Advanced Adventure for room creation from scratch

Overview

This adventure will teach you about the responsibilities a room has from a protocol perspective within Game On. This information will be handy if you are looking to understand what makes a room a room, or if you are planning on creating your own room from scratch in a language we haven’t provided a sample for. (If you do create one, we’d be happy to fork from your repo and offer it as the official sample for a Game On room in that language).

You will gain a basic understanding of the Game On Websocket Protocol, and how a Room interacts with it.

Why totally from scratch?

We already provide examples in Java (via JEE), in Arduino style-C, in Go, and in Javascript. If you are not familiar with the various libraries used to implement the Rooms in those languages, the bare essentials required to throw together a basic room in your favorite language may not be easy to spot.

Prerequisites

Although this adventure will not be giving code snippets, you will probably want to check your target language offers some support for:

  • WebSockets (acting as a WebSocket endpoint/server)

  • JSON Processing (encode/decode of json)

It would be vaguely possible to avoid the 2nd requirement with some careful string processing, but if you do not have WebSocket support, you’ll likely be better off picking a different language, or setting up some kind of relay between something hosting a WebSocket, and a normal tcp/ip listen socket, though that would be an extremely advanced adventure ;)

Additionally, because Game On lives out in the cloud ;) , you will need:

  • A way to host an internet reachable endpoint.

Walkthrough

Basic Elements.

A room in Game On is basically a WebSocket endpoint, hosted in a way where Game On is able to reach the endpoint. Either the endpoint needs to be directly accessible from the internet (eg, if it’s running within a cloud container with a public bound ip address, or route).. or indirectly (eg, via a port forward on your own router).

The room is registered to the Game On Map Service, either directly via the Map service REST API, or using the in-game room management page, or the CLI regutil or even via the Interactive Map. If you are new to Game On, we’d strongly recommend using the in-game room management page. Look here for more info.

You only need to register the room once, and doing so isn’t related to the liveness of your Room. Think of the registration as an entry in a telephone directory: an entry in the directory does not mean there’s actually a phone connected to the line, or that anyone will answer it.

You can create the registration at any point, and can go back and update it at any time.

The WebSocket

Once a room has been registered, players (or you!) can attempt to visit the room (via /teleport or by navigating with `/go.. `). Game On will attempt to establish a websocket connection to your endpoint. Game On, specifically the Mediator service, will be the client, your room will be the server.

Once connected, the Mediator will follow the Game On WebSocket Protocol to interact with your room. The Mediator got its name because of what it does: push packets of JSON with a little header associated to it back and forth between connected clients and the Room. It’s worth having a quick glance through that document, it’s the one that should be trusted for how the packets need to be formatted, and what’s legal etc. In this walkthrough, we’ll only be covering the basics. The JSON used should be valid, but in case of discrepancy, trust the Protocol Documentation.

Each packet is formatted as follows..

  target,recipient,jsonPayload

The target can be player, playerLocation, or can start with room. The recipient varies based on the target:

  • If the target is player, the recipient can be a specific player id, or *

  • If the target is like room*, the recipient must be the specific room’s ID.

The jsonPayload is where having some sort of JSON processing support will be handy.

Tip
Your json processing should tolerate and ignore unexpected fields. This will help your room remain functional as the protocol evolves over time!

From here, we’ll describe the normal packets we expect to see.. referencing the protocol documentations’s Sequence Diagram

Note: About this routing business (* vs playerId for the recipient): The protocol was built to allow rooms to always broadcast to all connected WebSocket sessions. The Mediator uses the routing element to decide whether to propagate the message back to a client or drop it based on the player id. When coding your room, take advantage of the broadcast capability for WebSockets: we built the protocol to allow it!

Getting Started.

As soon as the Mediator connects to the room, it expects to recieve an ack packet from the room. The ack packet says which version(s) of the Game On protocol the Room supports. The ack packet is a little unusual, in that it has no `recipient` section, and it has a special target of ack.

Since you are creating this room from scratch, we’d recommend saying you support versions 1 & 2 of the protocol, like this:

ack,{
    "version": [1,2]
}

What changed? * Version 2 supports additional targets to allow you to distinguish between a Player "disconnecting" from your room (due to Logout, Timeout, or Browser Close), and "leaving" your room to go somewhere else. * Version 1 doesn’t have these extra targets, which can make reasoning over who is "in" your room a little trickier.

The version attribute is an array of supported values, it is not a range.

Tip
Just because the core Game On services will usually use the latest protocol revision, doesn’t mean associated tools or processes will. That said, keeping it simple and supporting only one version of the protocol isn’t a dire choice. The Sweep may be motivated to award more points to those Rooms that support the latest protocol versions.

