Typeclasses

Typeclasses form the core of Evennia data storage. It allows Evennia to represent any number of different game entities as Python classes, without having to modify the database schema for every new type.

In Evennia the most important game entities, Players, Objects, Scripts and Channels are all Python classes inheriting, at varying distance, from evennia.typeclasses.models.TypedObject. In the documentation we refer to these objects as being “typeclassed” or even “being a typeclass”.

This is how the inheritance looks for the typeclasses in Evennia:

                  TypedObject
      _________________|_________________________________
     |                 |                 |               |
1: PlayerDB        ObjectDB           ScriptDB         ChannelDB
     |                 |                 |               |
2: DefaultPlayer   DefaultObject      DefaultScript    DefaultChannel
     |              DefaultCharacter     |               |
     |              DefaultRoom          |               |
     |              DefaultExit          |               |
     |                 |                 |               |
3: Player          Object              Script           Channel
                   Character
                   Room
                   Exit

Level 1 above is the “database model” level. This describes the database tables and fields (this is technically a Django model).

Level 2 is where we find Evennia’s default implementations of the various game entities, on top of the database. These classes define all the hook methods that Evennia calls in various situations. DefaultObject is a little special since it’s the parent for DefaultCharacter, DefaultRoom and DefaultExit. They are all grouped under level 2 because they all represents defaults to build from.

Level 3, finally, holds empty template classes created in your game directory. This is the level you are meant to modify and tweak as you please, overloading the defaults as befits your game. The templates inherit directly from their defaults, so Object inherits from DefaultObject and Room inherits from DefaultRoom.

Difference between typeclasses and classes

All Evennia classes inheriting from class in the table above share one important feature and two important limitations. This is why we don’t simply call them “classes” but “typeclasses”.

  1. A typeclass can save itself to the database. This means that some properties (actually not that many) on the class actually represents database fields and can only hold very specific data types. This is detailed below.

  2. Due to its connection to the database, the typeclass’ name must be unique across the entire server namespace. That is, there must never be two same-named classes defined anywhere. So the below code would give an error (since DefaultObject is now globally found both in this module and in the default library):

    from evennia import DefaultObject as BaseObject
    class DefaultObject(BaseObject):
         pass
    
  3. A typeclass’ __init__ method should normally not be overloaded. This has mostly to do with the fact that the __init__ method is not called in a predictable way. Instead Evennia suggest you use the at_*_creation hooks (like at_object_creation for Objects) for setting things the very first time the typeclass is saved to the database or the at_init hook which is called every time the object is cached to memory. If you know what you are doing and want to use __init__, it must both accept arbitrary keyword arguments and use super to call its parent:

    .. code:: python
    
    def __init__(self, **kwargs):

    # my content super(MyTypeclass, self).__init__(**kwargs) # my content

Apart from this, a typeclass works like any normal Python class and you can treat it as such.

