After months of delays and system testing, everyone hoping to return to San Diego Comic-Con in 2014 was growing restless and skeptical of the new registration system’s promised performance improvements. And they sure had reason to be – with the increased demand for badges over the past few years, the registration process has cost many a chance with its frequent system crashes.
Even though this was just preregistration, granting those who attended in 2013 a chance to return this year, the event had all the attention of open registration, and everyone was watching to see just how the system would respond. Would there be any crashes this year? How will the randomization process work? How fast will badges sell out?
We, and thousands of others who participated in preregistration this past weekend, finally found out. And we were pleasantly surprised by the results, which weren’t perfect but far better than in previous years.
The Waiting Room
Things in the waiting room started out rather ominously, with several reports of people getting kicked out early on:
One person even received a message that they refreshed the page manually (a big no-no, according to CCI’s registration system tips) when they hadn’t:
At around 9:04 AM PT, we got our first update via the registration system that randomization had begun for folks in the waiting room:
At 9:09 AM PT, the message changed to notify everyone in the waiting room the randomization was complete, and the registration process would begin:
For those who were skeptical of the randomization process, it did indeed work, and we received several reports from those who were running multiple computers at once for different personal registration codes, like this:
And at this point we must commend both CCI and EPIC for constantly updating attendees via the yellow message bar on the Waiting Room screen. Every few minutes, the messages would change to alert everyone on the current status of the system, where folks were in the process, and even tips to help inform and entertain those who felt the long wait to checkout weighed on already frayed nerves. Here are a few examples:
“Make sure your computer’s power saving settings are off or adjust them if needed. We don’t want your computer to power down or go to sleep while you’re waiting!” – via Jenny Hirschfeld, Google+
“Buying for others? It’s a good idea to verify that you have the correct spelling of everyone’s last name and Member ID before you begin!” – via Jenna Johnson, Google+
“The increasingly popular WonderCon Anaheim 2014, Comic Con’s sister show, takes place in the Anaheim Convention Center from April 18 to 20. Badges will go on sale soon!” – via Jenna Johnson, Google+
“Is your blue circle spinning? That graphic lets you know that your page is active and you will begin your registration session once you reach the front of the line.” via Jenna Johnson, Google+
But the one message which got the best response among those logged into the system was:
“New message: ‘Channel your inner Yoda and your patience may pay off. Do not refresh young Padawans!'” – via Artimus Naugin, Google+
The Checkout Process
Once people started to move through checkout, the system stayed relatively rock-solid and stable, albeit slow. Undoubtedly this was by design, in order to move small groups at a time in order to manage the system load. From the time randomization completed, at 9:09AM PT, it took two hours and 26 minutes for all badges to be accounted for.
Some weren’t so thrilled with the wait.
“If I knew it would be this long of a wait, I would’ve worn a diaper.” – via Artimus Naugin, Google+
At 9:29AM PT, the first badges to sell out were for Preview Night, which have historically been available in limited quantities and always the first to go:
At 10:14 AM PT, the message was posted on the EPIC registration system that Saturday badge inventory was running low. Then four minutes later, at 10:18 AM PT, it was posted that both Friday and Saturday were running low. Ten minutes after that, at 10:28 AM PT, the announcement was made that both Friday and Saturday badges were sold out.
“Friday and Saturday badges are sold out. We apologize for the inconvenience, but exciting events are scheduled for everyday of Comic-Con 2014! Thursday and Sunday badges are still available for purchase.” – via Jonathan Allain (@eolith)
By 10:45 AM PT, those in the Waiting Rom were alerted that Thursday badge inventory was running low:
Six minutes later, at 10:51 AM PT, Thursday badges were all gone:
The last to go were Sunday badges, which were announced sold out at 11:35 AM PT.
Close, But No Cigar
As we stated earlier, although the process went largely without the problems that plagued it in the past, there were some isolated issues experienced by several people. For example, we saw a few folks mention their blue circle stopped spinning, as if the page froze, but another reader said he thought it might indicate that meant they were getting readied for the checkout process:
We also saw of reports getting kicked out of the Waiting Room, and when they attempted to log back in the system saw they had already redeemed their personal registration code and would not allow them back in the system.
“‘Registration code – already Fully Redeemed’ when I got to the front of the line, my brother bought my badge and was trying to buy for some friends” – via Scott Porter, Google+
Reader Annika Ahmed contacted us via email to share her story on Tumblr where she documented the steps and screenshots which lead up to her experiencing this issue:
We stood in front of our laptops, reading all the little updates. Then sometime between 9:10 AM and 9:15 AM, my husband got an error message, the first screenshot.
Never have we seen such a terrifying thing! At this point, since we were pretty much screwed, we did what Comic Con said not to and we refreshed the page. Then we got the second screenshot. Judging by the URL, it seems like there was some sort of an error when taking him into his preregistration session.
Okay, that’s a total bummer.
With no other option available to us, my husband went back to the landing page and attempted to start the whole thing over again. That’s when he got the third screenshot.
And towards the end of the day, users started to receive a generic system message upon page refresh stating: “An error occurred while processing your request.” Below is one example, but judging from the replies there were many more who experienced the same:
Analyzing the New System
As we watched the process closely during our Google+ Hangout and were alerted of message updates and badge inventory by our readers, we did get a glimpse into how the new system might work. For example, those in the Waiting Room who were getting message updates before others seemed to also be able to checkout before others, indicating there might be some correlation between the two. Also, we noticed that even though those in the Waiting Room were seeing updates that certain badges were sold out, those in checkout were able to purchase those same badges. We think the system may be estimating inventory availability based on those in the checkout process, or not accounting for badges which were re-added to the inventory because of shopping cart timeouts or declined transactions.
So what does this mean for open registration, when we expect even more people to take part? We’re still unsure. Combine everyone who wasn’t eligible for preregistration, along with those coming out of this weekend who want to upgrade or complete their badges, the real test is to come. We expect CCI and EPIC to review the outcome of this weekend and plan to make the necessary improvements to handle the additional load, but given that there has already been several delays with the registration schedule, will they have enough time?
All Things to All People
We knew the changes to the system wouldn’t make everyone happy, but they would ultimately address the main concern with the majority of those rushing to register – the stability of the system and the technical issues of the past which had prevented many from purchasing badges. And it is the internet, after all, so expect negativity to be louder than any positive comments. Still, we hunted down a few tweets from our readers on their thoughts of how the process went.
A Team Effort
Lastly, we’d like thank our readers for updating us via email, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ throughout the process, so we could provide you with the information above. Our live Hangout was a great success, as we hit the max number of comments at 500, and we enjoyed chatting with all of you. We look forward to seeing you again during the next big event!
Did you participate in the preregistration event? What were your experiences? Let us know in the comments.