In the paragraphs below, we’ll specifically mention the Mediator

Messages Recieved…​

Hello, Hello

Pretty soon after you’ve sent the ack there should follow a roomHello. This is because the Mediator will normally only connect to your Room if someone tries to enter it. Thus, you see the ack, followed by the roomHello. The protocol doesn’t require this however, so try not to be dependent upon it. The only requirement here is that when the Mediator opens the websocket to you, that you respond with the ack. The Mediator could decide at that point to close the connection, or send any other valid packet (we’ll see some likely candidates in a bit).

roomHello,<roomId>,{
    "username": "username",
    "userId": "<userId>",
    "version": 1|2
}

The roomHello packet will arrive with your roomId as the recipient, and with the username & userId of the connecting user, along with the version Game On has selected to talk with you, this will be a version from the array you supplied in the ack.

Tip
You can host multiple rooms via the same websocket endpoint, but only if you use the <roomId> in the messages to tell which of your rooms a packet is intended for.
Tip
Do not make assumptions related to the relationship between users and websocket connections for Game On. Today, Game On makes one websocket connection per user, but this may not always be the case.

You don’t have to send any response to a roomHello packet, it is information to tell you a user has joined your room. However, it is courteous to reply to a roomHello with a location response. We’ll cover that in a mo'.

Tip
userId’s are unique within GameOn, and uniquely represent a user. Be aware the same user can sign in multiple times via different browsers/devices though!
Goodbye, Goodbye

As you might expect, if you get a roomHello when a player enters you room, you’ll also get a roomGoodbye when they leave. The goodbye packet is somewhat simpler, because it doesn’t have to do dual duty carrying information relating to the version Game On is using to talk to the room.

roomGoodbye,<roomId>,{
    "username": "username",
    "userId": "<userId>"
}

roomGoodbye is only sent when a player actively leaves the room via a /go command that switches the player location.

You don’t have to send any response to a roomGoodbye packet, it is information to tell you a user has left your room.

Wakey Wakey!!

What if a player falls asleep while in your room, or gets distracted by a YouTube video of Cats?

Arguably they have never left your room, but Game On knows they are no longer active, and may have suspended their session.

If you have claimed to support protocol version 2 (as suggested) in your ack, then there are 2 additional messages you can recieve, which will give you status updates on players that are 'in' your room: roomPart and `roomJoin.

roomPart,<roomId>,{
    "username": "username",
    "userId": "<userId>",
}
roomJoin,<roomId>,{
    "username": "username",
    "userId": "<userId>",
    "version": 2
}

You don’t have to send any response to these packets. Again they provide information to the room as players come and go, or become inactive / active. You will only recieve these messages for players that you have receieved a roomHello for (on socket connection). You should continue to see them until you recieve a roomGoodbye for them. The default state of a player after a roomHello is considered to be active.

As with a roomHello, it is courteous to reply to a roomJoin with a location response.

Everything else.

The rest of the packets you’ll receive are chat/commands destined for your room, and they’re structured like this:

room,<roomId>,{
    "username": "username",
    "userId": "<userId>",
    "content": "<message>"
}

The content attribute is the line of text entered by the user. The convention is that if the content begins with a / that the content should be treated as a command, else it should be dealt with as 'chat'.

Messages to send

Now that we know what Game On will send to your room, it’s time to cover what you can send back to Game On. (you already know one 'Room → Mediator' message, ack).

Your room is responsible for handling pretty much all user commands, and chat, that are sent to it. Only a few select commands are handled for you:

/sos

teleports the player back to first room. Players can always get back First Room.

/help

lists the available commands for a room. You can contribute to this via the location message (and others).

/exits

lists the exits available from a room. Again, the location message lets you contribute to this list.

Everything else is up to your room. Including a few suggested commands you probably should implement:

/look

should return a location message

/go <direction>

should return a playerLocation message

<chat>

(anything not prefixed /) should respond with a chat type message

The messages from the Room tend to be for the player, and will have a target of player, and a recipient of either a specific player ID, or * for broadcast. There are ways to customize particular responses for specific players, too.

Tip
Messages from a room can contain a bookmark field, designed to allow a client to 'resume from last seen bookmark'. Bookmarks are strings, and should be unique-ish. Your room’s shortName followed by an ever increasing number, maybe something involving a date.
Location, Location, Location

After you receive a roomHello, you should reply with a location response. In Game On terms, this is you sending back the room description for the client to render for the user. The protocol documents the location response like this..

player,<playerId>,{
    "type": "location",
    "name": "Room name",
    "fullName": "Room's descriptive full name",
    "description", "Lots of text about what the room looks like",
    "exits": {
        "shortDirection" : "currentDescription for Player",
        "N" :  "a dark entranceway"
    },
    "commands": {
        "/custom" : "Description of what command does"
    },
    "roomInventory": ["itemA","itemB"]
}

Here we see all the information a room can send back to greet a newly joining player. Most of this is self-explanatory, but here’s a brief overview of how the data connects to the user experience.

name

The room’s name, used infrequently by the UI. This should be the same short name used when registering the room.

fullName

The Proper Name to be displayed in the white title bar, and before the horizontal rule in the /look UI response.

description

The text used after the horizontal rule in the /look UI response.

exits

Related in a mystical manner to the result of the /exits command. See below.

commands

The commands that this room needs to add to the /help response for the room.

roomInventory

Items the room should list in the You notice: list.

