July 2009

Gen Con Indy Attendance Tips Part 2: At the Show!

My Gen Con Tip Archive: Part 1: Before the Show! | Part 2: At the Show | Part 3: Looking for Work

Here are some rules for what to do at the show, and just before the show:

Around Indy

  • Walking through the mall is the fastest way to get to certain hotels. And the most air-conditioned. I recommend figuring out the best path on Wednesday, if you arrive that day.

Not Getting Ill

  • Golden rule, courtesy of Paul Tevis: 1-2-3, 1 shower, 2 meals, 3 hours of sleep. Daily minimums.
  • Buy a flat of water when you get into Indy, or before [if you’re driving in]. Leave it in your hotel room. When you leave your hotel room, make sure that your backpack/laptop bag/whatever is topped up with 3-4 bottles. There are some fountains to refill the bottles at, and of course you can buy more water at the show, but you pay through the nose for it. As the day goes on, you drink the water and have more space in your bag for things you’ve bought!
  • Buy and bring some snacks with you, too. Trail mix seems to be popular, but I prefer apples or oranges.
  • Bring hand sanitizer. Use it all the time. Offer it to your friends, family, and everyone you’re going to be around a lot.
  • You’ve just walked into your hotel room. Wash your hands. You’re just about to leave your hotel room. Wash your hands. Don’t bring con gunk into your room.
  • Carry deodorant with you at all times. Use it every hour. I hate that I have to type this, and I know that the people that should follow this advice won’t read it … but seriously.

Shopping

  • If you are trying to get something that will be in limited supply, you’ll want to get to the exhibitor hall doors early and line up.
  • Bring cash. Some booths don’t take plastic, the ATMs often run out of cash, it’s easier to pay cash if you’re buying food in the convention center, etc. There are banks nearby with ATMs; I suggest using them.
  • When you’re talking to someone at a booth, don’t just give them a generic question like “Can you tell me about X?” — you’ll get a spiel. Sometimes that spiel is long, and sometimes it’s boring, and it can be both. Try to avoid really open-ended questions. And if you are talking to a booth person that just won’t shut up … just tell them that you’re not interested, say thanks, and walk away. [As an exhibitor, I have “spiels,” of course — but I try to construct them in ways that I can spiel for 15 seconds, evaluate to see if the person gives a crap, and if they don’t, bail out. If they do give a crap, I continue on to 30 seconds, evaluate, 1 minute, etc … no use wasting my time and theirs if they’ve decided that they’re not interested!]
  • On Sunday, near closing, you can probably get some deals, especially if you ask at booths from small companies that don’t want to ship a lot of stuff back. But if you hover around the booth all weekend, taking up the exhibitor’s time, and then want a bargain on the backend … well, that’s kind of jerky.
  • I’ve never heard of someone getting pickpocketed at Gen Con, although I’m sure it’s happened. What I have heard of: cards and miniatures getting stolen, and people accidentally leaving a bag of new stuff in the exhibitor’s hall and having it disappear by the time they get back. If you have a bunch of valuables, don’t leave them lying around. Try to bring only what you need for that day down to the convention center. Edit: I have now heard from people who were pickpocketed last year at Gen Con, in the exhibitor’s hall.

Eating

(I’m really down on the state of food in Indy. I’d appreciate some comments from people who LIKE places in Indy. I’ll summarize those in a future post.)

  • Anytime you want to eat, it will take a half hour longer than you expect to get seated.
  • Anytime you want to eat, Indianapolis is inadequate. Hope you enjoy “american” food!
  • Naturally, the Steak and Shake right by the convention center is always packed. Thirty minutes for a milkshake.
  • There’s a food court in the mall. It’s not a bad choice — predictable and relatively fast.
  • But tip really well, because gamers are often poor tippers, and it’s not the waiter’s fault that Indianapolis is very narrow, food-wise.

Events

  • Schedule a day with no schedule — just a day to wander, hang out with people, play demos, walk the exhibitor’s hall, all that stuff.
  • Buy a handful of generic tickets for dropping into games or giving to friends who have run out or didn’t plan on getting into a game and that you invited along.
  • Your first day there, grab 4 copies of the program book. Take 3 back to your hotel and put one in your bag. You will lose one every day. If you aren’t the type to lose one every day, don’t do this! You may want to just rip the important pages out of the book — the maps, IMO — and put them in your bag/notebook/whatever.
  • Don’t schedule stuff back-to-back. If you’re playing a game 10AM to 2PM, don’t schedule one for 2PM to 6PM as well, unless they’re in very close rooms.
  • Don’t play games that you play all the time at home, unless it’s some sort of special convention-only event.
  • Play more games for shorter periods of time; 2 hour introductory sessions for games you don’t know instead of 4 hour longer sessions.

Going Home

  • If you have to check out of your hotel on Sunday, that always sucks. It will eat at least an hour of your time to pack your crap up, check out, and arrange for some sort of alternate car parking/baggage storing for the interim. If you have a bunch of roommates, you should coordinate this early Sunday morning, so you know what you’re doing come checkout time. Remember to sweep your hotel room really thoroughly for things left behind. It’s easy to accidentally tuck a sword or something behind the door and walk out without it.
  • If you are planning on buying a lot of stuff, bring a suitcase inside your other suitcase on the way to show, and bring one home full of games on the way back!
  • There is a UPS outlet just outside the exhibitor’s hall in case you want to ship odd-sized stuff home. As of two years ago, the people running it were super-cool — there was a payment snafu with my shipment, and they shipped my stuff anyway, googled me up, and gave me a call the next week to extract payment.

Anyone have any further tips or advice? Post ’em up!

