My somewhat disjointed GenCon After-Action Report

Holy cow! GREAT year to be the BattleTech and Shadowrun people at GenCon!

First things first. The booth. For those of you who’ve seen the
FanPro booth in recent years, you know we had a fairly…spare…booth.
Some tables, some plastic shelving, and if we were lucky, foam padding
for the floor. Also, it was tight as hell back there.

This year, the Catalyst booth was exactly that. A booth.

We had a (IIRC) 4×4 area where all the product was sold from. And a
huge pyramid of boxed sets. Even the freebie stuff had it’s own space.

The Sales Area and PyramidThen,
to break up the booth a bit, and give people some space to walk through
and look at things, we had the CamoSpecs guys plunked right down in the
center, giving people an awesome view of their incredible diorama.

Booth Picture 2Finally,
towards the back of the booth, we actually had demo area. YUP! Real
live space from which to run demos of BattleTech and Shadowrun.

Booth Picture 3So
we had an ungodly amount of space this year, all of which was covered
in Catalyst’s black and acid-green foam flooring (your feet still hurt
at the end of the day, but on bare concrete, you hurt all the way up
into the knees, hips and back). And we used every inch to the
fullest.Now, before I get into a breakdown on the rest of the con, I
need to apologize in advance. I was a somewhat scattered mess at the
Con. Don’t know why. But I seemed to be firing a few cylinders short
the entire weekend. So forgive me for the lack of extensive pics
(brought the camera and left the charger), but I had to
economize.Myself, Peter Smith, Ken “Kid Chameleon” Horner (the lovely
individual in the demo area pic above), and Ted “Gleep” Penn (far right
of the sales area pic) rolled out of Chicago on Wednesday morning about
5AM on our way to Fort Wayne to pick up a truck and haul several
pallets of product down for Catalyst.We picked up the truck and, after
a small object lesson on why to NEVER trust online mapping for fine
directions, we arrived at Alliance’s warehouse. got our skids and
rolled on to Indy. Once we arrived, we were greeted by the FINE union
employees at the loading docks who told us we were going to have to
head to the staging yard and wait until they had a dock for us. So we
had a bit of downtime, caught the Shadowrun contingent bringing in
stuff of their own. Finally we got to hand unload the truck…as we’d
unfortunately been given a truck with a gate too low for a dock.

As mentioned above, first impression of the booth was something approximating “Holy Cow”.

I then rolled on to the Embassy Suites. Nice rooms, free breakfast,
and a LOUSY layout. If you stay there, take the stairs to get down if
you can. The elevators are an exercise in futility and gamer-funk. And
you can’t get out of the building directly without taking an escalator.

Thursday, bright and early…10:00 A.M. (man, I get better sleep at
the cons than I do in real life!), the exhibit hall opened. And, while
I’d love to say that the booth was bum-rushed and cleaned out in under
an hour, it wasn’t. However, it was still busy as hell throughout the
day. Sales were steady, lots of people gawping at the diorama, and the
demo area ran nearly non-stop.

The actual BattleTech area was kinda pushed out of the way this
year, much to our annoyance. Still, we were directly off an escalator
in rooms 203 and 204 (back behind where we’d been in previous years),
and the events ran nearly non-stop the entire weekend. Massive kudos to
Chris “Bones” Trossen, Chris “Chunga” Smith, Rick Remer, and all the
rest of the guys who I can’t remember off the top of my head, but are
no less appreciated for their efforts. These are the guys who made sure
BattleTech REALLY never disappeared at ANY point throughout the various
transitions in the last 10 years.

Afterwards was the obligatory dinner in the local food court.
Shooting the breeze, and just generally taking digs at each other to
avoid showing how well we really get along.

Sightings throughout the day.

Kevin Killiany and family,Phaedra Weldon, Loren Coleman, Heather
Coleman, Randall Bills, Tara Bills, Jason Schmetzer, Jason Hardy, Mike
Stackpole, David Stansel-Garner, Troy Stansel-Garner, Trent Garner,
Oystein Tvedten, Ben “Ghost Bear” Rome, Paul Sjardin, Songuru, Nick
“PropWash” Smith, Klaus Scherwinski, Rob “Sprite” Boyle, Herb Beas.

Then, late night, I wound up roaming around the “more interesting”
parts of downtown Indy looking for a supermarket to keep us in water.
The command had come from on high (Heather Coleman can be QUITE
intimidating when she’s of a mind to be). The number of cases shall be
ten, and it shall be called Dasani…and I answered the call.

