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README.md

README.md

libmines - https://github.com/jtv/libmines

Welcome to libmines, a reusable library for building Minesweeper games.

Introduction

This package is for programmers who want to write their own version of the famous little puzzle game. (If you think you know the game from soup to nuts and it's boring, do read on). Building libmines requires a somewhat Unix-like system and the GNU version of "make"--it may be installed on your system as "gmake".

Everybody's got their own version of Minesweeper. All of them are essentially the same, with different user interfaces--often just so they can use different user-interface toolkits.

Mostly these versions are "good enough." But the way we programmers like to do things, once everyone agrees what something should do at its core, we call it "well-understood" and separate the core from the parts that everyone wants to do differently. That's what libmines is: it provides the heart of the game, the "game logic," with some room for variation, so you can build your own new user interface without having to write the actual puzzle part all over again. Of course libmines is Free Software (or Open Source, as some prefer to say) so feel free to change it and give it to your friends. Better yet, once you know what you want changed in the library to suit your own project, share your wishes and changes with the author so everyone can benefit!

Doing things this way makes the programming easier for everyone. It also makes for cleaner code. It's a great way to learn programming, from making one's first steps with a programming language to practicing one's software-engineering skills. And perhaps most of all, it makes it easy to do really new stuff with the game!

A very basic text-based command line client is included, which is meant mostly for testing. But there's also a simple CGI program: set up your web server to provide access to it, and you can play the game in your browser through the Internet. An example is running on pqxx.org--see the main development page.

Those sample user interfaces aren't great, so here's your chance. Perhaps you can be the one to write a much better one. Or be the first to build an online multiplayer version. Or figure out new ways to present the playing field. If you want to do it all in 3D, well, we can talk.

Boring!

Your average Minesweeper gets boring fairly quickly. You may even think of it as mindless--one visitor found the project page by searching the Internet for "Minesweeper and other mindless games." Well, with libmines, it doesn't have to be.

Most Minesweeper games work like this: you click on a mineless square to reveal it. The square will then show the number of mines neighbouring it. If there are no nearby mines, all surrounding squares will also be revealed, and if some of those also show zeroes, their neighbours will be revealed and so on. Then you go on to the next obviously mineless square, until the game finally becomes harder. A large portion of the mistakes come from accidentally clicking in the wrong place, clicking with the wrong mouse button, or simply boredom and drifting attention. Yes, the game becomes mindless pretty quickly that way.

That's why libmines goes a little further. You can specify various levels of intelligence. Level zero doesn't "auto-reveal" anything at all, just what you click on. Level one does it for squares that aren't near mines, like the other versions of the game. Level two is smarter: it will also reveal squares that are near mines, as long as all those mines have already been accounted for. And conversely, it also recognizes the situation where all remaining neighbours of a field must be mines. What remains are the interesting situations where you need to do some actual thinking. This way, the game is over much sooner--or you can play much bigger fields with more mines. You can do the thinking, and leave the dumb work to the library.

Another way to make things interesting again is to vary the rules a bit. You can show squares outside the actual playing fields, so the player can see what squares are safe to click on as starting points. That eliminates the silly guessing at the beginning of the game, as you look for a usable starting point. You can let the user mark possible mines with flags, as most versions of the game do, or you can make it a fatal mistake to get this wrong, or you can do a bit of both. Players can have multiple lives if you want. If you would like to do really exotic things like add or remove mines during the game, or make them move around, they may not be possible yet but we can add them.

Writing your own

The native language for libmines is C++. If that is the language you want to write your game in, that's easy. If it's not, there is also an API in C that, with a few small exceptions, supports all of the native features. Most if not all other programming languages offer ways to call C functions, so this should be enough to support user interfaces in just about any language out there.

Saving games is also possible, of course. The file format consists of a few lines describing the playing field, followed by a compact base64-encoded binary representation of the field itself (two bits per square: "is mined" and "has been revealed"). The data is written to a memory buffer provided by you; if you want to add data of your own, you can write that to file before or after the buffer's contents.

The saved-game feature was designed for performance. That may seem silly: how often do you want to save a game, and how long can it take? We could have made things slower and more flexible, but doing that yourself shouldn't be hard. The fast, compact format lets you go to other extremes: the included web user interface saves every game to a file after every move, and reloads it every time the field is displayed. That will scale to enormous playing fields and huge numbers of simultaneous games. Future versions could optimize it even further by storing games in shared memory. Or someone might want to write a version for mobile phones or other small devices, and keep game state in a tiny bit of non-volatile memory.

To start using libmines in C++, take a look at the source files with names ending in ".hxx". These headers define the C++ API. The C interface is defined in a header called c_abi.h.

For more easily readable documentation on how to use libmines in your own program, see the documentation in the "doc" directory. If you would like to have this documentation generated in other formats such as LaTeX, ensure that the documentation extractor "doxygen" is installed on your system; edit the configuration file doc/Doxyfile accordingly, then run "make".