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Thoughts and Tips from a 16-player Halo MCC LAN

OP LarsBars

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Last weekend I hosted a 16-player Halo MCC LAN. It was an absolute blast, and we made a lot of memories. I am so glad that the classic Halo CE experience is so well maintained on the MCC on Xbox One. Just for background, I grew up on Halo CE LANs on the original Xbox. Garages, basements, all over the house. I always knew that online play was dicey, just because of the physics of getting multiplayer game session information quickly across the internet. But when I first realized that the "perfect, instant feel" that is only found in a 4-player split screen multiplayer, could be extended to a local area network, I knew that LAN was special.

For the LAN event last week, we played 8v8, mostly Halo CE, with a few rounds of other Halo games mixed in. Here are some thoughts, and some of the biggest things we learned.

A Halo LAN can mean so many different things to different people. Let’s say you start discussing a Halo LAN around a water cooler or at lunch, people will all have their own ideas:
  1. Someone might start thinking 8v8 big team games, red versus blue. This is me. Give me that capture the flag, big team slayer, team crazy king, assault, etc. The best LAN layout for this is one room for all the players on Red team and a separate room for all the players on Blue team. Separate rooms allow everyone on the team to openly communicate and strategize, without fear that the enemy team will hear. For the optimum experience, make the rooms just close enough so that you can hear through the wall, the muffled cries of agony as your rocket strikes their getaway Warthog and ruins their flag capture run.
  2. Someone might start thinking 4v4 competitive / hardcore, a bracket or tournament. I have been to a couple of these and they can be a lot of fun. You have your 4-person team, and you practice before the event. You know how everyone plays, you make strategies and you have secret callouts. Then when it’s LAN day, everyone plays their best and the winning team brings home the $25 gift cards for winning. These LANs are usually best laid out with 8 stations of the same-ish hardware, same size and type screen, with 4 stations apart from the other 4 stations. Usually these games are fast-paced and don’t require long-winded strategizing in combat, so it’s not a big deal if the enemy hears you calling them out.
  3. Someone might start thinking zany 16-player free-for-all craziness. Shotguns on Derelict. Rockets on Prisoner. Fiesta on Ascension. Free-for-all on The Pit. Infection on Sandtrap. Usually these types of LANs are best laid out in one big basement type room, with TVs all around the edges of the room. That way, every other player is equally accessible for taunting. The problem with this layout is that it makes it difficult to convert to a 8v8 team-based layout.
  4. Someone may start thinking a "matchmaking LAN" where you play against the internet. These are SUPER fun if you only have a small number of people. Usually with 4 or 8 people in the same room, shoulder to shoulder, you enter into online matchmaking to be matched up with an enemy team online. Unplug your headsets, and talk strategy in the real world. Your poor mystery-matchmade enemies will not be able to withstand your awesome coordination and teamwork.
For my LAN last weekend, we went with the “Big Team LAN” option and hosted it at my church. We had a red team room and a blue team room. This was perfect for the team-based games, but made it hard to taunt the players in the other rooms when we wanted to do the crazy free-for-all games. We have already talked about changing this up for the next LAN, putting each team behind a sound-proof divider wall that can easily be slid open and shut. Open for free-for-all craziness, closed for team games.

8v8 Capture the Flag games need at least 15 second respawn times. This was the big one that I had forgotten since my original Xbox days. Halo CE is still arguably one of my favorite games, and it has aged extremely well. But the default respawn times probably only work on smaller gametypes. During the LAN we found ourselves about 90 minutes into a capture the flag game, with zero captures. The only times we captured were when I snuck in all by myself and drove away in a warthog (not a memorable story) and when someone’s controller batteries died. I specifically remember going on a great run to the enemy base, and walking up to the roof of the base and… three enemies spawning right in front of me. A longer respawn time rewards coordinated teamwork and makes flag captures more achievable. Scientifically, think about how long it physically takes to get from somewhere safe (the midfield of Blood Gulch) into the enemy base, and back somewhere safe with the enemy's flag. It’s probably something like 30 seconds, absolute minimum. So for all 8 of the enemy teammates to respawn three times during your attempted flag capture makes it feel almost impossible to achieve. If anything, increasing the spawn time makes games go more quickly, makes your in-game life more valuable, and rewards skilled teamwork. I almost wish that the gametypes’ default settings were dynamic… ie. the default settings would be 10 seconds for games up to 8 players, and 15 seconds for games with 9 players and above.

