MUSHCode for MUSH Manual - Section V: The Art of Psychocoding

MUSH Manual Version 2.008:
Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, Lydia Leong ( / Amberyl)
Last revised 5/22/95.

Section V: The Art of Psychocoding

13. Basic Concepts
13.1 Attribute naming and coding style
13.2 String concatenation and the switchless style
13.3 What the parser really does
13.4 Zones in TinyMUSH 2.2
14. Tricks of the Trade
14.1 Adding to, removing from, and comparing lists
14.2 Function building blocks: U() and SWITCH(), DEFAULT(), @function
14.3 Formatting strings: SPACE(), REPEAT(), LJUST(), and RJUST()
14.4 Lists instead of @dolists: ITER() and FILTER()
14.5 Recursion: theory and practice, FOLD()
15. Efficiency
15.1 Parameter passing: U(), ULOCAL(), local registers, SETQ(), and R()
15.2 How the queue works
15.3 Pipelining
15.4 Queue cycles vs. CPU cycles

Unlike the rest of this MUSH manual, this section is intended for
the programmer who already has some experience coding MUSH. Nonetheless,
newcomers to MUSH might find it helpful to scan through this section,
especially the "Basic Concepts". Familiarity with MUSH terminology,
major commands, and important functions is assumed.

It is suggested that the reader be on-line while reading this manual,
with access to the help text for the various functions and the ability
to test out anything which doesn't seem clear. Some of the functions
are not explained in gory syntactic detail, since the help text does
exactly that; the purpose of this manual is to provide information
that is not found in the help, and, thus, concentrates on style,
techniques, and quirks that are not immediately obvious.


13. Basic Concepts

13.1 Attribute naming and coding style

A user of MUSH once complained that most MUSH code "looks like
line noise". It's quite possible to write totally unreadable MUSH code;
even with the introduction of the "@@" comment, almost nobody ever comments
their MUSH code, either via "@@" or via attributes which explain what the
object is supposed to do and how it does it. Code that is already difficult
to fathom is made even more incomprehensible by semi-random naming of
attributes and lack of whitespace.

* * * * *

Attributes should be named intelligently and consistently. One
useful naming convention is to call any attribute which contains a $command
DO_<name of command>; for example, an attribute with a "scan" command
might be called DO_SCAN. Any attributes triggered by that command
would be called SCAN1, SCAN2, etc. Some people may prefer to place
the $command in SCAN0; this makes it simple to see everything $scan
related by doing an "examine object/SCAN*".

User-defined functions used by the $scan command might be named
as SCAN_<descriptive name>_FN, such as "SCAN_FLAGS_FN". Temporary
registers set by $scan might be called SCAN_<descriptive name>_TEMP.
The general description of how $scan works could be called SCAN_COMMENT,
and the "help" for it would logically be named SCAN_HELP.

A recommended naming scheme for constants is to make their names
based on what the attributes contain; a DBREF suffix indicates a dbref
number, a NAME suffix indicates a name, and a NUM prefix indicates a
counter of some sort.

* * * * *

Liberal use of whitespace is also encouraged. Whenever possible,
leave spaces; a space should be left before the opening brace of an action
list associated with a @switch, after the ':' separating a $command from
its associated action list, after the commas in arguments to functions,
around the '=' sign between command arguments, and every other place spaces
can be left without affecting command evaluation.

Practicing a good coding style also helps. Actions associated with
a @switch should be enclosed in curly braces, as should each group of
parameters passed to a @trigger. Action lists for @dolist, @wait, and other
similar commands should also be enclosed in curly braces. Even if there is
only a single action, the braces make it very clear what commands or
parameters are associated with each other.

* * * * *

Certain small things speed up evaluation. For example, whenever
possible, use '%0', '%N', and other percent substitutions instead of
'[v(0)]', '[v(N)]' and similar v-function equivalents. The percent
evaluations are faster; the only time when the v-function equivalents are
needed is when explicit string concatenation is required. Similarly,
the percent-substitution '%b' is much faster than '[space(1)]'.

When possible, use "%#" instead of "%N" or "*%N". This removes
one layer of name-matching when hunting for the object you are trying
to reference, and also guarantees that you will get the enactor, and not
merely something with the same name as it. Also, in 2.0, and, to a lesser
extent, in 1.50, objects do not check the name of their container when
trying to name-match. Furthermore, for objects holding global commands,
a match on a name %N will fail if the enactor is not nearby. The match
for the dbref %#, on the other hand, will always work, no matter where
the enactor is located.

Avoid excessive use of the [] bracket grouping with functions.
Unless you are forcing immediate evaluation of an expression for the
purposes of string concatenation, only one set of brackets is needed
around the entire function. If the function is the only argument to a
command, the brackets are not even needed - "@pemit %#=[v(string)]" is
the equivalent to "@pemit %#=v(string)". In the interests of readability,
however, it is advisable to use the bracket delimiters around groups
of functions within a large, complex function call; this is especially
true within lengthy SWITCH() or ITER() evaluations.

13.2 String concatenation and the switchless style

The increasingly popular "switchless style" of programming eschews
the actual @switch command in favor of using function evaluations to
generate a word. The object is then @forced to execute the contents of
the attribute named by that word. A broader definition of the switchless
style includes the entire concept of using complex function evaluations to
replace nested @switches and similar control structures. This cuts down
on the total number of queue cycles needed to execute a complex program.

The switchless style relies very heavily on string concatenation.
This can be accomplished by using the square brackets to force immediate
evaluation of the expression within the brackets. 1.50 also provides the
STRCAT() function, which explicitly concatenates strings.

* * * * *

For example, suppose we create a "cat" object. We want to define
a $command, "pet cat", on it, which causes the cat to give the person one
of several random messages. This is quite simple to code in the standard

&DO_PET_CAT cat = $pet cat: @switch rand(3)=
0, {@emit The cat purrs when %N pets her.},
1, {@emit The kitty blinks at %N.},
2, {@emit The cat arches her back and hisses at %N.}

The switchless style method would be:

&DO_PET_CAT cat=$pet cat: @emit [s(v(PETMSG[rand(3)]))]
&PETMSG0 cat=The cat purrs when %N pets her.
&PETMSG1 cat=The kitty blinks at %N.
&PETMSSG2 cat=The cat arches her back and hisses at %N.

The brackets around the 'rand(3)' forces that evaluation to be done
immediately; the result is then concatenated with PETMSG. Thus, if
rand(3) is 1, we evaluate "[s(v(PETMSG1))]".

This method of picking a message is very useful. If we decide
we want ten messages instead of three, we merely use @edit on the
DO_PET_CAT attribute, and change 3 to 10. Then, we can add seven more
PETMSG attributes.

* * * * *

The switchless style generally works by selecting among attributes.
Attributes used for switchless programming frequently have names ending
in a number, since it's generally easier to use MUSH to generate a number
than a name. Frequently the number will be 0 or 1, since boolean functions
like AND(), OR(), and NOT() evaluate to 0 or 1.

A broader definition of "switchless" programming is discussed
later in this manual, in the section concerning SWITCH(). Note that it
is difficult to program "truly" switchless objects; generally, it is
neither convenient nor desirable to do so. Instead, the aim of switchless
programming is to reduce the number of queue cycles needed through
indirect selection on a string.

Note that because the switchless style makes heavy use of functions,
it may use a large amount of CPU time without using many queue cycles. The
queue cycles-CPU time tradeoff will be discussed later in this manual.

