Hardly "news" and more of an after-action report, seeing as everything about conventions and events is placed in "News" section, I decided this subforum is still the place to go.
So, unlike you lucky americans, here in Russia the convention scene is very much undeveloped - so far we have ONE sci-fi convention going once a year, and not even in the capitol city of our country. And can you believe it, when I posted a topic about "lets gather and play this cool game Artemis where you can play your own spaceship bridge" on the main Star Trek fan forum of the country (trekker.ru), I had ZERO replies in a year. Nevertheless, this time me and my wife, we decided we'll try to ignite the interest in this awesome game in Russia.
Therefore, 13 and 14 July 2013, on "Starcon", the one and only Russian sci-fi (and all sorts alternate realities) convention, there was a modest setup dedicated to letting visitors play a game they've never seen before: "Artemis, Spaceship Bridge Simulator".
To boldly go where no man has gone before... Preparations:
We had no resources, no funding, no prior convention experience, and no people really enthusiastic to do this with us. Still, as a (stereo)typical russians, we delved into the problem head on. With the help of this forum we kinda figured out how will we introduce complete newbies to the game, I made a cheatsheet and introduction text to each of the roles, and we made some cheap DIY press-walls out of planks and duct tape. Had to rent notebooks as I don't own 6, managed to get a projector to use for free on my workplace, and had to buy a screen because renting it would cost relatively the same. At least convention provided us with some tables and chairs for free.
Our total cost was ~200$ for renting 4 notebooks, ~70$ for projector screen, ~35$ for ethernet cables and ~60$ for press wall components, or 375$ total. Was it worth it?
One thing we were not hesitant to spend the budget on was handsome booth babes (nah, kidding, they're actually friends of ours) Execution:
I must say, I never expected it would be SO awesome. Despite technical difficulties with WiFi we had on day 1, despite convention being loud and very hard to communicate even when we seated people very close to each other, despite one notebook dying on us in the middle of the day (good thing I had a backup ready), despite the fact that we had to get up early after getting to bed late, and had to spend all day barely having time to rest or even eat, it was awesome. You could definetly feel how much people really craved for the experience we introduced to them - even those crews that didn't progress far or didn't understand much of the gameplay mechanics still had an awesome time playing the game. We had many crews getting really excited and involved, and I was really happy to see how much joy there was all around. Numerous people thanked us and shared their excitement, and inquired about the game - I hope we will see new Russian players joining our community.
One of the most emotional and excited team we've got during the whole event
We had 2 to 3 friends stick with us at the booth, who were mildly knowledgeable about the game or outright not knowledgeable of it at all, but they tried to help, and did help a bit. Still, the booth was mostly ran by 2 people plus a person who watched after our belongings.
Unidentified Lifeform on board!
For the second day of the convention, I was able to setup the "Star Trek TMP Realism" mod, and it seems that public liked that even more (I dunno how it would end up in your country, maybe you'd have lawyers in your face immediately demaning bribes and fines and stuff and confiscating your equipment). We had more casualties (in that mod there are many ships that you cannot go head-on against because of very powerful frontal beam) but people definetly enjoyed flying the iconic ship they love from the movies.
Constitution class starship of the Federation
We didn't have anything fancy or aestetically cool - having to work with generic chairs and tables, I tried to setup the bridge to resemble the configuration of the USS Enterprise: Helms and Comms in the front, Capitain in the middle, Engineer-Science-Weapons behind in a semicircle. However, since there was so much noise, capitain had to turn around constantly to communicate, and we had to switch the setup to have the capitain sitting next to the science officer in the back row. Actually, that looked very nice in my opinion, and the whole construction kinda resembled some kind of a ship cockpit. To tell you the truth, when a person approached me and told me he's willing to build a bridge for this game for the next convention, recreating all stations and stuff, and is going to try to find funding for it, I immediately thought that it would be more benefitial to put that effort and funding into getting two or three bridges running, even if they'd be plain tables and chairs, rather than have one bridge that is very decorated. People seemed to have so much fun even without any decoration in place.
