Inside LAN-O-THON

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

It's Done

Ok It's Done! I finished the new skin. Look it over and give me some feedback. I think it looks a little flat but I'm gonna work on that....

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Pardon the Dust

I'm rebuilding the blog template so it's going to look like crap while I work out the bugs

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

All About the Temporary Tournament Steam Accounts

At our past LAN Party, RHA LAN-O-THON v3.5, we decided to purchase Temporary Tournament Steam Accounts from Valve for our LAN party to solve the age old LAN Party problem of not everyone owning the games that are being played. Buying the Temporary Accounts enabled us to give a copy of Counter-Strike: Source, Half-life 2:Deathmatch, Day of Defeat: Source and the back catalog versions to everyone who didn't own them and wanted to play with everybody else.

After reading on Valve site that they offer Temporary Tournament Steam Accounts for LAN Parties, I searched the web for others peoples experiences with them but I googled and couldn't find any information or reviews on how they worked. So now I am contributing my experiences on the process for those who are interested.

Overall the process went smoothly. Valve was fantastic to deal with. Basically after filling out the form on Valve's website, someone from Valve was assigned to my request and once he approved it he sent me the form to pay. A few days before my event they sent me a list with all of the user accounts and passwords for me to check and go over. All of them worked fine so I printed the accounts out on 3x5 cards to hand out to my LAN PArty Guests that didn't own the games.


The full walk through:

The first step is to fill out the Limited Game Tournament License Agreement Signup Form. This form is required anytime you want to have a LAN Party where Valve games are going to be played. Once your application is accepted, it grants you permission to play Valve's games in tournaments and to promote that you are playing Valve's games in any advertisements for your event.

If you are interested in purchasing any Temporary Tournament Steam Accounts, you indicate it at the bottom of the Signup Form and Valve will email you a form to fill out. The Temporary Tournament Steam Accounts cost $2 a day, per account(minimum 2 days and 25 accounts for minimum cost of $100).

After submitting the signup form, Valve sends you an automatic email to confirm your email address.

The link in this email will authenticate your email address.  Clicking on the link below will allow your tournament data to be reviewed by Valve, after which it will be approved and displayed on the Events Calendar, if you have requested this.

http://storefront.steampowered.com/v/?eak=XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

*** This email is not confirmation that you have been granted a limited tournament license. ***

Thank you!
Valve Tournament Coordinator

Then a couple of days later I got an email from one of Valve's Cyber Cafe Staff with a few additional questions to answer.
Hello XXXXXX,

Thank you for submitting your tournament for approval.

Would you please reply with your answer to these questions:

Q: Are you charging your players on an ongoing basis?

Q: Are you awarding prizes to your players on an ongoing basis?

Q: If you are awarding prizes, do they come from outside sponsors or does that come from the pool of entry fees you charge the players?

Please let us know if you have any further questions.

Best Regards,

Arsenio

Valve Cyber Cafe Team

I quickly replied with the answers. The next day I received the Tournament License.
Thank you for submitting your application for a Valve Limited Game Tournament License.  Your reference number is XXXX-XXX. This email serves as confirmation that your event has been approved, and is now displayed on our Tournament Calendar (if you've requested this).

http://www.steampowered.com/?area=tourney_calendar

You have indicated that you are planning to purchase temporary tournament subscriptions. If you would like to do this now, go to the following link:

http://www.steampowered.com/?area=XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

If you would like to offer Valve posters, t-shirts, etc., at your tournament, please visit the Valve Store:

http://store.valvesoftware.com/

Good luck with your tournament!
Valve Tournament Coordinator

Shortly after I received another email from Arsenio. Nothing like great customer service.
Hello XXXXXXX,

I have approved your tournament.

You had indicated on the tournament sign up form that you would be interested in purchasing temporary tournament accounts. Temporary tournament accounts cost $2 USD per day. I have attached a one-time credit card authorization form. Please complete the form and email or fax it back to our office.

Can you please take a few minutes to provide some background information about your organization / your role in your organization, why you are having the tournament etc.?