13.3 What the parser really does

Many MUSH programmers are curious about exactly what the parser does.
A large number of programmers who are not familiar with MUSH internals like
to say, "The parser is consistent." Throw away that notion. It's wrong.
The parser is far from consistent. Various commands have their own little
quirky ways of being parsed. Even certain functions handle their arguments
differently. To the user, however, it should _appear_ that all things are
parsed the same way.

Most MUSH commands take one of three forms:

1. <command> <argument>
2. <command> <argument 1> = <argument 2>
3. <command> <argument> = <argv 1>, <argv 2>, <argv 3>, ...

In most cases, the MUSH figures out what command you want, and
then figures out how to parse the rest of the string you typed. Most
of the time, arguments are run directly through the parser and the
results handed to the command handler. There are several major exceptions
to this. The most notable of these are @switch and @dolist. In @switch,
he first argument (the variable to switch on) is evaluated; the comma-
separated arguments are not. @switch evaluates these arguments as needed.
For the @dolist command, the first argument (the list to use) is evaluated
immediately. Then, a find-and-replace is done on the second argument,
sequentially replacing the "##" token with elements of the list. The final
result of such substitutions is then passed to the evaluator.

* * * * *

The MUSH parser evaluates expressions recursively. The main
server routine to do this is called 'exec'; from this point on, the
expression "the string is exec'ed" will be used to refer to the
evaluation of the string by the parser.

Most uses of square brackets force another call to exec.
Also, every argument to a function is passed through exec, as are the
arguments of most commands.

Let's take a look at our cat example above. If we type "pet cat",
the object attempts to execute "@emit [s(v(PETMSG[rand(3)]))]".
The server goes through the following:

1. It looks up "@emit" in the command table. The server discovers that
this command takes one argument, which is evaluated. It thus
passes "[s(v(PETMSG[rand(3)]))]" to exec.
2. exec attempts to evaluate that string. It sees the brackets, and
invokes exec a second time, with the brackets stripped, so we
are now evaluating "s(v(PETMSG[rand(3)]))"
3. s() is a function, so exec is called yet another time to evaluate
the argument to s(). We now need to evaluate "v(PETMSG[rand(3)])"
4. v() is also a function, so we call exec on its argument. We are
thus left with "PETMSG[rand(3)]"
5. exec scans that string until it sees the pair of brackets. It then
invokes yet another exec call to evaluate the contents of the
brackets. We now evaluate "rand(3)".
6. Because rand() is a function, we once more invoke exec, on "3".
7. "3" is just a string literal, so exec returns "3".
8. Having figured out the arguments to rand(), we evaluate it.
Let's say "rand(3)" is equal to "0".
9. This expression is then concatenated with "PETMSG", giving us
the string "PETMSG0". This is our argument to v(). Now that we
have our argument, we evaluate "v(PETMSG0)", giving us,
"The cat purrs when %N pets her."
10. We now pass this to s(). "s(The cat purrs when %N pets her.)"
evaluates to "The cat purrs when Amberyl pets her." (assuming
Amberyl is the enactor). Note that because we used '%N' rather
than '[v(N)]', no additional execs are required to get the
name of the enactor. (If we used '[v(N)]', two additional exec
calls would be required: one to strip the brackets, and one to
evaluate the argument to V(). Thus, you can see that it's quite
a bit more efficient to use '%N'.)
11. This string is passed to the command handler for @emit, which
shows it to the appropriate people.

Notice how many evaluations such a simple string can need!
When coding, it is important to think not just about how many
queue cycles something uses; most functions must evaluate all their
arguments, and the computation time taken to do this eventually
adds up. Although this is usually on the order of milliseconds,
the actual cumulative delay, on a MUSH running on a busy machine,
can add up to a significant amount of time.

* * * * *

One important effect of functions evaluating their arguments first
before executing the function is that attempts to turn space-separated
lists into comma-separated lists for functions frequently fail. For
example, MAX(v(LIST), 25), where LIST is "1, 10, 83, 4" causes the
game to find the MAX of "1, 10, 83, 4" (which the string-to-integer
conversion functions trims simply to "1") and "25", thus causing the
function to return "25", rather than "83", which is what one might
have expected it to return.

Similarly, using a LIST of "1 10 83 4" and then evaluating an
expression such as "MAX([iter(v(LIST),{##,})] 25)" doesn't work. The
ITER() generates the list "1, 10, 83, 4," but this is NOT equivalent
to "MAX(1, 10, 83, 4, 25)"; the erroneous use of ITER() instead causes
MAX() to look for the maximum of "1, 10, 83, 4," (which turns into "1")
and "25". There are several ways of getting around this; see the
discussions on ITER() and FOLD() for examples.

* * * * *

Two important functions do not immediately evaluate their arguments.
ITER() and SWITCH() only evaluate their arguments when the arguments
are needed. ITER() does a brute force find-and-replace for "##" on its
second argument, much like @dolist does; to avoid needing odd
combinations of escapes in the second argument, none of the arguments
are evaluated until the ITER() function actually uses them. Because
SWITCH() calls can be massive, only those arguments which must be
evaluated will be evaluated. This is important to keep in mind if you
are using functions with side-effects, such as 1.50's create().

Note that if you are making multiple identical calls to functions,
all the calls are evaluated _separately_; the MUSH does _not_ know that
it has evaluated that expression before. This is definitely something to
remember, if you use functions like U() to evaluate huge complex expressions.
By the same logic, "@pemit me=add(rand(3),rand(3))" does NOT return the same
value for those two rand() calls. Ways of avoiding multiple identical
function calls will be discussed later in this manual.

Finally, note that the UNIX random-number generator is very poor, and
for small values of N, often returns the same value several times in a
row, even if the overall distribution over, for example, 1000 trials,
is evenly apportioned. If, for some reason, it is important that your
numbers be "more random", you may want to try a method such as using
a very large value of N, and then using a MOD() call to bring it into
the appropriate range. For example, to generate a number from 0 to 9,
one can use "rand(10)"; however, one will get a better random distribution
via "mod(rand(1000),10)".

13.4 Zones in TinyMUSH 2.2

Zones in TinyMUSH 2.2 are somewhat different from PennMUSH 1.50 Zones,
and therefore deserve a separate explanation. This section only applies
if Zones are permitted by the MUSH's configuration.

If you are standing in a room, type a command which is not matched by
an exit, or locally, or internally, and the parent of your current
room is set ZONE, all objects inside that parent will be checked for
$commands, just as if that parent object were the Global Master Room.

If there are no command matches, then if the parent of that parent is
also ZONE, objects in it will be checked. This goes on until something
is matched, or the parent is no longer set ZONE.

If there are still no matches, the same process is repeated, starting
from your own parent object, if it's ZONE.

If still nothing is matched, command checking proceeds to the Global
Master room.

* * * * *

Essentially, what this means is that the ZONE chain creates a chain of
Local Master Rooms. They provides a great deal of power and
flexibility that normal parent rooms don't provide; they confer all
the benefits of normal parenting, in addition to this specialized form
of command-checking.

Commands matched via zone checks are executed by the objects which
contain the commands, NOT by the room or player itself. Therefore,
this method is extremely useful for permitting players other than
the Builder Character (or generic area owner) to execute commands for
a given area. It also alleviates the necessity of setting all rooms
in the area INHERIT, if a certain local command requires INHERIT.

