[Gamestorm Feedback 2] How did game scheduling work for you?

edited April 2012 in Meetups / Conventions
Hi again! Post-Gamestorm convention, I want to know what worked, what did you struggle with, and what was missing?

We're continuing from this thread, where we discussed the physical play space. The topic now is: How did the game scheduling work for you?

We had games running in Room Birch and the Upper Lobby surrounding Birch. We also had a Demo Table in the dealer Hall but it didn't get used much. We had a few games running in different areas of the con: Children's Programming and Larp.

I scheduled games according to preset time blocks, with hour breaks in between:

Morning 10am - 1pm
Afternoon 2pm - 6pm
Evening 7pm - Midnight

All the games were slotted into these times, with some variations: a 3 hour game might start at 2, and wrap up early at 5. Or a 2 hour game in the morning slot would start at 11. Or extremely short games could be run back to back within the larger slot. There were a few games that ran over the break hours. either because the facilitator wanted that particular hour or there was no other time when its room was available, namely Sea Dracula.

We also ran a few panels--one per day--that were all slotted into the morning block.

We facilitated gaming at the start of each block with A) a whiteboard for posting games both official and unofficial to recruit players, and B) an "Open Story Gaming" circle where enthusiastic facilitators gathered everyone seeking games GPNW-style, ran over ground rules, pitched games and split off into groups to play. We had many, many games running at once in most Open Circles, I daresay more than the scheduled games.

So, what worked, what did you struggle with, and what was missing? Did the Open Gaming Circles run smoothly and succeed in including everyone who wanted to play a game? Was there some arrangement you found yourself wishing for?

How effective was the scheduling system to use? Were you able to submit the games you wanted to run, as well as sign up for games you wanted to play? Any major hiccups or frustrations?

Were you able to find the games you wanted to play, scheduled or otherwise? What could've been clearer?

I know everyone's really busy and excited for Game Chef, but there's a Gamestorm committee meeting this weekend to give feedback on how the con went, so your timely data will be valuable!

(next topic: cross-department games!)


PS. I'm crossposting this to the Go Play PDX forums since that's online homebase for the Portland indie gaming community. Feel free to participate in either conversation as is convenient and desirable for you!


  • edited April 2012
    Somebody mentioned to me during the con that they would have preferred a different number of hours in each slot so they could run various games. However, I liked the uniformity of the Open Gaming Slots. It meant that I could get in the rhythm of each and it was easy to refer people.

    I thought the Open Gaming Circles went down pretty satisfactorily. We pitched a bunch of games, then hemmed and hawed, but I’m certain that at the end everyone had a game to play. By the end, I was telling people to go ahead and sit down and that we would fill in empty seats with late comers and I was never proven a liar. It was chaotic as expected, but that’s why I’m glad we always had four hours to play and a one hour break. The hardest part of the Open Gaming Circles was getting everyone signed in. I don’t know the solution to that.

    The whiteboard didn't get used by everyone during the Open Gaming Circles, but I noticed that games that were on the whiteboard had more interest in them. A little advertising before the pitch never hurt.

    I thought it was easy to find the games I was scheduled to play.

    Very off topic: The one thing I found myself wishing for was a printer. I would have paid outrageous prices to be able to print up extra sheets for games I forget to prep ahead of time. Maybe next year the indie booth could have a printer that could charge a few bucks for those must-have character sheets?
  • My post got eaten.

    I liked them, the blocks. I liked the 3 -4 -5 set up, with longer being later.

    When i booked myself into a thing that was only part of a regular-sized block, that pushed me to run a thing in the rest of that block.
    This worked out perfectly for a couple of my little game ideas.

    Thanks again, Joel!
    Also, i second the printer idea.
    Also, if we could have one of those machines from starships that make you any kind of beverage you want.
  • The only issue with the intersection of pick-up and scheduled games was getting the timing right. If I'm signed up to run a game and have 4 players signed up, I'm cool and don't pitch at the pick-up donut or whatever. But then 2-3 of my players don't show and I'm left trying to find other players or something to play after the donut is over. I apparently accidentally destroyed one of Brendan's Monsterhearts games in this fashion, when a player in my game was intending to leave early and then forgot, leaving Brendan with not enough players.

