Saturday 20 April 2013

PAX East & GDC 2013 Debrief

So that whole thing happened, and I am still reeling. I've been trying to think of an angle from which to write up the trip, but have failed, so instead you get the pictorial highlights reel. Lucky old you.

This is our hostel in Boston. It doesn't look it but it was quite luxurious. So much more space in US cities. Also full fried breakfast in the price. Lush.

This is our booth. It's got a rather sleeker black vibe going on compared with last year's, and four HD tellies. We were blaring out the trailer on the big screen, but after a while we started hearing the same two lines of dialogue over and over in our dreams and we had to turn the sound down.

Klei Entertainment are awesome. Play Mark of the Ninja and Don't Starve immediately. As Alia (software engineer, above centre) pointed out to me, they're somewhere in between being a small indie and a pro-developer, and that's a theme that continues throughout the conference. So many people from so many different areas of development all with their own ideas about who's doing important work - and me, somewhere bang in the middle.

PAX was fantastic for us. Quite apart from hanging out with excellent indies like Klei, The Men Who Wear Many Hats, and Blendo Games we secured some lovely coverage for The Swapper. Head to Game Informer, IGN or the New York Post for more.

Also massive props to Kelly and Megabooth for everything and being excellent.

So then we hit San Francisco. Neither Olli (Facepalm Games) nor I had full conference tickets, so this was basically the start of our holiday. I immediately went to Golden Gate Park and was attacked by this gopher thing.

The cab back to the conference hall was surreal. My first time out and about in a city I've written for in a game, and here I am sitting in the back of a cab driving through those iconic streets, listening to a game developer conversation that could have been straight out of the game. I was having fun.

The following days involved avoiding the infamously overcrowded / crap GDC parties, hanging in the indie hostel, and seesawing between horrendously overpriced beers and entirely free ones. The indie hostel was an experience in itself - and entire building taken over by everyone from Zachtronics to Vlambeer. Keeping as I do various fingers in various pies, the whole thing was a slightly different world. Olli knows every game and every person in the room. I can't tell the difference between a student and someone putting out a game everyone else in the room evangelises. At the same time, the writers are a few blocks away on the 40th floor of the Marriott hotel drinking $7.50 beers. I'm getting a bit bored of the stale pizza-by-the-slice, so it's nice to have both options available.

We hit the Humble Bundle party that night, which is a most civilised affair in an old mint building. It of course ends with champagne and scotch being snaffled before the free bar closes, but it's a good crowd, and I manage to pin down John Walker and secure Ir/rational investigator a playtest and some coverage.

The next thing that happens are the IGF awards, in which FTL is nominated, which seem to take us all by surprise. I find my way to our table and meet Justin's parents and assorted family - there are only four of us who credited on the game, but from what I understand it's very much a group endeavour. I can't imagine bringing my parents to an awards show, but Justin's dad was in the industry, and they are awesome and well into the swing of things. We win three awards, I get up on stage once, look very nervous and forget to thank my girlfriend, then we eat tacos and go to the Steam party.

The parties later that night are yet more surreal. We go to the Wild Rumpus, and pretty much everyone I've met in the last week is there, and has been watching the awards. The Subset guys aren't really much part of the indie scene - they're out of AAA, they want to keep their team small, and they want to make the games they love. The limelight is perhaps not their territory. Still, for one night we are minor celebrities. It's quite strange.

The following day I lend a hand on the booth, which really just involves shaking peoples' hands and awkwardly taking credit for Justin and Matt's work. Everyone's played the game, so they just want to come over and say thanks. I love the picture above, because Justin (2nd from right) and Matt (3rd from right) are talking to a chap who worked on the old X-Wing vs Tie Fighter games, which are one of the guys' core inspirations. For once on this trip they get to be the ones meeting their industry heroes.

It was a thrill to spend time with Subset, with Facepalm, and with all the other devs I met out there. I really am lucky to work on the fantastic games I have done, and there's nothing like seeing a bunch of other people making fantastic stuff to make you want to go home and do some more of your own.

As ever, I'll keep you posted on that front.

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