Wednesday has become the opening night of SimuCon, with as much as a fourth of the total attendees showing up for this party-before-the-party during the last three years. This year's crowd seemed a tad more seasoned and subdued, gathering in small groups inside and outside the bar (unlike 2000 when we invaded the bar, cranked the music up to 10, and had coaster fights).

In an unfortunate turn of events, many con-goers with room reservations got sent to another hotel down the road. The GMs volunteered to be the displaced group so no paying visitors would have to move. It seems the Hilton had done some room remodelling and the fire marshal had not permitted many of the rooms to be reopened yet. These displaced folks were given several drink vouchers for their troubles, and at the prices the Hilton charged for drinks that was a pretty good deal!

When Thursday morning rolled around and the registration table opened, most attendees were already in St. Louis. The line when the tables opened was enormous! GM Stealth [GS], Zelnar [GSPlat], GM Mroce [DR]Fortunately Simutronics has really streamlined registration over the years and the lines moved quickly:
Name? ID? Sit here. Smile. I don't care that you blinked. Here's your badge. Here's your t-shirt. Have fun.

Plus, if you came back a couple hours later there was no line at all!

During registration time, the usual tours to our multiplayer-game-Mecca were offered - the Simutronics headquarters in St. Charles. Although it's just an office building, your first trip to see the home of our online worlds is very special, and you can gawk at some really expensive computers to boot!

Gespry, GM Tolli, GM  Claw, GM Cyr [All GS]Lunch was available at the Hilton's only restaurant, but most people opted for a less expensive meal at nearby Tiffany's. Later in the day and for the rest of the convention the Hilton erected a portable deli for our group which boasted $2 hot dogs, $3 sandwiches, $1 soft drinks, and $1 chips - a welcome change from the typical $10-$20 buffet the Hilton normally offers. Also during this time the 24-hour hospitality suite opened and the nearly-24-hour movie room started its run at noon with Braveheart.

GM Tigermist [GS] ~PHOTO BY MNUTE~Between registering for the convention, having lunch, and seeing the Simutronics headquarters, there was also time for a bit of player revenge for all those nasty GM downtweaks and rewrites: the GM dunking booth! Of course, GMs got their own revenge as well since they were permitted, no, encouraged, to taunt the players throwing softballs at them. GM Tigermist even fought back by grabbing a water hose to fire at her tormenters!

Back inside, a new twist on guild meetings this year was to hold them all at the same time. This made for less formal, longer-lasting meetings. The drawback - you don't get to hear about all the guilds. The advantage - you were assured the people at your meeting were serious about that particular guild. After a while the meetings broke down into general discussions and became another good excuse to socialize with fellow players and GameMasters.
Melissa Meyer aka PM Llearyn [GS]
Par-tay! Thursday night saw a round of organized parties, including the Herc & Xena Par-tay complete with a big-screen version of Dance Dance Revolution, gaming in the Tropics with the Modus folks, opening night of the Assassin game, and Dance Night with DJ Stealth in the ballroom! Some of the most popular games were Cranium, Settlers of Katan, Dungeons and Dragons, and the live action game of Assassins that was played throughout the hotel for a full 24 hours.

The day started a little later than your average SimuCon seminar day, with the first round of seminars beginning at 10:00am and consisting of lighter fare, such as alteration workshops and quest design. In early afternoon both GemStone and DragonRealms got hit with their respective "State of Elanthia" addresses, where Product Managers Llearyn and Solomon had a chance to discuss the history of their games, where the games are today, and what they have planned for the future. Sayori [GS]More seminars filled the remainder of the afternoon with topics from roleplaying to magic and even a Q&A seminar for CyberStrike!

Friday night gave us the "Costume Cocktail Party" and contest. Pre-judging was wisely opened at 3:00pm this year to sidestep the monstrous lines from last year's judging. Costumes were worn throughout the day and deep into the night as people celebrated the genre of each individual game. Some dressed as mighty warriors, others as high royalty, and yet others as sleuths from the tropics of Morada. Some were Human, a few Prydaen, several Elves and even one Tehir [pictured above]!Vaage [HX], Antinor [HX], and Phalo [HX]

All the costumes were terrific and as usual the judges were hard-pressed to choose the finalists. Once the finalists were chosen the crowd cheered for their favorite costumes to decide the winners. The competition was fierce as only three winners were selected from each game. The ladies of Morada cleaned up in the Modus category, the extremely eccentric fellows of Hercules & Xena took top honors in Athens [pictured right], and a mishmash of hearty adventurers placed in the GemStone, DragonRealms, and GM categories! Naria [DR]Between the judging of each game, talented Simutronics players and employees performed to the delight of the crowd, including a lullabye by singer GM Lanahle, improvisation by violinist Naria [pictured right], an Irish folk song by singer and guitarist Andy Finkenstadt, and an original tune with a traditional feel by singer/songwriter/guitarist Lorien (Liadan in HX).

A continuation of the previous night's gaming, dancing, and festivities took place after the costume contest and talent show. The tradition of Quavvy's Bar continued again this year (originally opened at SimuCon 1999 at the King Henry VIII). Outside the hotel a more subdued party took place where most of the Hercules and Xena folks gathered. This outdoor bunch was treated to an impromptu concert from some of the evening's earlier performers.

The final day dawned bright and early, and many a seminar was missed due to 10:00 am starting times. Monty Python and the Holy GrailThe day was relatively calm with scattered seminars, casual lunches, and a less stringent schedule. Many took this time to visit the 24-hour, computer-filled hospitality suites or to stop by the movie room for a showing of Shrek or Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In the early evening there was an auction of player- and GM-made arts and crafts that had been on display in the merchant rooms throughout the weekend.

As the sun settled down,Rsen [GS] many SimuConners got dressed up for the convention's big event: the costume banquet and keynote speech. The doors opened and the ballroom filled with costumed revelers. We were presented with several humorous short films about chatrooms, l33t sp3@k, and Star Wars while we went through the buffet lines and dined on turkey legs. After dinner, names were drawn and prizes handed out, GM Solomon read from his "When bad customers attack" files, and Simutronics CEO David Whatley came to stage to the sounds of Star Wars' Imperial March and gave his keynote speech.

The partying after dinner continued much the same way it always does on the last night of the convention every year - very intensely. This year the evening took a different twist with the introduction of a live internet radio broadcast direct from the convention,Live GemStone III Broadcast with PM Solomon [DR] hosted by players of GemStone III. People at the convention and back home enjoyed the immediate interactions and the voyeuristic thrill offered by the broadcast. The broadcast even seemed to heighten the lunacy of the convention's last night more than ever with GM Solomon and others losing their shirts!

Still in costume much of the night, people used this final evening to socialize, play more games, Andy Finkenstadt [Onsite], Llorien [HX], and Dave Dean [Onsite]listen to live music (both indoors and out), party hardy, and dance until the wee hours of the night. The music, wherever you found it was great! Inside, a band called Floodhouse comprised of L.A.-based players and GMs rocked the ballroom all night long. Outside was the folksy improvisations of some of the performers from the previous night's talent show, including a violinist, singer, guitarist, and drummer. And later in the night many of the players and some of the crowd merged on stage in a melange of music and dancing. Quavvy's Bar was open for business as usual. When this photographer finally turned in at 2:00am there was still much gaming, broadcasting, dancing, and revelling filling the halls of the Hilton. This SimuCon had been a huge success!

CEO David Whatley, GM Hunterleigh [GS] ~PHOTO BY PSIONIX~