Featured Events - A Proposal

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Buttmonkey, Feb 5, 2018.

  1. Buttmonkey

    Buttmonkey Troubadour

    It seems to me the way featured events are currently being handled doesn't make much sense. Too many events are categorized as featured, resulting in around 44% of the featured events seats languishing unused. I believe many, if not most or all, of those tables would fill if they were not featured. While having open seats for walk-ups can be viewed as a plus, I think it's on the whole a bad. GMs shouldn't have to wait until game time to get an estimate of the number of players they will actually have. It is also frustrating for attendees who can't register for the games because they don't have enough featured event tickets. It presents them with a dilemma: do I schedule something else and forgo that featured event or show up at game time and risk not getting a seat?

    It seems to me the featured event designation has evolved significantly beyond the original gold piece/featured events. In the early to middle years, when only a few hundred people attended, the gold piece events were reserved for games run by industry legends. The gold piece designation insured a large group of players would have a chance to play with these legendary GMs. That math simply can't work now that the con is attracting players in the thousands. It is no longer realistic to plan to attend Gary Con for the purpose of playing with the legends. Maybe you will get lucky, especially if you shell out for a premium badge, but most silver badge holders are going to be SOL if they are coming just to play with the legends. And that's okay. The con has grown beyond that tiny initial group. You should go to North Texas if that is your goal. Fortunately, Gary Con offers much, much more than gaming with legends (and, tangentially, I'll point out as someone who has been able to play with many of the legends, you've got about as good of a chance of playing in a great game if you pick a random no-name GM). I think it's important to recognize what Gary Con is, not just what it was.

    My understanding is the current number of featured of events was selected based on the number of premium event tickets the organizers decided to issue. If every silver badge gets a featured event ticket and you're going to issue 500-1,000 of them, then you need a bunch of featured events. The end result is a lot of events are designated as featured events that really aren't special in the way playing with a Frank Mentzer or Jim Ward was in the early days.

    With around 44% of featured event seats still available, I imagine one of two things is going on:

    1. There are significantly more featured events seats than featured events tickets, so even though everyone (or almost everyone) has used their tickets, there are still a whole bunch of unsellable seats (unless more people register for the con).

    2. Many people have not used their featured event tickets because only a smaller pool of events really need a featured event designation. This results in games not filling because they do not appeal to a large number of ravenous gamers who view these events as special.

    Both of these possibilities seem problematic to me. Maybe there is a third option I haven't considered. Nevertheless, it appears there are games looking for players and players looking for those games who can't sign up for them now because they are improperly designated as featured events. I think there are a couple ways to address this problem in the future:

    A. Reduce the number of events that are designated as featured and reduce the number of featured event tickets sold. The second half of this option is probably a painful thought for the organizers since they sell more expensive badges based on selling extra featured event tickets, not fewer. If everyone with a silver badge gets a featured event ticket, that's still a lot of tickets. I think the right way to do this is to stop including featured event tickets with silver badges. If someone just has to have a chance at playing with a legend GM before they are willing to come to Gary Con, let them buy a premium badge and clear up access to the non-legend games for everyone else. Consider reducing the number of featured events sold with premium badges and find other ways to provide value with the premium badges. There is already a swag bag. Maybe you could include "better" swag. I think eliminating featured event tickets from silver badges is the best way to do this. People need to recognize that the odds of them getting into a particular event run by a particular legend is pretty small at this point unless you buy a premium badge anyway. The con isn't just about rubbing elbows with them (and it's really hard to do that anymore since the legends generally seem to be closeted away from the main playing rooms to the point it's hard to even see them most of the time (very much unlike the events at the previous venue)). The biggest downside I see with this approach is that the premium badge holders will get access to a lot more games that are in the border between regular and featured before the silver hordes get their shot. I think this is a tolerable consequence. Buy a premium badge if you want an event that badly. There will still be tons of great events to play in. I easily filled up my schedule this year despite only having 1 featured event ticket to play with.

