As with every year, I really enjoyed Dragon*Con. I actually says a lot about the con when my biggest complaint is that I can’t see everything I want to see because there is so much I want to see.
The new Apocalypse Rising track was very interesting, although, at times I did feel a number of their panels were repetative, but that is the nature of the beast when talking about a topic that is very focused but encompasses so much. However, it was the first time around in the new format, so I’ll cut them some slack and see how they grow for next year.
The Game Programming (with a heavy MMO bent) spinoff of the EFF track was another favorite. The only downside there is that people seemed to want to talk about WoW too much, even when the moderators and panelists tried to veer off to another subject the attendees would drag it back to WoW. I guess that is proof that WoW really is the 800 lbs. gorilla in the market. I think this track can only get better.
In both cases, I’ve finally found tracks that have inspired me to get involved. I’ll be keeping an eye on both and seeing where I can lend a hand.
Other than a few panels here and there, or a couple trips to the short films room, the bulk of my time was spent in the above two panels. I never made it down to the Writer’s Track, which is where I normally spend most of my con time.
With panels and programming out of the way, let’s talk hotels… The Marriott is still under construction, however from seeing the parts that have been completed I have high hopes for the future of the space for Dragon*Con. Seriously folks, you really need to stop defaulting to the Hyatt bar and lobby. I know it has traditionally been the place to be, but even before the renovation the three levels of the lobby area of the Marriott were better. Lots of space for costumers to show their stuff, and even places where distance watchers can view the chaos without getting involved. The only drawback to the Marriott previously was the cruddy location of their only bar, but this year with the opening of Pulse on the atrium level, the Marriott is turning into the new place to be. Next year when they have the other 70,000 square feet of ballrooms and whatnot open, there should simply be no reason to remain in the cramped Hyatt lobby except to get a quiet drink at the little out of the way bar.
The Hilton also blossomed well this year. The halls of rooms for panels (used for gaming last year, which this year moved to the new business center of the Marriott) were fantastic, even if a little small for some of the panels they put in them (*cough*Zombie Squad*cough*). The exhibitor halls were nice, but I do have a small complaint about the dealers’ room… entering into the center of the hall and having to make several circular trips through to see everything was just odd and annoying. Some of this may end up back in the Marriott next year, but the Hilton Halls shouldn’t be left unused…
One thing I’ve always hated about Dragon*Con and still hate is the use of the itty bitty teeny tiny Learning Center in the Hyatt for the Film track. Every single set of short films ends up with a line and they have to turn people away, every one. They need a bigger room, perhaps the Marriott will have something they can use, or maybe if one of those Hilton Ballrooms winds up empty they can utilize one of them. The Learning Center is nice though, for smaller screenings, perhaps for invite only or contest won passes to exclusive screenings of new movies. That would be sweet. Or hey… you know about that Writer’s Workshop they do every year? Maybe they might consider a Film Maker’s Workshop…
The only other real complaint I can come up with about Dragon*Con in general is the lack of signs. Because of the construction in the Marriott, the traditional method of going out the back was blocked off. Thankfully, rather than forcing people to walk around the outside of the building, they opened up four staircases for use. The intent was obviously that two would be for going up and two for going down. They did place a Marriott employee there most of the day telling people how to use the stairs to get to the Hilton, but, across the street inside the Hilton is a Kinko’s, and for probably $20 or less (definitely less than the cost of manning the post all day) they could have printed up 8 very nice signs (4 staircases, 2 ends of each staircase) indicating the direction of travel, UP or DOWN. 90% of the traffic issues would have been solved right there. Other signs around would have been nice, maybe even ones indicating where photos should be taken instead of just a few signs stating when and where they could NOT be taken. They did have some signs around for things, but most of those signs where floor level signs… meaning that you can’t really read them until you are practically on top of them. Head height should be a minimum for signs, six feet, seven would be better.
So, with that I bid adieu to another year at Dragon*Con. 359 days until the next one…