About

Michael Zucchi

 B.E. (Comp. Sys. Eng.)

  also known as zed
  & handle of notzed

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Thursday, 21 March 2013, 01:05

The farmer quest

I haven't had much time to work on anything this week, but I did get the "farmer quest" from Zabin's game implemented (or at least, the script for it). I'm a bit blank on the imagination at the moment, so by just getting old functionality working the problem is just one of filling out the implementation and script api.

This was pretty nasty in Dusk script, but is relatively straightforward in javascript. I experimented with just using the java api's a bit here too, rather than just adding script-friendly functions; it's a bit harder to use, but is more powerful.

The 'quest' is operated by walking onto a location infront of the farmer, this is just attached to the action for the location. Rather than 'bounce' the player back a square I just let them stay there - actions only trigger when you enter a location, not for standing on one. Prevents some ugly flicker in the client.

if (trigger.isPlayer()) {
    var state = trigger.getInteger("farmerquest");
    var list = trigger.getAllItems("bugcorpse");

    if (state == 0) {
        // first meeting
        trigger.chat("Farmer says: It doesn't look like my crop is going to support me this year.");
        trigger.chat("Farmer says: Those $%$# bugs ate half my crop.");
        trigger.chat("Farmer says: I have a job for you, if you could kill those bugs and bring me back their corpse, i'll reward you for each one.");
        trigger.chat("Farmer says: If you bring me 20 corpse's at once and I'll give you something special.");
        trigger.setInteger("farmerquest", 1);

Since the state can be tracked explicitly, it's easier to test at what position the script is, without resorting to returning from the script. Actually as a side-effect of the way scripts are invoked, it's actually impossible to return anyway - every script must be fully structured just like the original PASCAL. i.e. there is no 'return' or 'exit' keyword allowed, since the scripts are run as top-level code.

    } else if (state < 3 && list.size() >= 20) {
        // Check for 20 at a go
        for (var i=0;i<20;i++) {
            trigger.removeItem(list.get(i));
        }
        trigger.chat("Farmer says: That's 20 corpses, here take my Kaizer Blade for helping me.");
        trigger.setInteger("farmerquest", 3);
        trigger.addItem(game.createItem("kaizer blade"));

This bit can also just access the Java List interfaces directly to do bulk operations, as well as the wider 'game' object which has general utility functions. I do however have to make sure I design these public interfaces properly as for example the scripts are executing on another thread (eventually in a sandbox), so getting the mix right will be an ongoing experiment.

    } else if (state <3 && !list.isEmpty()) {
        trigger.removeItem(list.get(0));
        trigger.chat("Farmer says: Great, you killed another Bug, here's 30 gold for your reward.");
        trigger.addGold(30);
        trigger.setInteger("farmerquest", 2);

Simple reward is trivial to implement, it also tracks if you've done it at least once.

    } else if (state == 1) {
        trigger.chat("Farmer says: Have you collected any corpses yet?");
    } else if (state == 2) {
        trigger.chat("Farmer says: What are you doing back again, haven't you got work to do?");
    } else {
        trigger.chat("Farmer says: Thank you for your work, I think my crops will be safe for another year.");
    }
}

And finally a bit more detail for the default case since we track the state explicitly. And this version doesn't let the player keep killing the newbie enemies for easy cash once they've got the grand prize.

Update: I decided to keep up with this approach and i'm working on porting Zabin's game to the new engine bit by bit. I've imported the map just as another world which you can enter via a door and started on the tutorial. This will let me work on it in little pieces and also expose any implementation issues in manageable chunks.

e.g. When I added all the mobs from the original I hit a bug with the entity index and decided to change it completely. Fortunately as one of the first things i "fixed" was to abstract the map and map-related operations it means I have complete flexibility on how the internals are implemented.

Previously it was implemented as a 2d index storing a pointer to the first entity at a given tile location. These were then linked using a next field in the object and managed using some single-linked-list logic. For big maps with sparse entities it takes a lot of memory just for the array - 2MB just for the original dusk map. I changed it to use a hash table keyed on an x+y pair and stored using a LinkedList. Lookups will be marginally slower but it's made up for by the reduced footprint and ease of use, and because I'd abstracted the map previously I can always change it.

