How To Set Up A LAN Party – The Ultimate Guide for Windows PCs

If you never set up a LAN party before and you would like to know how to set up a LAN party for you and your mates, then here is the ultimate guide:

I have personally been to many LAN parties and I have hosted many LAN parties in my lifetime and I find that there are some misconceptions about LAN (Local Area Network) gaming. A Local Area Network does not involve the Internet and if you need the Internet to play a game, it is certainly not a LAN game. That is simply online multiplayer gaming using a WAN (Wide Area Network) like the Internet.

Here I will keep it old school and strictly LAN. Many of us staying in third world countries do not have fast Internet connections or lots of bandwidth and this is what makes LAN gaming so awesome. But it is more than that: It is the interaction, the jokes and laughter. It is a social event where teamwork, comradery and competition is much more fun than over a microphone to some distant teammate or friend.

LAN Party

Because most everything is done online or can be done online these days, true local network games are a dying breed and it makes sense that many of the awesome LAN games out there are a bit dated but not less fun.

This brings me to the very first step. Let the fun begin!:

Step One – Get A List Of LAN Games

It is no use inviting your friends for a LAN party and you do not yet have an idea what you will be playing. It is good to be organized; since small things like deciding what to play on the day can waste a lot of time and spoil things fast.

Ask your friends before the time what games they currently have, games they would like to play and perhaps give a suggestion of what you guys could try. You can perhaps decide as a group to pitch in and purchase a DRM (Digital Rights Management) free game from a place like gog.com.

Do this over social media, WhatsApp, e-mail or whatever your preference is. Keep this list safe on a spreadsheet for some preparation work later if needed.

Below is my list of super fun, true LAN games to play that I personally own and played. But feel free to choose something totally different.

Top LAN Party Games (Offline)

Here is my list of top LAN Party Games:

GameMax. PlayersWhere To Get
Age Of Mythology 12Amazon
Age Of Empires II8Humble Store
Age Of Wonders II and Shadow Magic12 / 8GOG
ANNO 14044GOG
Baldur’s Gate II6GOG
Blur4Amazon
Battlefield 264Amazon
Call Of Duty World At War4Amazon
Company Of Heroes 1 and 28Amazon
Counterstrike Source128Amazon
Death Rally 14Best Old Games
Descent 28GOG
Diablo 28Amazon
Divinity: Original Sin 1 & 24GOG
Dungeon Siege 1 & 28Amazon
Duke Nukem 3D8Best Old Games
F22 Lightning 3128Amazon
First To Fight4Amazon
Flatout 28GOG
Freelancer128Amazon
Freespace 28GOG
Heroes Of Might And Magic III and V8GOG
Heretic 232Amazon
Homeworld Emergence8GOG
Homeworld Deserts of Kharak6GOG
Lord Of The Rings: Conquest16Amazon
Men Of War: Assault Squad8GOG
Medal Of Honor and its expansions12GOG
Neverwinter Nights 1 & 24GOG
Need For Speed Most Wanted 20054Amazon
Need For Speed Pro Street8Amazon
Need For Speed Underground 1 and 24 / 6Amazon
Operation Flashpoint: Game Of The Year16Amazon
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising32Amazon
Railroad Tycoon6GOG
Rainbow Six: Vegas 216Amazon
Return To Castle Wolfenstein64GOG
Rune32GOG
Soldat32Soldat
Star Trek: Starfleet Command6GOG
Star Wars: Battlefront I & II64GOG
Star Wars: X-Wing vs Tie Fighter8GOG
SWAT 3 and 410GOG
Sacred 28GOG
Saints Row 2 and The Third2 Coop / 8 Strong Arm / 12 Gangsta BrawlGOG
Serious Sam The First and Second Encounter16GOG
Titan Quest6GOG
Toca Race Driver 312Amazon
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 24Amazon
Torchlight 24GOG
Unreal Tournament 200432GOG
Vietcong8Amazon
Warcraft 312Amazon
Wolfenstein: Enemy Teritory32Splash Damage
Worms Armageddon8GOG

Where is Quake 3 and StarCraft? Sure you can add those – I simply do not own those games and never been a big fan.

“Oh my! I see a game or two from the DOS days”, I hear you say. Can I even still play those? Sure you can. Simply use DOSBox even over TCP/IP. (I will show you how to do this a little-bit later in this article)

Graphics never determines the fun factor of a game for me. More pleasing to the eye, yes, but the fun to be had with a title like Death Rally; graphics is not that important. It will be sad missing out on laughs and fun just because it is a bit dated to your mind.

