Here's a hopefully constructive suggestion for an addition to the website and any apps that may get written for the Con: Integrate some function that allows a user who can't show up to click/tap a "Crap, can't make it!" button. The function will reflect in the event listing and allow people to see that a seat has opened up.
Yes, I understand that it can potentially create other difficulties, not the least of which is having to design something that works as close as possible to realtime as is feasible. As well as making sure it doesn't become laden with Feature Bloat (i.e. a mechanism for refunds, something that will text/email notify people when "their" event frees up a seat, etc., all of which sound good but inevitably add time, effort, and bugs to a coding project). Trust me, I full well know that project implementations are never as easy as they sound. But still, it's an attempt at a constructive idea to keep in the back of minds when thinking of ways to improve the site and customer experience.
As an Indy "first timer" (I haven't been since it left WI), I won't bother to summarize the good. There was a LOT of it, from the people to the convention staff and even the city itself! Indianapolis surprised me by how well designed and thought out the downtown area is. GenCon got a big huge golden star from me, EXCEPT...
GenCon appears to be living in 1999 where technology is concerned. The website, the event planner, the lack of a real app.. problems that a 50 year old convention should have managed to iron out. It's time to get on the ball now if they want to have functional items by GenCon 50 (or 51). Improve and update the guts of the website, improve integration with the various components, improve the process of booking and tracking events for both the attendees and the game masters.
I really like the current policy of allowing other tickets to be used like generics. 3 or 4 times now over the years I've had a game go bust either due to missing GM or insufficient players, and the current policy let me use the ticket to get into a game at the nearby table with little fuss.
And while you CAN get a refund thirty minutes before an event, in the cases where I've missed an event I didn't have the time to make it anyway. Plus...if you return it you are subject to that fee. If you use it as a generic it's good for the full amount.
That all said the one event we missed we neither used them as generics nor got a refund. Guess we have a souvenir. I don't feel particularly guilty as it was for a game where there are lines of folks with generics waiting (RPGA) but as a GM who has had to cancel a sold-out event due to no shows, I understand the frustration as well. Too bad there is not a button to click 'cannot make this'.
It would also cause people to have to walk back to the ICC from wherever they are to do the refund, the way tickets are currently handled. But that's also part of the problem with attracting people with generics. There were two games I was looking at playing this last year, on Saturday evening. One I wanted to play in more than the other, but it was sold out. Might it take generics? Sure, maybe. But it was in the Marriott. The game I knew wasn't sold out was in Union Station. Same starting times. No way I would be able to get to the Marriott, find out if I could generic into that game, and still make the Union Station game by fifteen after if the first game didn't have room.
So telling people to show up with generic tickets and hope, as a general policy, just won't work very well a lot of the time, as they're often forced to commit to showing up on a wing and a prayer or doing nothing if that doesn't work. That's why our GMs try to specifically tell people about generic tickets, because while some GMs do not have flexibility to accept more players, we do. It's far easier for us to add characters, even making them up on the spot, than it is to subtract characters.
My thought about a workable solution would involve connectivity from the GM HQ locations to the ticketing system. If a player could turn in a ticket for a refund at for example the Marriott HQ (they could take the ticket, scan it for refund, and then just destroy it or file it or whatever), the system could be updated that a ticket was available, and the player wouldn't have to go wait in a line.
I'd even recommend the opposite of a refund fee. Give people a small credit in the system, $.50 or $1.00, for refunding a ticket *before* the game time. Put a cap on it, max of one event a day or something to keep people from ticket arbitrage. Make it convenient, encouraged a little bit, and I think a significant number of people would do it.
But it would require the satellite HQs to be connected to the ticketing system.
I brought two friends to GenCon this year for their first gaming conventions. I'm just hoping they don't expect every (local) convention to be this awesome.
Who's Line Is It Anyway, both nights. Always a good set of cheap comedy. Although I met a lovely lady there the second night and never got her name (stupid, stupid me...)
Dinner at Buca di Beppo. Made reservations two months ago for 5:15 on Saturday night.
Racing Simulators: When in Indy... do as the Indy 500 does...
RPGs run by people who love to run games: We played a Doctor Who scenario with the Victorian crew and a Buffy (Beige) RPG. Both were run by GMs who loved to run games and it showed.
Math trade: My first math trade, I was running late but almost everyone was good with it. I showed up 45 minutes after it had started and was SWARMED by folks who I was supposed to trade with. I did a dozen game trades in less that 5 minutes.
Food trucks. We don't have a good selection in my home town so this was good to see.
