History: Z-Net 0.10 - 1.41 (2003-2004)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Z-Net is my first foray into coding/scripting, other then HTML for a couple websites. I started developing it in December of 2003. It's written in the mIRC scripting language, so it requires mIRC to use it. I was learning scripting as I was making it, and as such it had a lot of bugs in it, and a generally sloppy or not well thought out design.

The aim of the project was to make finding and launching IP-to-IP netplay games with the SNES emulator ZSNES easier, and to fill the void left by the comparable program zbattle after it's server was down for many months with little to no sign of returning. I felt zbattle lacked a lot, such as features and community, and strove to not only make it as good, but make it better and give all those players without a way to play quick easy games a new home. Sadly for the project, the wind got knocked out of it's sails by the return of the zbattle servers after I was mostly done with it in early 2004. Due to mostly being done, and the advancements I made in Z-Net over zbattle, I decided to continue development.

Late in February 2004 Z-Net had it's first official release as "Z-Net 1.0". The project gained several loyal users, but failed to grab more then 25% of the type of users interested in this type of project. In part due to the strange design of the Z-Net interface, bugs, slightly complicated installation, peoples strange misguided aversion to mIRC, and stability/relative ease of use of zbattle. I continued to try and refine the complexity and messiness of the interface more, as well as offer some simpler installation methods, while also adding more features. Eventually I changed the core of the code around a bit, and found users seemed to prefer a new "Quick Launch" option I introduced, that while quick and easy, lacked features and bypassed the bulk of the interface completely. I then came to realize my failure of the project and it's grim future. Looking back, I'd have to say my blunder was that I designed Z-Net to be easy for me to use, rather then looking at it from other peoples view and designing it for them. Combined with just my inexperience with designing such projects when I started. Z-Net's script grew to large to just not use what I've already written, so I turned a blind eye to any remaining issues with it's design and kept plowing forward thinking adding more bells and whistles will solve everything. I can now easily say it didn't, and by v1.41 I started accepting some of the issues.

I started working on several other side projects, mainly Super Mario Kart hacks, Z-Band, and more notably a complete redesign of Z-Net itself. The complete redesign was something I kept quite about, and in part due to that, I ended up losing interest in the Z-Net project completely. The other part being that it became glaringly apparent that Z-Net's "open source" release format as it were, was very troubling in terms of theft and users being able to tinker with the script and possibly impair theirs and other users ability to play. The mIRC scripting format offers no form of compiled binary, so Z-Net being left as being developed as a mIRC script started seeming like a serious issue. I realized that it would be a great help to learn more C++ to continue the project, and started doing so with plans to make a complete "stand alone" client that offered all features of the mIRC script and chat interface similar to mIRC itself, but as a compiled binary not involving mIRC at all.

Learning went fast for me, but not fast enough. My plans exceeded my experience, and despite taking shortcuts using source I found available on the internet (of which I think was licensed), I was just in over my head.

Convinced that a complete rewrite, and one in C++ was the only viable option to continue the project, the project hit a dead end and I lost interest completely.

Downloads: (this outdated version is given only for posterity. Its not recommended to be used, and instead if you have to use the 2.0 version)

Z-Net 1.41


(I don't have any full sized screenshots on hand, but their un-needed. The dialog window pictured in these skin screenshots was basicly Z-Net itself, with a standard mIRC window in the background.)