We have just finalised our LAN-slide v20.0 debrief and want to let you on the inside of what goes on behind the scenes, and address the issues we had during the event.
For the last three events, we have had power issues. This event’s power issues were different though, and we’ll explain these below.
At these events, we ran 2 rows from the venue and 12 rows from the generator. Even though we had the spare capacity on the generator, it made sense to make use of the venue to save on the fuel bill at the end of the event. It also allowed us to keep our core network running overnight post set-up.
Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us is that the fuse box was underrated (50 A) specifically on a phase that also hosted evaporative coolers and mercury lights. Our initial electrician noted the circuit breakers were rated for 80 A and we were basing our calculations off this (as it turns out, there was a mismatch in breakers versus fuses in the main switchboard). As the load was approximately 40 A from all lighting and evaporative coolers, in conjunction with automatic water pumps at exactly 10:30 PM saw a fuse blowing at these two events.
Since the second failure, we updated our grid to all 14 rows from the generator. As we had spare capacity (we were at 60% at previous events), this was sufficient for our projected numbers. In the meantime, the venue has also upgraded their input but we wanted to get through an event without a failure due to fuses and gradually move back to venue power over coming events.
At 6:50 PM, on conclusion of the CS:GO Arms Race finals, we had our first all-row outage. Our response team immediately got to work at diagnosing the issue. We had the generator completely shut down and nearly all RCDs on the generator and PDUs switch off. It was - most to least likely – an earth leakage issue (the most difficult to track down) or too much load on the generator.
The first action item was to isolate 3 rows to venue power and fired up the generator (power restored at 7:00 PM). Afterwards, team members went to start PCs row by row to not overload circuits. The other team was working on determining the last PCs added to the network. We used a combination of router logs and video footage to determine which PCs were being set up but before the team finished, the power went out for the side room and some of the rows in the main hall a second time.
This time, only one segment of the generator shut off and our video footage captured the moment. We moved the side room power to the side of the generator that did not shut down via GPOs (no additional three phase outlets). We then went to watch the stream footage that continued and identified the PC that caused the earth leakage. As we were finalising that, the power went off a third and final time – the stream showing the same PC being turned on. With this identification resolved, we enquired with the player as to the history of the PC and very quickly it was noted that some recent damage 24 hours prior to the power supply would be the cause for earth leakage.
The PC was subsequently removed from the grid and we faced no further power failures during LAN-slide v20.0. This left us bewildered as to how we would have really identified anything had (a) we not been told upfront by the player and (b) we didn’t have our streaming footage available to identify the causing device. At best, we can only educate the community on earth leakage and damage..
We’re not aware of any device that could help us prevent people bringing damaged devices in this manner. Testing and tagging would not have revealed this due to the kind of test required on a desktop PSU (the kind that requires PC disassembly). If you're reading this and have a suggestion, please let us know.
Going forward, we’ll be putting in more surveillance that we can double as streaming footage as well as making people aware of potential issues that may cause an earth leakage – particularly around recent damage. We believe these will be our best defences and proactive recovery methods at future events.
Also, we would like to remind people that due to the nature of the event (in that people bring all sorts of equipment to an event), we cannot accept responsibility for damage to individual PCs for any reason - thus the existence of the core rule:- LAN-slide accepts no responsibility for damage to or loss of equipment you bring to the event. We would actively encourage anyone suffering any issues during an event to chat with us. We have plenty of abled bodies willing to assist in diagnosis of issues and in some cases repair so please don’t hesitate to ask us during an event if you have issues.
While we made some significant improvements with Uniti Wireless being added to the mix, this event saw an issue with the wireless network that meant our online gaming component of the event had infrequent outages lasting around a second.
By the time we had isolated this issue, it was well into Rocket League late at night. We switched over to Telstra 4GX and that appeared to resolve the final round(s) of Rocket League.
Uniti Wireless did identify and rectify the issue post-event and we hope that in future our online-hosted tournaments will be a smoother experience. In addition, we’ll be updating our own alert mechanisms to ensure even infrequent outages are captured and our processes to switch to Telstra 4GX are ready to occur.
We currently use three connections - (1) Uniti Wireless at 100/100; (2) Exetel NBN (20/20 – point to point wireless) and in emergencies (3) Telstra 4GX. We only use Telstra as a backup due to significant costs in doing so ($10.00 per GB).
All in all, it was good to see in the survey response gradual improvements to our internet sagas of previous events.
While we’re transparent when it comes to feedback and direction, we never really provide answers to common questions so we thought we’d address some of the common questions we get and what we do about them – or otherwise explain why things can’t be done.