Thanks,

Arsenio

So now I had a question for Valve. What was the best way to get the Temporary Tournament Steam Accounts: Fill out the page they linked to in the first email or the form that Arsenio attached in his email? So I emailed Arsenio and he quickly replied:
The link is better.

Thanks,

Arsenio

So I filled out the online form, It was simple enough, all they wanted was my name, address, credit card number and number of accounts I wanted. The next day I got my confirmation email.
Thank you for submitting your credit card information to purchase Temporary Tournament Steam Accounts for your upcoming event.

We will charge your credit card and email you a sales receipt along with the temporary account names and an installation link to download Steam at least 5 days prior to your event so you may have time to set up the software and ensure everything is running smoothly.

We require at least 5 business days before the tournament begins to complete the tournament approval/credit card charging process. If you are submitting your information less than 5 business days before the tournament begins, we will make every effort to accommodate your request. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Best Regards,

Valve Tournament Coordinator

After about 2 days I got another Email. Arsenio was really on top of things.
Hello XXXXXXX,

Thank you for the feedback.

Please let me know when you enter your information for the temporary tournament accounts so that I can expedite the processing.

Please let us know if you have any further questions.

Best Regards,

Arsenio
Valve Cyber Cafe Team

I replied that I had already filled out the online form and I quickly got a reply.
Hello XXXXXXX,

Unfortunately, there was no credit card information included.

I am attaching a non-recurring credit card authorization form.

Would you please complete the form and fax or email it back to our office?

How many accounts will you need?

What are the beginning and end dates that you will need the accounts?

Thanks,

Arsenio

Unfortunately something with their web form didn't work right So I filled out the form he attached and all was good! A day or two later I got a bunch of emails confirming my Purchase. First I got my Receipt (it was attached as a PDF File)
Please open the attached file to view your Sales Receipt.

To view the attachment, you first need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you don't have it yet, visit Adobe's Web site http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep.html to download it.
Dear Cafe,

We received your new credit card information and processed your credit card payment successfully. You were emailed a Sales Receipt as confirmation of this payment.

Thank you very much!

Best Regards,

The Valve Cafe Team

And finally A personalized email from Jennifer, another Valve Cyber Cafe Staff Member who was the person who was going to be setting up the accounts for me.
Hello XXXXXXX,

My name is Jennifer and I work with Arsenio. I will be setting up your tournament. I have processed your payment and have the accounts ready to go on the 20th for your 23 and 24th dates.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Jennifer
Valve Cyber Cafe Team

It sounded like everything was good to go and sure enough on the 20th I got an automatic email with list of all of the accounts.
Hello, XXXXXXX.  We just charged your card for your temporary Steam tournament accounts for your tournament on *Feb. 23 & 24*.  You should receive a sales receipt by email in just a few minutes.

We have issued you *25 *valid Temporary Steam Tournament Logins and Passwords. Each login may be used to access a single Steam Account, which may be used on a single computer station (Seat) at your tournament location. We recommend you test these accounts as soon as you receive them to make sure everything is running smoothly prior to your event. We will disable these accounts after the conclusion of your tournament.

You may use the software programs Valve provides subject to the terms of the Steam Subscriber Agreement. The Steam Subscriber Agreement may be amended from time to time by Valve, and the most recent version may be found at http://www.steampowered.com/?area=subscriber_agreement.

By purchasing these Accounts, you acknowledge and agree to the terms of the Agreements.
__
Steam Account Logins:XXXXXXXXXXXX1 - XXXXXXXXXXXX25

**

Steam Accounts Contact Email: XXXXXXXXXX@XXXXX.com

Steam Accounts Password: XXXXXXXXXX

We recommend that you change your password as soon as possible.

If you do not have Steam already installed on your computers, please follow the installation instructions below:
__

Steam Installation Instructions

-Download the Steam Installer from our website: http://www.steampowered.com/index.php?area=getsteamnow and follow the instructions.

-When you reach the 'Create New Account' or 'Login to Existing Account' screen, enter the Account Name and Password we have provided above.

-Check 'Remember My Password'. This will automatically login each new customer into Steam without prompting them to enter a password (which prevents your passwords/accounts from being stolen).