Even though it’s offline LAN, keep a connection to Xbox Live. It just makes everything easier, for three reasons:
  1. The game is better when you play on your own gamertag (achievement unlocking, carnage report, in-game player names) and people will need to pull down their gamertag on nearby Xbox consoles if you have to shuffle players around.
  2. If someone needs to update their game (highly possible since the game was updated two days before my LAN,) it makes it easier for that person to quickly download the update.
  3. There is a strange MCC-specific “Offline profile” error message that a few forum threads have been trying to make sense of. It basically doesn’t let you use guest accounts in a truly offline scenario.
Staying online also helps with gametype sharing, or if you have a strong upload connection, quad-screen, quad-co-streaming 16 players to Mixer, which I have yet to achieve, but I believe is theoretically possible.
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Be prepared for multiple people to show up to a Halo LAN without having Halo installed, and not have enough room to install Halo. If you are hosting the LAN, do the work up front to not let this affect the event. As a nerd who has three external hard drives for my Xbox One games, this one cut me deep. We had two last-minute Xbox substitutions, so we probably lost 90 minutes of the LAN while we waited for the game to transfer to their internal hard drive. If I would have simply copied the game to my internal hard drives the night before the LAN, I could have reclaimed those 90 minutes. Here are the tips for game installation:
  • Even if you normally use external drives, make room on your internal drive and COPY THE GAME. You may need to hand your drive to the Xbox next to you to get them up and running quick.
  • There should be 2-3 extra external hard drives with the game installed, that someone can just borrow for the rest of the LAN, no questions asked.
  • If you have an external SSD, create an “elite drive” by copying ONLY the multiplayer components of the MCC to the external SSD. Removing the campaigns cuts over 30GB off the transfer size, and the superfast read speeds of the SSD will allow someone to copy the game from the “elite drive” to their internal drive in probably under 15 minutes.
  • While you are copying, close everything. Running the game, or any apps, can kill the transfer speed. Close out of everything if you must transfer the game.

Miscellaneous thoughts on hardware – TVs, routers, hubs switches, circuit breakers, and wireless controller batteries. Over the years I have experienced a lot of issues at Halo LANs.
  • If you are the host, supply the core networking components so people can just bring Xboxes and TVs. Bring enough ethernet that most people won’t need to bring their own.
  • If your controller batteries die while you are in game, just immediately power your controller back on again. You should have 5-10 minutes of “gas light” battery left, so you can finish capping that flag.
  • Have a play and charge cable ready to grab for each team.
  • Try to draw power from different parts of the building, to distribute the electrical load and avoid tripping the circuit breaker.
  • Bring a 5-port switch for each team, and plug those 5-port switches into a router. For more Xboxes, use more switches or 8-port switches.
  • Give the router (and thus everyone connected to the router) internet access.
  • Don’t let someone connect via wireless. Just don’t. You made it this far. Unless you run out of ethernet cables, then I suppose wireless is better than not playing.
  • Don’t bring giant TVs. I brought my 55” HDTV and it was a hassle. We got the same approximate experience on the 32” TVs that most people brought. Halo MCC makes the Halo games higher-resolution and crisper than they have ever been, so even today’s worst TV experience is still going to be sharper than the original Xbox Halo LANs of yore.

