Saturday, February 8, 2014

Moving from Google Code to GitHub

A few weeks back, the Evennia project made the leap from Google Code to GitHub (here). Things have been calming down so it's time to give a summary of how the process went.

Firstly I want to say that I liked Google Code. It did everything expected of it with little hassle. It had a very good Issue system (better than GitHub in my opinion) and it allowed us to use Mercurial instead of Git for version control (I just happen to like Mercurial better than Git, so sue me). Now, GitHub is getting to be something of a standard these days. But whereas our users have occationaly inquired about us making the move, I've been reluctant to do so. 

The problem I did have with Google Code was that I got the increasing feeling that Google didn't care all that much about it. It worked decently, but it was not really going anywhere either. What finally made me change my mind though was an event just after summer last year. There was a bug in Google Code that made the links to online clones disappear. It was worse than that - creating new online clones of the main repo didn't work - people wanting to contribute using a clone just couldn't. 

This is extremely critical functionality for a code-sharing website to have! I made a bug report and many other projects chimed in seeing the same issues. Eventually the links returned and everything worked the way it had. But it took several months before this critical bug was fixed. Even then Google didn't even bother to close my issue. This suggested quite strongly to me that Google Code is not really a priority even for its parent company. It was time to consider a move.

I was never personally a fan of Git. It is undoubtedly powerful, but I always felt its syntax way too archaic and the number of ways to shoot yourself in the foot way too many. But I do like GitHub better than BitBucket (I've used both in other projects), so that's where we nevertheless were heading.

Already last year I created an Evennia "organization" on GitHub and one of our  users first helped to set up a Git Mirror of our Mercurial repo. The idea was a good one - have a mirror on GitHub, allowing the transition to be more gradual. In the end this didn't work out though - there were some issue with the hg-git conversion and the mirror never didn't actually update. When I checked back and it was three months behind we just removed that first ill-fated version. 

In the end I decided to not fiddle about with it, but to move everything over in one go.

 Converting the repository


I set aside a new folder on my hard drive and cloned the original mercurial repo into a new sub folder. A good idea is to set up a quick Python virtual environment for easily getting updated dependencies of build scripts. 

I initialized an empty Git repository and used a program called hg-fast-export to convert. As it turned out there were some finer details to consider when doing that:

  • The most obvious one was that the conversion initially failed, complaining about the Mercurial original containing "unnamed branches". These came from a contributor who did something to spawn off all sorts of weird branches with little purpose. I should not have merged those into main in the first place, but in those days I didn't know mercurial well enough to be  concerned. In the end I simply used mercurial's MQ extension to remove the unnamed (and unused) branches so the conversion could complete.
  • The second issue was that Mercurial is less stringent about its author strings than Git is. Git's author string is "name <email>". Over the years we have gotten contributions from people with all sorts of combinations of names, with or without an email address. So for this we had to supply a mapping file to the converter. It's basically a list of old_author_string = new_author_string and allows for grouping the various used names as needed (some of them were the same person using slightly different author strings). 

Once this was in place, the repo conversion worked fine. It was just a matter of changing the .hgignore file to a .gitignore file and change some code that made use of mercurial to get and display the current revision id.

 Converting the Wiki, part one

Evennia's wiki consitutes our documentation, it's some 80+ pages or so by now. Definitely not something we want to loose. Google Code use a dialect of MediaWiki whereas GitHub's wiki supports a few other formats, like markdown or reST. I needed to convert between them.

Digging around a bit I found googlecode2github. This download contains python scripts for converting the wiki as well as Issues. I didn't really get the issues-converter to work, so I had to find another solution for that (see next section).

All in all, the initial wiki conversion worked decently - all the pages were converted over and were readable. I was even to the point of declaring success when finding the damn thing messed up the links. Googe Code writes links like this: [MyLink Text to see on page]. The script converted this to [[MyLink|Text to see on page]]. Which may look fine except it isn't. GitHub actually wants the syntax in the inverse order: [[Text to see on page|MyLink]].

