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Old 09-21-2002, 07:37 PM   #1
Yui Unifex
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Displaying a textual rendition of a player's view in muds is pretty standard fare. But more and more muds are moving towards coordinate-based systems that display what the character sees using various ASCII characters, while others are including textual maps of nearby rooms. These display methods are incredibly inflexible. You cannot overlay characters, and pretty much the only method you have for conveying information is the color of the character and the character itself. Drawing borders around impassable areas almost always requires adding entire new rows and columns to insert the border-characters, and takes up precious screen space.

The other night, I was discussing various methods for tackling these problems with some fellow developers. Ideas ranged from giving up coordinate systems altogether, to creating a custom mud-client that could hold a minimap that would further our goals. But rather than create Yet Another Inflexible Mud Client, Umi had a particularly good idea: Instead of creating an extensible mud client, create an extensible mapper. The mapper could run entirely seperated from the mud client, so players could still use their favorite client. Since the mapper is not as complex as an extensible mud client, it could also be made portable fairly easily with a crossplatform toolkit such as Qt. And since changing clients is not required to use the mapper, snippets could very easily be written to take advantage of it with all the major codebases.

A few features that an ideal mapper might have:
* An efficient and flexible protocol.
* The ability to keep a map in a buffer, so you can revisit your surroundings easily.
* The ability to save and load a map.
* Extensible tileset, probably using XML-RPC or HTTP to grab new tiles and images that the mud staff has created. *And* the ability to render text with attributes like borders, colors, and size.
* Crossplatform support. I won't commit to any client I can't use while testing in Linux.

And a few points on design:
* The mapper should do all heavy-lifting. The server should only send back what has changed on a map.

How does this sound to all of you? Does the idea sound good, bad, and would you implement and use it? Are there any features you deem essential to adoption?
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