Sean Middleditch <>

Copyright (C) 2003,2004,2005,2006,2009 Sean Middleditch


Table of Contents


This document is a technical specification defining an extension to TELNET, defined in RFC854.

Advanced MUD features are in need of a protocol for sending messages between the client and server which are not part of the player viewed content. Several current protocols exist for this purpose, but each have flaws. A new solution is proposed to solve these problems.

The solution, ZMP, makes use of the existing TELNET capabilities to their fullest extent, simplifying implementation and ensuring maximum flexibility.

Please feel free to contact the author(s) of this document, and the ZMP specification with comments or suggestions. Keep the unconstructive flames and unrelated questions to yourself, please.

In the specification, several formatting styles are used. must and must not indicate required behavior for compliance. should and should not indicate suggested but non-required behavior for compliance. Words formatted as IAC represent bytes with a well-defined value a specified in RFC854. Text formatted as user data represents a series of US-ASCII encoded bytes, excluding the quotation marks.

ZMP Specification

ZMP is an extension building on RFC854. The actual messages are sent using the TELNET subnegotiation feature. This helps to meet the requirement for simplicity; the TELNET parsing and handling code should already be in most every server and client. Additionally, the safety requirement is handled here-in, as the IAC escaping should already be handled. As we're using the existing TELNET layer, which serves as the client/server connection, ZMP also satisfies the resource requirement.

The ZMP numeric TELNET code in decimal is 93. In hexadecimal it is 0x5D.

ZMP activation is handled using telnet negotiation. The server must begin negotiation, by sending IAC WILL ZMP. If a client supports ZMP, it must respond with IAC DO ZMP; otherwise, the client should send IAC DONT ZMP.

Once ZMP is successfully negotiated between the server and client, bidirectional ZMP support is enabled for both client and server. Once enabled, ZMP may not be disabled. The client must not begin ZMP negotiation; it may only respond to a server negotiation request.

A ZMP session corresponds to a telnet connection. Once ZMP is enabled, the ZMP session has begun, and persists until the telnet connection is closed.

A command is comprised of a command name and a list of parameters. Arguments are free-form; they have no type associated, and no structure associated. They are similar to the argv[] array found in the main() function in C/C++ programming.

Commands must be sent using a telnet subnegotiation with the ZMP telnet code. Implementations must be prepared to accept at least 16KiB (16384 bytes) of data per subnegotiation. Implementations should not attempt to send more than 16KiB of data per subnegotiation.

The data portion of the subnegotiation carries the command and parameters. The command must be sent first. The command must be followed by a NUL byte. (A byte of value 0.)

ZMP command names must be comprised of only ASCII alpha-numeric characters (letters and numbers), dots (.), and dashes(-). No other characters may be used. Commands must not begin or end with a dot (.).

Zero or more parameters may follow. An parameter must not contain a NUL byte, but may be comprised of any other byte values. Also note that as per the telnet standard, any IAC bytes must be escaped using the double IAC sequence. Each parameter must be followed by a single NUL byte. In most cases, parameters will be simple ASCII (or UTF-8) strings. Implementations must be prepared to accept an arbitrary number of parameters.

An example command sequence may look like: IAC SB ZMP my-command NUL parameter 1 NUL second parameter NUL IAC SE.

Commands may be sent from the server to the client, or the client to the server.

Commands must be sent in-order with other commands and the regular MUD data stream. For example, if the normal MUD data stream is placed in a buffer, ZMP commands must also be placed in the same buffer. If the sending end sends MUD data, a ZMP command, and then more MUD data, the receiving end must receive the data and ZMP command in that same order. This is required to allow ZMP to function in a markup style of operation.

In order to increase interoperability between the multitude of MUD servers and clients available, software implementing ZMP should make use of command packages, especially the core package.

Core Commands

There are several basic commands that most software using ZMP will want or need.

Software does not need to support any or all of these commands in order to use ZMP, or to be compliant with the ZMP specification. However, it is generally a very good idea to implement these. If nothing else, they will serve well to help test an implementation, and also function as learnng exercise on how to write custom packages and commands.

The command is a simple testing command. This command uses no parameters. When the command is received, the zmp.time command must be sent in response.


