Haven't seen the annual Good Bad & Ugly thread started yet, so I figured I'd chime in
The Good - GenCon has clearly been listening to their customers ... from the wider walkways in the Dealer Hall, to being able to purchase directly from the artists, to expanding some of the more crowded areas into their own larger areas, I felt like this GenCon was the one where listening to feedback from attendees really paid off. Kudos to the whole GenCon crew for listening and making the whole experience better!
The Bad - Pasttimes continues to disappoint in running the Magic: The Gathering events. This year, they upped the cost of all of their events to over market rates ($18 for a draft????), lowered their prize support for the events and as a result, this was the first GenCon where I didn't participate in any Magic The Gathering Events. While I still had a lot of fun (how could I not), the blatant cashgrab that was the Magic Events really disappointed. Perhaps it's time to get a different MtG crew to run things, or at least provide some competition?
The Ugly - Actually witnessed two twenty somethings with passes openly mocking a special needs kid in front of the kid and his dad. My friends and I called them out on it, and the taunters actually began to advance on us before GenCon reps and security stepped in and took care of things. The GenCon and Security guys were very nice to both us and the family that was being harrassed and appeared to be having an earnest conversation with the offenders, but it's an absolute shame that someone would feel that it was okay to openly mock someone for any reason at GenCon.
Yeousers.. Hope those 2 twenty somethings, got their what fors...
The Good: I finally got to try an official RPGA event in 5th edition D&D and it was great! I was very impressed with the GM and our players. I had a fantastic time. I had a great time with the Iocane Productions and MU Skulls Larps - they are fantastic people. Got to tour Sun King Brewery with awesome Gen Con forumites! Overall, I met dozens of wonderful people in most of my events.
The Bad: The lines for food trucks continue to be brutal during most eating times. The exhibit hall was crazy crowded making it tough to navigate. The men's bathrooms were like something out of a Lovecraft story.
The Ugly: I saw some nasty behavior in one game of Are You a Werewolf. I've been playing Werewolf for 4 years and it has always been a positive experience. But I saw 2-3 people get petty and nasty with each other. There was a couple who were playing their first game and they walked away in disgust.
Still - it was amazing and I am already counting down to Gen Con 50!!!
Perhaps oddly, all three of my comments end up being not about gaming or events, but about the ICC.
The Good - I visited a men's restroom, in what I assume is a fairly high-traffic area (Hall C) ...on Saturday evening. It wasn't spotless, but it wasn't messy, either. In past years, I wouldn't have gotten out of there without a sanity check. The custodial staff seemed to be out in force and staying on top of keeping the restrooms cleaned and stocked, even at the busy times.
The Bad - Did they pull the escalator crew to mind the restrooms instead? All weekend, I ran into Murphy's Law of Escalators - only one side was working... invariably the opposite one to the direction I was going.
The Ugly - Seriously. Who still thinks putting trash cans in the middle of intersections in the Exhibit Hall is a good idea?
The Good: better organization it seems, shorter or at least more manageable lines. I loved the new expansion into Lucas Oil Stadium if for no other reason than it seemed to thin the crowds some even on Saturday. The way the board gaming hall was set up with multiple HQ's one for each company and a general HQ to direct you to those sites should you not know what company was running a game you were in. Food Trucks, last year the lines were just way to unmanageable for me but this year I never had a wait longer than 5 or 6 minutes. MORE GAMES I don't even try to beat the crowd on event opening day so I pick stuff up later over the next few months and this year awesome amount of choices.
The Bad: Trying to find that one particular booth in the dealers hall you just heard about but no one can quite tell you where it was (somewhere over there vaguely waving their hand to indicate half the hall) or remember the booth number. I found the booth eventually a day later and made note of it so when I was asked,and I was, I told them exactly where it was.
The Ugly:The walking....the endless walking, this isn't really Gencon's fault, but I must have walked 10 miles a day my feet still hurt. My feet, my hotel was a mile from the convention center,Sheraton a great hotel, but walking back and forth a couple of times a day along with the walking in the convention center my poor mistreated feet :P. Still if that's my only complaint then it was a fantastic Gencon.