BASEY'S DOWNTOWN GRILL & SPIRITS!!! I know that may seem like shouting but this small tavern on the west side of the Lucas Oil Stadium served me the best (generic) burger and fries I've ever eaten! We ate there Friday and Saturday for lunch but were disappointed that they weren't open on Sunday. I actually thought about stopping there in Indy when I passed through last weekend again.
Really bad GMs/Game demos: The guy who taught us killer bunnies had 8 of us at a table too large to read the cards across. He then left or ignored us several times while we were still learning the game. I wanted to hide his cell phone where the sun don't shine.
Really bad GM #2: Our D&D game was two sessions of two hours apiece. It took the GM 40 minutes of the first session just to get our characters equipped. Horrible game premise as first level characters explored a dungeon filled with door after door after door (and without a rogue too). We actually skipped out on the second half of the game as the DM was that bad.
Seminars where no one shows up for 10 minutes.
We had tickets to the Gamers Comedy show on Saturday night. First, the show had "commercials" for the sponsor's newly published product. Worse, the comedians were NOT FUNNY. (Example: Female comedian "I've decided to become a lesbian so now I can play with boobies!") Also, we expected gamers comedy to be GAME related comedy. We left half way through so nauseated that we skipped our game playtest and went back to our hotel room.
Backpacks. I should have taken a picture of it but at one point we were blocked in the dealer's hall by two guys both wearing backpacks. They stood with their backs together and the packs were like western saloon doors. I felt like just pushing them open.
I just wanted to thank everyone who wrote in this thread. I missed out on Gen Con 2016 (which would have been my 12th-ish Gen Con) and it was so nice to read everyone's comments. Even the bad stuff - haha! I miss even the bad stuff!
I wanted to give a shout out to the guys who worked the ticket desk. I had a badge problem and once you got past that first layer of temp help everyone was friendly, professional, and really seemed to give a damn. That's hard under that kind of pressure well done!
So this is really late and therefore my memory is a bit spotty now (old age!) but here is what I remember:
The scooter I rented from "Scoot-Around.com" - was incredible! That thing worked and worked well -- until I messed up something on it. Fortunately I paid for insurance. And I was able to get a replacement in what I consider a decent amount of time considering it was my mistake that messed up the original.
The Hampton Inn - as always, the people were friendly, helpful and always willing to help. We also got our room made up daily (yay!) and they breakfast was filling.
The Rio Grande Room - always a highlight of the convention! I enjoyed playing several games I hadn't played and demoing the latest installment of Dominion to boot!
Train-Gamers Association - played in several of their Ticket to Ride games and even made the semi-finals for Ticket to Ride US... enjoyed playing with fellow "Ticket" enthusiasts.
Mayfair Demo/Ribbon Hunt - I had a blast with this, I had my "Defender of Catan" by the end of day Friday :D. Played several very interesting demos that, if we had bought a game this year, would have been contenders. They were very enjoyable!
The Island Noodles booth -- their food was sooo good, I had it twice! (and now I wish I lived somewhere close to where they are located!! I can't believe I have to wait until next year to have those noodles again...) (btw, they always had a long line but it seriously took less than 5 minutes to get through it!)
I can't remember which one but one of the Cupcake trucks had THE BEST CUPCAKE EVER! Seriously....
The Bad -
People, why is it when you are in the Dealer's Hall and you see me moving along - and I SEE YOU SEEING ME MOVE ALONG that you decide to just step right in front of me anyway, thereby forcing me to try to stop my scooter before I HIT YOU! You, long-haired, brown-haired girl, I MEAN YOU.... this actually happened three or four times... those scooters do NOT stop on a dime. So if I do hit you - you have only your own idiot self to blame...
The crowds in the Dealer's hall may have seemed better to some but they were worse for me. I work the hall from front to back and not side-to-side, as the traffic seemed to move. So I'd get to an intersection and it would take FOREVER to cross over to the other side, even though I was actually moving in the same direction the booths were set-up on...
THE UGLY --
The three meds I had to take to get over this year's version of Con-Crud. Now, I will admit I got double-whammied. The day after the convention my mom had major surgery at the hospital and I was in and out of there but by Thursday following, I had what my doctor called a 'pre-bronchitis state'... I had fluid in my throat but it hadn't quite settled in my lungs. That 102.7 degree fever was no joke!
Still, that was the only ugly I had, and, as I said, it was a double whammy of that and stress from mom's surgery.
I also wanted to mention the Suite we got at the Homewood Inn. Pack 5 folks into a room and even an expensive hotel becomes reasonable. The Suites at the Homewood have 18' ceilings! It's an old warehouse or factory of some kind. And it had a good free breakfast buffet - saves time and money. Bravo