Friday was nearly as busy as the day before. Lots of people, lots of positive buzz from everyone I spoke with and demoed for.

That evening we had the BattleCorps dinner. And OH MY GOD we had a
lot of people this year! Normally, we have around 20-25 people. This
year, we had nearly double that, and the poor wait staff ran themselves

Some of us ducked out a bit early to attend the ENnie awards. We had
four nominations this year. One for Shadowrun’s Street Magic, one for
Total Warfare (Best Regalia???), and not one, but TWO for the CBT Quick
Start rules.

Neither Street Magic or Total Warfare collected an award,
unfortunately. The competition in their categories was stiff as hell
though. So, while not winning sucked, it wasn’t as if they lost to some
inferior product.

HOWEVER, the Quick Start rules collected a Silver for Best Free
Product. Then it went on to collect a Gold for Best Electronic product.
Much to even Randall’s surprise.

Saturday, busy, busy, busy. Everyone was looking spiffy in their
Catalyst T-shirts. Ducked out at one to hit the “What’s Up With
BattleTech” seminar (wanted to attend the unified “What’s Up With FASA FANPRO

Catalyst” event, but I was busy giving demos at the time). Apparently
the GenCon scheduling group screwed up, and we’d been moved to a teensy
little room. Even so, we coped. Additional sightings, Steve Mohan.

Here’s the highlights of the talk.

Herb, the God of Nukes, is taking over as line developer for CBT.
Randall is still staying on as a senior developer who’s going to be
floating between the CBT and Shadowrun propertie, as well as doing his
own writing.

Upcoming products for this year.

  • Jihad Hotspots 3072
  • Interstellar Players II

Products planned for 2008.

  • Tactical Operations (Jumpships, warships, space stations, etc).
  • Revised CBT RPG
  • Wolf and Blake (Next Starterbook)
  • The next handbook (Periphery States)

The fiction anthology should be out around the end of year as well.
It WAS scheduled for much earlier this year, but the whole “Starting Up
Catalyst” thing kinda kicked our plans out the window a bit. It’s
currently in layout.

For Commando events, Martial Olympiad, between October and December.

As noted at the talks, Microsoft owns all electronic rights to CBT
and Shadowrun computer games. Catalyst, unfortunately, has NOTHING they
can do about pushing CBT computer games into the future.

However, Nick “PropWash” Smith announced that he and Microsoft had
agreed to release an old alpha copy of the PC BattleTech game as a free
download. This is a program that was being worked on at FASA
Interactive around the time that the unit was sold off to Microsoft.

Is Battletechnology going to become canon? NO.

Does Randall hate LAMs? No. He just doesn’t feel they fit the aesthetic that BattleTech has created.

Will Catalyst be releasing the old house books on PDF? Yep! It’s
just very time and work intensive, not to mention the fact that
original books actually need to be destroyed to create the PDF files.

Is Catalyst considering podcasting? Yes, they’re looking in to it.

Will someone be revising Warship costs? Nope.

Will the Proliferation Cycle be finishing up sometime soon? Yes. Now
that Catalyst is off the ground and running, the authors can return to
a more normal release cycle.

In-store events: Return of the Wolves. August 20th.

The 1st track will be running mostly between September and November.

In the October-November time frame, there’ll be two semi-tied
events. The Hunt, which is a traditional BattleTech game. Then, The
Breakout, an Aerotech event. These events are Commando-only. Also
upcoming, Vengeance Gambit II.

That evening, Iron Writer 2007.

Iron Writer 2007

I attended, but I was so scatter-brained this weekend, I couldn’t even
justify turning in the page worth that I was able to complete. And
never let it be said that the guys at Catalyst are afraid of voicing
their opinions. =)

Dave giving MY reaction to my abortive attempt at Iron Writer 2007Lots
of Good Stuff going up soon though.And afterwards, Catalyst brought in
around 40 pizzas for the BattleTech and Shadowrun gaming areas. As a
gesture of thanks to the GMs for all their hard work (these guys work
harder and longer hours at the cons than they do in real life, all for
a “hobby”).Sunday, my GOD! It’s almost over! We actually RAN OUT of
Quick-Start rules. We also sold out of Augmentation for Shadowrun. Lots
of swag trading going around, and we kept going right up to the final
bell.So, my impressions of GenCon 2007 for Catalyst games. A VERY good
con and a hell of a debut for a company that’s been in the game
publishing business for only two months. It’s not yet known if we broke
even cash-wise, but we sold a LOT of product and the ship-home bundle
is going to be significantly smaller than what came in to Indy.