EDIT: I saw above me someone post about the horrendous lines at the food trucks, I honestly don't know why I never saw a line more than 4 or 5 people deep at any truck except the cupcake truck and the bacon truck. Maybe I just got lucky. I ate there 4 times during the con.
Good: They finally pushed the booths back a bit so that when you went into the exhibit hall you didn't slam into Fantasy Flight lines, the aisles were also a bit wider then previous years. Was still crowded but I thought it not as bad. I think it was a little better organized this year.
Bad: I agree about the trash cans in middle of aisles.
My group stayed at the Hyatt and were not impressed. While staff were so amazing, the hotel feels a bit cheap. Beds uncomfortable, horrible pillows, and no exhaust fan in the bathroom so when five of us showered it got terrible. I think the only good thing about that hotel is the close location.
The ugly: Nothing really stood out to me. I wish the panhandlers were not allowed nearby, I got harassed by them multiple times.
The Good: As others have said the space in between exhibits in the main hall was better though overall I think they still needed a bigger exhibit hall in general. It was also great to see the convention expanded so far beyond where it was compared to five or six years ago.
The Bad: USAopoly and the world premiere for the new Harry Potter deck building game. The lines to demo the new game were horrible. They brought minimal product to sell and there were issues with rudeness from a couple of staff who were probably overwhelmed by the large response from people at the convention.
Also the elevators at the Hyatt were some of the worst Ive ever seen. You could sometimes take a nap waiting for one to show up.
The Ugly: I had to revise this post after reading another response below. The ugly is the abandonment of Gen Con by WOTC and most things related to D&D. This is not a knock on Baldman Games who helped to somewhat fill the void, but disappointment that WOTC was not really there. I only really saw a couple of vendors even selling D&D product. You would barely even be aware that D&D even exists at this Gen Con if you just walked around the hotels and convention halls. I also don't believe the reasons given as to why WOTC was not present and there were grumblings that WOTc wants nothing to do with Gen Con anymore like there is some kind of Rift there that both sides try to pretend does not exist. After thinking about how big D&D was at older Gen Cons this year was a huge disappointment.
The Good: Wow, people were showing up for games, at least everythng I ran or participated in. Seven seats, seven players. I also tried the playtest area for the first time and while the marshalling was incredibly not very first-time-user-friendly, the GAMES were nothing short of amazing. We are planning on acquiring a lot more tickets for next year. Only two hour slots, they fit in to empty times on the schedule, they are free and they are run by someone who really really likes what they are doing but also listens to feedback. This was one of the high points of our con.
Also on the good list was people. It seemed everyone was for the most part in a good mood this year. I didn't have, in 32 hours of gming, a single crappy/grouchy/rude/stinky player. People in lines were talkative and friendly. Shawna's games in KFG wednesday were much fun, as expected. And I had expected Pokemon to make people grouchy but it totally didn't...instead the opposite. Even folks who didn't care for it just laughed and smiled at those who did or were laying it.
The Bad: Marshalling for the playtest area. There is a very awesome table set up outside...where you would think marshalling would be but no, they just direct you inside where an incredibly crowded corner contains someone in the distance on a loudspeaker yelling out numbers. Since everyone in the crowd already had a number we very nearly just turned around and walked out. Fortunately for our experience, another player saw that we were holding tickets and said that real tickets could just walk up and get into a game. Oh. Well. That would have been nice to know! We did just that, squeezing by the hopefuls, were given a large selection of games and types to pick from, and MUCH fun was had after that. But getting there was not pretty.
The Ugly: I usually adore Embassy and to be fair, their staff was amazingly friendly and the breakfast still very good. But in our room the air conditioner was leaking, which meant a continually soaked spot on the carpet (and I do mean soaked) and while I am used to it's location, and that hidden ramp, trying to explain it to two visitors who were using map functions on phones and driving by was very frustrating. Seriously, who thought that was a good idea?
And an observation: I don't know if there were fewer people because of the price hike, or if they were more spread out because of Lucas Oil, or if the aisles were wider, but there didn't seem to be any bottlenecks.
