The Buttplug Standard defines a message based protocol between a client and a server. Note that the use of client and server here does not explicitly denote network connection. These terms are used as a generic way to denote different communication endpoints.

Client are expected to request information from the server about devices that are connected, and to send information to those devices via the server. Servers will handle device enumeration, connection management to hardware, and failure recoveries (for instance, stopping all connected devices on client disconnect).

While serialization formats are not yet standardized, current references implementations of the Standard use JSON for serialization. More information on this is available in the Messages section.


Buttplug sessions consist of 3 stages. While these stages need not be discrete, due to the way Buttplug will likely be used, they will usually end up being so. Applications may hide or combine some of the stages depending on requirements.


During the identification stage, a client will establish connection with the server, and send over its identifying information. The server may trigger some sort of UI event at this point to ask if the user will allow the client to connect and interact.


After the client/server connection is set up, device enumeration can begin. The client can ask the server to scan for devices on various busses or media (serial, usb, bluetooth, network, etc), and return a list of devices it can communicate with.


Once devices are found and selected, we can assume the user will begin interacting with connected devices. At this point, the client will mostly be sending and receiving device commands. It can usually (but not always) be assumed that continued enumeration may not be possible due to the context of situations that Buttplug software will be used in.

Example lifecycle

The following lifecycle covers the general message flow expected between a Buttplug client and a Buttplug server.

sequenceDiagram Participant Client Participant Server Note over Client,Server: Once a connection is established, perform the protocol handshake, which exchanges information about identification, versions, ping times, etc... Client->>+Server: RequestServerInfo Id=1 Server->>-Client: ServerInfo Id=1 Note over Client,Server: If the server has a non-zero PingTimeout, the client must send a ping message to the server before the specified timeout. A common strategy is to set the client Ping time to 1/2 the requested server ping time. loop [PingTime/2] Client->>+Server: Ping ID=N++ Server->>-Client: Ok ID=N++ end Note over Client,Server: The client must call RequestDeviceList to get a list of already connected devices. Client->>+Server: RequestDeviceList Id=2 Server->>-Client: DeviceList Id=2 Note over Client,Server: To discover new devices, the client instructs the server to start scanning. Client->>+Server: StartScanning Id=3 Server->>-Client: Ok Id=3 Note over Client,Server: While the server is scanning, the server will notify the client of new devices. Server->>Client: DeviceAdded Id=0 Server->>Client: DeviceAdded Id=0 Note over Client,Server: Once devices have been discovered, the client instruct the server to stop scanning. Once all device managers have stopped scanning, the server will notify the client. Client->>+Server: StopScanning Id=4 Server->>-Client: Ok Id=4 Server->>Client: ScanningFinished Id=0 Note over Client,Server: Devices may disconnect at any time. The server will notify the client when this happens. Server->>Client: DeviceRemoved Id=0 Note over Client,Server: The client may instruct devices to perform actions. Actions vary per device, and are relayed as part of DeviceAdded/DeviceList messages. Client->>+Server: VibrateCmd Id=5 Server->>-Client: Ok Id=5 Note over Client,Server: The client may instruct the server to stop a device from whatever it may be doing. Client->>+Server: StopDeviceCmd Id=6 Server->>-Client: Ok Id=6 Note over Client,Server: The client may instruct the server to stop all devices. This is considered good form for a client that is shutting down. Client->>+Server: StopAllDevices Id=7 Server->>-Client: Ok Id=7

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