I'm scouting around for different methods of implementing a typical RTS box selection. This is for 3D game - so I'm looking for methods for finding units within selection box in 3D world. Here is a quick screenshot of what a box selection looks like in 2D Starcraft:

Starcraft Screenshot

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ do you need help drawing the box or do you need help deciding which units go in the box? \$\endgroup\$
    – Jimmy
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 4:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ "because I find visual stimulus quite helpful" And yet, you failed to explain exactly what you were looking for. We all know what box selection is, but which part: the box drawing or the selecting? Is this a 3D game where one might have perspective issues, or is it a 2D game? What have you tried? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 5:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry about being unclear, I am asking about the actual selection of units \$\endgroup\$
    – Aralox
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 7:06

1 Answer 1


Your question was vague, but the answer to both interpretations could be simple.

Heres some pseudo code:

vec2 original_xy = get_mouse_position();
vec2 new_xy;

while (get_mouse_click_state() == MOUSE_DOWN) {
        new_xy = get_mouse_position();
        render_box(original_xy, new_xy);

vec2 a = mouse_to_world(original_xy);
vec2 b = mouse_to_world(new_xy),

const float max_height = 100.f; // maximum search height
BoundingBox aabb(vec3(min(a.x, b.x), min(a.y, b.y), 0), vec3(max(a.x, b.x), max(a.y, b.y), max_height));
List<Object> objects_in_box;

for Object x in all_objects do {
    if (x.collides(aabb)) {
  • \$\begingroup\$ render_window_box() must render properly using the window coordinates, probably use an orthographic projection matrix instead of whatever you use for the rest of your rendering. See gamedev.stackexchange.com/questions/7060/…. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 6:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ mouse_to_world() must convert the 2D coordinates of the mouse to 2D/3D coordinates relative to your world. This can be done in a few ways, here is a GD:SE topic on the matter for OpenGL: gamedev.stackexchange.com/questions/8974/…. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 6:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why use a bounding box, you could simply translate top left and bottom right point from 2d screen coords to 3d world coords, next iterate trough all units and see if x and y coords are in the rectangle definde by those 3d coords. \$\endgroup\$
    – Thomas
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 7:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ This seems to be the most popular (maybe only?) solution from what ive read - I reckon I will use this in conjunction with my existing cell partitioning system, to get an O(constant) time search rather than an O(n) time with the for loop \$\endgroup\$
    – Aralox
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 8:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Thomas you do realise that is exactly what the bounding box above does? Albeit with a 3rd dimension attached. If you have a 2D bounding box implementation, it would be the same approach; just without the Z component. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 13:04

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