Constructive Feedback - Unplugged 2018
It's time for the feedback thread!
I hope everyone was able to find something at Unplugged that made them happy!
Please remember that it's perfectly fine to dislike a thing or have negative feedback, but it's not ok to be a jerk!
- I loved the variety of Vendors.
- The Tabletop gaming events were fun and decently organized. Some of the niche games like SpeedFreaks or the 15mm WW2 game were well run and reminiscent of Adepticon's smaller events.
- The con didn't feel overcrowded. Panels were accessible and fun!
The Arcadian Brush however is where i need to give the most feedback.
- The fact that there was only one person judging- and on top of that he was teaching classes is crazy to me. I'm not surprised it all he didn't make it through all the entries. I would have liked to have gotten feedback on my piece, but because it was expected he not only judge but teach classes- i don't blame him not being able to get through it all.
- The fact that other judges just didn't show up at all during the judging was also unreasonable.
Also: something i'd like to see next year. The con already has the folks from Games Workshop at the con: Why not have them involved with running the Warhammer Tabletop events alongside the TO"s? Would love to see the Community team play a part.
My own feedback, starting with the positive-
-I very much enjoyed spending time in the Unpublished game room and seeing people's amazing ideas coming to life. It's so impressive what teams of only one or two people can accomplish and I'm glad that PAX gave them the space to show off.
-There were enforcers everywhere you looked who were friendly and happy to answer questions
-wonderful amount and variety of vendors
-Meeting other miniature painters and getting to talk with them was an experience I rarely get to have. That was the highlight of the weekend.
-I thought with a three day pass I would be able to enjoy some miniature related classes at the workshop. However, that entire line of content is inaccessible if you are not there first thing in the morning. I didn't realize that coming after an early work shift would mean that even the evening classes would be a no-go. Since that is my major interest in the hobby it made going in for the full weekend feel like a crappy deal. I ended up just wandering around the showroom, which I did not need a whole weekend to do.
-The Arcadian Brush was the thing I was looking forward to the most. It was an overwhelming disappointment. It was very poorly organized and seemed haphazard. Since the judging ran so long many people had to pull out at the last moment just so they could make their planes. Since they closed entries early without warning, you'd think they could have gotten a start on judging, but it seems to have all been left to the very last minute. It also was sad to be in the back on the very bottom of the display, so even the people I talked with couldn't see it when we pointed out our work to each other. The contest crew seemed like passionate people who love the hobby, so I'm sure they're disappointed with how it went down as well.
Edit- oh yes, also kind of disappointing that the winners were just announced by number so you had no idea which model actually won. I thought that took a bit of the fun out of it.
Following suit as above, however, I'll start with the positives:
- The vendors area was spaced out well enough that it didn't feel like traffic jams were inevitable.
- All PAX personnel were really nice, friendly, neither of us had any issues with them.
- Signs mostly made sense, so it wasn't difficult to find things once you were oriented.
The negatives all seem to stem from the venue:
- The queues. I would argue that there were not enough varied panels, or enough seating in high-interest panel areas, to satisfy demand, as there was always a queue that far exceeded the possible capacity.
- Having to queue every morning also meant arriving far before being able to do things like having a breakfast, especially as we were coming in via train each day.
- The queues were definitely not friendly for those with disabilities. My wife (who's been experiencing trouble with her feet and legs) stood Friday morning in line to try to sign up for Mini's panels that only had 24 seats. After 45 minutes of standing, not a single one of those panels was open any more. The system seems to favor people who can be on-site at a very specific and early time before the convention, which really limits its accessibility to those who cannot make that specific time, to say nothing of people in wheelchairs or having to push strollers along.
- The security constraints of having to be checked every time one entered the convention center really seemed to discourage leaving the convention center for any reason, including eating. The Jefferson Station entrance was an even greater mystery... why patrons were forced to walk to the opposite end of the hall to enter from the exhibitors' entrance, when often there was no difference in lines at the scanning stations is beyond me. To exit, people had to cut across queue lines and circle around the whole hall, also not friendly for those with disabilities. Splitting one half of the queue hall such that it handled incoming / security, and had an exit path as well, and the other half handled queue for events, would have caused far less disturbance to the queues, and been friendlier to those trying to just get out for lunch.
