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tildemush

disclaimer

THIS PROJECT IS STILL IN ALPHA! any docs you find here (with the exception for the setup section) are purely hypothetical are not guaranteed to describe any actual state of the system. the only source of truth right now is the code, but you're welcome to peruse the docs to get a sense of the spirit and direction of the project.

TOC

dev instance

the town is running a development version of tildemush. you can connect from tilde.town:

mkdir ~/.config/tildemush
echo '{"server_port": 10014, "server_host": "mush.tilde.town"}' > ~/.config/tildemush/config.json
tmclient

This instance is volatile (ie it's liable to go down or have its database wiped ⚠️ at any time ⚠️ so use at your own risk. it's also completely undocumented; if you want to know how things work, you'll have to look at tildemush's code.

requirements

  • python 3.6+
  • pip
  • postgresql

setup

  • python -m virtualenv venv - create a virtualenv in the project directory
  • source venv/bin/activate
  • cd server && pip install -e ".[testing]" && cd ..
  • cd client && pip install -e ".[testing]" && cd ..
  • setup postgres (see below)

postgres setup (Arch linux)

https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/PostgreSQL

  • sudo su postgres
  • initdb --locale $LANG -E UTF8 -D '/var/lib/postgres/data' - note: if that fails you may need to give the postgres user a password with sudo passwd postgres
  • sudo systemctl enable postgresql - configure postgres service to start on boot
  • sudo systemctl start postgresql.service - start postgres service
  • createuser tildemush -W (will prompt for password, use tildemush)
  • createdb tildemush -O tildemush
  • createdb tildemush_test -O tildemush

postgres setup (without sudo)

See running a little postgres database without sudo.

running

NB: if you are running the server on any OS except linux64, mapping will not work!

  • tmserver --debug to start the server
  • tmclient in another terminal to start a client

testing

NB: if you are running the server on any OS except linux64, mapping will not work!

  • TILDEMUSH_ENV=test pytest

Purpose and Goals

An original guiding principle of tilde.town is to re-examine "old" ideas using newer technology and new perspectives on society.

The town itself is a combination of several "old" things (BBSs, time shared Unix, Geocities) and several "new" things (Amazon Web Services, high level programming languages, HTTP APIs). I put old and new in quotes since things aren't so sequential nor cut and dry; ideas flow into each other over time and take on new forms.

This project, tildemush, is another combination of the "old" (MUSH, command line interfaces), and the "new" (modern scripting languages, advances in UX, HTTP APIs, relational databases).

tildemush is purposefully a greenfield project. A lesson I've learned running tilde.town is that people who have grown up on the web and with graphical interfaces take a different and freer approach to command line interfaces. They are not constrained by the arcane pain of low level terminal programming. They are not constrained by low bandwidth (ie, a few bytes per second) or hourly internet costs. They're building interfaces that are more intuitive and natural to contemporary users.

The urgency of this project struck me while I was reading Howard Rheingold's The Virtual Community after dealing with some frustrating IRC administration. IRC serves a purpose and has utility, but as a small social community with a fairly high level of trust we use approximately 10% of IRC's features. Meanwhile, I see users working to enhance their mode of expression beyond merely /say and /me. We have bots that remind you how loved you are, bots that dispense hugs, commands for generating streams of rainbows and hearts. I see a tension between the technical complexity of IRC (which we have never demonstrated need for in three years) and our desire, as a community, to express ourselves.

Meanwhile, reading The Virtual Community, I realized how naturally a MUD/MUSH allowed for this expression; and how the ability to script life into objects let users build on a rich foundation of expression.

Thus, the goals of tildemush:

  • A MUSH built with contemporary tooling (Python)
  • Extensible by users, even those unused to programming
  • A beautiful, intuitive, and text-based UI
  • A rich TUI administrative interface

Guiding Quotes

Designing human-computer experience isn't about building a better desktop. It's about creating imaginary worlds that have a special relationship to reality--worlds in which we can extend, amplify, and enrich our own capacities to think, feel, and act.

