Intermediate LPC Descartes of Borg November 1993 Chapter 6: Intermediate Inheritance 6.1 Basics of Inheritance In the textbook LPC Basics, you learned how it is the mudlib maintains consistency amoung mud objects through inheritance. Inheritance allows the mud administrators to code the basic functions and such that all mudlib objects, or all mudlib objects of a certain type must have so that you can concentrate on creating the functions which make these objects different. When you build a room, or a weapon, or a monster, you are taking a set of functions already written for you and inheriting them into your object. In this way, all objects on the mud can count on other objects to behave in a certain manner. For instance, player objects can rely on the fact that all room objects will have a function in them called query_long() which describes the room. Inheritance thus keeps you from having to worry about what the function query_long() should look like. Naturally, this textbook tries to go beyond this fundamental knowledge of inheritance to give the coder a better undertstanding of how inheritance works in LPC programming. Without getting into detail that the advanced domain coder/beginner mudlib coder simply does not yet need, this chapter will try to explain exactly what happens when you inherit an object. 6.2 Cloning and Inheritance Whenever a file is referenced for the first time as an object (as opposed to reading the contents of the file), the game tries to load the file into memory and create an object. If the object is successfully loaded into memory, it becomes as master copy. Master copies of objects may be cloned but not used as actual game objects. The master copy is used to support any clone objects in the game. The master copy is the source of one of the controversies of mud LPC coding, that is whether to clone or inherit. With rooms, there is no question of what you wish to do, since there should only be one instance of each room object in the game. So you generally use inheritance in creating rooms. Many mud administrators, including myself, however encourage creators to clone the standard monster object and configure it from inside room objects instead of keeping monsters in separate files which inherit the standard monster object. As I stated above, each time a file is referenced to create an object, a master copy is loaded into memory. When you do something like: void reset() { object ob; ob = new("/std/monster"); /* clone_object("/std/monster") some places */ ob->set_name("foo monster"); ... rest of monster config code followed by moving it to the room ... } the driver searches to see if their is a master object called "/std/monster". If not, it creates one. If it does exist, or after it has been created, the driver then creates a clone object called "/std/monster#". If this is the first time "/std/monster" is being referenced, in effect, two objects are being created: the master object and the cloned instance. On the other hand, let's say you did all your configuring in the create() of a special monster file which inherits "/std/monster". Instead of cloning the standard monster object from your room, you clone your monster file. If the standard monster has not been loaded, it gets loaded since your monster inherits it. In addition, a master copy of your file gets loaded into memory. Finally, a clone of your monster is created and moved into the room, for a total of three objects added to the game. Note that you cannot make use of the master copy easily to get around this. If, for example, you were to do: "/wizards/descartes/my_monster"->move(this_object()); instead of new("/wizards/descartes/my_monster")->move(this_object()); you would not be able to modify the file "my_monster.c" and update it, since the update command destroys the current master version of an object. On some mudlibs it also loads the new version into memory. Imagine the look on a player's face when their monster disappears in mid-combat cause you updated the file! Cloning is therefore a useful too when you plan on doing just that- cloning. If you are doing nothing special to a monster which cannot be done through a few call others, then you will save the mud from getting loaded with useless master copies. Inheritance, however, is useful if you plan to add functionality to an object (write your own functions) or if you have a single configuration that gets used over and over again (you have an army of orc guards all the same, so you write a special orc file and clone it). 6.3 Inside Inheritance When objects A and B inherit object C, all three objects have their own set of data sharing one set of function definitions from object C. In addition, A and B will have separate functions definitions which were entered separately into their code. For the sake of example throughout the rest of the chapter, we will use the following code. Do not be disturbed if, at this point, some of the code makes no sense: OBJECT C private string name, cap_name, short, long; private int setup; void set_name(string str) nomask string query_name(); private int query_setup(); static void unsetup(); void set_short(string str); string query_short(); void set_long(string str); string query_long(); void set_name(string str) { if(!query_setup()) { name = str; setup = 1; } nomask string query_name() { return name; } private query_setup() { return setup; } static void unsetup() { setup = 0; } string query_cap_name() { return (name ? capitalize(name) : ""); } } void set_short(string str) { short = str; } string query_short() { return short; } void set_long(string str) { long = str; } string query_long() { return str; } void create() { seteuid(getuid()); } OBJECT B inherit "/std/objectc"; private int wc; void set_wc(int wc); int query_wc(); int wieldweapon(string str); void create() { ::create(); } void init() { if(environment(this_object()) == this_player()) add_action("wieldweapon", "wield"); } void set_wc(int x) { wc = x; } int query_wc() { return wc; } int wieldweapon(string str) { ... code for wielding the weapon ... } OBJECT A inherit "/std/objectc"; int ghost; void create() { ::create(); } void change_name(string str) { if(!