- The wait time caused by security also created more havoc when it wasn't clear which lines were intended for exhibitors. I had to move from one line to the other only after someone told me that the one (longer) line was specifically for exhibitors.
What can be improved:
Positives: 1)The expanded vendor room was Awesome! It never felt too crowded, and a huge selection of big and small exhibitors.
2)There was lots of open table space. We didn't have to hard a time finding space to play some games from the library.
3)The Enforcers are great!
4)Sign ups for workshops and games were much easier then last year even if I still don't agree with how it works I at least know where to wait for 1 1/2 hours.
5) the AFK room was awesome when I started to get burned out.
Negative: 1)waiting for and hour and a half to not get the workshops I wanted to take. didn't mater that I was toward the front of the line either.
2)Having to choose between playing games or taking workshops because you cant do both with the current system.
3) The Arcadian Brush!
So my feed back on that needs its own space.
I understand that this is the first year that this competition was held so I'm giving it a little slack.
1) Why did were there 3 division of skill level in each category if all three were going to be judged together?
2) I have know idea why only half the pieces were judged, but it was very disheartening to not have my piece that I spent a lot of hours judged.
3) The awards presentation seamed an after thought. It would have been nice to get peoples names. I had a hard time hearing what was happening.
4)The two Tiny display cases felt hidden behind a pillar, even in the middle of the room I felt like all of us who spent a lot of time on these pieces deserved to have our art shown a little more publicly.
5) I'm not sure who the judges were but it would have been nice to have judges that are prominent in the Industry.
Stuff that could use improvement:
Second hand Negatives (stuff that didn't affect me directly)
It's a bit more troubling if nepotism/ a friend of the enforcers was the winner?
I do know the enforcer who was judging (Colonel Wales) has a good ammount of credibility and seems to be an ok judge. But if there is a remote possibility that nepotism/ enforcer favoritism played a role in determining a winner- i do feel we need to get some professionals in the industry out here to judge. With GW present perhaps we could get Giuseppe from Axia Fish who does a lot of their FW studio models? Or any of the Staff painters from the Dust 1947 team- who also had a booth at the show. Heck if they get Corvus Belli to show up next year, i'd even ask to have Angel Giraldez as a judge.
Expanding and taking up more of the convention hall made a big difference. It was super smart to give over so much more space to free play tables.
The Enforcers as always
The maps/guide didn't seem complete? I could usually find vendor info but finding the location of other specific things like the Worldbuilders table was tough.
The worst thing is really the queues - when it's something that's not overwhelmingly attended and folks were allowed to sit in the queue area outside the main/mothman theaters it wasn't bad but once it hits a certain threshold everyone is made to stand and crowd in as close as possible. This is tough when you're standing on concrete floors for an hour or more and it's hot from being packed together and you're carrying your loot from the expo hall.
It also just eats up time when you could be doing something else at the convention. I know queueing has always been sort of a part of the PAX culture but that was way easier when it meant sitting in a long line and playing ad hoc card games. It's not so great when you're packed like cattle.
I would be totally ok with registering for the major popular events and having the queue line for folks hoping for empty seats.
Sidenote regarding security: I'm pretty sure that was a PA convention center policy and not a change the con made. It was never a big deal for me but I also tended to come in later in the day.
My exposure to different parts of PAX was limited due to the group I was traveling with, so I won't be able to comment or relate to some other areas, unfortunately.
Adding metal detectors this year was a bit of a pain. It seemed they were not well staffed, so despite having 4+ metal detectors for the side entrances, they were often only using 2 or 3. In the grand hall entrance, where they had 8+ detectors, they dropped down to 2 or 3 after the morning rush, despite post-lunch being a busy time.
The security personnel I interacted with were professional, respectful, and got me through quickly. I have no complaints with them.
