Writing a Doorgame

So, how did I write this? Mystic BBS has a Pascal-based scripting, but I didn't really like using that; it's very powerful, but a pain in the ass to code/compile/test on, and it's just different enough from normal FreePascal to annoy me. And then tried to use Mystic's "integrated Python", which just doesn't work; I tried everything to make it find Python. And it's 2.7, so bleh. BUT: Adding a doorgame with the menu system lets you specify any executable, including a Python 3.7 script, and pass in a few command-line arguments about user and directories, so that's what I did (though the server I'm using only has Python 3.6, which hasn't been a problem yet, but be aware)…

The BBS handles all the redirection from network to stdin/stdout, otherwise I could use inetd for the same thing, but then I'd have to deal with all the login and networking state. Doing this as a door simplifies programming back to 1970s level!

I'll eventually open source it, but while I'm iterating and early on, I want to keep some of my secrets.

ANSI Color

There's ANSI color everywhere, of course. curses is fucking awful and archaic, and built to handle many incompatible terminals, which isn't a problem anymore. Mystic uses the same trick I'm using, and many others back in the day: Strings have escape codes |XX in them. Mystic uses numbers for colors, which is awful, and has hundreds of BBS-specific strings, which I have no need of. So all I did is this:

# set to 1200, 9600, etc. to simulate modem transmission rate
kModemSpeed = 0
kLinesPerScreen = 24

kAnsiEsc = "\x1b["

#      0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10
kAnsiBoxLine =  ["─",   "│",    "┌",    "┬",    "┐",    "├",    "┼",    "┤",    "└",    "┴",    "┘",]
kAnsiBoxDouble =["═",   "║",    "╔",    "╦",    "╗",    "╠",    "╬",    "╣",    "╚",    "╩",    "╝",]
kAnsiBoxHeavy = ["━",   "┃",    "┏",    "┳",    "┓",    "┣",    "╋",    "┫",    "┗",    "┻",    "┛",]

# ansiFilter, called by write/writeln, replaces |XX with escape codes:
kAnsiEscapeCode = {
    "CD": kAnsiEsc+"J",         # Clear Down
    "CL": kAnsiEsc+"2K",            # Clear Line
    "CS": kAnsiEsc+"2J"+kAnsiEsc+"H",   # Clear Screen
    "DI": kAnsiEsc+"2m",            # Dim
    "ES": "\x1b",               # Escape ASCII 27
    "GG": "\x07",               # Bell ASCII 7
    "HR": kAnsiBoxDouble[0] * 79,       # Horizontal Ruler
    "LI": kAnsiEsc+"1m",            # Light/Bright
    "PI": "|",              # Pipe char |
    "RE": kAnsiEsc+"0m",            # Reset Attributes
    "UN": kAnsiEsc+"4m",            # Underscore

    "FK": kAnsiEsc+"30m",           # Foreground Black
    "FR": kAnsiEsc+"31m",           # Foreground Red
    "FG": kAnsiEsc+"32m",           # Foreground Green
    "FY": kAnsiEsc+"33m",           # Foreground Yellow
    "FB": kAnsiEsc+"34m",           # Foreground Blue
    "FM": kAnsiEsc+"35m",           # Foreground Magenta
    "FC": kAnsiEsc+"36m",           # Foreground Cyan
    "FW": kAnsiEsc+"37m",           # Foreground White

    "LK": kAnsiEsc+"1;30m",         # Foreground Light Black
    "LR": kAnsiEsc+"1;31m",         # Foreground Light Red
    "LG": kAnsiEsc+"1;32m",         # Foreground Light Green
    "LY": kAnsiEsc+"1;33m",         # Foreground Light Yellow
    "LB": kAnsiEsc+"1;34m",         # Foreground Light Blue
    "LM": kAnsiEsc+"1;35m",         # Foreground Light Magenta
    "LC": kAnsiEsc+"1;36m",         # Foreground Light Cyan
    "LW": kAnsiEsc+"1;37m",         # Foreground Light White

    "BK": kAnsiEsc+"40m",           # Background Black
    "BR": kAnsiEsc+"41m",           # Background Red
    "BG": kAnsiEsc+"42m",           # Background Green
    "BY": kAnsiEsc+"43m",           # Background Yellow
    "BB": kAnsiEsc+"44m",           # Background Blue
    "BM": kAnsiEsc+"45m",           # Background Magenta
    "BC": kAnsiEsc+"46m",           # Background Cyan
    "BW": kAnsiEsc+"47m",           # Background White

def ansiFilter(s):
    """Replaces |XX codes with values defined in `kAnsiEscapeCode`."""
    out = ""
    slen = len(s)
    i = 0
    while i < slen:
        c = s[i]
        i += 1
        if c == "|":
            esc = s[i:i+2]
            i += 2
            out += kAnsiEscapeCode.get(esc, esc)
            out += c
    return out

def ansiGoto(pt):
    return "%s%s;%sH" % (kAnsiEsc, pt[1], pt[0])

def readln(prompt):
    """Calls input after filtering prompt."""
    return input(ansiFilter(prompt))

def write(s, end=None):
    """Filters `s` and writes to stdout, writes `end` if needed, flushes stdout."""
    if type(s) != str:
        s = str(s)
    lines = 0
    out = ansiFilter(s)
    for c in out:
        if kModemSpeed:
        if c == '\n':
            lines += 1
        if lines >= kLinesPerScreen:
            lines = 0
    if end:

def writeln(s):
    """Calls write with `end='\n'`."""
    write(s, end='\n')

Now if I want someone to talk in bold cyan (which I chose as my standard NPC color), I just
writeln("|RE|LC%s says, \"Mellow greetings, sir!\"|RE" % (npc["name"],))
RE before and after text is important, resetting colors from previous strings.