    I don't have a solution to that problem, but it's definitely a thing, when everything follows the same convention slots. People adapted and it was fine, though, so there may not be an ideal solution.
  • edited April 2012
    I also like the shorter and longer slots.

    My only little point of critique is that the three players who had signed up for Anima Prime almost walked away because our table was smack in the middle of the donut action and they were pretty confused about what was going on. :) But it all worked out.
  • Yeah, the donut / open gaming intro could also stand to be shorter and clearer. Some of that stuff is good, but I'd HUGELY prefer it if we didn't try to imply that indie games are somehow something different and more story-oriented than other games. That creates a weird vibe of superiority (or, at least, seperateness) and isn't at all applicable to a lot of the games that were being run (Agon? How to Host a Dungeon?). It felt like some of that was imported from local practices and wasn't sufficiently tailored for the con space.
  • After mixed experiences this year and last, I know I should not sign up to run things in the 10:00 a.m. slot. Three hour slots plus late arrivals each time for the games I tend to run = not good for me or the other players. If I ever schedule a morning slot again it will be something like S/Lay w/Me or Murderous Ghosts.

    Also, I agree with Jonathan.
  • Posted By: J. WaltonIt felt like some of that was imported from local practices and wasn't sufficiently tailored for the con space.
    Yeah, I felt that too. I was hugely appreciative of Morgan and Ross's and whoever else's efforts on wrangling the group and getting us all on the same page!

    However, I think some tweaking of local practice to fit the con environment is in order. It wasn't appropriate to all the games.
  • Posted By: J. WaltonYeah, the donut / open gaming intro could also stand to be shorter and clearer. Some of that stuff is good, but I'd HUGELY prefer it if we didn't try to imply that indie games are somehow something different and more story-oriented than other games.
    However there is a huge need to make it clear to people who may have experience with traditional GM'ed games that a lot of the games they are hearing about are nothing like what they've played before.

    If that sounds like hyperbole, I can only tell you that I've learned that lesson the hard way. It is far better to take an extra 10 minutes and give people an honest idea of what they're getting into.
  • I feel like it's better to encourage the people pitching games to be clear about what the game is like. That way, nobody's put in the position of aspiring to speak for all the games and GMs that are participating. For example, there were times when the way Open Gaming was presented as a whole was misleading in terms of describing the game that I was preparing to run. If people want to present their own games in whatever way they like, that's cool. But if I'm running Dungeon World, having it described as a collaborative storytelling exercise doesn't really help and may in fact alienate the kinds of players I want to engage with.
  • Let's go really deep on what the best Spiel for next year will be. I've been jonesin' to get everyone's thoughts on this kind of thing. But let's do it over here:The Spiel

    As for scheduling, why do you guys like the varied slots (3 hour, 4 hour, 5 hour). I prefer the uniform slots because we know what's coming and it's nicely stretch to compensate for chaos.
  • I like the variety because i can put the games i'm "i dunno" about, or "this will get old after exactly two hours" in the small slots, and put the biggies in the big slots. I mean, the only big slot that got to shine for me this year was Monsterhearts, but shine it totally did!
  • Jackson, help me clarify. Are you saying that the Open Gaming Slots should have the ability to be varied so that you can pitch particularly short games or that you often like the pre-scheduled slots to be shorter so that you can run particularly short games?

    Huh, after reframing the question like that I may have just convinced myself away from uniform slots. I have to think.
  • edited April 2012
    IMO, the Pitch Circle, needs to start on time and last about 10 minutes. 1 minute for the spiel and 4 minutes for the pitches, 5 minutes for the wrangling.

    Oh I also think there should be 3 scheduled pitch circles, with 4-6 hours between them, like 10am - 2pm - 8pm, then the facilitators can say -this game takes 3 hours, or this game takes 5 hours, bring your lunch!
  • I liked the 3-4-5 hour slots. 3-hour slots are useless to me, so I could sleep late, have lunch, then run two games. Very fine. Endgame's 4-4-4 (10-2, 3-7, 8-midnight) would also be good.

