One of the most interesting features of the Post T and Stellwerk simulation series is the ability for a player to host a multiplayer dispatching session, that is, other players on different computers are all able to dispatch simultaneously within the same simulation. Dispatching information is sent between players via a computer network, either a local area network (LAN) like you’ll find in your home and workplace, or via the Internet.
A player initiating a session is called a server operator. A player wanting to join a session uses the client computer application to connect to the server. Only the server operator needs to have purchased Post T or Stellwerk simulation.
The client application (Post T MultiPlayer) is free.
- Multiplayer version 2 is to be used with Braunschweig Hbf, Gelsenkirchen Hbf, Hengelo and Amsterdam CS.
- Multiplayer version 3 is to be used with any other Stellwerk Simulation.
Note: Not all simulations can be played with multiplayer.
Connecting to a server is usually easy; setting up a server often requires some configuration. This document aims to help you to set up a multiplayer server.
The multiplayer system within the dispatching simulation adds some computational overhead; it is disabled by default. In order to access the MultiPlayer controls from within the simulation, the multiplayer option needs to be enabled. To enable the MultiPlayer system, navigate to the Dispatcher Center in the Settings menu, and ensure that the checkbox is checked
When MultiPlayer is enabled, the Dispatcher Center menu item is available during a simulation.
Things to Know and Do Before Starting
When one computer sends data to another computer via a network, the data is usually sent from, and to, specified ports. Network ports aren’t like physical ports you find at the back of your computer for connecting monitors and keyboards – network ports are “software addresses” that allow computer programs to be specific about where in the target machine the data is to be sent.
If you’re surfing the web with a browser, while simultaneously chatting using an instant messaging application, web data is sent to a different port than the data coming in from the person you’re chatting with.
Post T / Stellwerk simulation series expects data to arrive via a specific port – you can specify which port to use, but by default, port 55386 is used.
Post T / Stellwerk simulations use port 55386 by default for incoming traffic.
The router in a typical LAN acts as a gateway between computers in that LAN, and other machines outside of the LAN. Normally, requests for data from outside a LAN are rejected by the router for security purposes.
In order to instruct the router that traffic destined for Post T / Stellwerk simulation should be allowed, port forwarding must be turned on. In simple terms, the router must be told to allow traffic destined for a specific port (in this case, 55386) to be forwarded to your specific IP address.
Consult your router’s manual, or visit PortForward.Com to see if your router is listed. For convenience, sample port forwarding is shown below:
The simulation strictly uses TCP for all multiplayer traffic. The computer to which data is forwarded is specified by an IP address. It is recommended that your computer’s LAN IP address be static – consult your operating system’s manual to learn how to configure your machine to use a static IP. Refer to the Section Other Helpful Resources for some online resources that will help you set up a static IP and port forwarding.
Computers often, and frankly, should, have firewalls installed and configured to provide additional network security. If you are using a firewall on your computer, ensure that the port you are using (typically, 55386) is open. If it is not, you’ll discover that no one will be able to connect to you.
Some firewalls can detect when an application needs a port opened, and will kindly ask your permission to open the port. Consult the manual for your firewall to add an entry.
Starting a MultiPlayer Session
After starting a new simulation, the Dispatcher Center menu item should be visible. (If it is not, enable the MultiPlayer system as explained in Section Enabling Multiplayer of this document.) From the Dispatcher Center menu, choose Begin. The following window will be shown:
Your name and the name of your server (Dispatcher Center Name) are filled automatically. In the example, the names have been changed from their defaults.
You may not wish to use your real name, but choose a name for yourself and your server that are unique and descriptive. Your name cannot contain any unusual characters or spaces – think of it as a username. Your server name, however, can contain spaces and punctuation.
Only specify a password if you want to restrict who can access your server. If you specify a password, you will need to give that password to the players with which you want to dispatch.
At the bottom of the window are some advanced options. When running a public server, take care to limit the number of players, as each additional player puts a strain on your network connection and will reduce the quality of the simulation experience for all involved.
There are three tabs in the middle – Dispatcher Center, Local (LAN) Server and Expert Server. Each of these requires some explanation.
Assuming there are no port‐forwarding or firewall issues, setting up a Dispatcher Center is the easiest and fastest way to get other people involved in your simulation. When a Dispatcher Center is initiated, your information is temporarily submitted to the Internet. As such, your simulation is publicly available for others to join in. This process does not require you to “sign up” or “log in” at all. If you end the multiplayer session or quit the simulation completely, the information about your Dispatcher Center is removed. When a person wants to find a Dispatcher Center to join, they will see your Dispatcher Center in the list:
Here, they are able to filter out Dispatcher Centers they do not want, based on language, passwords, number of people already playing, etc. They key benefit of starting a Dispatcher Center is that you do not need to manually distribute your connection information (the information others need to connect to you). This way, you can find anonymous players looking to join in. The drawback here, obviously, is that you have less control over who can join and who cannot.
- 1. Click Setup Dispatcher Center
- 2. When prompted, press Start!
You might notice a user connecting almost immediately – you should see the yellow icon in the status bar turn green with a “1” displayed. This is not a real player! This is simply the program’s method of verifying that your port is forwarded and there are no firewall issues. If you do have a problem with your settings, a message box will appear to inform you that you cannot continue being publicly listed. Your Dispatcher Center will continue, but no one on the Internet will be able to connect to you, even if they attempt to do so manually.
