Monday, April 29, 2013

LAN Parties; a Gathering of N3rds

One of the primary social gatherings for those participating in the nerd culture is the LAN (Local Area Network) party. There likely won’t be any dancing at this party (save for the occasional “in your face” dance), nor copious amounts of alcohol (gotta keep those reflexes sharp), but there is typically junk food, caffeine, and some serious pwning. If you’re interested in throwing a LAN party of your own or just want to know more about them keep reading through our basic guide to throwing a LAN party.

Choose a Platform
a LAN party
Where you stand politically (or physically for that matter) has nothing to do with it. But what you’ll be playing on does. Popular options include Xbox 360 and PC, both of which offer great gaming options over a LAN. Making this decision is vitally important as it lets your guests know what to bring with them. Unless you’re planning for a week long LAN party (and honestly who hasn’t at least considered it) stick to one platform so guests don’t have to pack up every electronic they own. Likewise, if you’re going with a console, make sure everyone will have a compatible screen to play on.

Create a Playlist
Though background tunes are always cool, the playlist I’m referring to is the list of games you’ll be playing at the party. There are a host of games that are great for LAN parties and you won’t be hard pressed to find some that everyone owns. If you’re having trouble StarCraft is always a popular option although its successor (StarCraft II) will require an internet connection (and let’s face it, if you’re having a LAN Party you’ll need it for updates anyway). At any rate choose a few different titles being sure not to include more than you’ll actually have time to play a few rounds of.

Invite Friends
Having determined what you want to play on and what games you’d like to play invite some people over for the party. Let them know what platform you’ll be on and what games to bring. If you’re short on finances you can also ask that each person bring some sort of food and drink as their “entrance fee” for the party. Most people will be perfectly happy to grab a couple bags of chips, chip in $5 for some pizza, or grab a couple 2 liters of soda to share. Still, if you’re guests are anything like me, expect to have at least half forget to bring something.

Prep the LAN
Now comes the technical stuff. To have a successful LAN party, you’ll need to set up a local area network at the location. There are a couple ways to do this; wired or wireless.

Obviously wired is going to be your most geographically limiting option as it’ll require you all to be physically present in the same room (unless you’ve got one of those cool houses where Ethernet cables were run through the whole house). However this limitation comes with the benefit of speed. Using the newest routers, a wired LAN can transfer information at a rate of about 1 Gb/sec (1 Giga bit per second). This connection speed is practically a necessity for games that have a high level of network activity. The other limiting factor is going to be the number of players. While it’s possible to set up a wired local area network for 16 people, it’s rarely comfortable and often limits the ability to vocally plan team strategy.

a couple different wireless routers
The shortcomings of a wired LAN can be overcome using a wireless router which will allow you to spread out quite a bit more giving you plenty of room for vocally

strategizing with team members (ideally located in the same room), provide for comfortable amounts of elbow room, and allowing many more connections than is practical for your typical wired LAN. These advantages have a fatal flaw however which is speed. The best wireless technology of the day, wireless N operates at just about a tenth of the speed that the latest wired solution would. This can be an issue when you’re playing those network intensive games, but shouldn’t be too big an issue for most titles.

Ultimately you’re router choice will depend on what games you’re playing and (more practically speaking) what you have available.

As a quick side note for game stability; make sure you have the person with the most powerful system (typically the host as they can use a desktop while everyone else brings laptops) launch the game as that system will be acting as the server for the rest and as such its processing speed needs to be high enough to keep up.

Get Everyone Connected
As people arrive get them set up on the LAN taking care of driver issues, security settings, and updates as you go. If at all possible have people update their games before they come over as some of those updates can take hours to download and install, wasting valuable game time.

Game On!
Once everyone’s set, launch the game and start fragging. Honestly unless you’re running the party for several nights (which sounds amazing, but who has the time?) you probably don’t need to concern yourself with sleeping arrangements as you’ll likely be playing through the night (though there are other schools of thought).

So if you like the idea of hosting a LAN party, start planning and invite all your nerdy friends (like me). After all, we could all use a good excuse to get out of our N3rd C0rn3r.