Saturday, however, needed more personnel. We went to lunch at 2:30, hoping to avoid the lunch crowd and failed. However, we ate, returned, played a game or two, and the line for security on the tournament entrance only got longer, and longer. We decided to leave and go around to the grand hall entrance, where there was no line at all.
The lines I did enter this year (merch lite, expo hall, morning RPG, Keyforge) were well managed, adapted as they grew, and moved quickly.
The amount of vendors, and the quality of their displays, staff, and demos were incredible! I will say it seemed that many were understaffed. I understand many were using volunteers. It just seemed like many had more tables and demo copies than they had people to run them.
FFG was always swamped, but that's just market popularity and hype.
My kids and I participated in the Pokemon TCG mini tourney on Sunday, and they had a lot of fun, but it was very disorganized. They didn't have all the energy types that were needed, and due to only 1 person running it, needed the players to keep track of each block and wins and losses. My kids had fun though, and that's more important.
The free play area again was pretty busy. We had trouble finding a seat Friday and Saturday afternoon/evening. It's pretty crazy to think we need even more space. Some of it was just bags and "spacer" chairs between groups of people. It might be better use to split the length of tables, but maybe that would result in more unused chairs.
I only tried one game in first look, unfortunately. My group wasn't as interested in it. The one game we did try the enforcer wasn't familiar with, but that was because it showed up Thursday night apparently. It looked like it was pretty busy all weekend and so many looked neat. Next year I might just ditch the group and spend all day there.
Great job, enforcers! Every one I interacted with was kind, helpful, and polite.
That's all I can think of for now. Looking forward to next year!
This was on all the first look games last year, we were a bit disappointed to see them missing this year. There also seemed to be fewer people around to teach games in that area this year (and multiple times, people who were around didn't know the games). Don't get me wrong, I don't at all blame the Enforcers, they did an awesome job of trying to learn a TON of games and graciously teach them to us throughout the weekend. I blame the people who decided on how many Enforcers should be dedicated to that area, which compounds the issue (since fewer people = less time each person is available AND fewer people means each person needs to know more games).
So the math trade like tripled in size this year and was great. The thing is, it is just a community-organized event, so it's up to all of us who participate to make it go as well as possible. I didn't look carefully if it was mentioned, but the best thing I can recommend for everyone: a dollar store whiteboard. Write your username on it, it's super easy to see from far away. Another thing is to work in pairs. If you don't have someone with you who can help, then team up with someone you can trust to make trades for you. One person stands in a prominent place with your bag of games and holds up the sign with your name, the other person has a list of all the people you're looking for, for trades, and walks up and down the isles looking for those folks. We did that, about half the people walked up to me standing there, the other half were found by my better half.
(and when we finished, we had a friend who was struggling since he didn't have a whiteboard, gave him mine, and before we packed everything up, had had found 5 people he was looking for and was done)
Honestly, Philly's homeless problem can be pretty bad at times. They can be aggressive and quite well-organized. If there's a large crowd of people who might have extra cash and/or be easily scammed (a large con is PERFECT for both), you'll find a lot of homeless. When I'm walking around Philly by myself, I literally always walk fast, have my earbuds in, and if it's daytime, have sunglasses on, and if someone tries to talk to me, just politely say, "hey, how's it goin" which, with the speed I'm moving, gets me past them before they have a chance to reply or start begging.
I think the reason you don't see it as much at East is because the convention center in Boston is out in the middle of nowhere compared to the one in Philly.
IT's partially that (the homeless tend to stick around Washington street and the old Combat Zone, a few miles away) and partially that the homeless in Boston have a different dynamic than the ones in Philly.
As an Enforcer, I just want to thank all the attendees. Every year, we all have difficult jobs putting together this con, and the fact that the attendees listen, are responsive and respectful, and comply with commands easily goes a long way toward making the convention run smoother.
- The Gravity Resin Workshop class was a pretty major letdown as no materials were provided and it was just a demo even though the description said it was hands-on
- Merch lite ran a little slow day one, but it improved
- The AL area was a little confusing on signage
- Some of the games in TT freeplay were pretty disorganized and had lots of crucial pieces missing (I reported the ones I found)
- AL Tier 1 was rough to get in to
- Enforcers. You guys are the absolute freakin best and it's impossible to overstate how helpful and friendly you lot are. You're the lifeblood of PAX imo.
