The Forge Archives

General Forge Forums => Conventions => Topic started by: Ron Edwards on August 20, 2006, 10:01:08 AM



Title: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 20, 2006, 10:01:08 AM
Hello,

We fucked up really badly this year. I will tell you how.

All right, "untitled," because it has no title, was a Ronnies winner from last September. Keith Senkowski, the author, set to work from my comments and his own musings and completed his vision of the game as a physical artifact. In this case, it was to resemble a collection of strange, disturbing materials found discarded in some city location, like an alley or wedged in the seats of a train. It's matted with blood, too.

It is also a fascinating, compelling game which is going to reward play to a degree that "rat" and "hatred" will burn straight into your brain. Keith put enough work into making this thing look like a fevered madman's prized document that he must have had to be a fevered madman making his prized document. It includes a CD and has hand-stitching and all sorts of stuff. He brought a number of copies and priced it at $40.

I want to emphasize that the Forge booth makes no promises ... if your game does not sell, then it doesn't. Keith's didn't. For most games, and I can name about ten over the last few years, I'd stop there.

But in this case, I won't. Because "untitled" doesn't present simple failure in the market. It illustrates a failure in the Forge vision and a failure in ourselves as booth participants. If this event presages any more such events in the future of the Forge booth, I can tell you this: Adept Press will shut it down. As far as I'm concerned, the booth is on probation.

1. Some responsibility lies with Keith. He did not make it clear to the rest of the booth what he had. It's an unusual artifact, as an RPG, and as such, we needed to learn about it. Especially, people with new product of their own are usually too addled by the Forge booth practices to take the extra step that "untitled" required. It's Keith's game, and he should have opened up a folder and shown it to us. He also should have opened it up to its shocking pages, sat down at a demo table, and looked up expectantly.

2. A great deal more responsibility lies with me. I did not take the time to open the folder and see what a brilliant collection of art lay within it. I totally fell down on my responsibility as Ronnies judge, to follow these games and to put the extra hand out for support for them. You know what? I didn't even buy it at the booth. Keith had to give it to me on Sunday night. I sometimes use the phrase "I'm a bad person," as a joke, when I say something funny ... this time, I'm not joking.

3. The greatest responsibility lies with the collective Forge booth. Am I saying we all should have bought copies? No. Obviously, you buy what you want. What I'm saying is that I bet my ignorance of the game, beyond a glance at the folder in the rack, was shared by pretty much everyone there. I'm also saying that "untitled" was priced at the same level as Burning Empires ... and that we, as a group, were so juiced by the latter's glitz and weight, that we totally forgot where value is found in a game.

I'm going to elaborate on that one for a minute. Burning Empires is a brilliant logistic achievement ... but people, ultimately, all that covers and shininess require is money. You have money? Then you can make your book shiny and heavy. That equation is reeeeeally easy. As I pointed out to Luke, and as he pointed out to me earlier at Forge Midwest, Burning Empires is a mousetrap. The gamer buys it, drooling over the weight and color, assured in his fandom by the license, and he discovers (snap!!) that he is learning a Narrativist game. That's a fine thing and I'm all for it.

But the value of the game is not found in those covers, in that license and its related art, in the smell of the pages, in the weight of the book, or anything of that kind. The value of the game is discovered in play. That value is founded on Luke's authorship, Thor's professionalism, and similar effort and qualities by other people. If it were not for the refinements of the Burning Wheel which define the Burning Empires game, the Burning Empires book could look the way it does right now, and be a steaming, gooey pile of yellow dogshit.

Instead - and here's my point - the Burning Empires book is a physical artifact which underpins, supports, clarifies, and reinforces the Burning Empires game.

Read that sentence again. Read it again twice!

Now turn your attention to "untitled," and recognize that the very same sentence applies. It applies in full. It applies totally. "untitled" is worth forty fucking dollars for the same reason that Burning Empires is. I am not saying, "oh, poor Keith worked so hard, so his game needs to be pricey," I am saying what I just said about Burning Empires, about "untitled."

I'm still on #3, OK? The greatest responsibility lies with the collective Forge booth. When a game like this appears there, I can understand that its presentation does not initially provoke a surge in the superficial, spasmodic reactions of the typical boothgoer. But in us? The Forge? People who purport to understand that the core of this hobby, and its commerce, is play, and who also claim to understand that presentation serves a specific purpose? We should know better than that. We should know that if a game has certain play qualities, then certain presentations are perfect for it, and we should sell those presentations and play - and if that means taking the extra step toward customers to remind them of this, then it does. That's why we're fucking there at the booth ...

Keith was screwed. By us. Badly.

Best, Ron

P.S. Disclosure about this post: I composed it in a dialogue with Julie and Ben on the drive home to Chicago. After coming home, I learned Keith has blogged about this issue. I haven't read it yet, because I wanted to get this posted first, and I'm making it clear that no one guilt-tripped me into it.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Valamir on August 20, 2006, 11:01:13 AM
Eh....I'm actually going to push back pretty hard on this one Ron.

I COMPLETELY agree with your sentiment that the production value of Untitled was 100% in line with the game in the same way that Burning Empires was.  I can get behind that and the price point.

But this:

Quote
1.  Some responsibility lies with Keith.

3. The greatest responsibility lies with the collective Forge booth.

is nonsense.

Reverse that, and I'm on board.  Yes.  The collective Forge booth does have a responsibility to learn what's on the shelf and how to pitch it, absolutely.  But the "greatest" responsibility?  No.  The "greatest" responsibility for marketing ones own game lays with oneself.

That's what being indie means.  It means you take ownership of the entire process from beginning to end.  From concept, and design, and production all the way down to marketing, pitching, and generating buzz...everything...the parts we find fun, and the parts we don't.  When you're indie, nobody has the responsibility to do that for you.  As a community we have the responsibility to HELP and I bet that if help had been asked for, it would have been forthcoming.

I read Keith's blog...and his first comment was "don't tell me that demos lead to sales"...at that point I have to say I lost interest.  The Forge booth is ABOUT the actual play.  Its ABOUT the demo.  I've seen the sales numbers...and I observed who was demoing...and yeah...demos DO lead to sales.  I didn't run a single demo at the booth this year.  I was happy to let the other folks get their demo on and get the buzz out.  My sales were the lowest they've been...and I'm totally not surprised...nor upset by that.  I made a choice to not run any demos knowing that would impact sales.  What sales I got were from folks who already new Universalis and wanted the 2nd edition.  I had enough built up buzz to grab a fair number of sales without doing any demos.

Why does Burning Wheel sell?  Why does Burning Empires sell?  Cuz Luke and crew run a crazy non stop promotional campaign, running tons of demos at all kinds of cons.  Luke didn't even get to play any after hours gaming because he was running late night game sessions.  THATs why he sells.  To suggest BE sold simply because of the production values is not giving proper credit to the sales effort that followed.

Its entirely a valid choice to choose NOT to launch a major sales effort...being indie means you can do what you want.  But inherent in that choice is the expectation of fewer sales as a result.  I'm afraid I cannot accept responsibility for someone elses sales when no effort was made to demo the game or even pitch it to fellow booth members.  If you're not going to participate in the activity of the booth, I'm not going to shed any tears about disappointing sales.  You can't take a "if I build it, they will come" approach to game design (or the Forge Booth) and expect to generate sales. 

Sorry, Ron, this isn't about turning ones nose up at a game because it has less glitzy production values...if it was I'd be with you.  But its not...Primitive sold well...Primitive is Indie-punk game design at its raw finest.  Primitive was demoed, and pitched, and SOLD.  There is an atmosphere of reciprocity in the booth.  When someone watches someone else pitch their game, they're that much more likely to return the favor...that's a GOOD thing.  When someone can't be bothered to even pitch their own game let alone any one elses...no offense...but that's not my problem.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 20, 2006, 11:29:35 AM
For any other game, Ralph, my response is 100% the same as yours.

Not for "untitled," though. My response there differs. Yes, Keith is responsible as primary point man ... but the rest of us should have at least looked at it. That's what I'm saying. Other games have failed at the booth and my call has always been "the market speaks." I think that we should have taken one extra step with this one to make sure it made it to the market.

In another thread, one boothgoer remarked that such a thing as "untitled" did not belong at the booth. It was an ignorant and incorrect comment, but I can't fault the guy. It was our fault that we were not primed against such reactions, and not displaying the game in a fashion that would gain the correct reaction.

It's OK to disagree with me, and I'm not really into debating the points, because this isn't about who's right. Your points are noted and in my view are totally correct regarding any other game.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Eric Provost on August 20, 2006, 11:52:35 AM
Quote from: Ron
Not for "untitled," though.

If I had been working at the booth this year, how would I have been able to tell the difference between the game that warranted the extra attention and the ones that did not? 

-Eric


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Valamir on August 20, 2006, 11:54:54 AM
Ok, so lets not debate it.

Help me understand why untitled is different.  I understand why its different for you...being a Ronnie winner and all...but why for the booth?.  Why should the booth have a different responsibility towards this game than any other?  If there's a good reason then perhaps we can make sure to account for that next year so it doesn't happen again.  But right now all I'm seeing is a product where tons of effort went into production, and none went into promotion.  The expected result of that is very low sales.  Which is what occured.  So in your view what should "the booth" (i.e. individual participants of) done differently with regards to Untitled.

Quote
I think that we should have taken one extra step with this one to make sure it made it to the market.

What extra step would have accomplished that?  And in terms of reciprocity, what steps should Keith have been expected to take...both before and during.