    B. A day or two after silver badge registration, open all of the unpicked featured event seats to everyone. Basically, undesignate events as featured when it is clear they aren't going to sell out their seats as featured events. I suppose that sticks it a little to people who purchase a silver badge after silver registration, but I don't really care about those people (or, at least, I don't care about saving seats for them when they don't decide to attend earlier). I see this as a partial solution. The upside is the improperly designated feature events can possibly fill up. The downside is people will have already scheduled around the events they couldn't get into. We could see a lot of drops and adds on people's event schedule as they scramble to adjust to opening game seats. I really, REALLY like how smooth registration is with TTE. I'd hate to jump into this particular kind of chaos if it could be avoided in advance by non over-designating featured events in the first place.

    Please think about it.
    Poindexter and JediSoth like this.
  2. JediSoth

    JediSoth Troubadour

    Much to my surprise, both of my D&D events were listed as Featured Events. This is also the first year since probably the first Gary Con I GMed at that they didn't sell out the first day (usually my events are gone in the initial rush of event registration). I found myself wondering if there was a connection there.

    It's also possible that me running D&D just isn't as appealing as me running Paranoia, Ghostbusters, or Star Wars, but I don't have any data to quantify that. I just found it curious. I'm going to prepare as if my events are sold out, expecting Silver Badge people who used their one Featured Event ticket on something else to just show up for those Saturday games hope for empty seats (of which there are plenty right now since one game has 0 of 5 registered players and the other only 4 of 5.)
    Scott M. and Poindexter like this.
  3. dndgeek

    dndgeek Troubadour

    I think staff already un-designates featured events with minimal tickets sold as featured, but not sure when that happens. I’d personally like to see the featured designation removed from ALL featured events one week after silver badges register. I really don’t care if late-registering folks or walkups don’t get into a featured event. If you’re not that interested/dedicated, why are games being held for you? If you are that interested, get into some great non-featured events this year and get on board with the registration process next year. If you can't be bothered to do that, you aren't that interested and staff shouldn't be holding out premier games for your one, unplanned visit. There are definitely a number of games out there that would be full if not featured. And even if they were full, there would still be plenty to do for walk-ups. I mean 45% of all seats are still available (Thanks gizmo!) two days after the final event registration and 46% of featured seats are still available. I feel like that latter number should be more like 10%.
    Poindexter likes this.
  4. ESpratt

    ESpratt Level 0 Character

    Agreed! There were events a bunch of events that I wanted to participate in - but since I was limited to two tickets I had to pick and choose. It's kinda annoying to see the other events that I would have signed up for (except that they were featured) still have seats left now.

    Last year - there appeared to be a similar issue (featured games not sold out) - so they did the double days right at the end (which was still 30 days out from the con). I think that they should plan/announce the double days earlier. (Announcement when registration opens regarding the last day for registration and when the featured events will double for each ticket class)
  5. Scott308

    Scott308 Chevalier

    I think making so many miniatures games featured events was a HUGE mistake. There are a number of miniature sellouts, but only two of them are featured. Very few tickets were claimed in the featured events. Heck, Michael Mornard is always saying how tickets for wargaming events are always available. Making it more difficult to register for them doesn't really make it easier for everyone to get into a miniatures game, as most people aren't interested. It just limits the number of games those who do want to play minis games are able to play in. I know I would have been interested in getting into another minis game, but nothing I was interested in was non-featured, had tickets available, and fit into my schedule.

    As far as gaming with the Legends goes, since moving to the new venue, unless you pony up for the expensive, limited badges, your odds of any contact are very low. Their games are in a separate room, and most people will never even be close to them. The con has gotten too big. You used to be able to see them walking around the convention, hanging out at the Wednesday party, and there was actually a decent chance to get into a game with them. Unfortunately, now there is financial incentive for the con to minimize the chance that the general gaming public will have an opportunity to game or speak with them. The selling point of the diamond and platinum badges is access to the legends. Party, dinner, and a bunch of games, some of which won't even be available for the gold badges.

