video games


Few things in this life are permanent.  Like a tattoo, however,  the online gaming software Kali, touts “life-time subscription[s]” (italics theirs) and thus, a form of permanence.

For those who started PC gaming relatively recently (sometime this decade), you may be unfamiliar with Kali. It can best be equated as a mid-90’s precursor of Xfire, however, it also added a unique element necessary for its times, network emulation.

In the olden days, multiplayer games lacked Internet protocol support.  These games (Doom, Duke Nukem 3d, Warcraft, et al) had the ability to connect via modem with one another, and in some cases via a Local Area Network, but their programmers did not have the foresight to develop native multiplayer support for the burgeoning world of the Internet (as of this writing, “it is on computers now“.)

This is where Kali comes in.  Circa 1995, Kali made these games available to the internet masses by making them think they were just connecting to a L.A.N. or single modem foe.  It utilized what capabilities the game had and expanded them into what most games have today and that is broad internet connectivity with support for multiplayer gaming.  Those were its groundbreaking features that made Kali special and unique.

Kali also created community for the games it supported by hosting rooms based on each game where one could meet familiar friend or anonymous frienemy for fragging and ore mining/Orc churning fun.  Again, these are many of the same features we now take for granted as programs like Xfire or the games themselves have them on board.

The software, of course, was not without its hiccups.  I recall one session of Duke Nukem 3D in particular where a friend and I literally played the same home brew map for a few hours, if I remember correctly, as  we talked over the telephone.  At the end of our extended battle each of us were claiming supreme victory and wondering why the other was in such poor ability that evening.  It turns out for all of those many hours we never really were playing each other but where merely facing a networked-error-version of the other who had either little ability or some ghosted properties.  The game sputtered along, however.  Thanks Kali.

So, with that back story now in place let us fast forward to the here and now and the purpose of this post: My need for $20 enlightenment.

No, not the Kensington and Allegheny kind, but that “life-time subscription” kind I made my Pop buy me back in 1996 so I could use this wonderful piece of network.  Kali is basically shareware that if one did not plop down the money for ($20) it would expire.  On the other hand, once you paid the dues, you purportedly had access forever!

Now, who would want access after say, 1999, I am not sure because as mentioned, games developed to such a point that Kali was no longer needed.  It basically did its thing, a temporal groundbreaking necessary thing, and was deleted/uninstalled along with the email and rocketmail account that contained one’s Kali lifetime supply of serial number.

The Kali moniker has come up a few times in conversation in the past few years between gaming friends and myself as we recall the old days or they try and flout their O.G. status (that is until I play the 2400 baud modem B.B.S. card, “oh yeah, I have heard of those,” they say).

So this led me to wonder (a) what had become of Kali (had it gone the way of Procomm Plus?) and (b) if it still existed did also my once and future serial number  (if so, how could I possibly retrieve it)?

Boasting a website that has not had its copyright changed since 2005 and a forum with few posts since January of this year (and that post is speculating the fact that Kali is possibly dead) I was left with little hope for Kali.

My pessimism was met with fits and starts.   For Timedoctor found the “Find Registration Codes” section of the support page.  My dilemma was trying to figure out what pseudonym my little teenage mind was using in ’96 and the email address attached to it, it seemed hopeless and besides, I could not access that particular email address (whatever it was) anyway. “For users who registered prior to December 2001 [that is me] the database only lists the last known email address your registration codes were emailed to. Good luck remembering what it was! ”

But aha again!  Somehow I recalled the I.S.P. I was using at the time as I pealed back the chronology of domains from present (@verizon [I do not use their mail, just crappy service, mind you]) to former (@netreach) to way back  (@ix.netcom).

So I was able to piece together a name/email combination I was using over a decade ago, however, since Kali’s creation and current state there have been a few changes in ownership (although it is now back in the hands of one of the original creators), the aforementioned caveat about users prior to ’01, and the fact that even with the correct name/email the codes to operate the Paleozoic software were retrieved by hand.  Taken as a whole, this seemed like too many obstacles to overcome.

As Timedoctor and I chatted via mumble about our success together he secretly thought that finding the account was as far as the journey would take me.

What a long strange trip its been.  I thought I was tripping and overdrawn at the memory bank when the next morning after the above search I had a fresh email in my inbox from the folks at Kali (they live).  My account was retrieved,  the email address was updated to a current working one, the serial number was mine!

Tonight I downloaded and installed Kali, plugged in my serial number, “Tkey”, and “SKey,” and relived a small part of a bygone era.  I also installed a copy of Duke Nukem 3D and took it for a spin; the game still rocks.

To what end Kali is of any use at this point, I am not yet sure, however, there are still quite a few people logged on there.  I kind of feel like my Pop when I took him to see Bob Dylan a few years back, upon seeing all of the hippies he said to one of them:  “I had wondered where you had gone.”  Not understanding the greater significance said hippy replied: “Oh, I just went to get a soda.”

Not too many things in the digital world feel permanent.  Perhaps this is why I am oftentimes reluctant to jump headfirst into a new technology that could very easily be gone tomorrow, along with my data, time investment towards using it, and commitment.  While Kali has kept their side of the bargain in that my “life-time subscription” still rolls on: To what end?

Yesterday’s Kali is today’s Xfire.  Kali was certainly cool in its time and in my reluctance to embrace new things because of their uncertainty am I missing out on today’s cool thing?  Or am I side-stepping a waste of the aforementioned investment, commitment, etc?  More appropriately then, yesterdays Kali could be today’s Kindle.

After all,  that tattoo we spent so much time devising a design for and saving up the money to have etched into our bodies, not to mention the pain, suffering, and time used during the process itself can now all be removed I am told via lasers.

So what anymore has staying power?  I am not sure, yet I still have my Kali code.

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