Furthermore, in Google Code's wiki, code blocks were marked with

  <verbatim code> 

In markdown, code blocks are created just by indenting the block by four spaces. The converter dutifully did this - but it didn't add empty lines above and below the block, which is another thing markdown requires. The result was that all code ended up mixed into the running text output.

I could have gone back and fixed the converter script, but I suspected there would be enough small things to fix anyway. So in the end I went through 80+ pages of fixing link syntax and adding empty lines by hand. After that I could finally push the first converted wiki version up to the GitHub wiki repository.

Some time later I also found that there is a way to let GitHub wiki pages use syntax highlighting for the language of your choice. The way to do this is to enclose your code blocks like this:


<verbatim code>


This is apparently "GitHub-flavoured" markdown. So another stint into all the pages followed, to update everything for prettiness.

 Converting Google Code Issues

I didn't want to loose our Issues from Google Code. I looked around a bit and tested some conversions for this (it helps to be able to create and delete repos on GitHub with abandon when things fail). I eventually settled on google-code-issues-migrator.

This is a Python script that gathers all the Issues from a given Google Code project. It then uses GitHub's API to re-post the issues. It retains the issue numbers and re-maps the Google Code Issue tags to GitHub's equivalent. It didn't retain most other formatting and whereas I ended up as the creator of all issues, the converter included the name of the original author as well as a link back to the original Google Code one. I found that to be quite sufficient for our needs. 

 Converting the IRC announcer

A lot of development discussion goes on in our IRC channel #evennia on Freenode. There is an announcer bot in there that I've written, that collates information from various sources and reports it in the IRC channel:

  • Repository updates
  • Wiki updates
  • Issue creation and updates
  • Mailing list/forum posts
  • Dev-blog updates (this blog)

Say what you will about Google, but they are great at offering RSS feeds to all their stuff. So my IRC bot was basically a glorified threaded RSS reader that echoed changes to the channel as they came in. This had been working nicely for years.

GitHub does offer RSS feeds to -some- of their offerings, but it's a lot more patchy. I eventually had to do quite a bit of hacking to get everything reporting the way we were used to.

  • GitHub has its own IRC announcer bot that reports to IRC. The problem is that this will connect, send message and then disconnect. This causes a lot of spam in the channel. We neither can nor want to set +n on our channel to allow external messages either. The way I solved this was to expand my own custom IRC bot to sit in two irc channels. The GitHub announcer connects to only one of them (so this gets all the spammy connect messages). My IRC bot picks up the announcement and echoes it cleanly to our main #evennia channel.  It works really well.
  • Issues are handled by the GitHub announcer in the same way. 
  • GitHub has no automatic way to report wiki updates. It doesn't even have a proper RSS feed. However, a user clued me in on using the pipes website to relay an RSS feed from github. I then configured my IRC bot to check that RSS and report it (I also changed the IRC colours to match the GitHub-announcer ones).
  • Mailing list and blog haven't changed, so those are still handled via RSS as before.

All this done, the modified IRC announcement works well.

 Closing the book on Google Code

At this point all the critical things were moved over. So after some heads-up warnings on the mailing list (and users helping to rewrite our documentation to use Git instead of mercurial) we eventually made the official move.

One thing I really dislike is when a project switches hosts and don't let users know about it in their revision history. So I made a mercurial-only last commit announcing that the repo is closed and giving the link to the new one.

The Google Code page doesn't go anywhere, but I changed the front page to point to GitHub instead. I even made an issue in the Issue tracker with a title telling people not to use that tracker anymore. Finally I re-pointed all the links on to GitHub and made a mailing list posting. Move was officially complete.

 Converting the Wiki, part 2

At this point were were officially moved over and I started to look into getting fancy with our documentation. We have for the longest time made automated translations of our wiki for compiling by ReadTheDocs.