Please Note

Some LAN games I have listed above can be bought through Steam, but that may mean that you will need the Internet to perhaps patch the game which is silly. Rather buy the disc or get it from a DRM free online store so that the Internet is simply not a requirement and so that it will be easy for everybody to install the same patch. (A bit more about this later)

I am sure there are more games that I cannot think of right now, so please feel free to add them in the comments. Especially if you had some good or bad experiences with one of the LAN games I mentioned in my list, then simply discuss it in the comments below.

Tip

It will be a good idea to know what the specifications are of your friends’ computers they will bring just to make sure the games you choose will be playable by all. Jot down the specs of all the computers on your spreadsheet too.

Step Two – Create A Comfortable Environment

It is best to sit around a big enough table or in the same room/area.

GTRACING Gaming Chair

Because you will spend a lot of time sitting in front of your computer, chairs with good support for your back is essential. This can be any comfortable chairs where gaming chairs are obviously the ultimate goal.

There is nothing worse than a full glass of soda that gets knocked over on the table, a keyboard or computer. That is why I invest in cup holders that can clip to the table. This makes things more secure and comfortable when a tense moment occurs and all focus and concentration is on scoring that last winning point.

Lan Party Cup Holders
LAN Party Cup Holders

Otherwise a rule of only bottles with screw caps allowed on the table should be implemented and if you are not drinking the cap needs to be screwed on tight.

If it does happen that you end up playing in different rooms of the house, you can make use of Mumble or TeamSpeak for communication over headsets. These applications can be setup over a LAN and you do not need the Internet. This is not ideal for a LAN party but friends getting together is still better than playing an online game from different locations. There will be breaks and face time.

Optional

Set the ambiance and have a few posters of the games you will be playing displayed in the area, or action figures on the table and some LED lights. You can even have some nice mouse pads set out on the table.

Step Three – Get The Gear Ready

I will not encourage a wireless environment for gaming, but it can be acceptable for a couple of players. This is what I will rather recommend you get:

  1. Get a Gigabit switch with at least as many ports as there are going to be players.
  2. You will need already made-up network cables. CAT5e or CAT6 will work just fine. Just make sure you get a suitable length of cable to reach the furthest computer.
  3. Some spare headsets (Optional)
  4. Spare keyboards (Optional)
  5. A spare monitor or two will be great (Optional)

Your friends should bring their own gear but there is always the odd one that forgot his headset or keyboard.:-) What can you do but smile and say: ‘I have got you covered brother!’

My place is always setup with 3 computers on a LAN with all the games and patches installed and ready to go. So if there is an issue with someone’s setup, they will still be sorted. It is not an expense I will just undergo. It is simply what I accumulated and done over time for my benefit.

Now you simply put the switch on the table, give power to the switch and plug a network cable into each port of the switch. Keep the cables neat and still rolled up for the moment. You can optionally mark each end of the cable with the number corresponding on the switch. Do this with a marker or some stickers.

This will allow you to know the exact computer connected to each port of the switch and make things easier to troubleshoot when someone has a problem on his computer. Just in case it is something silly like a faulty cable.

After the group decided on some games to play, consult your spreadsheet to see if it will be playable for everyone by looking up the various games’ recommended specifications.

Now you will need to do a bit of preparation work:

On a shared folder, external hard drive, NAS (network Attached Storage) or memory stick, have a folder for each game and add all the patches for the game in there. In so doing, everybody can download and install the correct patches for the game; since it is important that everybody runs the same version of the game for it to work. 

It will be much easier and save valuable time if all downloads are simply available on the network like a shared folder.

This will be my checklist of software I will include on the shared folder/drive/memory stick:

  1. Mumble or TeamSpeak (Just in case)
  2. DRM free game installation files and their patches.
  3. D-LAN (Making it super easy to share large files among one another over a LAN)
  4. DosBox (In case you might consider playing a DOS LAN game)

Step Four – How To Set Up A LAN Network

For the computers to communicate with one another, they all need to be on the same IP address range.

To keep things simple in this article, stick to a Class C subnet and the IP version 4 range of 192.168.16.xxx

You will manually assign each computer an IP address and the first three groups of numbers will all be the same but the last group of numbers needs to be unique for each computer. The last group of numbers can be any number from 1 to 254.

I recommend not giving each computer just a random number. Be organized and assign each computer the same number as the network port on the switch where they are connected to.

For the Subnet mask, make it the same for all computers: 255.255.255.0 (This is a Class C)

This is what it will look like:

Computer 1

IP Address: 192.168.16.1

Subnet Mask: 255.255.255.0

Computer 2

IP Address192.168.16.2

Subnet Mask: 255.255.255.0

You do not need to put anything for the default gateway; since you are not connecting to the Internet or a router. The same goes for the DNS fields. If you want, you can enter the PC’s IP address that will be hosting the games in the first DNS field.

