Jon A. Lambert jlsysinc at ix.netcom.com
Sun Jun 22 03:55:18 New Zealand Standard Time 1997

> From: Caliban Tiresias Darklock <caliban at darklock.com>
> 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.

I heartily concur.  Why not have the interface validate, spell check
and otherwise help the builder out?  Context sensitive help would 
certainly be a big plus for new builders.  Shortcut keys (ala Emacs) 
should be available for experienced builders.

> 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.

Another issue with off-line building is the bother of setting up and
administering FTP.  Not a big problem really, but why bother with the
headaches of security and builder source control.  Online utilities 
can take advantage of the mud's built-in security and source control.
> 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. 

I disagree.  Of course there are badly designed GUIs.  Mouse/keyboard
switching are not as common as you would think.  In fact there is no
compelling requirement for using a mouse with a GUI.  Well designed
applications do not require mouse petting. ;) 

> 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:

There are many more.  I make use of tree controls and drag and drop in
assembling objects.  Property boxes are also very excellent and intuitive
ways of validating and defaulting user input.  Meter controls are good
at setting lighting, mana levels.  Radio buttons are good at selecting 
only one of many exclusive options.  Map overviews are excellent at 
giving the builder perspective.   

> 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 

The checkbox has the advantage of validating/restricting the input and
the user need not know the command at all.  I do exits by allowing the
builder to draw lines between room boxes instead of using checkboxes.

> 	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.|

This is hardly intuitive.  For instance why is a builder forced to
deal with internal server issues like room numbers (5321/4231)?
Why not drag a line between rooms and have a popup box appear to
allow them to enter the exits description?  The use of special
characters like (=,/,|) is not user-friendly, IMO.  They are 
certainly programmer-friendly though. 
> 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? 

I certainly will, probably in the form of a URL to my web page.  I don't
want to jump the gun though. 

In the meantime, if you have access to Windows check out MZF and Spam
utilities for Merc at <http://www.goodnet.com/~esnible/mudinfo.html>

These are good examples of off-line GUI editors.  


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