Welcome to part three of State of the LAN Party. If you missed them, take a look at part 1 and part 2 posts. Everyone thought that growing older, getting married and having kids would be the only thing to bring an end to the LAN party. While it was true that as we got older we did not have LAN parties every two weeks, we still had them once a month. What did risk putting ours and many LAN parties to an end was Massively Multiplayer Online Games or MMOs.
By the time the game Everquest had come out our LAN party was in full swing. We had met with many other LAN groups across Florida and made a name for ourselves. I personally found working at Alienware, that the growing attendance to LAN parties translated into more buzz around our products.
One effect was peoples request for a smaller more LAN friendly sized system. People were torn between the massive power and size of our Dragon case and the prospect of having a small portable case to take. Remember, at this time there really wasn’t a gaming laptop and smaller form factor cases were not widely known of or used.
In the midst of larger LAN’s and more attention to networked gaming, a new fully 3D massive multiplayer role playing game was being released to the public. Now Everquest was not the first MMO, but it was the first to do fully interactive three dimensional game play and it brought in gamers who loved Dungeons and Dragons and the other successful MMO at the time, Ultima Online.
Over the next few months hundreds of thousands of people began to play EQ. At first this did not change the attendance of our LAN parties, but it did change much of the conversation within them. Many of us got into EQ and spent much of the LAN talking about our characters. We did continue to play normal LAN games like FPS’s and RTS’s, but somehow we always came back to talking about Everquest.
This was not just an occurrence at my LAN group. All across the U.S. people were talking about how Everquest, or as it was soon to be known as, EverCrack, was taking away gamers from their normal LAN games.
In our LAN group there was actually a divide between those who played EQ and those who did not. The pure gamers, as they called themselves, hated the fact that we talked so much about EQ and one said our LAN party officially died the day we connected a DSL line and played EQ at the LAN.
From my and many other EQ players point of view nothing really changed. We still played other games and interacted. MMO’s were just a new part of the landscape that we enjoyed, but we did find some took to EQ more than others. On the EQ main boards there were daily discussions of people becoming less active in work, school, their social life and LAN parties due to EQ. However, I felt in the end we became even more social because of it.
As high speed internet became easier to come by many LAN goers opted instead to play online. Gaming clans regained much of their strength because of this and LAN parties grew smaller and less frequent. Some of this was also blamed on MMO’s, but also because many companies decision to hold massive yearly LAN parties. It was felt that there was no longer a need to have a LAN party ever month when you could play over the net and then go to the larger sponsored LAN events.
Oddly enough, the EQ players were the ones to stay in touch the most. Since we all played on the same server in the game guild, we would often meet outside of EQ to talk and hang out. We found that many of our non-MMO playing LAN members did not want to attend these social gatherings. Perhaps it was because we talked about EQ, but we were skeptical.
As time went on many EQ and MMO players found themselves going back to LAN parties to get away from MMO’s and to do something different. LAN parties became much more social and private, except for the company sponsored ones.
At Alienware, we knew what our customers wanted and launched several gaming laptops which helped many LAN party members return to their LAN’s now being able to quickly and easily transport their gaming system.
In part 4 of the series I will talk about the evolution of the console and the affect new technology has had on the LAN party and the future of the LAN and its place in computer history.