Update: Another thing I noticed that doorways were a pita to write. For each one you need at least an entrance and leave action, as well as an entrance and leaving location. And each action requires a one-line script. So I added another function in the map file which allows jumps without requiring a script to be run.

   x.y.goto=alias-name

It still requires 4 settings, but it doesn't need the two single-line scripts. This also means that map location aliases must now be globally unique.

Tagged dusk.
Sunday, 17 March 2013, 15:19

Scripts and conditions

As i've managed to get most of the guts of the game working - battles, internal indices, and so on, i've started to fill out the implementation by adding commands, and hooking up the scriptable actions. Even though i've only spent a few hours here and there it's coming together easily as there isn't much work to hook up a new script point. It's mostly just deciding on a convention and then sticking to it.

And to test the idea simply trying to port over some of the simple scripts and objects, such as absinthe ...

Revisiting the on-drop script for absinthe:

order trigger "get absinthe"
removeItem trigger absinthe
chat trigger "You pour the absinthe out and stare in disbelief as it eats a hole in the ground."
endscript

Took me a while to work out that first two lines simply remove the object from the game: the script is only executed after the default 'drop' action is executed - i.e. to leave it at the current map location. I decided to change the behaviour slightly so that if supplied, a script must implement the default action as well. This makes for a simpler and more obvious script in this case. Functions like 'removeItem' are not working on symbolic names either but the exact object, which should reduce coding errors.

owner.chat("You pour the absinthe out and stare in disbelief as it eats a hole in the ground.");
owner.removeItem(item);

Then I looked at the on-use script:

order trigger "emote wails: Oh, my head!"
addconditionwithduration trigger tired 500
if > trigger inte 10
  inc trigger intelligence -1
end
removeitem trigger absinthe
endscript

Fairly straightforward, except I hadn't filled out the condition stuff - the logic was there just no script hookage.

But I started with the JavaScript and worked backwards from there:

owner.emote("Wails: Oh, my head!");
owner.setCondition("tired", 500);
if (owner.getINT() > 10) {
  owner.addINT(-1);
}
owner.removeItem(item);

Previously, item definitions included fields which defined the scripts to execute. I am scrapping that and scripts are just found based on conventions from the item name. So for example, these scripts are stored in onScript/absinthe.drop and onScript/absinthe.use respectively. This means I don't have to little the objects themselves with references to names of files, and I guess I could also use it to implement an interface-based object model, particularly if i allowed scripts to store arbitrary persistent variables on items.

The existing condition mechanism defines conditions via a two-step process. Conditions are referenced by name, and then details about the conditions such as their firing rate and which scripts to execute are loaded from a file. I decided to scrap that and just let conditions be created on the fly, and use a convention to discover the scripts to execute. There aren't enough details to warrant the hassle required to maintain another directory full of files. So in this case, the "setCondition" is all that is required to set the condition, and the scripts which define the condition behaviour are defined in onCondition/tired.start, onCondition/tired.end, and onCondition/tired.tick. i.e. in a way very analogous to the item scripts, and one which will be repeated for all other script types.

Looking at the actual functionality for these scripts, the start/end is simply a notification to the player.

tired.start:

owner.chat("You suddenly feel very tired.");

tired.end:

owner.chat("Your normal level of conciousness returns.");

And the guts is in the tick script:

number tiredint * rand 150
number tiredint + tiredint 50
#
# You need an int of at least 50 to reduce the effect of tired
# and an int of 200 or more to be immune
#
if > tiredint trigger inte
    order trigger "sleep"
end
endscript

And the converted script, showing that anything with maths and logic is going to be a lot easier to write:

/*
* You need an int of at least 50 to reduce the effect of tired
* and an int of 200 or more to be immune
*/

var test = Math.random() * 150 + 50;

if (owner.getINT() < test) {
   owner.sleep();
}

Incidentally i'm considering making 'sleep' itself a condition, but at this point I haven't.

Current scripts also use conditions as a sort of general-purpose persistent state-holding variable, and I am going to remove that functionality and force the use of variables instead. To help enforce this, conditions will be visible in the client. This will leave conditions to be used for what they are intended: timed and/or periodic scripted behaviour.

