[Go Play NW] Numbers, Reflections, Lessons Learned, etc.

This thread will be about the first Go Play NW, how it went down, how we did it, and what we learned.

To kick it off, I'll say that the "self-organizing" model for game slots worked really well from my perspective. I think most people got into some games they really wanted, and when something filled up, there were five other awesome things to jump into instead.

Maybe someone else (Brandon, Tony?) can talk about the numbers (attendees, costs, etc.).

I'd like for this thread to eventually become a good first stab at a "how to" for others to run their own events like this. Jason Morningstar, Doyce, and others with experience in organizing mini-cons: jump in with your own thoughts after the GPNW folks have laid out some of the raw data.
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Comments

  • Posted By: John Harper
    To kick it off, I'll say that the "self-organizing" model for game slots worked really well from my perspective. I think most people got into some games they really wanted, and when something filled up, there were five other awesome things to jump into instead.

    Not sure if I'd quite agree with this from my perspective. For those of you who regularly roll over here on story-games I am sure you were familiar with all the games that were posted each session. For the rest of us, however, there was about 5 minutes in which to decide on a game that had only a title and no description. By the time we could find someone to give us a little primer on the sessions most were filled.

    I guess the solution is to spend more time on the forums or be clear that GPNW is not for those unfamiliar (but interested in) the indie gaming world.
  • Games did fill really quickly with old-timers. Also, we didn't focus on getting the signups from the wiki onto the board and thus into reality. Also, um, fixing both of those problems at once is maybe going to be a problem.
  • Posted By: hannibalchew
    Not sure if I'd quite agree with this from my perspective. For those of you who regularly roll over here on story-games I am sure you were familiar with all the games that were posted each session. For the rest of us, however, there was about 5 minutes in which to decide on a game that had only a title and no description. By the time we could find someone to give us a little primer on the sessions most were filled.

    That's a good perspective to have, thanks Jason. I know that a lot of the indie game veterans said they really liked the organic system, but I wasn't sure how well it was going for people less familiar with the games being offered. What I'd like to see would be an opportunity for GMs to pitch their games quickly so people know what the games are. That might be one to think about for next time.
  • edited June 2007
    Posted By: misubaGames did fill really quickly with old-timers. Also, we didn't focus on getting the signups from the wiki onto the board and thus into reality. Also, um, fixing both of those problems at once is maybe going to be a problem.
    Can anyone from Camp Nerdly comment on how their system worked? I think they used a wiki too, but they had people sign up to run and play in specific slots ahead of time.
  • we didn't focus on getting the signups from the wiki onto the board and thus into reality.
    I heard a few people complaing about this.
  • I will have more to say later, but until then, I want to leave you with this important message:

    image

    --Brandon
  • Posted By: JudaicDiabloI will have more to say later, but until then, I want to leave you with this important message:

    image

    --Brandon
    OH YEAH!
  • Posted By: hannibalchewI guess the solution is to spend more time on the forums or be clear that GPNW is not for those unfamiliar (but interested in) the indie gaming world.
    On the contrary, we definitely want to be welcoming to people who are unfamiliar with the indie gaming world - that's why we had the "Indie Gaming 101" sessions. So, this critique is good to hear, it tells us we need to find a way to make that information available. One thing we could do for next year is to have a sign/poster with quick synopses of the various games that people are offering to run - something about the game itself and about the scenario to be presented.
  • Yeah, I had a problem with my second session in that one player who had signed up on the wiki wouldn't have fit anymore because he wasn't quick enough with the chalkboard. But another player bowed out for him, though I know that that player really wanted to play the game. That was awkward and way less than ideal.

    Also, when Session 3 finally came around, the one where I wouldn't run my own game and was looking forward to play in someone else's, there wasn't really much choice. I could have jumped in on Kin, but I felt like something more lightweight than a family drama and by the time I realized that everything else was full, so was Kin. And I believe Jake was ready to run PE or CDM if people were interested, but he's a homie and I can play that here with him :) So I guess I did have two choices, which actually both went away because Jake decided to play Kin.

    I am very thankful that James Brown stepped up and ran 1001 nights for us, and that turned out great.

    It did seem like there was much more going on in the earlier slots, but I wasn't paying much attention because I knew what I was going to be doing :)
  • Posted By: jake richmondwe didn't focus on getting the signups from the wiki onto the board and thus into reality.
    I heard a few people complaing about this.

    For me this was a feature not a bug. I didn't know until the day before that I was going to be able to attend, so I was happy that there were lots of choices when the con came.

