Kahn is a multiplayer gaming
service for DOS
. It was written in 1996 by Norm Bright, Kevin Bentley, and Aaron Brinton. Since 1999, it has come into the care of Andy "Tiny" Grundman.
Kahn works by emulating an IPX network over a TCP/IP connection. The service is mostly used for older games that do not have normal Internet play options, primarily the first two Descent games, though it will work with virtually every game that works over IPX (the website claims it works with every IPX game). Some, however, work better than others. FPS games can run slow, and EA Sports games run very slow. It also has issues with proxy servers and firewalls, though some of these problems can be solved.
Kahn does not work in any operating systems that are based on Windows NT. This is due to the fact that "Windows NT and 2000 do not have support for virtual device drivers (VxD's), which Kahn uses," to quote the official FAQ. So, why not just re-write Kahn so it doesn't use VxD's? Simple: Tiny, Kahn's caretaker, doesn't have the source code. The original coders haven't given it to him, and it doesn't look like they will any time soon.
Kahn boasts a community of regulars and very few newbies, due to the nature of the thing. It is a service for old games; of course newbies won't be playing on it. It is also the only currently-running multiplayer service that offers full compatibility with its DOS version; Kali, Kahn's main rival, segregates its DOS and Windows services (sidenote: Kali was the largest multiplayer service in the world for a short period in the mid-90's). That, and Kali sucks.
Kahn enjoyed a brief spurt of new players around the time of Red Alert 2's release when it was mentioned on a popular gaming news site as a good place to play RA2. Most of those people have since either stopped playing RA2 or have discovered Westwood Online, which has more players.
Kahn's website can be found at http://www.kahncentral.net.
Currently, Kahn is trying to reinvent itself as a basic TCP/IP matchmaking service, apparently not unlike GameSpy. A service similar to its current IPX wrapping technology is planned as well. The new software is still under production, and only the old IPX emulation is currently available. It is the opinion of this writer that the planned emphasis on TCP/IP gaming will be Kahn's downfall; if it doesn't support IPX gaming fully, as I suspect it might not, it will lose its current userbase of Descent players (Descent supports IPX but not TCP/IP play).
In other news, the KahnCentral website has updated itself with a message to the effect that Blizzard games can no longer be played online on any service other than Battle.net. Any attempt to play Blizzard games on Kahn will result in being banned from the service. No offical explanation from the people at Kahn has been released, but this writer suspects that the issues raised in the case of BnetD (the Battle.net emulator) are being applied to Kahn. Whether Blizzard (or, perhaps more accurately, Vivendi Universal, Blizzard's parent company) contacted the people of Kahn and told them to stop the playing of their games on the service, or whether the Kahn people did so of their own accord (perhaps fearing what happened to BnetD would happen to them) is unknown.
This is all very odd for one very good reason. Kali, a service more similar to Kahn than not, was included on the game CD for Blizzard's Warcraft II. Blizzard even released a special version of the Warcraft II executable for use over Kali (which also worked quite well over Kahn). This implies not only the knowledge of the existance of services like Kahn and Kali, but acceptance of them at some point. This has now, apparently, changed.
This is all very unfortunate as the only game I really played on Kahn was Starcraft (though I have a legit copy of the game, I played on Kahn because I know the people there, and it was easier to play with them on Kahn than on B.net). Now that this is forbidden, I'm not sure why I even still have the service installed. The one objection I have with this ban is that it apparently applies to the original release of Warcraft II in addition to Blizzard's other games (not to mention Warcraft I, but that never worked well on Kahn anyway). Warcraft II doesn't work on Battle.net (the original release at least; there was a re-release which did). By instating this ban, owners of the original game (indeed, people who only have DOS on their computers) are left out in the cold.