Tip
exits, commands, and roomInventory can also be tagged onto event type messages, it’s an easy way to update the clients view of those data at anytime.

The exit information that a room might provide is descriptive only. Because rooms move around in the map, your room never quite knows who its neighbors are, and that is to be expected. You can provide alternate/fixed descriptions for some of the doors in your room, which might be useful if you had some kind of puzzle to solve. We’ve wanted to get wormholes working for awhile (where you define extra doors that go places), so if you feel like making this one work, we’ll take the help with enthusiasm.

Chat!

Your room is responsible for handling chat: specifically ensuring that chatter coming in from one player is broadcast to all other connected players. When you recieve a room message where the content is not prefixed with / you should reply with a chat message, which have a format like this:

player,*,{...}
{
  "type": "chat",
  "username": "username",
  "content": "<message>",
  "bookmark": "String representing last message seen"
}

The chat message is fairly self-explanatory, the username field carries who sent the chat message, content is what they said, and bookmark, as mentioned earlier, is a unique value for this message.

The target of this message is *, which allows everyone to see it, otherwise it wouldn’t exactly be chat. ;)

Replies to user / room.

Chat has a particular style when displayed in the UI, it’s marked out as who said it, and in a different colour to text like the room description etc. There will come a point when your room needs to respond in ways other than chat, eg. If you implement /examine shoes you wouldn’t expect the reply to come as username says the shoes look rather tall, but rather The shoes have a rather excessive heel.

To send a non-chat type response, we use a room event message, which comes in two varieties.

The first allows you to send a response just to a single user:

player,<playerId>,{
    "type": "event",
    "content": {
        "<playerId>": "specific to player"
        },
    "bookmark": "String representing last message seen"
}

Notice how the recipient in the header is set to <playerId>, this routes the message only to the player with user id playerId.

The second variety allows for content to be targetted to multiple places:

player,*,{
    "type": "event",
    "content": {
        "*": "general text for everyone",
        "<playerId>": "specific to player"
    },
    "bookmark": "String representing last message seen"
}

Notice how the recipient in this variety of event is set to *, and the content block allows for both content per user id, and content to be sent to everyone else.

This type of message is great if you want to implement the typical text adventure approach of sending You look at the shoes to the player, while sending Playername looks at the shoes to everyone else.

Moving on..

Lastly, Rooms should implement /go!

It is up to the room to agree that a player should leave when the player issues /go N or similar.

This allows for rooms to create basic puzzles where the doors can remain 'locked' because the room won’t allow the player to transition (except via /sos which the room has no part in), until a puzzle has been solved. It also allows a room to decide if a player should leave, even if the player does not issue a /go command first!

playerLocation,<playerId>,{
    "type": "exit",
    "content": "You exit through door xyz... ",
    "exitId": "N"
}

If a room sends this message, the Mediator treats it as a request to transition the player out of the room, in the direction indicated, and will send the content text to the player affected.

Notice although this message has a type of exit, its the target field here that’s the important difference, the target of playerLocation routes this Message in Game On to the code responsible for maintaining & transitioning players between locations.

The exitId here should be short name of an exit from the current room. Eg, N,S,E,W

The simple implementation of /go <direction> just parses <direction> and converts it into the appropriate shortname, before issuing the playerLocation message, but there are alternatives. One option is to invent an obstacle or puzzle that must be solved before sending the playerLocation message. A more complex option could use the Map REST API to retrieve the exits currently mapped around itself, and manage what’s allowed via /go based on that data! Just bear in mind that rooms do move around in the map…​

Suggested extensions

  • Create a room with a button that must be pushed by the player before /go is allowed to work for that player.

  • Create a simple room protocol test program that sends various messages to a room’s websocket, and evaluates responses for correctness

  • Create rooms! in PHP, Perl, Visual Basic..

  • Create an advanced adventure tutorial for creating a room in your chosen language: we can include it in this book, or bring it in as an official sample in the repository.

Conclusion

This adventure should have taught you enough to be able to understand the Game On Websocket Protocol requirements that you are able to create a room from scratch in a language of your choice.

Suggested further adventures.

You may want to try reading the other adventures to understand the types of technologies/solutions that are used to handle the implications of scaling, or fault tolerance, or other Microservice concerns, though you may have to extrapolate from the language the adventure was written in to the one you’ve chosen.

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