I also decided to change the map alias stuff a little bit. Locations are still given symbolic names in the same way, but the visible/action/moveable script names are supplied directly. This lets 'true'/'false' be optimised, and still lets scripts be shared amongst locations. I also made the per-tile-type scripts follow the same conventions so everything is consistent.

Whilst looking at some of the existing scripts like the banks and so on, I noticed they add global commands to the game, but then have to have location checks on them to make sure they only activate at the correct locations. So another fairly simple extension may be to have per-map commands. On further thought I thought it might be more useful to have per-location commands implemented using an 'on-command' script, so then for example an ATM or bank teller for a certain bank could be implemented inside a single script, and then attached to any number of locations throughout the map. Since it's quite easy to add this, such a feature could also be added to tile-types or objects or even mobs instead ... (e.g. if you're standing on/next to an object/mob).

Tagged dusk, hacking.
Friday, 15 March 2013, 10:40

The network is the computer?

Apparently Google in their benevolent wisdom have decided to shut down Reader. It's not something I use but evidently it has a loyal following.

They'll whine a bit, then move on: like we all do. Adaptability is about the only positive trait of the human condition.

However maybe enough will realise this push to centralised network computing, or so-called "fog-computing", isn't really such a great deal after-all. If they are as "tech-savvy" as they seem to think they are, they should've seen the risk anyway. One gives up an awful lot for a bit of convenience - and I think our modern lives (for westerners certainly, and the `middle-class' everywhere else) are convenient enough as it is that we can cope fairly well without a little bit more. The fact that the biggest internet company of all can decide on a whim to kill a product used by thousands - who have no recourse whatsoever - should be a wake-up call for everyone.

As an aside ... it's nice to see our benevolent rulers at google deciding that advert-blocking apps are suddenly to be excluded from android's software library using language which is obviously there for the "good reason" of banning cracking software. Ahh lawyers, you suck. I just turn off wifi to block ads, saves power and most of them are for american shit I couldn't buy even if i cared to.

This is all just part of an on-going land-grab of a public resource - another tragedy of the commons - whereby private organisations are surrounding public culture with their own fences and gateways. All that crap we put in our blogs or our status updates or our "twats" may be crap but it's still public culture. Except when it's actually controlled and owned by a centrally managed group which locks it away in their own corral. It's all about control: making sure you read the information in the way they want you to.

Simply so you can't avoid the advertising!

For fuck sake, how many adverts do we need to be exposed to? Just how much junk can we buy? With Australia's extra tv channels now there is no regulation on the number of adverts and it's basically impossible to watch anything but the ABC anymore without using a recording or a mute button (i've already worn out my tv's remote). If i'm alone I barely turn the tv on anymore - it's not like there's much to watch most of the time anyway that isn't either a repeat you've seen too many times or some "it's the same every show" show which one eventually tires of.

All of these companies providing or facilitating centralised network services are will eventually start to see increasing risk from this type of behaviour. For one, people could get sick of the spying although that doesn't seem to be about to happen any time soon. It would be nice to think they'd get sick of buying junk: but that is unlikely too. Customers might start to realise that their 'lightweight browser-based app' is actually a shitty user-experience and to boot, more of a resource-hungry monster than a stand-alone desktop or pocket application. For coding on DuskZ I've been running netbeans 7.3 on my 5-year-old+ X61 thinkpad w/ 2G ram, and although it's a bloody heavy application doing some pretty complex shit, it still manages to use less resources than firefox running a few web pages (blogger's simple front-end, and the google search page seem to be the worst offenders, but unfortunately firefox has no 'top' function to find out which tab is hogging the resources). Personal mobile platforms might always be about 10 years behind the performance of desktop computers, but pretty soon a 10 year old desktop computer will be more than enough processing power for processing tasks to be run locally instead of remotely.

Here's an idea: a network isn't a one-way street. We don't all have to passively "consume" "content" from a centrally managed location. Well we could do that years ago; radio and television provided just that service. Every computer (including phones) connected to the network is just as much a part of the network as giant data-centres in tax-free low-cost-power locales. Every computer is capable of creating culture to add to the shared wealth of the public domain. Before the microsoft era computers were used far more for creative endeavours.

