Unlike other years, which for us have entailed either obtaining our four-day passes for the currently-starting convention and immediately doing a 180 to get in line to obtain passes for the following year, or, as last year, setting an alarm for 4:30 a.m. to catch a cab to the Hyatt to the right of the San Diego Convention Center… and then walking to the end of the line near the Hilton to the left of the San Diego Convention Center to wait for five hours to purchase the next year’s passes, this was a relatively bloodless affair. Simply log into a particular URL with your favorite Web browser, upon which you pressed the Big Green Button, and were directed to a virtual waiting room, which told you what your place in line was. Every two minutes, the page would update, and tell you how far along you were. All in all, it was simple… except for the fact that it was anything but. Not if you wanted to make sure that you could go.
Amanda and I have been attending SDCC since 2006, and covered it on a formal basis for the first time last year. And we had no intention of not attending in 2013, although if luck didn’t break our way, we could have been frozen out. There is no guarantee of the ability to obtain press credentials for SDCC, not when the big boys from every major television network, basic cable network, expanded cable network, and Website that has ever published a piece about a superhero are all applying for them. We were turned down for press badges this year, probably by nature of being a publication less than a year old and that liberally uses terms like “Goatfucker.”
An aside: a buddy of mine who has heard my stories of Comic-Con told me, upon my return from this year’s convention, that he intended to attend next year. I told him, “Then you start planning right fucking now. Book a hotel today. Request your vacation time today. Book a flight as soon as they go on sale. Subscribe to Comic-Con’s RSS feed and know when things start to go on sale. Because if you are not prepared and committed, the only parts of Comic-Con you’ll ever see will be on our YouTube channel.”
And that is how we approached pre-registration yesterday. I went into my workplace to attempt pre-registration, while Amanda manned one of the hardwired, non-Wi-Fi machines here in the Home Office to make her run, We coordinated our efforts via Skype, with open Notepad documents containing the pre-reg URL (Since at times in the past, the links provided to registration sites that come from Comic-Con International don’t go to the correct site), and each of our CCI Member IDs and passwords.
How did it go? Well, here’s some of the Skype conversation we had when the starting gun went off:
[8/4/2012 10:57:59 AM] Rob: I’m already trying to refresh…
[8/4/2012 10:58:41 AM] Rob: Server’s already slow…
[8/4/2012 10:59:32 AM] Amanda: I got a “not found” on both explorer and firefox
[8/4/2012 10:59:40 AM] Rob: Keep going.
[8/4/2012 10:59:43 AM] Amanda: ok
[8/4/2012 11:02:11 AM] Amanda: I’m in the waiting room #7408
[8/4/2012 11:02:21 AM] Rob: Okay, STAY THERE.
[8/4/2012 11:02:34 AM] Rob: I’m not in yet.
[8/4/2012 11:03:25 AM] Rob: 7408 is good. There should be at least 10,000 Preview Night passes available.
[8/4/2012 11:03:50 AM] Amanda: ok. I also just turned off no script on the page. hope I didn’t fuck it up. seems ok.
[8/4/2012 11:04:10 AM] Rob: Is the number still listed, or is the page reloading?
[8/4/2012 11:04:37 AM] Rob: Okay, I’m in. #14953.
[8/4/2012 11:05:08 AM] *** Call from Rob ***
[8/4/2012 11:05:39 AM] Rob: Can you hear me?
[8/4/2012 11:08:03 AM] *** Call ended, duration 02:55 ***
[8/4/2012 11:08:43 AM] Rob: Down to 13753. I think you’re winning.
[8/4/2012 11:09:12 AM] Amanda: 5508 baby!
[8/4/2012 11:11:16 AM] Rob: Nice! I’m back. 13153. We will both stay on our session until passes are achieved. Just in case. Deal?
[8/4/2012 11:11:56 AM] Amanda: Sounds good. I’m now 4908!
[8/4/2012 11:12:16 AM] Rob: Nice!
[8/4/2012 11:12:32 AM] Rob: I have a good feeling about this… Ooh! 12553!
[8/4/2012 11:12:45 AM] Amanda: Good work being patient!
[8/4/2012 11:13:07 AM] Amanda: 4308
[8/4/2012 11:13:22 AM] Rob: I’m not good at it, but I learned from the best!
[8/4/2012 11:14:29 AM] Rob: It looks like, if they’re whacking through about 500 every 2 minutes, that we should be set in about 15 minutes.
[8/4/2012 11:14:38 AM] Rob: 11903.
[8/4/2012 11:14:53 AM] Amanda: Yep. Keeping my fingers crossed.
[8/4/2012 11:14:59 AM] Amanda: 3608!
