Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Radeon Owners Get Free Valve Games

Just in from Valve:

Valve just announced that for a limited time that all ATI owners can download a free copy of Half-Life 2: Lost Coast and Half-Life 2: Deathmatch through Steam. The software will automatically check to see if you qualify. If you already have an ATI Video Card you download the free games here

In related news, Shacknews says:

Steam will be included with the ATI Catalyst driver and software suit until early 2008 and ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT owners will, upon release, receive Team Fortress 2, Portal, and Half-Life 2: Episode Two through Valve's content delivery application.

I haven't had a chance to test any of this but it is great to see ATI and Valve working out a great deal to give out my favorite LAN party game. In my opinion, ATI's plans to bundle Steam with their drivers is good and bad. It will make it easier for new gamers to get their free games but for the rest of us, it will just bloat our drivers. I hope they made it an optional download that can be triggered from the driver installer.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

I Want to host one!

I've been going to LAN Parties for a while now and I want to host one, Ok? Now what?

Hosting a LAN Party is a ton of fun. Its nice to meet gamers just like and make new friends. You will learn a lot about computers, networking, marketing, people skills and more, some of which you can learn how to do in this guide.

The bad news? Hosting a LAN Party is lot of work.

If your planning a LAN Party be prepared to:

  • Get stressed Out
  • Put your own money into it.
  • Not make any money from it.
  • Work more than you play.
  • Deal with crazy people.
Truthfully, Its a LOT of work but for me, the rewards out way all of this. I find it fun to make new friends, help people fix their computers and see everyone else having fun. What you get out of it could be different.

Size is Everything.
A lot of what you have to do to host a LAN Party depends on the size. A small party can be quick and easy but a major event could take months of planning. They do all have somethings in common, they all need tables, chairs, extension cords, power strips and some networking equipment. If you are new at the whole LAN Party thing, I suggest you start small and slowing increase the size of your event. Below is a summery of what it take to put on each size event.

Garage LAN Party (3+)
A Garage LAN Party is one that you host in your house/apartment/dorm room for a few friends. It doesn't take much time to setup and don't require much preplanning. Guests don't expect much either. Messy cords and lack of organization are normal. Everyone is here just to hang out and have fun. The cost is minimal because nothing big has to be bought, you only need a couple of extension cords and power strips. The network is simple and is probably already in place a small switch may be the only item needed. Tables and chairs can be moved from other rooms for people to use. Food and drinks may be as simple as everyone chipping in some money to get a pizza delivered. Cost- each event: $0, one-time: $80- $150.

Small LAN Party (10+)
While bigger than a garage LAN Party, this still a small event, you'll probably have a few new people coming. You will have to do some planning before the event to get everything going and a few volunteers to help with check in. If you have a friend that can help you, you'll do even better. You will need to keep some form order to keep thing under control. You will need to have a bigger space to host this party. If your house/ apartment is small you may have to see if you can checkout a community room or the like (See the Location Guide). With more guests comes the need for more you have equipment you have to buy and setup. Table and chairs may needed to be rented to giver every one a space. Electrical circuits need to be looked at to make sure they aren't overloaded (See the Electrical Guide) . The network also needs to be setup beforehand, you need a nice table switch and a router that can handle the extra load (See the Network Guide). You need to plan food and drinks to fuel your guests gaming. Charging a small fee for this isn't unreasonable. A registration system and a wavier is a good idea to prevent any legal problems. With 10+ people, you're more like to get a sponsor that will send some free swag for you give out. (Don't expect any hardware). Cost- each event: $100, one-time: $150- $300.

Medium LAN Party (50+)
A medium size event needs to one or two dedicated people to plan and organize it and several volunteers to help at the event. Guests expect a lot from an event of this size and you need to be prepared. First you need to decided on a budget to keep costs from getting out of control. Then you need to pick a location to rent (See Location Guide) along with tables and chairs. Electrical requirements soon become your primary concern and must be calculated and if the location can't provide enough, a generator may need to be rented (See the Electrical Guide). The network must be carefully planned in order make sure it can handle the number guests your planning for. You will need to have multiple switches, servers and other network equipment to keep the gaming going(See the Network Guide). Food and drinks need to be bought and a distribution system decided on (See Food/Drink Guide). Advertising needs to start early in order to fill all of the seats. You will need registration system and volunteers trained to run it. With so many guests you need to consider taking security measures like making sure computers are labeled with their owners information and checked in and out of the room to keep items from getting stolen. However a benefit of this many guests means more companies may be willing to sponsor your event and you may even get some hardware for prizes. Cost- each event: $300-$500, one-time: $500- $800.