- The Tier 2 AL round we played was well organized, started quick, and felt really well put together
- The expo hall had so much more room for activities
- The queue hall system, as well as the movement from queue hall to expo, felt way smoother
- Separate area for tournament play was a great idea
- Great variety of panels, vendors, unpub, and first look. Probably the best variety I've seen at a PAX
I said it after year one, and I reiterate it this year, Unplugged is my favorite PAX.
I think that signing up for the workshops could have been handled better. I think it would be better to do pre registration like was done for the higher tier AL sessions.
Speaking of AL, it was nearly impossible, again, to get into a T1 session. There either needs to be many more tables or pre-reg.
I had no issues with lines or security, the main entrance at Market st was consistently nearly empty.
I would like a first look session like the unpub area, where there are devs to help demo the games.
Everything else was great!
DnD was MUCH BETTER this year. More tables (a whole wing of them!), pre-registration (YES YES YES), just generally way more organized. I was able to do the full vampire hunt trilogy and the Gangs of Waterdeep heist, which was almost all of Friday; no way would I have been able to do all that without the extra level of space and organization provided this year. Fai Chen was well-run and super helpful and the DnD Beyond room was a great way to help people new to the hobby jump in. There are a few pain points listed below but this was a huge improvement over last year's chaos in a tiny room.
Expo Hall was huge and varied. Lots of stuff to look through, in so many different categories. I'm amazed to live in an age where someone can, like, make an income just building and selling framed dioramas for painted miniatures (f'r instance). Lots of space to maneuver through the aisles, and plenty of demo tables with people who were open and welcoming, and had the time to really dive in on their games or products. I think I spent like 15+ minutes just one-on-one with a guy who makes 3d resin walls for campaigns, going over every little detail and question, and never felt rushed.
Also, those big flags with the aisle rows (1600, 1700, etc) were SUPER useful in wayfinding. Thank you to whoever added those to the expo hall.
Security theater was mostly well-managed if you got in early enough, though inconsistent and, of course, security theater.
Finally, thanks to whoever put in that "exit only" tape by that one escalator near the RPG area; before that was put down I rode down it and got stuck behind post-lunch security on Friday, and almost missed a session because of that unnecessary delay. Even better was whoever took charge of moving the barriers so that you actually COULD ride that escalator without leaving the security zone, like you'd expect. Maybe set things up better so that this is ALWAYS the way that entrance works; move the security back fifteen feet if you need more space inside the doors, instead of routing people on both sides of the escalator and blocking it.
There were still some pain points on the DDAL front. For one, the adventure sessions weren't well scheduled AT ALL; that is, in a way that facilitated a good trip through the trilogy in order from I-II-III. Instead, the whole schedule felt very haphazard. I was lucky and quick and able to get things in order by spacing them all over and literally building my entire weekend around that plan, but it was a close thing a few times and I only had one or two options if I wanted to do the trilogy as intended, which also meant I had to give up on other things I was really hoping to do (like Make-A-Strip). Why would you schedule Sunday's last two sessions as part III and THEN II? Why not do a few sessions that led right from one related part to the other, so that a table could opt to just go from one to the next?
It also seems like they had some trouble on the GM front. Did some people not show up? Did they not have backups? Did they just not have enough GMs, period? Either way, if you're pre-registering there's no excuse: you know exactly who's there to do what, and you should have backups prepped and in place. One of my games was rather derailed by a GM who hadn't been prepped on the adventure he was running, which destroyed the pacing and resulted in a LOT of confusion from everyone and a not-great session. I don't blame him personally (I'd do a shitty job at running a module if I was just handed it blind and told to run it), just whatever system failed that put him in that spot. Fix that system.
I get that this was the first time that we did a pre-reg for DDAL, and the enforcers were a bit jumpy about it, but there's no need to pull out my phone three times to prove that I should be there (once to approach, again to line up, a third time to get seated). Seriously, it was easier to get in the BUILDING than it was to line up for something I had registered for a month ago. Pick a point where you're doing the check, do it quickly, and then stick to it. It's annoying, and hassling people who have already shown your their phone a few times and now want to go to the bathroom (this happened to one of my group's members) is also not a way to run this event.
