Thursday, May 28, 2015

Comicpalooza 2015 Review Part 1

COMICPALOOZA 2015!!!!

I've had to write a lot of this down before I started typing. There was SO much to cover and billions of tangents I could have traveled down during this blog so it took some effort to collect my thoughts.

OVERALL SCORE:

PARKING:

Pro- My own experience was just fine. I book a room at the Hilton from Friday to Monday, and they are good about locking the parking garage down to hotel guests only on the weekends.

Con- Things were a little hairy on Saturday and I ended up parking on the roof due to the Rocket's game, but even then we didn't have to circle the lot like vultures. It just took a few minutes extra to find a spot.

HOTEL:

Pro- The Hilton appeared to step their game up this year. Check in and Check out were smooth and as always the Hilton books a counterbalance event for the convention. This year it was a bunch of churches doing lord knows what (literally). Listening to all of the "wizened" ladies commenting on how amazing everyone's outfits were and taking pictures of everyone was a treat. We nerds were well appreciated by the local fauna for sure!

Con- The breakfast buffet waiters and waitresses were a little rude this year from start to finish of the dining experience. I don't know whether to blame this on palooza attendees not tipping properly, or a freak happenstance, but it was extremely noticeable and it made the "wake up" process in the mornings just a touch harder. (lack of sleep + grumpy waitress = equally grumpy attendee)

BADGE PICK UP:

Pro- I was extremely pleased with the amount of dates and places that we could pick up our badges early. (Shout out to 8th Dimension). I had friends that did not do this however, so I was dreading how their situation was going to play out. I should not have worried.

Lines for Will Call were near instant at their worst, and I stopped upstairs to check on the On Site Badge purchases and the line was moving quickly and effeciently.

I'm unsure if so many of us did early pick up that it made things much smoother, and I am also lacking in a daily attendance count so I don't know how the numbers may have changed things, but the problems that we all had in 2014 with getting IN to the con... they were non existent this year.

Serious thumbs up in those regards.

Con- First off, this was an isolated incident, so it really shouldn't be reflecting poorly on everyone. When the doors first opened, things were a little unclear for all of us. Lines were blurred. Masses of people were trying to push forward into the con.

Whoever (it was a baldish dude) was at the middle left entrance who seemed to be in charge of line management GRABBED several people physically and pushed them away from the entrance as they tried to get in to the con floor.

First off, physical contact is unacceptable.

Second... there were no ropes. There wasn't anyone shouting out to form a line. Sure, if you went and asked somebody they told you, (I did this after watching him shove a Joker cos player away without saying a word to him) but it was a madhouse for a moment there. I don't blame ANYONE who was confused about where to go and how to go about it.

I wouldn't call for this man's blood or anything, but if he were identifiable I would readily suggest he not be put anywhere in a situation involved a dense crowd, because he has boundary issues and THAT is one thing no con wants on their head is their volunteers stepping out of line physically towards customers.

CON LAYOUT:

Pro- The lanes were wide. Sooooo wide. I never had to worry about getting trapped anywhere, and even when people stopped cosplayers for photo op's there was plenty of space to slide by or move around them. My wife has issues with large crowds some times. The worry never arose while on the artist/dealer floor, even though the place was seeing lots of traffic. This is probably my biggest pro out of everything.

I've noticed that every year we've seemed to have almost a small "mini con" attached to the event. One year is was Galacticon, and the last two years it has been Maker Fair. It's been refreshing. I can shift modes and genres mid con by walking elsewhere and suddenly I'm dealing with an entirely different experience. It really helped kill monotony and freshen the pallet.

I was happy to see most of the musical/loud events had been moved upstairs into auditoriums where they could be contained somewhat and not ruin other events/stores/artists time. A true step away from having Arc Attack thrumming from side of the hall to the other from 2013.

Con-

1. There were two booths. Pride of Bedlam (who are awesome, as I know Kristin Coyle as the best fiddler ever), and then a group selling drums and playing them for advertising...

