Saturday, November 24, 2012

Game Convention Review: AetherCon

When we first started gathering game con listings for GCC the first online game convention I ran across was AetherCon.  For a while I thought they were the only online con (check out our Online Game Convention page as there are at least half a dozen at this point). 

I had the pleasure of attending AetherCon this past weekend and was quite pleased.  Whenever I write a review I am caught between the desire to compliment the hard work I know goes into an event and the desire to provide an accurate review of the event.

Let me start by saying AetherCon deserves an A+ for effort.  What they attempted was quite ambitious - close to 100 events, all using Roll20, plus dozens of vendors, artists and lectures.  As for execution, I'm going to give them an A as well, but this time I am grading on a curve . . . an aggressive curve.  There were a lot of tiny little issues but again, considering the scope of the event I was easily able to forgive them.

All games took place on Roll20 virtual table tops (review coming later).  Roll20 itself worked fine, but none of the games I played in managed to get the audio/video chat right and we ran Google hangouts for that (there is a Roll20 plug in for Google+ which most used, I however ran one monitor for each program).  I suspect the issues with the audio / video was just the load from the con.

My one real complaint was the lack of game grid that most conventions offer.  The website listed the games sorted by start time but you had to read down the list of games and their descriptions to find the times you were searching for.  They also allowed GMs to schedule their games at any start times and of varying durations.  [Most conventions are run in multiple four hour time slots and most games fit into some fraction or combination of these slots.]  (While AetherCon did publish a .pdf program, it was a series of interviews and neither listed the con's games nor their times.) 

The various time slots at AetherCon (excluding demo games). Numbers in ( )'s are the number of games that slot.
Since there were gamers attending from all over the world, varying start times could have made sense however, the real issue came when trying to fit games together to form a weekend.  Games that started at 10am wouldn't be over in time to jump into a 2pm start time game and so on.  It also became an issue when games were canceled or under booked.  My Friday night game need some extra players and while I found a couple of interested people, they were waiting on 8pm games that were also under booked and were holding out hope.  Had all the Friday night games started at the same time, it would have been easier to combine the available gamers into full tables.

Thinking more about the various timezones attending the convention, it also seemed odd that there were no overnight games.  My 7pm EST Friday night Call of Cthulhu game had me in EST, another players in PST and our GM who was in Australia (complete with bright morning sun shining through his window on the video chat).  While I was heading to bed after the event, he was heading out to the pool since the convention was then closed until Saturday morning in EST.  The scenario was set near his home in Australia and was quite a bit of fun (more of an action adventure than an investigation but a blast all the same).

There weren't enough gamers for my Saturday morning game and I decided to get some chores done around the house instead of looking for a replacement game (damn you real life!).  My second game was also CoC and again the players were scattered (we had at least two European gamers, one or two Canadians and the remainder were Americans from across the timezones.  This scenario was a traditional CoC investigation complete with horror, plotting, insanity, possessions and a last minute spell to seal a portal into our world!  [You're welcome, planet Earth.]  Another truly great game!

My Sunday morning GM was a no-show and since it was an 11am start (while most others were 10am) there weren't any other games to jump into.  By Sunday afternoon I had a home emergency (squirrel in the attic) but I also never heard from that GM.  And that is the one downside to attending a con from the comfort of your own home, it is very easy for real life to find you, much easier than if you are hours away at a convention's hotel.

The final analysis is this, when AetherCon rolls around again next year you should definitely attend.  They have a lot of little issues to smooth out but I'm sure they will.  There may have been some kinks but overall it was a great time!

So, did you attend AetherCon?  If so what were your thoughts?  Have to been to any other online conventions?  Feel free to comment below!

[p.s. if you'd like to review a game convention here on GCC, just reach out using the Contact Us form at left.]

Thursday, November 1, 2012

November Update

Wow, we found yet another 26 gaming cons this month!  If you know of any others that we are missing, by all means, use the submit a con link above and add them!

We broke them out by region this month:

Capital Region gaming cons:
  • Capclave (October 12-14, Gaithersburg, MD)
  • NOVA Open (August ? - ?, Arlington, VA)
Great Lakes area game con calendar:
  • Youmacon (November 1-4, Detroit, MI)
  • Penguicon (April ? - ?, Dearborn, MI)
  • Ambercon (March 21-24, Detroit, MI)
  • Pandoracon (September ?-?, Cincinnati, OH)
Mid-Atlantic game convention list:
  • Burning Con (October 26-28, New York, NY)
  • Queen City Conquest (September ?-?, Buffalo, NY)
Mountain region gaming con list:
  • Battle in the Bosque (Nov 2-4, Albuquerque, NM)
Pacific region game conventions:
  • ZOEcon (November 9-11, Tukwila, WA)
  • California Extreme (July 13-14, Santa Clara, CA)
  • Duty Recall (November 24-25, Santa Clara, CA)
South Central East game cons:
  • Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention (Nov 9-11, Memphis, TN)
South Central West gaming conventions:
  • Octopodicon (October 5-7, Oklahoma City, OK)
  • Realm's Con (October 12-14, Corpus Christi, TX)
  • Tokyo in Tulsa (July ?-?, Tulsa, OK)
Upper Midwest game cons:
  • Conjecture (October 19-21, Bloomington, MN)
  • XenoCon (April ? - ?, Davenport, IA)
  • Amber Central (July 18-21, Bloomington, MN)
Canada gaming con list:
  • Gamealot (Sept ? - ?, St. Albert, Alberta, Canada)
Europe Game Con Calendar:
  • Forum (September ? - ?, Ringe, Denmark)
Online Game Conventions:
  • MonkeyCon One (October 19-20, Online via Skype)
  • CONcurrent (August ? - ?, Online same weekend as GenCon)
UK game convention list:
  • Crispycon (November 17-18, Peterborough, UK)
  • Rezzed (July ?-?, Brighton, UK)
  • RocketCon (November 3-4, Gravesend, Kent, UK)