Because the ZONE chain is essentially a chain of Master Rooms, the
same caveats which apply to Master Room programming apply to objects
in these chains. Objects in the rooms should have a minimal number of
attributes on them. Because the parents of objects in the rooms are not
checked for $commands, @parent'ing such objects to a data object will
reduce the checks needed without significantly altering the programming
style for such an object.

Security, of course, is important -- ZONE chains should be isolated,
and unauthorized players should be prevented from gaining access to


14. Tricks of the Trade

14.1 Adding to, removing from, and comparing lists

Lists are the heart and soul of MUSH. Earlier in this manual,
ways of finding certain items within a list, adding to lists, and removing
from lists were discussed.

The standard list-operation functions fare poorly when there are
items in the list which are identical. In particular, we often want to
avoid adding items to a list which are already in it, get the result of
merging two lists, and remove items from a list without destroying the
spacing of the list.

The REMOVE() function generally leaves an extra space in the list. We
can get around this problem by passing the results of a REMOVE() call
to S(); indeed, this method of forcing another round of pronoun
substitution is useful for compressing undesired spaces. The SQUISH()
function removes extra spaces, and is useful when a second round of
evaluation is not desirable. Thus, REMOVE() is adequate for most of
the times we wish to remove an item from a list.

* * * * *

The SETDIFF() function provides a better way to remove items from
a list. SETDIFF(<list 1>,<list 2>) removes from <list 1> all items that are
in <list 2>. It can also be thought of as returning all the elements of
<list 1> that aren't in <list 2>. This is useful when you want to guarantee
that you have removed every occurrence of an item; objects like communicator
systems are best programmed like this.

The SETUNION() function is useful for adding an element (or elements)
to a list. It merges two lists, removing duplicates. Like SETDIFF(), this
function is useful when you want to guarantee that you have no duplicates;
in a communicator system, this is especially important.

The SETINTER() function returns the elements that are in both lists.
This is also for use in merging lists; elements that are only in one list
get eliminated. This is also useful for telling if all elements of one
list are in another; evaluate the SETINTER() of the two lists, and COMP()
it to the list you are interested in.

* * * * *

One interesting example problem in list manipulation is the removal of
a specific element by its position. This is a problem encountered when
it is not possible to use REMOVE(), which removes the first instance of
an elements by name, or SETDIFF(), which removes all occurrences of the
elements, also by name. For example, if we keep two attributes on an
object, one with the names of dragons, and the other with the colors of
those dragons, and we want to remove one of the dragons from both lists,
we encounter this problem; while names in the first list should be unique,
many of the words in the second list will not be (we will probably have
many Blue dragons, for example.)

If our list of dragon names is in the attribute NAMES and the
corresponding colors list is in the attribute COLORS, we can delete,
given a dragon name, its corresponding color from the colors list by
using EXTRACT() to return all words before that position, and all
words after that position. We determine the position using the MEMBER
function, as per the standard list-matching routine described earlier
in this manual. The code is thus:

&COLORS object=[extract(v(colors), 1, sub(member(v(names),%0),1))]
[extract(v(colors), add(member(v(names),%0),1), words(v(colors)))]

Once we've deleted the color from the colors list, we can safely use REMOVE()
or SETDIFF() to remove the dragon name from the names list.

* * * * *

The above problem can be more easily solved by the judicious application
of a built-in function callled LDELETE(), which deletes an element from
from a list, given the element position to delete.

LDELETE() has two brethren functions, called INSERT() and REPLACE(),
which take the arguments <list>, <pos>, <word>. The first function
inserts <word> into <pos> of <list>, and the second function replaces
<pos> element of <list> with <word>.

All three of these functions should be used instead of clumsy EXTRACT()
manipulations of the type described above.

14.2 Function building blocks

Two functions form the core of switchless programming: U()
and SWITCH(). The first (also known as UFUN() in 1.50) allows the
MUSH programmer to define, in a limited sense, his own functions,
while the latter pattern-matches a string against a list of other
strings, and, instead of triggering an action, as does @switch
command, the SWITCH() function simply returns a string.

U() takes up to ten arguments. The first argument is an
attribute, which specifies where to look for the function definition.
This argument can be a name, or it can be an object/attribute pair.
The remaining arguments to U() are parameters to be passed on the
stack (i.e. as %0 - %9). Thus, stack parameters to a U() evaluation
are purely local - they are not at all related to the value of the
"global" stack. A evaluation like "u(FOO_FN, bunch, of, words)" would
pass "bunch" as %0, "of" as %1, and "words" as %2. Then, the contents
of FOO_FN would be evaluated with those values. For example:

> &TEST me=%0 has [strlen(%0)] characters and [words(%0)] words. %1!
> "[u(TEST, Test string, Neat)]
You say, "Test string has 11 characters and 2 words. Neat!"

In this example, %0 is "Test string", and %1 is "Neat". Note that
those values are only true within TEST, though. For example, values
passed by @trigger are unchanged:

> &TEST me=%0 has [words(%0)] words.
> &ACT me=say %0 %1 %2 - [u(TEST,%1)] - %0
> @trigger me/act={a 1}, {b 2 3}, {c 4 5 6}
You say, "a 1 b 2 3 c 4 5 6 - b 2 3 has 3 words - a 1

From the @trigger, %0 is "a 1", %1 is "b 2 3", and %2 is "c 4 5 6".
In the TEST evaluation, %0 is "b 2 3", since that was the parameter
passed to it. But when we return to evaluating the output of the
@trigger, %0 is still "a 1"; the value of %0 in the U() evaluation
of TEST does not change the real value of %0.

* * * * *

1.50 and 2.0 handle U() evaluation differently; 1.50's GET_EVAL() is
basically identical to its U(). For the differences between 2.0's
GET_EVAL() and U(), see the earlier section of the manual on GET().

The only other difference between 1.50 and 2.0's U() is that
1.50 does not force immediate evaluation of a U() unless it is surrounded
by square brackets. In other words, in 1.50, "&FOO_FN object=strlen(%0)"
and "&FOO_FN object=[strlen(%0)]" are handled differently - without the
brackets, the game does a local evaluation and substitution, and pastes
that in, instead of forcing an immediate evaluation. For example:

> &TEST1 me=strlen(%0)
> &TEST2 me=[strlen(%0)]
> "Test1: -[u(TEST1,foo)]- Test2: -[u(TEST2,foo)]
You say, "Test1 -strlen(foo)- Test2: -3-"

The programmer is allowed slightly more flexibility when immediate
evaluation is not forced. In general, it is good programming practice
to put square brackets around the functions contained in an attribute
called by U().

* * * * *

The U() function is usually used to clean up code which would
otherwise be horrendously complicated and unclear. Also, because the
parameters passed to U() are only evaluated once, if you need to evaluate
an expression which utilizes a complex expression several times, you
can simply make that complex expression a parameter to U(). This method
of using U() is detailed later in the manual, in the section dealing
with efficiency.

A general rule of thumb of putting an expression in a U() is,
"If you use it more than once, and it contains more than two or three
nested functions, or it is more than 70 characters (one line) long,
make it a U()." The 70-character rule has its exceptions, but
anything you can't type without using emacs or some other kind of
parentheses/brackets-matcher is Too Long and should go into a U()
attribute by itself.

* * * * *

U() is often used for permission checks on objects. For example,
a bulletin board might only permit the original poster of a message to
delete it. In the future, however, you might wish to allow wizards to
also delete messages. Rather than having to scan through all the bulletin
board code, it'd be simpler just to change a single U() function. Thus,
when writing the board code, it'd be good to call something like
OK_TO_DELETE_FN, even if the check for permission to delete is simple.
As long as you keep the parameter list the same, you shouldn't have any
trouble swapping in a new OK_TO_DELETE_FN should you ever change your
mind about who is allowed to delete messages.