Large LAN Party (100+)
A LAN Party of this size is outside of the scope of this guide and anyone in their right mind would already have the experience and know how to put one on.

A Little About Me
If you've already read the introduction to this blog you probably already know all of this. I am a student in the Masters of Architecture Program at the University of South Florida and I am a Co-chair of an Event put on by the USF he Residence Hall Association called LAN-O-THON.
I have been a fan of LAN Parties for many years but it wasn't until I got to USF did I get into organizing any. Over my last two years there, I have hosted more than 8 events ranging from 3 people all the way to 150 (however, the BYOC was only 30 seats). For our next event, I'm planning to have a BYOC of 50+ seats.

My favorite LAN party is one where I can have fun and hang out and play a few games. Do I want to play computer games for 10 hours straight- NO! I like to play a little, chat a little, help a little. I'm not fond of LAN parties where the main attraction is one big tournament where you wait for hours till its your turn to compete.

So for LAN-O-THON v4.0 I want the event first and foremost to be a fun event to hang out and have fun. I will be hosting several tournaments (to be discussed in a future article) to challenge and entertain people through out the night but it won't take over the event. There will be multiple game servers going for a variety of games. I hope with 50 people in attendance that we will be able to sustain game play on several servers all night long. I want to attract as many people as possible to attend so there has to be something for everyone.

But Don't take my word for It
I suggest you read more than just my site before running off and organizing your first event. So have a look at some of these other guides.
  • Toms Hardware LAN How To: Part One, Two, and Three
  • Guide (The networking part is outdated.
Did I leave something out? That's what the comment box is for.

Continue on to Location, Location, Location

Friday, May 25, 2007

Weekly Update

Well I've add two more articles The LAN in LAN Party and Electricity, The real LAN Party Fuel and I have more to do. I also went through and redid the all the tags on each blog entery so they fit better. On Thursday, I went through my list of companies that sponsor LAN Parties and submitted a dozen applications so hopefully well get a bunch of sponsors. Alienware already got back to me and they are going to sponsor us again.

Some of next week I will be away on vacation so I don't know how much I'll get done.

On a side note I got the chance to tour a great architecture firm today and that was a lot of fun.

The LAN in LAN Party

While electricity may fuel a LAN Party, it needs one more thing- The LAN. What would a LAN Party be without its namesake? So to add this spice, here is an overview of pieces you need. Many of these items will be discussed in greater detail later.

Table Switch
For a small LAN Party this may be the only piece of networking equipment you have to buy. It splits your internet connection into enough pieces for every one at the table to have one. I recommend getting a 24 port switch with at least one gigabit uplink port. For my LAN, I use DELL 2324's. They are fairly cheap and good quality. You can also buy other brands like Netgear or D-Link. At a larger LAN Party (greater than 24 people) table switches just become a small part of the network layout. As tempting as it is, avoid switch with even more ports like 36 or 48. Trying to squeeze more computers on to one switch will create a need for longer cables and an even bigger mess. Keep in mind with a 24 port switch like mine, 24 PCs are sharing one gigabit uplink but on a switch with more ports, more computers are having to share that same uplink creating the possibility for a traffic jam.

Another consideration when buying a switch is to make sure that it is non-blocking. This means that it has the capability to switch all of the traffic it receives. While common today, some older switches don't have this feature. Sometimes the switch's description will only show the switch's switching capacity. To tell if is non-blocking, add up the bandwidth of each port and times it by 2 (for incoming and outgoing). For example- the Dell 2324 has (24 x 100 mbps) + (2 x 1000 mbps) so add this up and times it by 2 to get 8.8 gbps (8,800 mpbs) and if this equals what the stated capacity is, the switch is non-blocking.

