Nintendo GameCube-owning students who receive "Mario Kart: Double Dash!!" for the holidays will be able to play it online thanks to IU junior Chad Paulson.
Paulson is the owner and founder of Warp Pipe, a project that allows LAN-enabled GameCube games to be played online.
"Nintendo has always done a good job with multiplayer games," Paulson said. "Something like this was long overdue."
The GameCube currently has only one official online title, "Phantasy Star Online Episodes I & II," compared to Sony's PlayStation2 or Microsoft's Xbox, which each feature dozens of online titles.
Warp Pipe has made a dream come true for many longtime Nintendo fans.
"So far I've only used PC games for online multiplayer, but being a die-hard Nintendo fan, I'd love to see them expand into such a market," sophomore Michael Donahoe said. "When you're playing against the AI on a program, you can expect it to do certain things after a time. But when you're playing against other people, there is that element of surprise that they'll pull a move or do something you've never seen before."
Paulson, a former director of media for Warner Brothers, came up with the idea for Warp Pipe when the first GameCube games to support LAN play were announced last winter. However, the project did not officially begin until the first LAN-supporting game, "Kirby's Air Ride," was released in Japan in July.
From there, it took less than two months for Paulson and the rest of his three-man team, located in Maine, New York and Canada, to play the first online game of Kirby.
To use Warp Pipe, gamers need only connect their GameCube to their PC using a broadband adapter and following the directions at warppipe.com. The one drawback is having to know the IP address of who you're playing against. But with more than 25,000 people who have downloaded the Warp Pipe program and unofficial chats and message boards to help locate fellow GameCubers looking to play online, that isn't too difficult.
"Thousands of people have bought GameCubes and broadband adapters because of this," Paulson said.
Though Warp Pipe has no region lock, meaning gamers in the United States can play against those in Japan or Europe, the further apart they are, the more games lag, though future updates will address that issue.
Still, that hasn't stopped people from enjoying online GameCube gaming.
"Although it is just a simple program to use, the game play is simple and easy to use with existing technology that Nintendo built into the actual game," sophomore Brandon Parker said. "Nintendo should thank the whole Warp Pipe crew for giving a chance to compete once again in the online gaming world."
Currently Warp Pipe only supports "Kirby's Air Ride" and "Mario Kart: Double Dash!!," but the next version will also support the recently released "1080 Avalanche."
"They haven't announced anymore games beyond that, but there are rumors that the next Star Fox and Super Monkey Ball games and 'Metroid Prime 2' will support LAN," Paulson said. "We'll support whatever they release in the future."
The Warp Pipe team is also working on an update to be released early next year that will work similar to AOL Instant Messenger, telling gamers who's playing online and making finding a game much easier.
Paulson said he also has visions of Warp Pipe influencing third-party game makers to include LAN support in future games.
"We've been in contact with different developers and publishers lobbying for LAN support," Paulson said. "LAN play could be the difference between whether a game sells or not."
-- Contact staff writer Chris Freiberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.