stories, lan

The LAN lives on

I recently had the opportunity to attend a small LAN party that one of my co-workers puts on twice a year. If I'm dating myself: back before the days of ubiquitous internet and always-on broadband connections, the easiest way to play multiplayer PC games with your friends was by lugging all of your stuff to someone's house. Everyone would plug in to a switch and form a little private network to play games together. Games like the original StarCraft and Diablo even had special LAN-focused versions called spawn installs that you could make from any full copy of the game. Spawns only worked for LAN multiplayer (no single player or Battle.net access), but they were a great way to introduce people to new titles. They also kept costs down, since you only had to buy one copy of the game to play together.

These days, while local multiplayer games are still available, LAN-focused titles seem to be few and far between. On modern consoles like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, they're virtually non-existent, long-since replaced by internet multiplayer. I can remember playing the original Halo over System Link (the Xbox version of LAN multiplayer) in college back in 2004, all of us carrying our consoles to the Student Center and hooking everything up for a 16 person match.

Having a LAN party in today's world is a little easier than in the past; PCs are lighter, laptops can actually play games, and networking is certainly more straightforward! If you're interested in holding one, the Irregulars have assembled some tips and a few recommended games!

Setting Up

Ensure that you have:

  • Chairs for everyone (we really like Flex One folding chairs)
  • Enough tables to fit everyone's PCs
  • Power (try as you might, you won't be able to run ten PCs off of a single circuit!)
  • Networking gear (you'll need a router, a switch, and plenty of Ethernet cables)
  • Snacks and beverages

Also, we've found that (inevitably) someone has some kind of part or system failure, so having a spare hard drive and a few sticks of memory around never hurts. You could also consider building a small guest machine -- check out our latest budget build on PC Part Picker if you're interested in heading down this route.

Some suggested LAN games

Chivalry: Medieval Warfare

Torn Banner Studios has been working on Chivalry since 2012, and they've created a melee-focused team brawler that's just hilarious to play. Automatic yelling when you charge your foes? Count us in! A slew of different weapons makes for good, stabby fun all around.

Depth

From Digital Confectioners comes an asymmetric, 4v2 multiplayer game that pits treasure-seeking divers against sharks. Divers escort a small robot around collecting treasure until they need to return to their boat. Sharks attempt to nom said divers. The divers use saved treasure to purchase equipment, while the sharks earn "evolution points" than can be spent to upgrade their abilities. If either side runs out of lives, the game is over! Funky, and well-polished. We like it!

Guns of Icarus

Ahh, airships. Who hasn't wanted to fly a giant blimp around and blast people with cannons? Guns has been around for awhile, a follow-up to Muse Games' 2010 title The Flight of the Icarus, and it pits teams of airships against one another in a battle for aerial supremacy. Each airship has a crew of four that must manage piloting, repairing, and manning the guns. Customizable ship and player loadouts allow you to make every ship your own, and you can play with up to 24 people at once in a 3v3 ship battle. We highly recommend playing the tutorial!

Team Fortress 2

Since 2007, Valve's premiere hat simulator has sent the RED and BLU teams to fight for...we're not really sure. If you like team-based shooters, you can't go wrong with TF2's eclectic mix of classes ranging from a one-eyed Scotsman with a grenade launcher to a German doctor with questionable medical credentials.

Natural Selection 2

Natural Selection pits two asymmetric sides, space marines and aliens, against one another in an effort to eliminate the other team's base. Each side gets a commander who plays the game in a top-down RTS style, allowing him or her a bird's eye view of the battlefield. Players on each team need to follow their commander's orders to build, expand, and exterminate enemy forces. While the marines get global upgrades and can purchase new weapons from a team pool of funds, the aliens can independently evolve their abilities and characteristics.

Some suggested local multiplayer games

Up for some things you can play on a single PC?

CRAWL

Powerhoof's four-player homage to the classic dungeon crawler comes with a unique twist: only one player can be the hero at a time! The other three players are the vengeful spirits of said hero's former comrades, hell-bent on slaying him to take over his body. Ghosts possess monsters and traps to slay the hero, slowly building up their repertoire of monsters. The hero uses gold to purchase new abilities and equipment along the way. If the hero successfully slays the boss at the end of the dungeon, he wins!

Samurai Gunn

Four samurai, each armed with three bullets and a sword. Need we say more?

Overcooked

We've affectionately dubbed Ghost Town Games' co-op cooking simulator "the relationship destroyer." You and three friends are all chefs trying to fill orders as they appear on the screen...except the kitchen is split in half...in a volcano... and the onions are no where near the cutting board. Oh, and that soup is about to boil over! Overcooked encourages lots of communication (which we like!) and some of the later levels will truly test your coordination and teamwork.

Jackbox Party Pack One, Two, or Three

Jellyvision (now Jackbox Games) was responsible for the YOU DON'T KNOW JACK trivia series in the 1990s, where "high culture and pop culture collide." Their sense of fun hasn't diminished over the years, and now we have three different collections of party games to choose from! We recommend taking a look at each party pack and seeing if anything jumps out at you.

The best part? You don't need controllers! Just about any tablet or phone will work!

Enter the Gungeon

This twin-stick shooter from Dodge Roll is marvelously produced, packed full of content, and just received a free Supply Drop update that adds...even more stuff! If you've ever wanted to find a gun that shoots tiny guns, which then shoot even tinier bullets, you've found the right game.

You can play with a friend (though we're not sure if it makes the game any easier!) Will you reach the end of the Gungeon and claim the Gun That Can Kill The Past?

And so...

As nice as internet multiplayer games have become (and with the popularity of voice services like Discord, Mumble, Ventrillo, and TeamSpeak), there's nothing quite like playing something with 24 friends in the same room! If you decide to throw your own LAN party, leave a comment or drop by The Happy Minotaur to chat with us. We'd love to hear how it went!

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About Kyle Bedell

Kyle's been writing about tech, ludology, and storytelling since 2004. When not soldering, playing board games, or geeking out over hardware, he can be found reading a good sci-fi or fantasy novel.
  • Massachusetts, United States