* * * * *

"Switchless programming" is a bit of a misnomer; this style
frequently involves the SWITCH() function, although it generally
avoids the @switch command. The SWITCH() function is quite similar
in format to @switch, but instead of performing a command list based
on matching a string pattern, it returns another string. It is as
flexible of a pattern-matcher as @switch, taking the '*' and '?'
wildcard characters. The obvious use for this function is turning
one string into another string; if there is more than one match
possible, SWITCH() returns the first one. SWITCH() does not evaluate
its arguments until it needs to; therefore, if you have side-effect
functions within a SWITCH(), such as 1.50's CREATE(), remember that
they will not get evaluated unless the corresponding pattern is

When combined with U(), SWITCH() is an extremely powerful
tool. One common application of this combination is to return boolean
values (0 or 1) based on some string. The most frequently used
example of this is HASATTRIB - the determination of whether or not
an attribute exists on a certain object. If the attribute exists,
it evaluates to 1; if not, it evaluates to 0. The code for this is
simple: &HASATTRIB_FN object=[switch(get(%0/%1),,0,1)]
It is then called via [u(HASATTRIB,object,attribute)]. If the
GET() returns nothing, then there's no such attribute, and the
evaluation is 0. Otherwise, it's 1.

Boolean returns can be extraordinarily useful in conjunction with
SETQ() and R(). For example, if you want to print out a '+' for
every time a function returns 1, and a '-' when the function returns
0, you can do a '[setq(0,-)][setq(1,+)]' and then print out
'[r(u(COMPLEX_FUNCTION))]' instead of continually SWITCH()ing
for the string to print.

* * * * *

Note that one common use of SWITCH() -- returning a value if a
certain attribute does not exist -- is made unnecessary by the
addition of the functions DEFAULT(), EDEFAULT(), and UDEFAULT(),
in TinyMUSH 2.2. These functions take the basic syntax:
function([<object>/]<attribute>, <default>[,<parameters for U()>])

Instead of writing the following:

[switch(v(TEST),,No test string.,v(TEST))]
[switch(get(#10/TEST),,No test string.,get_eval(#10/TEST))]
[switch(v(TEST),,No test string.,u(TEST,%#))]

one could write, respectively:

[default(TEST,No test string.)]
[edefault(#10/TEST,No test string.)]
[udefault(TEST,No test string.,%#)]

This elimination of the extra attribute retrieval is valuable, and
the lack of a SWITCH() removes the need to do any sort of wildcard
pattern match.


SWITCH() can be used to entirely eliminate a @switch. For
example, here's a typical lengthy @switch construction:

@switch v(num)=0,@emit [v(apple)],1,@emit [v(apple)],2,@emit [v(apple)],
3,@emit [v(apple)],4,@emit [v(apple)],5,@emit [v(pear)],6,
@emit [v(orange)],7,@emit [v(orange)],@emit [v(cherry)]

This can be reduced to:

@emit [v([switch([and(gte(v(num),0),lte(v(num),4))],1,apple,

This has the advantage of reducing the extra queue cycle involved in
the @switch. It isn't quite as easy to read as the @switch statement,
initially, but with practice, switchless-style coding becomes just as
simple to follow. (Note that extra brackets have been added in the
example above in order to make it easier to read.)

The repeated calls of 'v(num)' are inefficient. A better method follows
below; this time, the extra brackets have been left out.

@emit [setq(0,v(num))][v(switch(and(gte(%q0,0),lte(%q0,4)),1,apple,

This can be even further compressed by a technique which will be described
in another section; it combines several switch patterns into one.

@emit [setq(0,v(num))][v(switch([and(gte(%q0,0),lte(%q0,4))]:%q0,1:*,apple,

* * * * *

There are also variations on this theme, which don't necessarily
eliminate the @switch. For example, if instead of the simple @emit example
above, there were different action lists associated with each value of
the NUM attribute, it would be impossible to eliminate the @switch
efficiently. It would be possible to generate, as a string, the action
list to be run, and then @force the object to do it, but that wouldn't
be any timed gained. Here is a more complex example of a @switch for
which this is true:

@switch v(num)=0, {@pemit %#=Success.}, 1, {@pemit %#=Success.},
2, {@pemit %#=Success.}, 3, {@emit Disaster!}, 4, {@emit Disaster!},
5, {@tel %#=#100; &victim me=[v(victim)] %#}, {@pemit %#=Failure.}

The best approach to something like this is to generate a "code string"
via the SWITCH() function, and then @switch on that code. Usually, this
looks best if done in combination with a U(), but for this example, we'll
simply write it out; just realize that the left hand side of the '=' sign
would probably be best put in a U().

@switch switch([and(gte(v(num),0),lte(v(num),2))],1,OKAY,
[switch(v(num),3,BAD,4,BAD,5,OTHER)]) =
OKAY, {@pemit %#=Success.},
BAD, {@emit Disaster!},
OTHER, {@tel %#=#100; &victim me=[v(victim)] %#},
{@pemit %#=Failure.}

In this particular case, the switchless code is not an improvement
over the original @switch. However, if we ever want to change what constitues
"okay", "bad", "other", or failure, all we have to change is the expression
on the left hand side of the '='; we don't have to rewrite the entire
command. If it's put in an attribute as a U() instead, this becomes
even easier; we simply need to change that attribute.

* * * * *

Here is a variant of the "code string" procedure which does not
use SWITCH(). Instead, it generates several words based on the values
we are interested in switching on, and takes advantage of wildcards.
In this case, the first number generated tests for 0 <= num <= 2,
the second number for num = 3 or num = 4, and for convenience, the value
of num itself as the third word.

@switch [and(gte(v(num),0),lte(v(num),2))] [or(eq(v(num),3),eq(v(num),4))]
1 * *, {@pemit %#=Success.},
0 1 *, {@emit Disaster!},
0 0 5, {@tel %#=#100; &victim me=[v(victim)] %#},
{@pemit %#=Failure.}

When using this kind of switch, it is usually safer to use "@switch/first"
(also called "@select") to ensure that we only match the first case that

The multiple-code-words method is most efficient when used to
eliminate multiple @switch statements. For example, consider the case
of checking valid input for a command which takes the format
"test <four letter word> <player name>". We want to display an
appropriate error message. The simplest way to code this up is:

$test * *: @switch [eq(strlen(%0),4)]=0, {@pemit %#=Invalid word.},
{@switch [num(*%1)]=#-1, {@pemit %#=Invalid player.},
{@trigger *%1/TEST_ATTRIB}}

This costs us extra queue cycles, though, and also doesn't catch the
case of both arguments being incorrect. Using code words, we can fix that:

$test * *: @switch/first [eq(strlen(%0),4)] [num(*%1)]=
0 #-1, {@pemit %#=Invalid word and player.},
0 *, {@pemit %#=Invalid word.},
* #-1, {@pemit %#=Invalid player.},
{@trigger *%1/TEST_ATTRIB}

Note that because we use patterns which are not mutually exclusive
("0 #-1" also matches "0 *" and "* #-1"), we must use @switch/first.

* * * * *

Other interesting tricks can be done with @trigger and SWITCH(). For
example, in cases where we want to pass a number of complex function
evaluations to a later evaluation, we might want to use a @trigger
instead; if we eliminate the @switch in the process, this turns out to
be the same number of queue cycles, and syntatically neater.