Yes I see the irony of posting this on blogger, using gmail, and with thousands of lines of code published in google code. I've long been somewhat uncomfortable about blogger and it's future and the closing of Reader only increases the discomfort. I've even started and worked on a blogging/documenting server several times (I called it 'wanki'), maybe when I get some more time I will revisit it again - i've since learnt better ways to do much of what I was trying to achieve with it. Now if only the fucking NBN would get it's act together and get me that fat pipe ...

PS I borrowed Sun's old trademark just because I could ...

Tagged rants.
Wednesday, 13 March 2013, 17:39

Waiting for a free JavaFX

Today in my morning paper break I came across this post complaining about the state of GTK+ development. I knew GNOME was going its own way but I didn't realise GTK+ was coming along for the ride too, although given it's history it shouldn't surprise me. Even from before GNOME 2, Gtk+ was engulfing non-toolkit functionality for the purposes of control and now they've simply merged into one.

To be honest, ... i'm a bit surprised anyone is still writing desktop applications in C anyway. I guess when the primary alternative is C++ ... there's a pretty compelling reason. Unfortunately Java just doesn't seem to have caught on much in the free software world (or 'open sauce'). Historically the reasons are obvious, but a free, stable, and performant version of openjdk has been available for some time now, and both the platform and the tools are better than they've ever been. And in my experience the current JRE runs better on even an 'unsupported' GNU/Linux distribution than it does on Microsoft.

Instead developers seem to be focusing on scripted-glue technologies like Python, which aren't powerful enough to do significant processing without calling a library, and have other limitations like poor thread support - I think I just heard the mid 80's calling, they wondered what you did with the last few decades ...

And where needs require it for the re-use of existing libraries, I've found interfacing with C to be quite straightforward and sane from Java - more sane than just writing the GUI in C.

Here's one interesting data-point, the post above is complaining about maintaining software against a moving target controlled by a corporate interest with other goals in mind. However, I can take 13 year old Java like Dusk, and run it on the current platform - unchanged. Not only are the api's incredibly stable and long-lived, they don't need to be discarded to move forward (and the planned modularisation mechanism will prevent the platform growing forever). Try doing that with a 13 year old gtk+ app - apart from the dependency hunt you're left with unpatched and insecure libraries if you can find them all. Not that Qt would be any better - C++ is a big pain of dependencies which go right down to the compiler and the standard library which makes it even worse, you might have to build your own compiler first. I don't know about Apple, but Microsoft stuff is arguably worse with forced upgrades tied to each version of the ide usually based on flavour-of-the-month experimental api's which silently 'disappear' after a couple of years.

Pretty ironic when Oracle of all companies is producing a more developer friendly platform than a so-called "open sauce" company (or Ubunutu). Actually it's not ironic at all, they're only working on the platform and not (apparently?) competing with their own customers. I guess one problem Sun had is that they always wanted to be the next Microsoft, but Oracle just wants to make money; and although there is correlation they are not the same goal. All these new 'platform' providers seem to be falling into the same trap (except it isn't Microsoft where anyone wants to `go today').

So when JavaFX finally becomes fully free it might be a good opportunity for free software (and "open sauce") developers to investigate a modern, GPU-accelerable, cross-platform toolkit. It still has a way to go, but it's getting there.

Although I don't expect anything to change much as it's unlikely Java will ever be fashionable again, due in part to misinformation but also simply because competitors and developers have a financial interest in it staying unfashionable. I'm sure the Apple and Google mobile platform juggernauts will be consuming increasing developer resources as well with their casinos masquerading as shop-fronts (remember, the house always wins!).

Tagged java, javafx.
Monday, 11 March 2013, 13:33

New server stuff

I just managed to get enough of the new server to run in order to login, walk around (anywhere - no walls) and run some simple commands (e.g. 'look').

The greeting is implemented in javascript:

    player.chat("Welcome to the DuskZ test game.");
    player.chat("Copyright(c) 2013.. etc etc fixme.");

    count = player.getInt('logincount');
    if (count == 0) {
       player.chat('Welcome newbie!');
       player.setInt('logincount', count+1);
    }

    true;

I've added arbitrary variables to objects which can be used to track quests and so on, rather than using hidden 'conditions' - I will instead reserve conditions for real conditions (poision, etc).