    I wish the spiel was A LOT SHORTER. Sometimes it rambled. If it could be kept to a minute or under it wouldn't be as bad to have to hear it 6 times.

    Having a printer handy to print out extra character sheets would be lovely. Big Bad Con does that.
  • Off topic: Carl, do you ever not run games?
  • I also liked the 3-4-5 hour slots - it was nice to be able to plan certain games for certain slots, based on how long they'd run, and having the short slot in the morning worked out really well for me.
  • I liked the varying length of slots.
  • The Gamestorm after-con feedback meeting is tomorrow. If there's anything else you'd like the committee to know about game scheduling--the Open Gaming format, the use of signup sheets, the online schedule system, whatever--speak now or forever hold your peace!
  • I'd love for the signup sheets for all the Indie Hurricane stuff (both Birch and lobby games) to be in the same spot next year. I felt like it was a little confusing to have two groups of signup sheets around the corner from each other.
  • I'm interested in the pitch circle primarily because it solves the "I didn't even read the event description, and I hate being here" problem.
  • so slots?

    Morning 10am - 1pm
    Afternoon 2pm - 6pm
    Evening 7pm - Midnight

    i would perhaps recommend changing the idea of a slot to a starting time like so

    Morning 10am
    Afternoon 2pm
    Evening 6pm
    Night 9pm

    with this configuration we can tell people all our games start at these hours, if they show up then they can get into a game. mostly it breaks the expectation that all the sessions will be a particular length and can accommodate a wider variety of games.

    is that good? did it inspire any other ideas?
  • Sure, I can get behind that.
  • I like the clarity of cut-off times for slots, so people have time for lunch and dinner and don't do back-to-back with no gap. I think it would be fine to specify that it's OK for games to be shorter than the slot, although really, are there people who wouldn't understand that could happen?

    Hans, sometimes I sleep or read or eat instead of running games. (or to answer your real question, I GM 95%+ of the time and like it that way. I played Mustang because it's short, it really needs 4 players, and only had 3.)
  • I tend to agree with Carl's perspective on this one, but it sounds like you, Tyler, have concerns about the expectations that cut-off times set up. Have you had problems with this in the past?
  • Posted By: TylerTso slots?
    Morning 10am - 1pm
    Afternoon 2pm - 6pm
    Evening 7pm - Midnight
    Why not have the long slot first, and the short slot last? I don't know about y'all, but I am most ambitious in the morning (although I am often a few minutes late for that first slot). Why not have the big ambitious slot in the morning, normal slot in the evening, and a short slot for that little game that I can fit in when I'm already tired.

    Morning 10am - 3pm
    Afternoon 4pm - 8pm
    Evening 9pm - Midnight
  • Frankly, man, I'm the opposite. I can barely string two thoughts together in the morning, but come alive at night. And yet by 9pm I'd probably be fading and have absolutely no juice to start a game. I need the momentum from 7pm to carry me through to Midnight.

    Another angle on that: I didn't really expect most evening games to go till Midnight...the slot just means that the space is available TILL midnight.

    And a FURTHER, ADDITIONAL angle on that, is that we had plenty of smaller games fitting into the slots like legos: so like an HGMO game for an hour, then Baloidham demo for an hour,m then Penny for two. And so on. So if someone runs a 2 hour game at 7, and someone else a 3 hour game at 9, that's a-ok! The thing I'm trying to avoid is overlaps--"I wanted to play Hot Guys Monsterslammin' the Ice, but it starts at 2 and my Apocalypse Tooth with Master game lasts until 3! Arrgh!" If games begin and end within the slot, and there's something else beginning when one thing is ending, it's cool.

  • A 10am-3pm slot means you lose a huge chunk in the middle to a lunch break. At 10-1 people can usually wait until after to eat. Similarly 4-8pm goes right through most people's dinner hours. Remember HALT: Don't game when Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. (OK, Tired gets violated *all the time*). But low blood sugar is not your friend in gaming.
  • I'll defer to Carl, since he'll be running all my games from now on.
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