What's in store for 2001?
It's become a tradition for me to review the past year and to then give you a peek at what is coming in the next year. In working on this year's letter, I've noticed that I never wrote a letter last year! The year 2000 was a very hectic one, and last January I was still fresh from my wedding and honeymoon and wasn't thinking much about zMUD I guess (Bad Zugg). So, this year, I get to review the status of the past two years, and then speculate on the year 2001.
Not much happened with zMUD in 1999. With my (then) upcoming wedding being planned, I was kept pretty busy. In fact, other than some automapper improvements, most of 1999 was spend dealing with copy protection issues in zMUD. The registration code algorithm was changed in late 1998, and a Y2K bug in that algorithm was reported in early 1999. zMUD version 5.55 was released in June just in time to fix another time-related bug on July 1st. Then the wedding came in September and time seemed to accelerate.
The year 2000 was a much better one for zMUD. With my new wife leaving her regular job and joining Zugg Software full time doing email support, I was able to devote more of my time to programming. If you email zuggsoft these days, you'll usually get a reply from my wife Chiara, unless it's a technical question that she passes directly to me. This cut my email load by more than half, which was critical in getting more focused on programming.
In early 2000, serious work on zMUD v6.00 was started. The web site also got an overhaul as I switched from the ShareIt registration service company and started processing orders directly on the zuggsoft.com site using Cybercash. Then, in May, the tragic fire struck our town of Los Alamos. Fortunately, our home and business were spared, but over 400 families lost their homes to this terrible fire and even today, are still just getting started rebuilding. Most of these families still just have charred, empty lots and no homes built yet. We were only 2 blocks from the devastation and lucky to have come through intact. However, we still lost more than 2 weeks of work, and emotionally, zMUD wasn't my highest priority for a while after the fire.
Then, in the summertime I attended the annual Borland conference (zMUD is written using Delphi from Borland) and the annual Shareware Industry conference. Finally by late August I had time to focus on zMUD once again.
And focus I did. There was a new record for the number of zMUD versions released during the months of Sept, Oct, and Nov 2000. Hundreds of Beta testers helped me find and fix countless bugs in the new versions. Ambitious new features such as Window Docking proved to be very difficult to get working. But finally, in late Nov and early Dec, a stable, public version of zMUD (6.15) was released.
While v6.15 still has some bugs (no program is ever bug free), it has statistically fewer bugs than any other past version of zMUD! And as of today, there are 31,000 registered zMUD users!! Thanks to everyone who has continued to support zMUD!
The year 2000 also saw major changes in copy protection and licensing. The old version 5.55 had been out long enough that many hackers had figured out ways around the home-grown copy protection methods that I used, causing zMUD income to drop. Also, the copy protection became notorious for failing and causing customers to get dreaded Code 301 or Code 111 errors. In many cases, potential new customers were unable to get their full 30-execution trial. And yet, at the same time, I was spending a considerable amount of time working on the copy protection code instead of working on real features.
I finally decided, in late summertime, to use a commercial company for the zMUD licensing and copy protection. After a very extensive evaluation of several companies, I choice the eLicense solution from ViaTech. While the transition has been a bit bumpy, ViaTech has been great in their help and support of zMUD, and I no longer have to spend any of my own time on copy protection code. Customers now get a full 30-day trial and no longer get burned by the home-grown copy protection problems. True, eLicense comes with some issues of it's own, particularly the limit of 3 licenses and how these licenses can get lost because of reformatting your computer. However, eLicense is working on these issues are are improving the situation. Also, when someone finally cracks the eLicense system (which I'm sure they will eventually), I'll have a dedicated company working on fixing it, or taking legal action as necessary. Both things that I'd prefer not to work on myself. eLicense really saved Zugg Software this year and allowed me to focus on adding real features to zMUD instead of just messing with copy protection.
OK, so before looking ahead, let's look back at the predictions made in 1999 and see how I did. For 1999, the priorities were:
So, what happened that I did not predict? Well, instead of focusing on 2-year old predictions, I instead took a close look at the last zMUD Survey Results. Here are the items most requested in the survey results:
The rest of the items in the survey didn't get much attention, except that I did add MCCP (MUD Client Compression Protocol) support even though it didn't get a high response in the survey, and added COM scripting and plugin support (which is very cool).
So, overall, I'll give myself a D for zMUD work in 1999, but a B+ for zMUD work in 2000.
Here are my plans and predictions for 2001. This year, I'm going to be branching out with some other products and not just focusing entirely on zMUD. So, I'll provide a section for each product that I have plans for:
That's a very long list of projects, so it will be a busy year! Feel free to send me feedback/suggestions on any of these projects.
So there's a look at the year ahead. It's always hard to predict exactly what will happen. 1999 and 2000 certainly didn't go exactly as planned, but was still a great year for zMUD users. 2001 should be even better. Thanks again to all of the zMUD users out their that continue to support it, and to all of the people who have supported Shareware and registered their software.
This page was last updated on January 08, 2002.