Creating a new typeclass

It’s easy to work with Typeclasses. Either you use an existing typeclass or you create a new Python class inheriting from an existing typeclass. Here is an example of creating a new type of Object:

```python
from evennia import DefaultObject
class Furniture(DefaultObject):
    # this defines what 'furniture' is, like
    # storing who sits on it or something.
    pass

You can now create a new Furniture object in two ways. First (and usually not the most convenient) way is to create an instance of the class and then save it manually to the database:

chair = Furniture(db_key="Chair")
chair.save()

To use this you must give the database field names as keywords to the call. Which are available depends on the entity you are creating, but all start with db_* in Evennia. This is a method you may be familiar with if you know Django from before.

It is recommended that you instead use the create_* functions to create typeclassed entities:

from evennia import create_object

chair = create_object(Furniture, key="Chair")
# or (if your typeclass is in a module furniture.py)
chair = create_object("furniture.Furniture", key="Chair")

The create_object (create_player, create_script etc) takes the typeclass as its first argument; this can both be the actual class or the python path to the typeclass as found under your game directory. So if your Furniture typeclass sits in mygame/typeclasses/furniture.py, you could point to it as typeclasses.furniture.Furniture. Since Evennia will itself look in mygame/typeclasses, you can shorten this even further to just furniture.Furniture. The create-functions take a lot of extra keywords allowing you to set things like Attributes and Tags all in one go. These keywords don’t use the db_* prefix. This will also automatically save the new instance to the database, so you don’t need to call save() explicitly.

About typeclass properties

An example of a database field is db_key. This stores the “name” of the entity you are modifying and can thus only hold a string. This is one way of making sure to update the db_key:

chair.db_key = "Table"
chair.save()

print chair.db_key
<<< Table

That is, we change the chair object to have the db_key “Table”, then save this to the database. However, you almost never do things this way; Evennia defines property wrappers for all the database fields. These are named the same as the field, but without the db_ part:

chair.key = "Table"

print chair.key
<<< Table

The key wrapper is not only shorter to write, it will make sure to save the field for you, and does so more efficiently by levering sql update mechanics under the hood. So whereas it is good to be aware that the field is named db_key you should use key as much as you can.

Each typeclass entity has some unique fields relevant to that type. But all also share the following fields (the wrapper name without db_ is given):

  • key (str): The main identifier for the entity, like “Rose”, “myscript” or “Paul”. name is an alias.
  • date_created (datetime): Time stamp when this object was created.
  • typeclass_path (str): A python path pointing to the location of this (type)class

There is one special field that doesn’t use the db_ prefix (it’s defined by Django):

  • id (int): the database id (database ref) of the object. This is an ever-increasing, unique integer. It can also be accessed as dbid (database ID) or pk (primary key). The dbref property returns the string form “#id”.

The typeclassed entity has several common handlers:

  • tags - the TagHandler that handles tagging. Use tags.add() , tags.get() etc.
  • locks - the LockHandler that manages access restrictions. Use locks.add(), locks.get() etc.
  • attributes - the AttributeHandler that manages Attributes on the object. Use attributes.add() etc.
  • db (DataBase) - a shortcut property to the AttributeHandler; allowing obj.db.attrname = value
  • nattributes - the Non-persistent AttributeHandler for attributes not saved in the database.
  • ndb (NotDataBase) - a shortcut property to the Non-peristent AttributeHandler. Allows obj.ndb.attrname = value

Each of the typeclassed entities then extend this list with their own properties. Go to the respective pages for Objects, Scripts, Players and Channels for more info. It’s also recommended that you explore the available entities using Evennia’s flat API to explore which properties and methods they have available.

Overloading hooks

The way to customize typeclasses is usually to overload hook methods on them. Hooks are methods that Evennia call in various situations. An example is the at_object_creation hook on Objects, which is only called once, the very first time this object is saved to the database. Other examples are the at_login hook of Players and the at_repeat hook of Scripts.

Querying for typeclasses

Most of the time you search for objects in the database by using convenience methods like the caller.search() of Commands or the search functions like evennia.search_objects.

You can however also query for them directly using Django’s query language. This makes use of a database manager that sits on all typeclasses, named objects. This manager holds methods that allow database searches against that particular type of object (this is the way Django normally works too). When using Django queries, you need to use the full field names (like db_key) to search:

matches = Furniture.objects.get(db_key="Chair")

It is important that this will only find objects inheriting directly from Furniture in your database. If there was a subclass of Furniture named Sitables you would not find any chairs derived from Sitables with this query (this is not a Django feature but special to Evennia). To find objects from subclasses Evennia instead makes the get_family and filter_family query methods available:

