New Models

Note: This is considered an advanced topic.

Evennia offers many convenient ways to store object data, such as via Attributes or Scripts. This is sufficient for most use cases. But if you aim to build a large stand-alone system, trying to squeeze your storage requirements into those may be more complex than you bargain for. Examples may be to store guild data for guild members to be able to change, tracking the flow of money across a game-wide economic system or implement other custom game systems that requires the storage of custom data in a quickly accessible way. Whereas Tags or Scripts can handle many situations, sometimes things may be easier to handle by adding your own database model.

Overview of database tables

SQL-type databases (which is what Evennia supports) are basically highly optimized systems for retrieving text stored in tables. A table may look like this

 id | db_key    | db_typeclass_path          | db_permissions  ...
------------------------------------------------------------------
 1  |  Griatch  | evennia.DefaultCharacter   | Immortals       ...
 2  |  Rock     | evennia.DefaultObject      | None            ...

Each line is considerably longer in your database. Each column is referred to as a “field” and every row is a separate object. You can check this out for yourself. If you use the default sqlite3 database, go to your game folder and run

evennia dbshell

You will drop into the database shell. While there, try:

sqlite> .help       # view help

sqlite> .tables     # view all tables

# show the table field names for objects_objectdb
sqlite> .schema objects_objectdb

# show the first row from the objects_objectdb table
sqlite> select * from objects_objectdb limit 1;

sqlite> .exit

Evennia uses Django, which abstracts away the database SQL manipulation and allows you to search and manipulate your database entirely in Python. Each database table is in Django represented by a class commonly called a model since it describes the look of the table. In Evennia, Objects, Scripts, Channels etc are examples of Django models that we then extend and build on.

Adding a new database table

Here is how you add your own database table/models:

  1. In Django lingo, we will create a new “application” - a subsystem under the main Evennia program. For this example we’ll call it “myapp”. Run the following (you need to have a working Evennia running before you do this, so make sure you have run the steps in Getting Started first):

    cd mygame/world
    evennia startapp myapp
    
  2. A new folder myapp is created. “myapp” will also be the name (the “app label”) from now on. We chose to put it in the world/ subfolder here, but you could put it in the root of your mygame if that makes more sense.

  3. The myapp folder contains a few empty default files. What we are interested in for now is models.py. In models.py you define your model(s). Each model will be a table in the database. See the next section and don’t continue until you have added the models you want.

  4. You now need to tell Evennia that the models of your app should be a part of your database scheme. Add this line to your mygame/server/conf/settings.pyfile (make sure to use the path where you put myapp and don’t forget the comma at the end of the tuple):

    INSTALLED_APPS = INSTALLED_APPS + ("world.myapp", )
    
  5. From mygame/, run

    evennia makemigrations myapp
    evennia migrate
    

This will add your new database table to the database. If you have put your game under version control (and you should), don’t forget to git add myapp/* to add all items to version control.

Defining your models

A Django model is the Python representation of a database table. It can be handled like any other Python class. It defines fields on itself, objects of a special type. These become the “columns” of the database table. Finally, you create new instances of the model to add new rows to the database.

We won’t describe all aspects of Django models here, for that we refer to the vast Django documentation on the subject. Here is a (very) brief example:

from django.db import models

class MyDataStore(models.Model):
    "A simple model for storing some data"
    db_key = models.CharField(max_length=80, db_index=True)
    db_category = models.CharField(max_length=80, null=True, blank=True)
    db_text = models.TextField(null=True, blank=True)
    # we need this one if we want to be
    # able to store this in an Evennia Attribute!
    db_date_created = models.DateTimeField('date created', editable=False,
                                            auto_now_add=True, db_index=True)

We create four fields: two character fields of limited length and one text field which has no maximum length. Finally we create a field containing the current time of us creating this object.

The db_date_created field, with exactly this name, is required if you want to be able to store instances of your custom model in an Evennia Attribute. It will automatically be set upon creation and can after that not be changed. Having this field will allow you to do e.g. obj.db.myinstance = mydatastore. If you know you’ll never store your model instances in Attributes the db_date_created field is optional.

You don’t have to start field names with db_, this is an Evennia convention. It’s nevertheless recommended that you do use db_, partly for clarity and consistency with Evennia (if you ever want to share your code) and partly for the case of you later deciding to use Evennia’s SharedMemoryModel parent down the line.

The field keyword db_index creates a database index for this field, which allows quicker lookups, so it’s recommended to put it on fields you know you’ll often use in queries. The null=True and blank=True keywords means that these fields may be left empty or set to the empty string without the database complaining. There are many other field types and keywords to define them, see django docs for more info.

