Blimey, where'd November go? Anyhow, having run through the post-show feedback to date, here's my penny's worth...
(though first, to set the context: I was one of the "official" photographers wandering around the show - a subset of the photos are on Facebook
and a DVD with all the photos/videos I took has been sent to Dave Arcadian, so will no doubt pop up on the website at some point!)
I think the show this year was definitely better than last year - and my impression was that it was much busier, too; unfortunately, I had to leave pretty early on Sunday[*], but Saturday was definitely heaving with people.
As ever, I was too busy wandering around to actually play any games (excepting that utterly mad mega-multiplayer PS2 game which was on the TVs either side of the main stage - anyone know what that is?) - but to be honest, it's a genuine pleasure to see people enjoying the games. Especially the pinballs - I suspect the popularity of these is due to the fact that they're such physical, analog devices, so can't be emulated in the same way as their digital counterparts.
It was also good to see friends and meet new people - it was also good to meet Oli Frey, as I adore his artwork. I forgot to bring his artbook for signing, but he happily signed the posters I bought without any prompting whatsoever
In terms of constructive criticism...
1) The sound system. Obviously, there's a lot of background noise from the machines and the people; quite often, I could hear that something was being said but it was difficult to hear what they were actually saying.
2) The second room seemed to be somewhat underutilised - did the hotel restrict it's use? Putting the talks in there could have been good; aside from reducing the disruption for the "normal" part of the hotel and reducing the light pollution for the screen, it would have given people more room to sit and watch
3) Activity timings: with my official Replay shirt on, I got stopped and asked on multiple occasions when/where stuff was happening. I know they were announced on the PA, but see point 1) above
4) The bar. As people have noted, this was pretty expensive, especially when compared to last year's happy hour (and when compared to Blackpool in general). Also, the staff were somewhat surly, though this could be because there weren't enough of them; there were pretty big queues every time I wandered past.
5) Access to the arcade/pinball machines. As per above, not particularly an issue for me, but my friend (who came down specifically for the pinballs) did get frustrated about the queues. Not sure what could be done about this - there's obviously limits to how many pinball machines can be crammed into a single room!
All told though, I definitely enjoyed myself, and as far as I could tell (and as my photos hopefully show), so did the vast majority of people who attended! So hopefully I'll be back next year
The after-show party:
(and before I sound too negative: I know this was the first time the organiser had attempted to put on this sort of show, and I know there were issues with the venue as a whole. This is more of a "things to consider next time" list...)
1) The layout: the "six people to a round table" layout restricted the ability for people to wander around and converse
2) The quiz: this did go on for too long and involved some overly obscure questions. I know there's been apologies and explanations for both of these points, but I'd suggest that this sort of event doesn't actually need to have a quiz!
3) The bar. Hideously overpriced, very limited choice and not enough barstaff.
3) The music: much as I love SID 80s, the sound quality was pretty poor and the audience as a whole was definitely losing interest towards the end. And if I'm brutally honest, unless you're a big C64 SID fan, a lot of the stuff they play is pretty much unrecognisable; people who know them enjoyed themselves, but I overheard people on one table joking about how the band was playing the same track over and over again!
5) Nintendisco. It sounds like there may have been some knock-on effects from the late running of SID80s, but I really didn't get this: as far as I could tell, it involved someone loudly shouting over a random assortment of song snippets. Really not fun to listen or dance to, and I think this drove a lot of the remaining people out of the venue!
(One thought: if the organiser is brave enough to want to try again next year, it might be worth looking into chiptunes (e.g. Chipzel, Henry Homesweet) or someone like Cold Storage (Tim Wright - Psygnosis composer for games such as Wipeout and Lemmings). There's a few regular events around the country - see Megabytes in Manchester or 8-bit ice cream in Middlesborough - and I suspect the organisers would be happy to help; my impression that most (if not all) of the artists seem to get involved for love rather than money!)
[*] Engineering works added huge amounts of time to my trip back - and while it's outside Replay's remit, I was also more than a little frustrated at the lack of public transport on the Sunday; I stood at the tramstop outside the Norbreck for over 20 minutes without a single bus or tram going past; in the end, I had to take a £10 taxi ride to the station to get to my train in time!