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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 69 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [GenCon 2006] "untitled"  (Read 14800 times)
Valamir
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« Reply #30 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. 
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timfire
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« Reply #31 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...
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Mike Sugarbaker
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« Reply #32 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.
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Eric Provost
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« Reply #33 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
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David Artman
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« Reply #34 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
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TonyLB
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« Reply #35 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'.
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #36 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.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #37 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.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

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David Artman
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« Reply #38 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
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TonyLB
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« Reply #39 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.
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Blankshield
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« Reply #40 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
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #41 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.
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Clyde L. Rhoer
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« Reply #42 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.
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #43 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.
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Mcrow
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« Reply #44 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.
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