Dear Peter Adkison,
After sending you Peter Adkison Hates Us: An Open Letter About GenCon Registration last year, and reading your responses, I decided to give GenCon another chance this year.
Once again, my group prepped for registration by making a master list of events, ordered by preference, with at least five backups for each time slot. Since we need four tickets for every event (playing at GenCon is one of the only times we get to see each other), two of us coordinated our simulataneous registration by phone.
From Noon PST on the dot, it took us 24 minutes to register for seven events. Server response times were generally pretty good, although a bit sluggish, and the event search results were informative — much improved over last year across the board.
Unfortunately, it took us 70 minutes to check out. There’s plenty of room for improvement there — on top of simply being too long, an hour and a half in the middle of a workday is a real pain. (Why is it always on a weekday, anyway?)
That 94 minutes, though, is miles ahead of 2006, when it took us several hours from start to finish. Kudos to you and your team for listening to the many complaints that were made about last year’s registration, including mine, and taking steps to make this year go more smoothly.
My request for 2008 is to bring that time down from 90-plus minutes to under 30 minutes. Without this year’s checkout issues, you probably would have met that goal — and with the resources at your disposal, you should be able to.
I hope to hear back from you regarding this letter, either on Treasure Tables or in the GenCon forums. Thanks again for making progress this year, and I look forward to a 30-minute registration process in 2008.
As with last year’s letter, comments are welcome. GenCon registration issues affect thousands of gamers, including many GMs, and I wanted to make sure that I followed up on last year’s letter.
That’s enough GenCon reg talk from me, though — TT will be back to normal (or what passes for it) tomorrow.
Although this year was an improvement over last year, the improvements are only impressive when compared to GenCon’s system’s history and not other similar systems in operation for other companies. GenCon still has one of the worst web services that I have seen. The site is missing some key elements to provide ease of use, and an hour just to check out is still inexcusable.
I agree. While it’s not as quick and easy as buying a book off Amazon, this is a definite improvement over previous years.
From my own and others’ experience, the hang-up this time around seemed to be the actual “Checkout” process (i.e. paying for the events). Since I didn’t know how long my shopping cart would last, I furiously F5’d the server, which probably didn’t help the situation.
If the shopping cart could last for a couple of weeks, and I could pay at my leisure, this would be a much more workable process. I admittedly don’t know the feasability of this, so consider it an unsolicited and uninformed bit of advice…
Given the problems this year and in the past, I was worried about leaving events in my cart without checking out. I figured they’d probably stick around for at least a little while (hell, I leave stuff in my Amazon cart for months), but I didn’t trust the system enough to risk months of planning on a guess. 😉
I absolutely agree that 90 minutes is still too long, and that it only compares favorably to GenCon’s past performance in this department — it doesn’t hold up well in more general comparisons.
Perhaps my Computer-Fu is weak and what I’m complaining about was there, but my biggest problem was the lack of a decent search engine. Scrolling through the 10-per-page event lists was a real pain, and the downloadable version didn’t have a time schedule.
I would’ve loved (assuming it wasn’t there) the ability to search by game. Seeing what’s available for Call of Cthulhu up front would have been great.
Finally, I do wish that the event search would exclude filled events. Last night, I decided to try and add a Thursday night game. I had to scroll through 493 entries, the vast majority of which were closed.
I also prepped by downloading the spreadsheet and gridding out my primary, secondary and tertiary choices. Fortunately I was buying only for me. The spreadsheet is a huge help – I just set the spreadsheet to auto-filter and pick out the systems/GMs/times I need. But… I’ve been going to Gencon since 1987 or so, so I’m an old hand at this.
An added complication was that I won a free badge in the 40 years of Gencon competition, and they had credited my $67+ that I’d originally spent. I didn’t know how I would be able to make use of that. Gencon was on top of that, though – there was even a box with the amount of my credit that asked how much of it I wanted to use…
It seemed to me that they did in fact just shift the bottleneck from the ordering-to-cart portion to the checking-out portion. This was an improvement in that my chosen games (numbers and quantities entered in the boxes before noon PST and ready to trigger) were in my cart and didn’t disappear during the roughly 70 minutes it took me to successfully check out. I needed to change a game when I realized it would overlap one I was running, and it was a matter of seconds to delete it from my cart and enter the number for another game.
