It’s not as flashy as Mplayer or TEN, it doesn’t handle the id Software action games as well as DWANGO, and it isn’t a true online gaming service, at least not in the same sense as the others reviewed here. But in spite of all this, Kali is the one service in this review that impressed us the most.
Kali is an Internet utility that emulates an IPX network connection over the Internet. Basically, it tricks your PC into thinking it is attached to a LAN. With Kali, you can set up and play any multiplayer game that supports IPX connections–which most of them do.
Kali client software is available for DOS, OS/2, and Windows 95. A Macintosh version is also in the works. The cost? A one-time fee of $20 (and your own ISP connection). That’s it, and that’s the main reason why Kali is such a compelling online gaming service.
The Kali clients can be downloaded as shareware from the Kali Web site (www.kali.net) and will run only for 15-minute intervals until registered. After you register and pay your $20, you can use Kali for as long as you like, as often as you like. Upgrades are free–and plentiful. Kali95 alone went through three revisions as we did this story.
The DOS client can be rather difficult to configure, but the good news is that you only have to do this once. The Windows 95 client seems to get easier with every revision.
Kali lets you play Descent II–and any other multiplayer game that uses IPX–over the Internet. To play games with Kali, you simply connect to the Internet and launch the client. From here you can connect to any of the roughly 100 Kali servers located in 23 countries. With Kali95, you can get a sense of how far away these servers are by checking the ping results for each (which are constantly updated on-screen). Once connected to a server, you can enter the general chat room and look for other users to play. They are all listed in a window, with their ping values next to their names. Kali’s chats are completely unmoderated and can get out of hand on occasion, but those occasions are very rare. Other users are generally friendly and helpful.
Unlike DWANGO, Mplayer, and TEN, Kali is really just a matchmaker service. When you launch a game, you do so from that game’s IPX network start-up screen–not from within Kali. The help file includes information for getting games to run well over Kali. So to play Duke Nukem 3D over Kali, you would run “setup.exe /f4″ in that game’s directory (the /f4 parameter minimizes the number of packets sent out).
The key to a positive Kali experience is finding users with ping values of less than 500 milliseconds (ms). The only games that we found sluggish with these low ping times were the id games: DOOM, DOOM II, and the rest. Duke Nukem 3D ran much more smoothly over Kali than it did on TEN, and Descent II ran even better. Command & Conquer and Warcraft II also run very well. But if you play a game against players with ping values close to 800 ms, or higher, be prepared for a frustrating, slide-show version of your game.
And if you don’t find enough players with good ping times, check through a few other servers. Kali’s creator, Jay Cotton, estimates the number of Kali users worldwide at over 35,000, and every night we used Kali, we saw at least four or five servers with over 250 users logged in. Several more would typically have between 25 and 50 users logged in.