Long-time readers may remember that more than three years ago, I attended the last community cantina event that was held in London. While I did enjoy it overall, there were also some disappointments, and attending the latest cantina event this past Friday was an eerily similar experience in some ways.
First the good stuff: Last time, lack of space in the venue was an issue, but this time they were better prepared in that regard and had rented a much bigger place. And it was good that they did, because it was packed! There must have been several hundred people there. It's interesting that it was so much busier than last time, considering that the game is actually quite a bit older now, but I guess the association with Star Wars Celebration definitely helped to draw in people who might otherwise not have bothered to travel to London just for a community cantina.
In what I assume was more spillover from the Celebration event, there were loads of amazing cosplays on display, especially many great-looking Twi'lek ladies! Though my personal favourite was a male Zabrak Jedi knight whose make-up and armour were both absolutely impeccable. I'm not entirely sure if he was supposed to be Satele Shan's old master or a different character, but he looked fantastic regardless. Also, among those who weren't actively dressed up, I was pretty impressed with the amount of Star Wars-themed fashion on display. We're not just talking t-shirts here, but things like dresses with storm troopers around the hem and similar. I'm not really someone who cares about fashion in real life and I hardly ever wear dresses myself, but I still couldn't help but notice these things.
My pet tank and I had arranged to meet Calphy from Galactic Antics, which was nice, though in hindsight I can't help but wonder if I shouldn't have tried to meet some people from Twitter as well, because apparently loads of them were there! (I was amused when @Blachloch posted a crowd shot in which I spotted myself...) Maybe we should have all worn little name tags with "Hello, my name is X a.k.a. Y on Twitter" or something... Apparently I managed to look right at Stardust, noticing her great Hylo Visz getup, without realising that it was her!
The disappointment started with the complete absence of any sort of news announcement (at the actual cantina) or Q&A. While I've joked previously about how useless the cantina Q&As have often been because people would always asked questions like "When will we see (more of) [content type]?", to which the answer would inevitably be something like "It's on the Wall of Crazy" or "We can't talk about that yet", which didn't really tell us anything new. However, I thought that they were working on improving that system - I seem to remember reports from a community event where they had everyone write questions on cards early on and then picked out a bunch of them that they could actually give useful answers to - whatever happened to that?
As it was, they "only" had an interview with Natasha Loring, the voice actress for Vaylin, who I'm sure was absolutely lovely but I couldn't hear a single word she said. The positioning of the stage was a bit awkward, so that about a quarter of the venue was behind and partially walled off from it, which of course happened to be where we had decided to sit. Eventually my pet tank and I ventured forth towards the "main area", where we ended up spending half an hour queuing for drinks, but even though this put the stage in front of us, we still couldn't hear anyone but Musco (I'm guessing he's used to having to shout into the microphone to be heard). They also had an "imitate Vaylin" competition among the fans that were present, and again I couldn't hear any of the entries. That was pretty disappointing and probably could have been avoided with a bit of sound testing beforehand / putting an extra couple of speakers up in the corners or something.
The "worst" / most bizarre thing however was the handing out of swag. This was actually handled pretty well at the 2013 cantina, with everyone simply being handed a pre-packed bag with t-shirts and pet/mount codes on the way out, which seemed to go very smoothly. This time around however, people had to queue up for their freebies during the event itself, and for some reason handing them out took absolutely forever. I can understand that there was some delay as they were actually giving out different sizes of t-shirts this time and had to ask what everyone wanted, but I have no idea why it took so long. We spent nearly an hour in that queue, and during the entire time the line only kept growing, not shrinking, until it wound pretty much around the entire inside of the venue.
I also have to admit that while I appreciate the thought behind giving out t-shirts of different sizes, it didn't really work that well for me personally. I don't know if that's a weird US sizing thing or something, but the women's XL shirt that I was given didn't just feature a different cut (which made sense) but was for some reason also about three sizes smaller than a comparable men's shirt, which means that it barely fits me, and only in such a way that I probably wouldn't want to wear it in public...
Overall I'm still happy that I went: the atmosphere was nice, I got to meet another guildie in real life, and free stuff is always great! I just wish it had been less of a queue-tina, with a bit more "meat" for the wider community, not just for those who managed to stand right in front of the stage or who happened to catch Musco or Charles Boyd in person to ask them questions.
P.S.: If you haven't seen it elsewhere yet, they were giving out a shareable code again that you can enter under your account management on the website to claim a free speeder for all your current and future characters. This time it's the same code for everyone: CelebrationCantina16. Enjoy!