    But that's me.
  • What I didn't like about the con (aside from the sagan things I did like) was that the location and times weren't on the web site. The web site had SPU and dates, but not the building and the exact hours, and I didn't find any indication of the Friday night get-together. Fortunately Anenome was able to clue me in.
  • One of the things that really, really worked for me was having the dedicated meal slots, and the 'designated beer haus' on Friday night. It meant that everyone was looking for food at the same times, and everyone was looking for games at the same times.

    I sat down for every meal - literally every meal over the weekend with a different set of gamers. That was great.

    I didn't notice any real issues with the board, although it does sound like stuff was filling up before people got a chance to find out what was which and who was where. A possible solution would be to just say "No signups for 1:00 games until 12:45" although that might make it's own problems. I did notice misuba on some of the later slots running down the open games and getting the folks who put it up to say a bit about each game. If that happened before folks could sign up, that would be good. That would also give organizers a chance to say "Also X and Y signed up on the wiki before, so there's only 3 slots open."

    James
  • I agree that the dedicated meal slots (for those of us dorming it) was very helpful for setting schedules. And having a designated meeting place for beer Friday night was great for connecting with others and socializing.

    The "put your name on the board" concept was perfect for me who likes to make my decisions at the last minute. But I can see how it might have been tough for those not familiar with what was happening or just a little slow on the draw. And it was a little weird that the wiki "reservations" didn't make it onto the board.

    My suggestion would be to emulate the wiki on the board each morning and put all games and attendees for those events as "tentative", maybe with parenthesis or in a different color. Then at 8:45 each morning an announcement about which games were on the plate and invite people to fill the boards and perhaps move their names around as the mood struck.

    But all and all I felt like the event organization was 85% there and it really worked for my tastes. I'm bummed if anyone felt short-changed.
  • Posted By: Caesar_XI felt like the event organization was 85% there
    Oh hell yeah, for a first time event, this was incredibly smooth.
  • edited June 2007
    I experienced a little bit of the sign-up problem. I had emailed Carl Rigney before the con asking specifically for a game of Zombies in the Vineyard, and when I saw him again on Saturday, I confirmed that he would run it at session 3. I waited until about 4:40 (40 minutes into the evening dinner session), and it still hadn't been added to the board, so I went to get food. By the time I got back, it had been added, and all the slots were full.

    Overall, though, I think it was pretty smooth, and even when I didn't get into my first choice of game, there was always something else fun to do.
  • Posted By: Caesar_X I'm bummed if anyone felt short-changed.
    I hope I didn't come off that sounding like I felt that way. Basically I just thought a little constructive criticism for next time could only make a great con even better.
  • edited June 2007
    Thanks for chiming in about the sign up issue. Clearly, we can do better, especially to accommodate people who are new to indie games. I'm hesitant to make the wiki sign ups locked in stone, because games could totally fill up and walk-ins would be out of luck. Maybe a designated "sign up captain" who manages the game pitch and sign-up period in a more systematic (but still organic) way would be good.
  • edited June 2007
    I never signed up for anything on the wiki because the wiki didn't have times or days (as far as I could tell), and since I was only going to be there Saturday, I didn't want to sign up for something that would end up being on Sunday. (And, looking, it seems that indeed most of the listed times were "Saturday or Sunday". Yes, that's when the con is ;-) In fact, I never saw anything like a schedule at all until two days before the event when I got one via email. Was a schedule posted on this forum, perhaps? I'm not what you'd call a regular, so I'dve missed it.

    At any rate, it all worked out fine for me and I got to play fun games with fun folks. But I think all the games I was in were someone saying, "Well, I could run this." "Sold!" So having flexible would-be GMs was incredibly useful, and made it all work out. Thanks, flexible GMs! (I'm looking at you, James Brown.)

    For the walk-in issue, perhaps half the slots could be opened for the wiki, and the other half after the just-before pitch? Maybe that would be too complicated. Reserving some slots for walk-ins in general (if not for every game) would probably be helpful, though.
  • Posted By: John HarperThanks for chiming in about the sign up issue. Clearly, we can do better, especially to accommodate people who are new to indie games. I'm hesitant to make the wiki sign ups locked in stone, because games could totally fill up and walk-ins would be out of luck. Maybe a designated "sign up captain" who manages the game pitch and sign-up period in a more systematic (but still organic) way would be good.
    As someone who experienced a bit of the "signed-up-on-the-wiki-but-missed-the-whiteboard-before-it-filled," I am still sensitive to the overall problem and wouldn't want walk-ins to be out of luck either. A sign-up captain sounds like a good idea, combined maybe with just a few more GMs. If I hadn't worked more than two-hundred hours in the previous three weeks I'd have gotten it together enough to run something myself...
  • Thanks for the feedback, this is really, really good stuff.

