Setting up a LAN Party
LANning can be a very fun passtime with all kinds of different goals. Some people go to a LAN Party to meet the friends they have made during online gaming, others go to try and win a competition that is being held at that LAN. Basicly there are two different kinds of LANners, known in the community as the 'freelanner' or the 'e-sporter'. And both these groups of people have a different kind of requirements to their needs during the event. Most bigger LAN party's will host a mix of these groups and have different groups of crew to cater to the needs of these groups. A simple LAN for your friends (let's say a maximum of 20 visitors) will be pretty easy to setup. The bigger you go and the more difficult it becomes. The biggest LAN in the world, DreamHack in Sweden, has a crew of roughly 550 members whom run around all day long to make sure the event is a success. And each and every crewmember has their on preassigned taskset, depending on which crew they belong to. You'll have Security, firstaid, Competition managers, Entrance, build-up, power, network and many many more groups that cater to that specific need of the event.
Setting up a small LAN party can be easily done alone or with a small group of friends, and depending on the success and goals of your party it can eventually grow as big as you, or your visitors need it to be. The first step however starts with finding a suitable location.
Location, location, location...
The hardest part of setting up a LAN party is finding a suitable location for it. Not only do people have the need for room to setup their gear, they will also want to sleep on their airmattress, if available in a quiet surrounding and seperate from the gaming room. The easiest location is of course at your own home. You'll easily figur out how many people can put their PC up and sleeping on the couch isn't to big a problem for most.
However, many times, your friendgroup may be bigger then the available room within your own house and you will be looking for a location outside of your home. There are probably lot's of venues within your direct area that could host your party, think of bars, event halls, sport halls etc. As soon as you find a suitable location that has the right space requirements (a 6 foot table will hold a maximum of two people) you'll have other things to check:
- Is there enough power available?
- Does the location have Internet?
- Parkingspace is also an important factor.
- What are the costs?
- What are the fire hazard rules, and do they have foam fire extinguishers?
- Does the location provide catering?
After you have found a suitable location that fills your party's needs you can go on with the next step: Renting Equipment.
What equipment is needed?
After finding the location you will be wanting to hold your event there is the step of finding what equipment you will need to hold your LAN and let it be a success. Basicly you can divide the requirements up in Power, Networking, Seating and Miscellaneous.
Power is of course the most important, because without it you wouldn't be able to hold a LAN party. The rules vary of course per location and per country you are in but there are some basic rules to be followed.
- Always check with the building manager what power groups there are and where you can plug in to reach these different powergroups.
- If three-phase electric power is available you can rent equipment that will divide this power, always check with the rental company on how to set this up so you won't accidently blow up all your friends PCs.
- It is always prefferable to appoint one person in your group as responsible for the power, make sure they have knowledge on the subject or are willing to read in on the subject before the party actually takes place.
- Make a simple diagram that shows where you have plugged in a certain seating group so you know where the problem is happening when power goes down (and the first time it almost always will during the event).
Bigger LAN's say an average person will need 265Watts of power / person (on a 230V network), if you are smaller this requirement may be higher due to all your visitors having very high power gaming machines, so always make sure to have some extra. On a 230V network normal power boards and extension are rated to 10A, and circuit breakers are typically 16A or 20A. This means roughly 5 to 6 PCs to one power board or extension lead, and thus 10 to 12 on a 16A group.
Always check everything before you turn on the power!
Networking can range from fairly easy to very extreme. For any event under 20 people a 24 port switch should suffice, just hooking that up to your router and you should be able to play automaticly using the standard DHCP of that router. However, the bigger your party is the more extreme your network setup will become.
As soon as you get over those 20 people it is preferred to have someone within your crew that is known with networking and can setup an networking plan for the party. If you do want to do it yourself there is enough information to be found on the internet on how to do it correctly, however the basic idea is:
- Have one GBIT Backbone.
- One switch per table row of 20, and hook that up to the Backbone
- It is preferred to hookup servers to the backbone.
Internet is also very important on LAN party's these days since most games will need to go online to be able to play them. A specific server that can handle the traffic and make sure your router doesn't go down due to too many requests is preferred when you go bigger then 20 people.
The best tip? Find a partner that knows how networking works.
There are many options to choose from for seating your guests. DreamHack for instance doesn't actually use tables, but uses plywood and pallets for their seating setup. However the best table for a LAN party is the simple beer table. The normal size one will seat two persons next to each other comfortably (and that is something you should want seeing as your guests will be spending three days in that spot). Seats can be a different story all together, however it is recommended to have an equal number of chairs as opposed to the seats you have available there are simple ways to save some off your money on renting too many. Many visitors will bring their own chairs, and having an empty chair on the event is way too costly. A simple way to check if your visitors will bring their own chair is to have it as an option on the sign up form. Then simply order the number of chairs that are left (+10% for friends that visit and such) and you'll be set.
Next to the basics there are a lot of other options you can get to make your LAN a little bit more special. Bigger events tend to get a stage for their finals and performances of local bands & dj's or maybe you want fences to make sure people don't go places that you do not want them to go. Also lighting can be a cool addition to your events. The sky (or your budget) is the limit!
Hosting a LAN party can be a pretty big burden money wise. A small party will come with costs next to zero (maybe some power or food costs), but a bigger party will run in to the thousands of dollars pretty fast. To cover these costs there are several ways to get some money back from the event.
The number one contributing factor in your budget will be the entry fee. Gamers do not mind paying for a weekend of fun and depending on the size and popularity of your event the fee can range from 10$ to 80$ and anywhere in between. Factors that decide this prize is the length, size and availability of prize money for your competitions.
Another way to make some money is to sell food and drinks yourself or get a catering partner that shares a bit of the revenue with you. Finding a caterer that will do this will take some work, but feeding 100+ people a weekend long can end up being pretty profitable. Make sure not to cut in your entry fee budget, since proceeds can vary very much per event, rather use the profits to make sure your next event will be even better and bigger!
The third, and most fun way to get some revenue for your LAN budget is finding sponsors. Al though most will not sponsor you hard cash there are parties that will. Try searching the websites of big gaming brands for sponsor opportunities. Most will give you some of their products you can give away with competitions and it is always a way to make sure visitors come to your event and pay the entree fee to have a chance at winning those prizes. You can also search for local companies that will want to advertise to your demographic and ask them for some cash so you can use that in your budget.
Basicly you now have all the information you will need to start your first LAN party! Organizing one can be a time consuming task beforehand and during, and I recommend you do not forget to have a little fun yourself.
Organizing a LAN event can also be a good way to get some experience in the event management industry and always mention your experience on your resume, it does help with future job opportunities.
Now go out and organize your first LAN, and let's game!