Its the reciprocity thing that I'm focused on.  Because if I had to point to something and say "We fucked up" it would be with Blankshield, and James.  In terms of effort spent for other's benefit few compared to James...I feel far worse about the sales levels for Death's Door than for Untitled.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Tim C Koppang on August 20, 2006, 12:23:25 PM
It used to be that everyone knew all about the games that were to debut at the Forge booth before they even got there -- at least that's how it was for me when I was a customer. Nowadays, however, with the plethora of games and the gradual spread of discussion away from the Forge, I just can't keep up. Even my game, Hero's Banner, was a flying under the radar until I got to the booth this year. I suspect that Untitled suffered a similar fate: no one knew anything about it. Should I have made an effort to learn about it? -- absolutely. As an exhibitor at the booth, I think that I have an obligation to find out about every single product at the booth -- every single product. On the other hand, Ralph's comments speak to me as well. The responsibility of marketing falls, when push comes to shove, on the shoulders of the author at an indie booth.

What I would have loved to have seen is a a sheet, much like the game menu, with an actual description of what each game was about. What I really would have loved to have participated in, was a pre-con meeting wherein we each said three sentences about our games to everyone else working the booth so that I wasn't forced to simply learn as I go. I'm not saying the current system is broken, but I am looking to avoid situations like the one you've described above, Ron. With so many new games coming out every year it's just plain difficult to learn about everything without a bit of prep work, even if that has to come in the form of an attendance-required meeting.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: iago on August 20, 2006, 12:27:23 PM
The attention that seems to be lacking here is one of sales & marketing.  If the core folks who talked to the customers by the racks, said "Hey, X game is awesome because Y" and encouraged sales on that basis were doing that for untitled, untitled would have moved more units.  For every game that needs to move, someone needs to be on deck and pushing it.  I think I happened to luck into having a few people other than me excited about my game and doing a little pushing of it, even when I wasn't there.  In order for each game we have at the booth to have a good chance at moving, it needs people like this (along with a hook that connects to customer interest -- but as with fishing, without someone to cast the line, the hook isn't getting to the fish).

But here's where I think we deserve giving ourselves forgiveness, and not turning the self-flagellation dial up to eleven: as a community, and more especially as a sales and marketing force, we're very new at this, and, honestly, pretty amateur-league.  Compare the gains of last year's booth sales pitch and customer contact strategy to this year's.  Improvement is possible, and improvement is happening.  By leaps and bounds.

Does that mean that we are a flawless, golden, glorious sales force and no games ever fall through the cracks as a result?  Of course not.  Keith's game is an unfortunate example of this.

But is it grounds for issuing ultimatims?  I think no.  And I have to wince and want to distance myself when I see people feel they have to approach it that way in order to encourage growth and change.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 20, 2006, 12:43:48 PM
I knew I'd get the backlash on this.

1. You guys are all lovin' each other out there in blogspace, and that's great. The booth was Teh Awesome, yes.

2. Now I come and guilt-trip you about something. "Gahhh!" Not only is it a downer, but it's also a big authority-trip, isn't it? Here's Ron telling us how to feel, what to do, and what he'll do if we don't. Well, fuck him!

Whatever. It's fine to feel like everything's all right when your game sells well, in large part because a bunch of people busted their asses to help you promote it and help play it. I'm dashing cold water on everyone's feelings, and I'm sure to get a big roasting across all the blogs for it. Whatever again. But here's something every successful seller at the booth should know ... not everyone got the help you got. I'm saying we ignored a game that should have received it, and that's my little emotional reaction.

Should I respect others' emotions about GenCon and how it went? Yes? All right then - respect mine, and at least consider what I'm saying.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Blankshield on August 20, 2006, 01:50:03 PM
Ok, so.

We have a game by a returning booth member that got no love, and consequently, no sales.  One of the major booth sponsors, also coincidently the guy with the points to get us prime placement and LLC love, says it's a problem.

Ok, it's a problem.

It's not a problem because it's Keith, or because it was a Ronnies entry, or because it happened to have the same price point as the brick.

It's a problem because it was a cool, innovative game, produced by someone at the forge, and we did fuck all with it.

So, was this a one-off "oops, sorry Keith, won't let it happen again" or was this symptomatic of a bigger problem?

I think it's a bigger problem.  I poured out a lot of love over the weekend for a lot of games.  I did Clinton's demo thing on Wednesday night.  I roped and shilled for damn near everyone but me (which, I will point out, isn't a problem, but was a choice) and put a lot of games into people's hands which then went to the register.

Until this thread, I didn't know Keith had a game there called "Untitled".  I had to go and look in the booth menu and doublecheck.  "Damn." I thought "Right there under CoS."

However, Untitled is in some pretty good company.  It's sitting with Timestream, Perfect and Fastlane.  Drowning and Falling, SNAP, Don't Rest Your Head and a whole raft of stuff that I must assume is D20 related, and/or IPR guys that weren't at the booth.

All of those are games that I didn't sell, because I didn't know what they were.  Many of them are games I don't even remember seeing on the shelf.

What do I think the problem is?  I think our volume grew more than our technique this year.  Friday afternoon, I was asked to go over the menu with a forge regular/mostly lurker (Hi Chris!) and wasn't even aware of what half the stuff was.  I fixed that, and right fast, but there were still holes in my knowledge you could drive a truck through.  We just didn't have anything in place to deal with that.

So, for my part at least, I appreciate the reminder that all was not sunshine and roses, and that we have at least one big thing to fix for next year - as big a thing as fixing the 'hard sell' was for this year.  I don't think this thread is the place to solve that problem; I don't even really think that it's a conversation that will work well on a forum (even this forum), but this ain't my thread so it ain't my call.

thanks,

James



Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: TonyLB on August 20, 2006, 01:58:11 PM
I don't think this thread is the place to solve that problem; I don't even really think that it's a conversation that will work well on a forum (even this forum), but this ain't my thread so it ain't my call.

I ... have stuff I would recommend in terms of how we can address this very real problem better next year.  But, yeah ... talking about that might well run at cross-purposes to recognizing the emotional import of the problem.

Until we have a thread which is about "How do we fix it?" (whether that's this thread, repurposed, or a new one) I'll limit myself to saying this:  Yeah, I feel that I failed Keith.  I also feel that I failed a number of other people.  I want to do better next year, and I want the booth as a whole to do better.  I think there's a lot we could do to make that a reality.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: greyorm on August 20, 2006, 02:14:12 PM
I'm going to disagree with some of you, but I'm also not saying something some of you probably think I am, though I won't say what that is as it should be pretty obvious.

Games that sell, do not sell because of the designer or design. Oh, he or she has a hand in it, as does the quality of the product, but that's almost after the fact. The consistent factor in higher vs. lower sales is the encouragement of sales interest through social channels.

The designer might give the big initial shove, or not. But someone, some person or many persons, say, "I'm going to support this game as innovative and interesting." And then their friends perk up and say, "Oh, what do I think about that. Hey, everyone, come look at this!" and "Oh, X says this game is pretty incredible. I do too!" and so on.

THEN people decide whether or not this thing is worth money. But they can't even make that decision until they know about the product, until they know it exists, and know why they should even pick it up to look at in the first place. That's what your network does, based on its social influence.

The games that sell high and retain long-term sales are also consistently the ones "pimped" the most by the recognizable Forge names and designers, taken up by the broader public who trusts the buzz being generated by that network. Quality has nothing to do with it.

--{ And before the angry poo monkeys take over the zoo what I am also not saying is this is selling empty material through the good-old-boys club, or passing off bad-games-as-good-games. Quality, good or bad, is irrelevant to this process. }--

I also know Ron probably doesn't want to hear anything that sounds like an accusation that Forge games tend to sell on name-weight popularity. Good, because this isn't that accusation, it is a very different observation.

I am talking simple word-of-mouth advertising buzz generating sales interest: "Hey, this is cool, come check this out." Point of fact: that nets sales interest and thus more sales. The more people doing that, the more influential/respected people doing that, the more potential (and actual) sales occur. Economics 101.

Think DitV would have gotten as much word-of-mouth and be as popular as it is without the Forge network out there talking about it? Despite it's quality? Or would it have gone the way of other brilliant, undersupported games?

Chew on it for a while.

A designer can stand alone on a street corner all day long hawking his product and showing it enthusiastically to everyone who comes by, it can also be the most amazing product ever, and if his network doesn't talk-it-up for him as well, he'll net less sales than he would have if his network is out there telling everyone they meet about it.

After all, we've seen it before: amazing design with a loving and dedicated publisher, steadfast core fans, whose product eventually ends up as pulp in the landfill.

And that situation? It's not just the market speaking. That is a failure of the network. Not of the designer. Not doing that network pimping? THAT IS a failure of the community as a whole. And it is wholly seperated from what the designer himself does.

Turning a blind eye to this overwhelmingly important factor in sales interest by trying to make some sort of great capitalist every-man-is-an-island and the-market-will-out claim is not going to make it go away.

In comparison to the social influence of a network on public awareness, the designer's work in pimping his own game is a pretty minor part in stirring up sales interest and reaching that critical mass of public awareness to produce sales consistent with product quality.

Providing public awareness about the product so the public can make an informed decision about that product is what the network is there for, and it didn't do its job in the case of this particular game.

Ron is telling you that the network failed in this case: "What's that thing on the shelf?" "Duh...guh?" is the sound of that network failing. And to claim it is really all the designer's fault anyways for not doing more himself. Oh pish.

That's what we're talking about here in this case: a product that faoled to receive the appropriate network support, completely aside from quality. "Duh...guh? What's that? Let's treat it like our other things that look nothing like it." is a failure, folks.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Valamir on August 20, 2006, 02:18:43 PM
Quote
Providing public awareness about the product so the public can make an informed decision about that product is what the network is there for, and it didn't do its job in the case of this particular game.

Ron is telling you that the network failed in this case: "What's that thing on the shelf?" "Duh...guh?" is the sound of that network failing. And to claim it is really all the designer's fault anyways for not doing more himself. Oh pish.

