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Such a benchmark would require a substantial time investment, while someone familiar with Lua's implementation may highlight a problem which is not performance-dependent.

You might not realize it, but you already are more familiar with the implementation than you think ;) One nice thing about Lua having a small implementation is that it is not that difficult to wrap your head around the internals workings of the interpreter.

I encourage you to experiment what happens if you change metatables to use integer indices. For the purposes of the experiment, it doesn't have to be a well rounded patch. You can make something super hacky.

The main question I have is whether we would get a performance boost for the integer keys, vs hashing an interned short string. When we use a short string as a key, we don't need to recompute the hash every time because the hash is already pre-computed and stored inside the string object. The only part that is different is the logic for getting the value from the hash part vs from the array part.

-- Hugo