Important: Should Circle switch to ASCII playerfiles?

From: Jeremy Elson (
Date: 04/23/95

Before anyone gets too deeply into discussion of how to convert playerfiles,
for use with other UNIX systems, I may as well bring up an idea I've been
thinking seriously about for the past couple of weeks: switching Circle
over to using ASCII-based playerfiles.

Why?  Well, first, I'll tell you the reason I've wanted to stick with binary
files in the past:

-They take up less space (1K per player vs. 4K per player, or whatever the
min blocksize of your filesystem is.)  I found that less than 25% of players
have rentfiles in practice, so a binary file saved space.

-They're faster.

But, both of these are becoming moot points.  Computers are getting faster,
bigger, and cheaper, and people are correctly valuing their *own* time,
which is becoming rarer and more valuable, over the computer's time, which
is getting more abundant and cheaper.

The advantages of ASCII files should be obvious to anyone: they're easier
to use.  They can be easily edited and viewed without special utilties.
They are portable between systems and even between MUDs.  New features can
be added without problems of corruption.  Etc.

I was faced with this problem most recently when inventing the plrtext
(Player Text) system for saving players' textual data: poofins, poofouts,
saved aliases, etc.  This would increase the number of places where player
data is stored to 3 (playerfile, rentfile, playertext file), most likely
blowing away the space savings of the binary file paradigm, which as I
mentioned before isn't even an important point anyway.

I cannot in good conscience make such a dramatic increase in the complexity
of the CircleMUD system when a much better solution is staring me in the
face: switch over to a paradigm of ASCII playerfiles, and consolidate
all data there.  On a similar, related note, the Mail and Board systems
will probably also switch over to being ASCII-based -- simple text files
always win over unreadable binary files.

Comments are welcome.  I haven't come to a firm decision on this yet, and
although I'm heavily inclined to make the switch, I'd be willing to stay
with binary if there's serious opposition.

Serious comments only please.  All flames will be happily ignored.

--Jeremy Elson

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