Sunday, April 23, 2017

The luxury of a creative community

For this blog post I want to focus on the series of very nice pull requests coming in from a growing cadre of contributors over the last few months.

Contributed goodness

People have put in a lot of good work to boost Evennia, both by improving existing things and by adding new features. Thanks a lot everyone (below is just a small selection)!
  •  Contrib: Turn-based combat system - this is a full, if intentionally bare-bones implementation of a combat system, meant as a template to put in your particular game system into.
  • Contrib: Clothing sytem - a roleplaying mechanic where a character can 'wear' items and have this show in their descriptions. Worn items can also be layered to hide that underneath. Had plenty of opportunities for extensions to a given game.
  • Contrib: An 'event' system is in the works, for allowing privileged builders to add dynamic code to objects that fires when particular events happen. The PR is not yet merged but promises the oft pondered feature of in-game coding without using softcode (and notably also without the security of softcode!). 
  • A lot of PRs, especially from one user, dealt with cleanup and adherence to PEP8 as well as fixing the 'alerts' given by LGTM on our code (LGTM is by the way a pretty nifty service, they parse the code from the github repo without actually running it and try to find problems. Abiding by their advice results is cleaner code and it also found some actual edge-case bugs here and there not covered by unit tests. The joint effort has brought us down from some 600+ alerts to somewhere around 90 - the remaining ones are alerts which I don't agree with or which are not important enough to spend effort on). 
  • The help mechanics of Evennia were improved by splitting up the default help command into smaller parts, making it easier to inject some changes to your help system without completely replacing the default one. 
  • Evennia's Xterm256 implementation was not correctly including the additional greyscale colors, those were added with new tags |=a ... |=z.
  • Evennia has the ability to relay data to external services through 'bots'. An example of this is the IRC bot, which is a sort of 'player' that sits in an in-game channel and connects that to a counterpart-bot sitting in a remote IRC channel. It allows for direct game-IRC communication, something enjoyed by people in the Evennia demo for many years now. The way the bot was defined used to be pretty hard-coded though. A crafty contributor changed that though, but incorporating the bot mechanism into Evennia's normal message flow. This allows for adding new types of bots or extending existing ones without having to modify Evennia's core. There is already an alternative IRC bot out there that represents everyone in the IRC room as a room full of people in the MUD. 
  • Evennia's Attributes is a database table connected to other objects via a ForeignKey relation. This relation is cached on the object. A user however found that for certain implementations, such as using Attributes for large coordinate systems, non-matches (that is failed Attribute lookups on the object) can also be cached and leads to dramatic speed increases for those particular use cases. A PR followed. You live and learn.
  • Another contributor helped improve the EvEditor (Evennia's VIM-like in-game text editor) by giving it a code-mode for editing Python code in-game with auto-indents and code execution. Jump into the code mode with the command @py/edit.
  • Time scheduling is another feature that has been discussed now and then and has now been added through a PR. This means that rather than specifying 'Do this in 400 seconds' you can say 'do this at 12AM, in-game time'. The core system works with the real-world time units. If you want 10 hours to a day or two weeks to a month the same contributor also made an optional calendar contrib for that!
  • A new 'whisper' command was added to the Default cmdset. It's an in-game command for whispering to someone in the same room without other people hearing it. This is a nice thing to have considering Evennia is out-of-the-box pretty much offering the features of a 'talker' type of game.
  • Lots of bug fixes big and small!
  • Some at_* hooks were added, such as at_give(giver, getter). This allows for finer control of the give process without handling all the logics at the command level. There are others hooks in the works but those will not be added until in Evennia 0.7. 
About that Evennia 0.7 ...

So while PRs are popping up left and right in master I've been working in the devel branch towards what will be the Evennia 0.7 release. The branch is not ready for public consumption and testing yet But tentatively it's about halfway there as I am slowly progressing through the tickets. Most of the upcoming features were covered in the previous blog post so I'll leave it at that.