    I understand the need to sell the high dollar badges to help the convention's bottom line. I don't begrudge those that buy the badges. It just feels to me like the convention has lost what made it so special as a result. I don't recall even seeing any of the old TSR people last year. It's a paradox, as all the former TSR staff is in theory a selling point, yet only a very small percentage of attendees will have any meaningful interaction with them.
    Jarlaxle likes this.
  6. JediSoth

    JediSoth Troubadour

    I get what your saying about the size of the convention now, but my experience was a bit different last year. Just going to and from events and wandering around last year I ran into Tim Kask, Frank Mentzer, James Ward, Skip Williams, Ernie Gygax, Darlene, and saw others (whom I didn't have a chance to say hi to for various reasons) like Bruce Heard, Alan Hammack, etc. I didn't go out of my way or make any special effort. Granted, I didn't necessarily need to stop and chat for 30 minutes with any of them (though there were a few times that I could have done), but I certainly didn't not see any of the Old Guard (and saw many of the younger designers like Mike Mearls, Jason Bulmahn, and Jayson Elliot).
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2018
    Scott M. likes this.
  7. mwisconsin

    mwisconsin Administrator Staff Member

    Note: Chanting with the Old Gods requires level 15 in demonography and necromancy.
  8. JediSoth

    JediSoth Troubadour

    I blame auto-correct... even though my browser doesn't do that.
  9. jim skach

    jim skach Troubadour

    Query: Why is it upsetting to see a game you would have liked to play in but for featured status still have open seats?

    Is this not an opportunity for some other gamer soul to play in that game?

    Did you not prioritize at least two (2) other games above it?
  10. jim skach

    jim skach Troubadour

    I agree wholeheartedly. The only logical solution is to up the number of Featured events each of the upper echelon of tickets receives. So, henceforth, it should be as follows:
    Diamond: 16
    Platinum: 12
    Gold: 8
    Silver: 1

    I agree wholeheartedly. The only logical solution is to cap attendance. Of course, there will be preference given based on the number of years you have previously attended.
    Cap it at 500! Cap it at 500! Back to the Ridge!

    I agree wholeheartedly. It's not as easy to get into a Jim Ward game as it used to be. Did you know he wrote Metamorphosis Alpha? That's amazing.

    There's a guy here...what's his name...jizz or gizz or wiz or something. He does this amazing analysis of the registration data. I think there were 1,615 seats available for featured events. IIRC, the breakdown of featured events per badge is:
    Diamond: 6
    Platinum: 3
    Gold: 2
    Silver: 1

    Multiply those by the potential badges sold and you get
    Diamond: 60 (10x6)
    Platinum: 60 (20x3)
    Gold: 350 (175*2)
    Silver: 1400 (1400*1)

    Add them all up, and you get...wait...carry the...1870. Throw in some of those crazy Electrum and Mithril Badges, and you are probably looking at 1900 potential "tickets" for featured events.

    Now...stay with me here...I know that's "potential" and that we are about 300 or so Silver short of that. But think about it. If Luke had made the decision to knock that list down to 1000 seats of featured events...holy shit the uproar. Half the people would be unable to get into a featured event! And you know the Silver Badges would be livid because they register last. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

    That's called...prioritizing.

    I've thought about it. I reject your premises and, thus, your conclusions. The only reason for featured events is not to play with a legend. In fact, if one is only coming to play at Frank's table...well..let me put it this way, I have more respect for the Adventurer's League players....that should tell you something.
  11. gizmomathboy

    gizmomathboy Spellbinder

    Skach...just for you, you can call me Gothmog, or would you prefer Formenos? ;-)

    I also keep the best, most fun analysis to myself :)
    jim skach likes this.
  12. Buttmonkey

    Buttmonkey Troubadour

    For whatever it's worth, I got into almost everything I wanted and couldn't care less about not getting one standard event that filled up too fast. There were featured events I would have liked to sign up for that still have openings, but I'm good with my non-featured schedule. My butt is not particularly hurting. I knew what I was doing when I opted for a silver badge. I just think the way featured events are handled could be done better and was trying to be helpful. I love Gary Con and think the world of the organizers.

