Wednesday 28 June 2017

LAN-party in a box, part 1

Part 1 - The Story So Far
The title’s pretty much self-explanatory. My colleague, Ray, and I were talking about “The good old days” of online gaming – before Call of Duty, when the dominant games were Unreal Tournament, Quake 3, Counterstrike and the like.

We were toying with the idea of trying to run a LAN game over the work network, but figured the bureaucratic headache that would cause wasn’t worth it.

Then I got to thinking about how to cram everything we’d need for a LAN game into a single portable box, and could easily be set-up, used and torn down again within a lunch hour.

The great thing about returning to older games is that the system requirements, that once required hi-end PCs will now run on pretty much any old commodity hardware. What once meant lugging around heavy, bulky desktops, separate monitors and keyboards, could be replaced with a modern, lightweight laptop.

Ray was bringing in his laptop, and I setup an old laptop for me to use.

I installed Fedora 25 from a live CD (no particular reason for this distro, other than I had a live CD for it to hand – I’m sure others will work fine) Installed WINE, and the game.

We also wanted to use a dedicated server, so I dug through my stack of old hardware to find something to use - and I setup the server using an old netbook.

The networking was provided by an old home router of mine, which supplied DHCP configuration, making the network a straightforward plug and play.

This whole setup was stuffed into a metal flight-case for taking into work, and worked well for a spot of lunchtime multi-player, but there were a few downsides:

  • Cabling – lots of mains plugs and network cables.
  • Size - it's quite a substantial amount of gear to lug around - the flight case measures 33x46x15 cm and is packed pretty full.
  • Although UT runs quite well in WINE, there is definitely some latency. The server seems fine, but graphically on the client machine, it's noticeable
The original setup - the netbook in the background is the current server.

Obviously something needs to be done to address the shortcomings, so this will form the basis of my next project - it should be a nice mix of DIY (for the case) and tech (hardware, software config, networking etc).

Update: Part 2 is now here

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