Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Location: Colorado, USA
|Posted: Mon Jan 15, 2007 9:50 pm
New Year's Letter from Zugg (Plans for 2007)
Happy New Year!
It's traditional for me to review the past year at Zugg Software and give you a preview of what's coming for the next year. So, let's first look back on 2006:
Zugg Software in 2006 - CMUD
Last year, I promised to release a new MUD client called CMUD (Chiara's MUD Client) and I finally delivered the first public version in December. Except for the fact that it took twice as long as I expected, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, and the response from customers has been very positive.
If you haven't tried CMUD yet, I encourage you to download the 30-day trial. While it still has some problems, I think it gives a good look at the direction I'm going with CMUD.
During the entire past year I wrestled with compromises between maintaining zMUD compatibility vs fixing problems with zMUD and adding new features. With new features like the script compiler, local variables (which are very fast), named arguments, etc, the hard-core programmers are already learning how CMUD can be better and faster than zMUD. New users seem to appreciate the improved visual user interface, themes, and fly-out windows.
After trying CMUD, most people quickly see how much better than zMUD it can be and how restrictive zMUD was in many situations. Many people have already told me that they just can't use zMUD after using CMUD. Very few of the improvements made in CMUD were possible in zMUD because of zMUD's roots with Windows 95. And while it was a *lot* more work to write CMUD from scratch than to simply "port" zMUD, I think all of the hard work has paid off.
But I paid a price for this hard work. Chiara and I agreed last year that we would need to focus all of our energy on Zugg Software work. But the many many weeks of very long and frustrating programming hours nearly killed me. Just look at the Version History for CMUD and you will see the remarkable number of beta versions released in November and December before the first public release. I felt that it was very important to get the first public version of CMUD released before the end of the year, but it took more out of me than I expected.
And while I'm still waiting for sales to continue to improve, I consider 2006 a successful year for Zugg Software. The objective was to re-focus Zugg Software back on our MUD client roots, and I have definitely done that.
The Future of Zugg Software in 2007
Now that Zugg Software is focused back on MUD clients, the plan for 2007 is to continue improving CMUD so that it fulfills the vision as the best MUD client available.
Here are the key items I'll be working on this year (in no particular order):
- SSH Support
- As promised last year, I want to add SSH support to CMUD. The SSH support will be available as a separate (paid) plugin for CMUD. I'll also release a business version called TeSSH which will take CMUD, remove the MUD-specific features (like the mapper) but add SSH support and SFTP support. The SFTP and SSH support will be tightly integrated to provide some nice features that are not available in any other Telnet/SSH client.
- zApp Scriptable Forms
- When I wrote zApp, I developed my own Microsoft Scripting Host component that allowed for better multi-language scripting support. I will be adding this component to CMUD. This will allow better mixing of multiple scripting languages, and will also allow new scriptable "forms", which will be like the ZML forms used in zApp. These scriptable forms will be integrated with MXP to provide the capabilities for better customized integration with MUD servers.
- Improved CMUD Mapper
- To expedite the release of CMUD, I simply ported the Mapper module from zMUD. This clearly shows when you use the mapper in CMUD. The mapper needs to be better integrated with the new CMUD user interface. Also, I want to replace the buggy ADO/MDAC database format used in the mapper with the newer SQL database format used elsewhere in CMUD. At the same time I have many ideas for improving the mapper. A new version of zMapper (probably called CMapper) will also be released to work directly with CMUD.
- New Database module for CMUD
- As with the mapper, the database module in CMUD was simply ported from zMUD. The Database module from zMUD is not a "real" database. I want to completely rewrite the Database module to use actual SQL database code. At the same time, I'll be releasing a new standalone database program (name to be determined). This will work a lot like the zMapper plugin. The normal database module will work with normal SQL databases, but if CMUD detects that you have the standalone database program installed, then it will expand the database capabilities within CMUD. With this enhanced database module you will be able to access almost *any* type of database from your scripts.
- Chat Module
- Chatting between players is a big part of MUD playing. And while zChat was useful to some people, there are a lot of improvements that can be made in it. These chat features will be built directly into CMUD. I also plan to research the current chat protocols being used on the Internet to determine what chat standards might be supported within CMUD.
- Continuous Improvements
- Throughout the entire year I will continue to improve many other features in CMUD and add other new features. You'll see a new trigger testing module, improved script editor, improved COM interface, improved Unicode support, and much much more.
I'm not going to make any promises or predictions for release dates this year. Release dates in 2006 caused me a lot of trouble. Not only did I still not meet the release dates, but these dates simply increased my stress, forced me to work crazy hours, and resulted in worse code.
In 2007 I'm going back to the way that I worked with zMUD many years ago. I'm just going to release something when it's ready. There will still be Beta versions and Beta Testing, but I'm not going to kill myself trying to meet a specific date. Instead, I'm going to spend more time testing the software myself and work with less stress in my life.
Stress was a big problem for me in 2006. I pushed myself mentally and physically "over the edge" several times. And this doesn't help anybody. Last year I really needed to release *something*. And while the crazy hours towards the end of the beta period helped produce a reasonable public version, it's not a sustainable work schedule. This year I want to focus more on *quality* and not schedules.
So will I get all of the above features done in 2007? Probably not. I'm guessing that you will see a similar list of projects for several years. However, you should at least see reasonable starts to all of the above projects. I have a *lot* of ideas, and I know that many other customers have lots of ideas. And that's a good thing. I want to keep CMUD focused on what MUD players want, and that's my focus for Zugg Software this year and for many years in the future.
Thanks to everyone who supported CMUD last year, and especially to all of those active beta testers who stuck with me during all of the crazy beta releases to try and make CMUD a better product.
Last year I proved that I could return our focus to MUD clients and make significant improvements. Now it's time to refine those improvements and to continue making new improvements to CMUD. As many people have discovered, playing MUDs can be significantly more fun with a really good MUD client, and I want CMUD to be the best MUD client possible.
But it's our customers that really make this possible. I'm sure I can keep myself busy for years programming all sorts of obscure new features for CMUD. But I'd rather spend my time implementing the features that *you* want. So be sure to participate in the CMUD Discussion Forum, or send me email telling me what you want to see improved in CMUD. While I can't promise to implement everything that I receive, the more feedback that I get, the better chance I have to focus my resources on the features and problems that matter the most to the largest group of customers.
Our web motto at the top of the page says "Customer-driven Internet solutions" and I really mean that. zMUD was driven by customer feedback for many years. With the more sustainable business model and modern code in CMUD, I should be able to do even better in the future.
Finally, huge thanks to my wife Chiara for all of her support and inspiration. Chiara put up with a lot this past year. But without her support, CMUD would have never happened. This year we will continue our low-carb lifestyle, exercise even more, and reduce our stress so that we can keep providing quality MUD software for many years to come.
New Year's letter from 2006
New Year's letter from 2005
New Year's letter from 2004
New Year's letter from 2003
New Year's letter from 2002
New Year's letter from 2001
New Year's letter from 1999
New Year's letter from 1998
Survey results from 1999