This command sends a single parameter: the date and time. The date and time used must be in UTC. The format must be YYYY-MM-SS HH:MM:SS. Example: 2003-07-02 12:20:34. (That's July 2nd of 2003, at 20 minutes and 34 seconds past hour 16, or 4pm.)


The zmp.ident command communicates the name and version of the software in use.

This command uses three parameters: (1) the name of the software (i.e., "MUD Client"), (2) the version of the software (i.e., "2.5 Beta"), and (3) a short and concise description of the software (i.e. "A graphical MUD client for Whiz OS.").

The zmp.ident command should be sent by both the client and the server once the ZMP session begins. The command must not be sent more than once per ZMP session. In particular, reception of the zmp.ident does not require any response command.

The zmp.ident command data is intended for branding and debugging purposes. Do not rely on the ident data to determine features supported by the softare. Instead, use the zmp.check command to check for required commands.


This command is used to check for support for a particular package or command on the other end. For example, if a server wishes to see if a connected client supports the org.sourcemud package, it would send a zmp.check command with the single parameter, "org.sourcemud.". For a package name, there must be a . (dot) appended. For commands, there must not be dot appended; simply use the command name.

When the zmp.check command is received, one of or must be sent back. If the asked for command or package is indeed supported, send an command with the package/command name as the sole parameter. Otherwise, send an command in return, with the package/command name in question as the sole parameter.

If the parameter of the zmp.check command ends with dot, the request is then for a package. The affirmative response must be sent if any command in the package or a sub-package is available. If a specific command is required, the command should be explicitly queried, not jus tits package.

The available commands and packages must not change after the ZMP session has begun. In particular, if a zmp.check command queries the presence of a command or package, and an affirmative response is sent in reply, the command or package may not be removed from the session.

The zmp.check command should only be sent once per ZMP session per parameter. That is, if the support of the org.sourcemud package is queried once, it will not appear or disappear later in the ZMP session, so it should not be queried for again.

This command is used only as a response to the zmp.check command.

This command is used only as a response to the zmp.check command.


The zmp.input command is to be sent from the client to the server only. The payload of this command is a single parameter, which is to be interpreted by the server as a user command, just as if the client had sent a normal line of text to the server.

The advantage of this command is that it allows embedded newline characters, which may be useful when sending blocks pre-formatted text.


The ZMP specification will help to build software that is capable of sending and receiving commands. However, this is of little use if the software does not understand the messages sent to it; a custom protocol may as well be used in that case.

Some existing protocols define the set of commands they support in the specification itself. While this guarantees that compliant software will be able to communicate meaningful messages, it can reduce the flexibility of the software. Both MXP and MCP allow custom messages to be defined. ZMP also allows this to be done.

The package system for ZMP is similar to the idea of namespaces found in popular programming languages, such as C++ and Java. Every command sent over ZMP should belong to a package. A package is simply a name, and a specification of the commands that are available in the package.

When a command is sent, it should be in the form package.command. For example, if sending a command named foo, in the package named bar, use the command name Packages may be broken down further; for example, a package may be named org.sourcemud.

Custom packages should be named based on a domain controlled by the author. For example, custom Source MUD commands should be in the org.sourcemud package, because the domain for Source MUD is Note that the domain components are reversed. This is very similar to the recommended way of naming Java namespaces.

Software should not add custom commands to packages published by other parties. I.e., if there is a package popular.mud defined by a third party, software should not add a new command to popular.mud. Custom commands should be defined in your.domain.

If there is no unique domain associated with the software, simply use a meaningful name related to the software, with x- prepended to that name. For example, if software called MUD Server requires a custom package, and MUD Server has no domain, the package name x-mud-server should be used. Any packages published for use by third parties should be in a domain-identified package. The x- package names should only be used internally by a project, such as between a server/client pair specifically written for each other.

The ZMP authors are eager to help the community define some standard packages. With more available standard packages, there can be more functionality across disparate MUD servers and clients. Standard packages are expected to be added for common MUD needs and codebases.

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License and Copying

This document is the copyrighted work of Sean Middleditch

Sean Middleditch offers limited rights to recipients of this document to distribute unmodified copies of the document in electronic form, print form, or any other medium. Implementations of the protocol described in this document are wholly owned by their creators, and the implementations are not derivative works of this document and they not subject to the terms of this license.

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