I attended Origins this year (2000). Both I, and my girlfriend stayed at the Marriot Courtyard. This page will detail our experience, for us to have output, and perhaps to aid others in attending larger conventions.
HOTEL - Courtyard Marriot
First thing we noticed right away, is that the hotel sucked. For $100 U.S. a night, I expected better. We received a Convention discount (which brought the price DOWN to $100). There was 3 parking places to be shared by everyone trying to check in (we even arrived a day early and it was hectic). The parking lot was no where to be found (I guess it wasn't very close to the hotel). They took our fridge and microwave away just as we got there, and then claimed the room never had such items when we called the desk. The bathroom door was broken in such a way that if you closed it, you couldn't get out of the bathroom.
I have stayed at other Marriots and they've been some of the nicest hotels I've ever stayed in (Montreal being by far the most luxurious), but this was no better a room than a $20 motel room.
The hotel was farther from the convention then we were led to believe, although easily walked in 10 minutes.
Location - Columbus
There was literally nothing in Columbus but buildings. I mean it. For a major city it was way beyond disappointing. The hotel only served a pathetic breakfast buffet for an hour or so. Basically the only place outside the convention to eat was Wendy's. Inside the convention they weren't even set up at first, so food was hard to come by. Everything seems to close at 9pm, and what doesn't is long closed at 11pm. Anything else was a long expensive cab ride away. I did get to see the new arena for the Columbus Blue Jackets and it looked nice. Supposedly the area will build up now that the arena is here and become a little more tourist friendly. The place was a ghost town at night. So unless it does build up, I would definately recommend bringing a pile of food, and staying outside the city.
The convention hall was nice. Built right into a hotel and using its areas as well. I certainly had no complaints about the place itself except the lack of access to food. The food court was under renovations and may be much better next year. The MARKET was huge and well worth getting lost in.
What a mess. We were there a day early and had to stand in a crazy line, and we even got cut off (after waiting for a long time), and told to return tomorrow. Luckily there was a big jerk who made a hissy fit and got the rest of us back in line. Security was there and everything to throw him out, but he endured and won. Once through the line we were greeted by computer illiterate people trying to run a confusing system that they knew nothing about. It wasn't their fault as they were only trained for a short time before being thrust into the pack of wolves. needless to say, there were many screw-ups at registration. I'm glad we got there a day early though as the next days lines were 5 times as long. People spent all day in line (chairs, pillows, and sleeping registrants).
There was more games cancelled at the last minute than I expected. The large rooms for tournaments were set up in a way to make it extremely hard to find your table, especially if your game was not Pokemon or Magic. Overflow was outside the big rooms and few tables had any signs to help you find your game. MANY people were late for games. There was an open gaming hall, and a game library where you could check out games to play. Alot of companies had demos in the open gaming hall, and I think it was the most effective way any game was introduced, adding a bonus that it was free.
The greatest pleasure of the games was that many were run by the game designers themselves. I really enjoyed meeting the Pinnacle crew, as well as the creator of the Heaven & Earth RPG. This was by far the best aspect of a large convention.
On the bad side, the people running the games (even if they owned the game) were not allowed to sell you the game (although some tried bringing on the security). The reason was that Wizards Of The Coast only wanted money going into their pocket. Thus you'd have to rent a space in the market, and WOTC I'm sure skimmed money off the top of sales. Perhaps someone knows the details or can correct me on this. Either way, it was ridiculous. They just sold the games on the street out front instead.
Count on any obscure games you sign up for being cancelled due to lack of interest, and getting nothing back for it.
The TLC Tournament
The tournament was a sealed deck tournament. I quite enjoyed it, and it was the main reason I attended ORIGINS. While I was excited about the RUSSIAN FRONT expansion, and disappointed when I found out it wasn't ready yet, I still had a great time. Both myself and my girlfriend entered the tourney. <chuckle> I played Germany and had one tank. It was great! The only thing that caused me havoc was a ruling by John Hoppler that units may move through a full zone to attack another zone, and if that attack is unsuccessful, the unit goes back where it started. I've since asked Pinnacle to clarify that and been told it was incorrect. John returned NONE of my eMails. It was a weird ruling to me, and one I felt was covered in the rules. It is the only rule that I am currently unsure about.
All in all though, it was a blast, and a great pleasure to meet other TLC players. They were quite a crew.
I also attended the PINNACLE SKINNY, which was a seminar by Pinnacle. The vast majority of it was Deadlands stuff, and they passed out a few boxes of cards for The Lost Colony. It was cool to meet the guys at Pinnacle and to see what they were like. I found that TLC was kind've a touchy subject, especially for John. I really enjoyed meeting Shane (who was the only one I talked to more than briefly) who went a grabbed me a Nude Resistance promo card for TLC. I felt like a kid Christmas morning. It was fabulous. Thanks again Shane!
I'm glad we went to ORIGINS. I would not return, except that with the hockey arena, the area is supposed to improve. If that is the case, I would return. The convention itself was fun, while not anywhere worth the money spent, it was fun. If you can handle the cost, and having WIZARDS OF THE COAST jammed down your throat at every turn, it is worth it.
10 tips for first timers at large conventions
1 Don't sign up for too much. There's lots to do besides officially
2 If you can, arrive early to get a layout of the area, and places to eat.
3 Register as EARLY as possible upon arriving... Even if Registration is not supposed to be open. DO NOT wait until the last 30 mins of registration, because they close early!
4 Be careful what games you put as alternates in pre-registration. Watch the start and end times.
5 Expect that one or two games you sign up for, might get cancelled, or not have enough participation, or the GM just not show up.
6 Make sure you know what is included in your hotel room (fridge/microwave/etc.).
Here's a picture of myself
and my girlfriend at THE PINNACLE SKINNY, a seminar set up by Pinnacle
Entertainment Group. The lads in charge of TLC.
We're the two sitting together in the back on the left side.
One of the CCG rooms -