    Here are some numbers:
    Saturday attendees: 55
    Sunday attendess: 54
    Saturday overnight guests: 15
    Sunday overnight guests: 19

    I'd say those are pretty good numbers. The number of guests felt just about perfect for running this the first time.
  • I have to admit that the open sign-up made me a bit nervous but I lucked out getting to play two games that I had targeted playing. But I also own many of these games, even if I haven't played them, and follow this board, so I knew what things were and quickly decided what to play. I can see how people who didn't have the familiarity with the material could have been a bit lost.
  • Posted By: tony dowlerSaturday overnight guests: 15
    Sunday overnight guests: 19
    Wow. It felt like more, but maybe that was just the effect of having so many really cool folks around.

    What are the numbers for pre-registration?
    Posted By: John HarperMaybe a designated "sign up captain" who manages the game pitch and sign-up period in a more systematic (but still organic) way would be good.
    As the guy who Christian mentioned who chimed in on the second session of Beast Hunters on the thread but didn't make it to the board in time, I didn't like putting anyone in an awkward situation -- I probably wouldn't have if it wasn't something Christian & I had been talking about doing for some time. (Also, a huge thanks to Pôl Jackson for letting me in -- I hope I remembered the name right.)

    That said, that was the first day and I was playing in the room next door during Session 1, so I didn't know when sign-ups happened for Session 2. So, for next time, I'd say that if someone made sure when everyone was aware when games went up on the board, that would help out some of these issues. I might also suggest that if a GM knows he'll have a certain number of "pre-regs", he'd advertise fewer slots or add them to the board when they add their game.

    Also, the freeform method allowed me to advertise my playtest and put it up for Session 3 during the day of the con without having already put it on the wiki. I liked that feature, and wouldn't want to lose that spontaneity.
  • Everything went really smoothly in my mind.

    One suggestion: Don't allow people to add Session 2 sign-up options until Session 1 ends.

    And then, once Session 1 ends, gather people up before dispersing and run through a 10 minute "Put your game on the board and describe it" session. People can ask other people to "throw up their game idea" at this point, and the would-be GMs do a little pitch. This gives people the meal time to hem, haw, shuffle names around, and press the GMs for more information first.

    When you put the game up on the board, if it was a wiki-declared game, say "X, Y and Z were signed up for this on the wiki. Do any of them want to take their names down from this game, or are they going to stick with it?"
  • edited June 2007
    Posted By: Ryan Macklin
    What are the numbers for pre-registration?
    This is from a quick glance, but it looks like we had 7 late registrations and 5 walk-ins. Of the late registrations, 3 of them got dorm rooms. About half of all pre-regs were made in the last week, and the rest of the pre-regs were a slow steady trickle from our annoucement.
  • One thing I would like in a future edition would be at least one longer time block a day. For example, the afternoon session could have gone from 1pm to 5pm. Some games are difficult to run in a 3-hour block, especially if you want to include character creation, and I would have appreciated more time.
  • We are going to consider longer sessions - Brandon made a similar comment in our discussion at dinner on Sunday.