-Click Login

-Time Saving Tip: When your first machine is 100% updated and the system has logged in, go to the « My Games » tab and choose the games you wish to install immediately by double clicking on that specific game. This will begin the download process. Once all the games are « 100% - ready » you can create a back-up disk for install the software on another system by right clicking on one of the game and choosing « Back-up game files

Good luck with your tournament!

Valve Tournament Coordinator

That email was followed by an email form Jennifer confirming that I got the account information.
Hello Matthew,

I have enabled your accounts for your tournament. Please let me know if you have any problems accessing your accounts.

Jennifer
Valve Cyber Cafe Team

After I got the accounts I created an Excel spreadsheet with each of the accounts and a random password. Then I logged into each one and changed the password to new one. I found that one of the accounts had been VAC Banned and Jennifer was kind enough to quickly correct this by sending me another account
Hello XXXXXXX,

Go ahead and use account XXXXXXXXXXXX26. Please let me know if you have any further problems.

Jennifer
Valve Cyber Cafe Team

I printed out the accounts on address labels and stuck them on 3x5 cards to hand out to the people who needed a copy of the games. Everything worked out great. We had full game servers all night and had several nice tournaments.

Overall, the process went smoothly. Everyone I came into contact with over at Valve was great and replied quickly to any questions I had. For LAN-O-THON v4.0, We plan on getting the Temporary Accounts again. Thanks Valve!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Cat5e Wiring

For those who are like me and can't remember the order of wires in a standard ethernet cable, I made this simple diagram (according to the common T568B spec).

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Steam Error

Having problems with a strange bug in one of valves games? try running the Steam diagnostics tool and see if it finds any problems

Update:

One of the most common it reports is that your version of Directx is out of date. This easily fixed by downloading and installing the latest version. Directx is often updated monthly and is not always part of Microsoft's auto updates.

The other common problem is outdated graphics drivers. For desktops, this is easy to fix but laptops take a little bit more work. For desktops just visit the website of the brand graphics card you have such as nVidia, ATI, or Intel. For laptops you must visit the website of the manufacturer of your laptop. The common ones are Dell, Hp & Compaq, Toshiba, Gateway, Sony, Acer, Alienware. Hopefully this list will save you some time searching.

Please report any bad links and I will update my list.

The Counter-Strike 1.6 Ads Debate

As many know, in this weeks Steam update, in game advertisements were taken out of beta and added to Counter-Strike 1.6. This has launched a long debate about in game advertising. For those who haven't played recently, I took a couple of screen shots detailing the ads. Wall ads were added to de_dust, de_dust2 and de_aztec and ads were also added to the spectator view and on the scoreboard.

Wall Ads-


Spectator and scoreboard ads-


As you probably could predict, this has caused huge uproar in the CS community. There is a massive thread in the Steam forums on the subject. We first heard about ads coming to 1.6 a while back and the plans were detailed in an interview by CS-Nation with Doug Lombardi and ever since, the number of hurt feelings has been growing. Users are feeling neglected and alienated by a company growing more greedy. Below I've summarized the debate.

The arguments against the ads are:

