The Twilight Sun

Tag: MUDs

Project Aspect

by Jonathan on Mar.18, 2010, under MUDs

I’ve been working on a new personal project lately, which I call Aspect. It’ll a web-based MUD client, but without Java or Flash. (A bit like PHudBase, actually, but built differently.) I haven’t done much with it yet, but I’ve got a local webserver running using the Python-based Tornado server. Tornado is great because it’s built specifically for handling AJAX long polling, which is what I use to communicate between Aspect and the browser. I’ve never used Python before, so it’s an interesting experience.

I’m planning on making the client extremely customizable by way of plugins, drawing from my ongoing experiences with MUSHclient. I’m also taking philosophical inspiration from Mibbit, which seems to work similarly (though the focus is completely different). With some MUDs, though, there’s a bit of an issue. Many MUDs disallow multiplaying, which is often tracked through the user’s IP address. But all users playing through Aspect will appear to connect from the same IP address; namely, the IP of Aspect itself. This is something I’ll have to work out eventually, but I have some ideas.

More to come eventually. I’d like to keep most of the details under wraps for now, and there are a lot of details.

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MUSHclient, cont.

by Jonathan on Mar.07, 2010, under Uncategorized

So… Lately, I’ve been playing around a lot with MUSHclient’s source code. It’s pretty interesting to see how a program I’ve used for a long time actually functions (even though he uses the Whitesmiths indentation style, which I cannot abide. I’ve always been a fan of the Allman style, myself). I’ve actually made a few relatively minor contributions, which I’m pretty happy about. :) I also contributed (and I suppose maintain?) a pair of Visual Studio 2005 solution and project files, and helped ease the compilation process under it. Nick uses VC6, which is really old these days, but it’s what he used when he first started, and he’s not exactly willing to shell out hundreds of dollars to update. (I can’t honestly blame him.)

At any rate, there was a discussion about a new protocol Nick had scratched out as a hidden-data-transfer medium for MUDs, similar to ATCP and ZMP. It came about that JSON was a perfect fit for the protocol’s semantics, so I modified MUSHclient to add a scripted interface to a previously-created JSON library (called json-c). I’m really happy with how it turned out. I mean, I only wrote the glue between Lua and the library, but it was pretty interesting designing the glue nonetheless. The interface hasn’t been officially added to MUSHclient (yet?), but it’s in my GitHub fork of MUSHclient. (You can find my additions here, if you’re into that sort of thing)

Here’s an example of the interface in action:

chunk = json.encode{1, 2, 3, {foo = "bar", baz = {10, 20, 30}}}

Output: [ 1, 2, 3, { "foo": "bar", "baz": [ 10, 20, 30 ] } ]

Admittedly, that’s pretty boring. The glue code is more interesting, but the end result is still useful. In my (admittedly very brief and minor) tests, json.decode():to_lua() was faster by 2ms than loadstring()(), which was a little surprising. JSON also has the advantage of being rather well supported by many languages, at least indirectly. The protocol specification Nick originally proposed used Lua itself as the data format, which worked but brought along some odd issues like defining or calling functions within the data. I rewrote a Lua protocol snippet as JSON and compared the two, and they were nearly identical, so there’s really not much to lose by using JSON instead.

With that pretty much done, now I’m working on converting MUSHclient’s help files from .hlp to the .chm format. Is it a lot of work? You bet. But at some point, somebody has to do it… But I’m using an sqlite3 database, Lua, and ltp to autogenerate the files, so at least it’s entertaining.


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by Jonathan on Feb.14, 2010, under MUSHclient

As you may know, I often play an online text-based game called Achaea, which is one of the deepest MUDs I’ve ever personally played. And unlike most graphical MMOs, there are a variety of clients you can use to connect to any given MUD. Some of the most popular clients include zMUD or Mudlet – and you could even connect through plain telnet – but I prefer MUSHclient by far.

MUSHclient, authored by Nick Gammon, has been in existence for over ten years, and is still constantly developed and supported to this day. One of the main reasons I enjoy it so much is because it exposes an incredible amount of functionality through a scripting interface. You can use any of a number of languages, including Lua, VBscript, and Jscript, so long as they can be installed into the Windows Script Host. (Lua is an exception; support is baked directly into MUSHclient). Plugins, consisting of XML files containing triggers, aliases, script sections, and other items, can be created and distributed, which helps players of a specific MUD to create useful extensions specific to their MUD and pass them around.

MUSHclient is also open-source. You can download the source, compile it, tinker with it, and even (if you so desired) distribute your own version. Nick is great about suggestions, though, and more often than not, sensible suggestions will be incorporated into the next version. And since MUSHclient’s source is hosted on GitHub, you can easily fork the source and create a patch yourself, saving Nick the work if he decides to add the idea. (If he doesn’t, you’ve got your own custom MUSHclient build anyways)

But on to the main point: MUSHclient is also my primary development environment. Sound strange? Well, maybe. But I’ve done more concrete programming/scripting since I began using MUSHclient than ever before, meaning I’m getting a load of good experience even while I have fun with it. I’ve written a simple state machine for telnet sequences. I’ve written a serialization module to pass data between plugins (which might even be written in different scripting languages). I’m even working, albeit slowly, on a GUI framework that takes full advantage of MUSHclient’s “miniwindows” functionality, which allows you to draw graphical elements to the screen. I can honestly say I’d never have done anything like this if I hadn’t heard about MUSHclient.

I’ll frequently be posting about my escapades with MUSHclient, so if that’s your kind of thing, watch this space.

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