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Poll Results
 
 Are you planning to expand your Artemis bridge hosting beyond friends & family (side gig)?
 Nope! My roof, my rules on my own schedule is plenty right now. 3 37%
 I've considered it, but can't afford it yet. 2 25%
 Planning to, and/or saving up to get started. 2 25%
 Would love to, but have few venues/customers/conventions near me. 1 12%
 Tried, but have been turned down or didn't make enough revenue to maintain it. 0 0%
 Willing to help someone else run events, but can't do it alone. 0 0%
 Already hosting as many events as I can handle! 0 0%
Multiple choice poll. Total votes: 8   Please or sign up to vote.


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LawsonThompson

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Reply with quote  #1 
Recently, I've been asked a few times about running a bridge as a viable business. I'm no business guru by any stretch, but I have managed to provide an Artemis-based experience which brings in sufficient revenue to pay for itself. In general it's just enough to be self-insuring.

I first saw Artemis at Dragon Con 2011... as a TV "commercial" between panels.



From that time, it took us FIVE YEARS to make Artemis hosting a cash-positive self-funding hobby.

Now, for some of the unpleasant realities--not that these should deter you, but be prepared... so let's call these CHALLENGES we've faced!

Equipment: Doing Artemis like our convention-scale setup at Dragon Con requires about $4000 of gear, if purchased new. I got my start with recycled Windows XP/Vista laptops, borrowed projectors, and by not staying in the hotel but driving home and back every day. A 50" or larger main screen is essential; a portable desktop speaker with subwoofer adds a lot; and a few simple DMX light effects can make a huge impact for reasonable cost.

Environment: Artemis turns a "living room into a spaceship bridge"; the closer you can get to a living room environment, the better. I personally think Artemis is special enough that it deserves its own private room, and not just set up like any other game table in a massive trade show floor. Not every convention can provide a room. 

Entertainment: When I am on the bridge, I'm on the bridge. I treat the hosting of an Artemis game like an in-person, in-character RPG experience and have the "radio voice" to maintain it. My wife is extremely stage savvy, and keeps us all on script (she literally has a script book we follow for setup, teardown, you name it). We both are comfortable in front of crowds and have a good amount of customer service experience. This is a rare skill set among gamers and geeks in general. It's not for everyone!

Exhaustion: I'm quite gung-ho about Artemis, even after 5 years, and am perfectly willing to put in 12 to 16 hour days during conventions to ensure everyone else enjoys the experience. I've hosted far more games than I have ever played. It's not easy to find volunteers willing to put in that amount of energy and effort--but this special effort is why conventions keep having us back! One danger is that I can alienate my helpers by expecting WAY too much of them. Not everyone is willing to come to a 5-day convention (!!!) and be perfectly happy seeing NONE of the convention, spending the entire convention playing Artemis like I am! I have to ensure I spread the workload--and take some time to eat and sleep, letting someone else run things before I collapse.

Expenses: We give new, tiny conventions a discount; we did our first 2 conventions for free. (In retrospect, I should have charged for our first Dragon Con!) But we've had all types of payment (or not) for hosting Artemis, ranging from convention covering our hotel rooms, to a flat rate all-day $1000 private event at a university community outreach where we set up the day in advance. I'm perfectly happy with it breaking even and paying my yearly expenses: I don't rely on Artemis income to eat! It's a self-sustaining hobby right now. But it's only sustainable for me if we maintain a pace of at least 1 private event and 1 convention of 5000+ attendees each year. Anything less than that starts to become quite spendy.

Speaking of spendy, let's talk money!

Currently we depend (probably too much) on large conventions, (5,000+ attendees) which are a lot of work. We charge $5 to $20 per mission seat, depending on the type of convention and the payment arrangement with the convention. It's a multi-day commitment, and comes along with all the benefits and drawbacks of a massive generally-public event: hotel room costs, large pool of potential customers, crowds, venue oddities, and crews who are three sheets to the wind by 5PM.

Private events are by far more cost effective and enjoyable, but hit a small niche market. We have 1 private event per year typically. We've done kids' parties, university community fairs, and adult birthday parties. We are increasing our private event marketing this year. I imagine our target market is the tween/teen+ set with disposable income, who previously rented bouncy castles for their kids' parties and now have tech-savvy/Trek-savvy families!