The one problem is I can't use | in ASCII art, so to generate my big character logos, I write a script mysticFiglet.zsh, making : the vertical char:

figlet -f small "$*"|sed "-es/|/:/g"

Flow Control

The great part about a doorgame is, no event loop. Oh, there's a REPL of sorts:

    def run(self):
        self.running = True
            : Python 3.8: while line := self.prompt():
            while self.running:
                line = self.prompt()
                if line == None:
                words = line.split()
                if len(words) == 0:
            self.doHelp("?", "_outro")
            return 0
        except (EOFError, KeyboardInterrupt):
            return 0
        except Exception:
            writeln("|GG|RE|BR|FWERROR! Something went wrong.|RE")
            logging.error("", exc_info=True)
            return 1

It just blocks at input (called by readln, called by prompt), and continues on until self.running = False, or an exception is thrown. Whee! The usual game loop makes it impossible to get stateful input without leaving giant memos of current state, so the event loop can keep cycling at 60fps.

Data Files

One solution would be to just make everything in classes, and use Python's pickle to archive everything. But the problem is that's pure binary, you can't easily hack on it or see what's happened, and on load you can't change any values. So instead I only use primitive types and archive everything to and from JSON. Floor maps and Players have a toData() method which produces a JSON-compatible data structure, and their initializers take a data structure and pull out or translate the values they need. It's a little more work, but means I can debug faster and add new fields faster.

The floors use a super-simple data file format, with an ASCII roguelike map and a series of command lines to create NPCs, traps, text, etc. The weapons and armor are listed in an even simpler format, with space-delimited fields.

Both the command lines and item formats are just run thru a tokenizer I wrote, that reads words, "strings", numbers, and [lists]:

type    name        cost    stat    bonus   damage  inflicts    twoh
wpn "Club"      5   Str 0   3   [blunt]     0


{'type': 'wpn', 'name': 'Club', 'cost': 5, 'bonus': 0, 'damage': 3, 'inflicts': ['blunt'], 'twoh': 0}

Mystic Dungeon BBS

As previously mentioned, I'm interested in BBS's.
So I set mine up! After 30 years, The Dungeon is back as The Mystic Dungeon BBS!


Connect with: telnet mysticdungeon.club 1666
(soon I'll have a proper domain, and SSL cert so you can ssh host 2666)

Set your terminal for black background, 80x25, and UTF-8, I dunno what it'll do to DOS CP, but everything's Unicode now.

If your Mac doesn't ship with a telnet anymore, you can grab the previous OS's one from a backup, or port install inetutils and then use gtelnet.

Of course visit the Doors to try the Mystic Dungeon doorgame!


I wrote the start of this last weekend in a Ballmer Peak, and have been adding to it since. Now it has a town and a dungeon with 8 levels, 24 kinds of monsters, combat, an innkeeper for resting, a merchant for buying equipment, and banker for saving money between deaths.

Coming up are potions and other useful items, traps, chests (which are often trapped), and magic.

Right now, only Fighters make any sense to play, though different races have some advantages (Dwarf especially for long-range darkvision in the dungeon, since I don't sell light sources yet!). The character shown is a bit cheaty on cash and XP; it'll take a long, long time to reach that level legit.


My teenage years IRL were difficult; I grew up in a time and place where to be a nerd was as bad as being a fag, you'd get beaten or murdered for that by the inbred hillbilly apes. Happily, there were local BBS's full of other nerds, COMER (cbbs? Terrible people, but it had dnd, a fairly complex D&D command-line game), Elvin Forest (Apple ][ board, nicer social group), Three Roses Inn (WWIV, Wil's board was our game hangout), a few others, and eventually my own, The Dungeon (first on Atari 800 running software I don't recall, later on Atari ST running STarnet) and later in Spokane I ran The Caves of Steel (Fnordadel on Atari ST/MiNT UNIX-like).

I still hit up telnet-based boards sometimes, I just tried lmorchard's Decafbad and did some turns in LORD, and I'll check back on that; I don't think he has Trade Wars, which was my game of choice, and the source of my old nickname Kamikaze. I've tinkered with reviving The Dungeon on MysticBBS and that may work out, but hosting's difficult. A better thing might be to make a web-based BBS, which is pretty trivial, but then it's not really a "board" anymore, you know?

So I watched the BBS Documentary again, it's been… 14 years?

The early days part of this, the culture of sharing and flame-warring, ah, the good old days. I had very little contact with/interest in FIDOnet and their horrible internal politics, I was on WWIVnet and Cit-net, both of which were much more chill. I loathed then and still loathe the cracker/h4xx0r parasites, totally useless wastes of skin. The ANSI art scene kiddies were wankers, but at least they made something. My bias then as now: I program, and I write, and those are what I respected back most.

But I find I'm still angry about SEA vs PKWare. SEA released public domain ARC software with source but no spec for the format, and then sued Phil Katz for using that source to make a better product, and later to make ZIP with a shared format everyone could use… Thom's sad he got some hate mail in among his giant corporate paychecks, oh no. Phil was so fucked up by it he drank himself to death. Fuck you, Thom, there is no justice in the world that you're alive and Phil's not.