If you are on a budget, switches this size are easy to find on eBay for good prices. I have gotten good deals on a lot of my equipment by searching eBay but always check to make sure you only buy from reputable sellers.

Core Switch
At a large LAN Party, you may have several table switches and they all have to be linked together. This is where the core switch comes in to place. The core switch becomes the central component of the network that all the other devices connect to. It is best for this switch to be full gigabit for maximum network speeds and super low pings. In the past, I have used a DELL 2708. I originally picked it because it was the cheapest gigabit switch I could find that offered some management capabilities. I also got this one off of eBay. It has worked well but It's 8 ports are becoming limiting as I have more game servers and table switches to connect to it. For LAN-O-THON v4.0, I'm watching eBay for a used 16 or 24 managed gigabit switch and my 2708 will become a server switch.

Server Switch
This switch isn't necessary unless you are having a large LAN Party you have more dedicated servers and table switches than have ports on your core switch or there may not be enough space near the core switch to place the dedicated servers. The server switch then becomes a offshoot of the core switch, kinda like a table switch but for the servers. It should be full gigabit like the core switch to prevent network latency (high pings).

Often the only internet connection available only supports one computer (like a dsl or cable modem) and you need to intelligently split the internet connection into multiple ports while appearing to be only one machine. This device is commonly called a Router but it is made up of several parts, the NAT, the Firewall, and the DHCP server. The DHCP server assigns each computer on the network its own IP address to use. This help people automatically connect to the network when they plug computer in so no manual configuration needed. The NAT merges the data from all of these unique address into the single address the router uses to connect to the internet. The firewall sits between these two parts filtering the data to provide network security by preventing unauthorized machines from gaining access.
For a small LAN Party (10 or less seats) a household router that you may already have around will work fine. For events in my dorm room, I use a Netgear WG614 but once you add more seats, a more industrial solution is needed.
For my big events I use an old PC running pfSense. pfSense is a highly optimized FreeBSD distro for creating a dedicated router. It can handle 200mbps+ and has a ton of features. The old PC I run it on is 700mhz Celeron with a 256mb of RAM and 2 Intel gigabit network cards and this is more than enough computing power for most events. pfSense s easy to install and setup and I'll create a Install guide in the future.

Cables- The Last Link
To connect all of your network together- your routers, switches, servers and guest's PCs, you use cat5e cable. You can buy this cable ready made or you can buy a roll and make the cables yourself. For a large event, this is often much cheaper and allows you to create just the length cables you need, reducing the tangles of wires on the tables.

There are two main types of Cat5e cable: stranded and solid . Stranded cable has conductors (the individual wires in a cat5e cable) that are made up of multiple thin copper wires. This creates a very flexible cable great for linking your guests computers to the table switches. They typical have ticker jackets making them able to withstand a lot of handling however, the down side is that data can degrade over runs of cable over 50 feet long. This where solid cat5 comes in. Solid cat5's conductors are made up of a single, thicker piece of copper. It is good for making long runs of cable like between your table switches and core switches because data doesn't degrade as it travels over it but is less flexible.

Cat5e's outer coating also comes in several different types: PVC, Plenum and LC (Low Combustion). PVC is the standard and cheapest and what you're probably going to want to buy. The other 2, Plenum and LC are designed for office buildings and data centers where building codes specify their use to prevent fires from spreading when cables are hidden in walls and traveling between floors. These two types of cable both melt instead of burn when exposed to an open flame, while they are safer, they cost 2 to 3 time more and for a temporary event like a LAN Party where all of the cable is exposed it's overkill.

LAN Cables are easy to make. See my guide How to: Make a LAN Cable for step by step instructions.

If your look to buy Cat5e cable on the internet I recommend a site called Deep Surplus. They sell a variety of network related products at great prices. I have bought many items from them and they are fantastic plus every order includes a free bag of candy. Sweet!

Optional Elements

Web Server
Having a dedicated webserver is almost required for a large LAN Party. Running great software like ALP (the Autonomous LAN Party, free) allows you to organize your LAN Party, run tournaments, schedule events, jukebox and more. I also use the computer as a file server for hosting critical game patches and custom maps. For my server, again I use an old PC, this time its a 733mhz PIII with 512mb of ram running FreeBSD but you could you any flavor of Linux or even Windows. My magic 8 ball sees another guide in the future.

