OpenTafl v0.3.1.0b: spectator mode

OpenTafl hit another major development milestone over the weekend: spectator mode! I believe that makes OpenTafl the first real-time-viewable location for online tafl play in the world.

I mentioned in one of my last tafls post that OpenTafl’s architecture has made many of these features extremely easy. Before I let you go today, I wanted to bust out the old object relation chart builder thingy and talk about what I mean.

This is the rough structure of OpenTafl, as relates to the actual play of games. The Game object (along with its children, not shown here) encapsulates the rules. It has methods to play the game: you can ask the Game object who is up to move, and give it a move (in the form start space, end space) to advance the state of the game. It also handles the game clock and a few other bookkeeping tasks.

The CommandEngine object wraps the Game object, and with objects of type Player, handles all the upper-level bookkeeping: sending events to the UI, tracking which player corresponds with the physical human player, and so on. Higher-level components host a CommandEngine object, and correspond to one or more of the Player objects.

When the CommandEngine wishes to notify a higher-level component that something has happened, it uses the Player object. The higher-level components interact with the CommandEngine primarily through the Player object, sending moves and receiving their results through that interface.

Let’s look at an example: a human player, playing a network game against an AI player running on a different computer.

Start with the human player. He’s sitting at the keyboard, looking at the in-game UI. He makes a move. The GameScreen on the screen has a CommandEngine. One of the Player objects is a LocalHumanPlayer, which the GameScreen uses to deliver the human’s moves to the CommandEngine. The CommandEngine delivers the move to the Game and gets the result. The move is good! Hooray! The CommandEngine takes the result and delivers it to the other Player’s opponentMoved method.

That Player is a NetworkClientPlayer. It has a reference to the ClientServerConnection which corresponds to the server, and its opponentMoved method is wired to ClientServerConnection’s sendMove method. The move goes out into the ether.

At the server, a ServerClient receives the packet. The ServerClient has a NetworkServerPlayer as its Player.The ServerClient sees that it’s a move packet, so it parses the move and calls the NetworkServerPlayer’s onMoveDecided method, which sends the move to the CommandEngine associated with the game on the server to which the client belongs. That CommandEngine sends the move to the Game, then gets the NetworkServerPlayer belonging to the other client and calls its opponentMove method. That NetworkServerPlayer sends the move to its ServerClient, which creates a move packet and sends it.

Now, remember that this client is an AI. Does that change anything? Not really! The move packet arrives at the client’s ServerClientConnection, where it is parsed and sent to the connection’s NetworkClientPlayer’s onMoveDecided method. From there it goes into the CommandEngine. The AI plays through a LocalAiPlayer, so the move result goes from the CommandEngine through the LocalAiPlayer’s opponentMove method. Finally, the CommandEngine tells the LocalAiPlayer that it is expected to move, and the AI begins its work.

You’ve no doubt spotted how easy this makes extra functionality. The CommandEngine doesn’t care how the player ultimately makes its moves; it only cares that the player eventually responds to waitForMove by calling onMoveDecided. As such, going from simple human-on-human play all the way to networked play with spectators has required zero major architectural changes. As I said last time, robust.

You may have noticed that I wrote about AI playing over the network. This is not yet implemented, but it is the remaining headline feature for v0.3.x. I hope to build a proper, headless AI-only client, which can be started and run in the background. Ideally, it will have these features: first, it can log in and create games, with or without a password. Second, it can be passed an opponent name on the command line to join and play automatically. Third, after playing, if it created a game originally, it should leave and create a new game. Fourth, it should optionally save records of all of its games on the machine running it, so curious AI authors can investigate how it played. The above behaviors should be controlled by command line switches.

Writing it out, I don’t foresee any of those features causing too much trouble. It should be available soon, and when it is, you can expect to see a few OpenTafl AI players on the intersect server at any given time.

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