A New Year's Letter from Zugg
What's in store for 1998?
Happy New Year!
1997 was the best year yet for zMUD. In the past year, almost
80% of zMUD has been rewritten from scratch building a new code base that is more flexible
and easier for me to extend into the new year. Just to recap the previous year, here
is how the major releases went:
||Rewrote the command and expression parsers
||Rewrote the data storage and screen paint routines to
make zMUD the fastest Windows MUD client
||Added the MUD Sound Protocol (MSP)
||Rewrote the entire user interface, startup screen,
character database, settings editor
||Rewrote the automapper
5.1x is still being finalized but is expected to be in public
release in a couple of weeks. In addition to the technical achievements, zMUD has
continued to capture the market share of PC/Windows MUD clients and the increased
registration rate allowed me to quit my day job and work full-time on Zugg Software last
September. I haven't regretted this decision so far, and the extra time will allow
me to continue to improve zMUD and add some great features in 1998. Thanks to all of
the registered users out there who helped to make this possible!
My goal is to make 1998 the "Year of the MUD"! Along
with many of you, I have tried new online RPGs such as Meridian, and more recently, Ultima
Online (UO). While UO in particular has some potential, it also suffers from many
problems which are well documented and I won't get into here. In my opinion, we need
at least a factor of ten in network connectivity (to the home) and in server speed before
such "all-graphics" games become really workable. In the meantime, myself
and many other players have still found good-old MUDs to be more fun. I believe that
there are several major properties of traditional MUDs that will keep them popular:
- "all-graphical" MUDs require Graphic Artists; Graphic
Artists cost money, so these commercial ventures must charge to play. Traditional
MUDs are usually free.
- Almost anyone can write excellent text-based room descriptions and
areas, so traditional MUDs can be extended by the players themselves. Commercial
MUDs are only extended by the paid programming and artist staff.
- Traditional MUDs have evolved over time and build upon past
experience. They already understand how to deal with pkilling, lag, monster
respawning, and a number of issues that commercial MUDs seem to be re-inventing.
- Traditional MUDs have lower requirements for network connectivity,
the client computer, and the server computers. "all-graphical" MUDs need
faster networks, faster servers, and higher-end client computer configurations.
Until graphical MUDs are common enough that they can be built easily
for free, and extended easily by other players, traditional MUDs will continue to offer a
rich gaming environment.
So, given all of the hype that graphical games such as Ultima Online
are receiving, how do we make this the "Year of the MUD"? Answer: provide
a richer gaming and authoring environment without sacrificing the advantages of text-based
MUDs and building upon the years of experience that MUDs have. Here are some
specific goals for zMUD in 1998 to address these issues:
- During the year you will see increased collaboration between Zugg
Software and various MUDs on the Internet. This will include more seamless hooks to
the MUD Connector database and integrated support for MUDs that want to push the
traditional MUD technology edge.
- MUD eXtension Protocol (MXP)
- This new client/server protocol will allow MUDs to customize zMUD
"on the fly". It will also provide an extension of the MUD Sound Protocol
to allow the MUD server to trigger the display of graphics in addition to sound, and more
powerful scripting to allow MUD servers to display custom dialogs for login, character
creation, item lists for stores, etc. While I only expect a small number of MUDs to
fully utilize MXP, those MUDs that do will be able to join zMUD in re-inventing the
traditional MUD and in providing true competition to the large, commercial graphical MUDs.
- HTML MUDding
- While HTML-based MUDs have been tried with clients such as Pueblo in
the past, no MUD client has ever had the market share that zMUD now enjoys. By
supporting a limited subset of the HTML 3.2 protocol, MUDs should be able to go far beyond
ANSI and VT100 in providing a richer display of MUD text. HTML should do for MUDding
what it did to the Web (anyone remember Gopher?).
- Integrated Database
- The planned equipment-database module has been talked about and
promised for a while now. This module has grown in scope and will now be as major an
addition to zMUD as the automapper was. The database is planned to be fully
customizable, to be useable as an equipment database, monster database, player database,
or anything else. It will be fully integrated with zMUD scripting, the
Automapper, and the new MXP features.
- Customer Support
- Of course, I will continue to maintain the high-level of customer
involvement and support that zMUD has been famous for. I will continue answering all
email within 48 hours (when I'm not out of town) and using customer feedback to drive the
new features in zMUD. All of the new features will be implemented the way *you* want
them. I will also involve MUD implementers directly in the development of the MXP
specification. Beta releases will be provided at least once a month. And, as
promised, registered users will get all of these new features in new versions of zMUD at
no additional cost.
- A final goal is to get an article or review in a major gaming or
computer magazine regarding the new HTML-based MXP MUDs. This will benefit both Zugg
Software, as well as those in charge of the premier MUDs that support these new protocols.
So, in summary, while 1997 was the "Year of the Rewrite",
1998 will be the "Year of New Features" and should greatly advance the
technology of traditional text-based MUDs. Until there is significant improvement in
connection bandwidth, text-based MUDs are here to stay. The goal of Zugg Software is
to continue improving the text-based MUD environment so that it continues to be the
richest online roleplaying experience available. I look forward to working with
everyone to make this dream a reality!
This page was last updated on July 24, 2001.