All that said: over half our private events were booked because someone saw us running Artemis at a convention

Let me throw a quick shoutout to FareHarbor.com: this company is used by a lot of escape room venues. Their feature set is QUITE complete, and has covered absolutely everything we've needed for online ticketing. If you're going to be selling advance tickets, scheduling missions, and tracking registrations, FareHarbor is definitely worth a look. Their support is EXCELLENT, and they'll even set up event schedules for you at no additional cost. Before you sign up, they will schedule a full hour web conference demo of the entire platform; totally worth the time!  Pro-tip: We take a Pay-as-you-go Verizon hotspot to every convention so we can run our FareHarbor registration and payment without worrying about the on-site WiFi. And get a credit card swipe reader.

Final tips, for what they're worth, if you're planning to take Artemis hosting to the next level...

  • Start small at a small convention: we actually volunteered for our first, just to see if we really wanted to do this at all. The ideal convention start for us was an arcade machine/pinball collector convention. 
  • Get the details right: for me, this means a living room style layout whenever possible, and using Ethernet for the network instead of WiFi. That saves us SO much frustration and troubleshooting!
  • Test all the things: This means running the missions you plan to run on all the hardware you plan to use. I have a mission script I spent 5 months writing, even having wonderful forum volunteers record voice overs... and the script crashed on my convention server machine, even though it works FINE on all the other machines I tested and developed on!
  • Simplify: Don't try to teach newbie crews how to do a mine run with HET, or monster kiting. In fact, I'd avoid putting ANY monsters in! 
  • Expect the unexpected: We had one engineer we were convinced was trying to purposefully destroy the ship... then realized he had power and coolant controls mixed up! Sliders are power: dots are coolant!  That one detail, corrected late in the mission, made all the difference--but only because one of our volunteers watched him closely to see exactly what he was doing, then quietly explained the difference without embarrassing him in front of the rest of the crew.
That about taps me out for now! Happy Thanksgiving, all!


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MarkBell

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Reply with quote  #2 
Brilliant breakdown! Very valuable insight, as always. With your current schedule of events, what kind of hardware turnover have you experienced?
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Note - this is in no way intended to be an official position of Thom or Artemis, as I am not an official representative of the creator or game.
LawsonThompson

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Reply with quote  #3 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkBell
Brilliant breakdown! Very valuable insight, as always. With your current schedule of events, what kind of hardware turnover have you experienced?


We have had one or two laptops keel over a year--but I started with 5-year-old Dell and HP business laptops, some of which were retired due to "random hardware issues."

My work position permits me to procure destined-for-the-recycle-pile hardware. We literally threw away several desktop systems (Core i5) and VGA monitors which would be perfect for a starter bridge.

One advantage of using older hardware (other than obvious cost): most obscure hardware manufacture issues are often documented by the user community. For example, older HP ProBooks have fragile USB port connections and some GPU failure issues. Dell Latitudes had a certain product line with bad nVidia GPU heat sinks. 

Now that small SSDs are affordable, it's a cheap way to dramatically speed up game launch.

One thing I learned the hard way: the 2.x Artemis release performs very poorly on Windows 10. If you have older hardware, keep it on the OS that it deployed with instead of taking the "free" upgrade to Windows 10. 

My current hardware... and their problems!...
  • Latitude E6430: on-board NICs are fragile.
  • Asus EB1036: Celeron J1900 is not a very strong CPU/GPU. 3D performance is awful. Science can lag, but all other 2D stations work OK.
  • HP ProBook 6460b: about 50% of them have random reboots under heavy GPU load.
  • New Dell Inspiron Desktop (server): Dell shovelware, ugh! And random issues with certain missions, which I blame on Windows 10 issues. Might end up installing Windows 7 or Linux instead.

I've been swapping in SSDs, since I can carry them forward into future hardware. 

Over the past couple years we have been pouring all revenues into a projector, screen, and touchscreens; next will be PC gear.


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Mike Substelny

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Reply with quote  #4 
Years before I ever saw Artemis, I had a dream of building a science fiction Bed and Breakfast, where guests would role play that they were manning a starship all weekend long.

Now I have the Artemis software and Air BnB. I even have a house with spare bedrooms and a permanent starship bridge. Unfortunately my wife has developed MS and needs me to do so much caregiving that I could never be the B&N host I want to be.

Still, I hope someone else runs with my idea.

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e4mafia

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Reply with quote  #5 
Looks like I will be doing TotalCon in Massachusetts, next-next year. I was too slow on the draw to get in on the next one. Space is already assigned out. The bummer is that the organizer said he tried to contact Thom to find out if there was anybody that could do events like that, but never heard back. Not that Thom would have known I was wanting to do anything, but had the organizer hit the forums, it could have been different.

Anyways, he wants to have Artemis there, and now I've got a full year at least to prep for it. 😉
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