Skip to main content

Arrays and native containers

Netcode for GameObjects has built-in serialization code for arrays of C# value-type primitives, like int[], and Unity primitive types. Any arrays of types that aren't handled by the built-in serialization code, such as string[], need to be handled using a container class or structure that implements the INetworkSerializable interface.

Performance considerations

Sending arrays and strings over the network has performance implications. An array incurs a garbage collected allocation, and a string also incurs a garbage collected allocation, so an array of strings results in an allocation for every element in the array, plus one more for the array itself.

For this reason, arrays of strings (string[]) aren't supported by the built-in serialization code. Instead, it's recommended to use NativeArray<FixedString*> or NativeList<FixedString*>, because they're more efficient and don't incur garbage collected memory allocation. Refer to NativeArray<T> and NativeList<T> below for more details.

Built-in primitive types example

Using built-in primitive types is fairly straightforward:

void HelloServerRpc(int[] scores, Color[] colors) { /* ... */ }

INetworkSerializable implementation example

There are many ways to handle sending an array of managed types. The following example is a simple string container class that implements INetworkSerializable and can be used as an array of "StringContainers":

void SendMessagesClientRpc(StringContainer[] messages)
foreach (var stringContainer in stringContainers)

public class StringContainer : INetworkSerializable
public string SomeText;
public void NetworkSerialize<T>(BufferSerializer<T> serializer) where T : IReaderWriter
if (serializer.IsWriter)
serializer.GetFastBufferReader().ReadValueSafe(out SomeText);

Native containers

Netcode for GameObjects supports NativeArray and NativeList native containers with built-in serialization, RPCs, and NetworkVariables. However, you can't nest either of these containers without causing a crash.

A few examples of nesting that will cause a crash:

  • NativeArray<NativeList<T>>
  • NativeList<NativeArray<T>>
  • NativeArray<NativeArray<T>>
  • NativeList<NativeList<T>>


To serialize a NativeArray container, use serializer.SerializeValue(ref Array).


To serialize a NativeList container, you must:

  1. Ensure your assemblies reference Collections.
  2. You must add UNITY_NETCODE_NATIVE_COLLECTION_SUPPORT to your Scriptiong Define Symbols list.
    1. From the Unity Editor top bar menu, go to Edit > Project Settings... > Player.
    2. Select the Other Settings dropdown.
    3. Scroll to Script Compilation > Scripting Define Symbols.
  3. Use serializer.SerializeValue(ref List) as your serialization syntax.

When using NativeLists within INetworkSerializable, the list ref value must be a valid, initialized NativeList.

NetworkVariables are similar that the value must be initialized before it can receive updates. For example, public NetworkVariable<NativeList<byte>> ByteListVar = new NetworkVariable<NativeList<byte>>{Value = new NativeList<byte>(Allocator.Persistent)};.

RPCs do this automatically.