An Introduction to MPI in the fb5.xx Muck Game.

Written by Foxen, October 12, 1993

MPI the language, and this document are CopyLeft 1993, by Fuzzball Software and Graphic Arts.

Table of Contents

What is MPI, and why should I use it?

So, you've heard about this thing called MPI and you've been told that it can do all sorts of neat things, but you still wonder what it is? Well, I'll tell you..

MPI is My Personal Insanity. That's my unofficial name for it. I must have been crazy for having written 3500 lines of C code to implement it. The official name for it, is Message Parsing Interpreter. That sounds a lot more ostentatious, and looks better on a resume'. =)

MPI is a script language that lets you embed commands within plain text, to do things like substitute in the text value of a property. It's used in messages like @descs, @succs, @fails, @drops, @osuccs, @ofails, @odrops, and your 'sex' property. Those of you who use the $desc, $wf-desc,or @6800 programs are likely familiar with this sort of idea. MPI works like those programs, only much faster, and with many more possibilities.

So, what's in it for you to use MPI? Well, you can make descriptions longer than the 512 character input limit, by splitting them up into sections that are in different properties, and substituting them into your main @desc. This also makes it easier to update only one part of the description, such as what you are wearing, by changing only the property that has your clothes described. You can also make multiple line descriptions, by making a list with lsedit, or another list editor, and using the MPI command to display a list in your @desc. For those of you who want to get fancy, you can make your description depend on what you are carrying. For example, you can make your description mention that you are wearing sunglasses, only if you are actually carrying them. The possibilities are endless.

Because the commands are read and interpreted by the game itself, they run quickly, producing less lag for the game than the MUF description programs like @6800. Also, you can port your descriptions for objects between fb5.0 MUCKs, without having to worry if the other muck has the right MUF programs, or uses the same list styles. You can also get much fancier with MPI than you can with @6800, since there are many more commands available to you.

Okay, okay, that's enough evangelizing.. Lets get onto the next section.

So what does MPI look like?

MPI has a fairly simple structure, mostly. It goes like this:
The open-brace { says that the text until the matching close-brace } is going to be an MPI command that the game should interpret. The first word inside the braces, before the colon, is the name of the MPI command that you want it to run. The rest, after the colon, are the arguments, seperated by commas. MPI commands often take two or three arguments, though some take many more, one, or none at all. In fact, a lot of MPI commands can each take multiple different numbers of arguments, using default values for any arguments that aren't given. If an MPI command takes no arguments, you can omit the colon. Here's some examples of MPI commands:
This example runs the MPI command {prop} with the two arguments "_clothes", and "me".
This runs the MPI command named "nl" with no arguments.

If you want to pass a comma as part of an argument, you have to mark it to say that you really mean for the comma to get passed to the function, and that it isn't there to seperate arguments. To mark it this way, you put a backslash \ in front of it. The backslash means that the next character following it has no special meaning, and that it is to be copied literally. This makes a comma look like part of an argument, instead of like an argument seperator. This is called 'escaping' a character. You can also escape an open-brace { to keep it from trying to interpret the text after it as an MPI command. Also, you can escape backslashes. In fact, to include a backslash in text, you HAVE to escape it. Almost any character after a backslash will be copied literally.

The only exception is \r which is replaced by a carriage return character. A carriage return character tells the game to split the text into two lines at that place, when the text is displayed to the player.


{store:\{Here\\now\}\, she thought.,_when}
This will run "store" with the two arguments "{Here\now}, she thought.", and "_when". The first backslash \ escapes the open-brace {, copying it into the argument literally. The next backslash escapes the backslash that follows it, making the backslash copy into the argument literally. The close-brace has to be escaped, also, or else the game would think that you are trying to run the "store" command with only the argument "{Here\now". The comma is escaped to say that it is part of the argument, and not an argument seperator. The NEXT comma, however, is not escaped. The game sees this and goes, "Aha! A second argument follows!" Then it gets to the last close brace }, and sees that it has gotten all the arguments. At this point, it calls "store" with the two arguments that you passed.

Note that several backslashes in a row will escape each other, alternating between escaping and escaped characters. What this means is that the game will take a look at "\\\{" and see an escaped backslash and an escaped open-brace. Literally: "\{". However, it will see "\\\\{" as two escaped backslashes and a NON-escaped open-brace. It would try parsing anything after the non-escaped open-brace as an MPI command.

MPI commands can have MPI commands nested within them, so they can take the output of other commands and use them as inputs. Example:

This would first run the MPI command {contents} with the argument "here". Then the {count} command would be run with the string returned from the {contents} command as its single argument. Commas and other characters inside strings returned from nested commands will all act like they have been escaped. If they didn't, they would cause unexpected problems, as your commands would find more arguments than they expect! Luckily, you won't have to worry about that problem.