  • Ads should only be in free games.
  • Valve shouldn't be allowed to put ads in after the fact. (ie. people knew when before they bought BF2142 that it would have in game ads)
  • Ads interfere with game play
  • Ads don't fit in.
  • Ads take away from tournaments and may show ads that conflict with the tournaments sponsors.
  • Server admins have no control over the ads.
Some of the arguments for are:
  • Valve can do whatever the !@#$% they want.
  • People buy a license to play the game, not an actual copy of the game. Valve can change what every they want.
  • Valve doesn't charge for the server software. Advertising helps recoup the cost of development.
  • This game is old and valve would like people to buy the newer Source version.
  • In everyday life there are ads on stuff we pay for like on the subway ride to work, cereal boxes, DVD's etc.
My thoughts:
  • Valve has the right to do what ever they want to the game but I think it is wrong on their end to make such a major change to game after it is has already been accepted by the community.
  • It was reckless on their part to release this on their most played game. Valve should have choosen a different game to test ads with.
  • Valve should give users something in exchange for putting in the ads, such as...
    • Lowering the price of the game. Knocking a dollar off the price of all of the packages that include CS 1.6 would nice move.
    • Fix some of the bugs. There has been only one update to the game in the last year. If people saw the revenue from the ads improving the game, they might stop complaining. There is a whole list of bugs that need to be fixed.
  • Server owners should get a cut of the ad revenue. Its their servers' that are running the ads. Run it like the way Google runs Adsense on Blogspot. Ads should be optional and allow the server admins to enable them on their servers if they would like to make a little spare change. Both parties win.
  • Valve needs to make the ads fit in better. The current ads are at least double the resolution of the map textures. Reduce the quality of the ads or give the community a nice texture update. Add some wear and tear to the wall ads like some dirt, pealing corners, rips and stains. In other environments, change existing textures like on the vending machines and crates. The Spectator and scoreboard ads should be semi transparent so you can see through them.
  • Even if I think it was bad choice to test ads on CS 1.6 ad least they were modest in the number of ads with about three or four per map. (Thank god they didn't do this)
  • As the Server Admin at the RHA LAN-O-THON, I want the right to decide if there are ads on my server. If Valve won't give me the ability to remove the ads at least give me the ability to choose the ads that do appear. At a LAN Party, if I have to show ads, I would rather have it only show valve's own ads and not an Intel or a Shampoo ad.
Valve is losing many customers over this but the million dollar question is will they loose enough customers to make them take the time and rethink the damage they have caused. I can only hope that they think carefully before integrating ads into any of their other existing games. Will people keep playing valve games? Yes! But will the community ever recover? Only time can tell.

Followup
In a recent interview, Gabe Newell (main dude at Valve) answered a few questions related my rant.
You mentioned the need to experiment - something that's been announced in the last week is in-game advertising in Counter-Strike. Why did you choose to do that now? I read an open letter from a server admin who made the point that he's hosting the game, so why shouldn't he expect a cut?

Well we're looking at a variety of ways of funding these development projects and it probably benefits us less than other kinds of developers. We're very successful with the retail model of large-scale projects; we could have just kept turning the crank on that. I think where advertising-supported projects will be interesting is the degree to which it continues, you know the same way Steam hopefully broadens... one of the issues that it solves is broadening the distribution of games like Red Orchestra, which deserve to reach an audience. I think that we're also going to start to see games that would struggle to get traditional publisher funding find that advertising is a great way of finding and developing an audience, and that's why we're putting the effort to make it possible for people to use Steam to do advertising-supported games. So we really see this as another option that we and other developers can use to figure out how to fund projects going forward. What I would hope to see is that small developers can give away their titles for free and garner ongoing development support by generating advertising revenue, and we've done all the work to make that possible through the work that we're doing in Counter-Strike. That's certainly the hope. Another aspect in addition to broadening monetisation options and funding options, especially for new developers, is the possibility of segmenting your audience. So any time you can give people more pricing options, that's always been a good idea. Some people will prefer it one way and some people will prefer it the other way, but it really requires us - especially as the technology provider that a lot of developers are starting to depend on - to do it first and get it out there, work out the kinks in the system so that they can then use it to trial things themselves.

But do you sympathise with, say, the guy in Germany hosting a CS server who wonders why he should pay to serve your ads? Is there a feeling that they could cut in on that income?

We haven't really thought about that. If they want to talk to us about it then they can. I think in general... there are between 150,000 and 180,000 servers around the world, so I think we've traditionally done a good job of supporting those people and giving them what they need to be excited about running and hosting servers. That's why it's an order of magnitude larger than any other server community for any other group. We're certainly always interested in engaging with any server operator to find out how we can do a better job.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

RHA LAN-O-THON v3.5 Pictures

A few pictures from our last lan, RHA LAN-O-THON v3.5.













Tuesday, March 6, 2007

LAN-O-THON v3.0 Photos

Here are some picture from RHA LAN-O-THON v3.0 which was 11/06

Monday, March 5, 2007

Pre Registration

At my last event we did pre registration for the LAN Party online but since the RHA LAN-O-THON is a free event, We had a problem with people signing up online and then not showing up, so this time I'm doing a paper sign up system. I think only people who are serious will take the time to print out the registration form, fill out and drop off to our office.