Finally, if there are multiple modules queuing at the same time, separate the line so you're not calling and shouting up and down the hall ("I need two for Fangs and Frogs... two for Fangs and Frogs..." and wasting time, and can just seat people quickly and efficiently. Maybe even arrange the groups of six while people are waiting around with nothing to do and then just send them in in groups as tables open up. It'll go much faster. That one session that the GM wasn't ready for? We started 15 minutes late because the go-from-line-to-table plan was so poor, compounding the problem.
The Workshop. God, that was a mess. A super-long line forming basically immediately upon opening doors meant I got iced out from anything twice despite showing up pretty early. Waiting list wasn't handled very well, either; no defined waiting area, and no queue count done while people are waiting, which would help waitlisters know if they are wasting their time hanging out for the session to start when everyone who's signed up is already right there. Basically, Workshop was this year's DDAL; there need to be more classes, on more topics, because clearly there is a big demand for this, and the whole thing needs more people to run it. Perhaps a pre-signup for some or all of the sessions -- ideally, at a different day or time than the DnD session signup, to keep down stress on both the system and con-goers -- will help with some of this awfulness. Or if you don't want to do a pre-reg, then limit people to signing up for no more than one or two classes at once. Nobody should be able to grab tickets for all the Workshop events when there are others just behind them in line who are going to get closed out entirely.
The map is worse than useless, it's confusing. The RPG area map had NO relation to the actual layout of the rooms, and it didn't do a good job of showing how the area as a whole related to the rest of the con. Nor was it really clear how other parts related to other parts, where bathrooms are, escalators, water, etc. I get that the 8-bit aesthetic is a thing that PAX does for its maps, but it shouldn't be at the cost of actual utility.
Also, the expo hall map needs way more names, and fewer numbers. Maybe put some more banners up, too, or some colored paths on the floors.
Just listing the names of companies isn't always helpful. Let companies write a brief description of what they're selling, demoing, whether they are taking pre-orders, advertising for a soon-to-open kickstarter, etc. Let me do a search for "dice" and see all the companies who have listed or tagged "dice" in their description, and then drop a pin where they are. Color the map by vendor category. Give me an AR overlay with my phone, so I can see where I am on the map. Let me make a checklist of who I want to visit so I can be sure to hit all my kickstarter companies to tell them how great they are. You can do so much more with the app, and in 2018 there's no reason for it to not do way more than it does.
Digital swag bags are currently an afterthought. Don't make me swipe through 16 things just to find the one I care about. Highlight on the map who's offering swag. Actually have good swag. Or just drop them entirely as the vestigial remnant they are.
Please don't use whatever company you used for PAX East for next year's Unplugged hotel booking. Seriously, I never thought I'd long for OnPeak until I signed up for East's hotels last month. PLEASE. Burn that company to the ground. God, I hope Unplugged 2019 hotels aren't a mess.
Again, this was a really good con. I hope my suggestions are helpful.
Hanging banners in the Expo Hall so we can tell at a glance whereabouts we are without having to orient around one of the big booths was a great idea.
Expanding everything with the extra space in the convention center made the show better.
Finally having pre-registration for some things was a great step.
I've defended them before as "the way it's always been," but there needs to be some discussion about lines and why we've let them get this bad. After so many shows, I'm at the point where spending more time standing in lines packed together like sardines than I spend actually doing things just isn't fun anymore. It's even worse when "don't line up until [time]" rules aren't even being enforced. Once again I checked with Enforcers early Saturday afternoon to find out when the Acq. Inc. line would start, and I was told 6:30 and I was told that people trying to line up before 6:30 would be shooed away. And once again I walked up exactly at 6:30 and found the main theater queue line half-full already. At East and Unplugged every year I follow the Enforcers' instructions and show up when the line is supposed to start, and every year I find they haven't Enforced it and the line has already formed. The last D&D Adventurer's League Tier 1 game on Sunday was just as bad - I went to that area just after 1:00 on Sunday and found the sign that said the line for the 3:00 game starts at 2:00. So we left to do other things and came back a few minutes before 2:00 and found the Enforcers had made a line to get in line. We lucked out and got in just before the line soft-capped, even though the line wasn't even supposed to have started yet.