Pride occasionally sang, and I happened to get caught at a bad time as I was trying to haggle down some prices with a vendor and talk about his wares and found it hard to hear myself.

The drummers however... they played constantly, and you wouldn't have been able to hear an air raid siren within 6 booths of them in any direction. It was obnoxious, and I wasn't forced to try to sell anything near them. I can only imagine the amount of sales lost due to people trying to escape the cacaphony og good/bad drummers hammering away at the doumbeks and djembes.

2. Vaping. This has been covered in a lot of blogs and posts lately about whether it is acceptable at cons, so I will only touch on it briefly. I don't care about it's health issues. Thats so utterly debatable that it's a sinkhole when it comes to a resolution. I'm going to focus on product.

Moisture damages comics. Smells attach themselves to fabrics and comics. Oil (such as vegetable glycerine) can attach to paper as well as fabrics and stain. As Ecigs are not 100% effecient, some of that does escape, and it WILL land on products that people want to sell and purchase. THAT is why they shouldn't be allowed inside of a con. That's all I have to say about that,

Resolution-

Perhaps trying to isolate the louder groups or even providing (or requiring) some sort of sound wall or curtain for them could work. We all enjoy the music when we are seeking it out, but it can be very invasive with the other parts of the con.

There is no real resolution for the vaping beyond banning it. So many of us are walking around EVERYWHERE in the con with purchased product that giving them an area is almost unfeasible.

GUESTS:

Pro-

Tons of big names and super friendly people. They add a special experience to things and draw in a large crowd. I got to meet Summer Glau. It was very cool. She's extremely nice and actually enjoyed those of us who met her.

It made the line take longer, but was well worth it, and on top of that Palooza sent a minion to "urge" her along after it was noticed how slow things were progressing. (We appreciated that greatly)

Con-

Tons of guests and they draw in large crowds. The lines for the bigger names get ridiculous. I personally sat in line for Summer Glau for 3 and a half hours, and I got in the line at around 10:20. It was mostly due to her being very involved with all of us so I can abide the long wait, but standing or sitting on that concrete without moving for 3 hours.... that's gotta go. We were all complaining about pained knees and feet before the end of that signing.

I think it may be time for Palooza to cut the chaff a bit on guests, as it were. I'm sure folks like the Comic Book Men were relatively cheap to get down here, and probably the same way with most of the wrestlers and even some of the music names.... but their lines were consistently empty except for Rowdy Roddy Piper. They are not only taking up space, but they are taking up budget that could be used to try and get bigger names, or perhaps to pay extra to a big name so they would take part in an event, or sign longer... etc etc.

Resolution-

Perhaps Palooza can think about adding carpetting or padding specifically to the lines that will obviously be extremely large and move slowly? I know it costs extra, but it would go a long way to keeping attendees with healthy feet so they can move around the con and shop more after the fact.

GAMES:

Pro- Ettin knocked it out of the park with their lending library. The other "targetted" games were running smooth and contained lots of laughter. I was very pleased with how much room we were afforded and we weren't harassed by the convention center and kicked out early like last year. Top notch job with gaming.

League of Legends. Thank you for the inclusion of this style of gaming. It's big. It draws a cosplay crowd if given time, and honestly, the announcers were REALLY into it and it caused some of my friends who don't play to even slow down and spend a few minutes.

I'd love to see SMITE and a few other games displayed like this. Especially since HiRez and such games are more than happy to get really involved in the con scene to help promote their wares.

Con-

Finding the other console games were difficult, and it seemed a bit awkward to find the entrance. We abandoned the attempt after about 5 minutes of figuring out where a door was that didn't lead into a mass of wires and went back to the board game room.

PANELS:

Pro-

Coping with PTSD through art panel. Yes. More like this please. I love some of the inane panels that talk about hating Twilight, or turn into a Brony Sing A Long. They are great, but Rosel Rodriguez and his friends brought a convention friendly topic, ART, and used it to HELP people at the con as well as spread awareness about a problem that we as Americans have ignored for the longest time.