The code base is just under 3 000 lines of code at this point, but there are still many things left to implement. I do have much of the guts there (albeit untested, or unfinished) including battle engine and mob ai. But most of the commands aren't ported over yet, and the skill/spell system is not sorted out.

All the code is either new or radically altered old code, as I've tried to leverage the object hierarchy to properly abstract away and hide information. e.g. the details of the mathematics of the battle system is now mostly on the Active class, with the Battle class just used to oversee the battles. This factoring of code into sub-classes is proving to be quite lengthy and involved (and probably error-prone).

I also only run one master clock thread now which handles movement, ai, battles, and updates. Rather than having mob ai on another thread. I will have to think of another way to leverage multiple threads, if it is required.

Another big change is the server-client sync mechanism. Rather than cascade changes as they happen - e.g. mob moves, then update every player who can see it straight away, everything is updated at the end of each turn (clock tick). Each Player tracks the visible objects the client should have, and sends deltas if required. This may or may not be more efficient in cpu cycles and ram, but it's a lot easier to understand and debug. It would also let me put all updates into a single message in an 'atomic' way to properly fix the jumping-sprites-when-moving problem. And it opens a few other possibilities too.

So it's turning out to be a pretty big job, but one step at a time ... at least it's nice to have something to run (and crash) after hacking solid for a few days on it.

Update: So I woke up too early this morning (with a bit of a hangover to boot) so I had a quick look at trying to get the tile/movement scripts hooked in.

I decided to try giving map locations symbolic names and use those for both finding which script to run, and referencing inside of scripts. Each map has an alias file.

main.alias:

  alias.49.33=goto-drop-inn
  alias.49.34=drop-inn-porch

do-drop-inn.alias:

  alias.4.15=leave-drop-inn
  alias.4.14=entrance

These could be set inside tiled using properties.

And then the doorway scripts are simply ...

onLocationAction/goto-drop-inn:

  trigger.jumpTo("do-drop-inn", "entrance");

onLocationAction/leave-drop-inn:

  trigger.jumpTo("main", "drop-inn-porch");

As the doorway is currently a tile that cannot be occupied, it also needs a "can move" script.

onLocationAble/goto-drop-in:

    true;

Hmm, whilst the automatic symbol indirection works ok for the action script, it doesn't allow one to re-use scripts or optimise the simple true/false case. Maybe I should just use the alias mechanism for symbolic references, and define script linkage separately.

Update [Thursday]: Still plugging away at it but not enough to warrant a further post. Work is frying my brain a bit (crypto stuff atm, something useful to know about but a bit painful nonetheless) but I'm doing a bit of hacking on duskz most nights, filling out the implementation and clearing out TODOs and FIXMEs.

I got battles working a couple of days ago, together with items and equipment yesterday. Tonight I got most of the rest of the client updates doing - inventory, equipment, stats and status - actually re-arranged the code a bit so client-server sync is in another class, which only sends updates if things have changed and groups them a bit more sensibly (or will do when i'm done). Less clutter in Player which is big enough as it is. So for all that work ... the update mechanism is a lot less chattier than it was previously, particularly at login, which was a desired result. Code is simpler too, and can be made to work with pull clients.

This is the guts of the 'player' level game, so what I will look at doing next is filling this level of functionality out before worrying about the rest of the commands. I need to organise the code a bit too before checking it in.

And debug.

Tagged dusk, hacking.
Friday, 08 March 2013, 13:20

Boolean logic, or the art of making the simple complex

I've been slowly rewriting big chunks of code, i've basically decided to rewrite almost everything apart from the battle system, but it's days may also be numbered.

Things are looking promising because I finally understand why some parts of the code is so complicated where it doesn't seem to need it - it's trying to monitor changes of state every time they happen and then propagate thing to the client. This just isn't necessary, all it needs to do is keep track of 'what i think the client has' (which it does already), and then perform a search of 'what the client should have' at the end of every turn and propagate that to the client. No need to have some convoluted cascade of 'you can now see this, lets set it right now and incidentally use that to track other state at the same time'. Because it's already doing the former anyway to implement the latter ... which also means extra update messages.