The "Market St Entrance" refers to this entrance: https://firstname.lastname@example.org,-75.1593664,3a,75y,5.29h,92.56t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sUbFCZcKnZitZAdofUMjiTA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656
It's on Market street. You walk in, pass the Dunkin Donuts, go up the escalators, and walk right in to the main queue hall. It's also where the sky bridge from the marriott empties out in to. I was able to get through security there in under 5 minutes pretty much any time of any day except first thing in the morning.
Unfortunately the Enforcers can only do so much here, mainly because attendees often don’t listen when they are shooed away, and short of calling security to come and remove them the best they can do is just mitigate the safety hazards. Like they will tell people to leave and instead attendees will just stand somewhere 10 feet away clumped together causing a fire hazard. I can tell you though through talking with them, at 6:30 when people were put in line, there was only 1-200 people in the line out of a 1,200 person theater.
The main thing I had issue with- the food area upstairs closed, like, really early on Sunday. I had to go outside to get food. With a very independent 2 1/2 year-old on tow, this was surprisingly difficult. The snacks inside were OK, if very expensive (which I expect), but I didn't see any real food available.
Also, that bowl/cup/spoon "sculpture" glued on the elevator next to the security line was a magnet for the kid. If the security line has to go slow next to it, then the center really should make it harder to reach.
Vendor Hall: More vendors, flags set up for easier navigation and ability to tell others where you are, and maintained the same wide aisles from last year's Unplugged.
Free Play Area: Still massive - never had a problem being able to find a table to play at. This, plus the location and availability of the lending library, are two things I think Unplugged does especially well.
Security Theater: Precisely ONCE this convention was my bag thoroughly searched (late on Sunday). I saw security personnel explicitly tell others that if a bag had more than two compartments to not open them all to keep the line moving. I beeped going through the metal detector multiple times and was never wanded. Either find a way to cut security out of the contract for next year, hire a 3rd party security company that will actually do their jobs, or have the contracted staff actually do their jobs - the issues surrounding "security" this year are the single biggest factor that is making my group consider going to BGG instead of Unplugged next year.
Events: Sunday's late RPG sessions were already signed up for before the morning sessions had even started. Don't list a time of 2PM and let registrations happen before then.
Less Indie Publishers at Vendor Hall: I could be wrong on this one, as they may well have just been spread out more with the newer, larger vendor hall. But it felt like this year there were less small companies that had a booth.
They were there, but there just weren't enough of them for the size of the area and were a bit overwhelmed with the amount of games to learn. The idea of that track is fantastic, they need to dedicate more folks to it, though.
I want to commend those who thought of and ran the Saturday Night Frenzy or whatever the name was and am sad that I missed out on the Friday event. The games were quick, fun, easy to learn, and it was a great way to introduce a new game to someone. Hopefully someone can send a list of what games were played on Friday. As for Saturday the games were Zombie Dice, Welcome to (your perfect home), Railroad Ink, and Qwixx. As soon as that event ended I quickly bought every single one of those games. Too fun!
The Tourney Pro area was well set up and I enjoyed the free gifts that some on demand tournaments offered. Old school boardgame tournaments were a neat idea and pretty fun too!
I definitely had a great time and look forward to more.
One quick thing about the area is that there are far too many homeless folks lingering which is unfortunate for Philly. Some of the security bag checkers were extremely rude and didn't even appear to check the bags while others were too thorough going through every nook and cranny of the bag. There needs to be a standard and they really should be nicer.
Enforcers were great, and they seemed to be better informed this year. Any time I asked a question, it was just immediately answered. There was no confusing redirection like there was last year.
