Getting started with Expo + Three.js


In this tutorial we want to show you how easy it is to create a 2D mobile game with React Native, Expo, and Three.js. We’ll be recreating a version of the popular (and addictive) game Flappy Bird called Floaty Plane.

Demo (scan in Expo app):


  • NodeJS 6+ (LTS)

  • Git

  • Expo XDE + iOS/Android App

Starter Code

The starter code sets up the basics of creating a React Native app with Expo and Three.js. It also has some skeletons of our game. Run this in terminal:

git clone
cd floatyplane-starter
npm install

Open the Expo XDE and click Project—>Open Project and navigate to the floatyplane-starer folder. Expo will load the project and you will be able to beam the code to your phone using the Expo native app.

Checkpoint: If you see a solid blue screen on your phone, everything is working!

Three.js Basics

Three is a Javascript library that makes it easy to create WebGL 3D graphics. There are three things needed to display graphics:

  1. Camera: Points at what you see on your screen

  2. Scene: A collection of meshes (elements in the game)

  3. Renderer: Updates the scene with movement

You can add meshes (objects e.g. a ball) to the scene. Meshes comprise of a geometry (shape + size) and texture (e.g. color or image).


In order to add the objects (plane and pillars) in our game, we need to create a mesh representation with Three. Remeber that a mesh consists of a geometry and a material.

The file we will be working with is utilities/scene.js. Let’s start by making functions that will create plane and pillar meshes that we can insert into our scene.

Creating Materials

First let’s create a function that loads images and turns them into materials. For simplicity, we have already loaded all the images into Expo Assets in Assets/index.js.

This code loads a image texture and creates a material from it. We’ll put this in utilities/scene.js.

const loadImageMaterial = (assetName, THREEView) => {
  const texture = THREEView.textureFromAsset(Assets[assetName]);
  texture.minFilter = texture.magFilter = THREE.NearestFilter;
  texture.needsUpdate = true;
  const material = new THREE.MeshBasicMaterial({
    map: texture,
    transparent: true, // Use the image's alpha channel for alpha.
  return material;

Creating Meshes

Now that we have a function that returns materials, we can use that to create a airplane mesh. Remember: mesh = geometry + material. We’ll put this in utilities/scene.js.

export const createPlane = (THREEView) => {
  const planeGeo = new THREE.PlaneBufferGeometry(0.75, 0.75);
  const material = loadImageMaterial("player-sprite", THREEView);
  const planeMesh = new THREE.Mesh(planeGeo, material);
  return planeMesh;

We have similar code to create meshes for pillars and the start screen.

export const createPillar = (THREEView) => {
  const geometry = new THREE.PlaneBufferGeometry(1,5);
  const material = loadImageMaterial("pipe-top", THREEView);
  const mesh = new THREE.Mesh(geometry, material);
  mesh.position.x = 2.5;
  return mesh;
export const createStart = (THREEView) => {
  const startGeo = new THREE.PlaneBufferGeometry(4, 1.5);
  const material = loadImageMaterial("start-screen", THREEView);
  const startMesh = new THREE.Mesh(startGeo, material);
  startMesh.position.y = 2;
  return startMesh;

And that’s all the meshes we need for our game! Full code of scene.js here for reference.

Now we’re going to write code that adds these meshes to the scene. Let’s move our attention to our main file Game/index.js. First we’ll create a function that will add the plane and start screen graphics to the scene.

We’ll add this to the createGameScene function (in Game/index.js):

this.setState({started: false, scoreCount: 0});
this.animatingIds = []; // we'll use this later to animate pillers
this.velocity = -1; // initial y velocity of the plane
this.planeMesh = Meshes.createPlane(THREEView);
this.startScreen = Meshes.createStart(THREEView);
this.scene.add(this.startScreen); // adds meshes to the scene

Checkpoint: Now you should see this on your screen.

Moving The Airplane

Now that we have a airplane in our scene, let’s make it move. tick is a function we pass to Three that is called every frame refresh. We can update our mesh locations here. dt is the elapsed time in seconds since the last call to tick.

Add the following to tick in Game/index.js:

if (this.state.started) {
  if (this.planeMesh.position.y < (this.height / 2) * -1 || this.planeMesh.position.y > (this.height / 2)) {
    alert("You Lost!"); // if plane hits top or bottom of screen
    this.resetScene(); // resets the scene to the original state
  } else { 
    this.velocity -= 7 * dt; // simulate gravity in plane
    this.planeMesh.translateY(this.velocity*dt); // move plane down

In our PanResponder (React’s gesture detector), we call touch when a tap is detected. Let’s make it so we increase the velocity of the plane to a positive number (making the place go up).