And, already, we’ve learned from this con. Next year, there’s already plans for a bigger, better booth, and more GM support.

What’ve *I* learned from this con? To get my frickin’ head together!
My airheadedness cost me more than anything else this weekend. Most of
the problems were due to being crazy-busy at work just prior to the
con. Next year, I’m taking the day before (Tuesday, since Wednesday is
setup day), and the day after the con off, just so I can make sure my
head is clear for the event.

Ah well. Another year, another GenCon put to rest.

If you’re looking for more pictures of the event, you can find them here for general GenCon CBT pics and here for the Iron Writer event.

Origins: Days 2 and 3

Sorry for the combined update.

COMPLETE ass-end of Day 1, went and saw the Die Hard flick. Was okay, not great. Shoulda caught some shut-eye though.

As such, because of the screwy sleep schedule, I woke up with a blinding headache the next morning and spent a couple hours medicating myself back to abnormalcy.

Got to the booth at noon. A MUCH better day for me, MUCH less pain in my legs (or maybe all the pain receptors had died overnight), and I got a chance to see the con a bit during lulls in the dealer area. Lots of cool stuff, but seeing as I’m on “The Budget Of The Last Minute”, I bought nothing but extortionately priced food (having brought my own drink).

It was a lot busier at the con on Friday, we actually sold a bunch of stuff (YAY!).

After the dealer area closed, caught some food in the food court and headed up to Dave Stansel-Garner’s room so that he could get his Shadowrun cherry popped. Ran a quickie adventure, then headed back down to the Shadowrun area for the final minutes of that night’s games.

Then we stuck around for another two-ish hours and talked shop.

Nope. Sorry, can’t discuss it.

Anyhoo, again with the goofy hours, but this time I just woke up late, no pain.

Made it down to the hall with time to spare for the “What’s up with FanPro Catalyst” seminar.

You can read about it here.

Actually had nothing going on tonight. Think I may turn in early and thus, hopefully, be a wee be more spritely on the following morn…

Origins 2007 Update: Day 1

Okay guys. Long day. But surprisingly active. The CBT events today were just HUGE. They actually had to split one of their events in two (and each was still ridiculously large).

The Catalyst Game Labs (CGL) booth was fairly active all day too. Lots of interest in who the heck we are, and lots of interest in the upcoming CBT and Shadowrun items coming out within the next month.

Almost nothing but kudos over the boxed set (the “almost” is only because of one guy who owns every book in existence already NOT understanding that the “INTRODUCTORY” boxed set is NOT aimed at him). Anyhow, the Boxed Set is a $40 item and the way it’s produced, it’s worth every damn penny of that $40. And for those of you concerned with the minis, they’re SWEET!

As I’ve noted before now, Origins isn’t really a big “sell stuff” event for exhibitors. It’s big on games. And the lull periods in the exhibition hall give various companies and individuals time to move about and make lots of great contacts. The kind of stuff that GenCon is just too darn huge and hectic for most of the time.

Oh yes, and I have a few pictures up as well. Sorry if some of them are a bit blurry or washed out. In the rush to get packed, pick up product, and attend a convention I’d planned not to attend, I forgot my regular camera.

Luckily for me, my roomate had one he could loan me (pics forthcoming when I can get the appropriate media adapter), and a camera attachment for my laptop. The only problem with the PC cam is it doesn’t do high-light pics very well. But I do my best. And you’ll forgive me…won’t you?


Oh crap!

Anyhow, I’ve gotta lay down for a bit. I’ve been standing all day on thinly carpeted concrete. And my legs below the knees have reached the general consistency of pudding…

Day 0 at Origins.

Okay, I know I never announce this. But I’m going to Origins…or more to the point, I’m already here. CGL needed some stuff brought up and getting my fat butt to a con is orders of magnitude cheaper than trying an overnight trans-ship ending on a holiday.

It was insanely last minute, and I my employers MEGA favors for not only letting me come, but PAYING me while I’m away.

Yep. I have one of the coolest bosses ever…

Anyhoo, the Catalyst Game Labs booth is 99% together. The other percent will come together in the morning. My pictures are going to be spotty. I left my hand-held at home (c’mon, 50 gajillion things I gotta get done in 24 hours and all I left at home was my lousy camera?), but I DO have my PC cam. And it takes OK pics.

