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Google Engineer Builds Ultimate LAN Party House 175

Posted by samzenpus
from the if-you-build-it-they-will-come dept.
Zothecula writes "Anyone who has a attended a LAN party — where people connect their computers on one network in one location to play multiplayer games together — can tell you that they can be both very fun but also kind of a hassle. Playing games with your friends all in the same room: fun. Having to organize all your friends to each haul their usually-oversized gaming rigs to one person's house, ensuring they all have the same software, and inevitably dealing with one or more people having trouble connecting: not fun. With that in mind, it makes sense that one Google employee decided to bypass all that inconvenience and just build a house specifically for LAN parties, complete with multiple networked computers and TVs connected to game consoles."
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Google Engineer Builds Ultimate LAN Party House

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  • Party? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Toe, The (545098) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:32AM (#38383452)

    I went to this LAN Party and everyone was wearing togas and drinking alcoholic beverages and making out and... and I didn't even see any computers anywhere. It was very strange.

    • by TWX (665546)

      Sounds like networking of a different sort...

      Was there a sign up that said, "Marketing Department: two drink minimum"?

      • by mjwalshe (1680392)
        um 12 computers! wow I bet Googles CCIEs and network staff (and Vint Cerf) must be having a good laugh. Cisco expects a CCNA to be able to design a small 2/3 thousand host environment across say 2 or 3 sites.
        This is the semester 4 team project done in the Cisco CCNA academy course.
    • I went to this LAN Party and everyone was wearing togas and drinking alcoholic beverages and making out and... and I didn't even see any computers anywhere. It was very strange.

      You mean there were females there? Then it definitely wasn't a LAN party.

    • That was because it was a WAN party, not a LAN....

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I went to this LAN Party and everyone was wearing togas and drinking alcoholic beverages and making out and... and I didn't even see any computers anywhere. It was very strange.

      lanimal house

  • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:33AM (#38383484)
    Hope it has good ventilation and cooling. Nothing worse than a hot, smelly lan party.
    • Not having RTFA, I wonder if they prefer a certain paint or type of wall to improve wireless connectivity. There have been reports that newer paints tend to decrease Wifi quality.

      • by skids (119237) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @12:29PM (#38384234) Homepage

        Wireless? Serious gamers don't want their frag count affected by the hot pocket they just put in the microwave. So no. Probably not a consideration.

        • Does the status of a microwave actually *affect* wifi, or this nothing but an old wive's tale? I've done high-speed wireless gaming next to various microwaves, and the fact that they were off or on has never so much as made the ping waver. Microwaves are so well shielded (for obvious reasons) that I actually doubt that any modern microwave could interfere with wifi. Unless of course you are behind it (then it acts like a metal filing cabinet, but on/off makes no difference).
          • by thegarbz (1787294)

            Does the status of a microwave actually *affect* wifi, or this nothing but an old wive's tale?

            Depends on how old your microwave is. They are generally sealed quite well. That grill on the front effectively blocks all 2.4GHz power. However if you get yourself an old microwave with a bent door, or that looks in equally poor condition, expect RF interference to leak out of it like a sieve.

            Staring into a microwave on the otherhand is an old wives tale. The most likely areas for RF to leak out are through the gaps in the door and not through the front grill.

            • by Dahamma (304068)

              For work we tested WiFi and Powerline networking reliability under a bunch of conditions, distances, floors, etc when deciding whether to go with WiFi or Powerline for a wireless video streaming extender.

              About 15-20 people brought home both and subjected them to some scripted tests while running microwaves, TVs, fluorescent floor lamps, electric ovens, blenders, and more (and for power, direct plugged through power strips, etc)

              Very little significantly affected the performance of the WiFi beyond the distanc

              • Yet with all of that, a Cat 5e cable still wins.

                I use wireless on the couch or easy chair. Other than that, if I'm going to be plugged in for power, why not networking too?

        • by thegarbz (1787294)

          I personally wouldn't attend a LAN party which refused to provide me with a Gigibit switch. Those 10/100 folk are not folk an upstanding gentleman should be see with.

        • by w0mprat (1317953)
          WLAN parties never caught on.
    • by Kagato (116051)

      LAN Party? Looks more like a Sausage Party.

      Seriously, neat wall design, although it seems more like an office than a living space. Perhaps if the monitors where some sort of wall "art" when not in use for the parties.

      • He designs a whole damn house for lan parties with custom furniture to seat all of the gamers...