Now that I know what MPI looks like, how do I use it?

MPI commands are run from within messages like your @description, your @success, or your @ofail, to name just three. You just set the message like you always used to, but you also include some commands within the text of the message. When the message is displayed by the game, it sees the commands in the text, and runs them. It takes whatever text they may return, and puts that in the text to be displayed, in the place where the command was. Example:
@desc me=You see a pretty young girl with {prop:_haircolor) hair.
When someone looks at you, with that description set, the game will run the {prop} command with the argument "_haircolor". The {prop} command will then look for a property named "_haircolor" on the object the command is on. It then replaces the call to itself, in the output text, with the string value of the property. If the "_haircolor" property was set to "golden", then the looking player will see "You see a pretty young girl with golden hair."

Unlike the various MUF description programs such as @6800 and $wf-desc, MPI commands can be inside of omessages, such as @ofail, @osucc, and @odrop. This lets you do things like make an @osuccess message properly reflect a varying @succ message.

Right, so what are the commands?

There are a lot of MPI commands that you can use. Over a hundred of them, in fact, so I'm not going to list them all right now. I'll just give you a run-through of a few of the most useful and popular ones.
This command looks for a property with the name 'propname' on the given object. If it doesn't find it there, it looks down the environment from the given object. If no property by than name exists on that object, or in its environment, then this returns an empty string. Otherwise, it returns the string value of the property. If no 'object' argument is give, then it assumes that the given object is the trigger object. The trigger object is the object that has the MPI commands in a message on it. An example of the use of {prop} is:
@desc me=You see a young woman who is wearing {prop:_clothes}.
@set me=_clothes:a blue blouse and a short green skirt
This command is almost exactly like {prop}, except that any MPI commands within the string value of the property are executed, and for their running, the trigger object will be the object that the property is on. This lets you have MPI commands embedded within the properties that store various parts of your @desc, if your @desc is split up into multiple properties. An example of the use of {exec} is:
@desc me=You see a young woman who is wearing {exec:_clothes}.
@set me=_clothes:{prop:_clothes/top} and {prop:_clothes/bottom}
@set me=_clothes/top:a blue blouse
@set me=_clothes/bottom:a short green skirt
This will load in a property list with the given listname, from the given object. It loads the list as a single string, with each list item seperated from the next by a carriage return character. These carriage return chars will each start a new line, seperating the text into multple lines, when they are displayed to the user. A property list is a set of numbered properties with string values. For example, a set of properties named "list1", "list2", "list3", etc is a list named "list". The {list} command understands several styles of lists, so "list#/1", "list#/2", etc, and "list/1", "list/2", etc, are both also recognized by the listname "list". This means that almost every known MUF list editor should be able to make a list that {list} can read. If no object argument is given, this command will assume that the given object is the trigger object. The environmental searching for the list is the same as for {prop}.
This is almost exactly like {list}, except that instead of seperating list items with carriage returns, it seperates them with spaces. The number of spaces depends on how the previous line ends. If it ends in a period, question mark, or exclamation mark, it seperates the lines with two spaces, otherwise, it uses only one.
This is sort of like {list}, except that it will randomly pick a line from the given named property list and return it, instead of returning the whole property list.
This is sort of like {list}, except that it will only return one line of the given named property list. The line it chooses depends on the time. The period is the length of time, in seconds, that it takes for {timesub} to cycle through the entire list. The offset is the number of seconds to offset into the time period, if you actually need to synchronize the {timesub} with something. The offset usually is just left at zero. What this all means, is that if you have, for example, a period of 3600 (one hour), an offset of zero, and a property list that has six items in it, then {timesub} will return the first line of the property list during the first ten minutes of the hour, the second line during the next ten minutes, and so on, until it returns the last line during the last ten minutes of the hour. Then it returns the first line for the beginning of the next hour. Here's an example:
This example will show different property list lines, depending on the time of day. The period is 86400 seconds, which is one day. If the property list has 24 items in it, then a different line will be returned for each hour of the day.

And just how do I refer to objects?

Okay, you can reference objects in basically the same ways that you can in user typed commands such as @desc, or @lock. You can refer to objects by name, if they are in the same room as you, or in your inventory. You can refer to objects by dbref or registered name, if you need to be able to refer to the object if it is not in your vicinity. And you can refer to players by name, with a * in front, no matter where they are.

