As with last year, my wife and daughters attended Origins with me so most of my time as a player was spent with them around the convention. This post details my time at Origins with them and as an attendee.
Registration Lines: Until this year, I don't think I ever spent more than 15 minutes in line badge/ticket pick up. This year we travelled down Wednesday afternoon as I was running a game that evening. We got to the convention at about 4:30PM and spent the next hour in various lines.
This year GAMA used an automated system for pre-registration. You got a barcode when you pre-registered and scanned it at a kiosk. Your badge and tickets were then printed out. This took about 20 minutes to get through for all 4 of us.
Once we got our badges and pre-reg tickets, we hopped in the on-site reg line to sign my daughters up for some events. Unfortunately, this was slow. IMO, the reason was that when you got to the front and gave them the event to register, they had to look it up, and MANUALLY TYPE IN THE CREDIT CARD NUMBER! And if you had 3 people, they had to start the process over each time. This was even worse if the event was sold out and you had to find an alternative.
My only suggestion to this is for GAMA to use the credit card processing tools they offer to their customers. Unless the convention center made them do it this way, there is no excuse for not using a CC swiper to speed things along.
Also, GAMA should hire someone who can create a web interface to their events that is accessible from the con, so everyone can see what events still have openings. (GAMA: This is already possible through eventready!)
Quantum Black: The only RPG I played in was a 2-hour demo for an upcoming Ubiquity-based RPG called Quantum Black. This is a slightly futuristic (e.g. in the year 2020) RPG where you work for a corporation that investigates and takes care of supernatural phenomena. The demo I played in had us investigating a town where a previous team disappeared. It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it. The kickstarter is supposed to happen in July, and I'll likely back it.
Baker Street RPG: My wife and I had tickets to a session of the Baker Street RPG, of which I was looking forward to because 1) I wanted to try this out and 2) it would be my wife's first RPG. Unfortunately, time got the better of us and we had to cancel our tickets. However, I'm still very interested and will be signing up for a game next year.
Board Games: We are definitely a board game family. On Thursday while I was running games, my wife and daughters went through the Mayfair Games ribbon-fest and played in a number of demos. In the end, they bought Villiany from them and Dohdles from Kosmos. I also got Smash Up, Call of Cthulhu the Card Game, Bioshock: Infinite (board game), and Cargo Noir from the Origins math trade. All in all, a good haul.
Vendor Room: While some may disagree, the vendor room seemed to have more vendors this year. Mayfair and a number of the other boardgame vendors had their large booths moved to the board game hall so there was more space in the vendor room. To me, it seemed like it had filled up. There were a lot of vendors I don't remember seeing before, and a bunch that had returned and appeared to be getting good business.
Unfortunately, once more I saw a lack of used game vendors there. Maybe they've found that Origins isn't the place for them. If so, that makes me sad as I would had easily spent more money at those.
CABS Board Room: The evenings found us at the CABS board room. We had each gotten ribbons and would spend 3-4 hours (at least) a night in the board room, trying out new games and seeing if we liked them. I don't think I ever saw the room completely full, but there were a few times when it was getting close.
I am on the fence about getting ribbons next year. It isn't cheap for a family of 4 to do, but having access to the CABS library is probably worth it alone.
Cosplay: One thing I noticed is there was more cosplay at Origins this year. My daughters dressed up every day, and my wife even dressed up one day! IMO, more cosplay is good. Its a fun hobby and enjoyable for everyone. I think in the years to come we'll only see more of this at Origins.
Overall, Origins this year was a lot of fun. It had its issues like every year, but they were more minor than they have been in previous years. This being my 14th Origins, I can still see that it hasn't recovered fully from the bad years. However, its definitely on its way back. There are still areas it needs to work on, like registration lines, the ways it handles GMs, and the backwards thinking in regards to prizes and vendors; but things are starting to look better.
Unfortunately, attendance for next year is iffy due to some potential scheduling conflicts, but I hope I'm able to come down for at least a day to try things out.