But that is not the topic of this post.

There is also quite a bit of convoluted logic which is hard to decipher. For example when an entity tries to follow another one. I will break it into two parts, 'can you do this', and 'do this'.

First, the 'can' test:

    if (lt.isSleeping) {
        return "You can't do that while you're sleeping";
    }
    DuskObject objStore = lt.getLocalObject(args);
    if (objStore == null) {
        return "You don't see that here.";
    }
    if (objStore.isLivingThing()) {
        LivingThing thnStore = (LivingThing) objStore;
        if (lt.getMaster() != null && thnStore != lt.getMaster()) {
            if (lt.isPet()) {
                return "You can only follow your owner.";
            }
            return "You're already following someone. Leave them first.";
        }
        if (Math.abs(lt.x - thnStore.x) + Math.abs(lt.y - thnStore.y) > 1) {
            return "They're too far away.";
        }
        if (thnStore == lt) {
            return "You can't follow yourself.";
        }
        if (!thnStore.isPlayer() && !lt.isMob()) {
            return "You can only follow players.";
        }
        if (thnStore.noFollow || (thnStore.isPet() && thnStore.getMaster().noFollow)) {
            return "They won't let you follow them.";
        }

Here 'lt' is the thing that wants to follow, and 'objStore' and 'thnStore' are the thing it wants to lead it.

The tests in order ...

Sleeping?
Obvious.
Visible in surrounding area?
Obvious.
LivingThing?
Only LivingThings can move and fight.
Already following something?
Can only follow one leader, pets can only follow their owner.
They're on an adjacent location?
Proximity test.
Insanity test.
Obvious.
Player/Pet can only follow Player. But mobs can follow anything.
This was the hardest bit to understand ... blah. I got it wrong a few times and much refactoring ensued.
Honour no-follow setting
Pets are treated as proxies for their masters.

The problem is not so much the amount of code - although this type of logic is littered throughout the code-base - it's understanding the finer points. Just looking at that it's pretty hard to tell who can be leaders - e.g. can you follow a pet.

It does a lot of tests so it can't really be simplified much but maybe it can be made more obvious. I tried implementing it over the 4 Active/Player/Pet/Mobile classes by using the class structure to most of the need for the 'what am i' checks.

First, the code in Active:

public void follow(Active master) {
  if (sleeping) {
        chatMessage("You can't do that while you're sleeping");
        return;
    }
    if (distanceL1(master) > 1) {
        chatMessage("They're too far away.");
        return;
    }
    if (group != null) {
        chatMessage("You're already following someone. Leave them first.");
        return;
    }
    if (this.ID == master.ID) {
        chatMessage("You can't follow yourself.");
        return;
    }
    if (!isCanLead()) {
        chatMessage("They won't let you follow them.");
        return;
    }

This does the generic tests applicable to all classes. I've done some obvious things like add a distance measure function - rather than cut and paste the code everywhere. The isCanLead() is overriden in the Pet to proxy it's master's setting rather than having to have a class test inline.

Player only needs to add an additional test to ensure they're following a Player either directly of via a Pet.

public void follow(Active master) {
    if (master.getType() != TYPE_PLAYER
        || master.getType() != TYPE_PET) {
        chatMessage("You can only follow players.");
        return;
    }
    super.follow(master);
}

Pets can only follow their owner so don't need the "is it a player" test.

public void follow(Active master) {
    if (this.master.ID != master.ID) {
        chatMessage("You can only follow your owner.");
        return;
    }
    super.follow(master);
}

And Mobile just uses the Active method.

I think that covers all the cases and defines the same behaviour? The local-visibility and 'is it a living thing' tests are performed before it gets to this point for obvious reasons.

To me it is simpler, and the class types enforce behaviour at the language level and so are less error prone.

The downside of this is that the logic is now scattered over 4 separate files. Tooling helps to track what's going on, but it still requires some effort. Another problem is that adding such specificity in the class structure means changes are more difficult and perhaps costlier. For some reason I can't recall I nearly added this extra level in the class structure at this point before, I think it might be useful elsewhere (battle code).