Game Servers
Any size LAN Party can benefit from running dedicate game servers. A dedicated box is more stable and easier to fix when something goes wrong. I tend to just borrow a friends computer (who isn't a gamer) to use at the event (just be careful not to cause any ill harm). For my favorite Valve games like CounterStrike: Source and Half-life 2: Deathmatch you can use Valve's free Source Dedicated Server. It is easy to install and setup and runs on Linux and Windows. A guide for getting this setup is planned too.

How it all goes together
Have a look at this diagram....

It basically goes like this Router-> Core switch->table switches. Once you get all of your cables run, like extension cords, it is a good idea to tape these cables down to the floor with blue painters tape for safety. When possible, it is a good idea to keep electrical and data cords 12 inches away from each other to prevent interference. If the have to cross make sure they are a 90 degree angles. Have a look at the picture right to see my setup.

Have a question? Did I leave something out? That's what the comment box is for.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Electricity, The Real LAN Party Fuel

What makes a LAN Party happen? Electricity. If gamers can't power their rigs, they can't frag and when their not fraging, they're not having fun. This means that without it, your party is going to miserably fail.

At most LAN Parties getting enough electricity is a challenge and at our event it's no different. For a small event you may have to run extension cords from surrounding rooms to have enough electricity. Even if your location says it has enough power, you may still have to rent power converting equipment in order to use it. Another option for a large event is to rent a generator to provide the necessary power. If you're using local power, make sure you have access to the circuit breaker panel for the space so you can verify that you have enough electricity and reset any breakers if you do trip one at your event. For most small LAN Parties, the only equipment you have to buy are extension cords and power strips.

How much electricity do I need?
At a LAN Party, it is optimal to provide 3 to 4 amps (A) of electricity for each computer. Even though some desktops have 500 watt power supplies, they don't come close to using it. Most computers don't use as much electricity as they think. My very high end Desktop rig with a 650 watt power supply only draws 300 watts (or about 3A) so planning for 4A is more than enough. Use this numbers to calculate how many amps total you need power everyone's computers. Most household circuits are either 15A or 20A, so doing the math a 15A circuit can support about 4 desktops and a 20A circuit can support 5 or 6. At our event, since we have so many laptop users, we take this in to account when planning our power setup so we can minimize the number of extension cords we have to buy. An average laptop uses around 100 watts or about 1A of electricity so on our 20A circuits, we seat 2 laptops and 2 desktops to a power strip & extension cord to maximize the number of computers we can power. It would be better if we had only 6 computers (3 desktops & 3 laptops) on a circuit but in our location is short on electricty. You're probably going to have to run extension cords from other rooms in order to supply enough juice.

The Electrical Panel
The first step is to find out which outlets are on each circuit. This is really easy to do. Look around the space you are using and note where all of the outlets are. Plug a lamp into one of the outlets. Goto the electrical panel and look around to see if the circuit breakers are labeled and find the ones most likely to be for the outlets you noted. Flip the switches on the breakers, off and on, one by one until your lamp turns off. (see the diagram left for reference) Check the surrounding outlets and mark all of the outlets that no longer have electricity. All of these outlets are on the same circuit. Back at the panel, look and see how many amps the circuit breaker is rated and write this down. (see picture right) and turn the breaker back on. Continue this until you find all of the circuit breakers for all of the outlets you want to use.

The last thing you have to take into account is the total amount of electricity coming into your building. To find this, look for a number like 150A, 200A, 300A, etc stamped in white on the larger breaker at the top center of your electrical panel (the one for the panel in the picture above is in an adjacent box). This is the total amount of electricity you have to work with. Often the sum of the amps little breakers below the the large one will be greater because under normal conditions, none of the breakers work at their max. Add up the sum of the amps of the breakers you are going to be using. For example : LAN (3 x 15A) + LAN (2 x 20 A) + AC 50A etc for a grand total. If this value exceeds the total amount you are going to have, you are going to have to either reduce the number guest you invite, move to your party to a venue with more power or rent a generator. For reference, a 20A circuit can theoretically carry 2400 watts of electricity (calculated by using watts = amps*volts) but most will trip when they reach around 80% load (about 16A or 1920 watts). Proportionally, a 15A circuit can theoretically carry 1900 watts but typically can only carry 12A or 1440 watts.

