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2.1.1 • Public • Published

Behavior Tree

A simple implementation of a behavior tree with a demo that can be played with here.

CI npm


Behavior trees are a technique used in video games and robotics to model behavior AI. Their use has become increasingly popular due to their simple implementation, ease of understanding, and flexibility. This README won't go into all the detail here but a cursory web search will provide a plethora of information.

This project provides a simple demo to load and interact with a behavior tree. The values of conditions and actions can be switched in the sidebar that is accessed from the top left menu of the demo. The displayed tree can be panned, zoomed, and stretched both horizontally and vertically. The instructions for these interactions can be accessed from '?' button in the top right of the demo.

As one interacts with the tree by toggling conditons and actions the implementation will show the paths of the tree that have been explored by filling in the explored nodes in a solid color. Note that an action or condition may be repeated within different parts of the tree but an action or condition may be displayed with a solid color while the exact same action or condition in another branch of the tree is displayed only with an outline of the same color. This illustrates that the implementation does not explore the entire tree depending on the organization of nodes and values of actions and conditions -- it only seeks the most successful or running branch.

That last sentence mentions successful and running, and that is because a node may be one of three states: success, running, failed, and these states are denoted by the colors green, blue, and red, respectively. Note that condition nodes may be in a successful or failed state, never running.


If you use Visual Studio Code you may find the Behavior Tree extension handy for authoring trees.


The demo allows the loading of any arbitrary tree and the syntax is simple and easy to understand. By default when the demo is loaded in the browser the default tree for the behavior of Pac-man would be written as:

|    ->
|    |    (Ghost Close)
|    |    ?
|    |    |    ->
|    |    |    |    !(Ghost Scared)
|    |    |    |    (Power Pill Close)
|    |    |    |    [Eat Power Pill]
|    |    |    ->
|    |    |    |    (Ghost Scared)
|    |    |    |    [Chase Ghost]
|    |    |    [Avoid Ghost]
|    =1
|    |    [Eat Pills]
|    |    [Eat Fruit]

The complete syntax will be discussed here. There is a limited form of error reporting as the parser will stop at the first error which will then be displayed directly on the page with the line number that it occurred on. A correct tree must have exactly one root node.

Fallback Node

A fallback node is written with a question mark, ?, and will choose the first child that evaluates to success or running. If all children nodes have failed then the fallback node will be failed as well. Fallback nodes resemble an OR operator of programming languages with short-circuite behavior.

Condition Node

A condition node is represented as (name of condition). A condition represents a true or false state and as previously mentioned it may never be in a running state. Conditions form the backbone of a behavior tree and are the key ingredient to influence its path to find the current running behavior. For the sake of this implementation conditions are case sensitive when determining the state of a condition.

Indentation Level

Indentation of a tree is marked with the | symbol and denotes one level of indentation within the tree. Multiple indentation markers can be placed one after the other to increase the level of indentation and thus increase the height of the tree.

With fallback and condition nodes along with indentation markers we now have enough syntax to create a simple behavior tree. Here we have a tree with a height of one, has one fallback node, and two condition

|    (Condition One)
|    (Condition Two)

In this example, (Condition One) and (Condition Two) are child nodes of the fallback node which will be in a success state when either of the children are in a success state.

Action Node

[Some Action] is the syntax for an action node. Action nodes specify what should be done when the action becomes active. When writing a tree, nodes are organized in order to have action nodes becomes active so they can be executed to carry the behavior of the tree. The component executing the action will report back whether the action is running, success, or failed.

Sequence Node

A sequence node is written with -> and is in a success state when all of its children nodes are in a success state. Otherwise, the state of the sequence node will be the state of the first child, whether failed or running. A sequence node is akin to the AND operator of many programming languages.

Not Decorator

A condition node, and only condition nodes, may be decorated with the not, !, decorator. As is many programming languages this decorator inverts the result of its condition, so !(Have Free Space) will be in a failed state when there is actually free space available.