24 hours with an iPod touch

For a couple years, I had a 30GB video iPod. Black. I bought it primarily to use while traveling, but I also hoped to use it to listen to podcasts as I went to sleep. Long story short, I rarely used it at home or around the house once the initial shine was off. I found sleeping with headphones to be cumbersome, and I never got around to buying an alarm-clock dock thing. How did I listen to podcasts in bed? The same way I have been for years — right off my laptop.

I still used the iPod while traveling, but between not working out for sleeping and some of the features not being quite as polished as I would like, I must admit that I didn’t really love my iPod after the first few months. It was nice, but it didn’t change my life.

On Monday, I bought an iPod touch. I’ll be at two conventions over the next month — MechaCon later this week, and Gen Con in August, and I had been considering getting an iPhone, but nobody had a 32GB iPhone in stock. So I grabbed a 32GB iPod touch. So far, I am really impressed.

Here’s the things that sold me:

  • External Speaker: No need to buy any sort of dock to use it as an audio player in bed, plus no need to use headphones while using it at my desk.
  • Apps: I’m around a wifi network all day, so I’m experimenting with moving some apps over to the iPod touch, like TweetDeck. I want to stay connected to these things … without staying connected to my laptop.
  • Touchscreen: I use a computer so much that I get uncomfortable when I don’t have some sort of interface to work with. Anyone who hangs out with me knows that I can’t stop futzing with, well, anything I can get my hands on — random pieces of paper, any electronics, the coffee cup I’m holding, whatever. The iPod touch plays into this perfectly.
  • Internal Microphone: Hah! Busted! I thought that the touch had an internal microphone, but it totally doesn’t. I need to buy a mic for it so I can use Skype.

Here’s a really pleasant surprises:

  • Better syncing: On my previous iPod, if I listened to a track on it, iTunes never realized that I had. On the iPod touch, that information is synced back — making smart playlists based on play status that much better. I’ve been burning through old unplayed podcasts today, catching up.
  • NetNewsWire: I love NNW on OS X, and I’m totally pleased with the iPod touch version, too. One tiny niggle — I wish I could re-order my categories of feeds manually instead of alphabetically. I renamed the category on my Mac, but that change has yet to sync properly to the iPod touch. Minor niggle for now.

And here’s what I really really really want:

  • iChat with voice: I spend a lot of time using iChat to talk to friends and coworkers, and I’d love to be able to carry them around the house with me without hefting my laptop.
  • iTunes to get a good facelift: I like iTunes. I like having a single library of music; the overall model of the app works well for me. But over the years, iTunes has grown and expanded in ways that have made it ungainly. Why is the only way to manually check for podcasts that little “Refresh” button hidden in the bottom right of the Podcasts menu? Why can’t I right click on the Podcast icon in the sidebar and chooose “Refresh” from a contextual menu? I have a ton of little niggles about iTunes, but none of them are gamebreakers.
  • Wireless syncing for everything: It just makes sense.
  • Being able to continue using the device while syncing: This is annoying. Yeah, I’m syncing a lot because I’m still trying out new apps and tinkering in general, but it’s really annoying.

Gen Con Indy Attendance Tips Part 1: Before the Show!

My Gen Con Tip Archive: Part 1: Before the Show! | Part 2: At the Show | Part 3: Looking for Work

It’s just over three weeks to Gen Con Indy 2009, and a few months ago, a first-time attendee asked me for advice attending the show. I rattled off a ton of off-the-cuff advice for her, and now I’ve distilled it down into a short series of posts. Here’s Part 1: Before the Show!

  • If you’re looking to buy stuff that is brand-new at the show, figure out how the company is selling it well in advance. Some of them sell X copies each morning, some try and sell them all the first day, some ration them other ways.
  • Don’t bring your laptop. If you do, leave it in your room each day. You’re not going to use it, there isn’t a ton of free wifi around, and you’re not going to use it.
  • Don’t bring many gaming books. If you’re going to play X game, bring the X core book, but that’s it. I knew someone who brought is ENTIRE Shadowrun collection to Gen Con one year, and he carried it around in a giant rucksack. That was stupid.
  • But do bring your phone charger. There’s an AT&T store in the mall. You’ll probably want your digital camera and charger, too.
  • The Embassy Suites has a free breakfast if you’re staying there. They have a free happy hour, too.
  • There is a CVS about three blocks from the convention center. It is your best bet for inexpensive bottled drinks, snackfood, cigarettes, Red Bull, and condoms. The hours are awkward, though:

    Tues-Fri: 6:30am – 6:30pm
    Sat: 8am – 6:30pm
    Sun: 9am – 5pm

    Edit: Daniel Perez has a great point — the earlier you do your shopping at the CVS, the less likely they are to run out of stuff. Buy everything you know you’ll need on Wednesday if possible.

  • Bring comfy shoes. This seems like a no-brainer, right? If you’re wearing a costume or something like that, keep a pair of your regular shoes in your bag for long-distance walking.
  • Bring twice as many pairs of socks as you’d normally wear. You’re walking a lot and it will be grossly hot and humid.
  • Hand sanitizer. Bring a bottle. Use it. Offer it to your friends whenever you use it. You don’t want to get sick at or after the show. The dreaded “con crud” can be defeated!

Adam Jury at MechaCon, July 24th-26th

I’ll be the gaming guest of honor at MechaCon (site plays loud sound effects) in Lafayette, Louisiana, July 24th-26th. I’ll be doing a couple panels/seminars — about Shadowrun’s 20th Anniversary, cyberpunk gaming, and working in the game industry. I’ll also be spending some time relaxing and hanging out at the show, but I’d be totally happy to meet up with and hang out with any Shadowrun and Catalyst fans who are going to be at the convention.

There’s also some Shadowrun games being run at the show, of course!

I’ll post exact times to my official appearances at the show closer to the actual date.