Registration/pre-registration/lineups/queues for RPGs I thought were handled okay. It could have been better though. The huge "first come/first served" lines were less than ideal, but a few tweaks could improve that. The RPG (non-D&D) sign-up room had one long, snaking line in it leading to about a dozen or so sign-up sheets. I think it would have made a lot more sense to separate them into aisles aligned with the respective sign-up sheets. It would save time and let you know right away if any event you were looking for was full or not. Some signs or placards denoting the number of open slots and when games were filled would also have been useful. I went in on Friday and Saturday to sign up for one specific game each day. On Friday, I was told that based on total count that they were already over capacity and that I should not enter the queue. I knew that had zero bearing on whether the game I wanted to get into was full so I waited on line anyway and got in. Then Sunday I got there super early and was near the front of the line only to barely squeak into the game I wanted. Separated lines could have improved that. If I knew for sure I wasn't getting into a game, I could go spend my time elsewhere instead of waiting in a line.
I will echo the statements about security. It was a joke and a big waste of time. Fine coming in, and then brutal for lunch time and dinner. With the way the events are chained together, there's barely enough time to eat as it is. Throw the security check for every exit and entry and it just kills your plans. And it was a feeble security check at best. I saw some poor girl getting absolutely harangued by security over a pair of pliers but also security guards that didn't check even a third of my backpack. I don't want draconian security measures, but don't waste everyone's time with an ineffective one either. They didn't have the capacity to handle all of the attendees and the resulting rushes.
Yay, for bigger expo and more space! More freeplay tables and a roomier vendor area were appreciated.
A useful map which you could actually use to navigate the convention would be greatly appreciated. I got caught in the "this escalator goes to the first floor, but the not the first floor you want" loop a few times before I remembered how it worked. Also, seeing the room numbers on the map would be a huge help. I don't know how many times I had to ask someone where an event was only to be told a room number and then I had to ask, okay, great, where's that?
Games-On-Demand is the best! It's my favorite part of the con! I love those people, and they do an amazing job! It's really what keeps me coming back every year. It's so fun and well-organized and the people are just great. I loved that they switched to an hourly schedule, and I got to play lots of RPGs there this year. Please keep them coming back and give them more space!
One thing I love about all the PAXes is how friendly and welcoming they all are. The attendees were really nice, and I felt safe and comfortable the whole weekend. I also loved how diverse it was and how cool everyone was with all different kinds of people, and it was just accepted and normal and so great. I had a great time, and I can't wait for next year!
Continue being excellent to each other
Thank you! I will pass word on to Enforcer @Xevo who was the lead on both the Friday Night Frenzy, and the Saturday Night Showdown.
Friday's games were: Yogi by Gigamic Games, Downforce by Restoration Games, Cat Lady by AEG, and Exploding Kittens.
It took a few emergency runs to Target to get everything we needed for Saturday's event, so I am thrilled it worked out so well for you. And 126 players may be the new record for a single PAX Tabletop Tournaments event attendance
My friend and I had this happen at the Iron Hill Brewery. The server said "Of all the conventions we get across the street, PAX people are the nicest ones we get". Heard a similar thing from a badass FedEx ninja that shipped some stuff out Sunday night. Shout out to Mike at FedEx, you're awesome!
The people: Everyone we ran into who was involved in the running of the event was friendly. Actually, all of the attendees and booth vendors and demo folks were really friendly too. Never had ONE bad social interaction the whole weekend, which is pretty amazing given the number of people. In fact, we made several meaningful social connections with people that we did not know beforehand. We also had several fun random discussions and riffs with other attendees when we ran into them outside the Con area (e.g. at the Reading Market and other restaurants).
The Expo Hall and Freeplay area and First Look area: Nothing to compare it to, really, but even on Saturday these areas did not feel overwhelming in terms of being crowded. The Reading Terminal Market was nuts, but these areas were really well handled. We did have one game in the First Look area where we put up a "Looking for teacher" sign and got no response, but to be fair it was for a game that was never on the First Look list (PAX Emancipation) online, so maybe no one knew how to teach it. Was really neat to meet several game designers, both at the booths and in the First Look area. I was not sure what the UnPub area was designed to do, but now that I know I might go there next time.