This panel NEEDS to always exist and get a center stage and promoted. The good these talks have can do nothing but make the convention scene better for everyone.

If anything is taken away from this blog, let it be how important this PTSD panel was at the convention. It can save lives, which nothing else I saw at that convention can boast.

Con-

The cosplay contest. It was kinda slapped together at the last minute. It just needs more prep time so the sound guys can get everything in order and so things aren't so haphazard.

Also, while I completely felt that the anouncer was hilarious in an uncomfortable, sexist, and awkward way.... it was inappropriate and a bad choice. You want someone on stage that is not only encouraging the audience, but encouraging the cosplayers... not berating them or objectifying them. I'm just going to assume we all realized this after the fact and this won't happen again.

The lines for the major panels are huge. Sometimes people didn't get in or get to hear. Rough stough, but hard to fix.

Resolution-

For the overly packed panels (the major ones obviously), would it be possible to put up a video and a projector outside so folks can listen to it in the hall or another designated area? Heck, does Palooza have connections with public radio or anything so that they might be able to air the panel so attendees and others alike could tune into a station and listen to it live? It's not quite the same, but it will leave a better taste in our mouths than missing the entire thing.

SCHEDULE CHANGES:

Pro-

The app ran smoother this year.

Con-

But not smooth enough due to availability of wifi.

Resolution-

Projectors on each floor at specified locations that display changed, cancellations, additions, and heck, maybe even signing times for the big names for those of us who don't use the app due to crap phones or otherwise?

EVENTS:

Art Auction:

Pro-

Spectacular as always. I enjoy it EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Steve Van horn is an excellent announcer and promoter and you know he loves it every bit as much as the rest of us as he is bidding for that good cause with the rest of us.

It took up more room. I liked that.

Con-

Maybe we could widen the walking aisles a little bit? I saw a lot of artists being jostled while working by us attendees.

Aditional-

Also, maybe we could get some different mediums provided? I heard several artists say they would LOVE to have had larger canvases and mediums to work on. It's such a small expenditure of cash by Palooza to allow these artists to create truly spectacular pieces, and the larger and more impressive the piece, the better it looks on the web when we are all talking about why Palooza was awesome.

ADDENDUM: I've been informed that Palooza did indeed have larger canvases available, and that they will indeed make an effort to point it out a bit better next year. I love it when a con listens and responds. That's how it gets better!

VOLUNTEERS:

Pro-

Much more informed than previous years. They were on the ball and ready and willing to help if you had an issue or question. This is probably the best batch of volunteers I have dealt with at a con.

Con-

The one experience I had that I covered earlier. And then there was an issue with Summer Glaus line. It was moving so slow that a lot of us had friends come up and bring food, drinks, or to say hi because they hadn't seen us in hours. Instead of politely offering up a "hey, I know the lines are a bit rough, but we really aren' supposed to have anyone standing near the line" it was instead repeated verbalizations of "You can't stand there. Go somewhere else" or "You need to leave" without any further comment.

Some folks let that power go to their heads a bit and forget that a bit of politeness should be included with their orders.

Also got tired of volunteers telling me to stop using my phone to take pictures when in fact I had been trolling facebook for the last 2 and a half hours because the line moved slowly. Yes.. I understand no photos are allowed, but if you don't see me trying to take aim the camera at someone and take a picture, please don't make my wait in line any more frustrating by accusing me falsely.

SUMMATION:

I will probably go into a lot more personal experiences in a few days, but I wanted to get my major impressions out of the way now. As I said, there is so much to talk about that it's very hard to get it all down in one sitting.

I will leave everyone with this though....

Comicpalooza is well on it's way to becoming one of the top 5 conventions out there. The formula is correct. The numbers are growing, and they listen to the people and produce an ever improving experience for us all.

Despite any cons I have mentioned, they are easily a 9 out of 10 stars for me.

Thanks again guys!!

Colt Chenault