        ...and then uses a $20 cardboard-stuffed ikea coffee table?

    • by Canazza (1428553)

      I have to say, normally /. doesn't elaborate on complex terms in the summary. So why this time have they decided to do it for "LAN Party"?

      I mean, if this is the start of a trend whereby terms people might not know are added into the summary, by all means continue. But still... why the hell did you think we wouldn't know what a LAN party is?

    • Yes, we all know geeks have pretty bad hygiene .... put a few of them in a room, and you get gaseous clouds toxic enough to drive you out of your own home.

    • by Hentes (2461350) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @01:38PM (#38385076)

      If you are a true gamer, your rig will provide enough ventilation.

  • Must be nice... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmhNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:34AM (#38383504) Journal

    ...to have this much cash. By my standards, a LAN party is fancy when nobody's sitting on the floor.

    • by TWX (665546)

      I had an overly strong computer case so I could sit on that actually.

      I was the host more often than not though, so I had a chair.

      • Haha yep any early '90s steel case is probably strong enough...not like the new featherweight aluminum ones that would probably crumple like a soda can. But I am glad for the weight savings, the case alone on some of those old tanks was nearly 20lbs!

        • LIAN LI Lancool PC-K7B. It's a hybrid case that's housed in aluminum with the internals being steel. Because the outside surface area is aluminum, it cools better exothermically than an all steel case would. I've built a few PCs with this case. I highly recommend it as it's the best of both worlds.

          • by definate (876684)

            I bought an all aluminium case in the mid 90s, and I still use it today! A Lian Li server tower. It cost a lot. Was great for moving around for LAN parties, and is really strong. However, it's got a resonance problem. There seem to be many frequencies which it can start vibrating at, and then it's suddenly making all sorts of loud twanging sounds. It's unbearable to put the sides on any more.

            But modern ones have sound dampening foam, rubber on the seals, and all sorts of cool stuff like that.

    • Yep. This is a really strange way to spend your money, even by geek standards. On top of the house costs he'd have to spend tens of thousands every year just to keep the hardware up to date. Ouch.

      • by fsckmnky (2505008) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:43AM (#38383652)
        Don't think of it as him spending his money.

        Think of it as him spending your personal information and search history. ;)
        • Haha.

          After reading the article I see he lives in the house too, so it's not quite as bad as the house existing "specifically for LAN parties" as the summary said. I get very literal minded when I'm coding..

      • by bryan1945 (301828)

        Don't forget electricity! Good for the winter where the bodies warm the place, real bad in the summer when the AC is running like a marathon.

    • by Xacid (560407)

      Yeah...folding chairs are *so* expensive. As are tables.

      Really, if someone wanted to accomodate for a similar number of people it wouldn't require much more money than it would to host DnD - furniture-wise. As for the hardware - have people bring their own. If you want to be fancy about it - take some carpentry classes and see if you could learn how to build a lot of this yourself. I don't see much that was too flashy here that would be out of reach of anyone who didn't mind saving a bit for a year and woul

    • by Temporal (96070)

      Well, it was expensive, but not very much more expensive than any other house. The cost of the computers was small compared to the cost of the house.

      Here's the back story [blogspot.com], if you're interested.

  • by TWX (665546) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:34AM (#38383506)

    ...I can tell you that unless everyone present is already vetted, there will still be problems. People will reconfigure controls, will bring their own peripherals and will unhook yours, will move stuff around that they have no business moving, etc.

    There's a reason why arcade game consoles were the order of the day in old-school electronic arcades- there was one cord to plug them in, they were too heavy to move, and the controls were specialized to the game and fixed into place. They were a kiosk for playing games in the same way that an ATM is a kiosk for dealing with money and banks. They worked well because the user couldn't do much to screw them up.

    • Aside from competing for the high score so they could enter BUM.
    • by Synerg1y (2169962)

      The complete opposite of minecraft? Which seems to dominate lan parties nowadays...

    • by AncientPC (951874)

      It's not in the OP, but the engineer provides more information in his blog post [blogspot.com].

      Instead, the machines boot off the network. A server machine hosts a master disk which is shared by all the game machines. Machines can boot up in two modes:

      Master mode: The machine reads from and writes to the master image directly.
      Replica mode: The machine uses its local storage (60GB SSD) as a copy-on-write overlay. So, initially, the machine sees the disk

      image as being exactly the same as the master, but when changes are written, they go to the local drive instead. Thus, twelve machines can operate simultaneously without interfering with each other. The local overlay can be wiped trivially at any time, returning the machine to the master image's state.
      So, before each LAN party, I boot one machine in master mode and update it. Then, I boot all the machines in replica mode, wiping their local COW overlays (because they are now out-of-sync with the master).

