/ How To

Developing Greenfoot games with Maven/IntelliJ/Eclipse

Greenfoot is a game framework for programming beginners featuring an integrated development environment. Unfortunately it's a pain to use when you are used to write code in a real IDE such as IntelliJ. This is partially because of the strange object creation workflow which involves using the context menu a lot and doing clicks for stuff that is faster typed.

In preparation of a workshop I am going to co-lead with a few other guys from my company, I tried to find out if and how one can build Greenfoot projects without having the Greenfoot IDE installed, preferably using Maven.

And what can I say, you can. And it's awesome! I've created a sample project that you can use as a reference.

How to build a game with Greenfoot without having the Greenfoot IDE installed.

Creating a new Project

So you want to make your own game. Great.


A few placeholders will be used in this tutorial, you'll have to replace them
if you plan to do copy & paste. I will use the following format:

- placeholder - explaination - sample value used in the project linked above

Here you go:

  • $package-group$ - The groupId of your package identifier - io.lerk

  • $package-artifact$ - The artifactId of your package identifier - greenfoot-maven-demo

  • $project-name$ - The name of your project - greenfoot-maven-demo

  • $main-class$ - The full identifier of the class containing the main(String[] args) method (including full
    package name) - io.lerk.demo.DemoApp

  • $world-class$ - The full identifier of the main World class - io.lerk.demo.worlds.MyWorld

  • $world-class-name$ - Only the name of the class - MyWorld

  • $world-class-package$ - Only the package of the class - io.lerk.demo.worlds

  • $world-class-path$ - The location of the world class relative to src/main/java - io/lerk/demo/worlds

  • $world-image$ - The file name of the image to use as world background - crumpled-paper.jpg

  • $actor-class$ - The full identifier of the main World class - io.lerk.demo.actors.MyActor

  • $actor-class-name$ - Only the name of the class - MyActor

  • $actor-class-package$ - Only the package of the class - io.lerk.demo.actors

  • $actor-class-path$ - The location of the actor class relative to src/main/java - io/lerk/demo/actors

  • $actor-image$ - The file name of the image to use as world background - some-dude.jpg



Let's start by creating the project directory and go into it:

$ mkdir ~/$project-name$ && cd ~/$project-name$ 

Setting up Maven

In the directory, create a new file called pom.xml and put the following stuff into it:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<project xmlns="http://maven.apache.org/POM/4.0.0"
         xsi:schemaLocation="http://maven.apache.org/POM/4.0.0 http://maven.apache.org/xsd/maven-4.0.0.xsd">




                        <!-- exclude>**/log4j.properties</exclude -->
Repository and Dependencies

The repository is needed, because the dependencies are not available anywhere else for maven. On a mac, you can find
the greenfoot.jar at /Applications/Greenfoot.app/Resources/Java/extensions/greenfoot.jar and you'll have to
download the greenfoot source code and build the bluej project with ant jar-core to get the bluej.jar. As you
can see, it's a lot more convenient to just use the Maven dependencies.


The plugins are needed because we need a valid manifest (done by maven-jar-plugin) and all the dependencies are
required to be present in the jar file (done by maven-assembly-plugin).

Adding required Greenfoot stuff

Some files and directories are required by greenfoot. Let's take care of those first.

Directory structure

At first, we'll need to create a few directories:

$ mkdir -p src/main/java src/main/resources/images src/main/resources/sounds

Now, let's create the file src/main/resources/standalone.properties and put the following stuff into it:


The scenario.lock property disables the speed seek bar and the act once button.


The next required file is src/main/resources/project.greenfoot. Let's use the following content for it:

# Class definitions

# Editor Settings

# Main Window Settings

# Misc Project Settings

# Target definitions (unknown use)

# Misc/Unknown

I was yet unable to find out where this is used. That's why I'll just put one word into it for now. Create it using:

$ echo "stub" > src/main/resources/README.txt

Adding classes

Let's write some code.


At first, we create the world class we just defined in the project.greenfoot file.

