Direct support for internet play
When designing our new NetPlay capability, we wanted to achieve high levels of speed and flexibility, and we have succeeded on both counts.
The first step in using NetPlay is to establish a connection between two computers running DMB version 11. One owner (the "host") chooses a menu command to put his copy of the game in host mode, meaning that he is ready to accept a connection from the other owner. The other owner (the "remote" participant) chooses a menu command to initiate the connection, entering the hosts IP address to indicate which computer to contact. When the connection has been established, the participants can chat and/or start a game.
The host can (a) start an exhibition game, (b) start a league game, or (c) resume any game that was previously saved while in progress.
NOTE: The ability to restart a previously saved game is is an important safety net. Whenever you are using the internet for any purpose, you run the risk of losing a connection, and it would be very frustrating to have that happen in the middle of your game. Because DMB automatically saves the state of the game after each play and can resume a saved game from that point, you won't have to start over if your connection is dropped for any reason.
After the game has been started by the host, all of the necessary information about the teams, players, ballpark and other game elements is sent to the remote participant. This transfer is instantaneous on a local area network, very fast on a DSL line, and may take 20-30 seconds on a slower dial-up line.
This is the only time a large amount of information is transferred between the participants, so it's the only time you might need to wait a little while before proceeding.
During the remainder of the game, it's almost as if the other person is sitting right next to you, the response is so quick. (It's actually better than having the other person next to you, for reasons we'll get to in a moment.) That's because DMB is not sending large chunks of information, such as screen images, back and forth. Instead, it transmits only what it needs to keep the two copies in synch.
After the initial transfer of information, each participant is presented with the starting pitcher selection window. Both can interact with this window at the same time and in any way they like -- scrolling lists of pitchers, looking at player profiles, checking out the opposing team's roster of hitters, asking the computer manager to nominate a starter, and so on -- before choosing a starting pitcher and pressing OK.
That's because they aren't looking at the same screen image. They are working independently. When a pitcher is selected, the ID of that pitcher is sent to the other manager. It doesn't matter who finishes that process first; DMB knows when both pitchers have been selected and it's time to move on to the starting lineups.
After the starting lineups have been selected by both managers, the game window is displayed on both computers. This is another way in which the independent operation of the two copies of DMB is a big plus. It doesn't matter whether the two monitors are using the same resolution, the same color scheme, or the same play-by-play font. The two managers can even have different settings for the speed of the play-by-play messages.
During a game, the managers take turns making their decisions, just as they do when playing someone who is sitting right next to them. On each play, the offensive manager cannot choose tactics until after the pitching and defensive tactics have been received from the other manager. When baserunning and throwing decisions are needed during a play, each manager must wait until the other has made a decision.
But DMB doesn't impose any unnecessary limitations here, either. While trying to decide what to do, or while waiting for the other manager to make a decision, each manager can be sending a chat message, looking at the boxscore, flipping to the replay of the last event, or calling up a player profile. In other words, DMB won't let you get ahead of the other manager in the flow of the game, but it won't stop you from thinking and browsing independently, either.
After both managers have entered their tactics, the host's computer executes the play and sends the play-by-play commentary and a coded description of the event to the remote machine. The remote machine uses that information to update the state of the game and all relevant statistics. The result is that both managers have independent access to the stats and everything else about the game.
If time is short, the participants have the option to quick play a portion of the game. If one manager chooses a quick play command, the other is asked if he agrees, and if so, the game is autoplayed to that point. (NetPlay is fast, though, so you'll be able to use quick play when you want to, not because you have to.)
A few paragraphs ago, we said it was just like playing someone who is sitting next to you, only better. It's better because:
- both managers can interact with the game at the same time instead of sharing one mouse and one keyboard.
- in NetPlay mode, the other manager never sees your mouse cursor or your hands moving over the keyboard, so there's no way to know what tactics you chose for a play. (Other than the obvious ones such as making a substitution or bringing the infield in.)
- each participant can choose the fonts, colors and speed settings they prefer
After the game is over, the database is updated on the host's computer, and the participants have the option of playing another game during the same session.
One potential complication is the presence of a firewall. A firewall is a piece of software that runs on your computer or on the router that connects your internal network to the internet. The job of a firewall is to protect your computer and/or your internal network from intruders.
If you have a firewall installed, you may have trouble receiving connections from remote managers. In some cases, it may be necessary to adjust your firewall settings to allow NetPlay connections.
So far, we have had success connecting over our office LAN when both computers were behind the firewall, over a dial-up connection where no firewall was installed, over a DSL line with the firewall disabled before the session and then restored after the session, and over a DSL line where the firewall was left up but a specific port was opened to allow DMB traffic to get through.
It's quite possible that you won't be able to use NetPlay from your office if your company's network is protected by a firewall and your network staff won't permit a port to be opened for this purpose. In other situations, such as those where firewalls are not present or where you control the firewall settings, we expect you will have no trouble using our new NetPlay feature.
- Tags: NetPlay
- Jim Wheeler