Add the following to touch in Game/index.js:

if (this.state.started) { // Increase velocity to make plane go up
  this.velocity = 4;
} else {

Now let’s make it possible to start the game and move the plane!

startGame = () => {
  this.setState({started: true});

Checkpoint: You’re game should now be responsive to touch.

Creating Pillars and Animations

But wait, where are the pillars? Don’t fret, let’s add them to the scene.

We want a function that will return two pillars, one on the top and one on the bottom, and add them to the scene. We also want them to be random length.

Let’s define createSetOfPillars to do this (in Game/index.js):

createSetOfPillars = () => {
    const pillarTop = Meshes.createPillar(THREEView); // creating meshes from methods we wrote before
    const pillarBottom = Meshes.createPillar(THREEView);
    const rand = 4 - Math.random() * 2;
    pillarTop.position.y = rand;
    pillarBottom.position.y = rand - 7.3; = "top"; // keeping track of which one is top and bottom = "bottom";
    pillarTop.passed = false; //we will use this later to increment score
    pillarBottom.passed = false;
    this.scene.add(pillarTop); // add the mesh to the scene
    this.animatingIds.push(; // save mesh id so we can animate later

Now that we can create pillars, we also want to move them.

Let’s create animatePillar in Game/index.js that will move the pillar left on the screen. We’ll call this later in tick. This function will do these things:

  • Get pillar mesh object from mesh ID

  • Check if plane collides with pillar. If so, stop the game

  • Check if pillar is off the screen. If so, destroy that pillar set.

  • Move the pillar left

animatePillar = (id, dt) => {
    const object = this.scene.getObjectById(id);
    if (!object) {

    // Checks for collision of pillar and plane
    if (this.intersects(object, this.planeMesh)) {
      alert("You Lost!");
    } else if (object.position.x < -2.5) { // If pillar is off the screen, remove from scene
      this.animatingIds.splice(this.animatingIds.indexOf(id), 1);
    } else { // Move pillar to the left
      object.position.x -= 0.02;

Remember in flappy bird, new pillars keep on coming. We want to be able to create new pillars every 3 seconds. We’ll set an interval that keeps on calling createSetOfPillars.

Add to startGame (in Game/index.js):

this.pillarInterval = setInterval(() => {
}, 3000);

Lastly, we want to move all the pillars on the screen a little every frame. Remember we store all the pillar mesh ID’s in the array animatingIds[].

We’ll call the animatePillar function in tick after moving the plane:

// After this line

this.animatingIds.forEach( id => {
 this.animatePillar(id, dt);

Checkpoint: Game should generate pillars and detect collisions

Pulling It Together

Almost done! We need to be able to keep track of score and also be able to reset the game when the player loses.

Since the plane is always located at x = 0, we want to check when the pillar passes over this point. Since tick is called every frame, pillar.position.x can have a lot of unnecessary precesion. We’ll round this off to make our lives easier. Also, since there are two pillars per set, we only want to increment the score once. We’ll only increase score for the top pillar.

Add to animatePillar:

//Add Ater Nullity Check 
    if (!object) {

// Checks if plane passes pillar to increment score
    if (Math.round(object.position.x, -5) == 0 && !object.passed &&  == "top") {
      this.setState({scoreCount: this.state.scoreCount + 1}); // update the score in the state
      object.passed = true; // mark pillar as passed

We need a way to display the score on the screen. We create a new Score component where we pass in the score in props.

// Add at the end of the file
class Score extends React.Component {
  render() {
    return (
      <Text style={styles.scoreText}>

const styles = StyleSheet.create({
  scoreText: {
    top: 40,
    width: 75,
    left: 0,
    textAlign: 'center',
    zIndex: 100,
    backgroundColor: 'transparent',
    color: 'white',
    fontSize: 30,

We then add this component to our render. We only want to display the score when the game is started.

// Add at the end of the THREEView component

{ this.state.started ? <Score score={this.state.scoreCount}/> : null }

Finally when a player loses, we need a way to reset the game to the original state (the start screen). This stops the create pillar interval and clears all the meshes from the scene.

// Replace old resetScene
resetScene = () => {
  while (this.scene.children.length > 0) {

And we’re done!


Using Expo, React Native, and Three makes it really easy to write mobile games.

Final code for the project here:

git clone

Thanks for reading!

Still have questions? Ask on our forums!