LAN parties are get togethers of gamers with their computers and/or game consoles. Everyone hooks their machine into a local area network (LAN). Then plays multiplayer games together. They are social gatherings of people with a love of the same hobby. Some are small, made up of an existing friend group. Others are huge, bringing hundreds or thousands of gamers together. While practicing social distancing we can’t have traditional LAN parties. But we can get much of the same game play and social interaction from hosting a remote LAN party.
The coronavirus outbreak has pushed a lot of people to work from home, many for the first time. Even more people are practicing social distancing. Don’t panic. At the end of the day you’re doing the same job. And you can still reach out to friends and family. But you’ll need to do so with a different toolset. This site is here to help you make the changes needed to make the most of the situation.
Scheduling Your Remote LAN Party
As with a regular LAN party, hosting a remote LAN party starts with finding a day everyone can get together. Just because everyone is at home doesn’t mean they aren’t busy.
Doodle – With more than four people I recommend using Doodle. A meeting scheduling tool, which uses a simple poll approach. Whoever is setting up the poll will need an account. A free account is enough for your needs. Everyone else can respond with or without an account.
Create a Poll – Create your Doodle poll with basic info. Then add dates and/or times. My group would always meet on a Saturday at around the same time. So I would list the next 8-10 Saturdays in the poll.
Share the Poll – Once done (and voted myself) I’d share the poll link with the group. Everyone could click on the days they were available, adding their names. As the votes came in we quickly saw what days were out and what days were a possibility.
Select and Share the Results – My 9 man group usually only had a couple of days that worked over several months. Figuring that out over group chat would have been a lot harder. I know, because we use to do it via email before Doodle. Our frequency of gathers went up thanks to the easier scheduling.
Set a Time – With a regular gathering our host would set the arrival time. People would leave as needed, with the understanding we ended sometime after midnight. But with an online gather it may be best to set both a start and end time. People will be playing from home. Their own lives may need a bit more certainty of an end time.
Update Your System In Advance
A rule my LAN party group follows is running system and game updates a day or two before we get together. We don’t all play games with the same frequency. A Steam download queue can take a while if you haven’t logged on for weeks or months. You also don’t want system update notifications popping up mid-game. Any of these things can derailed your hosted remote LAN party, waiting for a player to get ready.
Operating System – Check your OS for updates. This goes for both PCs and gaming consoles.
Video Drivers – Check your video driver support software for updates. NVIDIA GeForce Experience or AMD Radeon Adrenalin are the big ones. Or visit the website for whoever made your video card.
Game Launcher – Open Steam, Origin, Battle.net, and any other game launchers you use. They should prompt or start new updates. In Steam you may need to go to Library, then Downloads to kick things off. If you have the time go ahead and update everything, not just the games you plan to play. It’ll be one less thing trying to download later. And plans may change.
Restart – If you didn’t need to restart for an OS update do a restart yourself. It is a good and easy maintenance to do from time to time.
Before the day of your hosted remote LAN party your group should settle on a chat app. Not something you worry about when getting together in the real world.
Voice chat is the least you should accept. Text chat won’t allow for the same social interaction. It also isn’t supported in many games. And you can’t expect everyone to check a chat window while playing. But video chat has some perks. Provided everyone’s Internet speeds are okay with running alongside your game.
Voice vs Video
Voice works well under limited bandwidth. According to Skype you only need 30Kbps up and down. Though they recommend having 100Kbps up and down. A 7+ person group video call needs 4Mbps down, 128Kbps up. With 8Mbps down, 512Kbps up recommended. Online gaming bandwidth needs vary, but figure up to 12Mbps down and 6Mbps up. Test your home connection and see if you have enough for gaming and video.
With enough bandwidth video allows for a more satisfying social interaction. Your group is more likely to check in on each other’s lives at the start of the gathering. The same came happen between games, when the video is more prominent on their screens. During gameplay you won’t see each other unless you have a second display. But you can continue to hear each other.
The gamer default for voice chat is Discord. If someone has access to a server and can grant everyone else access you can get together in a private channel. Otherwise it is easier to use a more mainstream chat app.
Check out the best free video chat apps if your group doesn’t already have a favorite. Any of them can do voice only if needed. In the end the most important factor is which app will everyone use. That’s what should be your final choice.
For a remote LAN party you want games which supports online multiplayer. At a regular LAN party games which support local or LAN multiplayer are coveted. It is a rare specification on modern games. But it allows for a much smoother game setup when everyone is on the same router. With a remote LAN party you need games with their own servers. To keep from overloading anyone’s Internet connection.
What You Want In a Remote LAN Party Game
In short you need it let everyone play online easily.
- Supports the number of players you’ll have.
- Supports online multiplayer.
- Has its own servers, rather than one player hosting the game on their machine.
- Has a friends list, or ties into Steam’s friend list.
- Allows for private games. Whether invite only or a server password.
- Verses or co-op, depending on your group’s preference. I recommend a bit of both in your games list.
LAN Party Game Lists
Check out these LAN party game lists for specific game ideas. Remember to verify their online multiplayer setup.
- Steam LAN Party Games Curated List – Suggestions broken down by number of players
- LAN Game List – A database of multiplayer games. Can filter based on criteria you’re looking for.
- Co-Optimus – A database of co-op multiplayer games.
Be mindful of everyone’s budget. Trying new games is great. But someone in your group might be suffering from recent employment loss. Better to play something tried and true everyone can enjoy. If you really want the group to try a new game add it to your wish list and watch for a sale. Then let everyone know when it is on sale and make your pitch.
Games my group plays at LAN parties that would work online:
- Monday Night Combat
- Robot Roller-Derby Disco Dodgeball
- Rocket League
- Star Wars Episode I Racer
- Stick Fight: The Game
Want something a little more analog, but still in a digital space? Check out Playing Board Games Online.
Consider More Frequent, But Smaller Remote LAN Parties
The upside to a remote LAN party is less logistics. Not to mention some people have more free time thanks to COVID-19 and social distancing. If you can get together more frequently that’s worth considering. Even if everyone can’t make every session. So long as the schedule works for everyone at some point.
For longer sessions have a mix of game genres available. It is good to take a break from FPS, especially is something is getting frustrated. A racing games, co-op, or more casual option makes for a nice reset.
Shorter sessions can get by with one or two games. If you’re getting together more frequently then rotate out the games. Maybe allow a different person to select the game from the group’s master list.