Let me know if you guys have any other questions for me!
Very cool. Glad you had a successful event. I too used to have big 8v8 LAN parties back in the day. We would try and separate the two teams into different rooms, but it wasn't always possible. Anyway, most of our games were slayer to 100 kills, and not just on big maps. We did every map lol, including Chiron. Those were good times. Occasionally we would do CTF games on Blood Gulch, Hang'em High and Damnation, but that was about it. Sidewinder was just too big and not enough action. I love chaotic games of 8v8 slayer on maps like Longest, Wizard and Chill Out. So.Good.
Very cool. Glad you had a successful event. I too used to have big 8v8 LAN parties back in the day.
Cheers, thanks!
Very cool. Glad you had a successful event. I too used to have big 8v8 LAN parties back in the day. We would try and separate the two teams into different rooms, but it wasn't always possible. Anyway, most of our games were slayer to 100 kills, and not just on big maps. We did every map lol, including Chiron. Those were good times. Occasionally we would do CTF games on Blood Gulch, Hang'em High and Damnation, but that was about it. Sidewinder was just too big and not enough action. I love chaotic games of 8v8 slayer on maps like Longest, Wizard and Chill Out. So.Good.
8v8 on Wizard? LOL that's gotta be spawn kill city XD
Very cool. Glad you had a successful event. I too used to have big 8v8 LAN parties back in the day. We would try and separate the two teams into different rooms, but it wasn't always possible. Anyway, most of our games were slayer to 100 kills, and not just on big maps. We did every map lol, including Chiron. Those were good times. Occasionally we would do CTF games on Blood Gulch, Hang'em High and Damnation, but that was about it. Sidewinder was just too big and not enough action. I love chaotic games of 8v8 slayer on maps like Longest, Wizard and Chill Out. So.Good.
8v8 on Wizard? LOL that's gotta be spawn kill city XD
It can happen but it is also a little harder to spawn camp imo. With 8 players on such a small map the people trying to spawn camp have a much harder time staying alive themselves. It is chaos but in a fun way.
I just did one as well. The OP does a fantastic job of covering most of the bases so I'll just cover what I did different as it might help people setting up their own and wanting some of the features I wanted. Like the OP I grew up on Halo 1 LAN, doing some Halo 2 LAN and Halo 3 LAN for a whole decade.

My setup: Four TVs, four X1s, and 16 controllers over wireless LAN. So I had splitscreen in my party, and I'll touch on how you want to deal with that (ie. offline accounts).

Why wireless LAN?
I had a wireless router that I was planning to use as my ethernet hardwire for all 4 machines. But when you plug in an ethernet cable to the X1, it shuts down the X1's wireless. So that means I needed to get that router to receive access to the internet from the main router, which I didn't have time to figure out how to configure (I wasn't able to hardwire this router to the main one due to distance). So chalk this up to unpreparedness on my part. Ideally, that router used as a hardwire LAN hub would also have access to the internet (even wireless, as latency isn't an issue when getting Live Account info from the web and to confirm purchases of Halo MCC on each machine).

Wireless LAN worked out better than I expected, and keep in mind this was a 5GHz network with a strong connection (the router was one floor nearly directly above). There were no major latency or sync issues. I did some tests of my own before the event began and things seemed instant. I think we saw a few odd things possibly due to wireless LAN. The host console seemed to have an issue with players "sliding" once in a while in Halo 1, and I experienced that as well (just once). I wonder if that's a bug or due to something like packet loss and the host trying to compensate. I also noticed a few "double KO" melee situations, which was prevalent in Halo 3 before it was patched to eliminate it from wired LAN and made less common in online play. The fact that we saw it tells me that there is a slight speed issue with wireless, but nothing significant. But for 99% of the experience it felt like wired LAN. Much better than Halo 3 peer to peer online on the 360, for example.

How do you deal with the lack of offline accounts on the Xbox One?
What I did was create Silver accounts for every player specifically for LAN play, as most people playing don't even own Xbox Ones. This is another reason why we needed access to the internet, so we can sign in these accounts to the appropriate console. This way we could see actual names instead of "XboxLiveUsername(1)". I created throwaway outlook emails like "HaloLANThrowawayAccount.FriendName@Outlook.com" and their unique Xbox Live username was similarly "FRIENDNAME lovesHalo". That last part can be anything but needed to be there because this is a unique XBL Gamertag that's compared to the tens of millions already out there. These may be useful for other local MP games on the console, and it's a shame that MS hasn't addressed offline accounts (and may never do so).

With all of these throwaway accounts, keep sure to have your main XBL account that you have your Halo purchase on signed in, or ensure that it is your "Home" Xbox One console in the settings. If you don't do this, it won't be able to verify if you own the game and may not let you play.

So with this the end result is seeing each other clearly while in a match, knowing who everyone is. A good number of players have their own Live accounts but they're cryptic names and so seeing FIRSTNAME on the screen made things explicit. Plus, not everyone knew each other at the party so it made it easier to remember names.

Until MS adds offline accounts this is the way to go.

