Update (2nd Oct 2007): The VC guys have been responding to the issues raised on the forums at http://forums.tidemedia.co.za/nag/showpost.php?p=21642&postcount=22. I recommend having a look since it does clear up some issues.
Yesterday was my once a year weekend of nothing but gaming and computers (actually thats a lie, I do it more than once a year, but it's the special one ). For those who don't know it was the Nag LAN at the Rage Expo. Now I have been attending this since it's inception so I classify myself as someone who has some crazy understanding of the event. Let me run through the expo to begin with.
I didn't pay to get in, being that all the lanners get in free so I can't comment on the value for money, but it definitely was smaller than last year and far more commercial. A lot more stalls were just shops selling stuff with very few people actually showing anything special or new. This includes the competitions at stalls which seemed that every second stall was giving away an XBox. The WII was launched and Halo 3 at the expo, but with little fan fare. The WII stand was tiny and had 4 consoles to play on (so the queue was to forever and back) and not the really interesting WII games, just WII sports. Halo 3 was equally bleak with just 2 or 3 consoles at the Microsoft stand showing it and someone dressed as Master Chief walking around. The Project Gothem console at the XBox stand got more attention than Halo 3 due to the chair and pedals and steering wheel. This is all in comparison to last year when the XBox was launched with a massive area with plenty of consoles and amazing give aways and a show that night etc....
It wasn't all doom and gloom for the expo, the booth babes were the best ever (quality and quantity) and the sound was better. Let me explain that last one, in previous years the sound has been more of loud talking with sound effects from games in the background. This year the games were more evident, thanks mostly to the 2 or 3 stands which had Guitar Hero 2 and 3 going. It just made it seem far better. In reality though, if you missed the expo this year, pop round to Zaps on a Saturday and imagine more people.
Next the LAN! It has grown to 1500 people this year, with the extra 300 people taking up the space which was used by the expo last year. The most popular games (using my method of looking at other peoples screens) seem to be Warcraft 3 and Counter Strike. A lot of UT2004 and Supreme commander was also played. This year also showed more female attendees which is great for gaming, and the file sharing on DC++ peaked at a whopping 44Tb (thats Terra bytes) shared!
The network was once again run by the VC crew who did an ok job. The electrical setup was perfectly done (I keep wondering if someone from VC isn't an electrician) but the network was lagging and is showing it's age. The network is a 100Mb with 100Mb backbone and non-managed switches. Considering the LAN is broken into 2 distinct areas (upstairs and down) the lag was occasionally very bad, to the point of losing connection. Definitely next year VC needs to go to 1000Mb and look at managed switches to cope. Their admin was as good as always. A downside is that unless you play a game the VC play, getting a server is impossible. We tried to get UT 2004 server for an informal tourney, and were successful. However it was not (remember the latest patch is over two years old now) patched and missing files so no one could connect, which meant the UT 2004 tourney flopped. The VC staff were unable/unwilling to help with this
However the downside to the LAN was the venue. The dome is not the right place for this anymore. Remember that a large part of that 1500 stay all three days and nights at the event. The toilets were shocking by Saturday night with most getting blocked, no toilet paper, mess on the floor, etc... If the dome wants to keep it they need 24 hour cleaners for the duration of the LAN. The security was also horrible, it was far too easy to get equipment out while impossible to get any food or snack in. This is because the dome has it's own (crappy) fast food, and doesn't want competition from Northgate next door. However at a LAN, getting energy drinks and 2l cokes from fast food doesn't cut it. I had to make a trip back to the car to drop off items I had bought the day before. Unfortunately security (dome management) doesn't care about the equipment and once again there were items stolen and no one really being able to check properly. Also the dome has no area for relaxing so most people slept under their desks and the lights stayed on all night (thankfully I live a few km away and drove home each night). Once again for a 3 day lan, chill/sleep areas are needed.
I will be back next year, provide I still live close by. However if I had to spend all my time there or live far away I wouldn't attend it. The venue just ruins the experience of a great event too much for me.