And now the 'do' bit:

        if (lt.isPet()) {
            thnStore.setFollowing(lt);
            lt.setMaster(thnStore);
            thnStore.updateStats();
            lt.updateStats();
            return "You are now following " + lt.getMaster().name + ".";
        }
        LivingThing thnStore2 = thnStore;
        while (thnStore2 != null) {
            if (lt == thnStore2) {
                return "You're already in that group.";
            }
            thnStore2 = thnStore2.getMaster();
        }
        thnStore.chatMessage("You are now being followed by " + lt.name + ".");
        while (thnStore.getFollowing() != null) {
            thnStore = thnStore.getFollowing();
            if (thnStore.isPlayer()) {
                thnStore.chatMessage("You are now being followed by " + lt.name + ".");
            }
        }
        thnStore.setFollowing(lt);
        lt.setMaster(thnStore);
        thnStore.updateStats();
        lt.updateStats();
        return "You are now following " + lt.getMaster().name + ".";
    }
    return "That's not something you can follow.";

The pet part is fairly obvious (and again you see the immediate update calls, whereas a 'has changed' indicator would suffice). Although if the player is already following someone, it seems to just overwrite the link pointers - corrupt list?

But the rest is kind of not too obvious - and I suspect buggy anyway.

First some background to explain the loops. The entities use two pointers 'following', and 'master' to create a double-linked list of the 'following' group to which the entity belongs. This is for movement but mainly for battle (and knowing this will help me simplify the battle code too). Although there is a direct ordering relationship, it isn't really used apart from notification - when you follow you're placed at the end of the group.

So the first loop just determines if you're already in the pack. It only checks in one direction though which I think is a bug.

The second loop notifies everyone else in the pack that you've just joined. Again it only checks in one direction, which think is also a bug.

And finally the Active is linked into the end of the group, and stats updated.

I suspect this doesn't work very well in practice as you need to be next to someone to follow them, but if you follow the leader you are actually set to follow someone at the end the a conga line. I think this will immediately break when you move, since you need to be adjacent for movement.

What's worse this confusing ('thnStore'??) and error prone double-linked-list code is littered throughout the code - this snippet came from the command executor, but it is repeated throughout LivingThing, DuskEngine, and Script in several places.

ADT to the rescue!

The first big thing is to just wrap the pack in an ADT. A list is pretty much enough but since it probably needs some policy enforcement I wrapped it in a new Group object (actually I might call it Pack since Group is a bit too generic).

The code then becomes something like below, although i'm still trying to work out what's going on with the pet mechanism - I probably need a separate relationship for that. Actually now I think about it, perhaps a completely separate mechanism should be used for Pets to follow Players.

    if (master.group == null) {
        master.group = new Group();
        master.group.addFollower(master);
    }

    for (Active a: master.group.members()) {
       a.chatMessage("You are now being followed by " + name + ".");
    }

    group = master.group;
    group.addFollower(this);

    chatMessage("You are now following " + master.name + ".");

Which I think we can all agree is a marked improvement.

Whilst writing this I re-designed this stuff several times, mostly trying to understand that one troublesome if statement in the can follow block. I'm sure it isn't finished either - one I delve into the battle code I might find surprises.

Just start from scratch?

I guess I wasn't quite at the top of my game when I looked at this (it's been a long week, apart from 30+ hours on dusk i've done 30+ hours for work) - but it took far too long just to work out what was happening here. Trying to understand someone else's code - even in such a simple and harder-to-abuse language like Java - is pretty much a headfuck. It rapidly gets to the point where starting from scratch becomes an attractive proposition.

The server code less the scripting engine is only about 6KLOC (counting semicolons). If I fully knew what I wanted to do and didn't need to muck around making decisions or writing big blog posts I could easily polish that off in a week or two - and still have long weekends.

Although and i'm pretty sure it can be done in significantly less actual code anyway (but the deeper object hierarchy will add some overhead in locs).

Poking continues ...