Extension Cords
Almost always the outlets you want to use are out of reach of the power strips so you have to use extension cords to bridge the gab but 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. As the length of the cords get longer, the less energy they can carry. A 25ft cords can handle about 14 amps but a 50ft cords may only handle 12 amps and as you can in the picture left, if you use even longer cord, the number of amps drops even more. So before you go out shopping get an idea of how long your extension cords need to be when you are out purchasing them. Usually you will need to buy 2 extension cords for every 5 computers your hosting.

Power Strips
On the tables, power strips divide the electricity from the extension cords giving every guest a single outlet that they can plug their own surge protector into. To prevent overloading, I assign each seat an outlet and tape over any extra. When you're shopping for power strips note that there is a difference between a power strip and a surge protector. A power strip doesn't provide any sort of protection from surges. Power strips are a cheaper alternative especially when guests will be bringing their own surge protectors. Make sure you tell your guests to bring a surge protector. Again, usually you will need to buy 2 for every 5 computers you're hosting.

Hooking It All Up
Only run as many extension cords as needed. If you have to run more then two cords on a single circuit, make sure you tape off all but the outlets you're going to use to make sure the circuit as a whole won't be overloaded. When running the cords, try to keep the runs as short as possible and leave any extra cord loose to prevent heat from building up and becoming a fire hazard. For safety, tape down all of the cables to the floor using blue tape because it is easy to remove after your party.

Prevent Overloads
Overloading is the most serous danger to a LAN Party as it not only could it cause a lot of cause a loss of power but it could also cause a fire. While you're at your electrical panel, turn off any circuits you're not using like your oven and cloths dryer so aunt Lulu can't crash your party by doing her laundry.
You should also set some rules beforehand like no UPS's (uninterrupted power supplies), speakers, mini fridges, microwaves and other nonessential items. UPS's while helpful, waste electricity and when you are on a tight electrical budget, these can tip the balance. After the event starts, periodically scan the tables for problems and if necessary, nicely explain why they have to disconnect their hairdryer from their surge protector.

Here is a quick review...

Circuit 1 is an example of what we use at our LAN-O-THON events. We have 2 desktops and 2 laptops on each of the 2 extension cords we have plugged into a 20 amp circuit.

Circuit 2 is an example of using more than 2 extension cords on a circuit but the circuit as a whole is not overload since it is only powering 12A worth of computers.

Circuit 3 is an example of the optimal setup for an event where guests bring mostly desktops. Five computers are divided over 2 extention cords pluged into a 20A circuit.

Circuit 4 is full of problems. With 7 computers on a 15A circuit it's at almost double its rated capacity and the circuit breaker is going to trip. Also having 16 amps on a single extension cord is a accident waiting to happen because when a cord is overload, it heats up and could start a fire. on a side note the extra outlets on the power strips aren't taped over, so someone could plug another computer in and make the situation even worse.

If Something Goes Wrong.
While loosing power is a major interruption to your event, it can and will happen and you better be prepared. If power does go out, first calm everyone down and announce you're going to try to fix it as quickly as possible and to stop the moaning, you can provide some sort of alternative like a poker game.

Anytime the power goes out, before anything else, unplug all of the computers that lost power. When the electricity comes back one you don't want a power surge to ruin any of your guests' computers.

If the entire building looses power, first check to see if the surrounding area's also lost power. If they did, the good news is that it is probably not your fault but the bad news is you're at the mercy of the power company. If your neighbors still have power, most likely you just blew your primary circuit breaker. Find your main circuit breaker box and see if the big main breaker at the top center of the box has tripped (usually a red, yellow or orange stripe will be visible on the breaker that wasn't before. You did look at the breaker box before your event right?). If it tripped, you don't have enough electricity coming into your building or house to power everything. You're going to have to unplug some things before flipping the breaker back on or it's just going to happen again.

Most commonly though, just a few computers will loose power.