      Server room pics [google.com]

    • by Temporal (96070)

      I really wish the Slashdot submitter had linked directly to the original blog post [blogspot.com] rather than the Gizmag article. It goes into a bit more detail on the configuration of the systems, which I think would interest Slashdotters in particular. (Though I still need to write a longer blog post about this.)

      All the system netboot off the same disk image. Or rather, LVM snapshots of that image. Each machine gets its own snapshot, so guests can modify it to their heart's content. At the end of the night, I just

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      All of these problems are solved by a disk imager. When the party's over, reset the computers to default.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:36AM (#38383540)

    In the past you had classics of LAN play, like NWN1.

    Now? Modern games remove the feature. Diablo 3 - yanked, so they can make you play through their servers. Same for many others. It's all about control. When games directly supported LAN play, it gave the players and the community control over their experience. It let them play without permission, and that is a thing that couldn't be allowed to stand.

    LAN play was some of the funnest gaming to be had. Far, far better than trying to share a single screen on a console. But it's dying. Killed because we must ask for permission to play the games we bought.

    • Other modern LAN-tastic games with no actual LAN play: Starcraft 2, Serious Sam series, Left 4 Dead 2, Portal 2 (fun with custom levels), Brink. Good thing there are cracks and LAN launchers...

    • by Hatta (162192)

      There's nothing stopping you from firing up NWN or Diablo 2 on your home LAN today.

      • by hitmark (640295)

        Do not both of those need a handshake with a server before playing? I seem to recall having issues with NWN when trying to set up a lan game once because of that.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      This is an inconvenience for sure, but LAN isn't going anywhere. First, there are cracks for most games that enable LAN play, and second you won't play these modern games on a party anyway because you have to play ones that even the weakest machine in the swarm can run smoothly.

    • by Temporal (96070)

      Everyone brings this up and I don't quite understand. Who cares where the server is located? We all have internet connections, don't we? What matters is where the players are located.

      We've actually played quite a bit of Starcraft 2 in this house despite the supposed lack of LAN support.

      • by dj245 (732906)
        It is a problem of latency and bandwidth. I live in a major metropolitan area and the best latency to a game server I can hope to get is about 40ms, but more commonly 50ms. If you're running games on a server somewhere, it is going to take around 0.08 to 0.1 seconds for an action to go from your computer to the server, and from the server to your buddy's computer. Then your buddy reacts. and it takes another 0.08 to 0.1 seconds to come back to you. Suppose your buddy has a 1 second reaction time. The
        • by Temporal (96070)

          Yes but the base bandwidth used by games is actually quite small. Let's say (overestimate) that you have 10 input events per second that need to be broadcast. That's going to take maybe 100 bytes, tops. All the other players are receiving events from 10 people, so 1k each. Times 10 players. 10k per second. My bandwidth is 400x that.

          Of course, that's not actually how most client-server games work. Rather, they send you updates just about the objects you can see. Which probably takes significantly mor

  • From the summary:

    Playing games with your friends all in the same room: fun. Having to organize all your friends to each haul their usually-oversized gaming rigs to one person's house, ensuring they all have the same software, and inevitably dealing with one or more people having trouble connecting: not fun.

    Then why not just make PC games that support a shared-screen mode for a PC connected to an HDTV? Then all four players can grab gamepads, sit on a sofa, and have fun. The downsides are that 1. it wouldn't work well for certain genres, and 2. publishers would lose the opportunity to sell multiple copies to a household [cracked.com].

    • by mikael_j (106439)

      Well, for one I'd rather have all my 3 686 000* pixels for my gaming session, my own comfy chair (instead of having to squeeze into a couch with half a dozen others), a little free space of my own, not have to fight over the least broken controller...