All true.  100%.  But the part that I tried to highlight is that the network is a two way street.  IMO you don't get to be a part of the network just by showing up.  You get to be a part of the network...and expect that network will work on your behalf by participating in it.  Opting out of participating in it, IMO forfeits any expectation of having the network work on your behalf.  Its a mutual thing.  And a pump priming thing.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Justin D. Jacobson on August 20, 2006, 03:09:32 PM
We can't gloss over what someone has already mentioned in passing. There's little question in my mind that this is the result of the expansion of the Forge booth. There are simply too many games for everyone to know about all of them (to the point where they can funnel appropriate interest to them). I suspect there's a bit of the Prisoner's Dilemma going on as well. If you can't learn all the games, you learn the ones that interest you. Something like untitled that is so different from a typical Forge offering just screams high learning curve, leaving many people to say: "Well, someone else will take care of pimping that one." Unfortunately, when everyone says that you have a situation like what happened with untitled.

This will be improved (potentially solved) by assigned demo learning (as someone previously suggested in another thread) and by a more organized and dedicated (perhaps even quasi-mandatory) Wednesday night demo session.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 20, 2006, 03:21:06 PM
Hello,

There is a crucial point that's being missed in this conversation. It's the reason why I'm talking about "untitled" and not about any number of other games at the booth with lower sales or lack of group recognition or both. This is not a general problem that I am describing. I am not using "untitled" as a representative example. I am talking about it uniquely and specifically.

Because "untitled" has a unique physical design. I wish people would realize that's what I'm hammering at. I'm saying that its particular physical design should have been recognized as a virtue, and that at least one of us could easily have realized this upon one single glance between its covers.

I'm saying the game did not receive even a glance from the collective Forge participants because of its physical nature. Which is something you'd think we, of all people, would recognize is something to be examined as a feature instead of a bug. That's the problem. That's what I'm saying.

None of this has anything to do with Keith. I have received way too many private messages arguing with me and bitching about Keith didn't do this and didn't do that. I am not talking about that issue. I stated his responsibility for that in my first post, and any opinion I have about that, beyond what I said there, is between me and him. You can talk all about how Keith was the point-man for making any of what I'm saying clearer to anyone else. It's true, but it's not what I'm talking about.

Imagine a big arrow with arrowheads on each end. On one end is "promoter goes nuts with enthusiasm, demos like a fiend," and on the other is "promoter skulks in the background and totally falls down on the job."

Now imagine another, smaller arrow crossing this one at right-angles. On one end is "Booth people sniff over game on the rack very thoroughly, open it, talk to each other about it," and on the other end is, "Booth people ignore it entirely."

To Ralph: yes, the first arrow is bigger. Yes, it's a primary issue. Yes, mutualism is a two-way street. I wish you'd stop posting as if I disagreed with you about any of that. I agree. What else do I have to say to get that understood?

I am talking only about the second arrow. I am talking about why "untitled" was slammed down to the bad end of that second arrow. I am saying that was wrong of us, specifically in the case of "untitled," because I think its physical nature was badly treated, mentally, by myself as well as others. I do not want the booth to subscribe to the myth that only shiny covers and massive weight merit attention from us, as booth participants. There are lots of game companies that are defined by this myth, and I think we're better than that. Or should have been.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: greyorm on August 20, 2006, 03:41:02 PM
Because "untitled" has a unique physical design. I wish people would realize that's what I'm hammering at.

I do. Hence the statement, "That's what we're talking about here in this case: a product that failed to receive the appropriate network support, completely aside from quality. 'Duh...guh? What's that? Let's treat it like our other things that look nothing like it.' " I'm guessing that could have been clearer.

And Ralph, re: mutualism: I didn't say anything about it, and (as Speedy himself noted) he didn't say anything about that. So you aren't arguing with anything anyone has actually said. The antagonistic "yeah, but" cries are unnecessary.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 20, 2006, 03:49:34 PM
Hi,

I went and talked with my Shih Tzu, Lola, all about this, and she helped me work it out in my head. I should respond to some of the points made so far.

Fred, you are right. I was wrong to frame the post as an ultimatum. That reflected my own frustration and should not have been visited upon you guys. The booth is not on probation and it was just dumb to talk to like that.

Ralph, you and I have agreed so much over the years about the concrete two-way elements of the mutualism at the booth, that I should have been more careful to acknowledge that. I hope my point about the first arrow can get us past the corner I painted us into, because I didn't make that clear. You just sent me a really sensible post by PM which (now that I've settled down) could well go into this thread.

Lola also says I should give it all a rest and get back to it in some other venue, or at a later date, just like James suggested. This thread is not closed and various and sundry viewpoints are welcome. My own gorgon-like presence will probably benefit it best by tacitly absorbing rather than vocallydefending.

Best, Ron (and Lola)


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: joepub on August 20, 2006, 03:55:55 PM
I just looked at the booth menu.
There were 36 games I'd never heard of.

I propose that next year we have a cheat sheet - it contains designer name, game descrip, price, a "2 line pitch"...
That way, booth people can more easily digest that huge game info dump.
And that way, I'll be able to learn what untitled is.

I also want to point out that I didn't see Keith once, until sunday during cleanup.
He never introduced himself to me, I never saw him. To my knowledge, he wasn't there on wednesday for the demo-fest.

If I'd known it existed, I woulda pitched it. now that I know about it, it looks amazing!
so, yeah:
a.) cheat sheets with essential info (instead of just name and price) would help.
b.) designer presence also helps.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: TonyLB on August 20, 2006, 04:14:19 PM
I propose that ...

Are people generally cool with our being at an "I propose" place?  'cuz I think there are some powerful social tools we can bring to bear on this issue, and I am aching to get our brains working on self-improvement and booth-improvement (in large part as an attempt at expiation).  But, as I've said, I don't want to stomp all over anyone who still worries that the emotional import of our failing has not been absorbed.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: lumpley on August 20, 2006, 04:24:41 PM
I'm with Ron. About Untitled in particular but also, strongly, about the design agenda it represents. The books this year were beautiful, but it'd be really stupid if we lost our punkiness. We need to keep designing books all over the spectrum. Pretty books, ugly books, every kind of book. We fell down on Keith but we also fell down on our roots and our soul. The danger I see is that all our books are going to come to look the same.

We need to cultivate all our extremes of book design, not only the lush hardcover extreme. Or else, y'know, fuck it.

(I guess this means that I'm still emotioning, not proposing.)

-Vincent


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Valamir on August 20, 2006, 04:41:13 PM
Ok, I see what’s happened here.  Ron opened this thread with a post that was bit on the ranty side, and since he doesn’t do that very often I didn’t catch it and give him the usual slack necessary to get productive conversation going.  So while I spent a lot of energy disagreeing with what Ron SAID it wasn’t really what he meant to say. 

What we really want to be talking about here is the difficulties in presenting a game at the booth that superficially has very low production values, but in reality has very high production values because its rough gritty appearance is totally meant to be a part of the overall game experience.  How can we feature a product like that effectively?  How do we make people recognize that its not a 5 minute slapped together hash job, but actually a beautiful work of art?

That’s a topic worth discussing.  It got side-tracked by Ron and me arguing over which “arrow” had priority.  So lets set aside any issue of blame or who “fucked up” or who “got screwed” or other such tangents

So, lets pretend that its 2007.  Someone has a product like “Untitled” which is very much in the vein of “artifact as art” in a way that isn’t immediately obvious (the way Burning Empires as art is obvious).  This person is in the booth actively participating, demoing, pitching (their own game and others), and doing all of the things a booth member should do and so is entitled to some booth love.  How do we give booth love to a member that deserves it for a product like this one?


Actually, my answer to that is very similar to the way we give booth love to any game.  Ultimately you have to have 3 things to be really successful at the Forge Booth:
 
1) Precon buzz.  You can get away without this, but its a huge step up if you have it.
2) People at the booth who know and are passionate about your game
3) People at the booth who can effectively demo your game.

How do we do these things better…for everyone.

We made some motions in the right direction this year, but it never really gelled (more on that later).  But here’s what I think needs to happen to make 2007 as much more successful than 2006 as 2006 was over 2005.

1)   Making a written "elevator pitch" mandatory.  It must be submitted along with your cash in order to secure a spot in the booth.  Failure to submit means...you don't get to come.  For those not familiar with an “elevator pitch” (or “cocktail party speech”) it’s a standard sales tool.  You have a 10 second elevator ride with someone…how do you explain what you do in that time in a manner compelling enough to make them interested in finding out more.  We tried doing this this year…but…

2)   We need to start the GenCon prep threads earlier and start by posting these pitches, getting feed back and giving all of the booth participants a chance to see what's there and what's cool about it in a more organized fashion.


3)   I think every game should have 2-3 designated Pitchers (other than the designer) and 1-2 designated demoers.  We made a half hearted attempt to get a list of who could pitch and demo things this year, but it was too last minute to come together.  We need to have booth sign up and the pitches in and the discussions started enough in advance that we can really hammer on this in an organized way.  Every booth participant should have Mandatory 2-3 other games that they can demo besides their own.  They should own the game, they should receive the demo material in advance from the designer, and they should commit to learning the demo...or they should not be in the booth.  I’ll repeat that.  Come to the booth ALREADY EQUIPPED to demo 2-3 games that aren’t your own…or don’t come to the booth.  And IMO this should be enforceable by the expedient of not getting your books on the shelf on Thursday if you aren’t. 

4)   This then feeds into generating pre-con buzz.  Compiling the elevator pitches for all of the Gen Con games and then posting them around the internet: in an RPG net thread, links from various websites, talking them up in our blogs, getting them out to news sites and the like so that the customers who come to the Forge looking for games already know what's there and have already seen a little about the books.  There are a few well known podcasters who are very much friendly to what we do here.  Perhaps they’d be willing to dedicate a pre-con episode to strictly running through the pitches of what to look for at the Forge this year.  Building buzz for new games before the con is essential.  How much of the failure of Untitled was a lack of in booth promotion and how much was a lack of pre-gencon promotion?

To a large extent that addresses the issues of games like Untitled.  If there are people in the booth familiar with the game, excited about it, passionate about it, and able to pitch and demo it, then the game will enjoy some success...whether it is a familiar "book" or an unusual "work of artistic interpretation".

As for how to specifically present such unique items in the booth I have a couple thoughts.