Getting Google Code's special wikimedia syntax into reST (that ReadTheDocs uses) used to mean jumping through a few hoops. My hackish solution worked in two steps. First a custom python script (whose originating url I can no longer find, sorry) converted the Google Code wiki to HTML. Once this was done, pandoc converted the files from HTML to reST. The result was ... acceptable. There were some minor issues here and there but mostly the result was readable.

I figured that converting from the more standard Markdown of the GitHub wiki to reST should be a breeze by comparison. Not so.

The first hurdle was that the version of pandoc coming with my Linux distribution was too old to support Github-flavoured markdown syntax. I knew from before that Pandoc worked so I didn't want to start with something else. I had to download the several hundred MBs needed by the Haskell build environment and their package manager in order to get and compile all the dependencies and finally the latest version of pandoc. To their credit it was all a very streamlined experience, it just took quite some time.

The second hurdle came when finally looping pandoc to convert all wiki files. It turns out to be that the [[Text on page|address]] syntax I had manually corrected earlier is a special syntax offered by Gollum, the engine powering GitHub's wiki behind the scenes. None of the markdown-to-reSt converters I looked at (pandoc or otherwise) even recognized this syntax as a link at all. As it turns out, normal markdown actually expects its links in the format [Text on page](address).

I was not going to go through and edit all those pages again. So my next step was to write a script to scan and replace all the [[...|...]] syntax in our wiki and replace it with the standard markdown one. After this the markdown files converted to reST quite nicely -- formatting-wise they look much better than the old wiki to HTML to reST chain I had to use from Google Code.

Problem was that when compiling these reST pages into HTML with Sphinx, no links worked.

Each individual page looked okay, just that the links were not pointing to anything reasonable. In retrospect this was not so strange. Pandoc knows nothing about the relationships between files, and clearly the simple naming scheme used for addresses is something the wiki softwares knows and Sphinx does not.

Some thinking lead to a custom Python script for renaming the link targets in the converted pages to their html page name. This needed to handle the fact that wiki links also allows whitespace. So the [Start](Getting Started) link would be converted to [Start](GettingStarted.html), which seems to be the format with which Sphinx will generate its pages.

One also needs to have a "toc" (Table of Contents) to tie all those pages together for the benefit of Sphinx. I just used a "hidden" toc, letting my converter script add this to the bottom of my normal index file. As long as it's included somewhere, Sphinx will be happy.

Originally I put the reST files in a subfolder of the GitHub wiki repo, I thought I could just point ReadTheDocs to that repo later. The GitHub wiki has a strange "feature" though. It seems to pick its wiki pages from wherever they are in the repo, no matter if they are in the root or in subfolders. Suddenly I was starting to see reST-style pages appear in the online wiki, and sometimes I would get the markdown version (the two would go out of sync). Very strange and confusing.

Since the files clearly "polluted" our wiki, I had to move the converted reST files to a separate branch of the wiki repository. This has the advantage of keeping all the support scripts and converter mechanisms separate from the normal wiki content. ReadTheDocs can luckily be set to read its information from another branch than master, so finally the latest converted wiki can again be read there!

That concludes what I think was the last main conversion effort. Phew!

 Impressions so far

GitHub is nice. The merge requests and easy way to comment on them are really good. Since people are more familiar with using GitHub overall, it does seem to be a shorter step for people to make a fork and contribute small things. Doing the same in Google Code was probably not harder per se, just something less people were previously familiar with.

Due to the modular way Evennia is structured, people are recommended to make a fresh clone of the new Git repo and simply copy their plugin source files and database back into it. So far this seems to have gone smoothly.

The GitHub issue tracker is worse than the Google Code one. It has no good way to order Issues or list them in a more compact form (nor in a matrix). Not having good issue templates is really limiting; having to reply to issues only to ask for basic info they should include in their issue is an unnecessary time sink.

I also find that there is no clear way to announce an issue change (like "Needing more information"). Tags work partly for this, but setting them is not announced anywhere as far as I can tell - they are just there.