[8/4/2012 11:15:19 AM] Rob: Tell you what: just in case, when you get into the actual registration page, call me.
[8/4/2012 11:15:28 AM] Amanda: I will!
[8/4/2012 11:15:42 AM] Rob: Getting a drink (Not a good one, just water). BRB.
[8/4/2012 11:15:56 AM] Amanda: (beer)
[8/4/2012 11:17:04 AM] Rob: Don’t tease me. 11203.
[8/4/2012 11:17:07 AM] Amanda: 3258
[8/4/2012 11:17:37 AM] Amanda: Which, in theory, means the next one will break into the 2000s
[8/4/2012 11:17:37 AM] Rob: It’s worse than watching the damn clock… although again: starting below 10,000 means I like our odds.
[8/4/2012 11:18:04 AM] Amanda: I take it back. So far it’s better than waiting in line for hall h
[8/4/2012 11:18:25 AM] Rob: Actually, given some of the lines we saw, yeah.
[8/4/2012 11:18:29 AM] Rob: 10803
[8/4/2012 11:19:03 AM] Amanda: 2508!
[8/4/2012 11:19:17 AM] Rob: Nice! Steady… Steaaaaady…
[8/4/2012 11:19:47 AM] Amanda: Wheeeee!
[8/4/2012 11:20:46 AM] Rob: 9603
[8/4/2012 11:21:00 AM] Amanda: 1658
[8/4/2012 11:21:39 AM] Rob: Okay, good. In a worst case scenario, if something goes sideways on your end, even with my numbers, I should be good for 4 day passes.
[8/4/2012 11:21:42 AM] Amanda: in about another refresh or so we might want to ready the headsets
[8/4/2012 11:22:03 AM] Rob: Mine’s right here. I’m ready when you are.:)
[8/4/2012 11:22:22 AM] Amanda: This is so exciting I need to poop
[8/4/2012 11:22:26 AM] Rob: NOT. NOW.
[8/4/2012 11:22:27 AM] Amanda: tmi?
[8/4/2012 11:22:40 AM] Rob: 9203
[8/4/2012 11:22:59 AM] Amanda: 808 call me
Yup, you’re reading that right: Amanda got the Magic Button two minutes after the site opened, and was 7,408 in line. In two minutes. Of a limited sale open only for those who had paid passes for this year’s Comic-Con. And yes, when I got in another 150 seconds later, I was at 14,943.
And then there was the waiting. Every two minutes, the waiting room would refresh, showing that between 400 and 800 people had either been processed or had given up or been the victim of a snatch-and-grab of their iPads. And the entire time, all you can do is wait, and watch that number drop, and hope there’s more than Sunday passes available when the number drops to zero. And that’s all you can do; once you have a connection to the waiting room, you can’t refresh the page – you lose your place in line. If you try to connect again? If you can even get through the IP storm attacking the SDCC Web servers, you’ll just get a higher number… and what if that second connection fucks with the first one and you wind up at the back of the line?
By about 11:30 Boston time, Amanda got to zero, and lo and behold, four day passes with Preview Night access were still available. The purchase went through without a hitch… not five minutes before the Twitter wire started reporting that all four-day passes – preview night or not – were sold out, and if you still wanted to score them, it was general registration sometime next year for you, buddy. The ability to get four single-day passes hung on for a little bit, but by 9:20 or so California time, it was all over. You were either in, or watching your email for the announcement of general admission registration, or trying to get yourself taken seriously an a comics journalist for press passes.
All of which is a long way to go to describe logging into a Website and forking over your credit card number. But the fact of the matter is that this is what it takes to attend San Diego Comic-Con these days. Six or seven years ago, you could book a room in April and get your passes sometime in June if you felt like going to the convention, but now it is utterly reasonable to plan your weekend around trying to connect to a Web server to get early passes. Does it make sense to coordinate efforts across two different networks in two separate locations to try to get passes? Hell yes; what happens if the Internet goes out in one of them? Or if a thunderstorm kicks a brownout, as it so often does in Boston, rebooting your machine? Or if a meteor hits the local cable junction station? Or what if you try to connect via wireless Internet, and your neighbor picks that moment to start broadbanding his manifesto via shortwave, jamming your signal?
Is this attitude and behavior overly cautious, if not utterly paranoid? For most applications, yeah, probably. But this is Comic-Con. If you don’t get tickets, there is no ticket agency or friendly scalper to whom you can turn, not with the barcodes and ID random checks that CCI’s put into place. If you want to go to SDCC, you need to treat every step involved, and every piece that you need to put into place, as the most serious Goddamned thing you’re doing at that moment.
So was it overkill? Well, we’re going to Comic-Con next year. You tell me.