1)   Sitting in the rack Untitled looked like a bland folder with some squiggles on it.  I think a color flyer that looked more like a "game cover" could be placed in the rack in front of the actual games to draw people's attention and explain what they’re looking at  i.e. generate a “oohhh, the twisted note book of a sick and deranged mad man...neat...what's it like inside” kind of approach.
2)   The unique nature of the item can be played up.  A display (like the stack for Burning Empires) that touted:  "hand written and produced limited edition.  Each book is a unique one of a kind work of art." would be a good way to present.  How many ads have we seen that point out that the product is “hand crafted” and so may individually vary.  It’s a feature, and it can be featured.



But here’s the really important part.  The overarching theme to all of this is that the booth is at a point where we are starting to be a victim of our own success.  Both this year AND last I brought up concerns about the number of companies that were signing up for the booth and the number of products being sold.  Both times the primary sponsors decided that we needed to expand the number of companies to fulfill the mission of the booth.  Well, now we are seeing the down side to that decision that I'd warned about before, and now we will have to come up with a solution for it or else things are going to start getting ugly.

The best solution IMO (better than limiting booth size, or splitting the booth, or what not) is bringing a higher level of organization to the booth.  My items above are all about ways to get more organized.  We could get away with showing up catch as catch can when the booth was small and everyone already knew all the games there.  Now we can't.  We need to either shrink back to a size where we can (bad), limp along with inconsistent effort and presentation (bad), or sacrifice some our indie-punk attitude and start to get more organized.  Clinton’s demo fest is an example of this organization.  But in my view we can’t succeed as a booth (that continues to get larger) if this sort of thing is voluntarily run and voluntarily attended.  The kind of organization I’m talking about only works if it has teeth to it.  Teeth of the “this is what is expected from you and if you don’t do it you don’t get to participate” kind of way.  I know that’s going to run afoul of our indie sensibilities but we’ve reached a size where we need to add some structure if its going to continue to succeed.  And structure does mean introducing a certain degree of authority and hierarchy.

Its hard to run a tight organized ship unless you have a leader willing to invest the time and effort to ride herd on the whole process.  Its unfair to keep expecting Ron / Luke or any combination of primary sponsors to invest that time and effort because, since the Forge isn't its own corporation, such a role is basically voluntary.  It worked when the booth was small and Ron was willing to be altruistic.  But its not a model that can handle where we're going.

IPR may be a big part of the solution for that (entirely depending on how Brennan et.al. see IPR’s goals merging with that of the Forge), especially as more and more “Forge” games are represented by IPR. Maybe, eventually, there is no more "Forge Booth" except as a "brand" that people recognize.  Maybe eventually there is only the IPR booth at which indie designers (Forge derived or not) participate in according to a strict set of rules laid down by people with the financial interest to run a tight ship.

My point is that we’re at a crossroads.  Down one road is “The Forge” as an indie-punk pseudo entity with a hard core DIY vibe and rock star sensibilities.  If we choose this road we have to expect that Ron, Luke, et.al. are not going to be willing to shepherd the process as its been done forever.  That others are going to need to step up and take on the responsibilities (and expenses) and that the size of the booth and participation has pretty much capped out.

Down the other road is a new direction.  A little more corporate, a little more organized, a little more formally structured, a little more focused on the bottom line.  There are some cons to this road, but also some very big pros.

Possibly there winds up being a split and different people wind up making different choices.  But regardless, this is a REAL issue and not one that can be made next June.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Clinton R. Nixon on August 20, 2006, 06:48:06 PM
I think we've found a true middle way here, and I'm glad. Like Ron, I think we let "untitled" down. It pushed a limit - graphic design - that we don't normally push that hard, and it was worth our effort. Of course Keith should have pushed it harder.

And of course we all should have said, "Keith, what is that? Demo that now for me." Not all of us have the same strengths and that's part of mutualism. I can't sell my games well at GenCon: I feel embarrassed and like a shill, even though that's stupid. I can sell you on, say, Hero's Banner, because it's great. I've sold many more games than I would, because others mutually help me. If we ever see a game we don't know at the Forge booth again, our duty is to stand up, find the designer, and make him help us sell his game. If he refuses, then we have another problem, but we didn't get that far this year.

(The same thing happened in other cases. I know of two specific games that were very unknown, in both cases because their authors are basically shy. At one point, I had four Forgites saying that they knew nothing about one game a customer was asking about. This is totally unacceptable.)

So, to summarize: I agree with Ron. I think Ralph has good points. We should all do better.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: timfire on August 20, 2006, 07:38:17 PM
If it's not too late, I want to say something---I knew from the very start that "untitled" was very deliberately put together. I knew it wasn't a slapped together piece, but rather some sort of artifact. But I never really looked at the game, because I only really looked at games after I did a demo, and Keith didn't run very many (if any all at all) demos. (The only three games I bought this year were games I knew nothing about prior to the Con, but were impressed when I played the demo.)

For me, at least personally, the whole aesthetic value thing is a complete red herring. I didn't buy or play untitled because I knew nothing about it. So I'm not sure I'm prepared to say that the primary responsiblility rests with us. (Though I really do love Keith and, as a friend, I wish I had done more.)

But with that said, I agree with Ralph that the way we sell a game like untiltled is the same way we sell any game. I mean, look at Mechaton. It's an ugly book. But it sold well (I believe) because it had the buzz and excitement to back it up.

I also agree that greater organization is needed. I said a simliar thing in the designer feedback thread, that we should have some sort of MANDANTORY questionaire---you fill it out or your game isn't put on the shelf. (I question the viability of anything that requires a face-to-face meeting---schedules are a finicky thing.) I bet a few of the lower-sales books would have seen more love if more people were familiar with them.



Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Andy Kitkowski on August 20, 2006, 08:26:17 PM
I see so many awesome people primed and ready to launch a dozen possible ideas/solutions so that this kind of thing doesn't happen again. Is this then the thread for that? Or should a new thread be created for the practical suggestions of working through this issue?

-Andy


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: iago on August 21, 2006, 03:18:57 AM
I see so many awesome people primed and ready to launch a dozen possible ideas/solutions so that this kind of thing doesn't happen again. Is this then the thread for that? Or should a new thread be created for the practical suggestions of working through this issue?

That's a great question, and I want to see the answer for that.  I do think that design should be pushed strongly, and -- hell -- I'm all over figuring out how to promo that.  I'd even go so far as to suggest we have a booth area specifically set aside as a "Spotlight on Punk Design", where we *showcase* stuff like untitled specifically because it pushes the art form.  Make sure that a part of our message to the buying public is that we're challenging every facet of the hobby.  People who come to us for most-extreme-bleeding-edge will want to see that held up, pushed, exalted.  But should I say more on that here, or elsewhere?

Ron: Lola speaks some good sense.  Please do understand that I had no problem with the message, just the delivery ("parole" says "you are to be spoken to as children and criminals" rather than "let's work as partners to find a solution", and you know me -- I gotta speak up when I feel like I'm getting tone like that -- it's the whole defend-my-fellows thing).  I'm on board and ready to figure out how to fix the problem for next year; hell, I'm excited to figure out our basic notions of "punk marketing for wild-ass punk design", because that's simply the sort of thing that sets me on fire.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Rob Donoghue on August 21, 2006, 04:28:34 AM
Hnh.

So I'm browsing the booth and I see this weird thing.  I'm curious by nature and I have no clue it's a $40 game, so that doesn't slow me down, and I pick it up.  First thing I realize: it's got a rubber band wrapped around it.  I look at this thing, clearly it's designed as an artifact, and I try to figure out if I want to risk damaging it to get the rubber band off (and more importantly, back on).  My first thought is that if it's held together this way, it's probably got enough loose components that there's a real risk of scatter.

So I put it back on the shelf and look at something else.  Simple as that. No deep lesson, just a note that if i can't look at it easily, I'll move on to something else.

-Rob D.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: iago on August 21, 2006, 04:34:56 AM
Hnh.

So I'm browsing the booth and I see this weird thing.  I'm curious by nature and I have no clue it's a $40 game, so that doesn't slow me down, and I pick it up.  First thing I realize: it's got a rubber band wrapped around it.  I look at this thing, clearly it's designed as an artifact, and I try to figure out if I want to risk damaging it to get the rubber band off (and more importantly, back on).  My first thought is that if it's held together this way, it's probably got enough loose components that there's a real risk of scatter.

So I put it back on the shelf and look at something else.  Simple as that. No deep lesson, just a note that if i can't look at it easily, I'll move on to something else.

That's actually a good lay-up into the point I was making about a "spotlight on interesting design" -- I think part and parcel of such a thing would be making sure that there's a hands-on copy so people can *explore* a given design, see what's up with it.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 21, 2006, 04:37:40 AM
Hi,

I figure this is as good a place as any to present constructive solutions. I imagine it'll stay preliminary, relative to whatever actually happens at the booth, but a round of notions is certainly welcome.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: TonyLB on August 21, 2006, 06:14:14 AM
Woohoo!  The green-light to talk practical social-theory shop!  I breathe a great sigh of relief.

But in my view we can’t succeed as a booth (that continues to get larger) if this sort of thing is voluntarily run and voluntarily attended.  The kind of organization I’m talking about only works if it has teeth to it.  Teeth of the “this is what is expected from you and if you don’t do it you don’t get to participate” kind of way.  I know that’s going to run afoul of our indie sensibilities but we’ve reached a size where we need to add some structure if its going to continue to succeed.  And structure does mean introducing a certain degree of authority and hierarchy.

Okay, I'm going to disagree with this.

What I'm not saying:  "Central authority wouldn't work."  Hell yeah, it'd work.  It's a perfectly legitimate way to organize things.

I'm saying it's not the only way to organize things.  It is possible to have powerful structures that are not hierarchical.  The recent explosion of thought and action around the "Go-Play" concept, over on Story Games is an example of that.

