Can virtual reality restore the LAN party?

By Shawn Knight · 11 replies
Apr 26, 2016
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  1. One of the reasons I’m immensely interested in modern virtual reality is because I no longer play video games. I know that sounds odd but hear me out.

    Gaming has always been a social event for me. As a kid, grew to love console gaming as I could play locally with neighborhood friends. In my teenage years, the PC replaced consoles and LAN parties became a favorite pastime.

    Ironically enough, I began to lose interest in gaming around the time Internet connections reached a point that made online gaming feasible. It also didn’t help that my core group of friends and I were transitioning into adulthood with real jobs and responsibilities (aka, less time to hold LAN parties).

    Being able to fire up a PC or console, pop on a headset and join a party chat is incredibly convenient but it’s just not the same as physically playing alongside your best buds. Modern “social” aspects like leaderboards, achievements and sharing milestones on social media do nothing for me (in fact, they’re more of a turnoff than anything else).

    If you’ve never experienced an intimate LAN party (one with a handful of friends versus a mega event like Dreamhack) then it’s probably difficult to relate.

    When the Oculus Rift first debuted on Kickstarter roughly four years ago, I subconsciously invested in the idea that virtual reality as a platform might somehow restore the social element that has been stripped away from gaming. Apparently I wasn’t the only person that shared this idea.

    Developer Darshan Shankar has been working for years on a project to do just that.

    BigScreen allows you to bring your entire Windows desktop into the virtual world. What really makes this experience unique is that you can invite up to four other people into the virtual world as well and they can bring their own displays. In essence, it’s a virtual LAN party complete with positional audio. All you need to do is supply your own snacks.

    Darshan said they’re working on multi-monitor support but as you can imagine, that’s a bit tricky and involves a lot more bandwidth – something that’s already at a premium, especially if you’re a cord-cutter. As it stands today, streaming your monitor to three other users in 1080p quality likely necessitates a connection with 5-10Mbps upload speed according to Darshan.

    BigScreen arrives on Steam this Thursday (April 28) and offers cross-platform support meaning Oculus Rift and HTC Vive users can mingle in the virtual world. It’ll be free initially although the development team may charge for cosmetic upgrades down the line (think avatars, special environments and so on).

    In my opinion, the whole idea of a LAN party is to hang out with friends (playing games is just an added bonus). There was a lot of time and effort involved in setting up even a small (8-10 player) LAN party but in retrospect, it was well worth it.

    In lieu of a real LAN party, BigScreen looks to be the next best thing. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn't disappoint.

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  2. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Grand Inquisitor Posts: 4,736   +3,757

    I don't see this bringing back LAN parties. Even if we ignore the bandwidth issue, the simple fact is that you can't simulate the physical presence of other people.

    Would Playstation Home have succeeded if they had immersive VR? Probably not. Same thing here.
    NeoFlux and ikesmasher like this.
  3. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 3,325   +1,973

    The old LAN party, I do miss them terribly, but with the internet as it is I have to admit some skepticism that it will return in force.....still, it's certainly worth a try. Hope he reports back on his success .....

    IAMTHESTIG TS Evangelist Posts: 1,255   +454

    I don't see it either... and I have been hosting LAN parties since 2002 and STILL host them. In fact just had one this last weekend, we had 13 people. Our group is mostly guys from high school, college, and work. Yes we all have lives now but we still manage to get at least two LAN parties a year in. NOTHING can replace the actual presence of your best buds all eDuking it out in the same room. Even more so I only see VR as taking away from the experience of a LAN party. The idea of a virtual LAN party would only be useful for some select games, and then only if everyone in the game can also be in the virtual LAN party. I just don't see any practicality in this at all.
    davislane1 likes this.
  5. lripplinger

    lripplinger TS Addict Posts: 283   +98

    LAN parties were fun back in college days. Ah, the days of everyone networked together on my little 5 port Netgear Ethernet hub (that's right, not a switch, but an ethernet hub!). So much Starcraft until 4AM, and then missing class in the morning...LOL
  6. Adhmuz

    Adhmuz TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,828   +633

    Two weeks ago was LAN ETS in Montreal, I was there working the Microbytes booth with my friends, we all had our PCs with us but having setup the booth Friday afternoon then working it till 1 AM we were pretty exhausted and had trouble getting any games going. We managed to stay up until 6 or 7 AM, slept an hour on the concrete floor, but I had to be back at the booth for 9 and by the end of Saturday I could barely focus let alone play a game so packed up my tower and drove home, just to come back the next day to pack everything up. Needless to say that was not how I remembered previous years where we were actually able to play games and have fun doing so.

    This past weekend we held a LAN at my friends now dedicated LAN center in the upper level of his garage, we may not have been the 2000 people or so that attended the BYOC portion of LAN ETS but managed to actually have fun this time and enjoyed the games we did play, our Rocket League game went from 3 AM to 8 AM, prior to that we had been playing the original Starcraft. This is how I want to remember LAN'ing with my friends, playing games we all enjoy. Not so much the LAN ETS experience anymore, albeit that was an experience in itself, but in reality we were not there to be playing games, something I will remember for next time, which is now going to be Dreamhack in August.

    I can't imagine recreating this type of experience with a VR headset, it may be a more immersive experience for gaming, but you don't feel the emotion from the shouting, the floor shaking when the winning goal is scored, the bitter cold of an unheated building when it's 0 degrees outside. It's just not something I feel can be replaced by some cheap piece of plastic covering half my face and numbing my senses to the real world.
  7. zazapensive

    zazapensive TS Rookie

    ...if.... just if Big Screen can merge us into something else at the same time like
    a rave with hotties and brews ? I'm interested.
  8. Bubbajim

    Bubbajim TS Maniac Posts: 241   +168

    You'd be surprised. In the VR game HoverJunkers, each player has a full avatar that moves in incredibly person-like ways. Obviously it's not really quite the same, but there's something uncanny about other characters waving and dancing about. You can definitely "feel" that these are humans you're interacting with, rather than avatars controlled by keyboards.
  9. veLa

    veLa TS Evangelist Posts: 781   +235

    My best friend and I still LAN all the time. It's a shame it's just the two of though.
  10. BSim500

    BSim500 TS Evangelist Posts: 387   +659

    ^ You've answered your own question right there. The answer is "no". Using an alternative display device and sitting on your own isn't even a "LAN party". As others have said, you can't simulate presence. Nor will it solve the obvious problem of not being able to sync up free time even without the need to travel.
  11. Badelhas

    Badelhas TS Booster Posts: 74   +26

    Yeah, I also have high hopes that the HTC Vive brings back my taste for pc gaming. Lost it around when Crysis 1 was launched, back in 200.
  12. ikiiki

    ikiiki TS Rookie

    If you've been following any of the multiplayer vr experiences at all, it is clear that there a sense of social presence is conveyed (particularly with the motion controller tracking)

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