LAN-parties have a very special place in my heart, right next to pancakes and maple syrup; the so-called finer things in life. Disregarding the absurdity of grown men dragging black and grey 30-pound computer boxes with external monitors around in this age of mobile devices, there is something extraordinary about LAN-parties. It’s that peculiar sensation of sitting in the middle of a stuffy small room filled with people and machines, while you are all together somehow still having fun playing video games. It’s that childlike joy of being exited about playing PC games for a whole weekend, because it is something people in their mid-20’s don’t really have time to do anymore. LAN-parties are… special occasions. What used to fulfill a technical need now fulfills a social need.
To document this hobby of mine, I decided that I would write a bit about my very favorite games to play on LAN, starting with the open source shooter Sauerbraten.
Sauerbraten is an unsung gem among FPS games. Built on top of the open source Cube2 engine, Sauerbraten is an unashamed Quake clone with refreshingly oldschool gameplay sensibilities. You are a man, you have gun, and everyone else must die. It’s a simple, clear set of goals with nothing to distract you from the murderous carnage. The game is a bare-bones FPS, sleek and mean like a stripped down derby car. Gameplay is fast and brutal, with no moment to spare for trivial things such as drawing a breath.
Sauerbraten is an open source project, which means that it runs on pretty much any platform you can think of. Hardware requirements are negligible, but the game manages to still look pretty decent on full settings. The art direction is… not really there, but the graphics do their part. Setting up a server is simple enough, with only minimal configurations required. The game naturally offers clients to Linux and OSX in addition to Windows, allowing both the hippies and hipsters to join in the carnage.
Our game type of choice was instagib ctf, which really showcases the strengths of the game. Sauerbraten’s instagib implementation is simply the best I’ve come across, leaving behind other contenders in the arena shooter genre. The hitscan rifle used in the gamemode has satisfying feeling to it, and the reloading time is just long enough to make panic creep up your spine as you jump around, trying to dodge incoming bullets. The bunnyhopping-based movement system lends itself beautifully for CTF, turning the game into something not quite dissimilar to Tribes: Ascend with flag capturing routes and wild chases across the multi-level maps. The quality of the map design varies wildly, as can be expected from a volunteer effort, but the large amount of maps bundled with the games makes up for this.
Sauerbraten is exhausting and demanding. It’s quite impossible to play it for several hours in a row, since the intensity and pace is so brutal and unforgiving. It is, however, a very good game to kick off a LAN party with, due to the simplicity of both the set-up and the game. It gets everyone warmed up for some follow-up while reminding everyone of the pure bliss that the oldschool FPS genre can provide. The game also has somewhat active online community, and finding servers to practice your skills is easy.