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CRYENGINE uses the Yasli serialization library to support serializing from/to JSON and XML - in addition to simplifying Sandbox UI creation.

Table of Contents

API Types

The Archive Host

Serialization is wrapped through the Serialization::IArchiveHost interface, and wraps the ability to load/save from various formats with relative ease. This serialization approach always assumes that a native representation of the object we want to serialize is available. This is achieved by assuming that a Serialize (Serialization::IArchive&) function exists in each object we want to serialize, and will otherwise throw a compiler error.

For an example of how to load JSON from a buffer, see Serialization::IArchiveHost::LoadJsonBuffer. Similarly, we can also save to disk with almost identical code by calling Serialization::IArchiveHost::SaveJsonFile.

Control Characters

Control sequences are put as a prefix to the label of the property, i.e. third argument for the archive. Multiple control characters can be put together to combine their effects. 

For example: 

ar(name, "name", "^!<Name"); // inline, read-only, expanded value field


!Read only fieldPrevents user from changing the value of the property. Non-recursive.

Inline property on the same line as name of the structure root.
Can be used to put fields in one line in horizontal layout, rather than the default vertical list.

^^Inline in front of a nameInline property in the way that is placed before the name of the parent structure. Useful to add checkboxes before name.
<Expand value fieldExpand value part of the property to occupy all available space (usually taking free space)
>Contract value fieldReduces width of the value field to its minimal value. Useful to restrict width of inline fields.
>N>Limit field width to N pixelsUseful for finer control over UI look. Not recommended for use outside of editor.
+Expand row by default.Can be used to control which structures/containers are expanded by default or not.
Use this only when you need per-item control, otherwise QPropertyTree::setExpandLevels is a better option.
[S]Apply S control characters to children.This allows to apply a control character to children properties. Especially useful with containers.


There are two kinds of decorators:

  • Wrappers that take the original value and implement a custom serialization function to do some two-way transformation over it
    For example: Serialization/Math.h contains Serialization::RadiansAsDeg(float&) that allows to store and edit angles in radians
  • Wrappers that do no transformation but their type is used to select custom property implementation in the PropertyTree
    An example of such a wrapper would be all Resource Selectors.
DecoratorPurposeDefined for typesContext needed
AnimationPathSelection UI for full animation path.

Any string-like type, like:


string (CryStringT),



CharacterPathUI: browse for character path (cdf) 
CharacterPhysicsPathUI: browse for character .phys-file. 
CharacterRigPathUI: browse for .rig files. 
SkeletonPathUI: browse for .chr/.skel files. 
JointNameUI: list of character jointsICharacterInstance*
AttachmentNameUI: list of character attachmentsICharacterInstance*
SoundNameUI: list of sounds 
ParticleNameUI: particle effect selection 
RadiansAsDegEdit/store radians as degrees

float, Vec3

RangeSets soft/hard limits for numeric value and provides slider UINumeric types. 
CallbackProvides per-property callback function
See Adding Callbacks to PropertyTree
All types apart from compound ones (structs and containers)
Example of usage
float scalar;
ar(Serialization::Range(scalar), 0.0f, 1.0f); // provides slider-UI
string filename;
ar(Serialization::CharacterPath(filename), "character", "Character"); // provides UI for file selection with character filter

Serialization Contexts

The signature of Serialize method is fixed and this may prevent you from passing additional arguments into nested Serialize methods. To resolve this issue, Serialization Contexts were introduced.

By providing Serialization Context you can pass a pointer of a specific type, to nested Serialize calls. For example:

void Scene::Serialize(Serialization::IArchive& ar)
  Serialization::SContext sceneContext(ar, this);
  ar(rootNode, "rootNode")
void Node::Serialize(Serialization::IArchive& ar)
  if (Scene* scene = ar.FindContext<Scene>())
    // use scene

Contexts are organized into linked lists and nodes are stored on stack (withing SContext instance).

You can have multiple contexts. If you provide multiple instances of the same type, the innermost context will be retrieved.

You may also use contexts with a PropertyTree without modyfing existing serialization code. The easiest way to do it is to use CContextList (QPropertyTree/ContextList.h):

// CContextList m_contextList;
tree = new QPropertyTree();


This concludes the article on Yasli-based Serialization to/from JSON and XML. You may be interested in:

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