Last weekend EuroGamer took over Varndean College in Brighton for our second EuroLAN event. Around 90 players fragged it out over the weekend, with prizes including AMD Athlons, motherboards, webcams, games, and even a pair of funky Elsa Revelator 3D glasses up for grabs.
The Set Up
The party was already in full swing by the time I arrived early on Saturday afternoon, and the hall, which is normally used for assemblies and school drama productions, was already humming quietly to the sound of dozens of whirring fans and hard drives.
The soft hum was soon drowned out, as a huge pair of speakers provided by EuroGamer web monkey Jay Adair had been hooked up to a computer via an old amplifier to pump out the "choons" all weekend, with the floor literally shaking to the bass when the volume was pushed too high. Nice.
At the other side of the hall, a new feature for EuroLAN #2 was a projector screen showing DVD movies all weekend, with old favourites like The Matrix and Predator minglng with my personal collection of over-the-top Hong Kong action movies. When the constant fragging gets too much, there's nothing like watching John Woo's "Hard Boiled" to get the blood pumping again ready for another round of Counter-Strike...
Food came courtesy of Domino's, with the return of our legendary half-price pizza deal, and there was even a EuroLAN Special pizza this time for the real hardcore gamers. Meanwhile caffeine was provided by crate loads of the foul tasting pick-me-up "Red Devil". It doesn't quite have the kick of Bawls, but it's certainly the best that I've found so far on this side of the Atlantic.
The main tournaments kicked off during the afternoon, with Unreal Tournament and Quake 3 Arena competitions running by early evening.
The fragging was interrupted at midnight though by the ear-splitting noise of the fire alarms going off, although this wasn't enough to stir one rather dedicated Quaker from his game, and we had to go and tap him on the shoulder before he noticed that anything had happened.
The punters were understandably reluctant to abandon their expensive gaming rigs, and lurked around the doors as we waited for the caretaker to arrive, watching John Woo's "Face/Off" playing on the DVD screen. Eventually the alarms were shut off, and the cause was finally tracked down to somebody smoking in the cafeteria and setting off a smoke alarm. Whoops.
Although most people eventually called it a night in the early hours of the morning, some of us carried on right through until the bitter end. Unreal Tournament admin WhaQ (who I had met at i4 a few weeks earlier) was one of the other survivors, and we were soon back to playing Total Annihilation.
After an early disappointment, being knocked out of the first game after just a few minutes, in the end I emerged victorious with a string of wins. But by now the sun was shining, and the rest of the hall was beginning to wake up...
Sunday morning saw another tournament being added to the schedule, in the form of a keyboard only Quake 3 competition! The first rounds were played on the flat Q3DM1, but the grand final would test the contestants skills to the limit with a fifteen minute match on Q3Tourney4.
Despite coming up with what I thought was a rather nifty two-handed keys only config, and even managing to defeat a mouse-wielding player who strayed into my practice server, I was knocked out in the very first round by Pod from the ubiquitous clan EED.
Pod went on to make it to the grand final where he took on Mugwum, the editor of our sister site ConsoleGamer. By now Pod had perfected his technique, and although the match got off to a slow start he had soon proved to have the upper hand, taking his first frag two minutes into the game after chasing Mugwum down through the slime pit room. Pod soon picked up a second kill with an impressive rail, and then to add insult to injury he rocket jumped back up to the red armour!
By one third time Pod was 5 : 0 ahead, although Mugwum soon pulled one back with his rocket launcher, eventually picking up a second while Pod continued to pick up frags. Things slowed down for a while in the middle of the game, until just before the tenth minute Pod went on a rampage, picking up his eighth frag, and then a ninth. Mugwum went sky diving without a parachute, only to be railed from the red armour soon afterwards to take the score to 10 : 1.
Pod rocket jumped up to the red armour again, which is harder than it looks when you are only using a keyboard, and then dropped down to the megahealth before going back on the chase. Mugwum soon slipped up, backing himself into a corner and getting stuck, giving Pod time to embed a rocket in his head. Not giving up yet though, Mugwum managed to pull one back with the plasma gun, only to get railed in the dying moments of the game. Final score 12 : 2 to Pod.
The next big match was a rather more serious duel, with Kalliath and Recoil fighting in the final of our Quake 3 1v1 tournament. Kalliath took the early lead, taking the score to 2 : -1 in the third minute of what looked at first like being a low scoring match on Q3Tourney2.
Things were quiet, with neither player able to make a frag. In the end Recoil took a tumble during a battle on the bridge at the bottom of the level, knocked into the red mist to make the score 2 : -2. Recoil had soon pulled back the lost frag though, and then during anotherb battle above the red mist he watched in satisfaction as Kalliath managed to miss the teleporter and run backwards off the end of the bridge!
Recoil pulled back another frag to reduce Kalliath's lead to 1 : 0, almost back where they had started six minutes earlier! Kalliath was eventually getting back into the swing of things though, and took down Recoil during a rocket battle in the top room. They were soon back in the pillar room for more, although both players had soon had enough of the rocket exchange. Recoil headed for the teleporter as Kalliath ran down the stairs, meeting Recoil again by the lightning gun and sending a rocket his way to make the score 3 : 0.
