Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Road to WPN (Part 5)

[This is part 5 in a series, and assumes that you've already read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4]

Either the Saturday or Sunday after I met with Patrick and we applied to the WPN (which was Friday, May 6 as a reminder), I tweeted wondering how long it would take to hear back. Someone (and my apologies for not remembering who, exactly) suggested that it may be 1 to 2 weeks. This made me a little nervous, because the deadline for registering to run a M12 Launch Party was (depending on which website at the WPN was correct) either May 22 or May 29. I wanted to make sure that we were able to get that event registered.

To my great surprise, then, it was only 4 days later (two of which were the weekend!) that I received this message from WPN:


Thank you for your interest in the Wizards Play Network! I called and spoke to Pat earlier and everything looks good. The only issue is that as the store is not yet officially open for business we are unable to add you into the system at this time. Please reply to this email in a couple weeks, when the store is open, and we'll be happy to get you all set up.

Thank you for your cooperation and patience in this matter.

Wizards of the Coast"

Ack! I didn't foresee this problem. I figured since we wouldn't be running events until mid-June at the earliest, the fact that Novel Places wouldn't be open for business until late May wouldn't be an issue.

 I quickly followed the link provided in the email to respond to this message:

"My only concern is that I would like to be in before the deadline for registering for the M12 Launch Parties.

There seems to be some confusion as to when the deadline is for that. On this site:

it seems to suggest that May 29 is the deadline for registering for M12 launch parties, but on this page:

it says that May 22 is the deadline.

Pat is shooting for May 16th to open his doors officially, but may not be able to do so before May 24. We certainly would not be scheduling any events to run before mid to late June. I just want to make sure we can get that M12 Launch party scheduled. Is there anything we can do?

Thanks for your quick response on our application - I was very pleasantly surprised at the turn-around time!

It was May 13 (3 days after I sent in this note, and 7 days total after applying to the WPN) that I received a phone call from Brian at WPN. He had called and spoken to Patrick, and had gotten us into the system. We were ready to begin signing up for events! Amazing! He was all set to walk me through using the Wizards Event Reporter (WER). The only problem with that is that I hadn't yet downloaded it.

I had realized for a while now that if I was going to be running these events I would need to have a computer and printer setup that I could easily grab and bring with me to the events. I didn't want to have to junk up Patrick's computer at the store with the require software (or be locked into being where he had his computer set up) so I knew I would have to get a laptop or netbook. After doing some research, I had settled on a nice (relatively) inexpensive netbook from Best Buy, but I hadn't picked it up yet. Suddenly I had a new project for the day. Brian asked me to give him a call back the next week once I had the computer procured and the software installed.

So, out to the store I went (after conveniently ordering online for store pickup). After charging it up and taking care of initial setup issues, I downloaded and installed the WER. I opened the program up to take a look...and realized that a walk-through from Brian seemed like a very good idea, indeed!

[SIDE NOTE #1: That night I got to use the netbook to make my very first Skype call, in a meeting with a couple of folks involved in my upcoming MTG Alters project, so it was good timing for that. Keep an eye on this space (and follow me on Twitter, and sign up for my newsletter) if you'd like to be one of the first to know when cards like these will be available!]

[SIDE NOTE #2: I knew that I would be needing a printer as well, and I could have gotten a pretty good deal with a $40-off special the store was running, but I decided to hit up my local Freecycle group instead, as I know that printers are offered there all the time. Be even more frugal and also help keep another piece of electronics being sent to the landfill? Yes, please!]

So, on Monday (May 16) I called Brian in the early afternoon (my time - I'm on the East Coast, WotC headquarters is on the West Coast), and got his voice mail. I left a message letting him know I had gotten set up as was ready for my tutorial. I did not receive a call back from him that day. So, on Tuesday (May 17) I called again. Again, I got his voice mail and left a message. I must have sounded slightly flustered in that message because later that day I got a call from one of Brian's co-workers (I failed to write down his name, and I'm awful at remembering names, so I can't give him credit here unfortunately). Brian had had to leave work early, but since my message sounded like it needed immediate attention, could the co-worker help me?

I opted to wait for a call from Brian the next day (truthfully I felt a little embarrassed that I must have sounded so desperate in my message!). But at this stage I felt (and tweeted appropriately) that WotC (and especially WPN) must have just one of the nicest group of customer service folk around. I was quite amazed. The co-worker asked when would be a good time for Brian to call, and I suggested 12-4 my time (9-1 Brian's time).

And thus, Brian and I finally got back together telephonically on Wednesday (May 18). I sat down with my netbook and fired up the WER, and Brian walked me through ordering the WPN materials that are designed to help a smaller venue attract more players (promos, advertising posters, etc) and also DCI-membership cards for players that are new to the system (remember that we need to get 6 of these new players signed up within a 12-month period to move up to Core Level and be able to run prereleases and FNMs). There was a slight hiccup in the program when I tried to order the Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 promo pack. Brian had me take a screen shot of the error message that came up and send it to him, as well as a copy of a file from the WER folder on my computer. He would forward that on to the tech group to see if it was a bug that needed to be fixed.

Next, Brian walked me through scheduling my first event. I wasn't sure when out first event would be held (I hadn't discussed specific dates with Patrick yet) but I knew that we wanted to run an M12 Launch Party, and there's only a four-day window for running those (they have to be run on the Fri/Sat/Sun/Mon of the release weekend for the set). I figured Saturday afternoon would work best (many people may have obligations on a Sunday, and I know Patrick would prefer that we start later in the day so that we can shut down the store at the end of the event). So I picked Saturday July 16 as the date of the event. Oddly enough, I thought, you don't need to tell the WER system the time of your event, only the day.

For those who have never used the WER to schedule an event, here's the information I had to provide: Organization (I only organize for Novel Places so that was easy); Game (MTG, D&D or D&D Miniatures); Sanction Rule (this is where I chose the M12 Launch Party); Play Location (if we were holding it off-site I would have options here); Dates; Format (Sealed Deck in our case); Pairing Method (I chose Swiss as that's the only one I know about - I really need to research what the other options are!); Email (I gave mine); Phone number (I gave the store's); and URL (I used Novel Place's web page).

After helping me get that one scheduled, we ended our conversation with me saying I would contact Patrick and confirm the date & time, as well as determine the date for our first event to be held in mid-to-late June. I would then get into WER and schedule the June event. If the date of the M12 Launch Party needed to be changed, I could cancel the scheduled event and put in a new one (if a change like that needs to be made after the scheduling window has closed you need to have your WPN handler make the change for you). It turns out that Patrick had no trouble with July 16 for the Launch Party, and we chose June 18 for our first event (a Scars of Mirrodin Block Sealed-Deck tournament).

Later that afternoon Brian called me back and asked me to get WER started back up again. One of the tech guys had gotten back to him, and it was theorized that the error I had been getting earlier was because the tutorial for WER was running. I shut off the tutorial and tried again to order the Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 promos, and lo and behold I was able to do so! This means that when customers purchased Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 and get their code to get a free promo card, Patrick's store will be one of the places they can go to get them. This should bring in a fair bit of foot traffic for him, and possibly turn video-game-MTG-only players into paper MTG players at our events (hey, a man can dream!).

Part 5 has turned out to be quite long, so I'll break here. We're almost caught up in continuity. In Part 6 I'll reveal the contents of the various promo packs that were ordered (they arrived May 24 - just under a week after I ordered them!).


1 comment:

MJ said...

It's great hearing how this is going, Don! Keep 'em coming. ;)