((int)this_object()->is_player())) unsetup(); set_name(str); } string query_cap_name() { if(ghost) return "A ghost"; else return ::query_cap_name(); } As you can see, object C is inherited both by object A and object B. Object C is a representation of a much oversimplified base object, with B being an equally oversimplified weapon and A being an equally simplified living object. Only one copy of each function is retained in memory, even though we have here three objects using the functions. There are of course, three instances of the variables from Object C in memory, with one instance of the variables of Object A and Object B in memory. Each object thus gets its own data. 6.4 Function and Variable Labels Notice that many of the functions above are proceeded with labels which have not yet appeared in either this text or the beginner text, the labels static, private, and nomask. These labels define special priveledges which an object may have to its data and member functions. Functions you have used up to this point have the default label public. This is default to such a degree, some drivers do not support the labeling. A public variable is available to any object down the inheritance tree from the object in which the variable is declared. Public variables in object C may be accessed by both objects A and B. Similarly, public functions may be called by any object down the inheritance tree from the object in which they are declared. The opposite of public is of course private. A private variable or function may only be referenced from inside the object which declares it. If object A or B tried to make any reference to any of the variables in object C, an error would result, since the variables are said to be out of scope, or not available to inheriting classes due to their private labels. Functions, however, provide a unique challenge which variables do not. External objects in LPC have the ability to call functions in other objects through call others. The private label does not protect against call others. To protect against call others, functions use the label static. A function which is static may only be called from inside the complete object or from the game driver. By complete object, I mean object A can call static functions in the object C it inherits. The static only protects against external call others. In addition, this_object()->foo() is considered an internal call as far as the static label goes. Since variables cannot be referenced externally, there is no need for an equivalent label for them. Somewhere along the line, someone decided to muddy up the waters and use the static label with variables to have a completely separate meaning. What is even more maddening is that this label has nothing to do with what it means in the C programming language. A static variable is simply a variable that does not get saved to file through the efun save_object() and does not get restored through restore_object(). Go figure. In general, it is good practice to have private variables with public functions, using query_*() functions to access the values of inherited variables, and set_*(), add_*(), and other such functions to change those values. In realm coding this is not something one really has to worry a lot about. As a matter of fact, in realm coding you do not have to know much of anything which is in this chapter. To be come a really good realm coder, however, you have to be able to read the mudlib code. And mudlib code is full of these labels. So you should work around with these labels until you can read code and understand why it is written that way and what it means to objects which inherit the code. The final label is nomask, and it deals with a property of inheritance which allows you to rewrite functions which have already been defined. For example, you can see above that object A rewrote the function query_cap_name(). A rewrite of function is called overriding the function. The most common override of a function would be in a case like this, where a condition peculiar to our object (object A) needs to happen on a call ot the function under certain circumstances. Putting test code into object C just so object A can be a ghost is plain silly. So instead, we override query_cap_name() in object A, testing to see if the object is a ghost. If so, we change what happens when another object queries for the cap name. If it is not a ghost, then we want the regular object behaviour to happen. We therefore use the scope resolution operator (::) to call the inherited version of the query_cap_name() function and return its value. A nomask function is one which cannot be overridden either through inheritance or through shadowing. Shadowing is a sort of backwards inheritance which will be detailed in the advanced LPC textbook. In the example above, neither object A nor object B (nor any other object for that matter) can override query_name(). Since we want to use query_name() as a unique identifier of objects, we don't want people faking us through shadowing or inheritance. The function therefore gets the nomask label. 6.5 Summary Through inheritance, a coder may make user of functions defined in other objects in order to reduce the tedium of producing masses of similar objects and to increase the consistency of object behaviour across mudlib objects. LPC inheritance allows objects maximum priveledges in defining how their data can be accessed by external objects as well as objects inheriting them. This data security is maintained through the keywords, nomask, private, and static. In addition, a coder is able to change the functionality of non-protected functions by overriding them. Even in the process of overriding a function, however, an object may access the original function through the scope resolution operator. Copyright (c) George Reese 1993