Most things also takes so much spaaace. Overall GitHub seems designed for people with big monitors. I have those, but most of the time I prefer working on my laptop. I'm sure it's a matter of habit, but Google Code is very compact by comparison. It gave a lot better overview of things. On GitHub I have to scroll everywhere and this is true both in the repo view, wiki and issues.

These small quips nonwithstanding, I think this move will serve us well. There is a good wibe of development and continuing improvement going on at GitHub. There's plenty of help and tutorials all over. Since so many people are using GitHub, problems are more likely to have been answered before. And of course we hope this will in effect help more people find Evennia and join the fun.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Looking forwards and backwards

We are almost a month into the new year, time to look forward.

But first a look backwards. The year of 2013 was a year of big development projects and lots of quiet in the main repository in between. Two major updates were released during the year.

The first update, the "many sessions per player" update, originated in a feature request that I thought would be easy to implement but which led to far-ranging changes (and honestly, improvements) to how Players and Sessions interconnect. It was a lot more more work than I anticipated.

The second update was about moving Evennia's web server from the Portal level into the Server-level. The actual moving of the server was actually considerably easier than I thought it would be. But it turned out that a truckload of other things came along with it. Not only did the cache system have to change in order to accommodate the new webs erver, I had to also finalize the Out-of-band structure, since this made use of the cache system. And while I were at it, other fixes were done and ... the update grew and grew. When it finally merged late last year it closed plenty of issues, but it would probably have been better to structure it into more, small updates instead.

Anyway, 2014 promises continued (and hopefully more continuous and gradual) development of Evennia. The closest upcoming upheaval is our move from Google Code to GitHub in a few days (I'll probably do a blog about that once it's done). Apart from that we are currently in a fixing state, cleaning up and fixing remnant issues from the big mergers.

Another Issue of the MUD e-zine Imaginary Realities is coming too. I just contributed with an Evennia-related article. If anyone reading this blog has anything MUD-related to write about, do consider contributing before January 31, they need more articles! I don't think you need to be too advanced, anything from a mud-development anecdote to retells of good MUD gaming memories might be interesting I would think.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Imaginary Realities is back

The Imaginariy Realities webzine was the place to go to for MUD game design articles in the late 90's. Last released in 2001, its articles are still worth the read for any game designers today. 

But guess what - this venerable ezine has now returned! You can find the new issue here.

I think this is a good community initiative worthy of support. I contibuted two articles myself (one of which is about Evennia) and would like to thank the staff/editors who took their work very seriously and did sterling work on getting everything in shape.

Thanks also to the other authors who penned some very interesting articles. Great job guys!

My impressions: 

