After a hearty breakfast with the Legion Ink crowd Saturday morning, we all headed off to UCON 2014. I attended the first UCON in 2013 and was pretty impressed by what the UCT anime club Genshiken had managed to put together. It was nowhere near the level of any international con (after all it was just a student event) but it was a pretty good start and a good foundation to build upon.
There were a few changes to UCON from the 2013 event, the most important being the new venue. UCON 2014 moved away from Jammie Hall to the UCT Sports Center. Being a UKZN student myself, I had no idea what the sports center would be like, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover this:
This was a major improvement over Jammie Hall due to the much better lighting and increased space. The better lighting in the sports center gave the event a much more welcoming vibe, and the much greater floor space meant that each section of the Con had more than enough room. The main area was of course home to the vendors and cosplay stage, with the PC LAN area just next door, and the console gaming area just next to that. I’ll be covering each area and going over the things I liked and disliked about each.
So starting off we have the vending and cosplay area. The extra room meant that when UCON hit its peak, there was still room to move around without too many people trying to squeeze past you. The usual vendors were there including Readers Den, Outer Limits, and Gadget Time. There were also a few local artists with their work on display, including Falcon Comics, Keda Gomes and Velocity Anthology, and many of the local cosplay creators with their homemade items and cosplay accessories.
There was also a small area in front of the stage that had been set up for the various martial arts demonstrations that were set to take place. The stage had been set up for the cosplay show, which was without a doubt the main event (check out the main gallery below to see why).
Now the first minor complaint or issue is the lack of a draw card for the UCON sales area. There’s very little incentive to make purchases at UCON, at least for me. All the things I’m interested in buying can be picked up from the big vendors who all have stores, so there’s no need for me to pick up anything at UCON itself. If UCON were to organise some specials, or maybe even a raffle for anyone who purchases items from the vendors at UCON, I might be a bit more inclined to drop my hard earned cash there. As it stands at the moment, I’m more than happy to either go to the store myself, or to wait for the FCBD specials.
Next up was the PC LAN gaming area. There was plenty of tables, and plenty of room for people to make themselves comfortable. The organisers had also managed to get internet access for all the gamers so that they could play any games that required an internet connection. The only question on my mind is why? If you check out my writeup for UCON 2013, you’d have read how due to a communication error, there was a bit of an issue regarding the LAN. However, this was not the only reason for the LAN being unsuccessful. For some reason, LANs in the southern suburbs just never work out. Guys in Bellville and areas further north are more than happy to get together to game, but us southern suburbs folk? Not so much. It seems that we prefer to sit in our houses and play online than get together for our PC gaming. Having said that, I really have to give the UCON folks a pat on the back from all the effort they obviously put into setting up the LAN area, but if I were them I would seriously think twice about hosting another LAN next year.
And finally, the console gaming area. Now this was a much better experience than last year. As I pointed out in my writeup, the console area for UCON’s 2013 event was quite small with just about enough space for the players. This left almost no room for spectators or anyone waiting in line to play, which is obviously a bit of a problem. This was not an issue at all this year thanks to the extra space in the Sports Center (again, check out the gallery below for photos of all the console action). I was able to watch some awesome Tekken and Call of Duty matches going down, and even got a few matches of Tekken under my belt. Despite the fact that I hadn’t picked up my controller for months, I was able to win some games against a couple of regular players, which was an added bonus.
Now this is where my final (and probably biggest) issue comes in. As many Cape Town geeks know, Free Comic Book Day is about a month away, and is without a doubt the event if you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck. Readers Den offer 10% off all items in the main store, and their sales area has discounts of up to 80% on certain items. So if you like to buy comics and figures, chances are you’re not going to purchase any items at UCON. I was quite open with many of the vendors who I know that I’m saving my cash for FCBD, so they’ll just have to wait a month to get my money. I had mentioned to the organisers of UCON that the date was a bit awkward for the hardcore FCBD fans, but this date was decided upon to coincide with an international cosplay competition. From what I have heard (I may be mistaken), this unfortunately this didn’t work out for them since I think they failed to meet all the requirements of the international cosplay competition, but the date had already been set so they went ahead with it. If UCON was to shift to later in the year, this would definitely allow us cash strapped geeks a bit of financial breathing room.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I am definitely looking forward to UCON 2015. If the manage to get something big for the console gamers (tournaments with some small cash prizes?) and for the sales area (UCON specials?) this would definitely be a big draw card for them since not everyone is into cosplay, and at the moment that’s very much where the main focus is. But for now we’ll have to wait and see what they come up with, and you can keep yourself busy by checking out some more UCON 2014 photos here and on Facebook (links to the various Facebook photos are at the bottom of the gallery):
That guy with glasses UCON photos (no, this isn’t The Nostalgia Critic)