The following are examples of the accepted ways to refer to objects.

object               Referencing by name.
#1234                Referencing by dbref.
$regname             Referencing by registered name.
*playername          Referencing by player name.
When an MPI command returns a reference to an object, (we'll discuss some of these commands in the intermediate guide) it will refer to nonplayers by dbref, and to players by starred name. ("*playername")

Cool. So how what stuff can I run mpi from?"

There's lots of things that'll parse MPI commands. To start with, the @desc, @succ, @osucc, @fail, @ofail, @drop, and @odrop messages will all parse whatever MPI code you put in them. Also, when a player connects to the muck, or disconnects, you can run MPI. Also, when a player moves from room to room. You can even have MPI code that hears whatever is going on in the room.

To run MPI commands when a player logs in, you need to make a special property on the player, or on the room where the player resides. To do this, just simply do:

@set <object>=_connect/XXX:&<mpi goes here>
The XXX can be anything. The properties will be evaluated in alphabetical order. The result of the mpi code is displayed to the connecting user. The ampersand (&) that starts the property value tells the server that it has MPI commands in that property that it should evaluate. As an example:
@set here=_connect/room_motd:&{list:_room_motd,here}
This example will show the room's message of the day, that is stored in the _room_motd property list on the room, to the player logging in. There is a different set of properties, with names starting with _oconnect/, that also runs when a player connects, but the results of the MPI code will be shown to the other people in the room, and not the player. For example:
@set here=_oconnect/herald:&Hear ye, hear ye!  {name:me} has connected!
Will tell everyone in the room that someone just connected in the room, in a somewhat heraldic fashion. =)

When a player logs off from the muck, the properties under the _disconnect and _odisconnect propdirs are evaluated in a similar fashion. When a player leaves a room, the properties under the _depart and _odepart propdirs are evaluated. When a player enters a room, the properties under the _arrive and _oarrive propdirs are evaluated.

Here's some examples:

@set here=_odisconnect/elvis:&{name:me} has left the muck!
@set here=_arrive/enter-details:&{list:_entry_details,here}
@set here=_odepart/cabbie:&The cabbie watches {name:me} storm out.
When something is heard in the room, properties in the ~listen and ~olisten propdirs are run, from all things in the room. The {&arg} variable holds the message that was heard. For example:
@set here=~listen/echo:&You hear an echo: {&arg}
That will echo whatever it hears in that room, to the player who made the noise. You can also make listeners be restricted to only hearing certain patterns of words. To do this, you need to put in a matching pattern at the beginning of the property value. The syntax is:
@set <obj>=~listen/XXX:<pattern>=&<mpicode>
For example:
@set here=~listen/aod:*Klaatu barada nicto*=&The sky rumbles at You!
@set here=~olisten/aod:*Klaatu barada nicto*=&The sky rumbles at {name:me}!
This example would have the skies rumbling at any player who said or posed the words "Klaatu barada nicto" in the room.

You can use MPI in locks, too, but only indirectly. The way you do it, is you lock to a property and the result you want, then you make that property contain the MPI code. For example, to have a room display its fail message when there are more than ten people in the room, do this:

@fail here=The room's rather crowded at the moment.
@succ here=The room's not so crowded at the moment.
@lock here=_crowdedroom?:no
@set here=_crowdedroom?:{if:{gt:{count:{contents:here}},10},yes,no}
In this example, the MPI code in the _crowdedroom? property will return "yes" if there are more than ten items in the room. Otherwise, it will return "no". The lock on the room evaluates that MPI code, and checks to see if it returned "no". If it did, then the success is shown to the player looking at the room. Otherwise, the @fail is shown to the looker.

Glossary: What does that mean, again?

A popular MUF program written by Lynx, for making long or somewhat elaborate descriptions. It gets its name from its dbref, #6800, and its invocation via the string "@6800" at the beginning of an @desc. This is the same program as $desc, but is not related to $wf-desc, except in concept and function.
See @6800.
Another popular muf description program, conceptually based on the $desc program, but written from scratch and reverse engineered by Whitefire. It has some minor functionality differences, and a more efficient design.
Any one of the various standard strings on objects, including the @desc, @succ, @fail, @drop, @osucc, @ofail, and @odrop.
Any one of the standard object strings that are to be shown to other players, including @osucc, @ofail, and @odrop.
The trigger is the object that was used that caused the MPI commands to be evaluated. If you use an exit, and it runs some MPI commands that are in its @desc, then for those commands, the trigger object is that exit. The {exec:} command will evaluate the MPI code in a property on another object, and it will tell that code that the trigger object is the object that that property is on.
This is the player who is running the MPI commands. If the MPI commands are in the @description of an object, then the player looking at the object is the user.

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