A New Year's Letter from Zugg

What's in store for 2003?

Happy New Year!

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.  A lot has been accomplished in 2002, and there should be more surprises in store for 2003.  First, a look back:

Zugg Software in 2002

Here is a quote from last year's New Years letter where I described what was planned for 2002:

The main focus in zMUD development this year will be the automapper, stability, and speed.  After the current set of bugs in v6.24 are fixed, the file format for the mapper will be completely changed to a real database format.  This will allow for much larger maps, faster and more reliable speedwalking, and a host of new features.  Some of these new features will require the new Mapper addon, described below, but there will be plenty of new mapper features for existing zMUD users as well.  Expect to see the changes to the mapper in Feb-Apr 2002.
Mapper program:
This was hinted at last year in my 2001 New Year's letter, but with the success of AC Explorer, the scope and magnitude of this project has increased.  This will be a major new product for Zugg Software.  While it will work with zMUD as a plugin and enhance the zMUD maps, it will also be useful for anyone who enjoys online role-playing games, whether they are MUD games or graphical online games.  Just as AC Explorer was a separate product, so will the new Mapper be a separate product.  Pricing has not been determined yet, and it's still possible that existing zMUD and AC Explorer users might get a discount on early versions of the new Mapper.  Expect to see more details and initial beta versions in Mar-May 2002, with continued work and major enhancements throughout the coming year.
AC Explorer
AC Explorer will still continue to be fully supported.  As Microsoft and Turbine make monthly changes to Asheron's Call, AC Explorer will be updated to continue functioning.  The new Mapper program will also be compatible with new AC Explorer versions, so expect to see the same sort of excitement with the Mapper and AC Explorer as you do with the Mapper and zMUD.

Wow! I accomplished every one of the goals stated in last years letter (I think this is the first year that has happened!).  2002 saw the release of the first public version of zMUD in over 2 years!  Based upon the large amount of email feedback I received during the holidays, v6.40 is the fastest and most stable version of zMUD to date.  There have been some problems with older ADO/MDAC Microsoft system software on some people's computers that can cause the new mapper to be slow, but for people with updated operating systems, the new mapper really is faster than the old one and provides much more flexibility.

The zMapper program, while still in Beta stages, already allows for a great deal of customization of zMUD maps.  Also, zMapper has been used to create the maps of Asheron's Call and Asheron's Call 2 that are used in the new zExplorer product, a free upgrade to previous AC Explorer users.

Of course, zMUD didn't stop with just mapper improvements.  VBScript/JScript capabilities were added to zMUD, and the speed of zMUD, for both text scrolling and script execution was improved dramatically.  Support for SOCKS5 proxy servers, additional telnet options, and LPmud support was also added.  And many many bugs from the previous versions of zMUD (yes, even the 6.16 public version had lots of bugs) were fixed, making v6.40 very stable. 

In terms of sales, as of today, there are now over 42,000 registered zMUD users, 7,100 registered AC Explorer/zExplorer users, and 300 registered zMapper users!!  Thanks to everyone who has continued to support Zugg Software products!

What's coming in 2003?

Here are some of the surprises in store for customers in 2003:

Full Simutronics game support in zMUD:
Users of Simutronics games such as Gemstone and Dragonrealms have been using zMUD for years.  However, using zMUD for these games has been quite difficult.  In particular, the login sequence requires a complex script or external helper program, and zMUD does not parse the GSL commands sent by the game.  All of that is changing in early 2003.  By February 1st, 2003, you will see a version of zMUD that fully supports Simutronics games directly.

These additions to zMUD are being done with the full cooperation of Simutronics.  Zugg Software entered into a contractual agreement with Simutronics in December 2002 in order to provide the needed documentation to allow zMUD to support the Simutronics game protocols.  A cross-advertising agreement was signed to allow zMUD to advertise Simutronics games and to allow Simutronics to advertise zMUD.  This should be a win-win agreement with both companies, with the consumer being the ultimate winner.  Now game players will be able to use the best MUD client to play the best MUD games.
One side effect of the Simutronics support will be the ability of zMUD to display inline graphical images.  In Simutronics games, these images are used for player portraits.  In zMUD, these images will be implemented using the MXP <IMAGE> tag.  So, even non-Simutronics MUD games will be able to display custom graphics within the zMUD client window.
Other zMUD features
Here is a list of other features that you are likely to see implemented soon: better built-in editor support, MCP support for text editing, FTP support on command line and in editor.
Once the Simutronics support has been finished in zMUD, the remainder of the year will be devoted to improvements in the zExplorer and zMapper products.  First, with zExplorer, support for all of the other major online MMORPGs will be added.  First on the list will be support for Star Wars Galaxies, Earth & Beyond, and Dark Age of Camelot.  As other online games are released, maps for them will be added later in the year.

Public-domain server script code will also be released in the late Spring to allow anyone to set up their own map servers.  Guilds will be able to set up their own map databases so that information discovered in the game by their members remained restricted to their membership.  Or, other players can opt to host their own public map database servers to benefit the entire gaming community.  The initial script code will be provided in ASP format written for the MS SQL database engine.  But I'm sure it won't be long before other players have converted these scripts to other languages and databases.

Later in the year, all of the features originally implemented in AC Explorer Pro, such as terrain-sensitive path finding, and real-time tracking, will be added to zExplorer.  At that time, the AC Explorer Pro product will be discontinued and customers will be expected to run the zExplorer software instead.  zExplorer will continue to work as a free upgrade for existing AC Explorer Pro customers.
In order to implement the features needed in zExplorer for some of the online games, many new features will need to be added to zMapper.  So, as zExplorer evolves during the year, you will see new releases of zMapper.  Public versions of both products are expected before summertime.

Other than the specific features needed to support zExplorer, the other features to be added to zMapper really depend mostly on customer feedback.  The zMapper has a lot of potential and can be expanded in a number of directions.  It will be impossible to add everything all at once, so new functionality will be added incrementally, based upon customer suggestions.  zMapper is really a multi-year project and we are just at the very beginning.  How it evolves is really up to you.

It's going to be a fun year.  The challenge this year will be balancing the multiple products available from Zugg Software and trying to make all customers as happy as possible.  As always, I'm committed to providing high quality software at a low price, and keeping upgrades free forever.  Customers who have been living this promise for the last 7 years with zMUD know that I keep my promises.  While other MUD clients have come and gone over the years, zMUD is the still the market leader with ten-times the sales of it's competitors, and with unmatched customer support.  2003 will continue with that tradition and will reach out to new customers who have never even played a MUD before.

Finally, I'd like to thank some people who have helped so much in the past year.  First, my wife Chiara, who handles most of the customer support email, leaving me more time to program.  Without her, you probably wouldn't have gotten a new public version of zMUD this past year.  Next, I want to thank all of the zMUD Gurus that help with the Discussion Forums on the web site.  I rely on these volunteers to help answer questions.  Many of these Gurus know more about zMUD programming that even I do!  Finally, I'd like to thank all of the customers who have supported Zugg Software over the years.  Even though upgrades are free, there are many people who continue to buy additional registration codes just to support my efforts.  This kind of positive support and feedback is a pleasure to see in a world that seems to be getting worse every day.

In this unstable, real world that we live, I hope that the software from Zugg Software continues to make your escape into the various virtual worlds of online gaming more pleasurable.



This page was last updated on January 07, 2003.