Kudos to RedRoof Inn for the $20 7-day pass for their T-Mobile hotspot. Boos and hisses to T-Mobile for not setting up the hotspot to allow hotel guests to just sign up for it without having the special cards (like a gift card) that the hotel happens to be out of (day 0 of a con, and it’s INEXPENSIVE wireless, unlike the butt-rape prices at GenCon?)

But, in the end, kudos to T-Mobile for putting up with me bitching about it then giving me two free days to tide me over until the hotel gets more cards.

Well, I need to shower. The humidity is outrageous right now. Then I’m taking my big butt to bed.

More tomorrow!

Yup. It’s all the fault of games.

I knew it was going to happen. The “experts” simply couldn’t help themselves.

Sooner or later some overqualified idiot was going to lay the blame at the feet of “violent video games”.

Last time I checked, a video game doesn’t force you to go around blowing people away. Just like the gun doesn’t point and fire itself. Just like people don’t automatically put themselves in the line of fire.

But no. Nowadays nobody’s really at fault for their own actions. It’s their terrible upbringing. It’s the media. It’s games. It’s that they were abused by someone. It’s that they didn’t get enough sex from their girlfriend.


Nobody forced them into this. They made the damn decision to go postal on their own. Their own sad way of drawing attention to themselves. Because they were too stupid to find another, productive way to draw attention to the fact that “hey, their life sucked!”

However, it’s always easier to affix blame to something else. Especially now that this jackass is worm-food, by his own hand. So the option for revenge (not justice) has been severed. That and there’s a lot more MONEY available from the game companies than there is from this guy’s parents.

I’m not inured to the tragedy these people suffered. It’s horrible, and I wouldn’t wish it on more than one or two people.

HOWEVER, we sometimes have to accept the fact that people go nuts for no discernable reason and pull fucked up things like this. Trying to place blame is natural of course. But ultimately pointless.

Kalamazoo or Bust

Okay. Why in the name of Bob would four guys overnight into Kalamazoo, Michigan? For those of you who’ve been around reading EvilNET for a while, you know the answer. BATTLETECH.

Kzoo is the site of Nick Smith’s Virtual World center. A not-so-short drive from Chicago, Peter Smith, Loren Coleman, Randall Bills, and myself are beating the snot out of each other (in a friendly way).

Pictures in the Gallery.

Apple vs Microsoft: The greatest fight that never was.

Yet again, we’re hearing about why Microsoft should fear Apple. I wish some of these “journalists” would find some REAL news to report.

“I, a journalist, in the publishing business, tried a Mac and prefer it to a Wintel PC.”

Big freaking whoop!

“Microsoft should be scared. Now I can run their stuff on MacOS through Parallels!”

Excuse me? What? Did you have a valid point there somewhere? No? So sorry!

Microsoft doesn’t give a shit about the Mac. Seriously! Sure, they steal interface cues from them (and have some things stolen back in return). This entire myth about Microsoft and Apple being in a knock-down, drag-out fight is utter crap!

Why? Let’s walk through this.

You bought a Mac! You’re rebellious and unique! Just like a few million other people.

It runs MacOS! Woo!

You can run Parallels on there and load Windows. Then you can run Windows apps!


THINK about this for a second.

You bought a Mac. Then went out and bought a full-blown copy of WINDOWS to load on there as well. Plus all the Windows apps!

How EXACTLY has Apple now, via you, bitten into Microsoft’s market? Guess what. They HAVEN’T.

The only one whose market gets bitten into are the OEMs, HP, Dell, IBM, etc.

Apple got their money. Microsoft got THEIR money. And more, the situation is probably even MORE profitable for Microsoft, as most of the people looking to buy a Mac are likely buying full RETAIL copies of Windows and assorted software to chuck into Parallels! This means higher margins for Microsoft versus the margins they get from the OEM licenses they provide.

Here’s the math. It probably costs Microsoft a grand total of $2 PER PACKAGE to put out a retail copy of Vista Ultimate. Which retails for between $250 and $360. That’s a 12,500-18,000 percent profit margin based on materials costs alone (ammortizing development costs into it brings it down to a more far reasonable margin, I’m sure). They receive FAR less in the way of margins from their OEM licensing.