Parallel Node

The parallel node is written as =N where N is some positive integer. The parallel node, like fallback and sequence nodes, can have an arbitrary number of children and is in a success state when the number of children in a success state is greater than or equal to N. If number of children in a failed state is greater than the number of children in a success state minus N then the parallel node will be failed; otherwise, it will be considered running.


The syntax also allows for comments in the tree model. Comment is text that follows ;;.

;; Header comment
|   (condition x) ;; trailing comment...

Using BehaviorTree in your code

Parsing behavior tree and executing it

The BehaviorTree may be used programmatically to execute the behavior modeled in the tree:

const { BehaviorTree,
    Fallback, Sequence, Parallel, Action, Condition,
    fallback, sequence, parallel, action, condition,
    SAMPLE_TREE, getFriendlyStatus } = require('../btree');
let tree = BehaviorTree.fromText(`
|   !(have hunger)
|   [eat]`);
// subscribe to action activation
tree.onActionActivation(actionNode => {
    switch (actionNode.name) {
        case 'eat':
            console.log(getFriendlyStatus(actionNode.status())); // prints 'running'
            if (actionNode.active()) { // in general we should check that the action is in an active branch
                console.log('Started eating...');
                // no longer hungry!
                tree.setConditionStatus('have hunger', FAILED);
                console.log('Done eating...');
                tree.setActionStatus('eat', SUCCESS);
console.log('Initial state:');
console.log(getFriendlyStatus(tree.root.status())); // prints 'success'
console.log(tree.root.active()); // prints true
// then we get hunger
tree.setConditionStatus('have hunger', SUCCESS);
let statusAfterHungerIsTrue = tree.root.tick();
console.log(getFriendlyStatus(statusAfterHungerIsTrue)); // prints 'success', because the action was executed synchronously as part of the tick
// now 'Started/Done eating...' should be printed
// final state:
console.log(getFriendlyStatus(tree.root.status())); // prints 'success'

This approach allows the separation between the tree model and the action implementation.

Building behavior tree and executing it

Another way to use the BehaviorTree is to programmatically construct the tree nodes, including the action implementation:

// define the action 'eat' implementation
let onEat = function (actionNode) {
    switch (actionNode.name) {
        case 'eat':
            console.log(getFriendlyStatus(actionNode.status())); // prints 'running'
            if (actionNode.active()) { // in general we should check that the action is in an active branch
                console.log('Started eating...');
                // no longer hungry!
                tree.setConditionStatus('have hunger', FAILED);
                console.log('Done eating...');
                tree.setActionStatus('eat', SUCCESS);
// ?
// |   !(have hunger)
// |   [eat]`
let rootNode = fallback([
    condition("have hunger", true),
    action("eat", onEat)
let tree = new BehaviorTree(rootNode);

Using BehaviorTree as a NPM package

Both the BehaviorTree library and the service are available via NPM.

NPM library

npm install behavior_tree_service
const { BehaviorTree } = require('behavior_tree_service');
let tree = BehaviorTree.fromText(`-->
|   (condition)

NPM service

npm install behavior_tree_service -g
behavior_tree_service --help

In your web page

You can import the java script in your web page by importing it this way:

<script defer src="https://unpkg.com/behavior_tree_service@latest/btree.js"></script>
<script defer src="https://unpkg.com/behavior_tree_service@latest/btreeviz.js"></script>
const host = document.getElementById("tree-host");
const tree = BehaviorTree.fromText(`->
    |   [Action1]
    |   (Condition1)`);
function nodeDoubleClicked(node, shiftKey) {
    console.log(`Node ${node.name} double-clicked withe the shift key ${shiftKey ? "down" : "up"}`);
function nodeRightClicked(node) {
    console.log(`Node ${node.name} right-clicked`);
const treeRefresh = showTree(tree, host,  nodeDoubleClicked, nodeRightClicked);
// update a tree node
tree.setConditionStatus('Condition1', FAILED);
// re-paint the view


npm i behavior_tree_service

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