Recoil came right back at Kalliath to finish him off, but Kalliath was soon back on top again, taking the score to 5 : 1 with two minutes left to play. Recoil tried desperately to claw back the deficit, but his attempts only made things worse, with the score reaching 9 : 2 by the end.
Off The Rails
The last of the competitions to take place was the Half-Life : Counter-Strike tournament, which had disappointingly only had two entrants - the (in)famous EED and RsT, a make-shift clan of writers from around the EuroGamer Network.
RsT had quickly chosen to play the match on "railroad", apparently because Mugwum likes trains. The first leg pitched them as the terrorists, with EED on the defensive. As the game started RsT were fighting over control of one of the little railway car you can drive around in, with it jerking backwards and forwards before eventually setting off, only for one of the players to fall off the back of it.
Things continued in this vein throughout the match, with RsT messing around as EED built up a solid lead. In one round the train wouldn't start up for some reason, and EED went scooting past in their own for a quick drive-by shooting. RsT did succeed in planting the bomb a few times, but EED generally found it before it could explode, until the fourth game when they got a little complacent.
RsT managed to sneak through the underground passages and planted their bomb in the train. Although EED wiped the team out, by the time they found the bomb it was too late, and it exploded as they began defusing it. RsT let out a mighty cheer! In the end it was EED's day though, as they took the first leg 5 : 1.
For the second leg the teams swapped places, with RsT defending and EED as the terrorists. Things started off well for RsT, with their team charging through the tunnel on their railway car and shooting down Pod and Manta from EED, but the survivors had soon regrouped and finished off the RsT players. heered by their initial success, next time round the whole of RsT jumped on the train together, only for it to get stuck.
In another round ChrissyB of RsT reached the bomb on the tunnel bridge in time to defuse it, only for his own team mates to run into him with their railway car! Bizarrely it doesn't do any damage when this happens, but being pushed down the track had wasted valuable time, and before he could get back to the bomb EED's snipers had killed him.
RsT were just messing around by now, but EED still seemed to be taking the game fairly seriously. Their lead player checked out the bomb site with a sniper scope, then pulled back to check for anyone coming round the track the other way. Meanwhile the rest of the team had dashed across the bridge in a loose skirmish line to sweep the area beyond as the bomb was planted.
RsT did have their moments though - ChrissyB managed to take out two or three EED players with his sniper rifle before EED's Beej spotted him and took him down. They were few and far between though. As a gaggle of RsT players ran through a corridor in the building overlooking one of the bomb sites, an EED terrorist popped out from round a corner and cut down three of them with a spray of heavy machine gun fire. The game was rapidly becoming a total rout.
With 85 seconds left to play, EED's Beej shouted out "let's go for a quick one" as the team dashed through the tunnels. In the end they didn't have time, planting the bomb only for the game to end before they could pick up another victory. Still, 11 : 0 is not to be sniffed at.
Meanwhile, unseen by me unfortunately, the Unreal Tournament duel competition had ended with Billox coming through to defeat Whaq in the final to go home with first prize. It wasn't all about serious tournaments though, and on Sunday some of us got together to venture into the Matrix courtesy of Unreal Tournament and the Lazy Matrix and Matrix Moves mods.
Lazy Matrix slows down the pace of the game and introduces "bullet time" - at random intervals the game will slow down to a crawl as Morpheus says that "it's time to let it all go - free your mind". Individual bullets can be seen flying through the air leaving little shock waves as the players try to dodge them in slow motion.
Meanwhile Matrix Moves adds the ability to run up walls - hit jump as you run towards a wall and your player will flip to a horizontal position and run on up the surface. You can reach quite a height before you drop back to earth, or you can hit the jump button again at any point to do a backflip off the wall, spinning in mid-air to land on your feet again. Impressive.
Together the mods do a fairly good job of recreating some of the action from the movie, although I found the Matrix Moves so much fun that I spent more time running up the walls than actually shooting people. Still, it certainly made a welcome change of pace after all the hours of Quake 3 Arena we had been playing during the weekend...
And so it ended. All in all EuroLAN 2 had been another successful event, and although a few wimps left early everybody had a great time. There were a few network problems early on, but after changing the network card in the server and messing around with the wires a bit everything else went smoothly during the weekend.
The free Red Devil and half-price pizzas went down a treat, and the projector screen showing DVD movies all weekend proved to be fairly popular, although not everybody seemed to understand the finer points of my favourite cheesy Chinese action movie, "Wonder7". Still, you can't win them all...
The level of competition might not have been the highest, and the tournaments not the most serious, but there was certainly plenty of fun to be had, from Matrix Unreal Tournament to InstaGib Quake 3, as well as plenty of casual Counter-Strike games taking place throughout the weekend.
If you missed out this time round, don't panic! We will definitely be holding a third EuroLAN, probably later in the summer. Look for more details over on the EuroLAN website.
In the meantime, check the big photo gallery on the next page to see what you missed! For those of you who were at the event, if you took any photographs please jpeg them and mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll post the best ones later in the week.