The lines at the Jefferson Station/Market Street/Marriott bridge entrance: I realize, from others' accounts, that lines at the other entrances were pretty bad...but even when the queue got long just before opening at this location, they moved quickly. The bit about having to walk the length of the hall to enter, only to walk back to the other side to get in line for the detectors, was a bit weird. Never saw the point to that.
Getting to meet "celebrities" in the course of the con: We did not attend any panels or events. We did a scheduled game in the Freeplay area first thing on Friday that took almost all day, and then we spent the rest of Friday and the weekend in the Expo Hall and Freeplay and First Look areas. However, I thought it was very cool that we got to meet a couple of people who have their names on books/games that I really enjoy. Specifically, we got a demo of Apocrypha from Mike Selinker on Saturday, and got to meet Patrick Rothfuss by chance at the Worldbuilders booth on Sunday. Getting a demo of Battle for Greyport from the designer (Sam Waller) was really neat as well.
The not-as-good (Most of this has to do with the experience of the weekend, and may not have to do with PAX specifically):
Being approached for money multiple times, including INSIDE the hotel: This was a bit odd, and unexpected. It decreased the comfort level in the area.
The Marriott hotel itself: While in a fantastic location (The ability to go from the hotel to the event without going outside was a definite plus, though the weather outside was not a problem), the hotel itself seemed a bit tired, and the room we had was less than stellar. Not sure if it was because we were getting the Convention rate, but we were not able to sleep well and there was no way to get a fan in the rooms. The bed was very uncomfortable.
And, the one thing that I wanted in PAX Merch was not available to me, even at the end of the con:
The PAX purple shirt: The ONLY piece of Merch that I found amazing and wanted to purchase was the all-purple PAX Unplugged 2018 long-sleeved shirt (size XL, in case anyone reads this ). I did not realize at first that these shirts were not for sale. When I realized what they were (the shirts for the Enforcers), I was bummed but accepted it. I had the idea at the very end of the con that there must be shirts left over, and if there were, maybe they were for sale at that point. But, I was told that they "had plans for the shirts after the con". No idea what those plans were, but I hope they are giving them to charity or something.
I have a standing offer to contribute $150 to the WorldBuilders charity on the day that one of the purple long-sleeved (size XL) PAX Unplugged 2018 shirts (does not need to have Enforcer on the back - I am not looking to impersonate an Enforcer) shows up at my door. If you can make this happen, please let me know. I realize this is a long shot, but hey, if you don't ask, it definitely doesn't happen, right?
Thank you for a great weekend experience. If we do a con next year, it will likely be this one.
I know PAX has this cultural thing about queues instead of pre-registered events.
It’s time to get over that.
What works for a video game con does not work for tabletop gaming. Finding games was a huge PITA at PAX Unplugged.
Here’s are kinds of question an attendee would have when considering coming to any given gaming con:
“Is anyone running a Mutant Crawl Classics RPG?”
“Can I find Terraforming Mars on Saturday?”
“I’d like to play BattleTech or Alpha Strike over the weekend. How do I find a game?”
If I’m going to Origins or Gen Con, I can easily answer all those questions with a quick search of the event listings. Heck, if I’m attending BFG Con (about 500 attendees), I can find that information.
PAX Unplugged is poised to be one of the largest tabletop conventions in the nation... and yet you can’t event look through a list of games being run, much less reserve a spot for yourself in one of them, with the exception of a few tournaments and D&D Adventurers League.
This just isn’t acceptable for a convention the size of PAX Unplugged. I don’t pay for a $60 ticket to “hope” for a game I want to play. I don’t want to waste most of my weekend standing in line only to *not* get into the games I want to play.
Without some kind of event listing and expanded registration in the future, I will be saving my money for other conventions.
Hopefully there's room for both styles
This isn’t an either/or scenario. Other conventions offer both. PAX does not.
With that said, hopefully the (relative) success of some RPG signups helped convince the PAX folks to expand pre-registration to cover a few other of the most-overbooked events, such as a few tier 1 RPGs and the workshop events.