  • KaVir elaborates in A modern interface for a modern MUD on the advantages of not sticking with an outdated UI just for the sake of it. Adding a more accessible presentation is not that hard and won't ruin your game but rather help it. Whereas I have read his argument about this before, this is a good summary to take to heart. Evennia's javascript web client is currently mainly a telnet clone; there's a lot of things we could offer to make it easier for users to offer a more graphical presentation.
  • Molly O’Hara, in her A well built zone is a work of art, outlines a list of useful things to keep in mind when designing a zone. While some of these vary with game type, others do not. I like the suggestion that scripting bugs need not be the most important aspect - syntactic errors can be handled by automated means as long as the design aspect of the zone is solid.
  • A journey through Paradice [sic] is Matthew Chaplain's entry on designing a dice-roller using the telnet protocol. Some interesting things here, including making creative use of the telnet character-mode and VT100 control sequences. This ties a bit into KaVir's article, in that the interface used for "modern" MUDs are often voefully missing out on a lot of possibilities.
  • Blind accessibility: challenges and opportunities by Matthew “Chaos” Sheahan, is based on interviews with a blind mudder and a game admin having implemented lots of support for seeing-impaired players. This was a really interesting article since I've been pondering myself what could be done from Evennia's core side to help players support players using screen readers. Most seem to be down to configuration options though, and avoiding making colour or ascii art the only sources of information. These are all things Evennia devs implement depend on their game. We may offer some good contribs to build from though.
  • Evennia: an introduction - this is mine. It not-so-briefly sums up stuff about Evennia and the more important systems it relies on.
  • Getting a roleplaying scene going - another article of mine. This is a light-hearted list of tropes for getting a RP scene going on an RP-mud. It's based on things I've tried or seen myself in play. 
  • Darcie “Natilena” Laur laments on the often opaque newbie guides in Introducing new players and redesigning MUD School. It describes how she tested (and improved) her own MUD's starter area while testing it on her kids. It made me think more on having Evennia offering easier ways to dump text logs in all sorts of situations. And we find out that kids have the attention span of zombie squirrels - something new learned every day!
  • Finally, The Hunger Game, or how I learned to break the ship from the bottle is Michael “Drakkos” Heron's epic about his journey developing and releasing his zombie-survival MUD Epitaph. Drakkos is a frequent blogger on the MUD-planet feed, so I knew some of this already, but it's a good read and contains some useful warnings and things-to-think-of for those thinking of starting their own MUD project. We already give some of the same advice (albeit with fewer words) in our wiki but I'm seriously considering linking to Drakkos post from there as well - it gives a more comprehensive treatment and offers a real-world example of the long road to a released game.
The issue also contains a call to help recover old MUDing resources that has gone offline since their heyday. Having browsed through the classic MUD-dev mailing list archives I can agree they are not quite as easily searchable as could be hoped. It would also be great to see the old comment posts tied to the articles of the old Imaginary Realities articles, if those could be found somehow.

This is actually one thing which I do miss with this first Imaginary Realities issue - a way for readers to comment on the articles. This would likely mean a much higher level of complexity and work though, so I can certainly see why it's not there - using the existing MUD forums is probably enough for now.

Anyway, I'm happy to see this thing getting off on a good start. I'm already looking forward to the next issue! 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Out-of-band mergings

As of today the development repository of Evennia, which has been brewing for a few months now, merged into the main repository. This update grew from one experimental feature to a relatively big update in the end. Together with the "many-character-per-player" feature released earlier, this update covers all the stuff I talked about in my Behind the Scenes blog post.

  •  Evennia's webserver was moved from Portal to Server. This moves all database-modifying operations into the same process and neatly avoids race conditions when modifying a game world from various interfaces. 
  • The OOB (Out Of Band) handler was implemented. This goes together with a protocol for telnet sub-negotiations according to the MSDP specification. The handler allows on-demand reporting whenever database fields update. It also offers regular polling of properties if needed. A user can customize which oob commands are available to the client and write whatever handlers are needed for their particular game. In the future we'll also add support for GMCP, but the lack of a central, official specification is off-putting (if there is a central document besides accounts of how individual games chose to implement GMCP, please let me know). For our own included web client, we'll likely just use JSON straight off.
  • Our channel system is now typeclassed. If you are not familiar with Evennia this won't mean much to you - In short it means developers will be able to customize their channel system much easier than in the past since a channel can be treated pretty much like any Python class (thanks go to user Kelketek who actually did the implementation).
  • We added the concept of Tagging, as a more generalized version of our old Alias system. Tagging is just what it sounds like - it allows you to tag all your objects in order to group them and easily (and efficiently) find them later. Tagging offers a powerful way to create what other code bases refer to as "zones". There are many other possible uses though, such as having effects appear only in certainly tagged rooms, indicate which Characters have joined a particular guild and so on. 
  • Behind the scenes there were a lot of cleanups, along with minor API changes mentioned on the mailing list. A slew of older Issues were also fixed with this merge.
Now, in the immediate future we'll be working on updating the documentation. Evennia prides itself with having a large body of documentation and this update comes with small changes to various existing systems. There are also a few bigger new features (such as OOB). No doubt the near future will also see other issues popping up as more people try things out.


