Tag Archives: clojure

Algorithmic fungi patterns

Central to the borrowed scenery game is an ecosystem of fungi that players will grow to feed the plants found by foragers in the city of Ghent using Boskoi. These fungi will work differently from the plants in Germination X, partly in response to some interesting game testing feedback – the fungi will only grow to the next stage when activated by a player, but the positions of new fungi will be algorithmically decided.

This calls on a kind of cellular automata, which requires a bit of prototyping to get the right values to make the kind of patterns I want. I mocked up something in clojure (so I can plug it into the game server easily) using ascii art for previewing the patterns resulting, the four stages of fungi are:

. : spore
o : young
O : adult
* : fruiting

Each fungi cell only goes from adult to fruiting if conditions are right (counting number of neighbours as in the game of life), after which 5 spores are created around it. After fruiting or adult stage the fungi dies and gets removed. This is a screenshot showing some different colonies which emerge starting with just two fungi spores:

                     .Ooo*.                o..O   
                     o*o ..                 *.O   
                      ..*.                 o*oo.  
                       ...                 .*OOoo 
                                            ..Oo  
                  O o                       ..*.  
                  O                            o  
              O       o                           
                oO                                
            .O                                    
           O*                                     
           oO..                                   
         o  o *.OO                                
             ..O                O O               
              ** o                O               
             .*..o              OooO              
             .o.*.             .oOO*O O           
               . .              ..O*O O.          
                                O*. O*o*.         
                                Oo OoO. .     

And here is the code:

(def *spore-count* 5)
(def *neighbour-distance* 15)
(def *max-neighbour* 60)
(def *min-neighbour* 0)

(defn make-cell-world [cells]
  {:cells cells})

(defn make-cell [x y]
  {:x x :y y
   :state "."})

(defn cell-dist [cell-a cell-b]
  (let [v {:x (- (:x cell-a) (:x cell-b))
           :y (- (:y cell-a) (:y cell-b))}]
    (Math/sqrt (+ (* (:x v) (:x v))
                  (* (:y v) (:y v))))))

(defn cell-process [cell neighbours]
  (if (< 50 (rand-int 100))
    (cond
     (= (:state cell) ".") (merge cell {:state "o"})
     (= (:state cell) "o") (merge cell {:state "O"})
     (= (:state cell) "O") (if (and (< (count neighbours) *max-neighbour*)
                                    (> (count neighbours) *min-neighbour*))
                             (merge cell {:state "*"})
                             (merge cell {:state "X"}))
     (= (:state cell) "*") (merge cell {:state "X"})
     :else cell)
    cell))

(defn cell-get-neighbours [world cell]
  (filter
   (fn [other]
     (< (cell-dist other cell) *neighbour-distance*))
   (:cells world)))

(defn cells-find [world x y]
  (filter
   (fn [cell] (and (= (:x cell) x)
                   (= (:y cell) y)))
   (:cells world)))

(defn cells-make-rnd-pos-list [cell]
  (repeatedly
   *spore-count*
   (fn [] {:x (+ (:x cell) (- (rand-int 3) 1))
           :y (+ (:y cell) (- (rand-int 3) 1))})))

(defn cells-spore [world]
  (merge world {:cells
                (concat
                 (reduce
                  (fn [r cell]
                    (if (= (:state cell) "*")
                      (reduce
                        (fn [r pos]
                          (if (empty? (cells-find world (:x pos) (:y pos)))
                            (cons (make-cell (:x pos) (:y pos)) r)
                            r))
                        r
                        (cells-make-rnd-pos-list cell))
                      r))
                  ()
                  (:cells world))
                 (:cells world))}))

(defn cells-death [world]
  (merge world {:cells
                (filter
                 (fn [cell]
                   (not (= (:state cell) "X")))
                 (:cells world))}))

(defn cells-run [world]
  (cells-death
   (cells-spore
    (merge world {:cells
                  (map
                   (fn [cell]
                     (cell-process cell (cell-get-neighbours world cell)))
                   (:cells world))}))))

(defn cell-world-print [world w h]
  (dotimes [sy h]
    (dotimes [sx w]
      (let [f (cells-find world sx sy)]
        (if (> (count f) 0)
          (print (:state (first f)))
          (print " "))))
    (print "\n")))

