Context: I am developing a web application using webapp2 web-framework with python to be hosted on GAE. The web application (web-app from now on), is a chess variant. Being a first timer, I have definitely made a lot of design blunders. One of them, is what this question is regarding to, I will come to it in a short while.

The aim of the web-app was to allow quite a large number of players to play 2-player chess, such that multiple games are running in parallel. While not exceeding the free quota on GAE. (I am a student).

To do that, I thought that I would create a new game object, and store its id(game_object) along with the machine_id of the two players playing on that instance, in the datastore.

When querying the datastore with the machine_id of a player, I could get a id() value, and I thought could use that value as a key in a dictionary wherein a reference to the game_object forms the value.

Doing this, doesn't need me to write/update the datastore, hence saving on the precious writes. I could easily modify the game-state of the game_object, and it could be still referenced by the id().

But, now what happens is, this works fine for a few moves. After that the garbage collection takes place and the game_object is wiped off the memory. Raising a NameError exception.

My question is, can this be solved by creating new game_objects in a separate module where garbage collection is turned off, and then periodically/event-triggered freeing the memory? If not? How do I come around this problem?


1 Answer 1


You are not running into the Python garbage collection process here. Google App Engine doesn't guarantee that all requests go to the same instance. New instances do not share memory with old instances.

Load your data into memory again when your dictionary is empty.

All that the CPython garbage collector does is break circular references so that the normal reference count mechanism can remove objects from memory when no longer used. Your process has a dictionary referring to your data, and the garbage collector would never touch that data.

  • The web-app is still in development and is being hosted on the local machine. Google App Engine doesn't guarantee that all requests go to the same instance. Will that be an issue even on the local machine?
    – tmj
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 20:45
  • The local dev server supports multiple backend instances, so yes. Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 20:52
  • Aah! Ok. So is there no other way, than to store the game-state in the datastore in some or the other representation.
    – tmj
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 20:54
  • You can still cache stuff locally, or you could use the new MemCached implementation now available on GAE. Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 20:55
  • Is it safe to assume that the python garbage collector does not touch any python dictionary data-type? Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 23:41

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