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The MOO server is able to do a small amount of parsing on the commands that a player enters. In particular, it can break apart commands that follow one of the following forms:
verb verb direct-object verb direct-object preposition indirect-object
Real examples of these forms, meaningful in the LambdaCore database, are as follows:
look take yellow bird put yellow bird in cuckoo clock
Note that English articles (i.e., `the', `a', and `an') are not generally used in MOO commands; the parser does not know that they are not important parts of objects' names.
To have any of this make real sense, it is important to understand precisely how the server decides what to do when a player types a command.
But first, we mention the three situations in which a line typed by a player is not treated as an ordinary command:
read()call (see section Operations on Network Connections) or there may be a
.programcommand in progress (see section The
.programCommand), either of which will consume the line accordingly. Also note that if connection option
"hold-input"has been set, all in-band lines typed by the player are held at this point for future reading, even if no reading task is currently active.
Otherwise, we (finally) have an actual command line that can undergo normal command parsing as follows:
The server checks whether or not the first non-blank character in the command is one of the following:
" : ;
If so, that character is replaced by the corresponding command below, followed by a space:
say emote eval
For example, the command
is treated exactly as if it were as follows:
say Hi, there.
The server next breaks up the command into words. In the simplest case, the command is broken into words at every run of space characters; for example, the command `foo bar baz' would be broken into the words `foo', `bar', and `baz'. To force the server to include spaces in a "word", all or part of a word can be enclosed in double-quotes. For example, the command
foo "bar mumble" baz" "fr"otz" bl"o"rt
is broken into the words `foo', `bar mumble', `baz frotz', and `blort'. Finally, to include a double-quote or a backslash in a word, they can be preceded by a backslash, just like in MOO strings.
Having thus broken the string into words, the server next checks to see if the first word names any of the five "intrinsic" commands: `.program', `PREFIX', `OUTPUTPREFIX', `SUFFIX', `OUTPUTSUFFIX'. The first one of these is only available to programmers, the other four are intended for use by client programs; all five are described in the final chapter of this document, Server Commands and Database Assumptions. If the first word isn't one of the above, then we get to the usual case: a normal MOO command.
The server next gives code in the database a chance to handle the command. If
$do_command() exists, it is called with the words of the
command passed as its arguments and
argstr set to the raw command typed
by the user. If
$do_command() does not exist, or if that verb-call
completes normally (i.e., without suspending or aborting) and returns a false
value, then the built-in command parser is invoked to handle the command as
described below. Otherwise, it is assumed that the database code handled the
command completely and no further action is taken by the server for that
If the built-in command parser is invoked, the server tries to parse the command into a verb, direct object, preposition and indirect object. The first word is taken to be the verb. The server then tries to find one of the prepositional phrases listed at the end of the previous section, using the match that occurs earliest in the command. For example, in the very odd command `foo as bar to baz', the server would take `as' as the preposition, not `to'.
If the server succeeds in finding a preposition, it considers the words
between the verb and the preposition to be the direct object and those
after the preposition to be the indirect object. In both cases, the
sequence of words is turned into a string by putting one space between
each pair of words. Thus, in the odd command from the previous
paragraph, there are no words in the direct object (i.e., it is
considered to be the empty string,
"") and the indirect object is
"bar to baz".
If there was no preposition, then the direct object is taken to be all of the words after the verb and the indirect object is the empty string.
The next step is to try to find MOO objects that are named by the direct and indirect object strings.
First, if an object string is empty, then the corresponding object is the
$nothing in LambdaCore). If an object
string has the form of an object number (i.e., a hash mark (`#') followed
by digits), and the object with that number exists, then that is the named
object. If the object string is either
"here", then the
player object itself or its location is used, respectively.
Otherwise, the server considers all of the objects whose location is either the player (i.e., the objects the player is "holding", so to speak) or the room the player is in (i.e., the objects in the same room as the player); it will try to match the object string against the various names for these objects.
The matching done by the server uses the `aliases' property of each of the objects it considers. The value of this property should be a list of strings, the various alternatives for naming the object. If it is not a list, or the object does not have an `aliases' property, then the empty list is used. In any case, the value of the `name' property is added to the list for the purposes of matching.
The server checks to see if the object string in the command is either exactly
equal to or a prefix of any alias; if there are any exact matches, the prefix
matches are ignored. If exactly one of the objects being considered has a
matching alias, that object is used. If more than one has a match, then the
$ambiguous_match in LambdaCore) is used.
If there are no matches, then the special object
$failed_match in LambdaCore) is used.
So, now the server has identified a verb string, a preposition string, and direct- and indirect-object strings and objects. It then looks at each of the verbs defined on each of the following four objects, in order:
For each of these verbs in turn, it tests if all of the the following are true:
I'll explain each of these criteria in turn.
Every verb has one or more names; all of the names are kept in a single string, separated by spaces. In the simplest case, a verb-name is just a word made up of any characters other than spaces and stars (i.e., ` ' and `*'). In this case, the verb-name matches only itself; that is, the name must be matched exactly.
If the name contains a single star, however, then the name matches any prefix of itself that is at least as long as the part before the star. For example, the verb-name `foo*bar' matches any of the strings `foo', `foob', `fooba', or `foobar'; note that the star itself is not considered part of the name.
If the verb name ends in a star, then it matches any string that begins with the part before the star. For example, the verb-name `foo*' matches any of the strings `foo', `foobar', `food', or `foogleman', among many others. As a special case, if the verb-name is `*' (i.e., a single star all by itself), then it matches anything at all.
Recall that the argument specifiers for the direct and indirect objects are
drawn from the set `none', `any', and `this'. If the specifier
is `none', then the corresponding object value must be
$nothing in LambdaCore); that is, it must not have been specified. If
the specifier is `any', then the corresponding object value may be
anything at all. Finally, if the specifier is `this', then the
corresponding object value must be the same as the object on which we found
this verb; for example, if we are considering verbs on the player, then the
object value must be the player object.
Finally, recall that the argument specifier for the preposition is either `none', `any', or one of several sets of prepositional phrases, given above. A specifier of `none' matches only if there was no preposition found in the command. A specifier of `any' always matches, regardless of what preposition was found, if any. If the specifier is a set of prepositional phrases, then the one found must be in that set for the specifier to match.
So, the server considers several objects in turn, checking each of their verbs in turn, looking for the first one that meets all of the criteria just explained. If it finds one, then that is the verb whose program will be executed for this command. If not, then it looks for a verb named `huh' on the room that the player is in; if one is found, then that verb will be called. This feature is useful for implementing room-specific command parsing or error recovery. If the server can't even find a `huh' verb to run, it prints an error message like `I couldn't understand that.' and the command is considered complete.
At long last, we have a program to run in response to the command typed by the player. When the code for the program begins execution, the following built-in variables will have the indicated values:
player an object, the player who typed the command this an object, the object on which this verb was found caller an object, the same as `player' verb a string, the first word of the command argstr a string, everything after the first word of the command args a list of strings, the words in `argstr' dobjstr a string, the direct object string found during parsing dobj an object, the direct object value found during matching prepstr a string, the prepositional phrase found during parsing iobjstr a string, the indirect object string iobj an object, the indirect object value
The value returned by the program, if any, is ignored by the server.
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