Aspendale Gardens is unfortunately a region where internet has always been an afterthought. The ADSL is rubbish (10 Mbps), and mobile networks are congested. Even Uniti Wireless saw this as an opportunity as it’s NBN date keeps moving forward (it’s now Jan-Jun 2019, and it was end 2016 when we moved!). We’ve gone from setting up long-range point to point networks (over 10km+) to short range ones to congested NBN points (Keysborough).
We now have a good mix of 100/100 via Uniti Wireless, 20/20 from our “treehouse” link and a varying range of 4G options through Telstra and Optus. While this mix is theoretically suitable for the event, we’ve just got to tie up our response approach to infrequent internet disconnections. Going forward, we expect even less disruptions to our online games.
To explain how prizing works, let’s look at LAN-slide’s funding model. LAN-slide currently pay for the venue and equipment through entry fees paid by attendees. This works out to be around 33% of the total income to the event (~$5,500). Sponsors kick in the remaining (67%) amount through prizes and giveaways with our recent events hitting $12,000.
Sponsors have requirements to meet when requesting funding such as exposure, conversion rates and the need to promote specific product lines. Some sponsors also want to be associated with specific tournaments and will fund an entire tournament for that reason. As a result, it’s nearly a scientific exercise to get the balance right.
That answers the ‘what prizes we get’, but it doesn’t answer why we prize the way we do.
We typically work out the number of attendees we’ll get for certain tournaments, how long they take and the number of players in a team (where applicable) to balance out the prize pool value. Sometimes, like with say the Intel NUCs and Gigabyte motherboards (where they are worth $300+ each), we can only get three, sometimes four of them (rather than the five we would need for say Counter-Strike: Global Offensive) creating a kind of imbalance comparing with our second-tier tournaments.
Some of the issues we get comments on are for CS:GO Novice and particularly around only having prizes to second place. This tournament is unique in the sense that we ‘restrict’ people from playing in the tournament. This is unfair for those slightly more skilled being closed away from prizes if they are too good / for too many places in Novice. So we’re left with a conundrum. We either run a novice tournament that encourages players to get better at the game (and thus try to prevent 16-0 matches) or run prizes to sixth but having many 16-0 games early on.
Obviously there are heaps of combinations that we deal with on a regular basis and if you’d like to talk about prizing and see our prizing sheets – feel free to chat to us on teamspeak (ts.lanslide.com.au).
This is one of our biggest contrasting comment every time we run a survey. We have players saying “stop making them” and others saying “we don’t make enough”. We haven’t been able to solve this problem yet. We were hedging our bets on an internal chat platform (at the time our internet was bad) to try and get people using that for announcements. That so far has not worked.
We have tried reducing the number of announcements over the PA, but that has meant we get more comments about the lack of announcements. We’ve tried physically finding people, that seems to work for us but unsustainable as the event continues to grow.
Our next move is to take the CS:GO portal concept into fun competitions and other kinds of tournaments to try and list times for games. We’ll also try to get better quality speakers as to not have to turn them “up” to hear. The reality is, we’re a BYO PC LAN party running more than just CS:GO and thus there are no “breaks” to line announcements up in. This means inevitably, the other 67% of people in the room need announcements to know what is coming up.
We'd love to put up some projectors, but (a) people don't read the screens we have and (b) they're so expensive LAN-slide would never be able to afford them.
If you guys have suggestions on the best way to meet both demands, feel free to contact us with your suggestions.
Quite simply put, the team isn’t large enough to go overnight. We also have a hard exit time of 10:00 AM and still need to pack-up overnight. As a result, we’ve traditionally stopped main tournaments at midnight to encourage those who can to go home early to do so, and those who can’t (i.e. require someone to pick them up) will at least have somewhere safe to stay overnight.
We also need our own sleep as we have a whole day ahead of us to return stuff to our storage locker, do a stocktake of finances and ensure the venue is left clean so that we can continue to hire it for future events.
We don’t have any plans yet to turn it into a longer event at this stage. Doing so would unfortunately require a price increase as our hire price will go up, require a larger team to support overnight activities and more input from sponsors to do this.
For all our tournaments, we have a “15 minute” rule to start getting in your matches to keep the event running on time. From time to time, where tournaments have a few players, we’ll relax this rule so that matches can be finished at a mutually convenient time. We don’t encourage this as it potentially means playing in other tournaments will inevitably clash.
We’ve had a few comments about how we didn’t allow players to compete. To clarify, you have “15 minutes” to start a game as soon as it’s ready to play, not when a coordinator approaches you (usually some 10 minutes after a match has been scheduled). Delaying a match for some 25-30 minutes means an entire tournament gets delayed upsetting others patiently waiting for their matches to progress.
