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Feedback about ReaperCon '16


GuyWithCoolBackpack
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Every year I receive emails from a fair number of people who, after classes sell out, inform me that since they didn't get the one class they really wanted or perhaps enough classes to justify the trip, they want either the 4-day pass refunded, or just to yell at me. I'm a little sensitive to this issue.

<snip>

I'm sorry Bryan. :down: I'm well aware that class-spot allocation is a Hard Problem. (And when I say that, keep in mind that I work for a company that periodically has to invent new statistical models to describe work we're doing, and we regularly take the work we've done and present it at academic conferences - what I'm saying is that anything beyond first-come, first-serve is a genuinely hard freakin' problem to solve.) I should have been more clear that my comments were coming from a context of being aware of the difficulty and constituted casual pondering and interest in said challenging problem, rather than any dissatisfaction with the existing process. I know you deal with a lot of crap and I didn't mean to add to that pile. :down:

I've done this to Bryan once a year since I started going to Reaper Con. @[email protected] I feel awful for it every time because you'd think after the first....second time I would stop doing it.

 

Then again, he's always so pleasant to talk to.

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One good thing about the situation: it is clear that there is a strong demand for classes from reputable teachers.  It is an opportunity for those in the convention business and for teachers to create events for people who either can't get to ReaperCon or otherwise don't think it fits their needs.

 

 

Interestingly, it's not quite that simple. Instructor type painters are a pretty specialized arm of a fairly small hobby, and one that is associated more with toys than art in many people's minds. I literally cannot give away my knowledge in my local small city. I once successfully charged $5 a head for a few classes with proceeds going to charity as part of a fund raiser convention. (And that included me giving away the figures.) I've started a local paint club here, and while it definitely gets interest, that interest is primarily from role-players who want to get a character or two painted using the club supplies so they don't have to buy a bunch of stuff. It's just teaching drybrushing and washing over and over and only a couple of people remotely interested in talking about anything beyond that level. I'm pretty sure we have some other local painters who paint a bit more in depth than that, but they seem content to stay home and do it on their own. (And yet at the same time, I have had painters that I know from ReaperCon in surrounding areas who will drive several hours for the occasional opportunity to paint together and seriously talk painting, but likely not enough that I could try to do a weekend workshop without traveling to a larger population center.)

 

Even CMON Expo is only slightly better. It's in Atlanta, so a bigger city, and run by Cool Mini or Not, which you would imagine would be reaching an audience that's pretty interested in miniatures. ;-> Expo gets far more attendees interested in gaming than painting. Even after several years of trying, and having Jen Haley on staff and a few other of the instructors who were at ReaperCon (or are of that caliber) as guests, it's not something many painters seem to want to travel to. In 2015 we did ReaperCon style classes that were made available to attendees for free. I had one class literally no one showed up for, and most of us had open seats in other classes. (Some very enthusiastic painters did come out, it's just it was a small number of them.) 

 

So you sort of need a critical mass of artists/events to attract an audience, and a critical mass of audience to support bringing those people in. Which is an overly lengthy way of saying that ReaperCon is pretty cool for us, too! 

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For those curious, TPTB are tentatively in support of my proposal to have individual members assign their classes to each badge in their party, and thus prevent double-booking.

 

I am working up a proposal for how the database architecture would need to change to support this change, and a few other behind the scenes changes that I won't go into.

 

 

Right now the proposal is that when you buy your admission ticket, your badge gets a serial number, for record keeping, and YOU assign it a name. Any valid string that suits you, although honestly if you're just a singleton then your name/handle is easiest, and if youre a family, then using the name or codename for your family members is again, easiest. Then, each class, meal, or game that you purchase is assigned not to YOU, but to your serialized and named badge. example; "Painting With Brushes by Painter McWeaselfur",'Bryan', 1224;"Painting with Psychic Powers by Neo Thereisnospoon",'Shannon', 1225;

 

'Bryan' ('1224') could not have 2 classes that take place at the same time. Nor could I schedule a game slot while I have a class. I could buy a class at the same time as 'Shannon' ('1225'), however, because the computer knows that she is not me. Likewise, 'Bryan' (1397) is also not me.

 

Thus preventing double-booking, and reducing the incidence of day-one ticket sales being as chaotic, since that day about a dozen tickets were returned to the pool, but only after the majority of users had stopped looking.

 

When you're ready to field test let us know. I'm sure there will be plenty of people who would volunteer.