Similar to using django-admin you are able to do evennia inspectdb to get an automated listing of model information for an existing database. As is the case with any model generating tool you should only use this as a starting point for your models.

Creating a new model instance

To create a new row in your table, you instantiate the model and then call its save() method:

from evennia.myapp import MyDataStore

new_datastore = MyDataStore(db_key="LargeSword",
                            db_category="weapons",
                            db_text="This is a huge weapon!")
# this is required to actually create the row in the database!
new_datastore.save()

Note that the db_date_created field of the model is not specified. Its flag at_now_add=True makes sure to set it to the current date when the object is created (it can also not be changed further after creation).

When you update an existing object with some new field value, remember that you have to save the object afterwards, otherwise the database will not update:

my_datastore.db_key = "Larger Sword"
my_datastore.save()

Evennia’s normal models don’t need to explicitly save, since they are based on SharedMemoryModel rather than the raw django model. This is covered in the next section.

Using the SharedMemoryModel parent

Evennia doesn’t base most of its models on the raw django.db.models but on the Evennia base model evennia.utils.idmapper.models.SharedMemoryModel. There are two main reasons for this:

  1. Ease of updating fields without having to explicitly call save()
  2. On-object memory persistence and database caching

The first (and least important) point means that as long as you named your fields db_*, Evennia will automatically create field wrappers for them. This happens in the model’s Metaclass so there is no speed penalty for this. The name of the wrapper will be the same name as the field, minus the db_ prefix. So the db_key field will have a wrapper property named key. You can then do:

my_datastore.key = "Larger Sword"

and don’t have to explicitly call save() afterwards. The saving also happens in a more efficient way under the hood, updating only the field rather than the entire model using django optimizations. Note that if you were to manually add the property or method key to your model, this will be used instead of the automatic wrapper and allows you to fully customize access as needed.

To explain the second and more important point, consider the following example using the default Django model parent:

shield = MyDataStore.objects.get(db_key="SmallShield")
shield.cracked = True # where cracked is not a database field

And then later:

shield = MyDataStore.objects.get(db_key="SmallShield")
print shield.cracked  # error!

The outcome of that last print statement is undefined! It could maybe randomly work but most likely you will get an AttributeError for not finding the cracked property. The reason is that cracked doesn’t represent an actual field in the database. It was just added at run-time and thus Django don’t care about it. When you retrieve your shield-match later there is no guarantee you will get back the same Python instance of the model where you defined cracked, even if you search for the same database object.

Evennia relies heavily on on-model handlers and other dynamically created properties. So rather than using the vanilla Django models, Evennia uses SharedMemoryModel, which levies something called idmapper. The idmapper caches model instances so that we will always get the same instance back after the first lookup of a given object. Using idmapper, the above example would work fine and you could retrieve your cracked property at any time until you rebooted.

Using the idmapper is both more intuitive and more efficient per object; it leads to a lot less reading from disk. The drawback is that this system tends to be more memory hungry overall. So if you know that you’ll never need to add new properties to running instances, or know that you will create new objects all the time yet rarely access them again (like for a log system), the SharedMemoryModel you are probably better off making “plain” models rather than using SharedMemoryModel and its idmapper.

To use the idmapper and the field-wrapper functionality you just have to have your model classes inherit from evennia.utils.idmapper.models.SharedMemoryModel instead of from the default django.db.models.Model:

from evennia.utils.idmapper.models import SharedMemoryModel

class MyDataStore(SharedMemoryModel):
    # the rest is the same as before, but db_* is important; these will
    # later be settable as .key, .category, .text ...
    db_key = models.CharField(max_length=80, db_index=True)
    db_category = models.CharField(max_length=80, null=True, blank=True)
    db_text = models.TextField(null=True, blank=True)
    db_date_created = models.DateTimeField('date created', editable=False,
                                            auto_now_add=True, db_index=True)

Searching for your models

To search your new custom database table you need to use its database manager to build a query. Note that even if you use SharedMemoryModel as described in the previous section, you have to use the actual field names in the query, not the wrapper name (so db_key and not just key).

from world.myapp import MyDataStore

# get all datastore objects exactly matching a given key
matches = MyDataStore.objects.filter(db_key="Larger Sword")
# get all datastore objects with a key containing "sword"
# and having the category "weapons" (both ignoring upper/lower case)
matches2 = MyDataStore.objects.filter(db_key__icontains="sword",
                                      db_category__iequals="weapons")
# show the matching data (e.g. inside a command)
for match in matches2:
   self.caller.msg(match.db_text)

See the Django query documentation for a lot more information about querying the database.