    I'd like to see a longer lunch break, though - lunch felt rather rushed, particularly on Saturday when the other conventioneers were around and making the cafeteria crowded. Something like 9-12, 1:30-5:00, 7:00 to 11:00 might work well at least on Saturday. On Sunday we probably wouldn't want the longest slot to be the last one, particularly as a bunch of out-of-towners left after the Sunday afternoon slot.
  • Posted By: AnemoneOne thing I would like in a future edition would be at least one longer time block a day. For example, the afternoon session could have gone from 1pm to 5pm. Some games are difficult to run in a 3-hour block
    Seconded; I'd totally love longer afternoon and evening slots.
  • Posted By: johnzoSeconded; I'd totally love longer afternoon and evening slots.
    As someone who playtested during the third session, an extra hour would have helped me immensely. (Though, the fact that I was able to see how far we had to go after three hours was also significant.)
  • Posted By: philarosI'd like to see a longer lunch break, though - lunch felt rather rushed, particularly on Saturday when the other conventioneers were around and making the cafeteria crowded. Something like 9-12, 1:30-5:00, 7:00 to 11:00 might work well at least on Saturday. On Sunday we probably wouldn't want the longest slot to be the last one, particularly as a bunch of out-of-towners left after the Sunday afternoon slot.
    Might I also suggest that the slots be published when the announcement goes up for next time, so that those of us who have to make travel plans can work with that? I got lucky that I could grab a shuttle right after the 1-4 session.
  • I think some of the refinements being suggested are good, but I think the basic idea of the "Just in Time" scheduling is good. As a GM, it was a major benefit to not be committed to particular time slots far in advance. I was able to coordinate informally with people who were running stuff I wanted to play, and with players who wanted into my games. Also I was able to judge my own energy and enthusiasm level and run games when I had the energy to do so, rather than thinking "oh crap I'm beat, I have to go run a game now."
  • Posted By: tony dowlerCan anyone from Camp Nerdly comment on how their system worked?
    It didn't. None of the sign-up information transferred from wiki to meat-space, and it was a problem for us, too. This is a lesson learned.
  • Another suggestion: next time, let's plan on the Story Games 101 earlier (I had already committed to running two games by the time we discussed it, so I didn't feel up to scheduling another one); and let's pre-schedule then so we're sure to have at least one intro game per session. Then at sign-up time, we can identify them prominently so newcomers are aware of them. I'll commit to running at least one game intended specifically to introduce people to story games.
  • What's Story Gmes 101? How did that go down?
  • Someone will always be unhappy about not getting into a game when the are N slots and M people and M > N. In my experience, the most important thing about scheduling is picking a reasonable policy, publicizing it widely, and sticking to it.
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarWhat's Story Gmes 101? How did that go down?
    See the wiki page for an overview; basically, it was an attempt to schedule some games that would help people with little or no story games experience get their footing.
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarWhat's Story Gmes 101? How did that go down?
    It was Story Games run for people who had never played that particular game before, with an eye to Story Game beginners. I ran TSOY in session 1, and I'd say it was a great success. We had 2 story games newbies who got a taste of what story games are all about, and we had 3 TSOY newbies who got a chance to try the game. Ed Freeman, who played in TSOY 101, also played in my Principia game (TSOY based) and even acted as a bit of a mentor to the TSOY newbies in that game. Mike Sugarbaker ran PTA, and there was a Panty Explosion SG 101 as well. I don't know if there were any others.
  • I thought the con ran smoothly enough from my perspective. It did get hard to choose since additional games would "appear" on the list late in the process after most sign-ups had already happened. I did camp a couple of times to get in early to games that looked cool. A sign-up sheet posted by the door listing the slots and the games would have helped players be more intentional about hooking up with each other in a desired game/slot. I really appreciated getting to play alongside Johnzo, for instance, but it was his initiative to get on the TSOY board fast that sealed the deal. I feel lucky to have been chatting nearby when John H. spoke up about a session of Danger Patrol.

    Obviously there's going to remain a large chunk of chance regarding what game is offered by whom and which players get in. Nevertheless, a schedule overview that confirmed Wiki wish-list offerings to the attendees and provided an opportunity for early sign-up and shuffling would have made things smoother.

    Big kudos to the organizers, though. A hellishly fun event.
  • edited June 2007
    I'm with Wil. I like just-in-time scheduling. I take it as a signal that the GM has energy for the game now. Whenever I sign up for a game at a con with a lengthy planning cycle, I'm always wondering if the GM's energy has evaporated in the months between game proposal and the con.

    To make things simpler, what about eliminating the idea of wiki signup altogether and forcing game announcements and player signups to happen at the event itself? The wiki can still be used to gauge player energy, but it can be specified as non-binding.

    If a GM wants to offer private player reservations, then the GM should take the burden of maintaining those private reservations and just write in those players' names when they put the game on the announcement board. And if a game is entirely filled by pre-registrations, then the GM doesn't need to announce the game publicly at all.
  • On a different but related topic, I think we should make the pre-game "towncrier" session more effective. The GMs were invited to explain what their games were about in order to recruit/inform players, but people who were unprepared didn't have a good smooth lime of patter ready. We should make it official that before every session the GMs get a chance to promote their games, and the GMs should think ahead to a good catchy explanation of why their game would be fun. I always feel sorry when a GM has to cancel a game for lack of players, when perhaps a better description might instead have resulted in half-a-dozen people having fun in his game.
  • edited June 2007
    Note: My comments here are said as an Attendee rather than as an organizer.
    While I respect the Open Source Model I feel that there are definite advantages to having slots and fixing both GMs and Players into them. There is absolutely a place for the Open Source mode, but I can tell you that my con was disappointing from a players point of view. I enjoyed the games that I played (thank you Paul and James) but I did not get to play anything that I went to GPNW to play. Each time I saw something that I was looking for it was already full or conflicted with something that I could have been doing at another time. A more fixed schedule would have alleviated this frustration for me.

