XLan 2011 Event Wrap up

I was lucky enough to involved with New Zealand’s largest Gaming Lan Event for the role of commentating on the games as well as setting up an group of computers to enable us to record and stream what we do throughout the event and on to the web.

Logistically to do such a thing can be stressful, however when it all comes together it is well worth it. Here is a video from ON3 regarding the size of the event as well as what it is.

For more of a description about what I was doing there, we were interviewed as well. (I’m the one on the right!)

Overall the event was great, and I think I can provide some insight in a few points about what I learned and I felt done right and could be improved on. Above all, at a live event nothing ever goes perfect and it is how you cope with these hiccups that lets you get on with having a good event.

Read on to find out more about what I feel are important parts to doing a event like XLan


Prior Planning

  • Scribble down your goals, and how you think you can achieve them.

Notes taken to help give me an idea of what i'll needDon’t even bother about trying to make these formal (if you need to hand off a well presented set of information, then do that by refining what you write here).

The important part is you are committing to memory what you should be doing, and how you think you should be getting that done. To do this I used pen and paper as well as some basic drawing software to jot down notes.

Even though my writing would probably let me become a prescription writer assistant for a doctor, having supporting notes lets me establish in my head what I still need to do from there and build on them until I get to a point where I feel I’ve got what they want covered, with backups.





Your infrastructure

Ensure you have all of your own parts, or the ones you are sourcing are locked in. It’s common for some equipment to be provided at the event – be it certain computers, projectors or lighting. Check that these are going to fit in with your plan well, or you are going to run into a what if that you might not be ready for on the day.

Where you can, do a test run with your equipment to ensure everything is charged and good to go. A checklist will go a long way in helping you setup and packing up after the event too, so do that to help avoid you forgetting to take everything back with you.

While I did plan and bring a lot of expensive equipment to help at XLan, a lot of it was for backups and emergencies – The larger screened production pcs we were provided done the job, even though on the first day of setup we went through three dud machines. Including one that had a dual graphics card setup that would only boot with one, and a super redundant raid 1 setup which had only one drive functional.

Keep an eye on your variables

I’ve never been at an event where you are doing everything – this means it’s important you assist others when you can to help what you’re doing come out better.

How are things outside of your direct control running? Is the event on time? Keep these in mind so you have an idea on if you have more time to help prepare, or if you should think about trimming sections if possible to help get the schedule back on track.

For XLan, this meant things like chasing up what sponsors needed to be shown, as well as what the people in the crowd wanted between games. For our own team of commentators at XLan, we used iEtherpad as a low maintenance, collaborative editor as a way of quickly recording results for matches (which we latter used when putting recordings on the web), or keeping track of where everyone is. If there were enough people and organisation prior, I probably would have considered a more wiki approach, but the most important part is to keep it simple stupid – it’s preferable to have as many onsite notes as possible from everyone, instead of only a select few being tied up awkwardly editing something convoluted.

What if…

Never underestimate that things can go wrong – because they can and do! What you think of and try to plan for can make the difference between it being squeaky clean and entertaining, to something that can cause you a lot of headaches. Try to think of everything, from the most basic things and if you can – get someone else to think of things that can go wrong! For example, think of audio alone:

  • You have a dead microphone
  • Cabling for the microphone / mixer may not work
  • Wireless microphone interference or the battery dies
  • You need an adaptor to get your microphone working
  • Multi microphone setups and mixing

Things quickly get much more tricky when you introduce streaming and video because you get problems such as a larger amount of tech needed to keep it running. You also need to make sure all that tech is working in synch. What happens if part of it fails? are there redundancies available?

An example of redundancy was that one of the games (Bad Company 2) was made in a way that made it impossible to use our computers to jump in and spectate what was going on. Our workaround was to use extra long microphone cabling and have a person stand behind each team and provide commentary, with Web Cameras giving the viewers a live feed of what’s going on with us explaining it. It got the name of a bootleg shoutcast and ended up being the match with the most views so far.

In the future I would like to scribble some muse about the technical aspects I encountered for XLan 2011. In the meantime, feel free to follow my twitter on @SuperRoach