Our Indie-Punk sensibilities are important to a great number of people.  Not so much me, but I try to respect.  So I worry when I see an argument saying, essentially, "Okay everyone ... line up on two sides of this dichotomy:  Indie-Punk or organized!"  Rather than create that unnecessary opposition, I'd like to propose that we put the extra mental energy in to look at the ways we could organize that don't require hierarchy and authority.

Here's my first fragment:  Next year, a month or so before GenCon, I'm going to look over the list of every game that's coming to market.  I'm going to make a concsious choice to grab three of them (three I've never heard of) and mentor the hell out of them, by learning how to pitch and demo them, and by talking up their salient points to my friends and relations.  I'm gonna do this because, hell, I oughta.  I don't particularly care whether anyone else does it, or even whether anyone (including the authors of the works I choose) think it's a good idea.  I'm obnoxious that way.

But if other people want to do it, I'd really rather that they didn't all do it for the same three games I'm choosing, because that would leave a lot of other games out in the cold.  So, at the same time I'm choosing three games, I'm going to make a web-site that lists all the new games coming to GenCon, and I'm going to put my name down as the mentor for three of them.  When other people contact me (or maybe I'll flex my databasing skills, and give everyone a chance to sign on automagically) I'll put their names up by the games they are prepared to mentor.

There isn't going to be some central authority saying "Hey!  There's a gap in the schedule!  You, there!  Learn Game X.  Mentor and love it.  Now, kid!"

What there will be is a schedule that will make it completely clear that Game X needs some lovin'.  If enough people are coming to that schedule and saying "Hey, I'm looking for a game that needs my help" then simply making that fact transparent should be enough to empower people to help.

If it gets critical mass, a web-site like that can help people to create structure without authority.  If it doesn't get critical mass then all I've wasted is a little energy (of which I've obviously got plenty).  I like solutions like that.  How does that methodology sit with everyone else?


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Lxndr on August 21, 2006, 06:53:00 AM
I very much like that solution, Tony.  My only suggested tweak to that is that it shouldn't just be the "new games" coming to GenCon.  There are games that have been there for years that might need some loving as well.  To be a bit selfish for a moment, I'm not sure if there's three other people at the booth that can successfully pitch and demo Fastlane, for instance, and I'm sure that's far from the only product from previous years that's like that.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 21, 2006, 07:04:22 AM
Hey,

Tony, there's no need for consensus if you've come up with something that might work and that you'd like to try.

How it relates to the booth in operation is certainly subject to the primary sponsors of a given year with me as final arbiter, but if you're talking about an activity that you want to conduct and promote at a website of your own ... hey, it's your idea, you can do it, and no one can tell you not to, and anyone can hop in. I don't run the whole internet, so it's not up to me or to any consensus-based discussion here.

All of which is to say, "neat idea!" but not in the sense of stamping it with official approval. It's your baby and your webspace, and if you wanna try it out, go for it as you see fit.

One point for general consumption though - every year, last-minute participants or games are a reality. I try to keep the last-minute participants to a minimum, but I also acknowledge there is no way to get every game at the booth pre-established months ahead of time. Printing schedules are certainly one cause of uncertainty of this kind, but so is inspiration - if we'd said "get your booth games established way ahead, sell-sheets and all!" then there would have been no Agon at the booth, for instance.

So folks, keep that degree of necessary uncertainty in mind when coming up with your notions. It doesn't relate so much to Tony's idea, which is a month-before type of thing (and thus may suffer from time-crunch constraints), but I think it'll be important to a variety of other suggestions that may arise here.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Valamir on August 21, 2006, 07:30:43 AM
Quote
Our Indie-Punk sensibilities are important to a great number of people.  Not so much me, but I try to respect.  So I worry when I see an argument saying, essentially, "Okay everyone ... line up on two sides of this dichotomy:  Indie-Punk or organized!"  Rather than create that unnecessary opposition, I'd like to propose that we put the extra mental energy in to look at the ways we could organize that don't require hierarchy and authority.

I'm 100% with you Tony. 

My cynical side however remembers a whole long line of eagerly promoted really good ideas that either died on the vine or only got partial participation -- because left to their own devices we're talking 40+ people with lives and better things to do.  Even without a formal "heirarchy", without someone taking on the informal role of "nag" to make sure people are getting things done and are executing on the great ideas, I'm skeptical.  We could survive quite well in the past with a handful of dedicated people who actually did follow through on their own initiative and enthusiasm while everyone else was partial or last minute.  But I have my doubts that that method will continue to work if we continue to get bigger.  Its also highly unfair to the people who DO voluntarily take the initiative and execute while others...frankly put...slack (and I'm putting myself in the category of slacker for 2006 before anyone gets all riled.  I certainly didn't take any time in advance to learn games I didn't already know.  Shame on me...but that's reality.  Its easy to keep putting things off when you don't have a deadline and no one is there to call you to task when you miss it).

There are a whole lot of potentially fantastic ways of making this work.  But there's a wide gulf between "great idea" and "execution" and an even wider gulf between "execution" and "full participation".  IMO we could spend days and dozens of forum pages talking about all the great ideas we want.  But if we don't nail down specifically how those gulfs are going to get crossed its not likely to actually happen. 


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: timfire on August 21, 2006, 07:35:22 AM
Again, I'm going to say that I believe the punk-indie aesthetic thing is a red herring. Enthusiam sells games. So I don't believe any sort of special attention needs to be placed on ugly-beautiful games. I believe if we're all aware of every game and can pitch every game, most games will see some love.

As far as demos go, something we could also try is an actual schedule for who's suppose to be at the booth when. We can then make sure that there's always someone who can demo a given game at all times. (A schedule will also eliminate the problem of having too many people at the booth.) Hmm, the primary sponsors could also step up and act as "shift managers", but now I'm getting ahead of myself...


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Mike Sugarbaker on August 21, 2006, 10:59:31 AM
I humbly offer this data point: I bought Untitled because someone, I think either Clinton or Brennan but possibly Vincent or Alexander or someone else, talked about how great it was that everything from BE to a crazy hand-made, hand-stitched folder with fake bloodstains was present in the booth. They specifically called out how Untitled was repping for the indie art-object aesthetic, and that alone made the sale for me. (It sure wan't the game text, which I did have a peek at but couldn't figure out. Hell, I still can't.)

I even more humbly offer a suggestion: the availability and quality of demo scripts and sell sheets may serve as a better gatekeeper for booth participation than this year's "newbies get 1" policy.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Eric Provost on August 21, 2006, 11:34:44 AM
I have an idea, but I don't know how plausible it would be.

Remember back in elementary school when the teacher would divide everyone into small groups to work on a project?  There'd be like 4 or 5 kids with their desks in a circle either working together with paints or trying to pull the interesting information out of a textbook about ancient Rome or something. 

So, that's what I'm thinking of.  I'm imagining that, starting maybe a month before GenCon, when most everyone is signed up, Ron, or Luke, or Clinton, or someone starts matching up groups of 3 to 5 designers.  Each member of a group is responsible for knowing each other members' demos really really well.  When latecomers get signed up, they can be assigned to a group that has a smaller number of people in it, and the whole group will play a little bit of catchup. 

Then, come the con, not only do you know that there's at least two or three people besides the designer of each game that are pretty familiar with it, but you can also suggest that each team make sure they have at least one Representative at the booth at all times.  You don't need to track down Tony to demo Capes if you know that every member of Team Victory! has a demo kit and a good demo prepared, and oh yeah, Bob DaNoob happens to be on Tony's team, so he can totally demo Capes too.

I think it would work pretty well.  I mean, I'm hoping to be at GenCon with a design of my own someday, and I'm kind of intimidated by the idea of getting together for a demo-a-thon of 40 or 50 different designs, feeling responsible for searching out the awesome game that's being under represented, and trying to actually sell my own game all at the same time.  On the other hand, if I knew my list of teammates' games well enough to get excited about them and I was confident that no one's awesome was being left out, I'd have that confidence to demo and pimp my heart out.

-Eric


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: David Artman on August 21, 2006, 11:58:56 AM
I think Tony's database idea has real traction, be it participationist or mandatory. But extended it a bit, and I think it could become more incentive-driven, rather than punishment-driven:

First, create a database with these fields:
Game Name
Designer
Pitch (1000 char max)
Shelf Insert (as a PDF; i.e. that thing that shows what would be there if sold out)
Demo Kit Count
Sell Sheet (boolean)
Open Box (boolean)
Hours of Booth Attendance (percentage of total con hours)
--
Demoer 1 (another person's name)
...
Demoer 10 (another person's name)

Then, for each person who wants to pay to be in the booth, create a record with the Game Name and Designer fields completed.

Finally, weight the other fields so that, as a Designer provides the items above the line, they get points. Further, for each game other than his or her own for which a Designer signs on to be  Demoer, he or she gets additional points.

As you approach "D-Day" for major con booth decisions (space, cost per participant per game, layout) use the database's points to determine "votes" for making those decisions. Thus, the Designers who will have the strongest voices as to how the booth is generally managed will be those who (a) bring the most discrete titles, (b) commit to bring the most supporting materials, and (c) learn the most other games.

Now, I realize this could be a bit of a number crunching nightmare (for instance, the weighting: is a Demo Kit worth more than a Sell Sheet but less than an Open Box display?) but computers make fast work of the math, once you decide upon your weights.

I guess the main thing I am trying to suggest is a decentralized means to organize (web database), all of it opt-in, but all of which feeds back into granting greater authority to those who best prepare the booth (stuff to show) and who sacrifice the most to support it (demoing for others, hours).

HTH;
David


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: TonyLB on August 21, 2006, 12:25:26 PM
Remember back in elementary school when the teacher would divide everyone into small groups to work on a project?  There'd be like 4 or 5 kids with their desks in a circle either working together with paints or trying to pull the interesting information out of a textbook about ancient Rome or something.

Oooh ... and that's seductively close to a good number of people to split the cost of a single suite at the Embassy.  I'm just sayin'.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on August 21, 2006, 12:31:04 PM
I just looked at the booth menu.
There were 36 games I'd never heard of.

