HyperLobby: Your Lobby for Online Joy

by Len "Viking1" Hjalmarson

Article Type: Feature
Article Date: January 08, 2002

Product Info

Product Name: HyperLobby
Version: 2.6.120
Category: Software Utility
Developer: Jiri Fojtasek
Release Date: Released
Rec. Spec: 3 MB free HD Space; DX 7 or later if you want play CFS, CFS2, EAW games.
Files & Links: Click Here

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The Sim World Meets at HyperLobby

In September of 2000 Jiri Fojtasek released his first version of HyperLobby for Electronic Art's Janeís WWII Fighters. The lobby allowed players from all over the world to meet online to set up gaming sessions.

In April of 2001 Fojtasek updated the lobby with support for other Electronic Arts simulations in the Jane's Combat Simulations series, including F-15, USAF and Israeli Air Force (IAF) and in late April support was added for F/A-18 and Fleet Command. When Electronic Arts closed the website for the Janeís series in the spring of 2001, HyperLobby became THE meeting place for the Janeís multiplayer crowd.

Image from WW2 Fighters

But HyperLobby is much more than this: it is a meeting place and chat room for simulation fans worldwide. Youíll see familiar names, as well as names you have never seen before. The serious simulation crowd are here, and the novices also populate the virtual rooms. Many handles begin with squadron designations like JG26 or GIAP25, since virtual squadrons find HyperLobby a great place to initiate their online sessions.

In July of 2001 Fojtasek added support for Longbow 2, Microsoft's Combat Flight Simulator (CFS) and CFS2, and European Air War. Interface changes and some new features appeared in the fall of 2001. Then in December of 2001 the latest and greatest version was released with full support for IL-2 Sturmovik.

What You Need

In order to install HyperLobby you donít need fancy hardware. In fact, many players are running the lobby on PII 500 class systems with 56K dialup connections.

You DO need to own the simulations you are planning to play, and they have to be installed on your system and ready for action.

You DONíT have to be a member of a virtual squadron. Some players, like me, donít have time for such a disciplined approach to the hobby, and for us HyperLobby is ideal. Itís rather like strolling absent minded into Computer City and chatting with a clerk, who then invites you to a spontaneous session with IL-2. Itís very simple to set up a quick match, and the launch of your favorite simulation is transparent. More on this later.

The Lobby

At 730 KB HyperLobby is an easy download, and installation is just as painless. Your first step is to visit HYPERFIGHTER.NET Fojtasekís website and get the software. Run the install and HyperLobby takes up around 1.2 MB on your hard drive.

Your next step is to run the program and log in. You will be prompted to enter a handle, a password, and your email address. After you enter this information in the various slots on the lower right, the program will ask you to confirm them in the chat bar when you log in, and youíll have to click in the bar to begin typing.

At this point you can choose which lobby you want to join. If you donít have the required game, the program will notify you that it wonít be able to launch the game for you.

I checked out the CFS2 lobby and found not a single user logged in. I assume these pilots are finding Microsoftís Gaming Zone is better for their needs.

But the IL-2 Sturmovik lobby had almost 300 users logged in, ten times higher than the 32 pilots I found on Ubi Soft's own UBI.com site. This is a testament to the utility of Fojtasekís HyperLobby.

Since I have been flying exclusively with IL-2 at HyperLobby, Iíll use the IL-2 lobby to introduce you to the interface.

The Full Interface

Currently, there are six key areas on the interface, along with a number of selection buttons. Not all the buttons are obvious, and this is one area Fojtasek intends to improve over time.

When you first enter the IL-2 lobby you will see at a glance that there are five sections that list pilots. On the left you will see the DOGFIGHT sessions in progress. You can join any of these sessions that are not filled and do not require a password by simply clicking on the circle at left.

Dogfight Sessions

Alternatively, you may want to gather some information before you jump in. Clicking on the HOSTís name in the list will bring up more information.

Center Area of the Interface

In the center area of the interface youíll notice additional lists of pilots. The next list to the right of the DOGFIGHT list is headed DOG.MISSION 1. Below this youíll see DOG. MISSION 2 and then COOP MISSION 1. Youíll see four slots under each of these headings. If you want to join in a dogfight mission that is just starting, you may click in any open slot. Donít click in the FIRST (top) slot, however, unless you are intending to HOST the mission.

The two COOP mission lists vary in length only because of the size limitations of the interface screen. Players who want to host a small coop session with fewer players tend to use the short list area, and players who have more open slots in their coop session use the longer list. In the image above you can see that the dogfight mission slots are full and this mission will soon launch. It will then appear on the list on the left of the interface and as long as there are open slots it may continue to be joined by new players.

The COOP mission list you see above is almost full. The HOST can launch the mission anytime, but usually gives warning in the CHAT bar below.

Notice that some of the icons to the right of each handle are red, some are green, and some are only partially filled out. The red color represents a high ping time, or a bad connection. The green bars represent lower ping times, or good connections. Obviously players on ADSL or CABLE will tend to have the best connections.

Iíve found, however, that connections up to 750ms work quite well. The average connection rate, even across the pond, is about 300 ms.

Pilot Listing

The next section of the interface is the Pilot Listing. The list is refreshed about every ten seconds or so, and contains two sections, as you see above. You can click on the handle of any player to bring up some contact options, which include Ignore/Unignore, Send pager message, or Send RogerWilco (RW) invitation.

This latter feature is very nifty. You can page any player who is currently in the lobby, and when you do so the button I have labeled ďpagerĒ will start to blink on and off. When it does so you can click on the LOGIN/LOGOUT button to bring up the following list of options.

Pager and Other Options

Clicking on the PAGER option will take you to a small message interface where you can read your pager message or respond to one.

Sending an RW invitation is equally simple, but you must first have RW installed and configured on your system. If you have RW sending an RW invitation launches RW and creates a channel at your IP address, and your friend is invited to join you there to chat, or to launch into an online session with your favorite sim.

Room Selection for IL-2

The IL-2 section of HyperLobby features a button at the left center of the interface that is labeled ďGeneral Room.Ē This button is a toggle that takes you to three other sections: the Team section, the VEF section and the IOW section (more on these acronyms below).

As with the rest of the interface, you simply click on a slot to either HOST or JOIN a session that will be created. The team play section was set up by request to handle a variation of the dogfight arena, where any number of teams are in action against other teams. The most common variant is a two to four base map with red versus blue teams. Like other dogfight sessions these sessions can be joined in progress.

The VEF sections involves dedicated squadrons who have joined in the Virtual Eastern Front. For more information on this form of play visit this page at the IL-2 Central website. The final section of the IL-2 interface involves IOW or Ilyushin Onine War. Again, this activity is for virtual squadrons only and you can find information at Jagdgeschwader.com.

Most players in HyperLobby are courteous and helpful, but like any other chat room manners and patience vary across the spectrum. The other day I had set up a session for six pilots and had eight join. Unfortunately, I only had room for six! I endured a slurry of insults and deprecations of my good name until I unceremoniously ďkickedĒ a player from the session.

If there are aspects of HyperLobby that remain unclear to you, there is an HTML manual on Fojtasekís website.

The Future

The future of HyperLobby looks secure, though increased volume is undoubtedly creating increased costs for Fojtasek and his friends. It would be nice to see more voluntary support for his efforts, so my suggestion is that if you become a regular user of HyperLobby, and in particular if you are a member of a squadron that use it regularly, help Fojtasek by donating some of your time, skills, or money. If enough players do this, HyperLobby is more likely to grow and thrive, and less likely to become a utility that players have to purchase.




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