Tale Of Two Cities
LAN partying in the UK
What better way to celebrate Christmas , the season of peace and goodwill to all men, than a massive
Quake II gibfest? How about TWO Quake II gibfests? Oh yes... Gestalt "does" London's UK Lan
Party at the Playing Fields and the UKCCL Xmas Frenzy in Blackpool.
The UKCCL Xmas Frenzy
Norbreck Castle Hotel, Blackpool
Friday 11th - Sunday 13th December
With well over 100 people and probably in excess of half a million dollars worth of hardware, including
a Quad Xeon server provided by Intel, this was to be a long and bloody weekend...
The weekend got off to a great start as I waited for a coach in Birmingham. Into the waiting room came
an old geezer in an anorak, shuffling around talking to himself. "Manchester, Manchester's a city. The
city of Manchester. Maaaaanchester. Birmingham's a city, city of Birmingham. But Swindon, oh,
Swindon isn't a city .. call that a city? Noooo..."
The wonders of care in the community.
Finally arriving in the sunny (hah!) seaside resort of Blackpool after dark I tracked down a taxi in the
freezing cold and was driven up the coast to the hotel where the event was taking place, an imposing
white building which is called the Norbreck Castle for a reason...
Of course, the lan party itself was taking place in a small conference room tucked away at the back of the
hotel, thanks to the main room being double booked. Some sort of cheesy funk night was going on in the
bar, and dodgy 70s disco music blared out as I walked past.
Entering the room for the first time was impressive. Around 100 players had already arrived, their PCs set
up on tables stretching the length of the room, a network router at the end of each table flashing green and
orange lights at me.
Friday night was warm-up time .. but unfortunately I didn't get much warming up done at first as the
computer I was supposed to be using crashed and then couldn't find the network for most of the night.
I have this effect on computers for some reason... Luckily for the person who brought the computer
hundreds of miles to play at the party it did get fixed in the end though.
Networking problems also caused some panic amongst the admins after power outs fried the routing
switch's config. As more and more people connected their computers to the network it started to
break down. Eventually after pulling an all-nighter fixing it all and rewiring a lot of the network,
everything was working perfectly by the next morning.
The hardware Intel provided - including network routers, a pair of dual Pentium IIs, and an awe-inspiring
quad-Xeon server (worth a small fortune itself) - worked a treat. In the end I think they actually ran ALL
the servers (deathmatch, CTF, QPong, Rocket Arena II, ChaosDM and a whole bunch of other mods) on
the quad-Xeon, and it kept up with almost everything they could throw at it...
I eventually got to bed at 3.30am .. bed being my sleeping bag on the floor of the "crash room". The crash
room was actually right above the party, and the hum of computers echoed through the floor...
Saturday started early for most of us, thanks to a fire alarm going off just after 5.30am! The alarm didn't stop,
and it was way too early in the morning for it to just be a drill. For one awful moment I wondered if the hotel
was about to burn down, taking everybody's computers with it! Reluctantly we grabbed what we could and
made our way out the back of the hotel...
The sound of fire engines screaming past on the road at the front of the hotel didn't help, as everybody
huddled around the entrance wondering how much they could save, and whether that quad Xeon was
worth more than their lives. It was also f*cking freezing outside, as you might expect for early morning
in the middle of December in the north of England...
Luckily we were all fully dressed, which is more than can be said for a group of young women who came
stumbling out the fire escape at the side of the building in their nighties! One Quaker proved that chivalry
isn't entirely dead by fetching his spare pair of trainers for one of the girls who hadn't even had time to
put her shoes on before leaving her room.
Eventually the alarm stopped, the fire engines drove off again, and we all crowded back into the room again.
It's not exactly how (or when) I wanted to wake up, and several of us went back to bed, but a lot of the
players just went back to their computers to start the morning's fragging early...