Misc tips:
I did buy $10 worth of batteries (30 pack) in case any of them ran out. It takes seconds to pop them in and only had to do it once. Like the OP I distributed the power usage to outlets on different breakers. It did take me a while to get everyone set up initially, because of the throwaway account thing, but things went smooth after that (well, MCC did crash on one console during play, kicked out to Home and had to reboot the game, but that's one crash in 5 hours of play on 4 machines).

Lessons for next time / Things to try:
Now that I have some time before the next one I'll try to research how to get my ethernet hub router hooked up to remain online and so I can hardwire the machines to it so they reap the benefits of hardwiring as well as having access to Live. As I mentioned, wireless LAN was perfectly playable with no major problems (I have over a decade of Halo 3 LAN on the 360 to compare it to). But I do know how ping is much better with a hardwired setup, and with me having that extra router already sitting there I might as well use it.

We played Halo 1-3 and avoided 4, but come to think of it I'll give 4 a shot next time. Our biggest issues with 4 on the 360 was the poor framerate in 4 player splitscreen (well, the poor physics didn't help either, we play Rockets often), and with the MCC the game running at 60fps should help. So that's one thing we may try in the future.

We won't be doing this but something y'all could try: multiple consoles simultaneously streaming to one Mixer channel via Mixer Co-Stream. I had some friends that couldn't made it. If I had net access I could've had all 4 Xboxes streaming to the same channel so friends could watch all 16 players at once. Who knows? Maybe some Mixer viewers would like watching that too.

Wish List:
-This is an OS feature request but offline accounts would be nice. LAN play really needs this. Local multiplayer really needs this. For the only console out there that supports 8 controllers and arguably has a better local multiplayer experience than any other console this is an oversight. But I'm going to also admit something: this Silver "throwaway" account setup has an advantage, where when you sign into a different console it syncs your data so your ID tag, control setup, and character customization transfers over to the other console. This wasn't possible with offline accounts.
-Not specific to LAN play: but noticed that theatre doesn't allow the saving of replays, they expect you to use Game DVR for that but there are so many limitations to it that it's not an option. Theatre only records the last 10-12 matches.
-the ability to create playlists, but this isn't a big deal because the menus were quick enough for us to choose another map and gametype very quickly. LAN is inherently more social so having a minute to chat or get a bite means you're less in a rush between matches.

Overall it was a great experience, all due to this recently released LAN patch. People who haven't played Halo in years are excited again. People who don't own Xbox Ones are now considering it (I've suggested GamePass because it gets them this game and 170 other great games). And we all know this mode is going to sell a good number of extra controllers, heh. If I think of anything else I'll add more. Feel free to ask questions if you got any!
nrXic wrote:
I just did one as well.
Awesome tips, thanks for sharing! Sounds like yours worked pretty well, it's exciting how this one LAN update has got people back into classic Halo!!

Bummer about your network due to the distance issue. So if you were all wirelessly connected to that router, but it was offline, that means you played a truly offline LAN, is that correct? No Xbox Live at all once you got going?

I have a trick that I use when connecting a "downstream / secondary" wireless router into a home network that already has a wireless router:
  1. Log into the downstream router and Disable DHCP (because your main router will already be running DHCP)
  2. Tape over the WAN port, don't use the WAN port, and use only the LAN ports.
  3. Connect ethernet from a LAN port on the "downstream" router to a LAN port on the "upstream / primary" router.
That will essentially turn your downstream router into a wireless access point and ethernet switch. And it will leverage the DHCP of the "upstream / primary" router. But it sounds like in your case you wouldn't be able to complete step 3, so that would be out of the question.
nrXic wrote:
How do you deal with the lack of offline accounts on the Xbox One?What I did was create Silver accounts for every player specifically for LAN play, as most people playing don't even own Xbox Ones.
I feel like if at all possible, it would be best to use actual Microsoft accounts. Ask the players ahead of time if they use Office 365 or Skype or Hotmail and ask them to get their Microsoft account password fresh in their mind for the LAN. That way they can just use their free gamertag change, and then it's not on you to keep track of random throwaway email addresses and passwords. I haven't checked, but I feel like there could be something against creating throwaway accounts in the Microsoft Account terms of use.