Take the following example, based on the notes above. This time,
however, instead of sending the message to %#, we want to send the
message to something defined by the complex black-box user-defined
function called with u(BIG_FN,%#,revwords(%0)) -- too much to type
repeatedly. Thus, we end up with something like:

$test *: @trigger me/[u(FOOBLE_FN,%0)]_TRIG=u(BIG_FN,%#,revwords(%0))

We use FOOBLE_FN (whatever that happens to be) to generate the name
of the attribute to trigger, and now we end up writing that parameter
out only once. This technique is particularly useful in extremely
large switch statements which have many cases and long action lists.


The major reason to write code using U() and SWITCH() isn't
speed, for large projects. It's modularity. If you define some kind
of U() to check permissions to run a command, for example, if you ever
want to change the criteria, all you need to do is to change the
definition of that U(). SWITCH() is also particularly good at reducing
complex expressions that might otherwise require several @switches
by means of the "code strings" method; it's easy to jam multiple
@switch clauses into a single @switch by providing a complicated
SWITCH() to generate a word that can be @switch-cased on. One
should, however, be wary of trying to reduce all code down to the
minimum number of queue cycles; some amount of readability is also
important, as is the amount of "real CPU time" needed to execute
a given MUSH program. This trade-off is discussed in detail later
in this manual.

There are certain functions whose functionality is frequently needed,
but simple enough to code in MUSH that they are not worth hardcoding
into the server. To provide some kind of standardization for these
functions, and to get around the occasionally clumsy U() calling
convention, MUSH provides a mechanism called "@function". It enables
the global definition of a U() as an imitation "real" function. A
Wizard (or, in 1.50, someone with the Functions power) can specify a
name for the function and the place where it can be found, and then
anybody on the MUSH can use it as if it were a built-in function. The
syntax is: @function <function name>=<object>,<attribute> <function
name> is the name used for the function, and <object> and <attribute>
specify the name of the attribute and the object on which it can be
found. The parameters passed to an invocation of a function defined in
this way are passed as %0 - %9. Therefore, any function normally
called via U() can be defined globally simply by adding it to the
"local global" function table via @function. For example, in 1.50:

> &HASATTRIB_FN #10=[switch(get(%0/%1),,0,1)]
> @function hasattrib=#10,hasattrib_fn

tells the game to add HASATTRIB to the functions table, and to use
the attribute HASATTRIB_FN on object #10 when evaluating that. Then
one could simply do:

> @desc me=The writer of the MUSH manual.
> say [hasattrib(me,desc)]
You say, "1"

This would be equivalent to "say [u(#10/HASATTRIB_FN,me,desc)]", but is
syntactically much neater, as well as faster. Also, because of the @function,
any player on the MUSH can use HASATTRIB(), even if he can't directly read
the attribute. Thus, players do not have to see the code in order to use
it. If the function were a simple U(), another player would have to be
able to read the attribute - it would either have to be public, set public
via the VISUAL attribute flag, or visible because the object it was on (#10)
was set VISUAL.

Note that the syntax in 2.2 is "@function <function>=<object>/<attribute>".
2.2 also takes the switch "/privileged"; if this is given, the function
is evaluated as if it was performed by the object on which it was stored
(giving players access to information which, for example, might only be
accessible to Wizards under normal circumstances). Otherwise, the function
is evaluated as if it were stored on the invoker. (Also note that the
above example is somewhat irrelevant in 2.2 -- the HASATTR() function
performs that functionality.)

14.3 Formatting Strings

A lot of "MUSHtoys" involve the "pretty-printing" of output;
frequently, this means listing output in neat columns. To do this,
one must calculate the number of spaces needed to get to the place where
the next "real" string should start. This can be accomplished in one
of two ways.

The most efficient way to do this is to use the RJUST() and LJUST()
functions, which right- and left-justify a string, respectively. The
first argument to these functions is the string to print, and the
second argument specifies the field width. Strings that are too long
do not get truncated. Both of these functions take an optional third
argument, which specifies the fill character to use; if no third
argument is given, a space is used. Thus, if you want to %0 to start
at column 1, %1 to start at column 20, and %2 to start at column 45,
the expression "[ljust(%0,19)][ljust(%1,24)]%2" will work.

* * * * *

In old versions of 2.0, a slightly clumsier method must be used. The SPACE()
function is used to print spaces; you must calculate the number of spaces
to print based on the length of the string you are printing. For the
case above, the equivalent expression, using the SPACE() function, is
The major problem with printing something in this way concerns recalculation
of the same string. If, for example, you had, instead of %0, %1, and %2,
three large, complex functions, you would have to evaluate those functions
twice, once to actually print it, and once to calculate the length of
the string. For extremely complicated functions, the doubling of this
work may cause a significant loss of speed when the object is used. This
can be avoided by defining RJUST and LJUST as U() functions:

&LJUST_FN object=%0[space(sub(%1,strlen(%0)))]
&RJUST_FN object=[space(sub(%1,strlen(%0)))]%0

The extra overhead of invoking another U() function generally is less
than that of computing a large function evaluation.

Related to the SPACE() function is the REPEAT() function,
which repeats an arbitrary string a given number of times. The
strings are concatenated with each other, without spaces separating
each repetition. It can be used to fake the three-argument version of
LJUST() and RJUST():

&LJUST3_FN object=%0[repeat(%2,sub(%1,strlen(%0)))]
&RJUST3_FN object=[repeat(%2,sub(%1,strlen(%0)))]%0

Generally, though, this function is used for generating long lines of
asterisks, dashes, and other symbols used for ASCII graphics or division
of output into fields.

* * * * *

One common formatting task is the formatting of poses, says, and the like,
for arbitrary commands. Suppose, for example, that you have a chat system,
which takes a command of the format, "$chat *". You want the following:

chat Hi! ==> Fire says "Hi!"
chat :waves. ==> Fire waves.
chat ;'s idling. ==> Fire's idling.

Assuming that the * is going to end up as %0, and the chatting person's
going to be the enactor, the following works:

[switch(%0,:*,%N [delete(%0,0,1)],;*,%N[delete(%0,0,1)],%N says "%0")]

Note that we use DELETE() here to remove the first character of the
string, if necessary, instead of using MID() to get everything after
the first character; deleting one character is a lot faster.

14.4 Lists instead of @dolists

The most powerful list-creation facility available in MUSH is
the ITER() function. ITER() takes two arguments, a space-separated list
of words, and a format string of some sort (which can contain other
functions). The format string is evaluated for each element of the list,
with the "##" token being replaced by the list element. The result is
also a list, with each element separated by a space. The simplest
example of an ITER() is something of the form "[iter(%0,##)]", which
just returns back %0. The most common use of ITER(), however, is turning
a list of dbrefs into a list of names: "[iter(lcon(here),name(##))]"
returns a list of names of the objects in a room.

The mundane uses of ITER() are fairly obvious; it's used to
transform one list into another list. A more sophisticated use of
ITER() is using the function to replace a @dolist-@pemit combination
with a single @pemit and ITER(). This is useful for bulletin board
objects, mailer objects, WHO list formatters, and other mass-output
devices. Because ITER() places a space between each element of the
list returned, to correctly format such a list so that the elements
are returned one per line, a "%r" should be placed at the beginning
of the format string. For example, to return the list of contents
in a room, by name, one to a line, use "[iter(lcon(here),%r[name(##)])]"
The "%r" must come first, not last; otherwise, the output would be
indented by one space.

