LibGDX LibGDX Tutorial 13: Physics with Box2D Part 4: Controlling collisions using filters

Remember in our earlier example where we used a ContactListener to check for a collision between two types of FixtureDef and how ungainly the check was?  Remember when I said there was a much better way of doing this?  Well, welcome the the better way, Filters.

Filters are actually rather simple, except they use bitmasking, a concept that might be somewhat new to you.  I actually went into some detail on the use of bitmasks in this tutorial if you need some details.  Basically its about using individual bits in a number as “on/off” flags.  Basically it allows you to track multiple values in a single variable.  In Box2D, there are a pair of bitmask, the categoryBits and maskBits.  Those names can be a bit confusing but don’t worry about that.

Basically you can think of categoryBits as saying “This is what I am” and maskBits as “This is what I collide with”.  Keep in mind, you can set multiple bits for either, so you can both be multiple things and collide with multiple things.  That may still sound somewhat confusing, so let’s look at an example.  This is a modification of the code from the previous tutorial.  In this case, we want our two sprites to NOT collide with each other, but to collide with the edge that represents the ground in the world.

package com.gamefromscratch;

import com.badlogic.gdx.ApplicationAdapter;
import com.badlogic.gdx.Gdx;
import com.badlogic.gdx.math.MathUtils;
import com.badlogic.gdx.math.Matrix4;
import com.badlogic.gdx.math.Vector2;
import com.badlogic.gdx.physics.box2d.*;

public class Physics4 extends ApplicationAdapter {
    SpriteBatch batch;
    Sprite sprite,sprite2;
    Texture img;
    World world;
    Body body,body2;
    Body bodyEdgeScreen;

    Matrix4 debugMatrix;
    OrthographicCamera camera;

    final float PIXELS_TO_METERS = 100f;

    final short PHYSICS_ENTITY = 0x1;    // 0001
    final short WORLD_ENTITY = 0x1 << 1; // 0010 or 0x2 in hex

    public void create() {
        batch = new SpriteBatch();
        img = new Texture("badlogic.jpg");

        // Create two identical sprites slightly offset from each other vertically
        sprite = new Sprite(img);
        sprite.setPosition(-sprite.getWidth()/2,-sprite.getHeight()/2 +200);
        sprite2 = new Sprite(img);
        sprite2.setPosition(-sprite.getWidth()/2 + 20,-sprite.getHeight()/2 + 400);

        world = new World(new Vector2(0, -1f),true);

        // Sprite1's Physics body
        BodyDef bodyDef = new BodyDef();
        bodyDef.type = BodyDef.BodyType.DynamicBody;
        bodyDef.position.set((sprite.getX() + sprite.getWidth()/2) /
                (sprite.getY() + sprite.getHeight()/2) / PIXELS_TO_METERS);

        body = world.createBody(bodyDef);

        // Sprite2's physics body
        BodyDef bodyDef2 = new BodyDef();
        bodyDef2.type = BodyDef.BodyType.DynamicBody;
        bodyDef2.position.set((sprite2.getX() + sprite2.getWidth()/2) /
                (sprite2.getY() + sprite2.getHeight()/2) / PIXELS_TO_METERS);

        body2 = world.createBody(bodyDef2);

        // Both bodies have identical shape
        PolygonShape shape = new PolygonShape();
        shape.setAsBox(sprite.getWidth()/2 / PIXELS_TO_METERS, sprite.getHeight()
                /2 / PIXELS_TO_METERS);

        // Sprite1
        FixtureDef fixtureDef = new FixtureDef();
        fixtureDef.shape = shape;
        fixtureDef.density = 0.1f;
        fixtureDef.restitution = 0.5f;
        fixtureDef.filter.categoryBits = PHYSICS_ENTITY;
        fixtureDef.filter.maskBits = WORLD_ENTITY;

        // Sprite2
        FixtureDef fixtureDef2 = new FixtureDef();
        fixtureDef2.shape = shape;
        fixtureDef2.density = 0.1f;
        fixtureDef2.restitution = 0.5f;
        fixtureDef2.filter.categoryBits = PHYSICS_ENTITY;
        fixtureDef2.filter.maskBits = WORLD_ENTITY;



        // Now the physics body of the bottom edge of the screen
        BodyDef bodyDef3 = new BodyDef();
        bodyDef3.type = BodyDef.BodyType.StaticBody;

        float w =;
        float h =;

        FixtureDef fixtureDef3 = new FixtureDef();
        fixtureDef3.filter.categoryBits = WORLD_ENTITY;
        fixtureDef3.filter.maskBits = PHYSICS_ENTITY;

        EdgeShape edgeShape = new EdgeShape();
        fixtureDef3.shape = edgeShape;

        bodyEdgeScreen = world.createBody(bodyDef3);

        camera = new OrthographicCamera(,

    public void render() {
        // Step the physics simulation forward at a rate of 60hz
        world.step(1f/60f, 6, 2);

        sprite.setPosition((body.getPosition().x * PIXELS_TO_METERS) - sprite.
                        getWidth()/2 ,
                (body.getPosition().y * PIXELS_TO_METERS) -sprite.getHeight()/2 );

        sprite2.setPosition((body2.getPosition().x * PIXELS_TO_METERS) - sprite2.
                        getWidth()/2 ,
                (body2.getPosition().y * PIXELS_TO_METERS) -sprite2.getHeight()/2 );
        sprite2.setRotation((float)Math.toDegrees(body.getAngle()));, 1, 1, 1);;


        batch.draw(sprite, sprite.getX(), sprite.getY(),sprite.getOriginX(),
        batch.draw(sprite2, sprite2.getX(), sprite2.getY(),sprite2.getOriginX(),

    public void dispose() {

When a collision occurs, the collider will check it’s categoryBits against the collided’s maskBits.  If both are true, a collision occurs.  So in this example, both sprites will fall, completely ignoring each other.  However when they run in to the WORLD_ENTITY, a collision will occur.

Now, taking the same scenario, if you wanted to have the sprites collide with each other AND WORLD_ENTITY objects, you would simply change to

fixtureDef.filter.maskBits = WORLD_ENTITY|PHYSICS_ENTITY;

Now this object will have collisions with either kind of entity.

There is one other kind of filter in Box2D, and it’s confusing as hell in my opinion. It’s basically an override for grouping entities together called groupIndex.  I will let someone else explain how it works:

When checking two fixtures to see if they should collide:

  • if either fixture has a groupIndex of zero, use the category/mask rules as above
  • if both groupIndex values are non-zero but different, use the category/mask rules as above
  • if both groupIndex values are the same and positive, collide
  • if both groupIndex values are the same and negative, don’t collide

The default value for the groupIndex is zero

So, if you want to have fine tune control over which entities interact with each other, Filter is how you do it.  Ok, let’s keep this part short and sweet.

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