GenCon is known as the best four days of gaming. Most folks take the better part of a year planning their GenCon experience: how long am I going, who will go with me, where will I stay, what panels to attend, what tournaments to join, getting there…and of course getting True Dungeon tickets before they sell out. All very important things to consider when trying to make the most out of this celebration of gaming, which has existed for nearly half a century.
Sadly, about 4 weeks out the Roll20 Team still hadn’t decided whether or not we were going to GenCon. Still in our beta period, we weighed the pros and cons of going. If we did go, it was unfortunately certain that we couldn’t all attend. Riley, Nolan T. and I all have full-time jobs, coupled with full-time wives, and other commitments, leading to very packed schedules. Nolan had just gotten back from San Diego and ComicCon, and was in no shape to con again so soon. We couldn’t afford a booth, so if we wanted to have a Roll20 presence at GenCon, it would be Riley and me, hitting the floor, shaking hands, and kissing babies. In the end, though, we decided that it was worth it to try and meet some of our users in person, and hopefully make some industry connections.
Committing so late limited many of our options when it came to flights, rooms, panels and event tickets. A flurry of planning ensued, and on Friday Riley found himself in Indianapolis. Alone, and inexperienced (having never attended any sort of con before, let alone one the size of GenCon), Riley set out to immerse himself in the con experience. He hit the exhibit hall first, and after only a couple of hours walking around was completely exhausted. Steeling his nerves, he attended two panels that evening, including a meetup of the RPG Bloggers Alliance and a live recording of the Tome Show. Both were great ways to meet some of the people that we have talked to online in the past and put a face to the name. Tired from travel and first-day con activities, he turned in early.
I arrived early Saturday morning, met Riley at our hotel, and upon emptying my bag of clothes and such to make room for swag, we made our way to the exhibitor hall. Having never been to a con of this size before, I was quickly overwhelmed by the all sights and sounds. First off, everyone I met was awesome, super nice and unique in their own way. Gamer, or even tabletop gamer, is such a broad term when trying to describe the demographic of people at GenCon. It’s literally a cornucopia of passions: rpgs, board games, card games, steampunk, miniatures, war games, cosplay, fantasy novels, sci-fi novels, cartography, Star Wars, D&D, Pathfinder, Magic the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, the list is endless! I’m a little ashamed to say half of the games available to play I had never even heard of. I thought I had nerd street cred because I played D&D, Settlers and have a Cloud figurine: nope!
After getting our bearings, we stopped by the Lone Wolf/Hero Lab booth. We’re big fans of their support for multiple rule sets, and checked out their soon-to-be-released campaign management system that’s currently in development, Realm Works. Seems very cool, and it was great to talk with other developers working in RPG tech. We also made sure to check out Geek Chic, a custom geek furniture company. They made some great stuff, including giant gaming tables for war games, cabinets, chairs, and even a multitouch surface table. We talked with (forget his name) from Mesa Mundi, the folks responsible for all the non-wood components of the multitouch table. It turned out he was one of our Kickstarter backers, which was awesome! Most of the technical jargon went over my head, but Riley seemed really happy to get a chance to talk about the ins and outs of the tech.
After a great morning we hit a Tweet Up, before heading to the Obsidian Portal panel, “How Technology is Changing RPG’s”. Lots of interesting ideas were thrown around, and we won an award, yay! We stuck around after the panel and spoke with Micah and Jerry from Obsidian Portal for a while, sharing some war stories about running an RPG site.
We headed straight from the Obsidian Portal panel to our own, “What’s up with Roll20?” Riley and I were both incredibly nervous that no one would show, since we registered so late. But we had about 35 folks there, all Roll20 users. It was a fantastic experience getting feedback in person, hearing what games people use Roll20 to play, what their biggest problems were, and what they wanted to see out of Roll20 in the future. We “announced”’ three new features we are currently working on. The first, 3D Dice, is already live (Dice Overhaul: 3d Dice, New Mechanics). The second was Dynamic Lighting, and the third was support for mobile tablets, both of which were previously teased in a video we released a little while ago.
From our panel we regrouped at our hotel, had some dinner (thank you Keith and Carlos) at historic St. Elmo’s, then headed to an after party. Located at a club in downtown Indianapolis, this dance hotspot turned fantasy dungeon paradise was a fanboy’s wet dream, literally. It turned out that Jerry and Micah were also in attendance, and we spent most of the night drinking, talking about RPGs, Kickstarters, and being generally sarcastic. They are great guys with real insight into the current state of the RPG community. If you don’t listen to their podcast, Haste, you are missing out.
Sunday we had a great lunch meeting/interview with Jonathan Nelson of Adventure a Week and NerdTrek, as well as Todd Gamble of AaW. We touched on a lot of subjects (I don’t want to spoil the interview for when it comes out), but most exciting was the prospect of bringing the Adventure a Week content to Roll20, which is currently in-progress. Hopefully we will have something very exciting on that front very soon.
With all our Roll20 business concluded, it was time for us to enjoy GenCon, so we hit the exhibit hall one last time with about an hour before they started kicking folks out. I got my GenCon 45 years t-shirts and a pair of steampunk goggles and it was time to head to the airport. I have only touched on the “highlights” of my GenCon experience, but overall it was great! I just wish I could have played a game while I was there.
-Richard, the other guy from Roll20