Tagged code, dusk, hacking, java.
Thursday, 07 March 2013, 08:32

Class heirarchy and stuff

I was looking through the duskz code as it is right now and there are still plenty of messy bits that I want to do something about. In some places there just seems to be more code than there should be to do fairly simple things, often a simple routine is just coded inline and repeated multiple times. And each object implements it's own parser as well as a different format/convention for storing it's state.

Although there is an object class hierarchy for the in-game objects, there is little to no use of the facilities in Java for object oriented programming such as virtual methods, or even inheriting during object initialisation. Apart from the classes there is also class information stored in type fields as well. e.g. a basic LivingThing can be a player, or a pet, an Item can be any type of item from armour to a backpack. Each container includes fields which are only applicable depending on some other field. They then have testing methods to determine what type they are, but it leads to ugly code with lots of manual checking in places. Actually the code looks more like a C design, where the objects are just data containers.

The existing class structure is something like:

DuskObject
  LivingThing
    Mob
  Item
  Merchant
  PlayerMerchant
  Prop
  Sign

Each class either does its own i/o completely, or has it's i/o done for it in a completely separate class. I started an inconsistent stab at addressing this but I think to do it properly will require a common format/parser too. I'm going to stick with a Properties-like format for simplicity (name=value), but relax the requirement for unique keys (to allow multi-valued items).

First requirement is to clean up the class structure. I started at the base class and came up with a new hierarchy, which grew somewhat large by the end. I've also filled out most of the fields - in some cases it was hard to work out just which type of object a given field is restricted to. I gave them mostly unique names with the aim of avoiding clashes as I develop it, although they'll probably mostly stick.

Thing
  Active
    Player
    Pet
    Mobile
  Holdable
    Useable
      Food
      Drink
      Item
    Wearable
      Weapon
      Armour
    Container
  Shop
    Merchant
    PlayerMerchant
  Sign
  Prop

This will let me do things like move the 'get list of sellable items' to a function on Shop, rather than having it appear in multiple places throughout the code, each having to test which type of merchant too.

The code for game logic is also spread across mostly LivingThing and DuskEngine in random ways (some of it my fault by this time). Even things like the game pulse - there are two separate tick threads, for no particularly obvious reason? It might have been created to run enemy a/i on a separate thread, but extra stuff got added later - in any event it should run on a common clock.

I started just investigating the current structure to see how it's used, but I think i'll just rewrite the whole lot, the objects, the i/o & file formats, and well, most of the behaviour code too. The game logic itself is fairly simple so i'm hoping I can hide some of the dumb-but-necessary code like i/o away to expose the simplicity. There wont be much left of the original code apart from the battle logic, and the overall behaviour.

Could keep me busy for a while though ...

Update: I found there was a single weapon - a "runed shortsword", which was also "useable", so I decided to put the useable fields into Holdable instead so anything can be "used", if the game so desires. Non-usability is set by simply not setting hose fields. This could be extended to other types of item, but doesn't seem useful.

Tagged dusk, hacking, java.
Tuesday, 05 March 2013, 21:20

Layers & multiple maps

Ok just a quick post, but it's just a quick feature ... I needed a break from coding Android all day so i whipped this up.

I added layers to the server, protocol, and client. Only took a couple of hours so I haven't had time to do a very good example, but here's a shot in-game:

And because it isn't clear what's going on since the tiles aren't properly transparent (i.e. apart from appearing over the player, the visual appearance could just as easily been created using tall tiles), here it is in tiled with the opacity of the upper layer changed to show what it includes:

As part of the tiled converter it automatically shrinks each layer to only include the used region (apart from the ground layer), and the server only sends non-empty layers to the client even if they contain sparse data. So for example as the player moves and the 'forest' disappears, the server only sends a single layer of information. It keeps track of which layer is the ground layer so the client can render things in the correct order.

Update: I started hacking a bit later in the evening and got multiple maps working to some limited extent. There are plenty of bugs and various state files are broken and location scripts are still global, plus new issues to deal with like what to do with the blank area around maps, but I just got it to the point where I can walk inside the inn and then out again (through the door). Had to add a new script command to jump to a location in a map, and maps are referenced by their filename.

Outside (64x64, 2-layer map):

Inside (16x16, 1-layer map):

Tagged dusk, hacking, java, javafx.
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