2012 BPA Survey Results—Schedule Conflicts
Jan. 12, 2013

Nothing about WBC generates more noise than the schedule. Reading between the lines, the average comment goes something like: “Greenwood, you moron, any idiot could schedule events better than you.” And, indeed, many idiots have tried. The fact of the matter is that there is no such thing as the perfect schedule and there never will be. And if those wanting even more events and/or a shorter con, get their way—schedule conflicts will get worse rather than better. It’s basic math—150+ events—some of which take days rather than hours—do not divide into seven days without overlapping. And those who think genre tracks are the answer might as well believe in the Easter Bunny too, because no one shares the same opinion as to which games belong in which track—let alone their favorites within each track.

One such non-believer was Eric Freeman who once upon a time took me to task for the Euro scheduling. Big mistake. His reward is that he now runs the Euro track for all those GMs willing to sign on to it and he gets a share of the abuse. And while his considerable efforts have definitely pleased some, it is far from a unanimous verdict. For if he ends an event too early, the late attendees howl. If he delays a heat for the final weekend, others complain about the surplus of conflicting finals late in the week. And on it goes. And Eric, for all his efforts, doesn’t deal with the problem of making those events fit into the available space. His puzzle is just two dimensional—time and event. I have to deal with a third dimension—space.

I take a lot of abuse over the schedule, but I have the perfect excuse. I don’t make it. You do. Collectively, that is. At least those of you who participate in the process by becoming GMs. I wax on and on about WBC GMs being the best there is and willing to go the extra mile without recompense. But everything has its price. The only way we get those GMs to serve you besides their inherent desire to do the job the right way is to let them decide how and when to do it (within reason). I don’t schedule their events—they do.

Could I make a better schedule by dictating where and when everything is run? Absolutely! Not perfect, but better certainly. But then I’d have a lot less events because many of those GMs would tell me where I could stick my event form!  Oh sure, some GMs would gladly relegate their personal schedules for the common good and run their event whenever, and a few of them do just that. But it is a small minority. For most, a GM runs an event to ensure that it will not conflict with what he wants to play. It’s much like the tradeoff of allowing GMs to play in their own events. I’d much prefer GMs did not play in their own event because it would eliminate any perception of them taking advantage of their position. But I know that if we disallowed playing in your own event, that we would have far fewer GMs—and their events. So a less efficient schedule is the price we pay to get quality GMs. What comes first—the GM or the schedule? You can’t have the latter without the former.

What You’d Like to See… What You Want Not to Change How I See It…
Don’t Conflict X with Y 5: Why do you always force me to choose between my two favorite games? / Quit scheduling the events I want to play in against each other. The heck with everyone else. Accomodate me. Tournaments as Scheduled Open Gaming 23: I know that I can sit down at a specified time to play a game I like…if I do well, it’s an added bonus! / Scheduled rounds so I know that I can play Game_A at 9AM, Game_B at 11 AM, etc. (None of the “What do you want to play?” “I don’t know, what do YOU want to play?” crap.) / I know I can show up at a particular day/time and play a game I want to play. This is far preferable to the open-ended scheduling of other cons where I might often walk around the Open Gaming room for an hour trying to find a game I want to play that has a seat available. / The ability to use the tournaments as pre-planned Open Gaming. I like knowing that if I show up at the right time and location, I will get to play a great game with people who know how to play. I like not having to advance if I don’t want to and still get to play in the round. / I am a big fan of the organized tournament format with the well-defined schedule in place now, which is a wonderfully time-efficient way to play games—I find it too difficult to find players in Open Gaming. / Tournaments allow you to meet people where all too often Open Gaming consists of cliques of players in their own tightknit groups. I’m at a loss to improve upon the comments in the second column, but I’ll try. I’ve always felt that the popularity of the tournament portion of WBC has more to do with the convenience of the schedule than it does with the testosterone level of the participants.
Event Tracks to Prevent Conflicts 14: Better coordination of scheduling on a voluntary basis between GM’s in the same game category—(e.g., a volunteer for Euros who would get copies of incoming GM schedule suggestions and troubleshoot thru email cases where too much competition can swamp an event out of the Century). We should have lists of previous competitors in each game. Using those, it should be possible to write a schedule where games at the same time are less likely to have the same people attending. / At least three times I’ve totally missed a desired event due to conflicts. I can’t see how the WBC can fix it though, since I don’t like Free Form scheduling. / Better scheduling with fewer conflicts for the wargames. I believe the Euro games and railroad games are much better scheduled. OTOH 2: The effort to avoid similar game overlaps is awesome (EX: CCA vs CCN).

We already have a Euro event track coordinator. Eric Freeman for several years has been doing a lot to coordinate those Euros whose GMs are willing to cooperate on a coordinated time frame.

Rail games are easier to schedule simply because there are less of them. Wargames suffer both from their number and greater length. They also lack an event coordinator who hounds all known GMs to get their cooperation timewise the way Eric does. However, most wargame events do not change their timeframe from year to year—especially if the GM remains the same. So such coordination is less necessary. It is the new wargame events which have a harder time carving out their niche.

Light Days 8: Last two years there have been very few events on Monday/Tuesday that I like. Either do not start the Eurogame heats until Wednesday, or have enough heats earlier to make it worth coming a day early. / A few more Saturday late afternoon/evening events. / Try to increase the number of tournaments on Friday evening and Saturday as there seem to be an awful lot of Finals then, which means the convention is less attractive to people who are unable to attend during the week.   A lack of weekend events contribute to the overcrowding of Open Gaming on the closing weekend. I’ve long encouraged the addition of quicker events for the weekend when competition is less, but ultimately, the GMs make the decision.