The good: definitely the feeling of everything being less crowded, and though I can't put a finger on why, the gaming halls in the ICC didn't feel so sterile this year.
The bad: I think its time for Gen Con to employ a full time communications director. The video games lining the walkway to Lucas Oil Stadium was picked up and hyped by local media and 7 or eight consoles most of which seemed to be unplugged didn't meet the hype. After continually saying there is no open gaming and you should use the game library I was surprised to find an officially sanctioned open play area in the hall to the stadium on Saturday. Would have been nice to know it was there earlier.
The ugly: As a relatively local Indiana resident the failed elevators in the ICC was not only annoying but embarrasing. Thats on us, not Gen Con.
The Good: I LOVED the new set up of the vendor's hall. It was much better, and everything flowed easier. Last year on Saturday, I went in to the hall for about 10 minutes before I left, due to just not being able to really move, it was so crowded. This year, crowded, yes, but still able to move about and get where I needed to go. I was also able to get a copy of Legendary Big Trouble in Little China game, which was the only one I really wanted. (Ended up getting there the 5 minutes the booth didn't have a line. I looked behind me after paying, and saw the line was around the corner again.)
Demo games: I was able to demo a ton of different games, and ended up buying one that I didn't demo, but was able to watch and saw it looked fun.
Everyone that I talked to that played games seemed to have a blast, and I heard nothing but good stuff about the game masters.
The Bad: Parking for people - both players and game masters had this problem from what I understand.
Also - Why were the tables on the Hyatt Second Floor (the normal open gaming tables?) not there this year? Our group tends to use them at night, and we had to find some rooms that the Hyatt nicely opened for us to be able to game, but it was disappointing to see that those tables not there.
The Ugly: The groping and pickpocketing of several people this year, including one of my friends who was groped in the dealer's hall - I know there's probably no way to stop this, but it really tends to put a damper on the whole experience.
The good: Did a group cosplay for the first time. It was awesome. Pathfinder Society Saturday Night Special continues to be excellent.
The bad: Not too much to complain about this year.
The ugly: I think there is a way to stop groping. If it happens speak up. I firmly believe that most gencon attendees are really good people, and they are going to help. I'd be very careful to make sure that any touching was not a legitimate accident before calling someone out in public though. Take a picture if you know who touched you and make offical Gencon people aware of it. Follow them and loudly insist they they explain themselves. At the very least shame the POS pervert. At the best get their badge info and report. Ask for help if you need it.
The Good: 7th Sea 2nd edition RPG - we had a first time con GM and she was fantastic, all of our seats were filled and she dove right in. Double Exposure room - I only had a chance to play one of the titles there (Refuge, the casual zombie survival game) but it was fantastic. Kickstarter room - tested some new Cards Against Humanity with 3 couples and a single person, all were fantastic to play with (you're never sure when you sit down to a game like that who'll be "in the spirit" or not so it was refreshing). Getting to meet Zak Sabbath (Red and Pleasant Land and Maze of the Blue Medusa) along with James Raggi (Lamentations of the Flame Princess) - both were great and enjoyable to chat with.
The Bad: Not realizing until late in the con that I could cut through hall C to get to the far side of the dealer hall. I love this set up and will be sure to use this to escape the hallway mobs next year. Not knowing that there were open gaming tables on the way to Lucas Oil Stadium (found them by accident when we went exploring) - with all the noise about "where can we open game" before the con this should have been mentioned IMO.
The Ugly: I can't think of a single thing that really stood out as terrible to us. There seemed to be an issue Friday with the Games Library room, I was going to check it out with Generics and even stood in line for a while but the chatter in line was all about "how come we can't get in, we bought tickets" and "this is just a waste of time" which is unfortunate since it seems like such a good idea (maybe expand the area to accommodate more players next year or limit tickets/times).
I'd have to rate 2016 as one of our better years.
Ultimate dream: use the Lucas Oil field as a gigantic game library space, and have ticketed times or a convention-long ribbon which allows open access to play games. I think Origins has something like a game library ribbon. Having a huge space like this dedicated just to a game library would be amazing.