Local (LAN) Server
For individuals wanting to dispatch in the same room or the same building, running a LAN server is the best choice. Typically, port forwarding does not need to be configured when running a LAN server.
Additionally, the delay experienced between computers is far less than when computers are separated geographically (the Internet).
To facilitate sharing of connection information, the server’s IP address and port number are converted to a 10‐digit uppercase alphabetic code. This code is called a server code. It is simply an easy way to tell someone how to connect to your machine.
- 1. Click Setup Local (LAN) Server
- 2. (Optional) If prompted to click Start!, press Copy Code to Clipboard
- 3. Press Start!
Step 2 is optional, although it is the easiest way for you to share your connection information with potential players.
If you forget to copy the server code, or need to access it again for players arriving later, you can access the server code from within the Status window: Dispatcher Center > Status.
An expert server is similar to a LAN server, except that you can explicitly choose an IP address and a port. Unlike the LAN server option, you can query your WAN (Internet) address so that people can connect to you via the Internet, without you having to list your Dispatcher Center information publicly.
In this case, a server code is also provided, and can be used in clients to connect easily.
- 1. (Optional) Edit port number (only if needed, otherwise leave it alone)
- 2. Click Query IP Address.
- 3. The dialog will help you select the IP address you want to use. If you want to use your WAN address, first click Detect. Otherwise, choose a LAN address (in rare cases there may be several.)
- 4. When satisfied with your choice, press Use.
- 5. (Optional) Press either of the clipboard buttons to copy information to the clipboard.
- 6. Press Start!
If you decide to change the port number on in the Expert Server tab, know that this new port number will be used for all subsequent Dispatcher Center and LAN servers. Only change this number if you know what you are doing and have a reason to change it.
Managing a Session
There are a few tools available that will assist in the management of a MultiPlayer session. Knowing what they are and how to use them will make for a better experience.
There is an icon that will appear in the status bar whenever a MultiPlayer session is active. Below are the different states the icon can take:
It’s possible for port forwarding to be disabled, and LAN players might still connect. As such, port forwarding issues are not considered errors, although they certainly can make it difficult for people to connect to you.
When the session has ended, the icon will disappear.
When a session is running, access the window via Dispatcher Center > Status. Each connected player, their IP address and ping is listed.
If a player is being unruly, select the player is press Kick. This causes the player to disconnect from the session. The player can re‐connect, but hopefully the player will play by the rules. In the event that a player is being extremely rude or is causing severe problems, that player can be removed permanently.
This is done by selecting the name and pressing Ban. This should only be done as a last resort. Note that if the player changes his IP address, he will be able to re‐join. If a person is persistent in being disruptive, and banning has failed, consider using a password.
The chat window Dispatcher Center > Chat is a very simple instant messaging system. Anything you type here will be visible to all current players in the session. Players joining a session cannot see what was said before joining.
The chat window is no substitute for oral communication – serious players will want to use a VoIP application.
Ending a Session
When no more dispatching is desired, end the session via Dispatcher Center > End. Any remaining players will automatically be kicked out of the simulation. Be kind, and inform the players before ending the session. If ending a simulation, or exiting the simulation programm completely, the MultiPlayer session is obviously ended as well. Be aware that ending a public Dispatcher Center may take a few seconds longer, as the system needs to remove itself from the public listing.
How to Be a Great Operator
Having a fast Internet connection and a powerful computer are obvious prerequisites for being a great operator. Simply starting a session and letting it run without interacting with the simulation or other players, however, will make it difficult for players to dispatch well.
In a MultiPlayer session, players can view the Train Overview, the Timetable Viewer (which includes a listing of movement orders), and engineering works. Players can interact with the drivers, neighbours, switch greasers and engineering workers via the communication system. Players can issue railroad crossing written orders but they cannot issue movement orders. Players cannot view or interact with the catenary system nor can they view or interact with the platform information devices. As an operator, it is your responsibility to
- a) Delegate tasks to each player.
- b) Manage tasks that players cannot manage themselves.
- c) Where possible, politely assist players in making better dispatching choices
- d) Have Fun!
Familiarise yourself with the client application so that you understand the limitations players must deal with. Print out the timetable and read the main dispatching manual that comes with Post T / Stellwerk simulation so that you can anticipate dispatching challenges –whether you choose to deal with them or let the players handle them is up to you!
client : A software application that requests information from a server and does something meaningful with responses from the server.
Dispatcher Center : A server running within Post T Hengelo that allows clients to interact with the simulation. More specifically, this refers to the central listing of the server on the Internet, allowing clients to “find” the server.
firewall : A software application that filters bad or possibly bad network traffic.
LAN : Local area network. This type of network is typically found in a home, school, or business.
MultiPlayer : The name used to indicate the mode in which Post T Hengelo accepts requests for data from clients.
ping : In the context of Post T Hengelo’s MultiPlayer mode, ping is the length of time needed for data to travel to a client and back. This helps quantify network lag.
port : In the software sense, a port is a kind of “software address” used to direct network traffic to the right destination
router: A device used to communicate between LANs, or between a LAN and the Internet
server A software application or hardware device that listens for requests and “serves” information as needed. Post T Hengelo acts as a server when in MultiPlayer mode.
server operator : The person running Post T Hengelo in MultiPlayer mode.
WAN : Wide area network. The Internet is considered to be a WAN.
Other Helpful Resources