    To answer your specific questions (I'm assuming they were addressed to me. If not, I still like the sound of my own typing, so whatevs):

    1. I wouldn't say "upsetting," but I think it's less than optimal for seats to go unclaimed because they have been unfortunately designated as a featured event. It means uncertainty for the GM and forces players to either avoid scheduling a conflicting event in the hope of getting lucky as a walk-up or else giving up on the event and scheduling something else (which will probably be a fun event anyway). The worst case scenario is someone scheduling a conflicting event, but still trying to walk up to the featured event and leaving the non-featured GM looking for a missing player. That all seems less than ideal to me. With something like 44% of featured event seats unclaimed after silver registration, I think we have an issue with events being designated as featured that should be standard.

    2. It is an opportunity for another gamer to play in the game. My proposals don't guarantee anybody a seat in any given game. I'm just saying why don't we let the event fill naturally rather than leave it stuck with unclaimed seats without an apparent good reason for doing so? Is it better to wait until game time to fill these seats rather than doing it in advance like every standard game? I personally don't think so.

    3. I only got one featured event ticket with my silver badge, so I only prioritized one event over any of the other featured events I would have like to have played.
    Jarlaxle likes this.
  13. JediSoth

    JediSoth Troubadour

    There is also the risk for someone unexpectedly running a Featured Game that sells no tickets to spend a lot of time prepping for a table that never gets enough players to actually run. Though, I guess that happens for regular games, too.

    I've not encountered this myself, but it is a possibility, and I would be vexed if I spent a lot of time prepping for a game that doesn't happen. I can see how it's harrowing for a GM to be staring at that "zero tickets sold" wondering "Will prepping this game be a waste of time?"

    Of course, you can always save it and run it next year. :)
  14. Scott M.

    Scott M. Footpad

    Regarding access to famous old guard types, all of this is anecdotal, but I feel like I've run into lots of people without trying the last two years. One of my lasting memories is an impromptu chat in the hallway with Luke about Melf my first year. He obviously had a million things to do but didn't seem at all imposed upon -- or didn't let it show ;) But even if it's not a concern now, I agree that maintaining that small feel is a good goal to keep in mind.

    Hans, I was seriously debating choosing one of your games for my Featured and was surprised to not see it snapped up.

    I don't think doing away with Featured status or dramatically reducing the numbers makes sense for the reasons that Jim Skach pointed out. A small reduction in Featured seats or a small increase the number of Featured Events per premium badge might be okay. By the way, I don't know if you remember me, Jim. We have played together at Gen Con a couple times. I played with your kids in the DCC funnels and admired your bringing them up in the world of gaming. If something outside these forums is contributing to your bad mood, I hope it improves.

    I think bumping everyone's Featured count late in the game is potentially disruptive. The GM's out there who are fortunate enough to have signups don't need to see a big exodus or shuffle when hundreds of people change their schedule.

    I have had fantastically fun non-featured games and a few so-so featured games. I'm sure Luke and everyone will continue to try to perfect the system, but it hasn't stood in the way of GC being an unbelievably good time each year for me. I hope that's true even for those calling for change.
  15. JediSoth

    JediSoth Troubadour

    Feel free to stop by either game and see if I have seats available. I always have enough pre-gens for one or two extra players.
    Scott M. likes this.
  16. Jarlaxle

    Jarlaxle Troubadour

    Condescend much?
  17. Melf

    Melf Administrator Staff Member

    Greetings Guys,

    It Is a pleaseure and a challenge to spearhead Gary Con. Yes it’s changed over the years. I can’t believe it’s been a decade. The decision I had to make was to stop others from coming to Gary Con by capping attendance; or continue to grow as more people heard about it. The balance is keeping the essence that is Gary Con there as more people attend. Your posts have helped me see how certain well intentioned actions can be perceived as or have negative consequences.

