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Look Ma, No LANs !

From an old Computer Gaming World magazine

mardi 2 janvier 1996, par thierrybo

Toutes les versions de cet article : [English ] [français ]

How To Play Multiplayer Games Over The Internet With Kali

by Loyd Case

"I was able to use Kali95 to find a NETMECH game, launch NETMECH and find an active game - all with a few mouse clicks."

  Network gaming is one of the biggest technological developments of 1996. But setting up a network in your house is a complex endeavor. You need cables, network cards, multiple computers in one place and an understanding of how to get everything to work.

If that sounds insurmountable you should know that you can play most of the same multiplayer games via the Internet. You don’t need a service like DWANGO or TEN to get a good game of WARCRAFT II or COMMAND & CONQUER going between you and your far-flung friends. The majority of multiplayer games use the IPX networking protocol (a protocol is the low-level description of how the data is broken apart, transmitted over the wire and reconstructed at the other end). Popularized by Novell, IPX is a very common protocol supported by almost every PC networking card available. IPX is nice because it’s relatively easy to configure by users-no worries about what your computer’s address is or other arcane data. It’s also mostly used on LANs, rather than the big, wide-area networks such as the Internet. The Internet uses a completely different protocol, known as TCP/IP (Transport Control Protocol/Internet Protocol), taken from the Unix world.

Let’s take a closer look at the Internet, which is fast becoming the de facto method for communicating over a wide area. It’s also dirt cheap these days, with a variety of large and small companies offering Internet connections with unlimited connect time for a scant 20 bucks a month (less in some cases).

Anybody Out There ?

At first blush, it seems that the Internet would be an ideal environment for multiplayer gaming-except that most multiplayer games use IPX to communicate with other computers, not TCP/IP. Into this gap stepped Jay Cotton, who wrote the original version of Kali, which ran under good old MS-DOS. But Kali wasn’t an ideal solution, because you had to be able to connect to your Internet account over DOS-no mean task-and then configure Kali to talk to your DOS TCP/IP software. Although a lot of people, through sweat and swearing, managed to get the DOS version of Kali working, it wasn’t a task for the faint-hearted.

So what do Kali and Kali95 actually do ? Simple : Kali makes your Internet connection appear to be an IPX connection to your game. This means that all those IPX games can now be played with a number of other users over the Internet. This is pretty heady stuff but still not the most profound part of Kali. (Bear with me, I’ll get to that soon.)

Graphical environments, such as Windows 95 and OS/2, however, make networking much easier. Most configuration is done with dialog boxes and pop-up menus. So a graphical version of Kali was written-Kali95. (Despite its name, Kali95 also runs under OS/2-but not Windows NT currently).

The current version of Kali95 is labeled 0.9 (v1.20 10/97), and is "pre-beta"-but when I ran it under Windows 95, it was very stable. And it’s radically different than Kali for DOS. Perhaps the single most important feature of Kali95 is how you connect. Let’s explore a typical Kali95 session.

fig1kali.gif (6044 octets)FIGURE 1 It’s Easy to configure Kali under Windows 95.

The first thing you do is configure Kali95 as shown in Figure 1. Kali95 is shareware, but will only run for 15 minutes at a time unless you buy a license (a measly 20 bucks, and well worth it). You give the Kali folks your credit card number, and they e-mail a serial number and S Key back to you. Enter your narne, e-mail account, the serial number and S number into the appropriate boxes, click on OK and Kali95 is configured. Since Kali connects to your standard Internet account, that’s all you need to do to set it up. Of course you may want to launch your network-playable games with one click, so Kali95 has a game configuration screen like the one in Figure 2. You can have up to five games (10/97 : 20) automatically configured to run under the Kali95 menu.

kaliFig2us.gif (9087 octets)FIGURE 2 You can have up to twenty games automatically configured to run under the Kali95 menu.

The next step is to connect to your Internet provider. There are a number of ways to do this, but the easiest by far is through the Windows 95 dial-up connection. At any rate, once you are connected to your Internet service provider, you then run Kali95.

Note that Kali95 works quite well with DOS games, not just Windows 95 games. I was able to get Blizzard’s WARCRAFT 2 and Activision’s DOS NETMECH running under Kali95 without a hitch.

NetTech Profundity

Now let’s get to the profound part. I scroll down the Server part of the main screen and click on a server (Figure 3).

kaliFig3us.gif (1954 octets)FIGURE 3 Kali shows a list of servers where you can join the fray.

This screen is the heart and soul of Kali95 and represents the future of network gaming. It’s not the fact that it’s Kali that’s important, or even the protocol that matters. It’s how the user finds the game. All you do is click on a server name (the Kali server list is periodically uploaded to your Kali setup) and click OK to connect. Better yet, let’s say you’re itching to climb in a battlemech and find a NETMECH session. You run down the server list, click on a server name and then click on the button Query Games. Up pops up a list in the main Kali95 window that looks something like Figure 4.

Now you can see how many players are on that server, what games are active and the IP addresses. You can pop up a chat window and try to communicate with one of the players to see if you can join the game-or you can simply launch the game and try to join. (By the way, a 28.8 Kbps modem or faster is a must for good response time). Since NETMECH has a nice shell to set up games, I was able to use Kali95 to find a NETMECH game, launch NETMECH and find an active game-all with a few mouse clicks. It was one of the most profound gaming experiences I’ve had in a long time.
fig5kali.gif (19539 octets)FIGURE 4 Kali shows a list of players to chat with.

Are You Being Served ?

OK, now what if you want to simply play some network games with your buddies, and not worry about other strangers popping into your game ? Easy-Kali95 has a server mode. All you need to do is communicate your IP address to the other players in the game, put Kali into server mode, and now your friends can link up with your game through their versions of Kali95.

In many ways Kali and Kali95 represent the egalitarian spirit so common over the Internet. There are dozens of Kali servers around the world. Many Kali servers are being implemented as an adjunct service by Internet service providers (ISPs), and are free (except for the standard ISP monthly fee, of course). And with Kali95, Kali has become incredibly easy to use.

A number of companies are sprouting up as paid services to host network games-companies like the Total Entertainment Network, Dwango and so on. But with Kali95, all you need is an Internet connection-so the paid services will have to offer some significant added value. lt’s much like the situation that CompuServe and America Online now find themselves in with regard to the Internet. It’ll be interesting to see which of these online gaming services will be left standing after the initial shakeout, especially with a powerful, readily available network gaming tool like Kali out there.

How do you get Kali95 ? You get it by downloading it off the Internet, of course. The official Kali home page is Be sure to send in your $20, and I’ll see you on the Net.


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