      * 27" IPS monitor @ 2560x1440 and for networked games I routinely play against 20+ other players, when playing even four players on a 1080p screen you're looking at a grand total of 518 400 pixels per player (not counting any shared HUD elements), or 960x540 (m

      • 518 400 pixels per player [...] 960x540

        This assumes that the game is in a genre for which the screen would have to be split. One genre that does not require a split is fighting games, such as Street Fighter or Super Smash Bros. Similar to fighting games are things like Bomberman and Custom Robo (does this genre have a name?). Some other games have a vertically oriented playfield, using less than about 720x1080 even in single-player mode, and splitting the screen is not disruptive. These include building block puzzle games such as Tetris, as well

      • Well, for one I'd rather have all my 3 686 000* pixels for my gaming session

        And zero pixels for the gaming sessions of the one to three other people in your living room who can't afford a gaming PC of their own. Perhaps they're still in school, not yet old enough to get a real job, and a neighbor family's kid has already signed lawn care contracts with most of the neighborhood. But then again, perhaps my viewpoint is skewed because I spent a couple years babysitting my aunt's children.

        not have to fight over the least broken controller

        At least in my family, recommending that visitors bring their own controller has been considered a

        • by mikael_j (106439)

          And zero pixels for the gaming sessions of the one to three other people in your living room who can't afford a gaming PC of their own. Perhaps they're still in school, not yet old enough to get a real job, and a neighbor family's kid has already signed lawn care contracts with most of the neighborhood. But then again, perhaps my viewpoint is skewed because I spent a couple years babysitting my aunt's children.

          So your argument is that those of us who can afford a computer should still use a console because all gaming should be restricted to the lowest common denominator?

          At least in my family, recommending that visitors bring their own controller has been considered a lot more reasonable than asking them to disassemble the family's only gaming PC, take it out of the house, and buy a copy of the same game that I'm hosting.

          Most people don't have controllers for every console out there, it's a lot more common for the host to have a bunch of controllers ranging from "Crappy worn-out one that came with the console" to "The brand new one he bought last week".

          • by tepples (727027)

            So your argument is that those of us who can afford a computer should still use a console because all gaming should be restricted to the lowest common denominator?

            No, my argument is that those of us who can afford a computer, but live with or are commonly visited by those who cannot, should use a home theater PC with HTPC-friendly games such as Street Fighter IV.

            Most people don't have controllers for every console out there

            PC HID gamepads (e.g. Logitech) work natively on a PC, and Xbox 360 controllers work natively on a PC. The host could buy a couple console-to-USB adapters to connect e.g. PlayStation controllers to the PC; these won't have the problem of having to use a worn controller.

    • by bryan1945 (301828)

      I doubt anyone cares about #1. I'm sure it's all about #2. Especially when you look at the popularity of multiplayer games vs. single player games, and where development is focused on. (Stinks for me, since I can eventually beat an AI, but there are always people that spend waaaaayyy more time on a multiplayer, so I can't even pretend to compete.)

      • there are always people that spend waaaaayyy more time on a multiplayer, so I can't even pretend to compete

        Then don't play games with shitty matchmaking. Tetris DS used an Elo-style rating (albeit centered at 5000 instead of 1600) and would usually pair you up with another player with a similar rating.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Gaming is the best way I've found for me and my teenage son to enjoy time together, so I'm always on the lookout for good split-screen games. Sadly, they seem to be getting less common. Mostly we still play Halo 3 because two people can play online with 1 game and 1 xbox account.
  • Bad layout. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BMOC (2478408) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:40AM (#38383592)

    1) People are facing a wall, not each other.
    2) There's no table central to all players, where pizza resides.
    3) A single-line of players means players on the ends have trouble communicating verbally.
    4) There's uneven lighting across the gaming spots, and it looks like more lighting behind the players than in front of them
    5) Those chairs are not comfortable enough.

    /you have to consider these things if you want to keep going all weekend

    • 1) Better if people on a single row are on the same etam, they can peek to their sides and see things that they're not really supposed to.
      2) Maybe perhaps behind them?
      3) Use in game communication or set up your own personal mumbles/vent server. Easier to use headphones for sound accuracy (positioning) and instead of having to scream over speakers to talk to someone across the room.
      4) who cares?
      5) who cares?

    • Now that I've read the article, it makes sense. The LAN stations are built into the walls and fold out only when necessary. That way you don't have empty kiosks hogging up the living room when you're alone at 10AM in the morning. Less efficient for actual LANning, but far more efficient for space constraints and clutter reduction.
      • by nschubach (922175)

        I'd think it would be possible to create a series of desks that fold up like an accordion and easily slide into a closet like room. When it's LAN party time you grab some handles and pull it out (one end attached to a wall to provide network/power) to have a series of LAN Party pods. If you design it right, it could pull out in an arc to provide a set of desks in a half circle pod.

    • by Sfing_ter (99478)

      3) A single-line of players means players on the ends have trouble communicating verbally.