# search for all furnitures and subclasses of furnitures
# whose names starts with "Chair"
matches = Furniture.objects.filter_family(db_key__startswith="Chair")

To make sure to search, say, all Scripts regardless of typeclass, you need to query from the database model itself. So for Objects, this would be ObjectDB in the diagram above. Here’s an example for Scripts:

from evennia import ScriptDB
matches = ScriptDB.objects.filter(db_key__contains="Combat")

When querying from the database model parent you don’t need to use filter_family or get_family - you will always query all children on the database model.

Updating existing typeclass instances

If you already have created instances of Typeclasses, you can modify the Python code at any time - due to how Python inheritance works your changes will automatically be applied to all children once you have reloaded the server.

However, database-saved data, like db_* fields, Attributes, Tags etc, are not themselves embedded into the class and will not be updated automatically. This you need to manage yourself, by searching for all relevant objects and updating or adding the data:

# add a worth Attribute to all existing Furniture
for obj in Furniture.objects.all():
    # this will loop over all Furniture instances
    obj.db.worth = 100

A common use case is putting all Attributes in the at_*_creation hook of the entity, such as at_object_creation for Objects. This is called every time an object is created - and only then. This is usually what you want but it does mean already existing objects won’t get updated if you change the contents of at_object_creation later. You can fix this in a similar way as above (manually setting each Attribute) or with something like this:

# Re-run at_object_creation only on those objects not having the new Attribute
for obj in Furniture.objects.all():
    if not obj.db.worth:
        obj.at_object_creation()

The above examples can be run in the command prompt created by evennia shell. You could also run it all in-game using @py. That however requires you to put the code (including imports) as one single line using ; and list comprehensions, like this (ignore the line break, that’s only for readability in the wiki):

@py from typeclasses.furniture import Furniture;
[obj.at_object_creation() for obj in Furniture.objects.all() if not obj.db.worth]

It is recommended that you plan your game properly before starting to build, to avoid having to retroactively update objects more than necessary.

Swap typeclass

If you want to swap an already existing typeclass, there are two ways to do so: From in-game and via code. From inside the game you can use the default @typeclass command:

@typeclass objname = path.to.new.typeclass

There are two important switches to this command:

  • /reset - This will purge all existing Attributes on the object and re-run the creation hook (like at_object_creation for Objects). This assures you get an object which is purely of this new class.
  • /force - This is required if you are changing the class to be the same class the object already has - it’s a safety check to avoid user errors. This is usually used together with /reset to re-run the creation hook on an existing class.

In code you instead use the swap_typeclass method which you can find on all typeclassed entities:

obj_to_change.swap_typeclass(new_typeclass_path, clean_attributes=False,
                   run_start_hooks=True, no_default=True)

The arguments to this method are described in the API docs here.

How typeclasses actually work

This is considered an advanced section.

Technically, typeclasses are Django proxy models. The only database models that are “real” in the typeclass system (that is, are represented by actual tables in the database) are PlayerDB, ObjectDB, ScriptDB and ChannelDB (there are also Attributes and Tags but they are not typeclasses themselves). All the subclasses of them are “proxies”, extending them with Python code without actually modifying the database layout.

Evennia modifies Django’s proxy model in various ways to allow them to work without any boiler plate (for example you don’t need to set the Django “proxy” property in the model Meta subclass, Evennia handles this for you using metaclasses). Evennia also makes sure you can query subclasses as well as patches django to allow multiple inheritance from the same base class.

Caveats

Evennia uses the idmapper to cache its typeclasses (Django proxy models) in memory. The idmapper allows things like on-object handlers and properties to be stored on typeclass instances and to not get lost as long as the server is running (they will only be cleared on a Server reload). Django does not work like this by default; by default every time you search for an object in the database you’ll get a different instance of that object back and anything you stored on it that was not in the database would be lost. The bottom line is that Evennia’s Typeclass instances subside in memory a lot longer than vanilla Django model instance do.

There is one caveat to consider with this, and that relates to making your own models: Foreign relationships to typeclasses are cached by Django and that means that if you were to change an object in a foreign relationship via some other means than via that relationship, the object seeing the relationship may not reliably update but will still see its old cached version. Due to typeclasses staying so long in memory, stale caches of such relationships could be more visible than common in Django. See the closed issue #1098 and its comments for examples and solutions.