The naming convention of Raycaster#set

When doing some optimisations and extracting the vectors to make them reusable, I was left with such sample code:

const empty = new Vector3(); // Use as a default-placeholder for any vector
const up = new Vector3(0, 1, 0); // Vector y-up
const down = new Vector3(0, -1, 0); // Vector y-down
const position = new Vector3(); // Use as a target for world positions

const raycaster = new Raycaster(empty, empty, 0, 20); // Initialize raycaster outside the loop to relieve poor GC, set empty values for now

// Attempt to test each mesh from some arbitrary array
myMeshes.forEach(mesh => {
  mesh.getWorldPosition(position); // position is set to (x1, y1, z1)

  raycaster.set(position, down); // Since method is called "set", we'd expect the raycaster to be placed at (x1, y1, z1), pointing downward

  // Raycasts past this point will ignore mesh position and likely fail, not in an very obvious way 🙈 

  const hits = raycaster.intersectObject(groundMesh); // Except some specific cases, this will return 0 hits
});

Despite using set as a name, Raycaster.set uses Vector3.copy under the hood to update the Ray origin and direction – ie. it preserves the original vectors. In the example above, for each iteration value of empty is updated twice – then assigned as both origin and direction.

Wouldn’t it be a bit more intuitive / truthy to use Vector3.set to update origin and direction? Currently docs say the following:

Raycaster.set: Updates the ray with a new origin and direction.

While it seems it does something more of (based on Vector.copy):

Raycaster.set: Copies the passed vector values into existing ray origin and direction.

It is not really a terrible issue, but docs seem a bit misleading, and it can lead to a bit of debugging confusion – especially since the code above looks perfectly fine, unless one finds their way to these lines.

Author: Fantashit

1 thought on “The naming convention of Raycaster#set

  1. The semantic of copy() is not unambiguous in three.js. Some methods like Mesh.copy() actually assign object references (for good reasons however).

    The default is the behavior of math classes like Box2, Box3, Sphere etc. They do not assign object references but copy values. set() methods just follow this pattern which is totally fine from my point of view.

    TBH, I’m not a fan of your presented coding style since it tends to be error-prone. It’s more safe if values are copied since side effects due to object manipulation are automatically avoided. I fear most users probably won’t figure out what of their objects actually share references.

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