First check to see if other computers on the same circuit are still on. If they are, check to see if the affect guests are all using the same power strip. If not, skip to my next idea. If they are, check to make sure the power strip is turned on and it's fuse didn't blow (may sound stupid but it happens). Then check the outlet that's suppose to be powering it. If it still has power flowing to it, check the extension cords to make sure they are all properly connected and if you still haven't found the problem, try swapping them to see if that solves the problem.

If the blackout is affecting multiple power strips and they are all on the same circuit, check the electrical panel for a tripped breaker (again look for a red, yellow or orange stripe that wasn't there before). If this is true, move some of the computers to a different circuit that's not being used and then flip the switch on the breaker to turn the power back on.

Anything not fixed by the above is harder to trace and could be a compound problem. Treat everything as if it wasn't related to any of the other power problems. Check the breaker box and if everything looks normal, continue to checking all of the power strips and extension cords.
Try connecting the extension cords to outlets on circuits you haven't tapped yet and see if that solves the problem. If you can't find the problem, you may have suck it up and end your event early and call a certified electrician out to fix the problem.

Have a question? Did I leave something out? That's what the comment box is for.

Continue on to The LAN in LAN Party

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Network Diagram

For those curious about this years network set up for LAN-O-THON, here is a network diagram. The diagram doesn't include any additional servers I may build or borrow for the event.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Weekly Update

Well this is something new. I'm going to try and give weekly summary of how I'm wasting my summer and how thing are going for LAN-O-THON.

I've spent the last week making LAN Cables. I made two more bundles of 12 so now I have enough for LAN-O-THON v4.0. I took some pictures of my methods and I'll post them when I get some time. I also have two more articles almost done- electricity and networking. This week we also got our first confirmed sponsor CPU Magazine. They are going to send us 50 copies of their magazine for us to hand out at the event.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


I have started getting several offers for sponsorship which is fantastic. More sponsors will help us make this event even better.

If your company is interested in sponsoring our event LAN-O-THON v4.0, we have plenty of sponsorship opportunities:

  • You can sponsor a Game Tournament by providing prizes.
  • You can sponsor a Raffle by providing prizes.
  • You can sponsor a "Stupid LAN Party Game" like a scavenger hunt by providing prizes.
  • You can sponsor a game server by providing use money to build a server (about $250), or ship us one that we can return if needed after the event.
In exchange for the above:
  • We can hang promotional posters you provide on the walls at the event.
  • We can stuff promotional materials you provide in gift bags we hand out at the door
  • We can put a text or banner ad for your company on our following websites:
  • We can put your company name/logo on print ads
    • Small ads hung on every dorm door: text only
    • Large ads, 2 to 3 on every dorm floor: text/logo (please provide a black and white copy of the logo want us to use)
  • Other
    • We can list your company as a sponsor on any other marketing we do such as mass campus emails, etc.
    • If we print Staff T-Shirts, your companies logo can be on it.
    • We are open to other ideas too if you have one.
  • After the event, we can provide photos of the event for marketing and verification purposes. All of the guests will have signed a photo wavier of which a copy can be provided if needed. Please specify an email address to send these to.
Any promotional materials and giveaways need to arrive by September 28th unless other arrangements are made to guarantee any of the above you choose. We also need a letter or statement giving us permission to use and reprint any trademarked names and logos so our ads don't get held up at the printers.

Also I will try to get someone from our school newspaper, The Oracle, to stop by for the event.

Interested? Email me at lanothon AT mcdportal D.O.T com

Monday, May 14, 2007

New TF2 Movie - Heavy

Valve just released a funny new Team Fortress 2 Video highlighting the "Heavy" class. It shows off Valve's new facial animation system. The video reminds me of the intro to the Incredibles.

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[Download] (

Saturday, May 12, 2007

My Birthday list

Well here you have my 2007 birthday list.

From Ebay

I want 2 of these Light stands (this item expires soon so do a search for new listing by this same person)

A Dell 5224 or the newer 5324 Switch. a price under $200 including shipping is a good deal

A Netgear WG302 Wireless Access Point a price under $80 including shipping is good deal.