LAN Party Waiver

A critical part for any LAN Party is the waiver. It's purpose it simple, it releases the event organizers from any liability if someones computer deep fries at the event. This is important because if there was a power surge or if a computer virus destroyed everyones computers it keeps the Organizers from having to pay to repair all of the damaged computers or from being sued if someone slips, falls and breaks their neck.

Tonight I put together a draft of the Waivers and Registration forms for my event. There are three, one for Gamers, Spectators and Volunteers.

Steam Error "Invalid Steam User ID Ticket"

The solution to Steam error "Invalid Steam User ID Ticket" is to completely exit out of Steam and delete "steam.ui", "clientregistry.blob" and "steam.dll" files in Steam's directory, usually "C:\Program Files\steam\". Once you finish that, start Steam again.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Web site software

Every LAN Party needs a web site. Ours is here. I'm a code junkie but the website I wrote for my last LAN Party(a 25 seat event) didn't have the features I wanted and I don't have the time to write them so I searched the web and tried a few things but the best thing I've found is ALP. It has everything I could need. Tournament management, Music management, server listing and more. I'm going to mod to change a few things but so far so good.

Sponsors

One thing that makes a LAN Party is the sponsors. Several hardware companies offer LAN Party sponsorships on their websites and I have compiled a list of links. Many of them will provide some free swag but it is not guaranteed. Don't expect hardware or anything expensive. For most events, the most you will get is a poster to hang, a t-shirt or two and some stickers.

New additions
Keep in mind that all of these sites have their own requirements you must meet to get a sponsorship such as placing ads on your LAN's website, send them pictures of the event, the venue, placement of their materials and of the prize winners. If you want a sponsorship, spend some time to thoroughly fill out the forms and double check everything.

I am still searching for more. If you find one I missed, post it in the comments and I will add it to the list.

Electricity

At the most LANs getting enough electricity is a challenge and at our LAN it's no different. Larger LAN may use a diesel generator to have enough juice if the facility can't supply it. Even if your location says it has the power you need you may still have to rent power converting equipment to use it. At our lan there is "appears" to be enough electricity in and around the building but I can know for sure with out seeing the circuit breaker panel.

In most circumstances you would go look at the circuit breaker panel to find and mark which outlets are on each circuit but the room where we have held our last 2 LAN Parties, the electrical panel is in a locked closet that maintenance seams to be unwilling to unlock. So we have relied on blind luck not to blow the circuit breakers.

In the room we are using there are several 20 amp outlets characterized by the use of NEMA 5-20R outlets (See the picture, one prong has a T shape) but what I don't know is if each one of these outlets is on it's own circuit or shares with another outlet 5 feet away. A 20 amp circuit can theoretically carry 2400 watts of electricty (calculated by using watts = amps*volts) but most will trip when they reach around 80% load (about 16 amps or 1920 watts)

I'm tempted just to carry down 3 1000 watt microwaves down to the room and plug 2 into one outlet and 1 one in another and have them boil water till I trip a circuit breaker and and after a few minutes if the breaker doesn't trip I will know that they are on separate circuits.

At the event it is optimal to provide 3 to 4 amps for each computer. Even though some of the desktops have a 500 watt power supply that won't come close to using it. Most computers don't use as much electricity as they think. My very high end Desktop rig only draws 300 watts (or about 3 amps) so planning for 4amps is more than enough. Usually you shouldn't have more than 5 or 6 desktops on a 20 amp circuit.

Another thing you have to take into account is the number of amps that a power strip and extension cords can carry. 20 amp power cords and power strips are expensive so we split them over 2 separate power strips and extension cords carrying 10 amps each. The power strips we use can handle 15 amps but the extension cords are different. The 25ft cords can handle about 14 amps but our 50ft cords can only handle 12 amps and if you use even longer cords, the number of amps drops even more.

At our event, since we have so many laptop users I take this in to account when planning the power setup so we can minimize the number of extension cords we have to buy. An average laptop uses around 100 watts or about one amp of electricity. We seat 2 laptops and 2 desktops to a power strip thus maximizing the number of computer we can power.

I'll add some more pictures later. I have all summer to bug the maintenance department to mark the electrical circuits.

