The F.R.A.G. LAN in Kwazulu-Natal has always been a popular LAN for gamers in the area, but over the last few months numbers have dwindled.
Whether it’s a result of the dwindling prizes or that there are not the prizes as a result of a lack of numbers is debatable, but the LAN’s new management is battling to get the numbers up.
In a recent Facebook conversation, gamers vented some of their frustrations, not just around the event but directly at the organisers themselves. Nick 'hackZoR' Drennen, well known in the CoD4 scene (although he also plays Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3), voiced his disappointment the most on the public page:
“So guys last frag was little disappointing nothing against doug or richard but you guys will not get more ppl to attend if you fail to deliver prizes. Unfortunately this is my last FRAG i will not be attending anymore as i cannot cover my costs , to attend a LAN and not have any chance at winning prizes and more a social lan then you need to reduce your entrance fee cause its too high for a LAN with no prizes. i really wish you guys the best and hope FRAG gets off the ground again but you have screwed us again. In hind site with james running the LAN it was run properly and there was more ppl so hate to say this but FRAG needs JAMES back. Social LANS are cool and everthing but from someone's garage not on the scale of FRAG. The biggest CLANS [edit: LANs] in SA have it right they have a working system,” he posted.
This resulted in a flurry of responses, one being the organiser Douglas Hendrikz, who re-iterated that the gamers will get their prizes. However, he also voiced his opinion that the event was run badly in the past by the current owner James Baillie:
“As for prizes, well, let's think of it this way, if James had not let it get so bad at events, then we'd probably have no problem finding a venue, where we could get internet, where we could host tournaments for games that are NOT becoming the new CS... however, since we mention the "FRAG" name we now have previous venues wanting to charge us 3 x the price of the venue as before. This thanks to the drinking, drugging, etc. that was previously allowed at FRAG. But hey, if that's the kind of environment you want back, your choice dude.
“The only reason we are currently where we are is because that is the only place that would allow us there,” he posted.
Hendrikz runs the event with Richard van der Wath on behalf of Baillie who still owns F.R.A.G. According to Hendrikz, F.R.A.G.'s main problems are around the venue as the newer games that gamers want to play require an Internet connection. For example, Modern Warfare 3 requires at least a Steam authentication while Battlefield 3 requires gamers play multiplayer online.
“This has been our biggest challenge. Coupled with this is the negative image that developed with the LAN in the general public,” he says, referring not only to the drinking and drugging issues mentioned above but also to piracy. “We want to go the whole anti-piracy route and getting gamers properly authenticated. Piracy has been the biggest drawcard to LANs in the past (you don't need a fast network for LANning, you need it for piracy) but we want F.R.A.G. to be a legit LAN.”
Speaking about the drinking and drugging problems at the event, Baillie says that he never condoned such behaviour.
“I never let drugging happen. I threw people out because I caught them with drugs; and now apparently I got a name for running a drugging event,” he says.
But Hendrikz says that since he used to be a druggie himself he knows what to look for.
“You can sort it out by throwing people out or you can deal with the overall situation. We're not going to tolerate it. We want to implement the bans and keep to an infringement system. We're wanting to send the message out that if someone is going to come and not contribute to creating a clean environment, we don't really want them there.”
Hendrikz says he doesn't want to chase gamers away, but he wants to be clear about the future direction of the LAN. At the last LAN he banned two players who were disruptive due to drinking and is looking to enforce such bans.
The no-piracy rule probably does have an implication on the larger numbers. Baillie says the last event he organised saw about 200 people. He is no longer organising the event for the next two years as he has recently become a father and wants to attend to his family.
“We would see 150 to 400 people sometimes at the events. But Douglas' biggest event thus far has been 80 people,” he says. In his mind, however, this is a marketing issue.
But there is still the problem of prizes, which is what gamers are voicing their concerns around. Hendrikz says this all boils down to the fact that sponsors are not interested in sponsoring Call of Duty 4 but they want to sponsor the newer games, and once again those games require a venue with Internet.
“We're working on getting wireless for the July LAN so we can at least authenticate on Steam for Modern Warfare 3,” he says. “Things are getting there. There's a lot in the pipeline.”
Hendrikz openly admits his strategy is not an easy solution for the event.
“Building it this way [having a legit LAN] will take longer and will take some time,” he says. But he believes that re-imaging the LAN is the right way to go.
Do Gaming thought we should poll the community on the issues raised here so let us know what you think by taking the poll and commenting below:
Should LANs clamp down on piracy?
Do you think gamers will attend LANs where they cannot copy material?
Do you think FRAG will survive with its no-piracy stance.
Do you think there is a place for viable standalone competitive gaming LANs when more and more people can play games online from home?