-- Brenda Laurel, Computers as Theatre

Let's have a little thought experiment here. All right, you're playing in a virtual world. And it's got these pictures, they're looking pretty good. And you think, "Oh, that's pretty good." And you think, "I like these pictures and that's pretty good." And it's a--and it's a 3D world, but I'm only seeing it in 2D on a screen so maybe if I got like a little headset on and put it on, now I can see it in 3D. But if I move my head a bit too much--oh well, maybe if we put little sensors on, so I can move my head. Yes, now, I can see it properly, yes. It's all here. But I'm still only seeing things and maybe I could have maybe some feeling as well. So I put a little data glove on and, "Oh, yes. Oh, it feels warm. Oh, that's good." But I'm still--I'm not hearing things. I'll put some goggles on. And I haven't got this sense of being in a place. I maybe--I want to be able to move. So I say, "Well, let's get these big like-coffin things and fill them full of these gels. And I'll take off all my clothes and put on all of these different devices and I'll lie down on it and it pull it--these electric currents through and make it feel hard or soft. So, it gives me the impression that I'm actually walking through grass because it's generating. And now, I'm beginning to feel I'm really in one of these places. But of course, really what's all that's happening here is that my senses are being fooled into this. What would happen if I was maybe cut out the whole business with the fingers and they stick a little jack in the back of your head and it goes right into the spinal cord and then you're talking straight to the brain there? All the senses that come into your brain, they're all filtered and they're used to create a world model inside your head and your imagination. But if you could talk straight to that imagination and cut out all the senses, then you would--it would be impossible to ignore it. You couldn't say, "Oh, that's just an image of a dragon." That would be a dragon. And if there was some kind of technology which could enable you to talk straight to the imagination, well, there is.

It's called text.

-- Richard Bartle, as interviewed in Get Lamp (emphasis added)

The future is already here--it's just not very evenly distributed.

-- William Gibson, 1993

...artifacts have politics. The change in the software encouraged different styles of interaction, and attracted a different type of person. The ethics of community emerged. The design of the software was a strong factor in shaping what emerged.

-- Amy Bruckman, as quoted in The Virtual Community by Howard Rheingold

This perpetual toggling between nothing being new, under the sun, and everything having very recently changed, absolutely, is perhaps the central driving tension of my work.

-- William Gibson, 2012

Never Asked Questions

Why are you calling it a MUSH and not a MUD?

It's true that MUSH most accurately refers to a codebase and not a style of application. However, despite this (and despite the fact that the first "mush" was called "tinymud"), I am using MUSH to refer to a program that focuses more on socializing than gameplay elements like combat.

While it's entirely possible that tildemush will have the features of a MUD (ie hitpoints and combat), the priority of the program is to encourage socialization and expression.

What is the official expansion of MUSH for this project?

Multi User Shared Hallucination

Why not script tildemush with $language?

tildemush's scripting engine is geared towards beginner programmers. The ultimate goal is for someone to script the behavior of some object without even realizing they are doing proper programming.

However, a secondary goal is exposing hooks that allow tildemush to be scripted from other languages. More advanced programmers can take advantage of this to create more sophisticated things.

Text is too old fashioned. Why not a GUI?

Text is liberating. Text is accessible. Text leaves room for your imagination to fill in the blanks. There is no virtual reality more real than your own imagination.

tildemush is a long word, is there a shorter one?

In my head I affectionately refer to it as tush so you're welcome to say that if it amuses you.

Why can't I use telnet?! Why do I have to use your client?!

Telnet is awesome. However, it carries a big pile of baggage, user interface wise. It's too brittle and too unsafe for this project. Instead, a custom urwid client will interact with a websocket API.

Why websockets?

Websockets come from the HTTP world. HTTP is, at this point, a lingua franca we are stuck with. It has many, many shortcomings, but it is understood by many and easy to reason about. Further, while tildemush itself will not have a GUI, a websocket-based API means we can easily report on the state of the world via a website. Finally, getting to use HTTPS is an advantage; while like all crypto tools its UX is funamdentally confusing, it's better than many.

Acknowledgements

  • <3 to All the MU*ers who have come before
  • <3 to the tilde.town community
  • <3 to my computer science cohorts from my college days; your autonomy project has always been a huge inspiration to me
  • a lot of my enthusiasm for this project comes from murepl, to date one of my proudest projects.

Author

the tildemush project is lead by vilmibm.

Licensing

All code licensed under the terms of the GPLv3. All documentation and other artifacts are licensed CC-BY-NC.

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a modern mush tailored to tilde town

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