(defn cell-world-loop [world n]
  (println "-------------------------------------------------")
  (cell-world-print world 50 20)
  (when (> n 0)
    (recur (cells-run world) (- n 1))))


(defn -main []
  (cell-world-loop
   (make-cell-world (list
                     (make-cell 25 10)
                     (make-cell 27 10)))
   1000))

Websockets vs HTTP

A bit of R&D this morning into websockets. Previous games like Naked on Pluto and Germination X have made use of standard HTTP protocol for their client server communication. This is easy to set up (as a newbie web programmer) and fine for prototyping and proof of concept – but has some serious problems with regard to scale.

The first problem is that the direction is one way, clients always have to call the server in order to get data. This has serious impact on how realtime applications work – as they need poll – “has anything changed yet”… “has anything changed yet”…

More seriously, the server has no real notion of who the client is and what they have received already, so all the data needs to be sent for each poll. This results in duplicate data being sent, and is a waste of bandwidth.

Underlying the HTTP protocol are sockets for sending the data – each request is treated as a distinct event so a socket is created and destroyed to return the response. A better way is to hook into this lower level and use sockets directly – each client then has a unique connection on the server, and data can be sent in both directions. Also the server is told when the socket is disconnected so things can be cleaned up.

On the client side, websockets are a standard part of HTML5 so they are fairly simple to use from Javascript:

socket = new WebSocket('ws://localhost:8001/websocket');
socket.onopen= function() {
    socket.send('hello from client');
};
socket.onmessage= function(s) {
    alert('server says: '+s.data);
};

On the server I’m using Clojure, and after a bit of fiddling around with my own socket server implementation, I found Webbit which takes all the hassle away:

(defn -main []
  (println "starting up")
  (doto (WebServers/createWebServer 8001)
    (.add "/websocket"
          (proxy [WebSocketHandler] []
            (onOpen [c] (println "opened" c))
            (onClose [c] (println "closed" c))
            (onMessage [c j]
                (println "message recieved: " c j)
                (.send c "hello from server"))))

    (.add (StaticFileHandler. "."))
    (.start)))

This approach takes us from perhaps 100’s of simultaneous connections for an online game into more like 10,000 theoretically – so much more into the big league, but also more importantly persistent connections like this allow for some interesting game mechanics.

Germination X: Player characters

After another code sprint on Germination X, I’ve added player characters (avatars) to the game. Based on the falmouth focus group feedback this seemed one of the major things missing that players felt would improve the game.

The character design came from the Mandrake plant, which has been cropping up in groworld projects for some time – as a magical plant known to resemble human forms as it grows.

This change also allowed a much needed clean up and decluttering of the user interface for the game – as navigation now happens by moving your mandrake around by clicking on things. Your location is persistent, so when you log in you go back to the same place. All existing players in the game have been given mandrakes scattered around the world.

As the mandrakes represented a new type of entity in the world, able to move around, and linked to players – this was quite a lot of work, particularly in terms of updating the existing database. I had a lot of trouble doing this manually with MongoDB’s save command in the script interface. This seemed to be creating duplicate records (and creating very hard to track down bugs) that took a long time to find. The better approach seems to be to upgrade the database automatically in the game code, by checking a stored version number – and mapping over entries like this:

;; map over each player in the db
(db-map!
 (fn [player]
   (println "upgrading" (:name player) "to include tile and avatar")     
   ;; get a random tile in the world
   (let [tile (first (db-get-random-one :tiles {}))]
     (db-update! ;; update it, adding an avatar
      :tiles tile
      (merge tile {:entities
                   (cons (make-avatar
                          (:id player)
                          (:name player)
                          (make-vec2      ;; random position
                           (rand-int 5)   ;; in the tile
                           (rand-int 5))
                          (:layer player) ;; show the player's score on the avatar
                          (count (:flowered-plants player)))
                         (:entities tile))}))
     ;; add the tile location to the player
     ;; so we can find the avatar again
     (merge player {:tile (:pos tile)})))
 :players)

This also means that the latest code will work with snapshots I’ve taken of the game world regardless of how old they are. This turns out to be really important – I can try some changes and rewind the whole world back to the same starting point, as well as testing code locally on a copy of the current public world version.