Or maybe have half of a large space as a game library, and the other half as open gaming (but still with a "looking for players" flag type system)? That'd be so awesome.
I assume attendance was up, but it didn't feel like it. Moving Anime, TD, and RPGA to remote locations moved enough people out of the core that I almost always felt like I could move around. Set up for the Exhibit Hall was excellent, as were the gaming halls (A-E).
Not a major thing, but USAOpoloy really screwed themselves... They had limited product, and limited demo's. At least let folks watch the demo's so they can get a feel for the game. No, they essentially walled off the demo area, so unless you were a VIG/Exhibitor/Trade Day badge holder who was in the hall before 10:00, you had no chance to demo, or buy the game.
In the end, it looks like it all worked out, but there was a time when we got locked out of our hotel room at the Marriott. I was first to check in, and told them to put the entire cost of the room on my card. Then then locked us out, demanding that we add another card to secure payment (this was Saturday night...). I'm a Silver Elite member with Marriott... no issues with my card. We spun our wheels over and over (3 additional visits to the front desk) trying to get it sorted, but still received 2 bills at the end. As I said, in the end, we got it sorted, but we wasted valuable gaming time!
I know that Bald Man Games did a great job of representing D&D and 5E at the show. But the more I reflect on it, the more disappointed I am that WotC has abandoned Gen Con. If you did not sign up for an BMG D&D event, you could go the entire con thinking that there was no D&D/WotC at the show. No signage, no booth, no statues, no nothing. 5E is the #1 RPG in the market right now, but there is host of gamers that haven't played it. I know WotC is focused on securing "new" players, but this abandonment of Gen Con is creating a LARGE pool of players at the biggest gaming show in the country who don't know D&D.... Come back WotC!
The good: The large crowds seemed to move about without bottlenecks and without any pushing and shoving. I got to see some great displays and games. To the city of Indianapolis: I salute you! You are amazingly receptive and accepting to gamers! I don't know of any other city in the world where someone in their cosplay costume could go to a sports bar and not be ridiculed or mocked by the non-gamer sports fan. The way the city (even as far as 10 miles away) welcomes us "geeks" is second to none! I also witnessed an obviously mentally handicapped older gentlemen wearing a costume that was interacting with other cosplayers. The other cosplayers (and non-Cosplaying attendees) did not bash or mock him. They just accepted him and welcomed him.
The bad: Dealer hall hours were not long enough. I was disappointed to find that it closed at 6pm when I was still in games. I would like to have seen it stay open as long as retail hours (9a to 9p on Thursday through Saturday). Also, on Sunday they closed the hall at 3pm and they were not allowing anyone else in the gaming hall after 2pm and there were still games starting at 2pm. I understand the need to get out of the ICC and close up, but Gen Con should change the posted hours to match this. Finally, not really bad, just surprised that booth workers were not actively approaching and handing out flyers to passersby. I think I only received flyers/pamphlets/handouts from about 10 booths where I didn't actually ask for info. I would have thought that presenters would have been a bit more aggressive in this department, but again, that's just me.
The ugly: Cosplay deviants. They are cosplay based a porn site and they were in an exhibit hall where families were walking through. If you are into that sort of thing, then that's okay with me, but I don't think that they should have been in this place. They should have had something like the CAH Hidey Hole and needed to be more clearly marked as Adult Only. (They seemed to be the only ones who were basically pushing their pamphlets on everyone. I didn't know what they were until I got back home and read the card which looks like it could be a mature themed anime site.)
The Disappointment: I am going to echo pattellis15 above. No WotC/D&D decoration anywhere. Perhaps we need to start a petition to Hasbro/WotC to show them just how many of their customers would like to see them at Gen Con and perhaps with enough signatures we could see them at Gen Con again.
Parking. The Gate 10 lot worked out great, and saved us a lot of money.
Traditional Evil Fleet pre-convention dinner, held for the second year at Harry & Izzy's. Food was great. The service was the best we've ever had for these dinners, and we've been doing this since Milwaukee.
FedEx. They finished our large print job order about two and a half hours ahead of schedule.
