The Leipzig Games Convention

It’s been a few days since I returned from the convention, so I thought it was high time I wrote down a few thoughts before what’s left of my cell-depleted brain decides to lose them altogether.

The first thing that struck me was the size. The convention centre was HUGE. I’d been told how big it was and I’d even seen pictures before hand, but nothing prepared me for exactly how big it really was. Did I mention that it was massive? It took me ten minutes to walk between the DTP booth in the business hall to the Anaconda stand in hall 2. I thought about venturing into the other halls but couldn’t find an expedition team willing to travel so far.

The only down side about promoting So Blonde was that I didn’t have enough time in my schedule to look round all the public halls. I only explored hall 2 because DTP had their Anaconda booth in there and I had half an hour between presentations. But if that hall was anything to go by it’s not surprising that 185,000 visitors attended the show. There were demonstrations, trailers, promotions, audience participation, multiplayer games, free gifts, signings, booth babes, game demos and lots and lots of noise. I don’t know how the people do it who are based in there all day every day of the show.

Speaking of booth babes, I must be one of the few people who was asked by one of them to have her picture taken with me. I think she must have been a game fan, too. 🙂

Anaconda also hired an actress/model who looked the spitting image of Sunny, the main character from So Blonde, so there were a number of pictures taken of the two of us together. As soon as I get hold of copies I’ll be sure to post them here. It occurred to me that from now on I should design all my games with sexy young female leads.

I spent much of my time in the business hall doing interviews or demonstrations of the game and the response was very good. I’d like to thank everyone who I met for their patience and enthusiasm.

Hal Barwood and Noah Falstein were also at the booth promoting their game, Mata Hari. For those who don’t know, Hal and Noah both worked on some classic LucasArts adventures, among others and it was a real pleasure to meet them for the first time. Very friendly guys, too. In fact, all the other developers were extremely friendly and I got a real buzz from being around so many wonderfully creative people.

A real high point for me was meeting Martin Ganteföhr for the first time. We’ve corresponded through e-mail and chat, but never actually managed to be in the same place at the same time as each other. Martin is doing some wonderful things with his new game, Overclocked, and I can’t wait to play this game for myself. Martin is very tall – so tall that I’m surprised he doesn’t need an oxygen tank to deal with the thin atmosphere up there. I think that the rest of us ended up with cricks in our necks after talking with him, particularly Laura MacDonald, who must have been about the shortest in our group and who suffered bravely through the whole show with a broken foot.

Because the day was so full of appointments, I crammed a lot of socialising into two very late evenings filled with food and beer. Talking games and joking and slowly getting drunk has never been so enjoyable.

Prior to our press conference on Thursday I was more than a little nervous, but as it started I got into a calm zone, which quite surprised me. When it came to my turn to present So Blonde I quickly got into my stride and the ten minutes were up in what seemed more like thirty seconds. Everyone seemed pleased with the way it went, which was backed up by the fact that the press audience laughed at a number of places in the game. Where they were meant to, I might add.

Hal and Noah are doing some interesting things with their game, using an icon system for their conversations. Although Revolution used something similar, starting with Broken Sword, Hal and Noah have added some nice refinements that will make the conversational gameplay much richer. It’s certainly an approach that I’ll be bearing in mind for future projects.

I nearly met Bill Tiller, but our schedules clashed.

I’m pretty sure I saw Tim Schafer, but I wasn’t sure enough to say hello.

The strangest question I was asked in an interview was, “What would you do with ten million dollars?” After giving a flippant answer, I then had to think about it for a few moments. Part of my answer was that I’d have to think long and hard, but that I’d love to do a proper romatic comedy – something that’s the gaming equivalent of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” or “Love Actually” or “About a Boy”. Though I doubt it would cost ten million, so I guess I’d rather do five two million dollar games.

Perhaps the oddest moment was when I was standing at check-in at Leipzig airport to come home again. the guy who came to stand behind me started chatting away and we were soon in a deep discussion about game development, which takes some doing at 4am after about three hours sleep. It turns out that he’s Chris Taylor, the guy behind the Dungeon Siege games and who has a new game coming out, Space Siege. We discussed the idea that games should be treated much more as interactive entertainment and the days of aiming games at the hardcore gamer are drawing to a close. That’s not to say the hardcore gamer should be discarded in any way – that’s what difficulty levels are for – but that games should be accessible to a wide audience while still delivering interesting and fun gameplay. Although we’re (currently) working in different genres, I could see a lot of parallels in our approaches to game development.

Although GC is over, some of us are already thinking about next year and what we can plan socially…