LPC Basics

Written by Descartes of Borg

23 april 1993

CHAPTER 5: The Basics of Inheritance
5.1 Review

You should now understand the basic workings of functions. You should be able to declare and call one. In addition, you should be able to recognize function definitions, although, if this is your first experience with LPC, it is unlikely that you will as yet be able to define your own functions. There functions form the basic building blocks of LPC objects. Code in them is executed when another function makes a call to them. In making a call, input is passed from the calling function into the execution of the called one. The called function then executes and returns a value of a certain data type to the calling function. Functions which return no value are of type void.

After examining your workroom code, it might look something like this (depending on the mudlib) [adapted to Wunderland mudlib]:

inherit "/std/room";

void create() {
    SetProp("light", 2);
    SetProp("indoors", 1);
    SetProp("short", "Descartes' Workroom");
    SetProp("long", "This is where Descartes works.\nIt is a cube.\n");
    set_exits( ({ "/d/standard/square" }), ({ "square" }) );
If you understand the entire textbook to this point, you should recognize of the code the following: 1) create() is the definition of a function (hey! he did not declare it)
2) It makes calls to SetProp() none of which are declared or defined in the code.
3) There is a line at the top that is no variable or function declaration nor is it a function definition!
This chapter will seek to answer the questions that should be in your head at this point: 1) Why is there no declaration of create()?
2) Where are the functions set_property(), set(), and set_exits() declared and defined?
3) What the hell is that line at the top of the file?
5.2 Object oriented programming

Inheritance is one of the properties which define true object oriented programming (OOP). It allows you to create generic code which can be used in many different ways by many different programs. What a mudlib does is create these generalized files (objects) which you use to make very specific objects.

If you had to write the code necessary for you to define the workroom above, you would have to write about 1000 lines of code to get all the functionality of the room above. Clearly that is a waste of disk space. In addition, such code does not interact well with players and other rooms since every creator is making up his or her own functions to perform the functionality of a room. Thus, what you might use to write out the room's long description, query_long(), another wizard might be calling long(). This is the primary reason mudlibs are not compatible, since they use different protocols for object interaction.

OOP overcomes these problems. In the above workroom, you inherit the functions already defined in a file called "/std/room.c". It has all the functions which are commonly needed by all rooms defined in it. When you get to make a specific room, you are taking the general functionality of that room file and making a unique room by adding your own function, create().

5.3 How inheritance works

As you might have guessed by now, the line:

inherit "/std/room";
has you inherit the functionality of the room "/std/room.c". By inheriting the functionality, it means that you can use the functions which have been declared and defined in the file "/std/room.c" In the Nightmare Mudlib, "/std/room.c" has, among other functions, set_property(), set(), and set_exits() declared and defined. In your function create(), you are making calls to those functions in order to set values you want your room to start with. These values make your room different from others, yet able to interact well with other objects in memory.

In actual practice, each mudlib is different, and thus requires you to use a different set of standard functions, often to do the same thing. It is therefore beyond the scope of this textbook even to describe what functions exist and what they do. If your mudlib is well documented, however, then (probably in /doc/build) you will have tutorials on how to use the inheritable files to create such objects. These tutorials should tell you what functions exist, what input they take, the data type of their output, and what they do.

5.4 Chapter summary

This is far from a complete explanation of the complex subject of inheritance. The idea here is for you to be able to understand how to use inheritance in creating your objects. A full discussion will follow in a later textbook. Right now you should know the following:

1) Each mudlib has a library of generic objects with their own general functions used by creators through inheritance to make coding objects easier and to make interaction between objects smoother.
2) The functions in the inheritable files of a mudlib vary from mudlib to mudlib. There should exist documentation on your mud on how to use each inheritable file. If you are unaware what functions are available, then there is simply no way for you to use them. Always pay special attention to the data types of the input and the data types of ay output.
3) You inherit the functionality of another object through the line inherit "filename"; where filename is the name of the file of the object to be inherited. This line goes at the beginning of your code.
Note: You may see the syntax ::create() or ::init() or ::reset() in places. You do not need fully to understand at this point the full nuances of this, but you should have a clue as to what it is. The "::" operator is a way to call a function specifically in an inherited object (called the scope resolution operator). For instance, most muds' room.c has a function called create(). When you inherit room.c and configure it, you are doing what is called overriding the create() function in room.c. This means that whenever ANYTHING calls create(), it will call *your* version and not the one in room.c. However, there may be important stuff in the room.c version of create(). The :: operator allows you to call the create() in room.c instead of your create(). An example:
inherit "/std/room";

void create() { create(); }
inherit "/std/room";

void create() { ::create(); }
Example #1 is a horror. When loaded, the driver calls create(), and then create() calls create(), which calls create(), which calls create()... In other words, all create() does is keep calling itself until the driver detects a too deep recursion and exits.

Example #2 is basically just a waste of RAM, as it is no different from room.c functionally. With it, the driver calls its create(), which in turn calls ::create(), the create() in room.c. Otherwise it is functionally exactly the same as room.c.

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