BYOND (Build Your Own Net Dream) is a free software suite for creating and playing online games. Initially launched in 1996 as DUNG (Dantom's Universal Network Game) by Dantom, a company formed by Dan Bradley and Tom Hehre, it has since been rebranded as BYOND.
BYOND provides users with a set of tools for creating online games with its pre-built network structure, GUI, sprite animator, map editor, code editor, dedicated server tools, game hub listing, scoreboards, achievements, and cross-game account support. Although geared towards RPG style gameplay, it is highly extensible and has been proven to work well with other genres and non-game computer utilities. Registration to the website is optional, with it users are provided with a "key" which acts as a unique identifier accross all BYOND games. Keys are stored canonically to prevent two users from having names that are only different by non-alphabetical symbols or spaces. Users are able to subscribe for exclusive member perks such as access to a IM system using their keys, a blog, file hosting, a forum avatar, and access to in-game bonuses for BYOND subscribers only.
BYOND games are played using DreamSeeker, an application used to run compiled BYOND projects. Some games support Telnet access or are even playable through a web browser. Developers are also able to package their games as executables, allowing them to run on computers which don't have BYOND installed.
Players log into games using their registered BYOND account. Those who do not wish to register are provided with a "guest" account. Single-player games may avoid the use of BYOND accounts entirely while multiplayer games make the use of them manditory for authentication purposes. It's up to the individual game developers to decide how they should use them.
The BYOND website features a "hub" which acts as an online game directory. Users are able to search for a particular genre, sorting games based on popularity or how many players are currently connected to live servers. Each game is provided with a "hub page" which stores game info, game files, screenshots, comments, and a live server listing. Users are able to launch the game and connect to live servers directly from the server listing on a game's hub page.
Four main programs comprise the BYOND software suite:
- DreamSeeker is the BYOND client software used for playing games. It's also possible to host the game it's running locally.
- DreamMaker is BYOND's native IDE for the "DM" language and is used to create and compile games. It includes an editor with syntax highlighting, debugging tools, an indexed and searchable reference, a tile-based map editor, and a sprite editor.
- DreamDaemon is used for dedicated server hosting. It is an ideal tool for hosting BYOND games, since it is compatible with Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, UNIX, and BSD operating systems.
- The Pager is used for account authentication, players must have it active in order to use their BYOND account with DreamSeeker. It also acts as an IM client for messaging between BYOND accounts, installed game listing, and a streamlined hub search.
The DM Language
BYOND games are created using the unique "DM" programming language. DM has roots in C, but is also syntactically similar to Python in its use of white space. DM programs are compiled to bytecode.
The "Hello World" example in DM:
mob Login() ..() world << "Hello world!"
While BYOND is used primarily for games that run using it's Dream Seeker client, a webserver with BYOND installed can also make use of its integrated CGI capabilities. DMCGI can be used for a variety of things from browser based games to dynamic web content.
DMCGI is especially powerful because it can easily interact with live BYOND worlds. The ease with which developers can export data such as frags, server uptime, and game statistics is one of the most attractive aspects of DMCGI. DMCGI can also make use of the BYOND Key system with its built-in authentication system. The developer is given the choice between classic methods of authentication or BYOND's own secure method, cutting yet more time out of development. All that users have to do is provide their BYOND key and password to Dantom's secure server and they are securely logged in.
Originally sold as a separate book as the "Blue Book", the DM Guide to programming in BYOND is now also available online and is a good learning tool to the language and its abilities.BYOND user John Rey has made several tutorials that explain the basics of DM very well.