Fortress Melbourne : The largest video gaming and entertainment complex in the southern hemisphere. Located in the heart of the CBD, Fortress Melbourne is a 1000-person capacity venue featuring : 160 gaming PCs, console gaming suites, several streaming / podcast suites, a medieval themed tavern, two bars, a merchandise shop, a 200-seat esports and events arena with a fully-fledged broadcast and production suite across 2,700m2 and three floors.
Back in mid-2019, I first became aware of a new concept in entertainment being proposed for Melbourne’s CBD. It was slated to be the largest facility of it’s kind in the Southern Hemisphere, uniquely and innovatively complex and sitting at an intersection of culture, hospitality, technology, live events, and gaming. Such a unique mix closely mirrored my previous experience (albeit with a music lean, versus gaming, and it was a no brainer to reach out to Co-Founder Jon Satterly, inviting myself to coffee.
There was no commitment sought at that meeting, it was simply a chance to catch up and express admiration of the willingness and drive to undertake something so complex, and let him know that as someone that had done something very similar on the music side of the fence (albeit with much less investment, at much smaller scale) I was a huge fan of the concept. Could I help in some way?
From that meeting discussions developed, and I found myself gratefully thrown into the deep end in Dec 2019, coming on board with the rapidly growing team as their point for all things technology at a phase where the site was transitioning from raw concrete to fitout. This was a fantastic experience, with a huge learning curve and the chance to influence the desired technology mix and build out of core infrastructure. I was able to have an immediate impact in this respect, tailoring the stack to better suit the desired use cases.
The following months were a blur of training, site tours, blueprints, and hands on implementation working side by side with an army of 3rd parties, contractors, and a designated MSP. Any project of this size will have countless last minute variations and “gotchas”, and this was no different, but we ended up in a position that addressed almost all of these during the build process.
Its grand opening couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Pc Gamer – Jody MacGregor – “How one kickass gaming bar survived the pandemic“
Unfortunately, the enterprise was to open on the same fateful day that the Melbourne Grand Prix was outright cancelled due to COVID-19 with Fortress Melbourne voluntarily closing shop a few days later, before the government implemented a formal lockdown across the industry. Absolutely devastating for the team, but we rallied. There was an immediate pivot to seeking new ways to survive, drive revenue, and activate events online and remote.
I’m very proud of the work done in this time, spinning up remote access platforms for various teams, designing and implementing a complete remote broadcast infrastructure featuring entirely remote talent and more in very short order. Something that had until that point, not been part of the technology mix in any capacity. That was a truly intense period, from 0 to a fully established remote broadcast framework in less than 2 weeks that continued to improve with each show.
At one point I had quite a bit of infrastructure sitting in my living room, noisily annoying my partner while the configuration and fine tuning efforts continued, having lugged much enterprise gear home just before curfews came into effect. I banned myself from firing it all up until well after our morning coffee’s had a chance to take hold. A bunch of 10,000+ RPM fans aren’t compatible with pre-coffee Adam.
In short order we proceeded to running entire tournaments and broadcasts remotely, planning for the grand return and reopening, and suffering through several false-starts and future waves/restrictions. The team got quite good at this, and it was great to be able to eventually get back in venue, dust off the gear and spin up all the in-venue infrastructure again. We finally managed to deliver a full blown live broadcast, live audience, in venue tournament again in mid-2021!
I’ll forever be proud to have been an early member of the team that built and delivered such a unique, diverse concept and facility that represents a true “Home for all gamers” in Australia.
Systems deployed and managed included
- Fortigate Firewalls in a HA pair
- Dell Networking Switching Infrastructure (Inc core & access stacks)
- Dell Storage (SAN & NAS devices) with VEEAM backup.
- Ruckus Wireless Access Points and infrastructure.
- VMWare Cluster, and various VM-based infrastructure and client servers/applications.
- Active Directory local environment with an Azure tenancy/sync.
- Deployment and management of 150+ PXE-booted endpoints with an iSCSI diskless arrangement, servers and applications to suit.
- An industry leading customer GUI application to provide gaming services, customised to our needs.
- A corporate POE VOIP system.
- Various Telstra fibre/mobile services, including Telstra Internet Direct dual redundant fibre lines.
- POE CCTV system, physically isolated network and services.
- Multi-outlet Point Of Sale infrastructure ft VM server, EFT terminals, etc.
- Industry leading in venue A/V systems and broadcast studio ft Ross Video, GrandMa, SI Impact, and more.
- Industry leading remote broadcast infrastructure leveraging vMix, Nimble, and a range of technologies (NDI, SRT, Dante, Zoom, etc).
- Digital Signage scheduling systems across 40+ in venue displays.
- Day to day sysadmin & access control for dozens of corporate platforms, including Gsuite, Zoom, Slack, Discord, etc.
More about Fortress Melbourne : Media Links
- Handy general google search link