Specific Days 3: I would like to see the Eurogames spread across more of the week. As a game designer, much of my time is spent demoing, and the last 2 years in particular I haven’t been able to play in ANY Eurogame tournaments because they are all jam-packed together on the weekend, which is when I must do the most demoing. / I’d like to see less Finals at the same time on Sunday.

More Events Later in the Week 8: I can’t come till later and by the time I get there my events are already over. / As early as Friday it can be tough to find a game of interest if I’m not in a semi or Final. I would be in favour of increasing the number of tournaments by maybe 20 to facilitate this./ More short events on the weekend. / Sunday is a veritable ghost town save for Finals.

More Events Earlier in the Week 14: I know this happens to everyone, but it seems like every Final for every tournament I play in is between 12 noon and 12 midnight on (the last) Saturday of WBC. / In order to equalize facility utilization, move some Thur/Fri/Sat events to earlier in the week.

More 1-day events 6: I would love to see more events played on Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday or similar variations where those events are done by We/Th. I really enjoyed playing Sekigahara this past year on Monday and being done with it that day. / I would like to see more tournaments be slated to finish mid-week as opposed to back-loading so many tournaments that overlap each other at the end of the week. / Cram more events into just two adjacent days, to better accommodate those who only attend part of the convention.

Less 1-day events 5: Less tournaments that are centered on one day. Open up the rounds to have multiple days.

 

The cross purposes shown in the left column speaks for itself. This always brings out the cynic in me. The tendency of those who criticize the schedule who do not take a hand in making it happen is unmistakable. They complain but they’re not willing to run an event—let alone run one at a designated time to accommodate facilities or other people’s priorities. Sad but true—if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

The best way to lessen schedule conflicts is to use continuous play formats, but most GMs opt for multiple heats. And those who complain the most about the resulting conficts invariably subscribe to multiple heats and “win & you’re in” formats which cause the most conflicts.

Sunday is travel day. That’s just a fact. No amount of Sunday events is going to hold people who must catch a plane or start home on a long drive so Sunday events are pretty much limited to locals with less distance to travel. That said, I always encourage more late weekend events—but it is again a matter of GM preferences.

Better Room Coordination with events 5: Better organization in terms of not putting lots of people in a crowded space (like Circus Maximus usually is) which makes it uncomfortably hot. / There are times when the ballroom is virtually empty.   This is the problem that annoys me the most, because it is easily correctible if I were actually scheduling events according to the facilities rather than GM time requests. Virtually no one gives a second thought to making events fit the various rooms. The only way to have enough room for the mega events is to clear the ballrooms of events like Circus Maximus which take four hours so that it will be empty when an event drawing 150+ starts. As long as events are scheduled based solely on non-conflciting times with other events rather than actually fitting in a room, this problem of inefficient facility use will persist unless we move to a convention center with huge rooms. Table reservation placards can be moved; walls can’t.
10 AM Starts 1: Another thing that kills the schedule (and this really should be addressed because it takes little work) is the occasional 10am start times for some events. There are rarely 9am events that last an hour, so it’s hard to see the benefit of a 10am start for an event, and these invariably add to overlap because they overlap an extra hour on the back-end.   The number of 10 AM start requests is far greater than revealed by the schedule. That is because I insist on moving most of them to 9 AM to better make use of the available space. GMs and players both like to sleep in after a long night of gaming and tend to hate early starts. But if everything is scheduled for midday, it doesn’t fit. One of my scheduling rules to counter this is that if you insist on having four heats, at least one must be at 9 AM.
8 AM Starts 2: Would you believe 7 AM?   I disallow starts earlier than 9 AM for two reasons. One is safety; forcing drivers to forego an extra hour of sleep before departing on a long drive is just not wise and can have tragic consequences. Second, exceptions are almost always a bad idea. If the convention rule is nothing starts before 9 AM there is less chance of someone missing a round by forgetting when a round starts.
Longer Round Lengths 1: More realistic time slots for tournaments. If a game needs almost 3 hours to complete, don’t try to squeeze it into a 2-hour time slot.   The more frequent complaint is that round lengths are too long. GMs are instructed to round up to the next hour when choosing round duration. If they truly feel a game is a 2-hour game, they should choose 3-hour rounds. All too often, GMs—especially new ones—underestimate how long a game takes because they tend to be very familar with the game—and familiarity generates faster play. But a tournament can only move as fast as the slowest player—and that’s where adjudication should come in.
Alternate SF/Finals 2: I would love to have an “any time” Final for events. I realize this is nearly impossible for 3-6 player games, but this really saved me a couple years back when the GM and other player were willing to wait 45 minutes to start a Final that I was in. / Allow semifinalists/finalists some flexibility when semifinals/finals will be held; too often, I end up qualifying for the next round only to have to miss out because of another tournament. [I realize that space limitations may preclude this sort of flexibility.]   The “I want my cake and eat it too” syndrome. When you ask for alternate times from the posted schedule to accomodate your own schedule you are asking other players to adjust their planned activities for your convenience. GMs are free to adjust Finals for the MUTUAL convenience of all players involved. However, if anyone objects (including a GM who feels undue pressure is being exerted) the default time must be enforced. This flexibility cannot be extended to semifinals both because the number of players impactd is greater and space allocations are affected.
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