We here at LanOC love to go to LAN parties for obvious reasons. The LAN staff especially like to make it out to other LAN events so that they can kick their feet up and just enjoy fragging, friends, and fun rather than spending the entire weekend working to bring a great event to the attendees. This weekend a group of us made our way out to Fort Wayne Indiana to the Indiana Tech college campus for the very first FortLan event. With great excitement we hooked up our PCs in preparation for the 27 hour long frag fest that was to follow.
First up is the venue. Being right on a major college campus it was very easy to find. GPS took us directly to the main parking lot near the building. Without many signs pointing to the building itself it took us a minute to decide which it was being as there were a few buildings using the same parking lot. Once we were able to deduce that we were probably heading to the building that had a large group of cars parked outside of it. Once we went in it was immediately clear where we were headed. There was a sign at the bottom of the stairs saying “FortLan this way” and another at the top of the stairs turning us in the right direction of the registration. We were handed our name badge, lanyards, and raffle tickets after we signed the short novel that was the LAN waiver. Shortly after we turned in whatever canned goods we had brought for the charity raffle and were handed our appropriate number of tickets. It’s important to note that the registration process was handled by one person, or was at least when we showed up. It wasn’t an issue when we got there because people were still showing up at slightly different times, and there was enough time between attendees that a big line didn’t form, but I worry that if the LAN grows in size it will become cumbersome on the person doing sign up to keep the line moving while doing tickets, waivers, and the charity raffle.
Once inside the main LAN room we found four rows of tables set up on either side of the room. The tables were set up in two pairs of two rows each. They were spaced in a way that allowed for movement on either side of the tables, but not in between. However, there was enough space so that the wires from power and the computers could easily drop down between tables and stay out of everyone’s way. I actually liked the tables being separated enough so that the cables could fall down between them. This added space also gave atendees plenty of room to lay down and take a nap if they fell victim to exhaustion. At other LAN parties they always seem to be put directly together and you either have to move them to make room for the wires or deal with them being all over the table. There was plenty of room on the outside edges of the room to get around and get from end to end to visit all of your friends.
In the middle of the room there were a few tables set up. There were two set up at the front of the venue covered in prizes from the many generous sponsors. There was a table that was designated for community snacks and the many different sodas and energy drinks that were for sale. All money for drinks was put into a box using the honor system, and snacks were available to anyone who wanted something to nibble on. Anything that you had brought for yourself that you no longer want, or want to share with everyone were free to be placed on the table for all to have. The last table in the middle of the room is what I would call an admin table. The main switch and router was set up here as well as an admin computer and a couple of monitors to track the different tournaments that they were running.
There were also two projectors running at all times and announcements being made constantly. The first projector was running Dirt 3 for most of the LAN. There was a racing wheel and pedals set up to take part in the time trial tournament. When it wasn’t running Dirt 3 it was either viewing or running a server for one of the many tournaments. The second projector had LAN information including the schedule, TeamSpeak information, and any vital tournament information. This leads me to the next thing I want to talk about which is tournaments.
There were plenty of tournaments throughout the entirety of FortLan. The first tournament got started very late and I was worried that the schedule would fall to pieces. The staff recovered nicely and got everything back on track for after the first couple. There are a couple things I want to talk about when it comes to the LAN tournaments. I loved the format of most of them, but I felt that overall they were too short. It seemed that in comparison to the Four plus hours that were spent playing League of Legends, that only a short about of time was spent on the other games. There was also quite a bit of confusion as far as what game type, how many rounds, what maps, and what server settings to use for many of the tournaments. This is partially due to the person being in charge of most of the tournaments being the third string tournament organizer. The person running the tournaments did an excellent job for being on short notice and did their best to try to make everyone happy, but not knowing server commands and how exactly things were supposed to be set up definitely hindered how things flowed. The other problem I had was that a couple of times the staff member running the tournament was actually playing it themselves. I have no problem with staff being a part of the tournament, but I would hope that there would be a dedicated staff member watching the games as they are played to make sure that there isn’t any rule breaking or bad mannered behavior.
The next area I want to comment on is the food. The food was excellent in my eyes. There was as I mention before a community snack table which was awesome, it was stocked from start to finish with cookies, pretzels and brownies, all free of charge to LAN attendees. At the start of the LAN there was also a seven layer nacho salad located in the back of the room and it was very good and free of charge. There was the famous Twodavez breakfast of unlimited pancakes and two pieces of sausage in the morning for only five dollars. I have it on good authority that Twodavez is an amazing chef and that the pancake breakfast always beats driving out for food in the morning, but being as how I am not a pancake guy myself I did not participate. Dinner was also five dollars and included five slices of Papa John’s pizza (dealer’s choice on topping) and soda. This was also a decent deal, though I have seen better deals and had better pizza it was still a very affordable and acceptable alternative to having to drive out to grab food and miss some of the action.
The final area I want to cover was the raffle and raffle prizes. The sponsors were extremely generous and there were prizes and swag all around, and I don’t mean the yoloswag that makes me want to punch things. There were actually two separate raffles at the event; there was a main raffle that each participant of the LAN got one ticket into, and additional tickets for event and tournament wins. The second was a charity raffle and for each canned good that was donated one ticket was received for the charity raffle.
I have a couple of things to mention on either raffle. The charity raffle was for a great cause and I support it 100% of the way, though I do wish they had done less tickets. One ticket for every ten cans donated would be better than one ticket for every can up to fifty. I think that supporting those who support the charity is a great idea, but not only is it that it a lot of tickets it is also a burden to people who may only one to bring in one to ten cans. There were folks who brought in fifty cans that won three times, which is okay because they supported the charities and they should be rewarded for it, but it is discouraging to those who don’t bring as many.
The main raffle caused a bigger grievance for me. I don’t mind attendees getting extra raffle tickets for winning a tournament or a side event that is hosted by the LAN, but when it comes to handing out 40+ tickets a time I do have a bit of an issue. It’s frustrating, especially to those who didn’t win anything, to see people win more times simply because they participated in a youtube video. Don’t get me wrong its great exposure for the LAN and I bet the sponsors love it, but it’s just not my cup of tea. I’ll make an ass of myself of my own terms thank you very much. At the end of the day I don’t go to LANs for the prizes, I go to have fun and play games with friends, and as far as that goes, I had a great time, but the raffle left me at least, a bit frustrated.
Overall I think FortLan is a great time. Do I think they have a bit that they can improve on? Of course they do, but it’s only their first event. The venue was great as well as the food and overall value of the event. The tournaments were a bit cumbersome because of the fact that there was not a dedicated admin for each and because they person who had designed the servers got called into work unexpectedly. Also, the raffles caused me a bit of disturbance a couple of times, but it was nothing to write home about. At the end of the day, LAN events are about friends, fun, and fragging. FortLan provided all of these without question, and I will definitely be trying to make it out to the next event.