Premier Event Group writeup. Our submission was published in the event catalog and got some nice compliments.
Event attendance. We sell out our events every year. Last year we had four RPG events for 6-7 players that had three no shows each. This year we only had one single table game with 3 no shows, and our overall attendance was 104 out of 116 for 14 events. We would have been worried if we had a repeat of last year but apparently that was a blimp instead of a trend. Thanks to all the players who showed up!
Running Events: I ran three sessions of Paranoia Trek and they were some of the best we've ever had. Friday night I got to help out on two of our other events, playing George Bailey in the It's a Wonderful Death Cthulhu event, and a variety of NPCs in our Shadowrun baseball event Eight Runners Out. Saturday's Can of Whupass had some great new players who made some amazing taunts. And thanks to NASCRAG artist Bill Cavalier for another great job on the illustrations!
Orc Stomp: This was probably the highlight for many of us in the group, and was my wife's idea. One of our GMs (Will) has lost almost 230 pounds in the last year and a half, and ran his first 5K. Four others of us also ran the race and a fifth member joined us in cheering Will as he crossed the finish line. It was the exclamation point on the incredible life changes he's made, and we're all very proud of him.
On a personal note, I was the last person to finish ahead of the Green Raptor and won a ribbon. You got a red ribbon for beating the fast paced runner dressed as a Red Raptor, an orange ribbon for beating the averaged paced runner dressed as a raptor. The Green Raptor ran at the pace of a dinosaur with degenerative arthritis. And I beat her by a whole second! Maybe starting the run listening to songs sung by Mary Nir (mccn on the old board, RIP) helped. Then I was lucky enough to win a game in the race raffle.
Volunteers: The GM HQ was really on top of their game, and very helpful in making sure I included all the info I needed to submit to get by housing reimbursement. Thank you so much!
Hooters: It's our Sunday post convention tradition to have lunch here and get our picture taken with the waitresses before hitting the road. Will looked great.
Going with my wife. Judith is not just the love of my life, a wonderful woman and travelling companion, she's also an insurance policy against bad decisions. She's like the GM who asks the player "Are you sure you want to do that?" Thank you so much, SB2. I really appreciate all that you did.
We gave the Ram another chance this year. Mistake. After our great meal at Harry & Izzy's, we went here for drinks. They gave us the special Gen Con menu but didn't have any of the special Gen Con items available. Understandable that they might not be ready to serve those until tomorrow, but why give us a menu full of things we can't order? To make matters worse, they were out of many regular items too, like dark beers. I could see running out of something like that after being slammed at the convention for several days, but before it event started? Mediocre food, inconsistent service (first waiter apathetic, second waitress was good) drove us to leave after one round and go to Claddagh, were both available drinks and service improved significantly.
Memory. Mostly mine, but a few other people in the group as well. I forgot to pack two items before we left. Fortunately my wife thought to ask me if I packed them when we were just a few miles from home, so we had time to go back. A couple other members had brain cramps at the convention too. Nothing that we couldn't fix, but it caused a few tense moments until we took care of them. I did make a to-do list before we left but forgot to add all the necessary items to that list. I'll have to be more thorough next year.
THE MEH (No ugliness that I can think of this year)
Budget. We were fine money-wise and didn't overspend, but since next year is the 50th Gen Con I'd like to bring enough to have the option to splurge a little, even if we choose not to. There are things we purchase for the events that we run that I will start getting throughout the year instead of waiting until the last minute, and that should help.
Springhill Suites. I still like this hotel, but there were a couple of minor hiccups. Very small trash receptacles in the room, no one came to clean the room on Saturday until after 4 pm. Free breakfast was nice, though I wish they offered turkey sausage more than one morning since we don't eat pork.
Event Catalog book. I know that there's not enough space to include the write-ups of all the Premeire Event Groups that get submitted. Last year there was a list of the Premiere Event Groups whose write-ups wren't chosen. I know space is tight, but it would be nice if room could be made for that next year so that all groups get some kind of acknowledgement in the guide.
There is a Indy news article on this subject posted yesterday.