An Open Letter To Gencon LLC Housing

Lately I have been giving Gencon LLC. a lot of grief about how horribly they handle their online housing and some of the listeners of my podcast have been giving me a hard time saying that I am whining and that there is not a better solution.  That first part of that statement is undoubtedly fair but let’s not act so fast on the second piece.  You see, I do think there are multiple better ways to handle housing.  I shall dispense that knowledge now.

First, let’s define the facts:

Currently Gencon assigns a random housing time to each user as they login to the Gencon site for housing. That time as I understand can vary from almost immediate to around 4 hours or so.  For the sake of this letter and all math involved let’s call it 0 minutes to 5 hours. Users are forced to wait until that time to actually sign up for housing. All rooms are released at the start. This generally means only users given a random housing time in the first hour or so will get a room downtown. So basically, if you are given a time over an hour away, you lose and you have no control over this.  No way at all to change your fate.

There are approximately 10,000 rooms are available in downtown Indianapolis.

Over 60,0000 people attend Gencon and need a room.

I’m not great with math but I can tell you that they are around 50,000 rooms shy on that fact alone.  Of course, that assumes that every single person wants their own room to stay in by their lonesome… We’ll come back to that.

Solution 1:

Continue to assign users a random housing time when they login but release the downtown rooms in blocks.  The easiest way to do this, assuming 5 hours is the longest wait time is to release 1,000 rooms every 30 minutes and have the housing times sync up to those times.  That means everyone gets a fair shot at getting a downtown room.  This would feel to users a lot like the original way that Gencon housing was done back when it was a free-for-all at Noon to register.  The key difference is that with limited traffic because of the time slots, the servers would likely not crash.  This is my favorite solution.

Solution 2:

This one will be unpopular and I admit it is not the best way to go about housing but still, it is better than the current shenanigans we are facing. Require that each downtown hotel room be rented by at least 2 badged Gencon attendees.  I considered saying 4 but I understand not everyone has that many travelling companions.  2 however, seems fair.  That assures that at least 20,000 attendees can stay downtown but really it does something much more important.  It stops people from double booking rooms.  Currently, you get 2 attendees who are planning on staying together, booking their rooms separately in a desperate attempt to claim a downtown hotel.  This change on its own should in theory very much lengthen the time between opening housing and the time it takes for downtown housing to sell out.  This would of course require some extra work on Gencon’s part.  They would need to ensure that their booking system was up to the challenge, which based on how it has worked in the past, that could be difficult to achieve.

Solution 3:

This is probably the simplest idea but I am guessing is not actually doable by Gencon.  Go back to the original free-for-all of everyone booking at the same time. To make this possible Gencon would need to invest in better technology to ensure that their servers could handle the traffic.  This does have some negatives because you still have people booking multiple rooms for their group. If you bring back the old waiting list system that would make this idea more feasible.

Solution 4:

This is a more long-term solution and honestly one that should be done in combination with others but here we go.  Gencon should partner with other conventions in Indianapolis and challenge the city to find better solutions for their conventions.  It is in the city’s best interest to work closely with their conventions so as not to lose them.  So what would the city do?  They could subsidize the construction of more hotel properties downtown for one.  That would be the biggest bang for their buck.  I’m not a city planner but I am certain there are other alternative housing sources they could also seek.  Still, I think getting more hotels downtown would be the best solution especially when paired with one of the previous solutions that I suggested above.

In Conclusion:

So there you have it.  Several solutions that all while not perfect are in my humble opinion, much better than what is currently being done by Gencon.  I’m sure a lot of people will be willing to poke a good deal of holes in these ideas and also tell me that I am wrong and/or stupid, because that is how the internet works.

By the way, if you work for Gencon LLC. and what to defend yourself and/or tell me I am stupid, then by all means come on our podcast! You can find us at:

@JASlingerland on Twitter

@PodcastBTG on Twitter

In the end, this is a problem that can be solved in the long run.  In the short term we can at least work to make it more equitable.  So who’s with me?

Settlers of Catan (House Rules)

As all of you listeners know, I am a huge fan of Settlers of Catan.  On Episode 15, I mentioned that we play with house rules and team rules to make the game even more enjoyable for our game group.

Here are the rules we have added/changed:

We play 4 player games on the 5-6 player expansion.  This change gives us a lot more space to work with for growing our empires.

You get resources for the first two settlements that you place, instead of just the second one.  This allows us to have a quicker start from the get go.

We ignore 7’s on during the first round.  This is because starting with 6 cards instead of 3, really screws player 4 if a 7 is rolled before they take their first turn.

Team Rules:

We play to 15 points with two teams of two players.

Teammates cannot trade with one another but they can steal from one another with 7’s and soldiers.

Teammates share development cards.

When a player has more than 7 cards and a 7 is rolled they may give on discarded card to their teammate.

Teammates share roads.

Let me know your feedback and any house rules you use!


Mechanic Mashups

Here’s an issue I keep running into lately while writing down game ideas. I keep feeling like all I am doing in rehashing mechanic ideas that I have for one game and mashing them up into another.

I’m trying to get my head around whether or not this is actually an issue or if that’s just normal for a game designer.  I have certainly noticed that some game designers have a specific style and that it indeed comes out in their game mechanics.  I would also say that to a certain extent it does seem like the core mechanics of several games find themselves in other games.

When I really think about that it brings to mind something I have heard many times, “There are no new ideas”.  Which while I find very sad, I think it is at least somewhat true.  There are so many games out there that many of them are bound to have similarities in game mechanics.

I have a background in filmmaking and there’s an old adage that I think applies to game design.  It’s how movie execs say you may a successful sequel: “Give me the same thing, only different.”  Which when you think about it makes a ton of sense.

So here is where I find myself after writing the previous paragraphs… It’s okay to rehash some mechanics and some portions of gameplay as long as you make them different.  Make them unique. Find away to use them in each different game in a way that will surprise people and really add to the gameplay and of course the overall enjoyment of the game.

Whew!  I feel better now.

So any thoughts from the community?  Am I wrong?  Remember I have no idea what I am actually doing… I am just a first time game designer!

Hit me up with your thoughts: @JASlingerland on twitter or



Getting Ready!

I’ve been pretty excited as we get closer to our launch date.  This week I have been making a list of games that I want to play again from my collection.  I’m hoping to refresh my memory of some of my favorite mechanics from them.  My wife and I really enjoy the two player card games that only take 30 minutes or so.  I do plan to drag Rob and his wife in for some of these!

So far on my list I have:

  • Catan Dice
  • Castle
  • Lawless
  • Citadels
  • Carcassonne
  • Wasabi
  • Bang
I’m sure it will grow as we start recording more episodes but that’s what I’ve got for now.
– Jason