So for all the children out there who want to see a face-off between Cupertino and Redmond, then stand back and chant “fight fight fight”, grow up already. The current arrangement is beneficial to BOTH companies. So it’s highly doubtful they’re going to start poking each other in the nose now.

Oh for the love of…

Have you EVER had one of those days where someone just did something to you that’s well and truly death-worthy?

I walked out of work today to find my hood dented and my front grill pushed in.

A co-worker who’d been trying to get out of the driveway had been trying to back out around me. And, instead of just coming to get me, or at least get my keys, he decided to mickey-mouse his way out. In the process hitting me.

THEN, instead of coming in to tell me he hit me, he leaves! So I walk out of work half an hour or so later and find my car fucked up!

I get his ass on the phone and he tells me “well I knew I bumped you, but I didn’t see anything wrong”.

Gigantic WHAT THE FUCK here people! If you hit someone, ESPECIALLY if they’re less than fifty feet away COME AND TELL THEM!


My little blather about Linux.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, I’ve been a Linux user for well over a decade now. I like it, I love it, I want more of it!

Currently my favorite is Ubuntu. If you have even a single synapse firing between your ears, you can install and use Ubuntu. If you don’t, you can still use it. It just takes longer.

What’s REALLY impressed me is that each release is getting better and better. 4.10 was my first impression. And it was a HELL of an impression. 5.04 was even better, with better hardware support. 6.06 was DAMN impressive, and guaranteed supported for 3 years?

Even so, my little Dell craptop had a few quirks in it. Switching between wireless networks was entirely manual. Edit the config file, kick the networking service and go.

6.10 was 6.06 plus a little more hardware support. A little unstable (it WAS a development branch..) but on the whole, not bad.

Now with 7.04 getting ready to push out in April, I’m stunned yet again. Hardware support is better still, and wireless. FLAWLESS. It’s every bit as easy as flipping back and forth between networks in Windows. Hell, even Beryl (SWEET 3D desktop manager) works right without major tweakage. And these are the PRE-FINAL “Herd” RELEASES I’m working on! If this keeps up, my PARENTS (who fear and hate computers) will be able to install Linux without worrying about configuration!

Okay, enough yapping and backing of “my horse”. Apparently our boys at Dell are finally pulling their heads out of…the sand…and finally taking notice of Mother Torvalds’ other child. And ABOUT *CENSORED* TIME TOO!

The long and the short. A while back, Dell put up their IdeaStorm site. Ostensibly to solicit feedback from the user community. Needless to say, they got inundated with requests for Linux like you wouldn’t believe. Initially, they tried just ignoring and removing anything Linux-related. But that just garnered MORE attention.

A short time ago, they put up a survey to gather information on what potential customers are looking for in terms of Linux offerings.

Now the possibilities here are worth noting. Imagine being able to buy a system from Dell. Even if it didn’t come pre-installed with Linux, you could grab an install disk from a supported distro, install, and be up and running IMMEDIATELY. No tweaking stuff till it likes your hardware. It just…works.

Now, even if it IS “just a Dell”, that’s worth a HELL of a lot to some people. And Dell themselves don’t even need to lead the development here. They simply need to release hardware specs to the Linux vendor of choice (and maybe a little cash that otherwise would have gone towards Windows development). Dell and a company like RedHat, Novell, or Canonical could do a brisk business in Linux (either pre-installed or after the fact) at that point.

So go ahead. If you’re considering Dell, and would welcome Linux offerings, go on over. Then stay and read some of the feedback.

Busy busy busy!

Pardon the rambling. Just blowing off steam here.

We’re going on a full week since the rehost here. And things are starting to settle into normalcy again.

The IRC servers are reachable, we have a working frontpage that I can post to easily, and teh forums are back online.

Now I start running across weird stuff I didn’t have to deal with before. Like phpBB abusers. We didn’t have them before, because, frankly, we were on an ancient version of UBB. But, since we were (forcibly) starting fresh, and the host provides access to phpBB, I figured why not. Now we get weirdos coming into the forums just to get themselves linked or spaming for…well, you’ve probably received spam before. So you know what these idiots are advertising.

I mean, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!

Sometimes I wonder about people.

Luckily, we had someone involved in the forums who was more with it (with regards to securing phpBB) than I was. He made a few good suggestions for preventative measures to keep the forums from being overrun by bots or idiot link-seekers. And I’ve begun putting this advice into effect.

But GOD I wish I didn’t need to.

Oh well…

My unvarnished two bits.