    The one that jumps out at me is the idea that Special Guests are being hidden away. That’s the farthest thing from what I want to happen. The Grand has some boardrooms and I thought what a wonderful way to show these guys some appreciation by giving them really comfortable and quiet areas to game in. Some of them are getting older and it’s taxing to be shouting over the din for 4 days. Perhaps there is a middle ground and that would be better. Maybe turn the Linwood ballroom into the Virtual Porch. That’s a solid idea and I can Staff it with Skip and Dave.

    The larger question that seems to frustrate people is Features events. That is an extension of a tradition that spawned from the early Gary Cons. A way to control one person from booking several of the limited VIP events. If it has outlived its usefulness then we can go to a pay per event system like every other convention. That would alleviate all those problems and quite probably be more profitable for the Con. That wasn’t my biggest motivation or I would have switched previously. I believe that gamers will buy badges that allow for earlier registration. That is the prime motivator. The premium swag is something I wanted to do and enjoy helping to design. But I doubt anyone of those folks are getting a premium badge for the swag.

    And how to determine if something should be featured is more of an art than a science. Sometimes we miscalculate. We are human and make mistakes. Thanks for the feedback and helping us get better. I sincerely appreciate constructive criticism. You guys have some great ideas- and if I can use those great ideas I will. We are thinking of opening up a more Features the last few days of registration but maybe we won’t now. I didn’t think of the other games getting dropped.

    I’ll speak to my family, friends and listen to those of you that talk to me at GC or on the forums/fb. There will be changes at GC XI. Change is inevitable. Hopefully I can help shape the change to best meet the needs of those attending, while keeping it something that I - as well as my family and close friends- still find a worthy celebration.

    I am really excited for Gary Con X. It’s been quite a journey.


    katsin, Poindexter, Scott M. and 3 others like this.
  18. jim skach

    jim skach Troubadour

    I was being agreeable!
  19. JediSoth

    JediSoth Troubadour

    Swag bags are great. One reason why I don't get a gold badge is because my wife gets one and we don't need two swag bags (plus, GMing as much as I do limits the number of games I can sign up to play in and, inevitably, most of the Featured Events I want to play are scheduled for the same time I'm running games). However, as the con grows, the swag bags get more and more expensive to keep from just being bags of garbage (look at Gen Con the last few years they offered swag bags to general attendees). There's certainly a delicate balance between giving freebies that enhance the value of higher-priced badges and maintaining affordability.

    I don't know a good solution to the Featured Event dilemma. On one hand, it's good to make sure a few people can't bogart all of the high-demand games, but on the other hand, it can limit entrance into games with GMs whose events have been historically popular, but are not as in-demand as people like Tim Kask, Frank Mentzer, James Ward, etc. I'm probably not the only GM who looks at who has signed up for his games and gets a little angsty if you're getting close to the convention and no one has signed up.

    I've never failed to get enough walk-ups to have to cancel a game (except for ONE Adventurer's League game last year on Sunday morning, but hey, it's Sunday morning, most of us didn't want to be there at 8 AM), so intellectually, I know it'll be OK, but that Imposter Syndrome hits now & then. I guess my only fear is that by being Featured, some events won't get the walk-ups they normally would have because people will fill their schedules with other events (some people don't like winging it that much and some people have limitations that prevent them from doing so).

    I wonder if any studies have been done to show how large a convention has to be before charging for individual events becomes a net benefit instead of a liability?
    Poindexter likes this.
  20. jim skach

    jim skach Troubadour

    What this really needs is an after action report. It's not about how many there are now (btw, the number of open seats dropped about 8% - 66 of 806 - since 2/4); it's about how many there were when the games went off....
    Jarlaxle likes this.

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