I primed two of my players who didn't own an Xbox One about 3 days before the event, and they both did "forgot my password" on their Microsoft accounts and leveraged their free name changes before the LAN event. So they were ready to sign into a silver gamertag with their name, that actually belonged to them, right when the LAN started. It almost brought a tear to my eye, it made me so proud. *Sniff*
Awesome tips, sounds like an awesome time! My question is, how do people find LAN parties? I've never heard of one being hosted, and I would love to experience it one day. Unfortunately my friends don't play Halo.
Awesome tips, sounds like an awesome time! My question is, how do people find LAN parties? I've never heard of one being hosted, and I would love to experience it one day. Unfortunately my friends don't play Halo.
Hmm growing up, I had a group of friends played Halo, so it just sort of happened. During high school, there were always people who had friends of friends who played Halo.

I have heard of some LAN centers that have PCs and consoles for rent, and they sometimes put on Halo events.

I'm sure there are also meet-up-groups that do Halo events. Isn't there a special forum badge for organizing Halo meet-up-groups in real life? Or something??
Great Tips here! Wish I had found this just a few days sooner. We just hosted a LAN party this past weekend here in Houston TX and it was an absolute f-ING blast!!! MCC worked great, not flawlessly but much much better then on launch day!

We ran into the issue of players having to be guest and it was a big mess for them trying to remember which number +1, 2, 3, or 4 they were. I have since created some dummy accounts that will be used going forward. I did this because I have opened my home to strangers & new friends for this and coming LAN's and some of the people just didn't want to log into their account or had forgotten their info. Mostly though we just wanted to jump in and play. And majority of these players haven't played since Bungie glory days.

We started with OG systems playing CE only. It was great times indeed but WOW! what a difference Halo CE is on the MCC. For the visuals alone it's just better to play on the Xbox Ones. We played over Wifi with little to no issues. We did have 2 crashes/freezes. One thing that kept happening which was bother some was the game kept randomizing teams. Pain for each member to go through and change back to whatever team the rest of the players on that system were on.

The Chaos games were what won the crowd over. Being that some people haven't played in years and some haven't ever played this seemed to close the skill gap. Rockets with half health, no shields and infinite grenades? OMG the carnage! The laughs! Absolute blast! Shotguns only on Longest with everyone invisible? Chaos!

The smaller maps with mixed up crazy options were the hit for us. BloodGulch CTF didn't seem to win over the newbies, but us old school players enjoyed it. It all depends on the crowd you are hosting for.

Thank you 343i for fixing MCC!
Im really wanting to do this but my house is smal.i have 4 xboxs and 2 decently sized tvs and the other two are massive.any tips on small house configuration
My house isn't too big either, 1,500 sq ft. 8 people barely fit in the Living room. We did 8 inside and 8 in the garage. 2x 120in projection & 2x 60in TV setups. Was a bit chilly here but it all worked out pretty great.

I've done this in apartments and dorm rooms too. Just gotta make do with what ya got. I feel the most important thing is keeping the teams separated. That way even if you can't see your other team mates or their screens you can at least yell callouts and the other team can't hear. But if they are in ear shot then quietly before the match come up with some secret code names for call outs. Other then that I don't think most will care if your place is small as long as they are having fun.
Yea i got 4 tvs i might do 1 team per tv so then i would have 2 tvs per room
I remember the good days of having 8 people come over to all play Halo and either play vs each other or with each other.

So much fun .❤️
iRaiseHell wrote:
Great Tips here! Wish I had found this just a few days sooner. We just hosted a LAN party this past weekend here in Houston TX and it was an absolute f-ING blast!!! MCC worked great, not flawlessly but much much better then on launch day!

Thank you 343i for fixing MCC!
Sounds like you had an awesome time!! Got another one planned? I think my crew and I are going to try to do another one before the end of the year.
Damn dude, at age 34 with all my friends scattered around the country with different careers, I’m struggling to coordinate SIX people in one spot. What state are you in?
Damn this sounds legendary! I’ll have to get one of these set up for my buddies when we’re all in town together for a wedding or something haha. I haven’t done this since the OG days too but great to hear CE LANs are still kickin on the Xbox One
Personally I'm a fan of the "matchmaking" LAN because I live in the middle of buttfuck nowhere and getting 6+ people (along with my brother and I) together that all have Halo and want to bring their stuff is downright impossible. It's much easier and still a ton of fun to have 2 friends just bring their Xboxs (I have the spare monitors) and munch on Pizza/Wings/Booze and -Yoink- around in MM for the night.
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