I haven’t tried the search engine – that would be a massive pain, trying and trying to find an open game.
Which leads to my last puzzlement – why *are* there so many more players than games?
It’s still better than mailing in your choices and finding out what you actually got when you picked up your packet…
Which leads to my last puzzlement – why *are* there so many more players than games?
I don’t think that’s puzzling at all. As someone who’s literally spent entire conventions running games (demos) non-stop, it’s a crappy job, to be frank. 🙂
Go round up 6 random people and run a game in a 2-4 hour block. Now do it again 4 other times, with maybe a 30 minute break. Do at least two a day. Make sure to run the same adventure four times for the full effect. 😉
Running games can be fun. Running games with a limited timeframe of opportunity, with entirely random participants notsomuch. (Do I get a good roleplayer, the gamer and his not-interested-in-gaming girlfriend, or the guy who can’t shower…or all three…at my table?) Expecting people to get excited to pay for the privilege to fly X-hundred miles and run a game for complete strangers seems like a stranger puzzlement to me, IMO.
Let me put it another way…how many games did you sign up to run?
I’m just running a single game and a seminar this year. I think if there was more incentive to run a game I would have scheduled one per day, but I also want to enjoy the con. A lot of times us GMs go to a con for the opportunity to actually play instead of GM.
GMs should get a better deal on from the GenCon staff. You have to run 8 hours worth of games per day with a minimun number of players attending to get a 50%/capped hotel reimbursement. My time is worth a lot more than that. Have an event that only GMs can attend, like a dinner in their honor. Gice them preference with registration by opening it a week early for them. Do things like that and have a minimum of one 4 hour game per day requirement and I would run more games. Make it a one for one deal. You agree to run 4 games and you get to register for 4 events early.
Wow … I’m glad I didn’t register last year. That said, having done it this year, I can safely say that it sucked. 90 minutes to complete a purchase, with multiple timeouts while shopping and even more during checkout, is a terrible user experience.
It’s made worse by a web site that’s difficult to navigate on a good day; I shouldn’t have to download an Excel file and turn on auto-filtering to display at all of the games by a given publisher or being run for a given game.
Someone mentioned this being better than the old snail mail way … but is it? It’s nice knowing what events I have, but in the 3 years I registered via mail (I think it was 1999-2001, but my memories fuzzy) I got about 80% of my events … which is what I got yesterday. And the entire process was much easier and user friendly: you had a printed catalog, nicely divided into easily-readable, color-coded rows, that you could browse at your leisure. You could then register without worrying about your transaction dying somewhere between here and GenCon HQ.
With regards to GMs, VV_GM’s got it exactly right. Make the GMs feel special, and give them perks that are worth something. Hell, advanced registration alone would probably increase the number of available games by 25%.
I must have been remarkably lucky. I was done and paid within ten to fifteen minutes. I don’t know how it happened. I prepped, entered my events into the form about 15 minutes beforehand, clicked the button when the time came and I was on my way. I registered for six events and got them all.
Now, True Dungeon registration, on the other hand, was a bit weird.
I had pretty much the same experience you did. Took about ten minutes to get my events into my cart, then about 80 to finally check out.
Well, I hope to meet you in Indy, because you are consistently one of my favorite rpg bloggers.
alleynbard: Wait…you could fill your form with multiple events? If so, I totally missed that — I added them one by one. Given that some of our first choices sold out in under 30 seconds, I’m going to feel like a real ass if I missed them for such a stupid mistake.
Mick Bradley: Thanks, Mick! I’m trying to get as many TT readers as possible to sign up for SEM00052, Mastering Your GM-Fu. I’m one of the four panelists, and I have a nice big block of free time right after the seminar.
Whether it’s at GM-Fu or not, though, I’d love to catch up with you at the con.
alleynbard: Waitâ€¦you could fill your form with multiple events?
I was able to fill my form with a maximum of 10 events.
Oy. I’m a giant dork, and not in a good way.