    I have a lot of convention experience with fixed slots and ticketing. While it is more of a hassle, it does allow players (and GMs) to better ensure that they have the con experience that they are hoping to have.

    While things worked fairly well with a small con (50 people), if we were to double in size, I think that the troubles would more than double.

    I would also like to see a couple of tracks implemented. Most especially a StoryGames 101 track and a Try something new track. This way there would always be at least one game for people new to the hobby (or at least the experience.) Plus there are lots of new games out there and if the game is designed for newbies, then we can be sure that pre-gens or cheat sheets are available to enhance and streamline play.



    All that being said, it was great to meet everyone and I am just jealous that there was a lot of great stuff that I did not get to do.

    --Brandon
  • Am I overcomplicating things if I think a mix of unconferencing and ticketed games would be optimal?
  • New to the board, but thought I'd toss out what few comments I had regarding the scheduling.

    - As a disclaimer, I'm an indie n00b and most of my con experience is AmberCons. (Which are a very different beast.)
    - The wiki vs. whiteboard thing had me a bit confused. When I showed up I had no clue what was going on, I couldn't remember what Indie 101 game I'd signed up for, there were games on the white board that didn't really exist. Once I got past the initial shock, the white board made sense. Many of the games are well suited to just pick-up-and-go play so that wasn't much of an issue for me. But then, I got into everything I wanted so I didn't get burned by the system either.
    - That said, I do like the idea of being able to organize things more in advance. Perhaps you could have some stuff planned in advance with allowance for more pick-up style play at the con.
    - I definitely vote for longer gaming slots. 3 hours was fine for some games, but not nearly enough for others.
    - The meal breaks seemed just fine. But then, I didn't eat at the cafeteria. We either walked a couple blocks and ate at a pizzaria for lunch or drove somewhere else for dinner.

    Will you guys be doing events at any of the other local cons coming up? I'd be happy to go to Dragonflight or PAX if I knew some of the fine folk I met this weekend were going to be there.
  • Posted By: bolthyWill you guys be doing events at any of the other local cons coming up? I'd be happy to go to Dragonflight or PAX if I knew some of the fine folk I met this weekend were going to be there.
    I can guarantee I will be at Dragonflight (August) and Emerald City Gamefest (November), and probably at ConQuest WN (February); not sure about PAX, there's not so many RPGs and my budget (and schedule) are straining.
  • I'll be at PAX, but I'm on staff, which means you won't be seeing me much at the gaming table. There are always lots of boardgames at PAX and rpgs end up getting run in the open table top space, so it would definitely be a good place for people to meet up for story gaming, as long as they don't mind organizing it without any official con support (other than a place to play).
  • It would be really swell if the badges for preregistered people included their home city. There were lots of people at the con that I want to play with again, and having that information right out in front of you would help with that kinda planning.

    Maybe for a regional con with lots of attendees from the same places, you could put a little icon on the badge: a space needle, a rose, a Canucks logo, a Tacoma Dome...
  • This is all wonderful feedback, everyone. Thanks! Keep it coming...
  • Posted By: johnzoIt would be really swell if the badges for preregistered people included their home city.
    Having a place for a Story Games handle would be pretty cool, too. Like, I didn't know you were johnzo until we spoke well after our little, uh, slightly embarrassing introduction. ;)

    I think they did that at Camp Nerdly 01. At least, I remember something like that.
  • Posted By: Ryan MacklinHaving a place for a Story Games handle would be pretty cool, too. Like, I didn't know you were johnzo until we spoke well after our little, uh, slightly embarrassing introduction. ;)
    Agreed. I added my Story Games handle to my name, but I didn't make the connection for most other people. I like the idea for home city, too. It can start conversations that aren't even related to gaming. "Oh, you're from some obscure town on Vancouver Island? Cool!"

    I have to say that work this week isn't nearly as exciting without GPNW to look forward to. Me want more!!!
  • Posted By: Ryan MacklinHaving a place for a Story Games handle would be pretty cool, too. Like, I didn't know you were johnzo until we spoke well after our little, uh, slightly embarrassing introduction. ;)
    We could have avoided all that unpleasantness if the badges had come with a couple checkboxes:

    ___ I am the "Theory From The Closet" guy.

    ___ I am NOT the "Theory From The Closet" guy.

    (check one)
  • We could have avoided all that unpleasantness if the badges had come with a couple checkboxes:

    ___ I am the "Theory From The Closet" guy.

    ___ I am NOT the "Theory From The Closet" guy.

    (check one)
    We should have this for next year's event. I might also want to make such a badge for GenCon.
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