Using @dolist: @pemit %#=You see:; @dolist lcon(here)={@pemit %#=name(##)}
Using ITER(): @pemit %#=You see:[iter(lcon(here),%r[name(##)])]

* * * * *

One is frequently interested in obtaining only those members
of a list for which a certain expression is true. For example, the
construction "[iter(v(list),switch(u(FILTER_FN,##),1,##,))]" is quite
common. It means "return all those elements of the list contained in
the attribute LIST, for which FILTER_FN evaluates to 1."
Because this construction is very frequently used, 1.50 provides a
more efficient short form, via the FILTER() function. The first
argument to FILTER() is an attribute or object/attribute pair (just
like U()'s first argument), and the second argument is a list. FILTER()
returns all elements of the list for which the first argument evalutes
to 1. Thus, the equivalent to the expression above would be simply

* * * * *

ITER() can also be used to solve the MAX() problem from earlier
in this manual -- taking a space-separated list and passing it to a
function as a comma-separated list. The MUSH parser, when it sees a
function evaluation, attempts to evaluate each argument to the function,
using the comma to separate each argument. The problem encountered with
turning the space-separated list to the comma-separated list was that
the comma-separated list was generated _after_ the parser had already
determined where the argument began and ended. Thus, we must delay the

We do this by causing the escaping the function, without escaping
its arguments, so that the arguments are evaluated (using ITER() to turn
the space-separated list into a comma-separated list), and then running
the entire thing through the S() function, which causes a second parser
pass. Presuming that the space-separated numeric list is in the LIST
attribute on the object -- LIST was "1 10 83 4" in the earlier example --
and we want to also compare it to the number 25, we end up with the
following: s(\[MAX([iter(v(LIST),{##,})] 25)\])

The parser reacts in the following manner: it sees the S()
function, and goes to evaluate the argument inside. The argument inside
evalutes to [MAX(1, 10, 83, 4, 25)] -- the ITER() generates the string
"1, 10, 83, 4, " and concatenated with the 25, generates the above string.
Because of the '\' escapes, MAX is considered a string and not a function;
the '[]'s around the ITER() force that evaluation to complete. Now, the
S() function evaluates [MAX(1, 10, 83, 4, 25)], which is 83, our desired

This technique works, in general, for converting any space-separated
list to a comma-separated list to be passed to a function which requires
comma-separated arguments.

14.5 Recursion

"Recursion" is a difficult term to define; it can be loosely
described as a process by which an expression uses itself to determine
its value. A "recursive function" calls itself, stopping when it reaches
a "base case". This can probably be best illustrative via an example.

The mathematical expression "n!" ("n factorial") means the
product of all whole numbers between 1 and n, or, since formal sigma
(summation) notation is difficult to write in pure ASCII, informally
expressed by the formula: n! = (n)(n - 1)(n - 2)(n - 3)...(1)
For example, 4! = (4)(3)(2)(1) = 24. One quickly notes, however, that
this is equal to (4)(3!) = (4)(3)(2!) = (4)(3)(2)(1)
Therefore, we can write: n! = (n)((n - 1)!)
Because the factorial expression is used to determine a factorial,
we can say that the factorial function is recursive.

All recursive expressions must have some kind of base case;
otherwise, the function will continue to evaluate itself forever.
For the factorial function, the base case occurs when n = 1; the
function simply returns 1.

* * * * *

Recursion can be done quite simply in MUSH, although the built-in
function evaluation limit prevents the "stack" of functions from
growing too large. We can write a U() function to evaluate factorials,
using a SWITCH() to check for the base case:

&FACTORIAL_FN object=[switch(%0,1,1,mul(%0,u(FACTORIAL_FN,sub(%0,1))))]

The expression "[u(object/FACTORIAL_FN,4)]" will return "24".
Note that this is a literal translation of the mathematics involved. "If 1,
return 1. Else, multiply our current number by the factorial of our current
number minus 1." One of the beauties of recursion is that it usually
follows quite naturally from the verbal description of the algorithm.

* * * * *

There is a built-in function called FOLD() which is intended for
use in recursion. The first argument to FOLD() is the name of an attribute
which is to be treated as a U(), and the second argument is a list whose
members will be passed one at a time as %1 to the U() evaluation. (Note
that the U() function is not directly involved in the FOLD() operation,
but the attribute is evaluated like a U(), so for convenience's sake, we'll
call it a U() evaluation). If there is no third argument, which could be
called a base case, the first element passed for the first time is given
as %0. Normally, the result of the previous evaluation is passed as %0.

To translate our factorial function into FOLD()'s syntax, we need
to generate a list. The obvious method is to generate a list of all numbers
between 1 and n, and multiply them all together. The LNUM() function will
generate all numbers between 0 and n-1, so to get all numbers between
0 and n, we must use LNUM(add(%0,1)). To eliminate that 0, we use the
REST() function.

&FACTORIAL_FN obj=[fold(FACT_AUX_FN,rest(lnum(add(%0,1))),1)]
&FACT_AUX_FN obj=[mul(%0,%1)]

This is considerably faster than the "pure" recursive method, and has
the additional advantage of not running us up against the function
recursion limit. Under a normal recursion limit, our first try at
writing the factorial function fails when n is greater than 9; using
FOLD(), we don't hit the recursion limit at all, since the nesting
is never more than 3 functions deep (1 is the U() call to FACTORIAL_FN,
2 is the call to FOLD(), and 3 is the call to MUL()).

* * * * *

Most people probably don't compute factorials in their daily
MUSHing. A more practical application of recursive technique is the
"pretty printing" of output into columns. If, for example, we wish to
print a list in three columns, we should check to see if our current
list has 3 words or less, and, if so, print them; otherwise, we should
print the first three words, a newline, and then call our column function
again on the remainder of the words in the list (i.e. word #4 on).
This can be written as:

&COLUMN_FN object=[switch(gt(words(%0),3),

&FORMAT_FN object=[first(%0)]%t[first(rest(%0))]%t[rest(rest(%0))]

Thus, the expression "[u(COLUMN_FN,lnum(8))]" gives us

0 1 2
3 4 5
6 7

By changing FORMAT_FN, we can do other interesting things with our words;
the example above is not necessarily the optimal way to pass arguments
to FORMAT_FN, if the expression is very complex; it might be better to
pass FORMAT_FN three arguments, doing the FIRST()/REST() extractions
before calling FORMAT_FN.

This is another case where FOLD() is useful. Because we can only
grab one item off our list at a time when using FOLD(), we need to have
some other way of determining when to insert a carriage return. For
three-column output, we want to insert a carriage return every three
words; therefore, if the number of words in the string is divisible by 3,
we add a newline, otherwise, we add a tab. The code is then quite simple:

&COLUMN_FN object=[fold(FORMAT_FN,%0)]
&FORMAT_FN object=%0[switch(mod(words(%0),3),0,%r,%t)]%1

* * * * *

FOLD() can also be used to randomize a list under 2.0 (there is a
built-in function, SHUFFLE(), in 1.50 and 2.2, which randomizes
lists). The list cannot be too large, or the function invocation
limit will cause an error, but using FOLD() is still more reasonable
than most other list randomization methods.

What we want to do is to take the elements of the list one at a time
and randomly put them into positions of another list. This can be
done, fairly effectively, by doing the following:

1. Start with a blank new list.
2. Take an element of the original list. Put it in the new list.
3. Take the next element of the original list. Put it either before or
after the element of the new list.
4. Take the third element of the original list. Insert it into the new
list at a random position.