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My understanding was that Origins never had a huge miniature segment, but it was once a little stronger. The lady who was doing the most to organize things some years back died, and no one stepped into her place. I'm friends with some of the people who do/have done the organizational work for the miniature activities at Gen Con, and it's a huge undertaking. The GC volunteer organizer in the miniature section doesn't even organize classes anymore, instructors submit as independent GMs would. But I think the many years of classes having been centrally organized together with the contest and other activities established a strong tradition of running classes there. (In recent years the overall increasing expense of Gen Con as well as some of the policies and changes being made by GC management have made it seem much less appealing to me to attend generally, or specifically to teach classes, and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in that.)

Having active and enthused organizer(s) is pretty critical, and we're scatter-brained artists, so we don't make their lives easy. ;-> I don't know that classes are that appealing to have from a large convention's POV. Instructors either need to be able to charge enough for our knowledge to pay for the trip, or we need to be brought in as guests who have expenses paid for. Either of those can be unappealing for large conventions where classes and the people who want to take them are a small segment of the market for the convention.

 

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One good thing about the situation: it is clear that there is a strong demand for classes from reputable teachers. It is an opportunity for those in the convention business and for teachers to create events for people who either can't get to ReaperCon or otherwise don't think it fits their needs.

 

Interestingly, it's not quite that simple. Instructor type painters are a pretty specialized arm of a fairly small hobby, and one that is associated more with toys than art in many people's minds. I literally cannot give away my knowledge in my local small city. I once successfully charged $5 a head for a few classes with proceeds going to charity as part of a fund raiser convention. (And that included me giving away the figures.) I've started a local paint club here, and while it definitely gets interest, that interest is primarily from role-players who want to get a character or two painted using the club supplies so they don't have to buy a bunch of stuff. It's just teaching drybrushing and washing over and over and only a couple of people remotely interested in talking about anything beyond that level. I'm pretty sure we have some other local painters who paint a bit more in depth than that, but they seem content to stay home and do it on their own. (And yet at the same time, I have had painters that I know from ReaperCon in surrounding areas who will drive several hours for the occasional opportunity to paint together and seriously talk painting, but likely not enough that I could try to do a weekend workshop without traveling to a larger population center.)

 

Even CMON Expo is only slightly better. It's in Atlanta, so a bigger city, and run by Cool Mini or Not, which you would imagine would be reaching an audience that's pretty interested in miniatures. ;-> Expo gets far more attendees interested in gaming than painting. Even after several years of trying, and having Jen Haley on staff and a few other of the instructors who were at ReaperCon (or are of that caliber) as guests, it's not something many painters seem to want to travel to. In 2015 we did ReaperCon style classes that were made available to attendees for free. I had one class literally no one showed up for, and most of us had open seats in other classes. (Some very enthusiastic painters did come out, it's just it was a small number of them.)

 

So you sort of need a critical mass of artists/events to attract an audience, and a critical mass of audience to support bringing those people in. Which is an overly lengthy way of saying that ReaperCon is pretty cool for us, too!

CMON, though still big on gaming, actually had a massive show out this year for painting. Not necessarily the contest, but to paint. There were several painter classes that were beyond full and the paint and take tables were loaded this year. It was the sort of thing that started up late with the rush and died out early but I think the turn out was better than the first time I went two year ago.

 

Apprently there's a second miniature painters convention the Mr and I are going to try in February. This is their first time, I think, offering painting classes but its just for painting. Its typically for the military painters but the following seems to be dwindling so they are pushing for more fantasy painters and other styles.

 

I do think Miniature painting is still a thing, its just people do not know where to go sometimes. We are that small knit group that will have paint and takes at our local shops or drive several hours just to paint with friends and talk about painting.

 

At Dragon Con many new painters or Returning painters were asking about the Reaper Paints on the table and who they were, do they have minis and etc. If I didn't use my own bones models for paint and takes or sharing and practice, I would spread the love more but I'm only one person.

 

Better believe I'll be blowing the Reaper Con horn at the painting con here in February. If it doesn't bring Reaper to Georgia Cons then I'll bring the people to Reaper.

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Are you talking about the Atlanta Military Figure Show MissMelons? I was able to attend that a few years back, and had a great time. Typically the military shows do not have our kind of classes during the convention, but they sometimes have a 1-2 day intensive workshop with a specific artist a couple of days before the show starts, similar to the Kirill workshop with a separate fee. They also sometimes have lecture type discussions. There was one with a guy who's done a lot of dioramas that was very interesting. There was a pretty good presence in the SF/Fantasy/Horror section, and lots of gorgeous entries to look at all around.