We’ve found that this “15 minute” rule enforcement works far better for the sake of the event than delaying everyone else. People do plan lifts to and from the event around these times and often are annoyed when matches have been delayed to the point they can’t compete in a final due to their need to leave the event based on an advertised time. Furthermore, it's disappointing when tournaments do run overtime and those actively in the running to win a final are cut short because they have to leave.
As a result, we see the “15 minute” rule as vital to ensuring our tournaments remain close to as possible to running on time. As much as we would like everyone to participate in all tournaments, we have to draw a line somewhere.
For our next event, we anticipate in upgrading our website to alert on potential clashing tournaments and how the 15 minute rule works in better detail than previous events.
Being the grass-roots community event (and bunch of trolls) that we are, we absolutely look for fun and creative ways of handing out prizes. We don’t do “door prizes” – there’s always something you have to do to get some prizes. That may be in the form of embarrassment (eating contest), random selection (pass the parcel and raffle) or just good old fashioned luck (our various couch games).
We’re always looking for suggestions on keeping the event fun and chilled. If you’ve got things in mind, please let us know! If it’s creative enough, we might just even give it a shot.
Adding games to the tournament list is becoming increasingly difficult. We often get asked to bring in certain games with “evidence of a strong community” – only to be disappointed by attendance. We’ll question whether a game has serious merit for all suggestions before adding to the list – the last thing we and our sponsors want are 2-3 people playing for $100’s in prizes, there should be some healthy competition!
Each event, we try to introduce and revolve 2-3 games on our schedule to keep it new and interesting. Sometimes that means our lower performing tournaments are put on hiatus until appropriate to bring it back. If people place enough demand, we may even introduce it at that event.
Our message to you is that all games are considered based on enjoyment, ease of setup, expertise in running the tournament and number of expected participants. No one parameter trumps another – but it must be a good fit for the event.
If anyone has ever sat in our 4 hour+ schedule planning workshops, you’d know nearly every permutation and combination is tried. We have people challenge the kind of audience, the kind of games and try to work out the path of least resistance. Sometimes that means the schedule looks strange.
We also attempt to rotate the schedule around enough so that while you may clash this event, you may not the next event. It’s really a see-saw balancing exercise to try to keep people happy. We gauge the success based on clashes, attendance and direct survey feedback.
For example, you may ask why PUBG was done early in the day versus say 8:00 PM at night. The general consensus was that running at 5:00 PM would clash with the ever-popular CS:GO Arms Race when rounds would be ready to play, and putting it at 8:00 PM would place it against Rocket League (and even to the detriment of it) and the seriousness set in by CS:GO finals approaching.
It seemed that no matter what we do, we’re clashing with CS:GO at peak times but will review where it slots in next event by potentially moving other games around (i.e. Rocket League may move earlier in the day, even though we know those who lose out of CS:GO often use Rocket League as their filler tournament).
We heard this one loud and clear :). Our parcel wrapping skills were crap and our ... er … parcel chain could have done with some more room. We’ll be fixing up both aspects ready for our next one!
LAN-slide (well, LAN-slide Inc. as we are now known as) is a genuine not for profit organisation. It’s run by 12 Event Coordinators who all bring a unique set of skills and views that ensure LAN-slide remains first and foremost an event for the community. Our recent incorporation cements this in its constitution / model rules. Our view is to take community suggestions and put them into action using the skills and know-how that we have.
It’s not about us imposing our way of LAN parties onto you, rather it’s about you telling us what you want and us finding a way to bring that to you / your friends / everyone else. To ensure we have the right talent on the team who understands this principal, we look for people rolling up their sleeves to ensure LAN-slide remains a great event. Often this isn’t the person that brings a good attitude and plays in every competition (you’re the reason we run the event in the first place!). Usually it’s the person who comes to every event, who helps setup and pack-up and who intuitively knows when to step in and help. They may not necessarily be the best tournament runner, know all the server configurations, or be ranked #2 in the world of a particular-game (you’re our audience after all!). It’s a rather thankless job and while we don’t expect a thank-you or kudos (when it happens, we really appreciate it!), we strive to ensure that the community has a quarterly event you can come to, win some prizes, meet some people and generally have a good time doing so. It’s not an easy job which is why we invite rather than accept ‘applications’.
When you’re concerned about things, about how the event is running, or just want to vent – we’re available to chat (usually) around the clock on TeamSpeak (ts.lanslide.com.au). We’d like to think we’re open with how it all pieces together - just as we have done for the last 20 events.
Hopefully, if you made it this far in the 3,000+ word essay - we’ll see you at our 21st party on September 30th!