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PC Fight Club

Vol. 2, Issue 6
December 13, 1999 

I remember when Sculptured Software (now Kodiak Software) was doing the PC version of Mortal Kombat 3. They created a version of Mortal Kombat 3 that worked over a local LAN, which means you could play it over a corporate (or home) network, but not over the Internet. They inform me that they never attempted an Internet version due to it not being considered a necessity at the time, but they also tell me that it was a good thing too, since they are not sure it could have been done. Latency over a LAN is one thing, over the net is quite another. And that’s no reflection on them, they did a great job in the conversion, they would have just run into the same brick wall that awaits anyone else trying this over the net.

That’s not to say that network play is a no-no though.

A few years back, Midway did a conversion of Mortal Kombat 3 for the arcade to run on their proprietary ethernet network WaveNet. And a fine job they did too. However, even on a dedicated network, the game was still laggy. I remember having a conversation with Ed Boon (one of the two creators of Mortal Kombat) at the time. This was just after Mortal Kombat 3 Ultimate had been released in the arcades. He stated: “I didn’t think anything would make me go back to playing standard Mortal Kombat 3 after Ultimate was released, but this network version has.” High praise indeed for a networked version of a fighter. However, the game was still laggy, and without instant network response times, it’s hard to see how this can ever be so. I don’t see many people installing fiber optic cables between their houses just so they can play a good game of Vicious Heart Rendering Killers every night....

Something that may be worth mentioning here is the old X-Band hardware device. For those that don’t remember it, the X-Band was developed by a bunch of Ex-Nasa guys (so I recall, I could be wrong about this), and it was basically a modem that sat between a cartridge and a SNES or Genesis. The idea being you put in some select games, (like Mortal Kombat for instance), the modem would detect this, and then allow you to play the game head to head against another player over the phone line. It would dial up its main core system, wherever that was, and find someone else who was also waiting to play the game, supply his or her telephone number to you and then break the connection. Then it would dial the other player, and start the game. At the end of the game, there was even a chance to chat with your opponent before playing again, or finding a new opponent.

Each time you played, it would alternate between you doing the dialing, or the other player doing it, which means half as many phone calls, and also a direct connection between you and the other player, thus alleviating the nightmare of the Internet. A neat idea. How it hacked the software for the game itself, to allow a second party to play I have no idea. I would imagine there must have been some reverse engineering going on there, or maybe just a second joystick simulation. Whatever. When the system was being tested, X-Band the company shipped out a ton of these to testers everywhere, and promised to pay the phone bills for the first month. However, it ended up dying a death when out in the real world, which was a shame, since it did actually work, and worked well, surprisingly enough. This approach is possibly the only way a fighter is really going to work when playing remotely.


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Credits: Illustration © 1999 Kevin 'Rorshach' Johnstone. This article is © 1999 Jake Simpson. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited. So don't do it, or we'll beat you to a bloody pulp.