Remember to have the correct package structure. You will need to create the folders for it first:

$ mkdir -p src/main/java/$world-class-path$

Now you can create the file in src/main/java/$world-class-path$/$world-class-name$.java. The content should look like

package $world-class-package$;

import greenfoot.World;

 * World class.
public class $world-class-name$ extends World

  private Text text;
  private Home home;
  private Thug thug;
  private Schnapp schnapp;

   * Constructor for objects of class $world-class$.
  public MyWorld()
    super(850, 600, 1);

   * Prepare the world for the start of the program.
   * That is: create the initial objects and add them to the world.
   * Z-Index is based on order of addition (last to be added is on top)
  private void prepare()

If you have not done this by now, you should add the world image defined as class.$world-class$.image in project .greenfoot into the
src/main/resources/images folder. The file type can be .png, .gif and .jp(e)g and the name should not contain any spaces.

The first actor

Now let's create a random actor. At first, create the missing package:

$ mkdir src/main/java/$actor-class-path$

Now we create the file src/main/java/$actor-class-path$/$actor-class-name$.java with the following content:

package $actor-class-package$;

import greenfoot.Actor;

 * Write a description of class $actor-class-name$ here.
 * @author (your name)
 * @version (a version number or a date)
public class $actor-class-name$ extends Actor
     * Act - do whatever the $actor-class-name$ wants to do. This method is called whenever
     * the 'Act' or 'Run' button gets pressed in the environment.
    public void act()
        // Add your action code here.

As you might have realized by now, we also need to create an entry for it in the project.greenfoot file. It's not
important where you place it in the file, but I recommend putting similar keys together for better readability. Put
the following code into src/main/resources/project.greenfoot:

Final steps
Adding and using sound files

I must confess, I didn't read the Greenfoot docs too well. Therefore I don't know, which audio files are supported, but I guess it just supports everything that Java does. I'm using .wav files in this example.

First you'll need a soundfile. Download one, record it, I don't really care. I suggest that you follow the same naming principles as with the images (no spaces in file name).

Put the file in src/main/resources/sounds and also create a new text file: src/main/resources/soundindex.list. Just put in the filename of your sounds, each in it's own line. No paths or anything, just the filename.

After that, you can play your sound by using: Greenfoot.playSound("mysound.wav").

The main class

You will also have to have a class that starts your project. This is very nifty if you want to do some initialization before the game loads like configuring the MenuBar on macOS or something else.

Let's create the file src/main/java/$main-class-path$/$main-class-name$.java and put the following content into it:

package $main-class-package$;

import greenfoot.export.GreenfootScenarioMain;

 * @author (User Name)
public class $main-class-name$ extends GreenfootScenarioMain {
    public static void main(String[] args) {

This will start the Greenfoot launcher which in turn loads your game. If you need to do any initialization, do it before the GreenfootScenarioMain.main(args); call.

Adding the actor into the world

If you start the game now, you'll notice that the actor is not yet visible. That's because we need to add it to the
world first. Add the following code into the prepare() method in your world class:

$actor-class-name$ actor = new $actor-class-name$();
addObject(actor, 50, 50);

Also, you will maybe need to add the following below the package statement:

import $actor-class$;

Some IDE's do this automatically!

Let the actor move

To let the actor move, put the following code into the act() method of the actor class:

if (Greenfoot.isKeyDown("up")) {
  setLocation(getX(), getY() - 1);
} else if (Greenfoot.isKeyDown("down")) {
  setLocation(getX(), getY() + 1);
if (Greenfoot.isKeyDown("left")) {
  setLocation(getX() - 1, getY());
} else if (Greenfoot.isKeyDown("right")) {
  setLocation(getX() + 1, getY());
Building and Running

Let's try to build the project:

$ mvn clean install -DskipTests=true

If this command succeeds, you can try to run the game:

$ java -jar target/$project-name$-1.0-SNAPSHOT-jar-with-dependencies.jar

The game window should open now and if you click play, you should be able to move the actor using the arrow keys.

If this doesn't work or you got an error while maven was building please check all of the files for leftover
placeholders. Alternatively you might want to read the error message (if there is any) and solve your problem this way.
You can also contact me using social media. If I have the time and knowledge to support you, I will.



vegan, programmer, musician, critical of everything & worst nightmare of every sysop.

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