Imaginary Realities update

Apparently the reboot of Imaginary Realities (to which I contribute two articles) has been pushed forward a week or two. Reason being, apparently, to finalize the actual presentation of the content. I already signed off on the last editorial fixes way before deadline, so I guess it's just to wait and see what comes of it!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A list of Evennia topics

Some Evennia updates.

Lots of work has been happening in the dev-clone of Evennia over the last few months.
As alluded to in the last blog, the main work has been to move Evennia's webserver component into the Server-half of Evennia for various reasons, the most obvious one to make sure that all database writes happen in the same process, avoiding race conditions. But this move lead to a rework of the cache system, which in turn lead to me having to finalize the plans for how Out-of-Band protocols should be implemented server-side. And once that was finalized, OOB was pretty much implemented anyway. As part of making sure OOB trackers were updated correctly at all times meant reworking some of the ways data is stored ... So one thing led to another making this a bigger update than originally planned.

I plan to make a more detailed post to the mailing list soon with more technical details of the (relatively minor) API changes existing users should expect. The merging of the clone into the main repo is still a little way off, but adventurous users have already started testing things.

Google Code
I like Google Code. It's easy to manage and maintain, it has a good wiki and Issue system, not to mention that it allows the use of Mercurial. But in the beginning of September, suddenly all links to our user's clone repositories were gone from the front of the project page. Not only that, creating new clones just didn't work anymore.
Now any site can have bugs, and we made an issue for it (other projects were similarly affected). But nothing happened for the longest time - at least two months given that we didn't report it right away. Just recently the functionality came back but there is no confirmation or comments from Google (our issue is not even closed).
That such a fundamental feature can go unheeded for so long is disturbing to me, driving home the fact that Google is certainly not putting much priority in their code hosting.

Some furious activity in the IRC chat lately, with new people dropping in to chat and ask about Evennia. For example, an enthusiastic new user learned not only about Evennia but also Python for the first time. It was a lot of fun to see him go from having no programming experience except mush softcode to doing advanced Evennia system implementations in the course of a week and offering good feedback on new features in two. Good show! The freedom you get upgrading from something like softcode to Evennia's use of a full modern programming language was seemingly quite eye-opening.

Other discussions have concerned the policies around using clones/branches for development as well as the benefits of some other hosting solution. Nothing has been decided on this. There is however now also an official GitHub mirror of Evennia's main repo to be found here.

Imaginary Realities
The deadline for entering articles for the Imaginary Realities web zine reboot has passed. It's a good initiative to bring this back - the original (archived) webzine remains a useful mud-creation resource to this day. I entered two articles, one about Evennia and another about general mud-roleplaying. It will be fun to see how it comes out, apparently the first issue will appear Nov 13. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

One to Many

As of yesterday, I completed and merged the first of the three upcoming Evennia features I mentioned in my Churning Behind the Scenes blog post: the "Multiple Characters per Player" feature.

Evennia makes a strict division between Player (this is an object storing login-info and represents the person connecting to the game) and their Character (their representation in-game; Characters are just Objects with some nice defaults). When you log into the game with a client, a Session tracks that particular connection.

Previously the Player class would normally only handle one Session at a time. This made for an easy implementation and this behavior is quite familiar to users of many other mud code bases. There was an option to allow more than one Session, but each were then treated equally: all Sessions would see the same returns and the same in-game entities were controlled by all (and giving the quit command from one would kick all out).

What changed now is that the Player class will manage each Session separately, without interfering with other Sessions connected to the same Player. Each Session can be connected, through the Player, to an individual Character. So multiple Characters could in principle be controlled simultaneously by the same real-world player using different open mud clients. This gives a lot of flexibility for games supporting multi-play but also as a nice way to transparently puppet temporary extras in heavy roleplaying games.

