar bool array string 0xfcffffef (in Operation Flashpoint).

myString = str(undefinedVar);

myString => "scalar bool array string 0xe0ffffef"

Thus you can't really apply any operations on variables before they are initialized with a start value.


Once created, variables will take up space in your computer memory. This is not drastic for small variables, but if you use a big number of very large variables, you should undefine any variables that are not needed anymore. This can be done with the command nil.

hugeVariable = nil;

This effectively destroys a variable as if it had never existed.


Variables are only visible in certain scopes of the game. This prevents name conflicts between different variables in different scripts.

There are three scopes:

private (old name local)
A variable is only visible in the script, or function, or Control Structures in which it was defined.
A variable is visible on the whole computer where it was defined.
A variable is broadcasted over the network and visible on all computers connected to the network.

Private Variables

Private variables are only visible in a specific script, or function, or Control Structures.

The identifier of private variables in a script always has to started with an underscore.

_myPrivateVariable = 0;

In functions you should additionally mark variables as private using the command private. Otherwise you may modify private variables of the calling script that are visible in the function.

private "_myPrivateVariable";
_myPrivateVariable = 0;

You may also pass more identifiers to the private command using an Array.

private ["_myLocalVariable1", "_myLocalVariable2", ...];

Global Variables

Global variables are visible on the whole computer where they are defined. Names given to units in the Mission Editor are also global variables pointing to those units, which may not be redefined or modified.

Identifiers of global variables must not start with underscore. Otherwise there are the same rules as for all identifiers.

myGlobalVariable = 0;

Public Variables

Public variables are global variables, visible on several computers in the network. You can never have true public variables, but you can emulate their behaviour.

The value of a global variable gets broadcasted over the network using publicVariable. After the call of this command the variable will have the same value on all clients. Once you modify the variable though you have to broadcast it manually again with publicVariable.

More informations relative to private variable

If a private variable is initialized within a Control Structures (i.e. if, for, switch, while) its scope will stay within this structure (i.e. outside of the structure it will still be seen as undefined).

if (alive player) then {private _living=true}; hint format["%1",_living]; Returns an error, since the private variable was not initialized before being used within a control structure.

private _dead=true; if (alive player) then {_dead=false}; hint format["%1",_dead]; Returns "false", since the variable was initialized before the if...then.
To initialize private variables, so that they are available throughout the whole script (including any control structures), either initialize it via the private command (e.g. private ["_varname"];) at the begining of the script.

Data Types

Variables may store certain values. The kind of the value specifies the type of the variable. Different operators and commands require variables to be of different types.

Read the article Data Types for more information about variable types.

Multiplayer Considerations

Storing vars and functions into global vars without securing them with compileFinal (only after Arma-3) is a very bad practice in MP. Basically, if you have a script installed on a server in mission file that uses functions stored in unprotected variables then hackers can overwrite that function attached to a public variable and make it execute code for everyone and do a lot of nasty stuff. So please put all of the code for each function in a SEPARATE file and initialize them like this: myGlobalVarFunction = compileFinal preprocessFileLineNumbers "Dir\where\function\is\fnc_globalVarFunction.sqf"; That way, the function can be called and spawned without it being subject to hackers that attempt to overwrite the global variable "myGlobalVarFunction".

Everyone happy :)

See also