      Dood, if they are gamers then this is a fact of their existence...
      besides, they're just going to be yelling "Take that, you fucker!" -

    • Dude has put one PC gamer sat by himself in front of the door. This is a classic example of how not to set up your games room.

      If I were putting money into a project like this, the PC desks would be in an incomplete ring with backs to a central munchies table. This keeps everyone close to each other and the snacks, and greasy crap away from your gear. Bin through hole in centre of central table to throw napkins and empty tins / cartons (wheel-out system for emptying optional). Have the TV and sofa in anothe
    • by Kagato (116051)

      The bigger issue for me is, who still has LAN parties. We live in the internet age Yo!

    • by bryan1945 (301828)

      You are free to fix all these mistakes when you build your own LAN house.

    • Re:Bad layout. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Temporal (96070) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:16PM (#38386652) Journal

      Hi. This is my house.

      > 1) People are facing a wall, not each other.

      People are facing their computers when playing, and then they can turn around to chat when done. Having everyone at a table would actually make them more separated. And anyway, the whole point is that having fold-out stations in the wall means they don't take space when not in use.

      > 2) There's no table central to all players, where pizza resides.

      Didn't you just say that the computer table should be central? :P There's actually space right behind that line of chairs for a table if that's what we wanted, and in the other room you could put a table in the middle of the room. In practice we just put the pizza on the dining table (in the background there) and that works fine.

      > 3) A single-line of players means players on the ends have trouble communicating verbally.

      In practice everyone's voice carries fine across the room.

      > 4) There's uneven lighting across the gaming spots, and it looks like more lighting behind the players than in front of them

      I think the lighting in the house is fantastic. There is never a need to turn on artificial lights during the day.

      True, bright lights are not ideal for LAN parties, and at just the right time of day there may be some glare on one or two monitors, but it's brief, and once the sun goes down it's a non-issue.

      Remember that I live in this house even when there aren't LAN parties. :)

      > 5) Those chairs are not comfortable enough.

      Actually, I'm very happy with the chairs. They are padded and quite comfortable. And, most importantly, they stack, so I can store them out-of-the way between parties.

    • by AbRASiON (589899) *

      It looks fine, stop being pedantic.
      Also, the only problem is there's TOO MUCH light. A proper LAN party it should be dark in there, sheets over the windows that kind of thing, so the mole men gamers can truly come out and play.
      (like me)

  • by TheDawgLives (546565) <http://www...suckitdown...org> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @12:19PM (#38384120) Homepage Journal
    They want their Internet Cafe back.
  • you've seen 'em all.

    What, slow news day much?

  • ... the terrorists hate us?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The house won't be out of beta for at least 5 years...

  • This looks nothing more than a regular internet cafe made for gamers that are a dime a dozen, except it is in his house.....
    so what if you get tired, you can crash on the couch.....the chairs don't even have any cup holders!!!!

  • Unless he did his own network install :)

    still an updates server and streamed SC matches, a heavenly step above your standard fair.

  • by Temporal (96070) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:44PM (#38387116) Journal

    Hi Slashdot! I updated my Blogger/G+ profile to link back to my Slashdot ID, so you can see this is actually me.

    I'm a little disappointed that the submitter linked the Gizmag article instead of the original blog post [blogspot.com] -- I think a lot of Slashdotters would have found that more interesting, for some of the technical details. Although, even that post is pretty light on details. I'm working on writing a more in-depth description of how I manage the machines. In short: Hooray for PXE boot, iSCSI, and LVM snapshots.

    You'd also be interested to know that I ran several successful LAN parties with all the gaming machines running Ubuntu Linux and WINE. I'd estimate 70% of games worked well (although often not perfect) with this configuration. Sadly, I have recently given in and installed Windows, though the server machine obviously still runs Linux.

    Here are some pictures of the server room, which Slashdot inexplicably won't let me link as HTML: http://goo.gl/BgFpT [goo.gl]

    Here is the back-story behind how I ended up with this house. [blogspot.com]

    As I said, I'll be writing some more blog posts soon with full gory technical details. I'll try submitting them as a new story when they're ready, but you can also subscribe to the blog or follow me on G+ if you're interested.

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      I'm a little disappointed that the submitter linked the Gizmag article instead of the original blog post [blogspot.com]

      Normally we get fully irate when they link some blog post rather than a news article :-)

    • Expecting Slashdot to do anything more than criticize and pick apart your awesome house is likely wishful thinking. :-)

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