 

There was also a sponsored Reaper award, so I think Reaper is aware of the show, but it probably doesn't fit into their schedule to come out and sell at it. Alison Bailey Liu won (Jubilee here on the forums) the Reaper prize that year. I was pretty happy to be awarded gold for my entire display in the painters category, that really felt like a high honour with the caliber of entries overall. Though I think they may have given us extra credit for painting figures smaller than they usually do. They called us 'the girls who paint the little ones'. ;-> Elizabeth Beckley's been attending their monthly meetings, so they may be getting more familiar with our end of the hobby.

Weather and budget permitting, I hope to be able to make it back this year. It figures that I would have to miss CMON Expo the year the painting really starts to pick up - I've made it to every one prior!

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Wren, 

 

You have me curious now about what Gen Con management has done to discourage some teachers from wanting to attend.  I can certainly understand why travel costs and the hassles of traveling would kill the deal for a lot of people.  But it also sounds like the chance to be around fellow painters, both students and teachers, would be a large part of the appeal.  If the number of teachers drops due to policy changes, that's bad for everyone.

 

Also, it sounds like ReaperCon is a unique(?) entity in that they actually support artists by paying for travel?  Just want to make sure that's the case since you implied it.  I think I had heard that previously.  I also recall that at one time miniatures (ReaperCon Sophies, IIRC) were painted by the artists for sale to support travel?  I thought that was a neat idea, but I have no idea if it was actually practical.

 

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It can vary a little (often there's a year or three where you might teach one or two classes but bring yourself in as a sort of trial period for both parties), but Reaper does bring in most of the guest artists as guests, and covers travel and housing. Some years ago that was funded partly through asking each of the painter artists to paint that year's Sophie, which was then auctioned off on eBay. Which is a cool idea, but has some additional work and hassles for Reaper. I think the last year of that was the year before I first sat at the artist table, so that's a bit of a ways back. :-> Now we paint figures to go into the Reaper collection and store catalog instead.

For many years miniature painting classes were considered auxiliary events at Gen Con, and it was recognized that it was a bit of a square peg in a round hole system. Last year they seemed to want to round off the square pegs. Most lecture type events at Gen Con are free to attendees, so teachers who wanted to do demo/lecture style classes were told these would need to be free. Often the people running the other kinds of free seminars have a product and can consider the seminar promotion. (You do a seminar on world building for RPGs, and you sell books about writing for RPGs, say.) Painting instructors don't really have a product. Even if we take commissions, a painting class is in essence teaching you not to need to make a commission. ;-> We're selling only our knowledge, which was not free or easy to obtain.

Hands-on classes are more like workshops at Gen Con, which can have larger fees than games to pay for supplies, so that part isn't the problem. Last year instructors running hands-on classes were told they also need to bring enough of all materials for every participant in the class. That includes brushes, and often instructors do not have enough brushes for 8-12 people, and to purchase them could be a significant additional expense. That's not a dire change, but it adds on to the hassle.

General changes are that it's no longer possible to try to ensure you get housing downtown near the convention center, since they went to a lottery system for hotel bookings. Teaching classes, particularly if you bring enough stuff for each attendee, takes a lot of stuff. I'd gotten it down to carry on luggage size that I could fit into one of the few lockers available in the convention center, and then a few years ago the convention center removed all the lockers. So storing and hauling class supplies is more of a headache. I wouldn't be surprised if this is also affecting the game side a little, since an independent GM will have to have a lot of books and dice and stuff.

This is following other changes several years back (some of these were on the volunteer organizer end, some on GC management) that meant more paperwork before and after the convention, and a longer delay between the convention and receiving payment. None of those changes bothered me that much personally, but a number of instructors who had taught at Gen Con for years decided it just wasn't worth the bother. Hotel costs keep spiraling up, and faster than it's reasonable to raise class fees to accommodate, which isn't really anyone's fault, but is a factor that affects things.

My decision not to attend Gen Con the past couple of years is more on the personal attendee side, it was our big vacation since the year we got married. We may make it back in the future, but I'll have to have a long think about whether it's worth it to teach classes, or if I'll just help out a little in the paint & take and speed painting areas instead.

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The number of instructors at GenCon have gone down and up over the last few years.  The biggest drop probably was after Sue stopped running the MHE show (which was also about the time when GenCon no longer provided a storage cage).  A couple of years ago, the costs of an instructor rented storage cage went up to the ridiculous levels.