I propose that next year we have a cheat sheet - it contains designer name, game descrip, price, a "2 line pitch"...
That way, booth people can more easily digest that huge game info dump.
And that way, I'll be able to learn what untitled is.

This is exactly what I was thinking on my way to the studio today.

Considering that we'll have over a hundred titles next year, here's what I honestly, truly think we should do.

1: Have a menu with ten words about each game. These are submitted by  the designer and should be breathless and punchy.
2: Have a facebook page here at the Forge (or on someone else's site, if they can) where you can see pics of people. Not drawings, not artsy fartsy motion blur photos, but descriptive, unflattering photos so we know who's associated with what books. There are whole segments of our brains that are designed for face recognition. Let's use them. These photos are accompanied by real name, online alias(s), and publications.

I have a particular relationship to Untitled and I want to see it succeed: Keith and I both discussed our Crazy Crackpot Games with each other at Dreamation two years back and he got his to "press" first.

Quote
I also want to point out that I didn't see Keith once, until sunday during cleanup.

Keith is shy. So's Tim. That doesn't reflect on their art, which is bold and full of personality. I think if they met us halfway, we could be mutually beneficial, as Ralph's saying.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on August 21, 2006, 12:36:35 PM
Whoa, terrible crossposting I did there. Sorry.

David, excellent idea, and obviously a better thought-out verision of what I was talking about. I seriously think it should be tied to names, aliases, and pictures of the designers, though.

Eric, that's not only a good idea, it's a fun one. Maybe Clinton can't demo your game, but someone of the Durham Three can.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: David Artman on August 21, 2006, 01:19:26 PM
Sure, a picture attachment field would work, too. I didn't realize recognition is an issue; but if it is, solve it like that.

I also think I speed-posted, because I forgot to mention some of the other cool bennies of a database:
1) It's online and, thus, live (and live update, for what that's worth) right up to the con.

2) One could generate two reports, and get:
2a) A single sheet with all ten-second Pitches.
2b) A single book (PDF?) of all the Sell Sheets, which each boothie could print (or be given) for review and reference. (Might as well have the photo from above as part of that report, too, eh?)

3) Scheduling controls - Take the Hours Commitment and expand it into an actual "Will Work These Hours" date/time grid; and use the database to spot under-staffing or over-staffing.
3a) Total points could grant priority for schedule, too, yeah? Or maybe just total time commitment--someone who commits to 90% of all con time should be able to say what times they AREN'T going to be there, I reckon.
3b) Similarly, you could use simple SQL queries to determine whether any games can't be Demoed at particular times because none of their Demoers are on schedule at that time. This gives you a pre-con heads-up as to what might need extra "lovin."

4) Add a few more boolean fields (ex: Will Attend GenCon, Will Attend Origins), and you got the same info for EVERY con in a season at which The Forge will have an official presence. In one database, with a few extra bytes per record. Obviously, this could be extended to cover more than one season, but I would not take year-in-advance "commitments" too seriously until closer to the actual event date.

5) Have a "Committed" boolean which is only set to TRUE (by the db admin) if the Designer has sent all items "above the line" (Sell Sheet text, Pitch, Demo Kits, and Open Boxes) and has paid their part of the booth expenses.

6) Similarly (evilly?) you could have hidden, admin-only fields that are used to narc on folks who didn't live up to their commitments.
6a) These could track missed hours, denied demoes for games the person claimed Demoer status, or whatever.
6b) Probably wouldn't need more than a few extra text fields and a value field (which would be negative points against that person, for the next con or vote or both).
6c) This sucks, but it would work.

Perhaps it is trying to do too much with one tool, but it seems to me that a direct coupling between commitment claims to commitment rights, ratified by actually coming through with the cash and goods, would be as fair and opt-in as possible, while still having a bit of "teeth" as Val mentioned (you gotta commit to vote, and if you shirk it hurts). And once one has a database up and running with access rights and such, it isn't hard to throw another field into it or generate another report or query. Might as well use it to track sales and inventory, too, at that point...

Just 2¢ more...
David


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: TonyLB on August 21, 2006, 01:31:31 PM
My cynical side however remembers a whole long line of eagerly promoted really good ideas that either died on the vine or only got partial participation -- because left to their own devices we're talking 40+ people with lives and better things to do.  Even without a formal "heirarchy", without someone taking on the informal role of "nag" to make sure people are getting things done and are executing on the great ideas, I'm skeptical.

Well, I'm going to put forth my own skepticism:  I am skeptical about whether having a hierarchy makes people do more.  Yes, when someone in authority over me is nagging me, I do more.  But when nobody is nagging me the idea of higher authorities is my excuse to sit on my ass.  I figure that if there were a real need for my creativity and input, someone would be nagging me.

Personally, I'm taking this situation as a personal call to action.  It is my clarion call to go out and do stuff.

Frankly, I think that if everyone who has a good idea knows, deep down, that if they don't do it then it won't get done ... well, I think you might be surprised at how much people will do.  But I could totally be wrong.  Maybe if people weren't using "Well, the booth sponsors have got it under control" as an excuse they'd find another one.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Blankshield on August 21, 2006, 01:41:04 PM
Just a note here: the "4 or 5 guys learn each other's demos" kind of approach is very similar in nature to how Iron Game Chef did it's peer judging this year, which worked really, really well. 

James


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Andrew Morris on August 21, 2006, 01:41:41 PM
I think Eric's idea is excellent. As someone who plans to have a game for sale before next GenCon, I'd be down for this.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Clyde L. Rhoer on August 21, 2006, 02:05:08 PM
Hey guys,

As a consumer this year, and a booth hopeful for next year I thought I might chime in from that perspective. If someone would have told me about untitled I would have bought it on the spot. So the ball may have been dropped there. However it had a few problems that haven't been addressed.

As an artifact it was wonderful, so wonderful in fact that I didn't realize it wasn't real. I looked at the sticky note and totally bought into it. I accepted it was what that note said and left it alone, since it wasn't addressed to me. I've seen stranger things in real life. My brain didn't process if there were multiple copies or whatever I just remember the note.

Problem number two. I'm fat. At Gen Con I'm fat with a backpack. Trying to fit myself in the small space where the games were displayed and not feel self-conscious due to the inability to move, and my blocking other people was not conducive to examining games. A lot of my decisions were based on buzz or personal encounters with the games designers. I would have loved to leisurely and closely examine everything, but I couldn't. Untitled needs this examination, as a piece of art... examination is it's main selling point.

Now to address some of the ideas for solutions. I'm worried about the ideas requiring centralized management. One of the things the booth had going for it was passion and excitement. You are unlikely to be able to assign excitement to me. So I could possibly have to learn a few games I don't like. How do you think those demos will go? Secondly, my concern is that in a micro-economy of 100 games,  basically something resembling a network structure it is likely that demand will be mainly focused on the hubs, and I could spend all my time demoing The Mountain Witch or Roach and not talking to people about my baby. The thing that I am incredibly excited about. Add to this that the hubs are likely to see more sales from buzz than they will from demoing and why would this be an attractive prospect for me?

I like Tony's idea best, let me find new connections to get excited about and help, the network will naturally push the hubs even without much effort. It's also decentralized. My only add to the idea would be to make it a wiki so the impetus of getting other people excited about your game is your own, and not resting completely on Tony.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Lance D. Allen on August 21, 2006, 02:19:42 PM
Hey all.. Non-participant here, but I've been following all of the posts about GenCon closely.. Call it vicarious experience or call it research, whichever one is probably pretty accurate.

Anyhow, I think that Eric Provost's idea makes a great deal of sense. Combine it with Tony's database, and some of David Artman's refinements, and I think you may have a workable plan. For me tho', Eric's small group idea didn't hearken me back to gradeschool so much as my Small Group Communication class, back at the community college; We had a group of 4, and we all worked really hard on the projects we were assigned.. Not entirely because we were worried about how it would affect our grades individually, but how it would affect each other's grades. I don't know that I'd even call my groupmates friends, but they were people I'd committed to, and vice versa, and I knew if I slacked, it'd be more than just myself I'd be letting down.

That's the real strength of the small group idea, I think. It's not "The Forge" or "IPR" or "the movement" that people would work to support. But those 3-4 other people that they've been networking with, chatting with, running games with, possibly rooming with at the Con.. Most people are going to work a lot harder to not let them down than Keith, who may just be a name on a page to them unless they've personally interacted. Consider that the same idea has been used in military, labor, business, etc. applications for a long time.

Tony's ideas and David's refinements add a little structure without being too restrictive. It's all opt-in, and up front; You know what's expected of you, and you have a way to checklist yourself to make sure you get it all done. I've got a certain amount of pent-up hostility toward authority, but I wouldn't feel at all restricted if these systems were implemented at such time that I have cause and ability to commit to the Forge at GenCon.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Mcrow on August 21, 2006, 03:07:54 PM
Well, I'm not a publisher (yet anyway) and I didn't know anything about "untitled" until this thread but here is my take:

I worked for a small press publisher @ Gencon this year. knowing that I would be selling their games (about 15 books) I made sure that I knew all of their products inside out before I showed up. We had four  people working the booth, the writer, editor, me and another person. The two none company employees(including me) knew all of the books very well and the sales for the con were 2-3 times what they had last year. The owner of the company said it was attributed to a better plan and having more and better booth help over last year.

So I say that to an extent this is a failure of the Forge booth. If I were working a booth I would make sure I was familiar with as many products as possible. Now I know that there were a lot of games to keep track of, but there seems to be a need to be more like a team in the booth.

One idea could be to have the people working the booth show up early to have a "booth meeting" before the Con opens every day. That way games that ,maybe, are getting lost in the shuffle can be pointed out and if people are not famliar with it you can give a quick run down of what its about. Keep track of numbers daily, that way you can say "games x,y, and z have not sold any copies yet. Lets make sure we keep them in mind when talking with booth visitors today. Any questions?" I think you could avoid the whole problem with something as simple as that. It would also be a good Idea to have @ the least one person who has some idea of what each game is about in the booth @ all times.  Maybe you guys already do this.

