Earlier this year, Chad Paulson found himself in a bind. The Indiana University student learned several LAN-enabled Nintendo GameCube games--Kirby Air Ride, 1080 Avalanche, and Mario Kart: Double Dash!!--were coming out, and he wanted to play them with his friends.
Problem was, his friends weren't in Indiana, and the notoriously online-adverse Nintendo has no plans to provide online multiplayer support for the titles.
So, Paulson, a former director of new media technology at Warner Records, decided to link up with a group like-minded, similarly frustrated GameCube fans and create their own solution. "Lack of online options for the Cube was surely a motivation for me," Paulson told GameSpot, "I don't think there is one gamer out there that owns a Cube that wouldn't like the opportunity to play Mario Kart online."
The result of their collaboration is the Warp Pipe Alpha project, a self-developed program that lets GameCube players play LAN games online. The application takes advantage of the GameCube's use of Universal Plug-and-Play architecture to allow the GameCube to be hooked up to a router. The router, in turn, is hooked up to a PC installed with Warp Pipe Alpha, which then uses the program to connect to one or more GameCubers with the same set up via an online Wide Area Network (WAN).
The result? Do-it-yourself online gameplay with pretty impressive results: Paulson claimed that via a university connection, he as played Kirby games over the Web at frame-rates ranging from 55 to 60 fps--virtually real time.
However, as promising as the Warp Pipe project is, the program is only an un-optimized alpha version (currently in v2.0), and won't support residential cable and dsl connections until the beta version. Also, so far Warp Pipe can only support two-Cube games, another limitation Paulson hopes to overcome by Mario Kart's November release.
Warp Pipe's progress hasn't been easy. Paulson and his collaborators, all part of the sourceforge.net Open Source development collective, have been working on the project for months while holding down real jobs and/or taking a full load of classes.
Surprisingly, though, he still has high praise for Nintendo. "I actually understand Nintendo's position on online gaming," said Paulson." Many criticize the company, but they are traditional Japanese business conservatives. In many ways, they are geniuses in business development and feature requests."
Currently Kirby Air Ride is available for the GameCube, while Mario Kart: Double Dash!! is due November 11 and 1080 Avalanche is set to ship on December 1.