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Version: 1.8.2-RC2

Optimizing Models

This page aims at presenting some tips to optimize the memory footprint or the execution time of a model in GAMA.

Note: since GAMA 1.6.1, some optimizations have become obsolete because they have been included in the compiler. They have, then, been removed from this page. For instance, writing 'rgb(0,0,0)' is now compiled directly as '#black'.

Table of contents


In order to optimize a model, it is important to exactly know which part of the model take times. It is thus possible to benchmark the global execution of the model using the benchmark facet of the experiment statement: it will produce a global report on the number of times any keyword has been used and how long has been spent to execute them.

experiment Benchmarking type: gui benchmark: true { }

benchmark is also a statement that can be used on a block of codes to evaluate its execution. In addition, it provides the possibility to run the block of code several times to get more accurate results.

global {
init {
create people number: 300;

reflex neighboorhood {
benchmark "Benchmark of closest_to operator" repeat: 100 {
ask people {
do get_closest_people;

Finally the manual way to evaluate the execution of a code could be using the machine_time built-in global variable that gives the current time in milliseconds. Then to compute the time taken by a statement, a possible way is to write:

float t <- machine_time;
// here a block of instructions that you consider as "critical"
// ...
write "duration of the last instructions: " + (machine_time - t);


If you have a species of agents that, once created, are not supposed to do anything more (i.e. no behavior, no reflex, their actions triggered by other agents, their attributes being simply read and written by other agents), such as a "data" grid, or agents representing a "background" (from a shape file, etc.), consider using the schedules: [] facet on the definition of their species. This trick allows to tell GAMA to not schedule any of these agents.

grid my_grid height: 100 width: 100 schedules: []  {

The schedules facet is dynamically computed (even if the agents are not scheduled), so, if you happen to define agents that only need to be scheduled every x cycles, or depending on a condition, you can also write schedules to implement this. For instance, the following species will see its instances scheduled every 10 steps and only if a certain condition is met:

species my_species schedules: (every 10) ? (condition ? my_species : []) : []  {

In the same way, modelers can use the frequency facet to define when the agents of a species are going to be activated. By setting this facet to 0, the agents are never activated.

species my_species frequency: 0 {


Optimization Facets

In this section, we present some facets that allow to optimize the use of grid (in particular in terms of memories). Note that all these facet can be combined (see the Life model from the Models library).


If false, then a special class of agents is used. This special class of agents used less memories but has some limitation: the agents cannot inherit from a "normal" species, they cannot have sub-populations, their name cannot be modified, etc.

grid cell width: 50 height: 50 use_regular_agents: false ;


If false, then only one geometry is used for all agents. This facet allows to gain a lot of memory, but should not be used if the geometries of the agents are often activated (for instance, by an aspect).

grid cell width: 50 height: 50 use_individual_shapes: false ;	

Parallel execution

The grid statement can also specify whether the agents of the grid are computed in parallel, using the facet parallel. This could increase (depending on the computation) the execution time.


List operators


It is sometimes necessary to randomly select an element of a list that verifies a given condition. Many modelers use the one_of and the where operators to do this:

bug one_big_bug <- one_of (bug where (each.size > 10));

Whereas it is often more optimized to use the shuffle operator to shuffle the list, then the first_with operator to select the first element that verifies the condition:

bug one_big_bug <- shuffle(bug) first_with (each.size > 10);

where / count

It is quite common to want to count the number of elements of a list or a container that verify a condition. The obvious to do it is:

int n <- length(my_container where (each.size > 10));

This will however create an intermediary list before counting it, and this operation can be time consuming if the number of elements is important. To alleviate this problem, GAMA includes an operator called count that will count the elements that verify the condition by iterating directly on the container (no useless list created):

int n <- my_container count (each.size > 10);

Spatial operators

container of agents in closest_to, at_distance, overlapping, inside

Several spatial query operators (such as closest_to, at_distance, overlapping or inside) allow to restrict the agents being queried to a container of agents. For instance, one can write:

agent closest_agent <- a_container_containing_agents closest_to self;

This expression is formally equivalent to :

agent closest_agent <- a_container_containing_agent with_min_of (each distance_to self);

But it is much faster if your container is large, as it will query the agents using a spatial index (instead of browsing through the whole container). Note that in some cases, when you have a small number of agents, the first syntax will be faster. The same applies to the other operators.

Now consider a very common case: you need to restrict the agents being queried, not to a container, but to a species (which, actually, acts as a container in most cases). For instance, you want to know which predator is the closest to the current agent. If we apply the pattern above, we would write:

predator closest_predator <- predator with_min_of (each distance_to self);


predator closest_predator <- list(predator) closest_to self;

But these two operators can be painfully slow if your species has many instances (even in the second form). In that case, always prefer using directly the species as the left member:

predator closest_ predator <- predator closest_to self;

Not only is the syntax clearer, but the speed gain can be phenomenal because, in that case, the list of instances is not used (we just check if the agent is an instance of the left species).

However, what happens if one wants to query instances belonging to 2 or more species? If we follow our reasoning, the immediate way to write it would be (if predator 1 and predator 2 are two species):

agent closest_agent <- (list(predator1) + list(predator2)) closest_to self; 

or, more simply:

agent closest_agent <- (predator1 + predator2) closest_to self;

The first syntax suffers from the same problem than the previous syntax: GAMA has to browse through the list (created by the concatenation of the species populations) to filter agents. The solution, then, is again to use directly the species, as GAMA is clever enough to create a temporary "fake" population out of the concatenation of several species, which can be used exactly like a list of agents, but provides the advantages of a species population (no iteration made during filtering).

Accelerate closest_to with a first spatial filtering

The closest_to operator can sometimes be slow if numerous agents are concerned by this query. If the modeler is just interested in a small subset of agents, it is possible to apply a first spatial filtering on the agent list by using the at_distance operator.

For example, if the modeler wants first to do a spatial filtering of 10m:

agent closest_agent <- (predator1 at_distance 10) closest_to self;

To be sure to find an agent, the modeler can use a test statement:

agent closest_agent <- (predator1 at_distance 10) closest_to self;
if (closest_agent = nil) {closest_agent <- predator1 closest_to self;}



It is quite common to want to display an agent as a circle or a square. A common mistake is to mix up the shape to draw and the geometry of the agent in the model. If the modeler just wants to display a particular shape, he/she should not modify the agent geometry (i.e. its shape attribute, which is a point by default), but just specify the shape to draw in the agent aspect.

species bug {
int size <- rnd(100);

aspect circle {
draw circle(2) color: #blue;

circle vs square / sphere vs cube

Note that in OpenGL and Java2D (the two rendering subsystems used in GAMA), creating and drawing a circle geometry is more time consuming than creating and drawing a square (or a rectangle). In the same way, drawing a sphere is more time consuming than drawing a cube. Hence, if you want to optimize your model displays and if the rendering does not explicitly need "rounded" agents, try to use squares/cubes rather than circles/spheres.

OpenGL refresh facets

In OpenGL display, it is possible to specify that it is not necessary to refresh a layer with the facet refresh. If a species of agents is never modified in terms of visualization (location, shape or color), you can set refresh to false. Example:

display city_display_opengl type: opengl{
species building aspect: base refresh: false;
species road aspect: base refresh: false;
species people aspect: base;