OTOH, is it possible that the book just didn't jive with the potential buyer? Maybe people are put off buy the format or theme of the book, even though they perfectly suit the game. Is the author self promoting the book every bit as hard as all the other Forge publishers? I'm not saying that any of these are the reason lack of sale, I don't know enough about the game or the author to speculate but i think the questions needed asking.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: TonyLB on August 21, 2006, 03:18:45 PM
Okay ... I'm feeling very quizzical here.  Some folks have latched on to the idea of the database as "Tony's contribution."  People are praising it, and even offering elaboration.  That's just strange.  The database is dreck.  I mean, yeah, I'm going to do it, and maybe it will help.  But in itself it's unimportant.  It is an example, nothing more.

What I wanted to contribute was a call to individual action ... to each and every one of you to recognize that you too should be inventing such ideas and making them into reality. 

If you look at the idea I've put forward, and my determination to make it a reality, and you admire that ... well, that's great.  Your next step is NOT to say "Okay!  I want to support Tony's idea!"  I don't need that kind of support.  Your next step is to say "Okay!  Tony's got that database idea.  Now what even cooler idea am I, myself, going to bring to the party?"

The battle-cry of our revolution isn't "That's cool!"  It is "That made me think of something cool!"


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Librisia on August 21, 2006, 04:34:16 PM
Keep track of numbers daily, that way you can say "games x,y, and z have not sold any copies yet. Lets make sure we keep them in mind when talking with booth visitors today. Any questions?"

I just wanted to chime in here.  I am planning to come to GenCon next year and help Brennan run the booth - assuming that that is going to happen again.  If it DOES happen again, I was planning to do just what Mcrow suggested.  Watching Brennan try to do all of the books for the entire con in one swell foop was painful.   Keeping track of inventory should be easy if cash register paperwork is being done every day.

The rest of my explanation is fodder for another thread, as I understand the culture on the boards.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Lance D. Allen on August 21, 2006, 04:52:56 PM
Tony,

It is your contribution. Whether you wanted it to be, whether you wanted more, is not the point. You put forth the idea, you said you're going to do it. That makes it your contribution.

On the point of other people tossing in their cool ideas.. I think you're risking a case of too many chefs. Better to improve your original idea (or sure, replace it with something better, if someone's got a better idea) than to have a dozenty-one individual ideas that fall apart due to lack of cohesion before next year. As a matter of fact, unless I'm totally missing something, getting people to go "good idea, let me support that" is the only chance the database has of helping at all.. And if you don't actually expect it to help, why bother? A call to arms by itself is meaningless. A call to arms with something of a plan has use.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Gregor Hutton on August 22, 2006, 12:11:52 AM
I've thought about this for a day or two before posting, and I'll keep my comments just to "Untitled" specifically.

On reflection I do feel that I personally let Keith down at the booth this year. I bought Untitled on day one (it was the first thing on my list of things to get) and I knew how good it was from the get-go, and I didn't go on about it enough to everyone I met.

I felt that there would've been a better awareness of the game at the booth in general though, and I was wrong. My reasoning was that

(1) It won a Ronny award.
(2) The 24-hr version of the game (http://www.1km1kt.net/rpg/Untitled_RPG.php) was freely available to anyone that wanted to see it.
(3) Keith flagged it up on his blog.
(4) Since Keith had a hand in a few books this year other than his own that there would be more interest in his own work.

Keith and Untitled got lost in the shuffle -- there were a load of books on the stand. But the lesson I'll learn is that if I like something then I've got to realize that and spread the word.

The one thing that I encountered the few times I talked about it was its price point, and comparisons with Burning Empires. Y'know, I had the answer to that one myself but I didn't stand up for it enough -- I bought Untitled but not BE, one I'm likely to play and read in its entirety, the other I wouldn't. So I should have pushed back harder on that. And if I'd been able to play part of the CD to people it would have been selling for sure.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: iago on August 22, 2006, 01:00:26 AM
So my current moment of duh: GenCon wasn't this game's only chance. I missed the boat there, but there's no reason I can't set sail right now.  As such, I have started pimping the game on my blog, and will mention it other places as well. 

You should too.

Folks who've bought the game should bloody well review it on rpg.net or something -- get awareness out there.  Word of mouth is big mojo, folks.  Soon as my wallet recovers enough for me to buy the not-24-hour version of it, I will, and I'll do more.  Take the steps you can.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Andy Kitkowski on August 22, 2006, 06:14:22 AM
You should too.

Folks who've bought the game should bloody well review it on rpg.net or something -- get awareness out there.  Word of mouth is big mojo, folks.  Soon as my wallet recovers enough for me to buy the not-24-hour version of it, I will, and I'll do more.  Take the steps you can.

I'm VEEEEEERY wary of folks plugging a game without buying it.  The Forge has a pretty big (unwarranted in most cases) rep for "friends plugging friends" or "forgies plugging forgies" without address to quality of product, playability etc. Simply cause they roll in the same circles. I'm kinda gunshy about reinforcing that rep. I'd rather see people get it, and if they like it, to plug it then.

Now, I say that, but in my own case:
1) I had been planning on buying "untitled" for months (since I saw the original, then heard that Keith was turning it into a "$40 'SE7EN journal' looking package").
2) I just bought it myself (should arrive in a week or two).

Just a thought before people start going nuts.

-Andy


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: iago on August 22, 2006, 07:44:12 AM
You should too.

Folks who've bought the game should bloody well review it on rpg.net or something -- get awareness out there.  Word of mouth is big mojo, folks.  Soon as my wallet recovers enough for me to buy the not-24-hour version of it, I will, and I'll do more.  Take the steps you can.

I'm VEEEEEERY wary of folks plugging a game without buying it.  The Forge has a pretty big (unwarranted in most cases) rep for "friends plugging friends" or "forgies plugging forgies" without address to quality of product, playability etc. Simply cause they roll in the same circles. I'm kinda gunshy about reinforcing that rep. I'd rather see people get it, and if they like it, to plug it then.

And that's fair.  But I hasten to point out that as Gregor linked above, there's a 24-hour version of the RPG that operates as a pretty solid preview of what the game's due to be like.  I wouldn't be plugging the game if I hadn't read the 24-hour one cover to cover.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Troy_Costisick on August 22, 2006, 09:57:44 AM
Heya,

Quote
Remember back in elementary school when the teacher would divide everyone into small groups to work on a project?  There'd be like 4 or 5 kids with their desks in a circle either working together with paints or trying to pull the interesting information out of a textbook about ancient Rome or something. 

So, that's what I'm thinking of.  I'm imagining that, starting maybe a month before GenCon, when most everyone is signed up, Ron, or Luke, or Clinton, or someone starts matching up groups of 3 to 5 designers.  Each member of a group is responsible for knowing each other members' demos really really well.  When latecomers get signed up, they can be assigned to a group that has a smaller number of people in it, and the whole group will play a little bit of catchup. 


-Speaking as a teacher and someone who, baring another unforseen family event, will be at GenCon next year, this makes a lot of good sense to me.  With 5 or so people knowing how to demo another person's games, we should be able to fulfill any request while at the same time making sure every game gets some exposure.  The important thing is to tie to to people, not games.  For instance if I had to learn Vincent's, Eric's, Joe's, and Ralph's games, I would be responsible for learnign to demo all of them.  Of course they'd be responsible for getting me all the materials I'd need to do that.  The best part would be I'd be responsible for only a few games rather than 40 or 50.  It makes things simpler.

-I really like it because it would expose me to games I might not have even heard of before.  Also, I'd probably end up buying a few and that would help everyone out.  I would have no problem with Ron, Luke, Ralph, or Brennan assigning groups next year.  I think it would really improve things.

Peace,

-Troy


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Jonathan Walton on August 22, 2006, 10:36:11 AM
So Push vol 1 sold out at GenCon, despite the fact that I could only sorta demo it.  A bunch of factors contributed to this, I think, but I wanna talk about one that is pretty applicable here: I came to GenCon with a posse.  Eric's plan for like "sleeper cells" of indie revolutionaries is hot and Push is sort of a posterchild for this working, I think.  Because it was a collaborative project, it was not just my baby, but also the baby of Emily Care Boss, John Kim, Shreyas Sampat, Paul Tevis, Annie Rush, and Thomas Robertson (and those are just the people who were at GenCon). All those folks were already really excited about it and could, in turn, get other people excited about it.  Viral excitement sells books, even without demos.

I love you folks and being at the booth this year was way awesome (and the right decision, Ben, despite my stubbornness), but I don't think it's effective to try to demo and sell that many products in such a small space.  I think trying to pitch more than, say, 5-8 products per 10x10 is not going to give you the results that you want.  Five or six creator-publishers splitting a 10x10 and working hard to understand and sell each others' games seems much more feasible to me. So if someone was interested in game X you could just say "yeah, those guys over there are the ones to talk to about game X."  I do worry about the potential for creating little cliques of people who are only interested in the games they're pitching, but I don't think having 80-some products (certainly over 100 next year), an overcrowded browsing area, and a demo area that's packed tight (and often without enough chairs) is working optimally now.  I certainly think it's going to get less and less feasible as the booth continues to get bigger.

I had one product this year.  Next year I'll probably have 4.  I don't think I'm going to feel good about taking up the amount space and time that I'll need to effectively sell 4 products at the booth.  It would be unfair to the other people there.  Personally, I'd love to be part of a break out Wicked Dead-style section next year.  For example, 5 designers might decide to combine forces and split a 10x10 between us and sell/demo our games in an area just for that.  Ben's totally right that if we have completely seperate booths, people won't know where to find us.  But I think the time has definitely come for decentralization or, at the very least, a higher degree of meta-organization (which can sorta be the same thing, actually). 