You never know if a person roleplaying a vulcan is having fun, though. No emotions... Conclusion:
Looking back, now that we have experience running an Artemis booth, we have understanding how we could better organise the whole event. We should have had someone instruct and brief people on their stations before it is their time to play the game, so that they could get into the game immediately when previous team finished. The way it was, people were just standing there waiting for their game, or wandering around convention, and then we had to instruct them and give them to try stuff out for about 5 minutes out of their 40 minute playtime - this could be avoided if they would be thoroughly briefed before.
Manuals and cheat sheets that we prepared were a little bit off focus - I tried to convey all the basic information about the console in the format of one A4 page, information like what allocating energy to each system does for engineering, or what weapons and options are there available for weapons, or what control options there are for helms. However, I should have instead just told them what to do - like, tell helms that he sets a course by clicking with a mouse and goes to warp by pressing numbers 1-4, tell engineering to put 250/8 to beams, maneuver, warp or front shields when appropriate, tell weapons to fire homings one after another for single targets, and fire ecm -> nuke on fleets, while using manual mode to shoot down maneuver if we're trying to get behind the enemy, or weapons if we're dealing with him head on, and so on. Since I tried to explain much basic information, people were often using that information wrongly - like, helms tried to navigate all by keyboard and struggled to turn to required headings, or engineering getting all messed up and overheating the ship, or weapons firing multiple ecms on one target and at point blank range.
Setting up the stations in any formation where capitain is not behind everybody would not be a good idea for a newbie crew - even if there would be no noise interference, newbie capitain had hard time tracking in his head where which of his players is sitting, and had to constantly turn around, trying to remember to whom does he speak in order to get a heading or prepare the nuke. Also, getting a capitain who is willing to actually speak a lot and get people involved was very important - when capitain was mute and slow to take a desicion, there was way less enjoyment obviously by everybody, and especially comms. Generally, correctly choosing the capitain was the most important part in ensuring the newbie team will have good time playing.
Difficulty setting 2 proved to be the best for newbies, because on 3 and above damage from enemy weapons and abundance of elites was already too high for some crews, and made games last too long, and on 1 there was just not enough targets to shoot at. Both Very Interesting and Barren settings are not suitable for newbie teams - Barren is really plain and boring, and Very Interesting has too many friendly ships and debris compared to the amount of enemy ships on difficulty level 2, which makes it stick out that there are not enough enemies.
Including the preparation time of about 2 to 4 minutes, a 40 minute total game session seemed to be really enough - we didn't have a single team not complete a mission in that time. The only time we had to ask people to go to let next team play is when they either won too fast or lost too fast and we've launched another mission for them.
Signing people up in advance was definetly a good idea - too bad we didn't start doing it from day 1. There is however a problem of signing people up too far ahead - people would get lost, forget they wanted to play, or just get involved somewhere else or go home, so you couldn't really rely on them to come.
Every day started with us having no visitors for about half an hour, with only so few people inquiring, because a bunch of seats and tables are not very attractive, and even Attract Mode mission didn't help much. However, after we'd get a single crew rolling, we would never have a vacant bridge until the very end of the day, EVER. And no, this was not tied to the amount of visitors on the ground - there was no big visible increase of the amount of people on the convention between first and two following games, it was just the fact that people noticed someone's having fun and came to see what's up, countrary to people saw a bunch of vacant tables and chairs, and not even coming close because there's nothing there of interest. Therefore, it is very important to have at least 5 people on the booth, because you absolutely HAVE to have booth staff playing the game from the minute convention opens in order to get the public interested, and have one person on standby to greet the public and tell them about the game. Maybe sending out our volounteers to walk around the convention offering people to play could help too, but we didn't have time to think of a good speech and make flyers they could hang out (and then again, after first game started, we'd never be in need of players again).
Even on a relatively small convention, we had more people willing to play than we could serve. Would be awesome if we could get two bridges going - we could have more people play at the same time, or even give them some cooperative missions, with comms communicating via walkie-talkie or some voicechat software. But then again - where do we get the funds to rent PCs and projectors? Dillema...
Finaly, photos and videos from the convention:
- Photos of the booth and people playing
- Photos of the convention itself and booth crew
- Videos of people playing (in Russian, obviously)
[Last edited Jul 16, 2013 19:31:53]