We can use FOLD() to accomplish this, with %0 as the new list,
and %1 as an element, using the following code:

&SHUFFLE_FN object=[fold(SHUFFLE_LIST_FN,%0)]
&SHUFFLE_LIST_FN object=[insert(%0,add(rand(words(%0)),1),%1)]

* * * * *

Finally, FOLD() is very good for dealing with space-separated
lists that need to be passed to functions which require comma-separated
arguments, such as the example of MAX() used earlier in this manual
section. Given an attribute LIST, containing something like "1 10 83 4",
one can find the maximum of the numbers in it using this code:

&MAXLIST_FN object=[fold(MAXTWO_FN,rest(v(list)),first(v(list)))]
&MAXTWO_FN object=[max(%0,%1)]

* * * * *

Recursion is a very natural technique for generating output
which follows a clearly defined pattern. Unfortunately, due to the
function recursion and invocation limits, it is frequently not a
usable for large values (or long lists, etc.), unless you are using
FOLD() or some other technique for reducing the number of functions
on the stack at a given time. Nonetheless, it can be the fastest
and cleanest way to accomplish a task, and it is not a technique
which should be overlooked.


15. Efficiency

15.1 Parameter Passing

MUSH evaluates every single expression it receives; it has no
memory of what has already been evaluated. Thus, if you write something
like "[extract(get(#100/list),2,1)] [extract(get(#100/list),5,1)]",
the "get(#100/list)" is evaluated twice. This isn't disastrous, but
if instead of "get(#100/list)", you had something like
(probably expressed as a U() function), repeating the same thing twice
would be extremely inefficient.

The best way to avoid evaluating complex expressions multiple times
is to pass them as arguments to a U(). Because having extra function calls
generates more overhead, this is a technique which should be restricted
to those instances where the expressions are either very complex, use
computationally expensive operations (such as SETINTER() and other sorting
functions, ITER(), and large SWITCH() expressions), or are used three or
more times.

The second example above is an excellent candidate for such
reduction. The best way to write it would be something of the form:

&EXPR_FN object=[u(AUX_FN, iter(setinter(lattr(#100/DATA_*),lattr(#100/NUM_*)),
mid(##, rand(5), rand(2))), 2, 5)]

&AUX_FN object=[extract(%0,%1,1)] [extract(%0,%2,1)]

This might be further improved by putting the ITER() in an expression by
itself; it's still of bearable length, but if that particular ITER()
is used another time in the same MUSH program, it should definitely go
into a U().


One alternative to using U() parameters to avoid evaluating an
expression twice is the SETQ()/R() function combination. There are ten
"registers", 0 through 9, which can be used for temporary storage.
The registers are local to a command list -- that is, they persist
through more than one queue cycle, within the direct chain of
evaluation, as triggered by a $command, attribute/oattribute/attribute,
or the like. They are set via the function evaluation
"[setq(<register number>,<expression>)]". This expression evaluates
to a null string, and therefore can be inserted into a string without
affecting its value. The R() function is used to retrieve the
appropriate register; the %q percent-substitution is equivalent
to this function.

The order of parser evaluation definitely makes a difference
when using SETQ(). It is advisable to put all SETQ() functions at
the beginning of any function evaluation; expressions are evaluated
left to right, outside to inside, and you can check whether or not
values are being set in the order you think they are via use of the
DEBUG flag, but for clarity, SETQ() expressions should be placed
at the beginning of the string. Also, you should make sure that
nested U() functions don't attempt to use the same registers; remember
that registers are local to a command evaluation, _not_ to a function

If you need to have nested U() functions that re-use registers (for
example, you have some extremely complex computations that require
large numbers of temporary variables), you may wish to consider use
of the ULOCAL() function instead. This function is identical to U(),
save that R() registers within it are considered "local variables".
That is, the original values of the registers are restored when the
inner function exits, and the original values _are_ passed into the
inner function. In this respect, they are somewhat like VAL parameters
in Pascal, or like ordinary function parameters in C.

You should, however, avoid the unnecessary use of ULOCAL(). While
syntatically cleaner than U(), the copying of variables which is
necessary to preserve the old values also increases the computational
cost of the function. Do, however, note that any use of SETQ() within
a global-defined @function should ALWAYS be done within ULOCAL() unless
you deliberately intend to change the value of the register for the
remainder of the associated command list; otherwise, you might
inadvertently change a value that the calling user is attempting
to preserve.

* * * * *

Please note that SETQ() is a FUNCTION, not a command. It should thus
be nested within a command, NOT placed on its own. In other words:

RIGHT: $test *: @pemit %#=[setq(0,revwords(%0))][u(A_FN,%q0)]--[u(B_FN,%q0)]
WRONG: $test *: [setq(0,revwords(%0))]; @pemit %#=[u(A_FN,%q0)]--[u(B_FN,%q0)]

The most obvious use for SETQ() is to cut down the number of
times a complex expression is evaluated; all that is needed is a single
evaluation as part of a SETQ(). A secondary use is as temporary storage
for some variable needed by FOLD(), FILTER(), or similar functions that
take a limited number of parameters. For example, it is frequently
desirable for a FILTER() to know the dbref of the enactor. But
because the U()-type function called by FILTER() only knows about
the one element of the list being evaluated, it can't get the enactor
unless that information is stored someplace else. In that case, simply
setting '%#' into an R()-register solves the problem.

* * * * *

Related to intelligent parameter-passing is U()'s usefulness
as a tool for hiding details of implementation. For example, there are
many different ways to count the number of times a word occurs in a list.
If a U() called COUNT_FN is used, instead of writing out the expression
every time, by simply changing the COUNT_FN attribute, different methods
can be tried. For example, any of the following would work, if %0 is the
list and %1 is the word:

&COUNT_FN object=[sub(words(%0),words(edit(%b%0%b,%b%1%b,%b)))]

&COUNT_FN object=[words(iter(%0,switch(%0,%1,%0)))]

&COUNT_FN object=[setq(0,%1)][filter(AUX_FN,%0)]
&AUX_FN object=[eq(comp(%0,%q0),0)]

&COUNT_FN object=[setq(0,%1)][fold(AUX_FN,%0,0)]
&AUX_FN object=[add(%0,eq(comp(%0,%q0),0))]

* * * * *

Sometimes, you will want to use the same complex function evaluation
across several commands. In this case, if you have something sufficiently
large and don't mind the extra queue cycle needed, you can use @trigger
to pass that function evaluation as a parameter. @trigger is extremely
useful for parameter manipulation; this is one of the few ways that the
stack variables %0 through %9 can be directly manipulated. Do not ignore
its use as a method for reducing the number of complicated functions that
need to be evaluated.

15.2 How the Queue Works

The "queue" is the place where all commands are placed before
being run. A queue is exactly what it sounds like; the first command
to be put on the queue is the first command to be executed (the queue
is executed from "head" to "tail"). New commands are always put at
the tail end of the queue.

The mysterious MUSH queue is actually three separate queues.
They are referred to as the "Player", "Object", and "Wait" queues.
The first queue is the where commands that are going to be immediately
executed are placed. This includes anything directly typed by a connected
player, plus the first X commands from the object queue (where X is usually
between 0 and 50. It is 3 by default.) The second queue is where anything
done by an object is placed; when the commands are due to be executed, they
are placed on the player queue. The third queue is where all objects waiting
for some event to occur are placed; when its wait expires, an action in the
wait queue is moved onto the command queue.