 

I'm unlikely to go to GenCon next year (and therefore, won't be teaching my 4 beginner classes) because the hassle and expense are reaching the "it's not worth it" level.  I go to GenCon partly to see my best friends and see my painting friends.  Since there are fewer and fewer painting friends coming to GenCon, and it seems likely I'll be able to get my best friends to come to ReaperCon, the draw of GenCon is much less.

 

I enjoy GenCon and visiting Indianapolis.  I will miss GenCon.  I will miss teaching sold out beginner classes.  I will miss some of the great restaurants in Indianapolis.  But, I won't miss the stress of getting a downtown room, the expense, and the crowds.

 

Ron

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Impressions a couple of weeks after the end of the con:

  • Brilliant teachers
  • Good light
  • Very good dealer's "room"
  • Very good painting space
  • Distance from hotels to con space was a problem, particularly for those who didn't rent a car.
  • Space was a bit decrepit and the food choices within easy walking distance were limited.
  • VIP meals were uninspiring, not least because cafeteria-style meals are no my preferred choice at the best of times.
  • Swag minis were very nicely sculpted, but I'm not all that likely to ever paint any.
  • Auction was only OK (sorry Kris), specifically because it was played with Monopoly money.
  • Early shutdown (for a con) was a negative.
  • Options outside of classes were more limited than I would prefer, not least because of the lack of paint availability for those who flew in.
  • Lack of paint availability was a major minus, (Yes, it was possible to mitigate by begging from friends, but ... begging.) This was exacerbated by widespread advice in the run-up that there was little need to bring paint other than specific colors that were crucial.
  • Painting contest was brilliant, both in the general number and quality of entries and in the willingness of the judges to discuss their decisions afterwards.
  • HGI, other than in location, was quite nice for the price.
  • Meeting people that I've only known by correspondence for years was a major plus.

Future changes for me:

  • Probably driving rather than flying, to mitigate transportation and tools availability problems.
  • Almost certainly not doing the VIP thing. (It's great for people who want what it offers, but not so much for me.)

Upshot: I intend to be back, and currently my wife is saying that she would like to come next time.

 

 

As to how to handle class purchase:

 

In a situation where demand greatly exceeds supply, there are a limited number ways to handle the problem. Broadly:

  • Ration by queueing: This is largely what Reapercon currently does. Whoever is most obsessive about camping the website is most likely to get what he wants.
  • Ration by lottery: Suggested upthread, and Bryan explained the problems. 
  • Ration by price: Whoever is willing to spend the most gets the class. (Dutch auction is fairly efficient at this.) If you're willing to spend $500 for a two-hour class, it's pretty likely that you want that class more than I do.

Combinations of these can be possible as well, for instance one instance of a class where the people most willing to pay get seats and a second of the same class where it's first-come, first-served.

 

Each of these will be perceived as unfair by some part of the audience. I don't see much value in recapitulating the arguments in each case other than to say that rationing by price provides the strongest incentive for the supplier (the teacher and Reapercon in concert) to increase the supply.

 

Thus endeth this discursion into Econ 101.  ^_^

 

snip

 

Also, it sounds like ReaperCon is a unique(?) entity in that they actually support artists by paying for travel?  Just want to make sure that's the case since you implied it.  I think I had heard that previously.

 

snip

 

Genghis Con in Denver has previously brought in a guest artist most years, but it's typically been a single artist per year. (We've had Wren, Anne Foerster, Jen Hailey, Marike Reimer, Jason Wiebe, and others.) With the strong local painting and sculpting contingent (Michael Proctor, Lily Troy, Kris Marquardt, Phil Esterle, Gene Van Horne, among others), we have been successful in running three class tracks at the con and have had a good contest.

 

Unfortunately, with the recent-ish change in ownership of the convention combined with some burnout from people on the organization side, the future is looking less bright than it once did. That said, I think it's possible that we could still have a pretty good con this upcoming Presidents Day weekend. We'll see how that goes.

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I just realized something.

 

After a month, everyone still seems to be Con Crud :;,;: free! :bday:

Bzzzzz!

 

Nope, MissMelons got infected apparently. A few others on bookface said they'd gotten sick too. But for the most part it was a crud free con.

Inevitable meme.

image.jpg

 

Considering the higher attendance this year, this still might have been a better year than past ones. (Reminder that this was my first Con, so I don't recall how sick everyone *really* was last year)

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