I just want to end by saying that it's a very luxurious (and awesome) feeling for me to see master-branch Evennia expand with lots of new stuff "without me" so to speak. The power of Open Source indeed!
  

Image from http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com, released as public domain.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

News items from the new year

The last few months have been mostly occupied with fixing bugs and straightening out usage quirks as more and more people take Evennia through its paces.

Webclient progress

One of our contributors, mewser/titeuf87 has put in work on implementing part of our roadmap for the webclient. In the first merged batch, the client now has an option window for adjusting and saving settings. This is an important first step towards expanding the client's functionality. Other  features is showing help in an (optional) popup window and to report window activity by popup and/or sound.

The goal for the future is to allow the user or developer to split the client window into panes to which they can then direct various output from the server as they please It's early days still but some of the example designs being discussed can be found in the wiki webclient brainstorm (see the title image of this blog for one of the mockups).
 
New server stuff

Last year saw the death of our old demo server on horizondark.com, luckily the new one at silvren.com has worked out fine with no hickups. As part of setting that up, we also got together a more proper list of recommended hosts for Evennia games. Evennia requires more memory than your average C code base so this is important information to have. It seems most of our users run Evennia on various cloud hosting services rather than from a traditional remote server login.

Arx going strong 

The currently largest Evennia game, the mush Arx - After the Reckoning has helped a lot in stress testing. Their lead coder Tehom has also been active both in reporting issues and fixing them - kudos! There are however some lingering issues which appears rarely enough that they have not been possible to reproduce yet; we're working on those. Overall though I must say that considering how active Arx is, I would have expected to have seen even more "childhood diseases" than we have. 

Launch scripts and discussions

It is always interesting with feedback, and some time back another discussion thread erupted over on musoapbox, here. The musoapbox regulars have strong opinions about many things and this time some were critical of Evennia's install process. They felt it was too elaborate with too many steps, especially if you are approaching the system with no knowledge about Python. Apparently the average MUSH server has a much shorter path to go (even though that does require C compiling). Whereas I don't necessarily agree with all notions in that thread, it's valuable feedback - I've long acknowledged that it's hard to know just what is hard or not for a beginner.

Whereas we are planning to eventually move Evennia to pypi (so you can do pip install evennia), the instructions around getting virtualenv setup is not likely to change. So there is now unix shell scripts supplied with the system for installing on debian-derived systems (Debian, Ubuntu, Mint etc). I also made scripts for automating the setup and launch of Evennia and to use it with linux' initd within the scope of a virtualenv.
So far these scripts are not tested by enough people to warrant them being generally recommended, but if you are on a supported OS and is interested to try they are found from the top of the Evennia repo, in bin/unix/. More info can be found on their documentation page.

Docker

Speaking of installing, Evennia now has an official Docker image, courtesy of the work of contributor and Ainneve dev feend78. The image is automatically kept up-to.date with the latest Evennia repo and allows Evennia to be easily deployed in a production environment (most cloud services supports this). See Docker wiki page for more info.


Lots of new PRs

There was a whole slew of contributions waiting for me when returning from Chistmas break, and this has not slowed since. Github makes it easy to contribute and I think we are really starting to see this effect (Google Code back in the day was not as simple in this regard). The best thing with many of these PRs is that they address common things that people need to do but which could be made simpler or more flexible. It's hard to plan for all possibilities, so many people using the system is the best way to find such solutions.

Apart from the map-creation contribs from last year we also have a new Wildnerness system by mewser/titeuf87. This implements wilderness according to an old idea I had on the mailing list - instead of making a room per location, players get a single room.  The room tracks its coordinate in the wildnerness and updates its description and exits dynamically every time you move. This way you could in principle have an infinite wilderness without it taking any space. It's great to see the idea turned into a practical implementation and that it seems to work so well. Will be fun to see what people can do with it in the future!