A Western Digital WD4000AAKS Hard drive

An ICY DOCK MB454SPF-B Mulit-Bay Backplane Module


LAN Party T-Shirt Size Medium

Caffeine Molecule T-shirt Size Medium


Strobe LightsI would like to have 4 of these


NCIS Season 2

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Location, Location, Location

Where am I going to host this thing? This was the first question I asked when I started planning LAN Parties. Was going to host it in my dorm room, a community room or do I need to rent a space. Luckily at my university I have access to a variety of spaces for free. So for me picking location depends on how many people I'm Inviting. If is just my roommate and a friend or two, I'm lazy and throw it together

The old saying for businesses is true for LAN Parties too, location can be everything. Your target audience should determine your location. Is your event city wide or is it a regional event or in my case a small on campus event. The best location is one that is in a centralized area with easy access for guests. For a big event this would be a place on a major road with plenty of parking or in my case a central place on campus. The more popular your LAN Party becomes it becomes a a less important, space and electricity soon become more important and guests are willing to travel further for a bigger event. As the LAN-O-THON event has grown we have had to exchange the most central location I could get with one that had more space and electricity.

We moved the event from Holly J (HAJ on the map) to Cypress E (RCE) so our event could grow bigger which was a necessary sacrifice.

Noise is another concern with the music cranked up and gamers yelling at insults at each other you need a location that won't annoy nearby people the last thing you want is your neighbors knocking on your door or worse the police knocking on your door telling you to turn it down.

LAN Party guest have to carry lots of heavy computer stuff into the event so it is a good idea to make sure you have enough parking nearby or have a nice unloading zone so guests don't have to walk to far.

Some more things to consider when choosing a location are space, electricity and cost. These aspects will be discussed in future article.

Have a question? Did I leave something out? That's what the comment box is for.

Continue on to Electricity, The Real LAN Party Fuel

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

What is a LAN Party?

A LAN Party is an event where people come to network their computers together to play computer games against each other. If you're not a gamer, it probably sounds crazy that people pack up their big expensive computer and bring them to a party but events like this take place all over the world.

The most common format is a BYOC or Bring Your Own Computer. For a BYOC, each guest brings their own personal computer to the event to play on. A LAN party can also be many things....

  • A Nerd Gathering
  • Just one game genre like FPS or RTS
  • A computer game tournament
  • Have console games
  • A place to show off your case mod
  • A place to have fun and hang out and make new friends

A LAN Party can vary in size from a just a few friends in a dorm room to several thousand.

From Wikipedia (cc-by-sa-2.0)

The thrill of the Kill
When you play PC games over the internet at home, you have no idea who you are playing against. You can't yell at them and you can't see their face after you pwn them in round of deathmatch. With team games at home you have to use voice chat or type commands but at a LAN Party, all your teammates are sitting next to you and can hear you yell look out win you spot a sniper. The only downside is you can quickly tell who doesn't where deodorant.

When you play at home, you could be thousands of miles away from the game server and other other gamers and it takes time for data to travel to travel between all of these computers. While it may only take milliseconds from the time you pull your virtual trigger for the game to register a hit, this delay called lag could be enough time for your opponent to move out of the way or fire back and if their data reaches the server first, They may get the point instead of you. At a LAN Party, lag is no longer a concern because every one you're playing against are only feet away instead of hundreds of miles. In most multi player PC games, lag is measured in milliseconds by by calculating the time it takes for data packets to get from your computer to the game server and back. Games server browsers will list this value as a servers "ping" or "Latency" so you can to find a server that is close to you to reduce the amount of lag you will experience. Playing at home, often a good ping is one that is less than 60ms but at a LAN Party with a decent network, it's common to have a ping that is less than 5ms. So when your in the last round of a Counter-Strike match, that fantastic shot hits instantaneously, preventing your arch enemy from firing back, leading your way to a victory.

So Where Do I find These Awesome Events Called LAN Parties?
There are many places to look on the web. Have a look at this list:
You can also ask around at your school, university or local gaming center because often you can find a nice small event that may not be advertised on the web. Before you pack your backs to go have fun, have a look at our LAN Party Checklist to make sure you packed everything you'll need.

If you can't find a LAN Party near you, you should consider starting your own. It's not that hard and our next guide is all about.

Did I leave something out? That's what the comment box is for.

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