How to Throw a LAN Party
All PC gamers should learn how to throw a LAN party. There is no greater feeling than when you cap a point or make that key head shot and hear the frustrated screams of your foe. No greater feeling except when that target of opportunity is sitting in the same room with you on their own computer.
Throw a LAN party for your PC Gamer friends, it’s a fairly simple affair that requires a little logistics and a lot of caffeine. Starting small and with a few games is key. This how to outlines the basics you need to know to turn your basement or garage into a den of gamers. Not a PC gamer? Take a look at the “How to Play Multiplayer Console Games on a LAN“.
- Internet Connection
- Router or Network Switch (wireless optional)
- Network Cables(optional)
- Tables & Chairs
- Dedicated Server PC (optional)
Time to Install:30 minutes
Table of Contents
- Step 1: Preparations
- Step 2: Setting up the Space
- Step 3: Set up the Power and Network
- Step 4: Decide on Your Games
- Step 5: Identify Game Servers and Configure Them
- Step 6: Plan for Fun
Many little complications will arise when you throw a LAN party and you’re responsible as the host so be prepared for the unexpected. The most common problems tend to be power, network or software related.
Step 1: Preparations
The first step in throwing a LAN party is pretty simple: Find some friends to play with. Once you have an idea of how many people are coming, you should locate a suitable space with power, facilities and plenty of room. It seems obvious, but you should make sure you know who is bringing portable systems like a laptop and who is bringing a desktop beast with a 32″ LCD monitor and 7.1 surround speaker system.
Here is a simple checklist of what you need to have to help in planning for hosting a LAN party:
- Do you have enough table space? Chairs?
- Do you have enough power outlets/power strips?
- Do you know what games you plan to play?
- Are you providing food? Cooking out? Ordering Pizza?
- Do you have the necessary gear to set up a network?
- Is the network going to be wired or wireless?
- Do you have Internet? Do your games require Internet?
Step 2: Setting up the Space
Once you have the basics answered you need to find an appropriate place to throw a LAN party. Smaller LAN parties don’t require a whole lot of room except if you want to segregate the players to prevent LAN hacking/screen peeking.
Here are some suggestions on the types of places that work to host a LAN party:
- Unfinished basements and depending on size can fit 5-10 gamers
- 2-Car Garage and 10-15 gamers
- Backyard party tent and 10-20 gamers, but not great during the day
- College computer lab/Union space and varies may even include computers
- Warehouse or Office space and varies but could host large gatherings
- Elks Lodge/banquet hall and lots of room, very little infrastructure support
- Hotel meeting space and often includes Internet, power and tables but not cheap
There are plenty of other venues but no matter what you choose consider any cost involved:
- Do you need to pay for power?
- Does it have an Internet connection already?
- Is noise going to be a problem?
- Does it cost you anything? If so how much can your gamers contribute?
- Are tables/chairs included or available?
Once you nail down the location the next step is arranging tables and chairs for the event.
Planning gaming space is fairly simple and 2 people (with computer and monitor) is a good estimate per 6 foot table. If you’re using existing furniture well anything goes.
Step 3: Set up the Power and Network
The biggest hassle at any LAN is inconsistent power or losing power mid game. Consider that most PC setups need 2-4 outlets of power. (1 for PC, 1 for monitor, 1 for speakers, etc.) so in the best case you need one 6-outlet power strip per 2 tables. Also it is important to ensure that players are careful where they plug in. Players are likely to come and go if the event is a day-long experience so plan to help keep interruptions to a minimum.
Playing games together requires a network. Building a LAN party network can be very simple provided you do some basic planning. First know what sort of network you plan to build and make sure you have the hardware to support it.
Gaming networks generally require a few things and low latency between PCs and game servers and adequate ports or cabling. You can use just about any type of switch or hub to make the setup easy. Multi-port switches are actually fairly affordable and if you plan to hold these events regularly consider asking your regulars to pitch in and help you buy some home network gear like a Linksys home switch/hub though it’s fairly easy to find 48 or more ports networking gear cheap on eBay as well.
Each player using the wired network needs a single port. 10/100 switches are all you really need in terms of speed, gigabit ethernet is faster but not really an advantage in a LAN party network unless you plan to do a lot of file transfers.
Hopefully you are or know a networking geek who can lend you some equipment, but all the PCs will need a network card and TCP/IP configured to connect once the LAN party begins.
If you are using a wired network you should also plan your space to make sure all the players can reach the router or switch. If players are bringing their own cables it might be helpful to know how far they reach and to possibly buy some to cover when people forget and leave them at home connected to their modem or home router.
Wireless networks are less of a problem space-wise but it is recommended you use wireless encryption on any public wireless router so be sure to have copies of the network passphrase and configuration information handy and i.e. You need to know if you use WPA, WEP, WPA2 and how friends need to connect to the wireless. You should also consider that if you are using a single computer to host games that it be connected to the wireless router via a wired connection for reliability.
Step 4: Decide on Your Games
What’s a LAN party without games? You should already have a good idea what software you and your guests like to play together. It’s a good idea a week or so before the party to identify the primary games that everyone will be playing and make sure you have them installed. This is advice every person planning to play a particular game should consider and install your games before the party to make it simpler to jump in and have fun once the party starts.
It’s a good idea to ensure that all the participants know what version of a game you plan to play and already have any mods or add-ons installed and patched prior to setting up for the LAN. Have this content or links to it handy for your guests and let everyone know ahead of time as well so they can come to the LAN pre-patched.
Here is a not exhaustive list of good games for a PC LAN party:
- Team Fortress 2/Team Fortress Classic
- Unreal Tournament/ UT2k4
- Age of Empires III
- Quake 3/Quake Wars
- Jedi Knight
- Any of the Battlefield games (1942, Vietnam, BF2, BF:MW, BF:MW2, etc.)
- Left 4 Dead/ Left 4 Dead 2
Step 5: Identify Game Servers and Configure Them
Preparation also means identifying if you are going to run dedicated servers or ad-hoc matches. You may not have the best computer to run and play at the same time so if possible try and find out if one of your guests has a dedicated computer to host games or just a more powerful system that can serve as the game host.
Before the LAN paarty, you should research any server commands you might need to make changes to the games. A list of commands like map rotation, mutators and options, etc. are handy to have mid match if the group decides to change the initial setup after play begins. Many modern PC games include web administration tools to change game server options on the fly.
Also if you plan to use tournament brackets you can track everything on paper or use software like Autonomous LAN Party to handle the scoring/results.
Step 6: Plan for Fun
Throwing a LAN party is not all about gaming folks. You should make sure you also have other activities planned for your event. People can’t play games forever, and most people will want to take breaks or occupy themselves while waiting for tournaments or other matches to finish.
Be sure to have soda and chips or other easy gamer foods on hands for people to munch on. Decide early on what the take out situation will be and agree on toppings or pre-order the Pizza and collect money so it doesn’t derail the fun.
PC gamers usually like console games as well so it never hurts to have a TV and Xbox, Wii or PS3 set up with party games like Guitar Hero, Rock Band or Dance Dance Revolution to get people moving while they wait on the tournaments to end.
LAN party planning might seem like a lot of work but when things go smoothly it leads to an exciting time with your friends. A little forethought will make things easier but it won’t guarantee that things go flawlessly, problems are inevitable at a LAN but you should be prepared to handle them if you followed this how to.
It is possible to throw an impromptu LAN but a little planning goes a long way. No one wants to be playing host when they could be executing the perfect Zerg rush on their friends. If you’re not a PC Gamer you can still have fun at a LAN party.