Caliban Tiresias Darklock caliban at darklock.com
Sat Jun 21 21:55:15 New Zealand Standard Time 1997

On Fri, 20 Jun 1997 19:13:08 PST8PDT, "Jon A. Lambert"
<jlsysinc at ix.netcom.com> wrote:

>I think good user interfaces are very important.  I am working on GUI 
>interfaces for players, builders and administration.  This is still a 
>text mud server wrapped in a GUI and not a graphics mud in the sense 
>of something like Diablo or Quake.

This is my own personal view on the matter of building interfaces, and
my reasoning. 

Direct editing of a text file loaded directly by the MUD is a bad idea.
People make too many mistakes. The actual MUD configuration file should
be machine written if possible, to avoid problems. I do see some great
advantages to having the configuration human-readable and human-editable
if necessary, but I think it's a problem to require the builder to edit
this file directly every time.

Offline building is a good *option*, but should not be used in
preference to online building. In most cases where I have worked on a
MUD, online building was a must -- people I was working and consulting
with were elsewhere in the country, and I needed to be able to
communicate with them. It's also desirable for changes to a room or area
to happen immediately. Perhaps a load/save concept would be useful, for
areas that need significant rework of interrelated portions.

GUI interfaces are not generally a good idea for a text-based MUD.
There's too much text entry required, and the mouse/keyboard switching
is ultimately a pain and a slowdown. If a particular command in the MUD
building interface is easily automated by a button, it is also either
easy to type or should be simplified in the MUD design. 

There *are* places where a GUI can be useful, for example a series of
checkboxes that graphically illustrate the locations of exits -- these
checkboxes could be turned on or off, and then a single button could
make and destroy exits as appropriate through something like this:

	For each checkbox,
		Is the exit checked?
			Yes: Is there an exit there?
				Yes: Leave it alone.
				No: Make an exit.
			No: Is there an exit there?
				Yes: Destroy the exit.
				No: Continue.

However, this could be just as easily done with a command like

	setexits <<n|s|e|w|u|d|ne|nw|se|sw>[=name]>[...]

It's intuitive, simple, and easy to do. However, the designer would have
to resist the temptation to make this command the ONLY command
available; while this is, of course, easier than 

	newexit e
	newexit w
	newexit s

or some similar interface, if a single exit is desired it would be much
easier to type 

	newexit u

instead of 'setexits w e s u' -- and of course, there's the associated
problem of typos. 'setexits w e d u' is an easy typo to make, and now
forces the builder to redesign the south exit as well as removing the
down exit. Likewise, there's an associated difficulty in people who want
to do EVERYTHING in one command line; resulting in commands like

	setexits s=A long tunnel/5321|This long tunnel leads off 
		into the darkness.| n=A dimly lit room/4231|The dimly
		lit room appears to be uninhabited.|

What I would consider the perfect interface for building is a command
interface online, with the ability to bring portions offline for more
long-term extensive editing, and some provision for loading the MUD
config directly in the event that the MUD cannot load the config for
some reason. A GUI designer could be great if properly implemented, but
I see a lot of potential for mistakes in it -- is it possible that you
could provide us with a few screen shots? 

-+[caliban at darklock.com]+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-
 I am here to grind your eyes harder into the miasmic bile of life; to 
 show you the truth and the beauty in the whisper of steel on silk and 
 the crimson scent of blood as it rises to meet the caress of a blade. 

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