Million Man LAN was this past weekend (June 26 – June 29). I had planned on having an update for each day that I was there, but tecnical problems on the morning of Day 3 (which I’ll elaborate on later) made sure that didn’t happen.
If you’ve already read my impressions on Day 1, then you pretty much have a feel for what the rest of the days were like, so rather than recap the particulars of each day, I’ll just go into what I liked, didn’t like, and what just didn’t seem like it worked.
MML had one of the better gaming networks that I’ve had the pleasure of plugging into in recent memory. Not once did I have any problems connecting with game servers, or any of the other computers for that matter. Whenever I needed to transfer the odd file across the network, it was pretty fast.
MML also had Internet access. Now, normally, this isn’t really something that LAN parties need to have. However, if there were no access to the outside world for four days, I would have gone absolutely crazy. Now don’t get me wrong, talking to other game geeks has it’s own special charm, but so does talking to people that didn’t want/couldn’t come to the event.
The volume of games being played was refreshing. With a group as large as the one that was at MML, there was a large variety of games going on at all times. Some of the ones I saw being playes included: Unreal Tournament, UT2K3, Quake 3, Warcraft 3, Jedi Knight 2, Counter Strike, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and I’m sure that there’s some that I’ve missed. The event planners were nice enough to provide game servers for most of the more popular games, and the attendees did the rest.
The Not So Good
MML had a projector in the center of the room set up to show whatever random things that were (I assume) were supposed to be entertaining, and the audio was piped through the house speaker system. Now this sounds like a good idea, but unfortunately, there were some hiccups with the system. The selection of songs/videos that were to be played on the projector was fine, but entirely too short. Several times throughout the event, someone would queue up 5-10 songs and let them loop for over an hour. One of the most striking examples of this was on the morning of Day 4, when were treated to the first episode of Red vs. Blue several times in a row (five or six times, I lost count). Overall, the entertainment was lackluster, and could have been done much better.
One of the things that I like about LAN parties are the ‘extra’ things that go on along with the computer gaming. I mean, sure, the main reason I went was to get annihilated at some of my favorite online games, but it’s nice to be able to get up, take a break, and compete in something else, be it for fun or some kind of prize. Several official events were held: an paper airplane flying contest, a box-building contest, worst-case contest, and a ‘Lowest Score in 3DMark 2001′ contest. Of all these contests, I would have liked to participate in a couple of them. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t know about most of them until they were over, or nearly over. The ‘Worst Case’ contest was announced in the newsletter weeks before the event started, but the others were not. The paper airplane contest was announced on the evening of Day 3, and it was at that time that I found out that there had been a box-sculpture contest (and we were to vote on the winners with our applause), and that the ‘Lowest 3DMark Score’ Contest would be wrapping up soon. Had I known what the rules were, and when they started, I would have made an attempt to enter them, but that was not the case. Extra non gaming events were nicely done, but the dissemenation of the information was not.
Now, anyone going to a LAN party solely for door prizes just shouldn’t be there at all. Door prizes are nice, but should not be the focus of any LAN party. Additionally, if a LAN party is going to provide them, then they should have a way to distribute the prizes fairly. Near the beginning of the event, there was a lot of hoopla over how many prizes there were. I, of course, would have liked to win something, but I really don’t know how these prizes were distributed. My understanding is that many of them were given out during the Q & A sessions that I had opted to not attend, for asking questions to the speakers. I waited around for quite a while on day 4 for some sort of giveaway for the rest of the door prizes, but it didn’t look like there was going to be any kind of random drawing, or anything like that. Prizes should not be the focus of a LAN party, but if you are going to have them, you should give all attendees an equal chance to win at least some of them. The guy that pays his money and sits in his seat for the entire time, being a total social recluse, should have just much chance as the guy who plays in every tournament and all the other special events.
Power is critical to the success of a LAN party. On the morning of Day 3, as I was coming back from getting breakfast, and noticed that the power for my entire row was out. Not good. The electrician came by and worked on the problem, and we had power again… for about an hour… then my row, as well as some others lost power again. The electrician was called back, so I made the decision to not update the Socks, and to leave to check out the local arcade scene. The power issues were not necessarily the fault of the operators of MML, but it was still annoying to have to sit through.
Tournaments. What kind of a LAN party doesn’t have tournaments? Apparently very few kinds. There were several tournaments, and since I didn’t participate in any of them, I really can’t comment on how those were run. I do know, however, that the Warcraft 3 tournament did not seem to be organized very well. The rules for each of the tournaments was posted on the website weeks before the event, but the Warcraft 3 rules were grossly unfinished and provided very little information on how the tournament was to be conducted. Even the day of the event, had I been signed up for the tournament, I still would not have known exactly what the rules were to have been until it actually started. While I’m sure the tournament staff did a fine job at the event, the lack of information before hand in one of the less popular tournaments is inexcusable.
Towards the end of the event, something came to a head and the party just seemed to stop. I couldn’t tell you exactly what happened, since I’m not privy to that information, but there is more info here.
Overall, MML was a solid LAN party, with a few major hiccups. A schedule of events posted somewhere (at least a bit more detailed than the one posted on the main site and in the email). This schedule was the best that I could find. No mention of the airplane contest or the box-art contest. If you were signed up for a tournament, you knew when the times were for that particular tournament, but other than that I was completely in the dark about what times certain things were going to get underway. Every time I had to leave to get food, I was never sure if I was going to miss something (and I’m almost certain that I did). The Warcraft 3 tournamet almost seemed like a last-minute addition, and was seemingly nearly forgotten by everyone. MML2 was, however, a unique experience, and I will probably go back next year. I just hope the event staff understands what went well and what went poorly so that MML3 can be better. As it stands, MML2 was a very big, very mediocre LAN party.
It gets a C+.