A semi-related thought: it would be cool to subdivide the booth based on thematic or play-style interests, the same way they treat books in bookstores.  Man, can you imagine the excitement that might surround a section devoted to Shadow of Yesterday, Agon, Dictionary of Mu, Hero's Banner, and a couple other indie "swords and hard choices" games?  And I could imagine a "games about relationships" section with My Life with Master, Breaking the Ice, The Roach, It Was a Mutual Decision, Polaris, etc.  You could even take the same basic scene and demo it in a bunch of different game systems, so people could get a sense of how the games addressed things differently.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Clinton R. Nixon on August 22, 2006, 10:52:51 AM
Jonathan, you are super-right in many ways. (And can I take a personal moment and say how great it feels to be giving you thumbs up all the time? I'm glad to have been wrong and I'm glad you're awesome.)

What I do worry about is the booth splitting up and then getting spread to the winds. While that may be a good thing - indie seeds across the show floor may grow well - it tears apart the community we have. I don't want to work a booth at GenCon unless I get to hang out with all my friends all day. There are certain people that if I didn't get to spend time with them, I'd not really be that interested in being there. If we could, on the other hand, build some sort of indie shanty-town of booths, well, that'd be amazing, but it's not going to happen.

----

This is a slightly different subject, but I want to address it. The success of the revolution has bred an atmosphere of selection. Two years ago, I was excited because I saw an independently-published game. This year, I'm excited when I see an independently-published game that is well done and fits my interests, and I have to be that selective because there's a lot of these games. I didn't get Burning Empires or untitled because they didn't fit that criteria, and I wasn't a supporter of either of them. Games that did meet my criteria - ahem, Hero's Fucking Banner, cough, Cold City - got my attention and I sold the heck out of them to whoever would listen.

Now, why do I bring this up? Because the bar is raised, cowboys. I published some real crap at the beginning because I wasn't a good game designer. I'd like to think I've changed, but even The Princes' Kingdom is a big step over the glaring errors in The Shadow of Yesterday. In order to sell a game in the future, you need to do these things:

a) Playtest. Wait - rephrase: be playtested. Playtesting with your home group, or even with you in the game, is not playtesting. Playtest a lot. I brought home games from GenCon with busted-up rules. This applies to me, of course. I am not singling anyone out or judging anyone.

b) Promote yourself. Tell people about the game you made that you are really excited about. If you don't put forth that effort, no one else will or should. If you think it's cool to be aloof, go away. If you're not so excited about your game that you can't stop talking about it, make a game you're that excited about.

c) Promote others. I love telling people about Push. Why? First, it's good, seriously. Second, Jonathan Walton loves talking about The Shadow of Yesterday.

d) That (a) about playtesting? Do it more, and make a complete, well written, edited game that you're excited about. Note I didn't say "professionally laid out," or "full of art," or anything else about presentation. Make "untitled," or "kill puppies for satan," or "Burning Empires," or "Death's Door." Make whatever you like presentationally. But don't make a broken, incomplete game. It is sticking a poisoned dagger into the sides of the people who helped you get there.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: David Artman on August 22, 2006, 12:08:53 PM
"shanty town of booths"... "shanty town of booths"... Why do I LOVE the sound of that, from an Indie sensability?

Quick side question: why wouldn't this be possible? With enough advance commitment, couldn't "The Forge MetaBooth" be comprised of, say, ten actual booths, each with a "branding" banner of The Forge or Indie RPGs, but each focused on a particular subset of the games?

People could even self-select their grouping (using still-more fields in the database), up to a given maximum number of games per grouping. Or the subsets could be comprised as above, by "genre" (in an Indie context -or- in a traditional fictional context).

One could even, then, split out the booth cost responsibilities, so that the entire risk isn't being taken by the handful of folks who spearhead our relations with the con(s). Once ten (or whatever) folks commit to go, they are sharded off into their own booth to pay for, setup (with some co-branding help/requirements), and manage.

By the way, this would not prevent the booths from appearing to be contiguous, nor would it prevent economies of scale (sharing demoers and print costs for con-specific marketing collateral; using a single register and stock area).

Hmmm.... or even if the sharding of the cost structure is unimportant, and The Forge will instead just increase its reserved floor space to accommodate flow and increased stock; could a "shanty town" still be considered, for aesthetics? I just like the image of a bunch of similar--but by NO means identical--little huts and stands of product all surrounding a "lawn" of demo tables, with an entrance gate (where the register would be) and crazy picket fencing and various "streetlights" and maybe a hot dog vendor or coffee cart and....

Worth considering?
David


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Mcrow on August 22, 2006, 12:18:08 PM
I have to say I like the idea of there being more space and the "booth" being sectioned off a bit. When I stopped by the booth this year the books were hard to get to with the traffic around them and it looked incredibly  crowded in the demo area (even if there really were not that many people there). I for one skipped out on both books & demos because of that. I instead went and bought BE from Key20 and other indie stuff from the IPR website.

It may be my failure, but I couldn't tell who was working the booth and who were just other folks checking it out. I could of missed something though because I didn't really take much time to obeserve the whole scene. As a possible customer, I like to know who to ask questions if I need to.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: TonyLB on August 22, 2006, 12:21:17 PM
Quick side question: why wouldn't this be possible?

Short answer:  new booths don't have much control over where in the hall they are placed.  I'm getting bits and pieces of the long answer on the booth red tape thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=21046.0).


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Jonathan Walton on August 22, 2006, 12:23:39 PM
David, that's absolutely what I was trying to propose.  Thanks for being more articulate.  I appreciate being able to be at the booth for $100 and all, but I think the booth needs to double in size (yes, be twice as big) if we're going to continue to operate effectively, and I'd fork out at least another $100 for that to happen (and maybe more).  I see no reason for us to not be at least as big as the White Wolf booth was this year.  We sell a lot more products than they do and have many more people.

I felt I spent a large part of my time at the booth standing around, not because I had nothing to do but because it was more effective for me to do nothing than take up space in the store area or in a demo (when there were plenty of customers waiting for demos).  If we have a demo area that is twice as large, I don't think we'd have any trouble filling it.  Whenever a table opened, it was a piece of cake to be like, "Hey Jason, you want to demo The Roach for some people?  Okay, let me find you some" or just to see Judd waiting patiently and then tell someone that Dictionary of Mu was awesome and they had to demo it RIGHT NOW.

I really dig the idea of an indie games circus, with various microbooths and sideshows for people to go demo games in before buying stuff in a central location.

Also, Tony, people aren't suggesting new booths.  People are suggesting that Adept (or whoever) buys like 8 booths in a central area and then sells them off to groups of designers.  Of course, that would require a lot more long-term planning, since I'm sure they have to reserve space pretty early.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Blankshield on August 22, 2006, 12:45:20 PM
guys, two short answers:

1: take it over to the other thread; this isn't remotely about untitled anymore.

2: you're talking major $$$.

James


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Thunder_God on August 22, 2006, 01:30:44 PM
Also need to consider games such as "Dogs in the Vineyard". It wasn't really demoed this year, yet sold very well. Some games have enough year-long buzz that people come to the booth looking for them.

I think this also does a lot to clear demo space, both mental and physical. It also has repercussions for when/if you split the booths.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Troy_Costisick on August 22, 2006, 03:46:05 PM
guys, two short answers:

1: take it over to the other thread; this isn't remotely about untitled anymore.

2: you're talking major $$$.


-Ditto.  Jon, a 10x10 non-corner booth costs about $1000 + extra badges.  Split 4 ways, it will end up costing you close to $300 a piece once the badges are figured.  So a guy comes to GenCon with his $15 dollar game and goes along with you on this idea of splitting off and doing your own thing.  The other three guys have their own games too.  He's got to compete with three other highly motivated and excited people for the really small, cramped space to demo and pitch his game.  Trust me, you can only fit one table and maybe 2 chairs in a 10x10 booth.  And you can only really fit three people in the booth with it, so one guy is going to have to be off the clock 25% of the time at least.  So with the other 75% of the con, in a cramped space, competing with other designers he's going to have to sell at least 20 books just to break even. That doesn't include paying for hotel stay, food, and shopping.  Ooooooooor he can opt in at the Forge Booth for $100-200 bucks, have constant traffic, work practically as much as he wants, meet great friends, and get noticed and supported while making a proffit.  I mean, I don't see the incentive to breaking up the Forge Booth.  It's financial suicide.

-I guess it might be hard to understand if you've never bought and run your own booth at GenCon.  I have.  It's a real pain.  Oh, and that Entrepreneurial discount means your booth will get shoved way deep in a corner of the hall where traffic is extremely light.  So if you want to be anywhere near a high trafic area, you can forget that.  I got super super lucky back in 02.  But the other first time boothers that I talked to had horrible sales because of their location.  Anyway, I'll quit ranting and sum up.  The Forge Booth is the best deal going at GenCon period.  It's amazing to see Ron's vision mature and grow each year. 

Peace,

-Troy


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Justin D. Jacobson on August 22, 2006, 06:28:22 PM
Ditto what Troy said. I did the entrepeneurial, own-booth thing last year. I did the Forge thing this year. I will be doing the Forge thing next year. Draw your own conclusions.


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: David Artman on August 23, 2006, 05:51:06 AM
Well, since this ain't QUITE moved to the other thread yet....

I don't think anyone is talking about splitting the booth. I understood this was about how to expand the space available to all, make its traffic flow better, and (maybe) restructure the cost responsibilities so that it's not all on a few people's heads. These ideas flowed naturally out of thinking about how to ensure every game is sufficiently represented.

The "shanty town" idea, in fact, relies upon contiguity of the space and tries to leverage the notions of "focused" sales areas with shared demo and storage space, centralized entry and register, and co-branding.

Further, there would not be much need to "plan," just to send groups of five designers off into the wild, to fend for themselves at $1000 100sq.ft. booths. :)

Back to the red tape thread...
David


Title: Re: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 23, 2006, 05:59:20 AM
I'd say it's about time to close this one, actually. The basic points have been made and people can spawn new threads as desired.

Best, Ron