The MUSH executes a loop which can be simplified down to:

1. Check to see if any waits have expired. If so, put those commands
in the command queue.
2. Check to see if anybody typed anything, and if so, put those commands
in the player queue.
3. Put X commands from the command queue into the player queue.
4. Execute the player queue. This may cause more commands to be put
at the end of the command queue.
5. Go to 1.

We can think of the player and command queues as simply being a
single queue, as long as we keep in mind that something typed from the
keyboard frequently executes before a command issued by an object.

Every command in MUSH is a single item on the queue. For the
purposes of this discussion, we will call a "queue cycle" one such
command (rather than referring to a queue cycle as one iteration of
the loop given above, since that's a purely internal measure). Every
command that an object gives is put on the end of the queue.

* * * * *

Certain commands "nest" other commands. For example, the @switch command
frequently takes the format:

@switch %0=foo, {@pemit %#=Got it.}, {@pemit %#=Failed.}

The game does not queue up the @switch and the @pemit one after another.
Instead, it executes the @switch, then puts the correct action at the
end of the queue. Thus, several other commands may occur between the
@switch and the @pemit.

This is further complicated by the way action lists (commands
of the format "@@ action 1; @@ action 2; @@ action 3") are handled.
Given that expression, those three actions are queued one after another.
However, nested action lists are considered part of command they are
part of, and are not queued up until that command is executed. For
example: "@emit 0; @switch %0=foo, {@emit yes; @emit YES},
{@emit no; @emit NO}; @emit 1" is queued as the following:

@emit 0
@switch %0=foo, {@emit yes; @emit YES}, {@emit no; @emit NO}
@emit 1

The first command is executed as you would expect, and the output is "0".
Next, the @switch is executed. The resulting actions are put at the tail
of the queue, so the queue becomes (assuming %0 is foo):

@emit 1
@emit yes
@emit YES

Note that the "@emit 1" executes BEFORE the @emits associated with the
@switch, despite the fact that when the code is typed, the "@emit 1"
comes after the @switch.

This behavior also applies to @dolist, @force, @wait, @trigger,
and all other commands which execute other commands. This can be acutely
obvious when you have a construction like:

@emit Begin; @dolist a b c=@emit ##; @emit End

This produces:


That behavior is extremely important when you have commands which must
execute only _after_ all commands in a @dolist has finished executing;
in that type of case, a @wait, either timed or semaphore, is usually
the best solution.

15.3 Pipelining

"Pipelining" is a term borrowed from the jargon of microprocessors. In
that field, it refers to the practice of feeding the next instruction
to the CPU, before the previous instruction has completed. The
"pipeline" ensures that there will always be an instruction waiting
for the CPU. If the previous instruction was a branch and the
processor predicts the incorrect next instruction, the processor must
then go fetch the correct next instruction; nonetheless, this is not a
loss, since, had there not been a previous fetch, there would have
been a delay anyway while the processor went hunting for the

A similar principle can be applied to MUSH programming. Simply put,
there are many MUSH commands which do something along the lines of
the following:

$test *: @switch/first num(*%0)=#-1, {@pemit %#=No such player.},
{&TEST_OWNER %#=owner(*%0); @pemit %#=Owner test set.}

Note that no matter what happens, you will always have at least two
commands to queue: the @switch, and the @pemit. In the case of correct
syntax, there'll be three commands: the @switch, the @pemit, and the
attribute set.

This doesn't make sense, from the viewpoint of efficiency. Since the
correct case is going to be the one encountered the most frequently,
it shouldn't, ideally, be any slower than the error case.

You can usually save yourself a queue cycle by doing the following:

$test *: @pemit %#=switch(num(*%0),#-1,No such player.,Owner test set.);
&TEST_OWNER [switch(num(*%0),#-1,#-1,%#)]=owner(*%0)

Basically, we "assume" that the set is going to succeed, most of the time,
and go ahead and do it anyway; to avoid accidentally scribbling on the
attribute if we've encountered an error, we SWITCH() to make the object
try to set TEST_OWNER on a non-existent object in the case of an error.
We have, granted, added extra wildcard matches by the use of two
SWITCH() statements where before there was a single @switch, but we've
saved on a queue cycle, so we've probably won, overall -- this varies
on a case-by-case basis, of course.

We can do this sort of "pipelining" for @trigger, @dolist, and similar
things. It's no longer more efficient when there are more than two queue
cycles involved, but since many MUSH situations do reduce down to something
of this format, this "pipelining" technique proves extremely useful.

15.4 Queue Cycles vs. CPU Cycles

One of the major drawbacks to the "switchless" coding style is
that it tends to reduce the queue cycles needed to perform an action
at the expense of short evaluation times for a command. While the action
may take less time to execute, because other objects' queued commands are
not getting executed between each stage of the action, the overall
computation time ("CPU cycles") needed by that action group may not be
significantly reduced, or, indeed, may actually be increased.

Switchless coding tends to eliminate @switch and @trigger, two
commands which force a "delay", due to the property of these two commands
described in the earlier section on the workings of the queue. In doing
so, however, the programmer frequently uses complex function evaluations
which take a long time to evaluate, and, worse still, may evaluate the
same expression repeatedly.

One simple example of such a tradeoff is the following:

@va object=$test *: @pemit %#=[extract(v(colors),match(v(list),%0),1)]
[extract(v(sizes),match(v(list),%0),1)] [match(v(list),%0,1)]


@va object=$test *: @trigger me/vb=%#,[match(v(list),%0)]
@vb object=@pemit %0=[extract(v(colors),%1,1)] [extract(v(sizes),%1,1)] %1

The second way is slower, since it takes two commands instead of one,
but it's also more efficient. The best way to do the above would be

@va object=$test *: @pemit %#=
[extract(v(sizes),r(0),1)] [r(0)]

One must also remember that even if the total time to evaluate
a switchless and non-switchless version of the same action is the same,
other players are forced to wait longer for their commands to execute
under the switchless, because the game is running the big complex
evaluation all at once. While the _total_ time spent waiting remains
constant, the time-between-each command is increased.

Therefore, considerate programmers don't program gigantic
expressions which hog the server for several seconds at a time. Good
programmers find better ways to split up the evaluation, so that it
doesn't take several seconds to evaluate. If you write something which
lags a MUSH running at an ordinary speed, you haven't programmed it well.

As more programmers code switchless style, the amount of time
between each command increases. On a fast MUSH, the difference is not
generally noticeable, but if you really want to know if your code is
any good, try running it on a slow machine (NOT a slow network -- you
should victimize a MicroVAX or something similar). The switchless style
when used intelligently shouldn't slow down the game, but it's far too
easy to abuse. Function invocations should be kept to a minimum.
In general, if an attribute containing a command list exceeds about 12
lines of text, it is Too Large.

Intelligent use of switchless programming usually generates strings to
be outputted. Using massive nested switch() constructs usually implies
that something is not as efficient as it could be; the same is true
with iter(). The way a list is stored is frequently more important
than the way it is accessed; by storing data differently, it's often
possible to cut down on the complexity of retrieval. The switchless
style is best when it eliminates large numbers of nested @switch's;
other uses, especially those involving recursion, should be carefully
considered before being used.


That's the end of this manual; I hope it's been helpful. Please remember
that this is copyrighted material; I've put a lot of work into this and
am not likely to be pleased by others stealing my work. Please see the
first section of this manual for the terms of the copyright and other

Comments, corrections, and suggestions should be emailed to Amberyl,