How Do I Change The IP Address Of My Computer?

Tip

Make a note on your handy spreadsheet of the current IP settings (If Any) before changing them.

Then do the following:

  1. Click Start Menu > Control Panel > Network and Sharing Center or Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Center.
  2. Click Change adapter settings.
  3. Right-click on Wi-Fi or Local Area Connection.
  4. Click Properties.
  5. Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4).
  6. Click Properties.
  7. Select Use the following IP address.
  8. Enter the IP addressSubnet mask.
  9. Click OK.

Sweet! All set. It is party time!!!

Hang on dude, what is a party without some snacks?

Step Five – Which Snacks Should I Get For My LAN-Party?

Savory snacks are a good choice and everybody can pitch in for this. Here is what I will suggest:

  1. Nuts
  2. Chips or Crisps for the English.
  3. Biltong (for our South Africans) and Jerky (for the Americans)
  4. Bacon Kips or Bacon Fries (for the Americans)

Depending on how long you will play, a well-deserved break for lunch is always good.

I recommend putting something easy together like Hot Dogs cut into smaller pieces, a cold meat platter (chicken wings, mini sausages, cheese, salami, mini pork ribs, etc.) Some finger snacks.

A favorite for me would be a barbecue or a braai (for our South Africans). Everybody sitting around the fire (or gas braai for some – shame), flipping some burgers or doing things the right way by grilling the perfect steak and boerewors (thick beef sausage to translate) with some toasted sandwiches made on the braai/grill with cheddar cheese, tomato, apricot jam and a bit of white onion. Top that off with a potato salad, beetroot salad or carrot salad and we will be friends in no time.

Doing the barbecue thing is for when time is not limited.

Beverages:

I enjoy some Coke ‘n Cola but there should be plenty of water. If it is a hot day, make sure there is plenty of ice.

Done and dusted!! Except for one last thing:

If you for some reason decide to play a DOS game over the network and have no clue how, then let me show you:

How To Set Up A Dos Network Game

I will give you the basic steps here, but should you require more information, please leave a comment below or read the article from the link below for detailed instructions:

>>How To Play DOS Games<<

  1. Download and install DosBox from here: https://www.dosbox.com/
  2. Run DosBox from the shortcut on your desktop or double-click DosBox.exe in the installation folder for DosBox
  3. Type ‘mount g D:\games\mydosgame’ (without the quotes) where D:\games\mydosgame is the directory of your installed Dos game.
  4. Type ‘g:’ (without the quotes) and press ‘Enter’
  5. Type ‘dir /w’ (without the quotes) and press ‘Enter’ and look for a .BAT or .EXE file representing the game
  6. Type the executable file name and press ‘Enter’ example: fatal.exe

Now that will start the game but to establish the network connection, do the following before starting the game:

Go to the installation folder of DOSBox and open the configuration file or run DOSBox0.xx Options.bat file.

Scroll down to the heading [IPX] and change IPX=false to IPX=true and save the configuration file.

Now go to the computer that acts as the server (The one hosting the game) and type in DOSBox command line:
ipxnet startserver [UDP port] 
UDP port is optional. Otherwise, it defaults to 213 

On Client computers type:
ipxnet connect [Server IP Address][UDP port]

Check your status with IPXNET STATUS 

When you exit the game, but want to remain in DOSBox, the clients can optionally use the following commands:

IPXNET DISCONNECT 
and only after all clients disconnect (or you’ll risk locking them up), the server can type: 

IPXNET STOPSERVER

Network setups for DOS games can either be in the game menu itself or many a time it will be a file called ‘Setup.exe’

So after you have established the network connection between the computers over IPX as explained above, run the Setup.exe file and setup the multiplayer settings. When starting a network game, the game will auto-launch once the other players join the hosted game.

Very Important

When you start any network game, the Windows Firewall window most likely will pop-up (if it is the first time the game wants to connect over a network). It can also be hidden in the background. Always make sure that the ‘Private Network’ is selected and click ‘Yes’ to allow the application through and always check in the background whenever you start a network game if the Windows Firewall window is not open somewhere.

So there you have it. Happy LAN gaming weekends. Now you too can set up and rock your own LAN Party.

Conclusion

Having a bit of face-to-face interaction is great. Having fun on the side makes it even better. A LAN-party can just as easily be replaced by a murder mystery game night or a Poker night. Whichever floats your boat.

For me it is gaming forever. 🙂

As always: Please let me know your thoughts, likes, dislikes, ideas and questions in the comments below. 


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