It is still possible to force Evennia to accept only one Session per Player just like before, but this is now an option, not a limitation. And even in hardcore one-character-at-a-time roleplaying games it is nice for builders and admins to be able to have separate staff or npc characters without needing a separate account for each.

This feature took a lot more work than I anticipated - it consitutes a lot of under-the-hood changes. But it also gave me ample opportunity to fix and clean up older systems and fix bugs. The outcome is more consistency and standardization in several places. There are plenty of other noteworthy changes that were made along the way in the dev branch along with some API changes users should be aware of.
So if you are an Evennia game developer you should peek at the more detailed mailing list  announcement on what has changed. The wiki is not updated yet, that will come soon.

Now onward to the next feature!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Churning behind the scenes

At the moment there are several Evennia projects churning along behind the scenes, none of which I've yet gotten to the point of pushing into a finished state.  Apart from bug fixes and other minor things happening, these are the main updates in the pipeline at the moment.

Multiple Characters per Player/Session

Evennia has for a long time enforced a clean separation between the Player and the Character. It's a much appreciated feature among our users. The Player is "you", the human playing the game. It knows your password, eventual user profile etc. The Character is your avatar in-game. This setup makes it easy for a Player to have many characters, and to "puppet" characters - all you need to do is "disconnect" the Player object from the Character object, then connect to another Character object (assuming you are allowed to puppet that object, obviously). So far so good. 

What Evennia currently doesn't support is being logged in with different client sessions to the same Player/account while puppeting multiple characters at the same time. Currently multiple client sessions may log into the same Player account, but they will then all just act as separate views of the same action (all will see the same output, you can send commands from each but they will end up with the same Character). 

Allowing each session to control a separate Character suggests changing the way the session is tracked by the player and Character. This turns out to be more work than I originally envisioned when seeing the feature request in the issue tracker. But if my plan works out it will indeed become quite easy to use Evennia to both allow multi-play or not as you please, without having to remember separate passwords for each Character/account.

Webserver change to Server level

Evennia consists of two main processes, the Portal and the Server. The details of those were covered in an earlier blog post here. Evennia comes with a Twisted-based webserver which is currently operating on the Portal level. This has the advantage of not being affected by Server-reboots. The drawback is however that being in a different process from the main Server, accessing the database and notably its server-side caches becomes a problem - changing the database from the Portal side does not automatically update the caches on the Server side, telling them that the database has changed. Also writing to the database from two processes may introduce race conditions. 

For our simple default setup (like a website just listing some database statistics) this is not a terrible problem, but as more users start to use Evennia, there is a growing interest in more advanced uses of the webserver. Several developers want to use the webserver to build game-related rich website experiences for their games - online character generation, tie-in forums and things like that. Out-of-sync caches then becomes a real concern. 

One way around this could be to implement a framework (such as memcached) for homogenizing caches across all Evennia processes. After lots of IRC discussions I'm going with what seems to be the more elegant and clean solution though - moving the webserver into the Server process altogether. The Portal side will thus only hold a web proxy and the webclient protocol. This way all database access will happen from the same process simplifying things a lot. It will make it much easier for users to use django to create rich web experiences without having to worry about pesky behind the scenes things like caches and the like. 

Out-of-band communication 

This has been "brewing" for quite some time, I've been strangely unmotivated to finalize it. Out of band communication means the MUD client can send and receive data to/from the server directly, without the player having to necessesarily enter an active command or see any immediate effect. This could be things like updating a health bar in a client-side GUI, redirect text to a specific client window but also potentially more advanced stuff. I created the Evennia-side oob-handler over Christmas; it allows for client sessions to "sign up" for "listening" to attribute updates, do scheduled checks and so on. It's already in the codebase but is not activated nor tested yet.

On the protocol side (for serializing data to the client) I have a MSDP implementation ready for telnet subnegotiation, it should be simple to add also GMCP once everything is tested. A JSON-based side channel for the webclient is already in place since a long time if I remember correctly, it just need to be connected to the server-side oob-handler once that's finished.