Our network

Our network is made up of
4 Dell 2324 24 port switches with gigabit uplinks for the table switches.
1 Dell 2708 for the core switch.
1- Router/Firewall/NAT: An old HP 700 Celeron running pfSense
1- Web/File server- An old PIII 733: running FreeBSD, Apache, PHP, mySQL, FreeRADIUS, FTP and Samba. (I would spread the load if we had more machines)
2- Dedicated Game servers: the RHA Laptop (Desktop 3.0ghz P4) and My personal laptop (Celeron M 1.3 ghz)
Add to this my desktop and any other loner pc's I get and we can get plenty of server power.

Depending on what I can find a good deal on, I would like to upgrade the core switch to Dell 2716 or a Dell 2724. I like these Dell switches because they are cheep and good quality. They are made for dell by Delta Networking and company that also makes switches for Netgear and other companies.

Stuff I've learned from my past lans

  1. Advertising is crucial. Get it out early.
  2. College students love facebook. Post your event there or people will miss out.
  3. College students don't bring their own powerstrips or lan cables.
  4. You don't need as much power for a college lan as others because over 50% of the people bring laptops.
  5. Have internet or your doomed.
  6. With small lans no one seams to own the same games leading to a boring lan party. At my last event we bought some Temporary Tournament Steam Accounts to hand out to solve this. 75% of our guests used them.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Thank-you

Thanks for your donation. People like you help keep this blog going.

Introduction

This blog is an inside look into what it takes to put on RHA LAN-O-THON v4.0, a 50 person LAN Party happening Friday, October 26 2007 for the residence of USF in Cypress E.



I want to share my setup with you so you can use some of my ideas at your events and I can use yours. I want to create a LAN Party Guide that stays up to date as technology and society changes by using the blog format. In the coming months I'm going to write guides on how to install different game servers and plugins, setup a file server, setup pfsense to mange and track users, install and config Freebsd to run a web server to power ALP and other software.

About LAN-O-THON

LAN-O-THON is a LAN Party that was started by The Residence Hall Association (RHA) at the University of South Florida (USF) and has become a semiannual event.

Some History...

v 1.0 LAN-O-THON first started in 04-05 in the Andros Community Room and had about __ people in the BYOC. I'm told it was memorable because one of the lights in the room caught fire or something like that.

v2.0 After the fiasco in the Andros Building the Event was moved to Holly J.

v2.5 The main games were Unreal Tournament 2004 and Warcraft III;

v3.0 This was when I got involved. I ran the network and the main game server. the predominant game was Half-life 2: Deathmatch

v3.5 I planned the BYOC for this one. We had nice need rows and zero network problems. We played Counter-Strike: Source and Half-life 2: Deathmatch;

v4.0 I planned this event to the max. We had a great event. We played Team Fortress 2 and Half-life 2: Deathmatch;

Now I'm working on planning v4.5 and it is going to be bigger and better and I'm blogging every step of the process.

About Me

I am a Architecture major at USF but one of my hobbies is tinkering with computers and the best way to share this is through LAN Parties. I enjoy working with computers, networks and web design. I started the Cypress LAN Party Group in the dorms here at USF and I run a monthly LAN Party in the dorms. I am also on the RHA programing committee and I'm in charge of the RHA LAN-O-THON, the event that this blog is all about.

If you have any questions, feel free to send me a message or just leave a comment.

LAN Party Guide

I'm slowly working on a series of blog posts meant to serve as a general information and how-to guide on how to plan, organize and host as successful LAN Party.

  1. What is a LAN Party?
  2. I Want to Host One!
  3. Location, Location, Location
  4. Electricity, The Real LAN Party Fuel
  5. The LAN in LAN Party
  6. How to: Make a LAN Cable
  7. Setup pfSense
  8. Installing and Configuring SRCDS
  9. How to: Setup a Dedicated FreeBSD Web Server
  10. Installing ALP
  11. Budgeting
  12. LAN Party Nourishment
  13. ....
Last updated 08/25/07

Starting a Blog...

Well I'm starting a blog about planning and running a 50 man LAN Party for the students living in the dorms at USF (The University of South Florida) and all of the stuff that goes in to it.