Every year around Christmas or New Year’s, I make a trek back several states to the north to the home of my fore-bearers for a little holiday cheer. In between bouts of merry making (read: drinking) and consuming mass quantities of treats, my younger brothers and I will typically engage in a little LAN-based revelry.
Ten years ago, this meant I had to devote a significant amount of space in the vehicle to a large tower, replete with monitor, keyboard and mouse. Since their house was not wired up with Ethernet, I also needed to bring networking equipment, cables, and various other accessories so everyone could play. We’d set all the PC’s up in one room and spend an hour or two plugging everything in and then spend another hour or two trying to get everyone’s games to work. This was in the earlier days of Steam: without an internet connection, games usually just weren’t going to start. Still, hours later and a few hacks having been applied, we were up and running, joyfully blasting away at each other.
As the years have gone on, technology has improved in some ways. They finally managed to get a somewhat reliable, if slow, internet connection. The house is blanketed in WiFi and Ethernet, so the cable nightmare is a thing of the past. The last piece of the puzzle was my machine. There are a few problems here.
First, my wife has also started taking part in these LAN parties. That doubles the number of machines I need to bring. The next problem is that both of our machines are quite large, with large monitors, too. Finally, I’m lazy: I don’t want to unhook all the cables, drag everything out to the vehicles and then hope and pray that I didn’t forget anything. No, that won’t work anymore.
Of course, both my wife and I have laptops. But they are not gaming laptops. They are of the ultrabook variety, whether Mac or PC, and not at all adept at playing the latest games. What can we do?
Fret not, random person who stumbled upon this blog accidentally. There are a plethora of awesome games that work great for LAN play that are not only cheap (or free), but can run on a potato. These are those games.
Quake Live started as “Quake 3 in a browser”. It was a free-to-play game that made it easy to play Quake when you should be working. Not that I ever did that, I’m just saying you could.
Anyway, the “free” angle went away a few years ago, along with the browser part. However, the game is still cheap ($2.99 at the time of this writing) and will run on more or less any machine. This is classic arena shooting and it’s easy for anyone to pick up and play.
Quake Live a little spendy for you after all the Christmas shopping? Not to worry. Xonotic loves you for who you are, not for how much money you spent. In fact, Xonotic thinks frugality is sexy.
In many ways, Xonotic is better than Quake Live. It’s based on a modified Quake3 engine and I really like what they’ve done with the place. It’s very colourful and fast-paced, the weapons feel great, and the music is superb. It’s also completely free and open source. Grab it at https://www.xonotic.org
World in Conflict
Shooters not your thing? Try some real time strategy fun this holiday with a few rounds of World in Conflict. It’s an older game, sir, but it checks out.
Set in an alternate version of the 1980’s, the Soviet Union invades the United States. Play as either side (or NATO) and rejoice in smashing thy foes to tiny bits playing one of four roles: infantry, support, armor, or air. As you pummel your opponent, you begin to accrue tactical aid points. These can be redeemed for precision artillery strikes, fuel/air bomb attacks, or even a nice tactical nuclear warhead to be dropped in the center of your enemies formations.
This game is incredible and I can’t believe it never got a sequel. It runs great on a modern (or even slightly older) laptop and if you like real time strategy or tactics, this is a must. At the time of this article, it’s $3.39 on GoG. For extra fun, I would highly recommend the No Hope mod. It’s available on Nexus and it adds so much to the game that I won’t play without it. Actually, just stop reading this article and go get this game.
This is a complete change-up from the previously mentioned games. You’ve probably heard of Terraria. It’s been around for years and just keeps getting better. The final update comes out in 2020, adding even more value to a purchase today.
If you’re not familiar with it, Terraria is kind of like Minecraft meets Super Nintendo. Don’t let the cutesy graphics fool you: Terraria can be difficult and gory. Lots of enemies, a variety of biomes and the ability to build as you go provides dozens or hundreds of hours of entertainment. It also supports a bunch of players and runs on nearly any semi-modern machine. Generally available for less than $10, this is another game I’d highly recommend.
There are hundreds (or thousands) of games that could fit here, but these are a few of the games that we routinely enjoy together around the holidays. They’re cheap, fun, and can go on for hours.
What games do you play around the holidays? Let us know in the comments.